A Taste of America

studying
credit Yakov Nahomie, and special thanks to Ronnie!

Today is the holiday of Purim in Jerusalem, which commemorates the deliverance of our people from a terrible plot to kill all the Jews of Persia, some 2400 years ago. The holiday has been popular ever since, and is somewhat similar to Halloween, in that it is common for people to dress up in costumes and masks for the occasion. It’s the one day in the year when it’s a religious good deed to get drunk! I mention that it’s happening today in Jerusalem because the holiday was celebrated in most other places in the world, yesterday. That is because when the holiday was first declared, it was decided to celebrate it on a certain day according to the Jewish calendar, but that in all walled cities it would be celebrated one day later. And since this rule applies only to cities that were walled cities at the time, Jerusalem has the singular honor… there aren’t too many other cities that were walled at that time, and exist to this day. And Persia, if you’re wondering, is not a mythological state. It’s still around. Except they’ve changed their name recently. Now they’re called, Iran.

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Last week, when I heard that our prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu was going to visit America, to tell congress there to do their bit, and keep Iran from making atomic bombs, it gave me an idea. I would volunteer to help him. After all, I’m pretty good at English, and this is a very important issue. We could do it as a team. He could be the straight man, and I could tell the jokes. As you probably know, Israel is like a family. Everyone knows everyone… and half of us are related, one way or another. So I got in touch with my sister in law who’s ex boyfriend just happens to have a second cousin who is married to the cook in the prime minister’s mansion. And asked her to get the message across to Bibi. That’s what we call our prime minister. You can just imagine my disappointment when I wasn’t invited to join the delegation.

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After Netanyahu made his speech to congress on Tuesday, there was much discussion here the next day. People from all across the political spectrum here in Israel thought it was an excellent speech. Some said it was even powerful. But about half the country said, ‘well it was just words. Will it really stop Iran from making the bomb?!’ Listening to this, I got a little dejected. I kept thinking, if only he had taken my suggestion. If I’d gone with him, we could have really gotten those congress folks off their seats, and changed the course of history! And what’s more, I would have gotten a taste of America! That’s what I told Chana, when we were driving through the rain in the northern Negev, looking for a picture that was worth a thousand words.

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So she told me, ‘But you could still get a taste of America’. Remember, Chana, I told her, ever since they forbade smoking on airplanes, I’ve no interest in traveling abroad. ‘No problem’, she answered. ‘I know a place just a few kilometers from here, where you could have a taste of America’. So off we went, to a gas station at one of the larger intersections found in the Negev. Around the gas station, a number of coffee shops and restaurants have settled in. And among them, McDonald’s. They’ve got a big sign there, that promises ‘Big America’. And if you don’t eat meat, you can get their Egg McMuffin plus coffee, for only 14 shekels! They call it, ‘the happy meal’. We walked in and stood in line. And I tell you, just standing in line already made me feel half American. We both ordered children’s portions. I didn’t want them to have to call for an ambulance when I was finished eating. I’m a cautious guy.

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But what we didn’t know, was when you order a child’s portion, you also get a toy, and a chance to win the big prize, after the guessing contest. All the food came in cardboard buckets, and on the bucket, there was a reproduction of the Mona Lisa that just about knocked my eyes out. Eating would be enough, but here we were, filling our bellies, and filling our eyes with high powered culture. The object of the guessing contest was figuring out how the Mona Lisa on the cardboard bucket differed from the original version of the painting, painted some time back by someone named DeCaprio or DaVinci or some kind of Italian name. We didn’t get to see the original. But I suppose everyone who’s been to Europe has already seen it. Though I couldn’t remember if I’d ever seen it, I could see that the lady in this version of the picture was frowning. I was sure that if the original was so famous, the lady there had probably been smiling. And guess what? No sooner did I give my answer, then we got a prize for each of us. It was called a ‘Gogo Squeeze’, and the package assured us that it was made of 100% fruit!

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almost an identical copy of the Mona Lisa

After we finished our Gogo Squeezes, we started opening our toys. We had each gotten a little plastic doll in a hygienic plastic bag, as befits a classy American restaurant like McDonald’s. Chana got the girl doll, and I got the boy doll. In the interest of heterosexual fantasy, we decided to trade presents. I opened up my present and laid her down on the table, just looking at her and wondering what to do now. A twelve year old boy ambled up to my table, and mumbled something out of the side of his face. What’s that, I asked? ‘If you want to get her to spread her legs, I could tell you how, but it’ll cost you 20 shekels’, he said. Please go back to mumbling, I whispered, pointing to Chana with my eyebrows, while trying to hide my blush with the napkin, generously provided by Mac.

