I always loved going to the beach. The sand and the sun and the jellyfish didn’t bother me. And I certainly wasn’t bothered by all the people. The folks in their flip-flops who crowd the beaches, with their folding chairs made of metal and plastic, in their flattering and not-so-flattering swimsuits, playing their noisy games of matkot with the balls flying in all directions, like rifle bullets in a shoot-out, eating ice cream – pineapple, grape, banana, strawberry – and letting it melt and drip onto their bare chests. With their straw mats and their half-watermelons, their sunglasses and surfboards.
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Everyone was at the beach. And the sea could care less. Millions of years ago, dinosaurs stomped around in its waves. So you expect it to be impressed by flip-flops?
And all the young folks there. The ones who bring their bottles of beer, cans of Red Bull, portable speakers and bongs (in pineapple, grape, banana and strawberry flavors), who hook their phones up to the speakers and blast hip-hop hits and Mizrahi music at full volume – just as happy as can be.
So annoying, isn’t it? All these young boys and girls who have yet to taste bitterness and resentment. Who have yet to be struck by the hammer-blow of real life. No worries or obligations for them! Watch as they take another hit from the bong, another sip of beer; as they horse around and jostle one another; as they take their shirts off and make all that noise. That’s not noise. Don’t be confused. That’s the sound of youth. And it’s as lovely as a Kate Bush song or the chirping of birds.
Some people don’t like the beach. They can’t stand the sand that gets into everything, especially into the space between the bathing suit and your butt and thighs. They’re afraid of how strong the sun is. They smear themselves with layer upon layer of sunscreen, until they’re as white as ghosts.
But most of all, they despise the crowds that fill the beaches. The clamoring and sweaty throngs. And the loss of modesty and privacy: When people slip their clothes off so they’re left in their bathing suits, which are essentially their underwear – they lose all shame. They feel comfortable with themselves, body and soul, warts and all. They allow themselves to let go. They strip off their values along with their clothes. There’s something unnerving about this, especially if you’re used to being chained within a strict framework of manners and proper behavior every day.
The beach is an autonomous region. People tend to forget themselves there. Were we to conduct a study, we might find that those who hate going to the beach are the same folks who are highly scornful of internet commenters. There’s something similar in the sense of abandon you find both at the beach and on the internet – a freer atmosphere in which anything goes.
Everyone was all up in arms about the mounds of garbage left around Lake Kinneret over Passover. But the garbage isn’t the real problem.
There is a sense of freedom that arises from the proximity to a source of water. It’s not a matter of culture. After all, the coastlines of the cradles of Western civilization – Italy and France – are among the dirtiest in the world. It’s not the beach-goers’ fault. Most of the time they’re grinding away at work, balancing family life and financial pressures. Under all sorts of stress, you name it.
So for a few hours, the slaves feel like they can be masters. And can do whatever the heck they feel like – and right now they feel like trashing Mother Earth. What has Mother Earth done for them lately, anyway? Not a whole lot. It mostly produces profits for Yitzhak Tshuva and the Ofer Brothers and their rich cronies.
The sea, the beach, Lake Kinneret – these are the last places remaining for those who can’t afford to spend exorbitant sums on their leisure pursuits. So they barbecue and jump in the water. All for free. And they leave behind a chaos of bags overflowing with garbage. Okay, it’s not so nice to look at, but no one’s going to tell them what they can and cannot do.
And all this scares the feinschmeckers, who are actually thinking one thing and one thing only: You people are disgusting. We are not. There are people who love nature more than they love people. It’s mass hatred in the guise of concern for the environment.
You know what the problem of the left is? Not enough suntan. Bougie Herzog and Erel Margalit and Zehava Gal-On look like they haven’t been to the beach since the 1970s. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Bougie goes every weekend to Banana Beach or Tantura Beach, lays down a mat and sprawls there by the waves for a couple of hours.
It’s a question of image, because that’s how politics is. In Israel, the beach belongs to the people, it belongs to the masses. And if you’re not with us – you’re against us. Most people want to believe that they share common experiences with their leaders (Bibi does not go to the beach; he is not human). This is the essence of present-day populism.
I tend to agree with this: Leftists, go to the beach! Then you can talk about the occupation. You can’t understand the occupation without understanding the beach. When the Palestinians are given entry permits to Israel on Id al-Fitr, the first place they stream to is the beach in Tel Aviv. Because that’s the dream. To be at the beach in a bathing suit. Nothing can beat it. Peace will come when the popsicle vendor shows up.
I always loved the beach, but now I hate it. I hate it so much. Because I have an 18-month-old son, and before I go there, I have to make sure I packed diapers, a change of clothes, bottle of formula, pacifier, banana, tangerine, plastic container of pasta, a bottle of juice, sunscreen, a hat, a pail and shovel and inner tube, towels and a stroller.
And when I finally make it to the beach, I’m as neurotic as Woody Allen at a water park: The kid is too cold, the kid is too hot, he’ll get sunstroke, he’s not having fun, he is having fun, he’s sad, he’s happy. Once upon a time, the beach symbolized ultimate freedom. Now it’s more akin to an impossible and nerve-wracking bureaucratic nightmare. It’s enough to make you want to just sit at home, in the dark, with all the leftists.
I went to the beach a few weeks ago. After an hour, I couldn’t take it anymore. The kid ran into the water. I ran after him. He fell. A big wave came and washed over him. He started to splutter and cry. I picked him up. He gave me a hard slap, getting wet sand all over my face. He started to shriek. He wanted to go home. Or maybe he wanted to run back into the water. I’m not sure.
As for me, I was busy thinking about my previous life. I dreamt I was sitting on the beach, with a bottle of beer, a bong and speakers blasting Beyonce’s latest hit. No worries. Just me and the sea. Oh, and I left behind a dirty diaper that I forgot to put in the garbage. I apologize.