As ever, returning to Israel after two months of absence is something of a culture shock, particularly when it comes to driving a car. One is reminded with alarm that rules are no longer rules, the word ‘courtesy’ does not exist in the Hebrew language and the overall feeling is that someone out there wants to kill me.
But humour and exaggeration aside, it is enough to get behind the wheel of a car to realise that the overall culture and philosophy of life in Israel is very different from that of rural France. And quite rightly so. What does the French farmer have to contend with other than the vagaries of the climate and the occasional encounter with a neighbour (although anyone who has seen the film ‘Jean de Florette’ might be led to believe otherwise)? Israel, on the other hand, has to fight for its existence, and that mindset seems to spill over into daily life.
But home is where the heart is, and my heart is definitely in Israel. My ‘vacation from my retirement’ was restful and productive, as is generally the case, and I managed to read (and even write) a great deal more than I do when I’m in Israel. I suppose that not having the distraction of television may have something to do with it. I only wish I could manage to avoid the constant barrage of news and information that emanates from my TV set during the normal course of the day when I’m in Israel. My inability to grasp the rapid speech of the news-readers on the radio in France helps in this respect, of course.
The last week of our holiday was spent in London which, as usual, provided all manner of delights. Meeting old friends, and renewing acquaintance with some with whom I’d lost contact, was wonderful, and I still dwell with amazement and joy on the memory of those renewed friendships (which I hope we will manage to maintain). Some old friends found me as a result of my articles in the AJR Journal, for which I’m eternally grateful.
In addition, in London there is the pleasure of attending theatre performances where the actors are trained to project their voices, so that there is no need to use a face microphone, as is the case in Israel. Learning to speak from the stage so that the entire auditorium can hear you is an essential part of an actor’s training in England, and that unfortunately does not seem to be the case in Israel. I find it annoying to be subjected to an artificially-projected voice and that, apart from the inferior standard of most plays in Israel, is why I avoid the theatre here. The standard of music, on the other hand, is as high as anywhere in the world, if not higher, so that serves as some compensation. And so, the two plays we managed to see in London (another great production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and ‘Imperium’ based on the writings of Cicero) were immensely enjoyable.
London seems to have become the polyglot centre of the world. Wherever you go you hear a dozen different (and not always identifiable) languages as you walk around. Oxford Street, the mecca of all shopping expeditions, is awash with people hurrying along in search of the perfect item to bring home in triumph. I joined the throng in eager anticipation of achieving just that objective (only partly fulfilled, I’m afraid).
And of course, the ultimate enjoyment, a pub lunch with the traditional fish and chips, or even bangers and mash, is an experience to be savoured far beyond any of the fine culinary delights on offer in France or even one of the better restaurants in London or elsewhere. Whether the sight – and particularly the sound – of dozens of Londoners watching a football game on the huge TV screens in the pub is so enjoyable is questionable, but there are some delights that have to be endured rather than enjoyed.
And finally, of course, there is always the comfort of ‘a nice cup of tea’ and a piece of cake or a chocolate digestive biscuit as one rests between excursions, museum tours, outings to places of interest or reunions with friends. Little things can also give enormous pleasure.
Yes, London is certainly full of delights, but there’s no denying that coming home to the bosom of one’s family and friends is the greatest delight of them all.