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his recommendation: transcendental meditation

Cunningly, I pulled my wallet out under the table, and passed a twenty to the young man. He pocketed the money without anyone noticing the transaction. ‘What you’ve got to do’, he said, ‘is the simple exercise of transcendental meditation’. You compose a sentence that is the bare bones expression of what you want, and say the sentence over and over again for twenty minutes with your eyes closed. It works for more than 70% of all who’ve tried it, and has proved itself all over the world. Something like ‘legs apart’ will do. ‘Just close your eyes and say it over and over again. Ask the lady across from you to tell you when the 20 minutes are over. You won’t be disappointed’. Man, that was really a taste of America.

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68 responses to “A Taste of America

  1. I think you’ve hit on a great idea there Shimon that all politicians should go around as a double act. I could stomach their speeches much more easily!

    • Actually, it was a good speech. He had a very difficult message to present. People would prefer not to hear bad news, but he did it well. All the same, I do think that a little humor at times can save the day. Thanks for the comment, Claire. Good to see you active again.

  2. I do believe in your power about peace dear Shimon. This was amazing post, why don’t you think to write a book or to make all them a book. Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, have a nice weekend, love, nia

    • Thanks Nia. I have a friend whose mentioned that possibility on more than one occasion, but at this point, I am enjoying the possibilities of blogging. It makes me feel like I’m connected with the newest style of written communication. Though there is twitter and facebook which I haven’t yet explored. Wishing you a very good week.

  3. Good morning Shimon…..when I tried to open your post, McAfee put up a warning sign….and so am a little concerned there might be a virus. Just wanted you to know why I am not commenting as per normal.
    Hope you enjoy a wonderful weekend. Janet. .xx

    • Good morning, Janet. I don’t have any indications of a virus. I use Panda internet protection… and I know that wordpress is usually very efficient in guarding their platform. I really don’t have the answer to this, but nothing seems amiss from here. Have a beautiful day, and thanks for letting me know. xxx

  4. McDonalds- how very American indeed. I love your first photo of the lion situated between the Chassidim. It snowed 8 inches here on Purim which made for a difficult time here for getting around.

    • I remember a number of times when we had snow on Purim here. Once, it was after we thought we were already at the start of spring. And then suddenly it got cold again. Very glad you liked the post, Cee. Wishing you a very good week.

  5. Bibi was probably on a safer pedestal keeping his eyes open for twenty minutes. I wonder how many undercover dollar notes there might have been around the part of the lectern we could not see – ( or not).

    Love the bear, he, (I assume it had to be a ‘he’ given the surroundings) was very well attired. He quite stole the show.

    You should go on culture trips more often, Shimon. You are quite enlivened by the experience.

    My best wishes for Purim. Shalom x

    • Yes, menhir… I do like trips, and much enjoy culture. And it’s often a laugh, just thinking about how a stranger would view our culture. Many times on purim, I didn’t get to see what it looks like on the city streets, because I was so busy entertaining guests in my own home. This time, I went out, and had a great time. Thanks to your comment, I think I’ll publish a few of the pictures, even though the holiday is already over… and we’re on to other things. Thanks very much.

  6. Oops, it’s a lion, silly me. It does not detract in the least from my original observations.

  7. You certainly would have been a hit the joker teller because who knows how many times I laughed during this post. Thanks for the smiles.

  8. That was a lovely read. You made me smile today. Thank you!

  9. Thanks for your perspective, Shimon. I enjoyed Bibi’s speech. Pity he didn’t see the advantage of bringing you along. A loss for the rest of America. 🙂 I’m impressed you were able to spot the subtle difference in the Mona Lisa. 😀

    • Thanks you so much, Judy. I enjoyed Bibi’s speech too. He has a hard job, and he does it pretty well. I have a bit of criticism, but I do appreciate him, on the whole. And as for the Mona Lisa… it was a fine purim challenge.

  10. I also agree that your idea is excellent and all politicians should try to lighten up. (In Spain the vicepresident for the party in power was found out playing a computer game, Candy Crush, whilst the president was giving a speech. I’m sure she’d be grateful for some light relief). I haven’t been to McDonald’s for ages but it’s reassuring to know that some things don’t change…I hope you enjoy Purim. I’ve always liked the sound of it.

    • Purim is probably the most unusual and strange holiday in our calendar. It wouldn’t be easy to describe it to someone who isn’t familiar with our culture… but I’ve tried a number of times. This time, I was writing in the spirit of purim, more than about it. Maybe, if I’m still going next year, I’ll try to really describe what it’s all about. Thanks for you comment, Olga.

