Danny had a birthday this week. We all met in Shimon and Mirileh’s yard where we fired up the grill to celebrate his birth. Even the kids agreed to come this time. Yarden got a big hug for getting into medical school in Jerusalem. Shir has colored her hair chestnut brown. Out of the corner of my eye I saw how Yoav and Sharon disappeared in the direction of the parking lot. If they snuck out for a smoke they’ll have me to deal with.
Then Nitzani and Einat sang to him and Doris agreed to join in. She sings beautifully but usually is too embarrassed. I was assigned to say a few words on behalf of the nation so I said that what was surprising is how Danny got here without All-Stars. Everyone laughed because everyone knows the story of how his dad refused to buy him All-Star running shoes. We have heard the story a thousand times, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t get together with your people to hear new stories.
They are my people. I was all grown up and in another country when I discovered that there are people without people. There are those for whom family is enough or work or the TV which is always on in the background, giving them the feeling that someone is talking to them. I guess that one can live that way but I have no intention of trying.
My people are not unique. Every area code has similar people. There’s the guy who has everyone’s birthday and anniversary dates on his computer. There’s the one who makes the phone calls and the one who insists we be on time. We are intimidated by him but what can he really do to us? And Shimon and Mireleh are always happy to donate their yard and we also have, of course, one person who loves fanning the coals on the grill because he thinks it's fun.
One that tells jokes, one that's responsible for grillAs usual, the girls went from table to table and talked about the things that girls talk about. They don’t feel like they are missing anything because there’s nothing to miss. With my people nothing ever changes. Drorit always wants the gang to travel somewhere. Tamir always wants to play the guitar and Yaakov can be relied on to say something funny. Sometimes I ask myself if he is really funny or that he’s been funny for so many years that I laugh automatically as soon as he finishes a sentence.
And like with any people sometimes there are issues. Someone gets insulted because someone else gets too close. Then someone else is less than charmed by another’s husband. Everyone is certain that now that so and so has become wealthy he’ll stop calling us. But that won’t happen – he needs us to tell him he has become successful.
We don’t want to succeed alone and our failures are not exactly orphans either. I once had a problem, the kind that life hands you, that involves your kids and eats you up on the inside. It is said that the army has forgotten the ethos that you don’t leave the wounded in the field. It is my good fortune that my people have not been briefed.
We aren’t even sure how we got to know one another. I mean how do people meet? Some are -school buddies, others met in the army. Shimon B and I met at the beach. We became paddle-ball partners. I have friends through my wife, through work, from the neighborhood and some second-hand friends in great condition that were lent to me. It doesn’t really matter. We work like Swiss clocks, guaranteed for life.
Will we get stuck in front of the TV?Sometimes I worry that it will come to an end. We’ll get old or tired or get stuck on the couch watching cable TV and will no longer have the strength to leave the house. So, I called my father to ask how it is at his age but he never answers the phone on Friday afternoons. He’s sitting at the neighborhood coffee shop with his people.
I am still unable to understand how people can live people-less. In other languages there isn’t even a word for the Hebrew term 'chevre.' In my English-Hebrew dictionary, ‘chevre’ is translated as ‘close friends.’ I have no problem with that of course because some of my best friends are close but it’s something totally different. With close friends, you go out for coffee, with "chevre" you spend a half-hour arguing who is going to get up off the couch and make tea for everyone.
I am content on this couch with this very extended family, the last communal village where there are no kings and serfs, rich and poor, wise and foolish, phonies and those who determine the agenda. People say "drop-by" and mean it because it’s not an imposition. In any case they aren’t making a meal just throwing some munchies and things on the table. They play music you like on the CD player because they don’t have any discs that you don’t like and will ask you if you know the story about the All-Stars. I’ll say sort of but I don’t remember all the details. Tell me again, what exactly happened?
What exactly happened is why we in Israel we go to war, why we continue living in this country. It’s the only question worth answering. Study any war in the history of the country, from Independence onward and it’s always the same story: Not about the one who saved the homeland but the one who went out to rescue his people from the mud.
So congratulations Danny. You don’t know him but I do. He’s my people.