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July 28, 1989 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-07-28

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True Love, Or Just


lthough Israelis and American
Jews began dating and fell in love
after 1967, they never got married;
they never made that total com-
mitment to each other. Theirs was
a romantic fling — an affair.
As with any love affair, it was only skin
deep; the two parties didn't really know
that much about each other. In many ways,
American Jews liked Israel for her body
and Israelis liked American Jews for their
money. Theirs was not a love based on true
understanding, mutual respect, and
mutual commitment. The relationship
worked as long as the two parties dealt
with each other in a facile, superficial man-
ner — as long as not too many Israelis
moved to America and saw how attractive
life there really was compared to life in
Israel, and as long as those American Jews
who went to Israel never got off the tour
bus or, if they did, met only heroes and
dead people and then got right back on
But, as in any romance, there comes a
moment when the starry-eyed couple dis-
cover who the other really is, and, just as
important, who the other's relatives are


FRIDAY, JULY 28, 1989

hiding in the bedroom closet. Only if the
relationship survives that process of
mutual discovery can it really last.
That mutual-discovery process began for
American Jews and Israelis in the
mid-1970s. American Jews suddenly found
themselves exclaiming to Israelis, "Hey, I
fell in love with Golda Meir. You mean to
tell me that Rabbi Meir Kahane is in your
family! I went out with Moshe Dayan —
you mean to tell me that ultra-Orthodox
are in your family! I loved someone who
turns deserts green, not someone who
breaks Palestinians' bones."
Israelis eventually found themselves
equally aghast and exclaiming, "Look,
American Jew, just because we are dating
doesn't mean you can tell me how to live
my life. And anyway, American Jew, if we
are in love, then you should move in with
me. You can't just date me so that all your
neighbors will ooh and aah, and then drop
me off at the end of the evening. You also
can't start taking aerobics classes and
building up a physique of your own that
my daughter finds so attractive she wants
to move in with you! That's just not fair."
As the New York Times correspondent

in Jerusalem, I was both an eyewitness to,
and a catalyst for, this process of mutual
discovery. At times it was funny, at times
it was tragic; at times I saw it happen in
synagogues and at times I saw it occur in
places one would least imagine — like a
tennis court.
It was a normal Saturday morning in
Jerusalem, and Bob Slater, a corres-
pondent for Time, and I were having our
usual Saturday morning tennis match at
the Jerusalem rIbnnis Center. We happened
to arrive at our assigned court two minutes
before 10 a.m. and the Israeli players on the
court were in the middle of a point. We
walked onto the court but stayed over on
the side so as not to disturb them.
At that point, one of the Israeli players
asked if we would please wait outside. We
said no problem and stayed outside until
the clock struck 10 a.m., at which point we
returned to the court. They were still in the
middle of a game and left reluctantly. As
we passed each other, one of the Israelis
began mumbling in Hebrew something
about "arrogant Americans" pushing them
off the courts. After a few seconds of this,
I told the fellow that if he had something
to say he should say it in English, at which
point he erupted with a lava,flow of vile
When I calmly pointed out that without
American money there would have been no
Jerusalem lInnis Center, the man became
positively apoplectic. The veins were bulg-
ing in his neck, and his playing partners
had to literally drag him off the court, as
he shook his fist at me and sputtered, "Go
home, go back to America, arrogant
When the man was finally off the court,
Bob and I just stared at each other across
the net, dumbstruck. "What in the world
was that about?" we asked each other.
It was clear to me that this Israeli was
bothered by something more than just ten-
nis etiquette. He must have been nursing
a grudge against American Jews for a long
time and our entering his court early simp-
ly lit his fuse.
This contretemps occurred in 1987, just
as the United States was putting heavy
pressure on Israel to turn over for question-
ing several Israeli officials alleged to have
been involved in the Israeli espionage caper
in Washington.
The key figure in the Israeli spying
operation was a young American Jewish
U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, Jonathan
J. Pollard, who was arrested in November
1985 and two years later sentenced to life
in prison for providing Israeli agents with
a mountain of top-secret military data.

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