  11. Fantastic idea, Shimon. Had you made the trip with Bibi, we would have had the captain turn the plane around and deliver us to the east coast just for the opportunity to show you around that little piece of America.

  12. Some how I’ve discovered my one leg is a tad longer than the other after reading this. 🙂 I’m embarassed with the type of advertising McDonalds is doing…and try very hard to not eat any of their “food”. Tho, I do enjoy a milkshake once in a while. And then, I’m embarassed at our governments respons to your PMs speech. We have such little faith in out president and now, seeing his response is painful. I HAVE seen the Mona Liza in person and my first impression was that it was VERY SMALL. I expected a relatively standared 16-20 in. And one coudln’tget within 10 ft from it. Stay healthy over there Shimon.

    • Well I hope, Bob, that I’ll be able to see the difference, the next time I get into a mischievous mood, and then I’ll remember to pull the other leg. As for Bibi’s speech, it is my impression that your president just didn’t get the point. And since we do love America very much, it’s a bit disappointing at times, to get the responses that we’ve gotten from the present president. But then, these individuals come and go. I just hope there’s more understanding between our two peoples. I know what you’re saying about the Mona Lisa, though. It is small and poorly lighted, and you can’t get close. I think we get to see it better in some art books than we do in person. Thanks for your comment, my friend.

  13. Sometimes I think humor is the only way to approach politics. Otherwise, we might all lose our ability to have any faith in the legislative process.

    Loved the photo of the little lion in unfamiliar surroundings. As for McDonald’s, and their little plastic toys, let’s just say that not every American is McHappy with their McMeals. 🙂

    • Yes Nancy. It’s not just politics. I think humor helps us deal better, and get a better perspective regarding many aspects of life. I’ve heard that laughter is a lot like crying. It allows for a catharsis… something we do need now and then. But if we do examine the role of politics and politicians, I think our biggest problem in that field, is that like a lot of other things in this life, we tend to take the good things for granted, and complain about what we don’t like. When I compare the politics in western democracies to other governments to be found in this world, it does seem to me that there are a lot of advantages to they type of government we have. There is room for improvement. And there are a lot of things that irritate me. But most of the other systems are even worse. Here in Israel, there are a lot of people who look back with longing at some of our historical kings. But I can’t help but remember that there were some lousy kings as well. And it’s harder to get rid of them than an elected government. Something to think about.

  14. “So I got in touch with my sister in law who’s ex boyfriend just happens to have a second cousin who is married to the cook in the prime minister’s mansion.”

    This of all the things you said cracked me up the most. We really all are connected in so many more ways than we know.

    In other news, I have noticed a growing number of people who really sympathize with the Palestinians even though they only have a very sophomoric understanding of what really goes on in Israel. That or they want troops to stay “out of” actions or wars in the middle east. I don’t claim to know. Also, I have seen many fb posts from either folks I used to think of as Liberals but now I think of as more “Libertarians” in nature… if you understand our politics over here they seem to have gotten terribly complicated in the last few years, all locked down in a polarized fashion and uncompromising. Any rate the visit from your MP was being promoted as “disrespectful” or somehow an unprecedented amount of influence in our foreign policies. I didn’t hear the speech but I’m sure it wasn’t as “bad” as all that. I don’t mean to say this to be upsetting, just to share the vague impression of what the US social media had put out there. I find it fascinating what perspectives get expressed and which get suppressed in different countries… when coverage of the very same event is concerned.

    As far as your girl toy, she would be all the rage with my little friend who is 6. I don’t know the name of your doll but all the characters are supposed to be daughters of well known Monsters such as Dracula the Vampire, or the Abominable Snowman. The spirit of a era that is passing is that of McDonald’s. Their profits are down and they just asked their CEO to step down. Seems American people are very very slowly realizing that fast food is not that good for them.

    • I’m very glad you enjoyed my attempt at humor in this post, Rusty. I understand that different sides of a conflict will have different narratives. Had the Americans not wiped out most of the native American population, and all of its institutions, we might be able to compare a number of views regarding the ‘New World’. But it seems to me, that in the western world, and especially in Europe, there’s a lot of prejudice based on the history of western colonialism, and the abuse of aboriginal people in a great number of places in the world. Israel and the Jews have a history of some 4000 years connected to the land of Israel. And the morality that blossomed in our culture has been an example to many other cultures and peoples. The way that we have related to minorities, and the Arab people among them, is so unlike the history of the west or the history of Europe, that it would truly be hard to imagine for someone who hasn’t studied the history himself. And since the Europeans were party to the persecution of the Jews, just a couple of generations ago, we are not too eager to try and justify our actions in our own country. I can imagine that it is very hard for a young person from another country and another culture to understand the conflict… especially because it is related to deep religious beliefs and values.

