At a certain angle, with the right lighting
Like a middle-aged man, Israel has lost its youth and ideals, and is focused now on covering up the bald spots
I look in the mirror and definitely understand interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. What do they want, what do they know? From here, with my head bent at a certain angle, and the light from the window falling on my cheek, one can clearly see that a nice frame of hair surrounds my head. I say "nice," not "thick."
Anyone who is 50 or older is familiar with the quick sidelong glance cast at the mirror at the beginning of the day. Anyone who shaves in the morning is familiar with that particular angle, which helps him start the day fresh and optimistic. The person standing in front of the mirror gently and cautiously pats the delicate down over his forehead and ventures forth, confident of his captivating appearance and the world's readiness to welcome it.
Olmert is 61 years old, the state is 58. "Almost in the same grade," Olmert would say, patting the country on the back, were they to meet at an imaginary elementary school reunion. At this age, three years are meaningless. A state is not a living being, and its rate of aging, if any, is different.
The state has an age but bears no signs of age: Is the vitality of the students a sign of the freshness of France? Is the apathy of the students a symptom of accelerated aging in Israel? After all, our characteristics as a state will continue for years irregardless of age - we will always be a tiny country surrounded by enemies and they will always threaten to destroy us. And we will never speak of the fact that just by pressing a button, we are capable of destroying them and the entire Middle East along with them. That is how we look at ourselves after a glance in the mirror, from a certain angle and under the right lighting.
A country also finds itself looking in the mirror and refusing to acknowledge the carelessly camouflaged bald spot. That is how the country sees itself. If asked, it would also prefer a nice mane to six strips of hair stretched along the skull, but like its new prime minister, it knows how to live very well with what there is, as opposed to what there should be.
A display of freshness
And what we need today is not genuine freshness, but a show of freshness. Once, a fresh-looking young man was also thought to be a" rebel," "wild," "curious" and "adventurous." Today a "young" person is as balanced, measured and calculating as a 64-year-old accountant. He hastens to fulfill his debt to "adventurousness" after the army by going on a two-month trip to South America, generously funded by his parents.
His only rebellion is the rebellion against his parents' rebelliousness; leave him alone, let him vote for the Pensioners (hello, it's a joke?), or to be more precise, let him make money, lots of money, as much as possible.
My parents had no money, they lacked the ability. They lacked the ability to make money in Israel, and the time to rebel against their parents abroad. My parents did not rebel against their parents. They were thrown down on the ground of this country like a small branch in a big storm. My parents were not "the silver platter" (as in Natan Alterman's poem about young Israeli soldiers), and they certainly did not drip "the dew of Hebrew youth"; rather, they were small crumbs on the edge of the magnificent platter.
"Everything frightened them in its strangeness," wrote Amnon Dankner of his parents. My parents, on the other hand, wanted more than anything to be "like everyone else." Electricity blackouts in the late 1950s would bring my father out to the balcony, from which he would return all aglow: "Everyone's house is dark."
Our desire to rebel against our parents was replaced when we reached their age with the desire to be like our sportsmanlike and lighthearted children. Twenty years ago, a 61-year-old would conclude his lunch with a glass of tea with lemon and a good nap. Today he is forced, because he is Olmert, to run with foam on his lips to show everyone how sportsmanlike, not to mention dynamic, he is. More than 10 years ago, an eye doctor scolded me for calling myself "Yossi" rather than "Yosef," as is customary among adults. "What, are you a child?" he asked. Only this week I threw away my favorite Ronaldinio shirt (with number 10 on the back.) I have just discovered the charm of cholesterol, or at least the charm of discussions about it in forums that are closed to anyone who does not have the seniority required to understand its complexity.
The fountain of youth
I have it, Olmert has it, and maybe even the entire country has a strong desire to connect to youth. It is doubtful whether cholesterol will be the bridge on which we march into each other's arms. There are relatively easy steps: We have already learned to handle the computer, and we are dealing with the knowledge that not every chance smile of a waitress is an invitation to a relationship.
I, for example, initiate serious discussions with my daughter about music. I didn't have such discussions with my parents. I point out to her Jim Morrison's place in the history of rock, and she thinks that Harel Sakat (the star of the TV program "Kokhav Nolad," the Israeli version of "American Idol") has long since taken over that place. I explain to her that 70-year-olds she knows, people who trip on their canes before her eyes, not long ago went wild at Pink Floyd performances. And she says that 70-year-olds are old. Yes, even Mick Jagger.
I don't have to go as far as Mick Jagger. Here, to our surprise, the young people are coming towards us. Just a moment, what's happening here? They are jumping over our heads. They are connecting. Not with our disconnected parents, but with the parents of our parents. All my father wanted was to stay alive, I wanted to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and they want to be businessman Nohi Dankner. Not to replace him, or to push him aside, simply to be "Nohi Dankner."
Rejecting the Diaspora
They are once again rejecting the rejection of galut (the Diaspora). They have once again stood Ber Borochov's inverted pyramid on its head. (The "inverted pyramid" was the observation by the Russian Jewish socialist and Zionist that the Jews, as opposed to other nations, had few real proletarians, and more professionals, intelligentsia, and people engaged in non-essential consumer production.) I look at the young people carefully: At shirts whose sleeves are not rolled up even in summer, at the pants in soft shades, at the Palm Pilots. I see the small trucks in which their wives do their shopping in the supermarket. They don't try to hide their expressions of disgust and disdain at the student demonstrations in France.
Ostensibly high-tech, Hebrew-speaking young people from Silicon Valley, in fact they are all Menahem Mendel (a poor small-town Jew, the most famous character of Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem.) Bent and in tatters, engaged in luftgescheft (making a living from the air.) Running to do business. A Yid from Kasrilevka (Sholem Aleichem's imaginary Eastern European village.) Today with a wink they sell you a "vision." Tomorrow they will try to interest you in the "market economy." The day after, they will suffocate with happiness and murmur: "Exits, exits."
Any account that anyone settles with young people contains an admission of the fact that he is entering (allow me to word this delicately) a certain age group. My parents remained silent, I'm dying to talk and my children don't want to listen. The only thing left for me is to return to the mirror. I dim the lights, close the curtain and see that the situation is good, that I have a large number of options. I believe that all the roads are still open.
On second thought, more pessimistic but mature, I tend to adopt the words of David Avidan:
"What justifies more than all
the dream, the huge despair
the knowledge that there is no justification
and the search every minute anew
the excitement and the distress
is the simple fact that we have nowhere to go."