London. It is six weeks before I’m hoping to move to Tel Aviv, although it actually takes a month longer. There are the high holidays and I don’t know what and I don’t fly until early November. But over the August bank holiday weekend I go to Jenni’s party where most, if not all, of the guests are Jewish. It is unusual for me to be in such homogenous company. Since I was 18 few of my friends have been Jewish, something my father hated. But I’m rare in my family, my brothers and their wives have no non-Jewish friends, nor do their children.
I’m one of the youngest people here, which is also unusual. I speak to a big South African, who, even though he’s known me for less than eight minutes, tells me at length ‘what I should do’, which includes marrying his 48 year old niece. She’s a PE teacher, he says, guaranteeing her attractiveness. I don’t ask if she has a penis, which is a clincher for me.
I also meet an ex-editor of a national Jewish newspaper, who, at too much length, explains how Israel is, actually, near to being an apartheid state. I nod and look for another drink. I don’t want to hear such talk so close to my move.
Jenni’s brother is appalled that I’m planning to make a trayf– (forbidden food) run to Rome in January, to stock up on pancetta and lardo and all the pork products I like to cook with and eat.
Most people, however, are encouraging about my move, especially a retired psychiatrist, John. He says he’s 72, but he looks 50 and dresses 35. He has a fashionable haircut. I like him a lot. He’s just returned from the Edinburgh festival, where, he tells me, comedians saying ‘Israel’ provokes the same reaction as when they said ‘Thatcher’ in the 80s: derision, laughter, hisses. He says what I think any therapist would say: change is good, if scary. Stagnation, staying put, is the killer. My new friend says he visits Israel often and will come to see me, to catch up on my story.
Jennisees me to the door. I tell her about her brother’s reaction to my pork-run, we discuss her ex-editor’s comments. Well, she says, fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke. It’s the first time, I think, that I’ve ever heard her swear. She says that I must, must, promise to send her a list of things I miss as she has an assignment in Israel in November and will bring them to me.
Today’s word: ay-tzuh – advice – עיצה