Just one more post before I depart Israel.
I bring home with me a little pain, some physical, some spiritual. I finished the week at the gym, this time with heavy sparring. The coach paired me with a very accomplished heavy weight fighter, which was a smart move, because my opponent mostly parried my shots and politely jabbed at me when he saw an opening (which was frequently). Not so smart I, because filled with confidence I then paired myself with a young kid of about 19 who swung wildly and often missed. I could not bring myself to hit him much, simply because he was so clumsy, (and truthfully I hate hitting people-I know its an internal conflict) but while I was artfully dodging him he managed to hit me with a tremendous right hand that made me see stars. My jaw and head still hurt. So much for the physical pain.
As for the spiritual pain, I caught a cab to Jerusalem driven by a young, stylishly dressed woman who spoke absolutely no english. Seeing this as a final chance to work on my hebrew, I engaged in conversation the entire trip. Hers was not an unfamiliar story. Born in Moscow, she left during her student years to come to Israel, where she tried to succeed as an artist and sculptor. Her hebrew, by the way, was impeccable, and quite fluent. She was raising two children by herself, and drove a cab because she needed the money desperately. She spoke to me at length at how hard life was in Israel, especially in Jerusalem, how hard it was to make ends meet. This is a most familiar story, as the booming Israeli economy has only resulted in great profits for the wealthy and upper class, and has left the middle class and the poor behind. I asked her, given the amount of new construction I saw in Jerusalem, and the filled cafes and stores, why the economy was still so lagging. She replied with a torrent of invective directed against the high taxes, the cost of living and she finished with a diatribe against the ultra-Orthodox; who take millions from the government and contribute virtually nothing. As she put it, “I work so they can take my money”. As we were pulling up to the airport, she then started in on “the Blacks”. Since “the Blacks” is often an expression used to describe the ultra-Orthodox who dress in black clothing, I thought she was just repeating herself. But then she pointed. “See those Blacks? I mean-How can they afford airline tickets? I’m sure its on my money”. As I looked up from rummaging in my bag, I saw she was pointing not at ultra-orthodox Jews but at a family of Ethiopian Jews. Oy, I thought, The Blacks. I left the cab with both sadness and resignation, and began my journey home.