Tired of Faking It

Ya'allah, another column. Last week I took a vacation. I felt as if, for the past two years, after about the third column that I wrote for the paper, I didn't really have anything important to say. That I'd gone through my whole worldview in three columns, two of which were a tired reworking of the first. I said I wouldn't leave, as I'd nonetheless grown attached to my neighbors in the paper's immigrant neighborhood. Only a week of vacation had gone by and somehow I was already missing the gay leftist, the lesbian, the fat lady and the religious fellow.

I felt that I could stop now, that my national mission wasn't as pressing as before. This feeling began when they stuck an Arab on the TV show about fat people, and then a model, and a family-swapping mother, and with the Super Nanny and, of course, the war troubadour Mariam Tukan. I felt that there were too many Arabs around and that they were somehow doing a much better job of it than me.

I swear, ever since the wave of reality shows with Arabs, I've gone soft on minorities, suddenly I don't hate them all. I understand that there are this sort and that sort to be found among every people. There are fat people, skinny people, poor people and less poor people. Somehow when I see them being unable to control their kids, just like any average Israeli family from Ma'aleh Adumim, I tell myself: They're just like us, almost human.

I took a week of vacation in order to ponder my next move. Call it a temporary incapacitation. I feel that I'm no longer faithful to the written word in this column. I can't live with the feeling that I'm faking it in writing. Granted, I don't and never did have anything important to say - I have no idea to promote, I have no ideologies, no social, political or economic agenda. All in all, I try to tell stories, but I can still tell the difference between good writing and bad. With bad writing, my whole body reacts, I can't control my muscles and they become so rigid that sometimes when I know that I'm writing a pathetic line my finger locks on the keyboard on the last letter of that sentenceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

"You hear?" I said to my wife on Thursday evening, when I took off my shoes after another strenuous day of drinking and pondering moves, and I stretched out on the couch. "I've decided to leave the paper."

"It's really about time that parade of nonsense was stopped," I heard her say, before I closed my eyes in weariness and fell asleep.

I was awakened by a rumbling sound. At first, I was sure it was one of those nightmares that like to hit me just when I'm in that pre-conscious state and am not quite sure whether I'm awake or asleep. I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. It was 6 A.M., and light outside. The loud noise didn't let up and frightened my wife and the kids awake, too.

"What is it?" my wife asks.

"Daddy, I'm scared," says the little girl.

The rumbling just keeps growing louder. I can hear the cacophony of a mob, but I can't make out what they are saying. The noise keeps growing louder and more threatening.

"Take the kids into the sealed room right away!" I shout at my wife.

"What sealed room? We don't have one."

"Okay, so tell them to kneel down. What do I know? Put them under the table."

My wife hurries the trembling children into the safest corner. I check again that the door is locked and start to close all the shutters. I know that they are looking for me. I can clearly hear my name now being uttered by voices in the mob that is closing in on my house.

I knew it. I always knew that I would end up being stoned. A public stoning meant to be seen and to instill fear. This is the end to which every columnist who's expected to say something important and fails, is doomed. This is the end of every sinner.

The voices grow louder and I can tell they're practically here. Oh God, why didn't I make him gay? Or religious? Now they're calling for my head, they've reached my doorway. There's no room for cowardice here. The end is known. At least, it will be a hero's death. But I'm not a hero and I never was and never wanted to be. I won't let them threaten the children, I won't let them charge inside and, god forbid, hurt my family. I'll go out to them and let them do with me as they please.

"Take care of the children," I shout to my wife, "and tell them that no matter what they hear about me, I was always a model father."

"But they're big enough to know that you're a lousy father," my wife answers, just as I turn the key in the door and go out to greet the mob, with my hands raised and shouting "Shema Yisrael."

Instead of rocks they throw flowers at me. The threatening shouts become a cheering chorus. They hold signs with slogans: "Don't leave us!" in both Hebrew and Arabic. Old people, kids, men and women from every walk of life stand there in the thousands, in the hundreds of thousands, chanting: "Keep on writing. Keep on writing." There are apologetic signs from settlers; representatives of the Islamic movement, feminists and the umbrella organization of Ethiopian immigrants all stand together pleading for my return. Not since Nasser's resignation, when the masses took to the streets and called on him to reconsider, has the Middle East seen such an event.

"Get a load of this," I shout to my wife as I'm borne aloft by my admirers.

"They're all fake," I manage to read her lips, which are muttering, "Sayed, Sayed, time to quit. We're tired of reading your weekly bit."