I was following annie’s thread “Mediterraneans uber alles!” and felt to reminisce.
Israel should aim to form an alliance of all Mediterranean nations.
You know, it wouldn’t be altogether impossible, if only we could keep Africa out of it. This thread reminded me of my own failed attempt to form an alliance with the Arab world, failed not for anything you may have guessed, but because my life has always been wrought with comedy.
I was 19 at the time, right after spending two-and-a-half years in Israel, living in Perugia (Italy) with a couple of renowned Italian language professors. One day they left for a month-long teaching tour of Europe, leaving me behind to take care of pets named Pessy, Passy, Possy and Pussy. In order for me not to lose momentum with my Italian studies in their absence, they arranged for me to take a language course at the University for Foreign Students.
I showed up for my first class taught by what I was warned a fascista, a benign-looking elderly gentleman with a bow-tie. I entered the classroom and quickly assessed the situation–out of about forty students, there were only two females from Sweden, the rest looked African and middle-Eastern. The first thing I had to do was sign a log, indicating my name and nationality. Of course, I could put myself down as Russian had I been prudent, but I was anything but, so I wrote down Israeli.
As soon as I sat down, a beeline formed to check out my credentials and during the recess I was approached by six guys who introduced themselves as a group of friends and informed me that I was the first Israeli they ever met. One of them was from Egypt, one from Lebanon, and the rest from Jordan. To make the long story short, we quickly became fast friends. They were very cosmopolitan, obviously from well-to-do families who could afford to send their kids to Europe to study engineering and medicine, extremely polite and overall fun guys. We used to hang out together during recess and then spend a couple of hours after school at our favorite trattoria drinking espressos and smoking up a storm. We never discussed politics during our short friendship, concentrating instead on what all strangers in a foreign land do–make fun of the locals. We shared a common interest in firearms and always stopped at a real fancy gun shop on the way to trattoria, drooling over the latest display of Renato Gambas ($16,000 a piece). I don’t recall if that struck me as ironic at the time-- remember, the year was 1974.
Anyway, this idyll didn’t last long. About a week or so later, I was approached in class by an 8-foot tall Nigerian. OK, I’m exaggerating a little, but he was definitely over seven feet, and not skinny either. He was very very dark, with a mouth full of huge dazzling-white teeth, so when he grinned you couldn’t help but squint. The first words out of that mouth were: “Hi, I’m so-and-so, I’m here to study medicine and I will be your body guard.” “Huh? Why do I need a body guard?” “There are too many Arabs here and it’s dangerous.” All my protestations that I could take care of myself were met with a smirk. He used to lurk around while we were having our espressos and appear out of the blue once we parted and I was on my way home. I lived in a farm house way out in the countryside, about two-mile walk through the fields and olive groves and he insisted on accompanying me on my way. Poor peasants in the fields used to drop their hoes and stare until we were out of range. He also started dropping amorous hints and creeping me out. I did not know how to shake him.
Meanwhile, his body guarding methods kept escalating. He planted himself next to me in class and every time anyone from the gang as much as came near me during recess, he would immediately appear and start glowering at them. The kids commenced to seethe, I caught a lot of kus this and kus that, the tension was escalating and I had no other choice but to stop coming to class in order to avoid an international conflict.
So there you are. I know it’s kinda anti-climactic, but things often are in real life. Let this be a lesson to you, kids. You want Levantine alliance, do not employ African peacemakers.