Shabbat Shalom

My son didn't calm down until I promised him that on the next Feast of the Sacrifice I would decorate the sheep like a Christmas tree, with flashing lights, bells and shining stars.

"Do you have special songs for your Shabbat meal?" asked our polite host when, together with his family, he had finished singing "Malachei Hashalom," or whatever you call that song they sing before the meal. "Who chose us like all the nations," sang the members of the host family together, with an emphasis on the words "like all," (instead of the original "from among all") making sure that we had gotten the message.

They're very leftist, very. All day long they're at protest demonstrations. They belong to some movement called "Rabbis Without Borders," but I'm not sure of the name. They have a lovely house in one of the more Anglo-Saxon neighborhoods in the city. They have books about leftists, pictures of leftists and non-threatening Shabbat candles. How is it, I always wonder, Lord of the Universe - all day the Jews are busy with candles and lightings and fire, and in the end only Arab homes are burned.

"I don't know," I replied to my host, turning to my wife. "Do we have songs of our own for Shabbat meals?"

"We don't have a Shabbat meal," replied my wife.

"I mean the Friday meal," said our host, quickly correcting himself in an apologetic tone. "Or whatever you call it."

"We don't have a Friday meal, either," claimed my wife, shoving another piece of organic-wheat challah into her mouth.

"What's a communist?" asked my daughter.

"Ah, I'll explain it to you later. Take it slow with the chopped liver, sweetheart."

My little son, whose greatest ambition is to be the "Shabbat daddy" on Friday in kindergarten, once again attacked me with his look of disappointment at his national and religious affiliation. He's in a sensitive period, my son: Since Christmas, Hanukkah and the Feast of the Sacrifice, he's been in a deep depression.

"Don't worry," I had to hug and console him. And the child didn't calm down until I promised him that on the next Feast of the Sacrifice I would decorate the sheep like a Christmas tree, with flashing lights, bells and shining stars that I would attach to its wool as white as snow, and if it was one with horns, I would attach a Hanukkah menorah to it too.

"So when you sit down to a meal" - wondered the host, who found it difficult to accept the possibility that there are people who feel no need to sing before the meal or to thank any God whatsoever, certainly not for the dry maqluba - a rice and eggplant casserole that my wife for some reason insists on preparing on special occasions - "what kind of ritual do you have?"

"Washing our hands," I tried a joke, which more than it disappointed our hosts deepened the depression of my son, the seeker of religious symbols. "But when I think about it, there actually are a few special songs," I said, and my son lifted his head in pride.

"For example, the song 'Toot Toot Beirut,'" I tossed out the name of a song that my children like.

"Is that a holy song, Daddy?" asked my son, full of enthusiasm.

"Of course," I replied. "Now I remember, 'Zena and Nahul' is also good for Fridays."

"Great," shouted the children, beginning to sing the theme song of the television show "Maya the Bee" in Arabic.

"Do you participate in protest demonstrations?" asked the mother of the family with a friendly smile, while I was working hard to separate the skin from the chicken (never have I seen such a leftist chicken).

"No," replied my wife, without guilt, and I immediately came to the rescue in order to improve our geopolitical status.

"Sometimes," I said, and my wife lifted her head, surprised at my imprecise answer. "But for the most part I'm in favor of other types of protest events."

"Ah, really?" said the host in surprise. "Like what, for example?"

"Ahhh," I wrinkled my forehead and arched my eyebrows, trying in that way to hint to my wife to smother the snicker and concentrate on her drumstick, "all kinds of protest events, more connected to public relations, I would say" - with pictures running through my mind of getting drunk at the bar on Ben Sira Street and accusing everyone present of racism and hatred of Arabs.

"Ah," said the hostess admiringly, "that's very nice. Where do you do that?"

"Usually in public places," I replied. "I simply get onstage, sometimes just a table or a chair, and speak my mind in order to open their eyes, mainly those of young people."

"Very nice," replied the man of the house, "interesting. And how do your listeners react?"

Okay, most of the time they're even more drunk that I am, I thought to myself.

"Sometimes it's difficult," I answered out loud, "not everyone is always understanding about it" - I continued, receiving a supportive and understanding nod from my hosts. "There were several times when the security forces intervened and shut me up."

"Oh God," our hosts were shocked, "people don't want to hear the truth around here. It's amazing."

"Yes, the truth can sometimes be difficult," I said, raising my voice in order to prevent my wife from becoming involved in the conversation. In any case, I wasn't lying, they did once call in the police to drag me out of some pub in the city center.

"Well, please excuse us," I said in a tone full of a sense of mission. "It's Friday night and ..."

"That's true," interrupted my host, "you probably want to make a speech to soldiers on leave."

"Yes," I nodded, "there really is nothing like the Friday night platform."

"Take care of yourself," pleaded our hosts when we left, their looks full of reinforcement and participation in our pain.

"What a house they have!" said my wife even before we got to the car.

"Yes, eh? Do you have any idea what work they do?"

"You're asking me?" she replied. "You're the one who knows them."

"Daddy, are those people communists?" asked my daughter as she sat in the back seat.

"I don't think so," I replied.

"And what about us," she continued, "are we communists?"

"No, sweetie. We're 'post-.'"