      I did hear Netanyahu’s speech, and thought it a good one. And I’m sure he meant no disrespect to your president. He may have his preferences regarding politics in America. It is well known that there was bad chemistry between Obama and Netanyahu for years. But I can tell you that America is highly regarded in Israel by a vast majority of the citizenry. I believe that most Israelis, like myself, have little understanding of American politics. All the same, we do hope that the many things we have in common… including values, will help to maintain the friendship between peoples, even if occasionally, our leaders disagree. Thanks for your comment, Rusty. I always enjoy hearing from you.

  15. brilliant post again. A joy to read

  16. Ha ha ha – this put a smile on my face! Many excellent ideas, especially that of politicians taking a jokester along. Now that would almost certainly persuade people to vote more. Almost …

  17. I feel very disappointed that I don’t get offered toys like this with my McDonald’s meals over here. Friday 13th was also World Book Day and lots of the children dressed up in fancy dress for the day at school. My first thought on seeing the first image in this post was that it was even happening in Jerusalem.

    • I think you might get such an offer if you ordered the children’s portions, as we did, Andy. It was a fun experience. I didn’t hear about World Book Daty. But then books are so popular in our country, that I doubt anyone would feel the need for a special day like that. Though it does seem that every day of the year is dedicated to something.

      • In America, you are not permitted the option of ordering a children’s portion, unless you have a child with you at the time of your order. They post signs that state “must have children present” or some such nonsense. You might occasionally find a McHappy burger restaurant willing to bend the rules, but that would be the exception, and not the rule. I suppose they prefer to sell the higher-priced adult meal, so they think that such a rule is acceptable.

        Of course, because so many of them have drive-thru windows, adults order children’s meals all the time through the drive-thru, (they don’t know if you have a child in the car or not until you get up to the register to pay), but we’re supposed to feel guilty about it because it violates the rules. I almost always order the child’s meal anyway, happy enough to live with my guilt, and then save up all those little plastic toys to donate to the next charity box that I fill up and drop off for the battered women’s shelter (where the children outnumber the women by a ratio of about four-to-one). Perhaps I allow myself to believe that donating the little toys cancels out the sin of breaking the “only-buy-adult” rule. I can promise you that it doesn’t keep me up at night. The indigestion from the greasy meal might, but not the guilt. 🙂

        • I don’t visit McDonald’s much, but I think that if they had rules like that in our country, I wouldn’t ever go in. I do like going to a restaurant now and then, but often share a portion with whoever is with me, because the portions offered in restaurants are usually much more than I can eat. And I belong to a generation that still believes a public place is supposed to serve the public, and not the other way around.

  18. The lion’s photo made me laugh. An interesting holiday, Purim. The media coverage here re the visit of your PM was embarrassing, but our media coverage on any political subejct (as mentioned by Rusty) is as upside-down and sideways as he alludes. Even those of us who have lived here from birth often frown at the different media biases, speak out against the them, or simply give a blank-faced, “Huh?” We often don’t understand, either. As your PM’s sidekick, you would have been outstanding, but your talents would have been wasted on that particular audience. Sadly. Your MacDonald’s visit to get a ‘taste of American’ did portray us as somewhat shallow, (though humorously written), and your words and photos made me smile here and there. Well done, Shimon. You’re right, you know. 🙂

    • Well, purim is a holiday, when we like to turn everything upside down, and so I tried to write the post this time in the spirit of purim. But if my post gave the impression that we think of Americans as shallow, you can be sure that it was all in fun. And that actually, America is very admired here. In fact, it seems to me that my countrymen make to much of an effort to imitate anything American. And as you probably know, McDonald’s is very popular all over the world, even if it isn’t what we might call ‘healthy food’. I’m very glad to hear that I was able to share a smile with you. Thanks, Myra, for your comment.

  19. You really did have a taste of America in several ways. I do think you would have been a great addition to the convoy to America, as the way you write would easily have convinced Congress to follow your recommendations.

    • Thanks so much, Bev. Glad you enjoyed the post. It was all meant in humor. I do think that our prime minister has a very difficult job, trying to explain the problems of the world to a very different culture, And I don’t envy him.

  20. I hope you had a wonderful Purim Shimon.

    • It was a very good purim, Edith, and it was a great pleasure to see people walking around in a good mood, and forgetting the problems of the day. I will post some pictures.

