We are no longer cool.
We always had problems around here, but up until a few years ago we were still one of the coolest states on earth. When we would meet Americans and tell them we're from Israel, their immediate response would be "Wow." It wasn't always clear why they said it – because of the high-tech, the most beautiful girls in the world, the Entebbe Operation, the Six-Day War, the kibbutzim, Exodus, the Mossad, the oranges, or the fact that the feeble Jews suddenly got a tan and went to the beach.
Yet somehow, at some point in the last decade, it ended. You tell John Smith "I'm from Israel" while he drinks his beer and he gives you a foggy stare and says: "You've got quite a few problems there, man. Must be tough."
And John is relatively ok. He has a cousin who serves in Iraq and hates those "damn towel-heads." Maggie from London simply grabs her cocktail and walks away with her blond head up high, to ensure you see her disgust. Julio from Madrid has a Keffiyeh wrapped around his neck because he identifies with all the miserable creatures in the world, and Jorgen from Munich – from Munich, for God's sake! – says he's a pacifist, which is a code-word for his unwillingness to accept blame for the Holocaust, because he wasn't even born back then, so we shouldn't think it justifies everything.
There is something insulting about it. Like being the most popular girl in high school who later gained weight, or that moment when you meet the basketball team captain you always cheered on 20 years later – and discover that he's an idiot. Still very tall, but an idiot.
Because we are no longer cool. Everything that used to be funny has become problematic. The kibbutznik who would walk into the opera house in Vienna wearing sandals had been replaced by a bunch of teenagers who vandalize hotels in Cyprus. That Israeli guy who arrived in New York with $10 in his pocket and became a millionaire is currently suspected of real-estate fraud and is wanted in six states. Instead of exporting irrigation systems to Africa, we sell weapons to the worst regimes on earth. Meanwhile, the best army in the world is being portrayed in the worst way possible on CNN.
And in response we complain and show anger, while referring to them as "anti-Semites," which of course worsens the situation because there is nothing less cool than whining, but what can we do? Keep silent? Leave the stage for the bad guys?
Yet it's not quite clear what we want from them, because we haven't been cool in our own eyes for a while now. Instead of drying up swamps, we spend hours waiting in line at the Welfare Office, the Bible has turned into some outposts near Hebron, and the guy who refers to you as "brother" will soon pull out a knife and stab you in the parking lot.
It is true that for years now we have seen radical leftist groups operating against us worldwide, backed up by Islamic money and endorsed by self-hating Jews. Yet it's hard to say we did not give them something to work with. Because the first rule of coolness is that nobody else will love you if you don't love yourself first.
Part 2 of article to appear Sunday