Shock of Recognition

'She's a journalist,' says her friend, who's wearing a lovely appliqued T-shirt. A Yael Orgad? Hagara maybe? 'Which paper are you with again?' 'The local paper you all read,' I say modestly.

1. Two weeks ago Friday, the No. 5 bus from Dizengoff to the Tel Aviv central bus station. Two young women sit down on the seats opposite me. The skinnier one, in low-rise jeans, platform shoes and a piercing in her right nostril, points a perfectly manicured finger and nearly pokes me.

"Carmela Menashe," she declares.

"Tzipi Livni," I answer.

"Come on," she says. "Tzipi Livni has lighter hair. You're a feminist, right?"

"Sure. Aren't you?" I say.

"That's not the point. You're a feminist like Carmela Menashe, right?"

"Even more. Carmela is a very beautiful and nice woman and a superb journalist and I admire her and we're even sort of friends."

"You look a lot like her, don't you?"

"Carmela's about half a meter shorter than me."

"Okay, but you can't see that when you're sitting down. You're a journalist, too, right?"


"For which paper?"

"Which ones do you read?"

"I don't read any newspapers. I've seen you on television. You're a feminist and you're funny, right?"


"So what's your name?"

"Will Shelly Yachimovich do?"

"You think I'm totally stupid?"

"Tali Lipkin-Shahak?"

"So you don't want to tell me who you are? We're getting off here."

"Fine, Merav Michaeli."

2. An hour and a half later, a small grocery store on Shatz Street in Jerusalem. The salesperson gives me a long look and a spark of recognition flashes. "You're a celebrity, right?" he asks (In Jerusalem, thank God, they don't use the abbreviation "celeb" yet). The only other woman in the place glances at me and, for lack of public interest, goes right back to rummaging through the shelves.

"Of course I'm a celebrity," I reply.

"For what?" he asks.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"What field? In what subject are you a celebrity?" he explains.

"Ah, I'm a general celebrity in a general subject, a future general mega-celeb on the wane."

3. A few minutes later, at the Cafe Nadi on Shatz Street. Tables are scattered on the sidewalk and I settle down at one of them and wait for my kids to show up. Two middle-aged men walk up the street toward me. One of them, wearing a knitted skullcap, looks familiar.

"It's you," he says.

"Guilty as charged."

"Neri Livneh, the witty, brilliant and opinionated journalist ..." he says.

"Well, if you say so." I guess I've still got it after all.

" ... the extreme leftist, the hater of Israel."

And then I remember where I know him from - from the parade of the Temple Mount Faithful, from the threatening phone calls that followed, 14 years ago or so. From the complaint filed with the police, who are apparently still checking into it.

"Calm down," his friend tells him.

4. The same day, dinner in Kfar Shmaryahu. A gorgeous house, lovely dishes and the hosts are just as attractive. The food is superb and the company is excellent, mostly people I know to one degree or another. "What do you think about what happened at the opening of H&M?" asks one of them.

"It just goes to prove all the old arguments about the consumer culture and enslavement to corporations and how everybody, everywhere, wants to wear the same clothes and sit on the same furniture instead of seeking self-expression and uniqueness, and how shopping, in itself, is becoming a cultural experience," I respond at some length, as befits someone who once wrote a book about being addicted to shopping.

"You call that culture?" the guest exclaims. "Look at the lines, look what's become of us. We've become a herd society. Everyone's coarse and rude."

"That's true, of course," I reply relatively pleasantly, reminding myself that I, too, am a guest here. "But this kind of hysteria isn't unique to us. In America, for instance, people trample one another at big sales, and nobody outdoes the delicate Japanese when it comes to being consumers. Actually, I'm a lot more disturbed by the fact that Avigdor Lieberman is a minister, that his party is legal, that Eli Yishai is deciding fates here, that Danny Ayalon wasn't already fired from his job back in his American period, that Bibi is prime minister and that Nir Barkat is so keen on Judaizing all of East Jerusalem and starting World War III here. As far as I'm concerned, that's what proves that we're animals, and not the lines at H&M."

"Really?" she says. "To me, the thing that really proves our bestiality is that my neighbor in Givatayim always steals my parking spot. I expect you, as a journalist, to finally write an article about this in Haaretz. How can my neighbor just keep on stealing the parking spot that I paid for?"

"Maybe you ought to contact your local paper," I suggest sensitively.

"That's just your problem. All you ever write about is the poor and the Palestinians and politics and not about the really important things in life," she scolds me.

5. Sunday afternoon, an outdoor cafe in Tel Aviv, the weather surprisingly spring-like. I'm lucky to find a table. I tie my dog, Shoshana, to the umbrella and wait for A. Three women are sitting two tables away from me. One of them lays out a handkerchief on the table, and inside are some colorful necklaces. I get up to take a look.

"Where do I know you from?" asks one of the women, wearing wide slacks and a shirt with a Dorin Frankfurt print.

"I really don't know. I don't think I know you, but the necklaces are very pretty," I answer.

"She's a journalist," says her friend, who's wearing a lovely appliqued T-shirt. A Yael Orgad? Hagara maybe? "Which paper are you with again?"

"The local paper you all read," I say modestly.

"But I'm from Yokne'am," says the one with the necklaces.

"So I write for the Yokne'am Times."

"There is no such paper," she laughs, and then she remembers: "She writes for the paper we all read."

"Are there Haaretz subscribers in Yokne'am?"

"Haaretz? No way, it can't be," they all say at once.