  21. What a sparkling piece of writing, I laughed all the way through it. How I enjoy your sense of humour! You are a one-off for sure….I shall be giggling all night now….what a pity you didn’t get to join the delegation, I’m sure you would have stirred things up a little! The pics have me laughing too….and the thought of you both with the kids meals…..priceless, all of it!!!xxx

    • Thank you so much, Dina. It is so good to think of sharing a laugh with you. I’ve been thinking I should post some purim pictures too. We had a very nice walk around the city during the hoiday, and saw some wonderful sights. But the holiday is over, and we’re back to the day to day tings… the election which is next week. People are serious again. Sometimes, it seems too serious. Really appreciated your comment. xxx

  22. I well remember the story of Esther and Mordecai from my summer Bible School during childhood. One year we were allowed to choose our own person from the Bible to tell the rest of the class about, and believe me, we pretty much went Old Testament: Esther, Judith, David, Cain and Abel. What I didn’t know until I read about it a few minutes ago is that some call Purim the “Jewish Mardi Gras.” If that’s not a remarkable cultural fusion, I don’t know what is. I did get a kick out of your trip to McDonalds.

    I think you would have made a marvelous addition to the Prime Minister’s entourage, although he did very well on his own. As a matter of fact, I was quite impressed with his speech, for a number of reasons. I listened to it as he gave it, and then listened again later. A good use of my time, for sure.
    There are many here who believe he’s one of the few grown-ups on the world stage: even some who don’t accept all of his policies say so.

    • Yes, I enjoyed his speech too. And think he’s doing a very important job, trying to explain the situation to people who’re farther away. There are so many stories and different narratives, that it is quite difficult for those who are far away to understand what’s going on in the middle east. Amazing that you had the opportunity to play the role of Queen Esther. Interesting whether people had anything to say about Vashti in those days. There are some who consider her one of the first feminists. Thanks for your comment, shoreacres.

  23. The vulgarity at the end spoiled a humorous tale and imaginative photos.I was embarrassed when someone innocent saw it.This looked like a family site

  24. Thanks for the tour of American culture, Shimon! Since I never go to McDonald’s I learned some things! And I think it is a capital idea to have our politicians bring a sidekick along to lighten things up. Sorry your suggestion was not acted upon. I enjoyed the post very much.

    • Hi Cathy. Very glad you enjoyed the post. I can imagine that there are many who never see the inside of that particular restaurant. And personally, I was amazed to learn that some people eat there all the time. Coming from another culture, it seems VERY American to me. But I know it’s just one bit of a wide and multifaceted culture.

  25. A fun outing for you with Chana. Not quite the same as if the two of you had been pulled in by Netanyahu’s travel team, but a good thing on its own.

    “Half American” just standing in line. Funny.

  26. I know the USA is much more religious than the UK.But I read some thrillers by American writers and found the language to or about women was very coarse.I would have expected you to kiss your doll .. and let me tell you a secret… they have nothing between their legs.I know because I had a lot of them once and it did nothing for my sex education but I learned to count from lining them up in rows and columns and doing matrix algebra.Algebra,love it ,hate it, but we can’t love without it.
    Poor Dorothy…perhaps her children were reading it.
    Still it’s your blog so nobody can question your right to put whatever you wish on it.And I know how much you respect others’ writing and never laugh till your stomach aches while reading them.
    On internet explorer one can have strict filtering and that is what families should use.

  27. So very American, part of the globalization. When I travel I notice teens fashion in Europe is the same in US and China, and they all like McD. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it’s a fun reading. Have a great week, Mr. Shimon.

    • Thank you very much for your comment, Amy. It’s true, the fashions of the west are contagious… it’s amazing that they have reached China too. But I believe that they are only fashions… which will eventually be replace by new fashions.

  28. Your post brought a smile to my face on a very dull, grey morning here in the UK and with a touch of post travel blues thrown in, it was a very welcome read Shimon, thank you! 🙂

    • So glad to hear that you enjoyed the post, Chillbrook. As you can see, I’ve been distracted lately, and it took me quite a while to get to this comment. But the smile came through, and brought me to smile too. Thanks.

  29. A wonderful read Shimon. I avoid the lone McDonald’s here like the plague, but you have inspired me to go get a taste of America (have never stepped foot on the continent incidentally) and order a kiddy meal! 😀 .

    • I’m glad you’ll give it a try, Madhu. I wouldn’t recommend it for daily fare. But sometimes it’s good to have a little taste of what excites so many people, if just to remember a wider perspective. Thanks so much for your smile.

  30. A most interesting post Shimon. Long time no see. Peter from NZ

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