I’ve been called a lot of names in this country. When my family made aliyah in 1987 I was the only American in my class, on my block and probably in the entire city of Holon. I was known as Jackson. Like Michael Jackson. Like, Billie Jean is not my lover. Thankfully Jason Donovan, an Australian heart throb from an obscure soap opera called “Neighbors”, busted on the scene a summer later crooning the teen classic ‘Sealed with a Kiss’. And I became known as Jason Donovan. Not Jason. Jason Donovan. When Beverly Hills 90210 came on in our pre-cable television era here the in the early 90’s I became Jason Priestly. Not that there was anything wrong with that vertically challenged Canadian. I just wanted to be me. Jason Fredric Gilbert.
In the beginning they tried to change my name. To make it more Hebrew and Biblical. How about Yonatan? Hasson? Fuck you and Yoni and Hasson. I’m Jason. Always have been and always will be. Like the Captain of the Argo who sailed halfway across the world for the Golden Fleece. Then married Medea. Had children with her. Cheated on her with some younger chick. Then Medea killed his kids. Lovely bedtime story. But I was named after Jason Robards. The actor. Who I only knew as the grandfather in Parenthood. Pathetic.
They used to do that a lot here. Change kid’s names. They did it to the Ethiopian immigrants in the 90’s. The nursery school teacher or the clerk at the absorption center would decide arbitrarily that their names were just too hard to pronounce. So this one will be Moshe and this one will be Sarah. This one… well, I’m getting a Yossi vibe from this one. That’s what I call good old fashioned Israeli racism. Who gives a shit what their parents named them in Addis Ababa. Who cares about their roots and their heritage? They are in Israel now and everyone in Israel has to have a fucking name from the Bible.
We struggled coming up with a name for our son. It needed to be something that was palatable to both M.’s side of the family (Israeli) and my side of the family (Yanks). There’s the obvious one like Ben. But I knew a Ben in the fourth grade and he was a total asshole. His dog bit me. I still have the scar. My parents made his parents pay for the hospital bill and for my shirt. We made up and used to use his CB radio to con Greek fisherman into sending us Drachmas. They always did. No wonder the Greek economy is in the shitter. Then we had an underground radio station. Then we ran an illegal VHS rental racket to our friends and neighbors until he snitched me out to the local Video store owner who threatened me with a beat down. So Ben was off the table. There were some Israeli names that were so ridiculous to an American that they were laughable. Like Moran. What kind of Moran are you anyway? Or Dudu, as in doggie Dudu.
Nowadays there’s a ridiculous trend in this country of giving boy’s names to girls. Like Yuval. I grew up with a bunch of Yuvals and they were all dudes. Or Noam. Or Omri. Or Liam. I used to love the name Liam. Liam Neeson. He was Oskar Schindler people. Darkman. Not some whiny little pig-tailed brat who is pushing my son off the slide while her dial it in mom smokes a cigarette and talks shit about the other moms.
M. is a big fan of a book called The Time Traveler’s Wife. I tried reading it but my hands involuntarily began to gouge my eyes out. She was hell bent on naming our offspring after the protagonist, Henry. I saw the movie and it sucked worse than the book. Even my man, Hector of Troy, muthafuckin badass Chopper, Eric Bana, couldn’t save that train wreck. The other problem is my last name. Gilbert. It’s a hard G (G as in Gouda Cheese) but most people soften it (G as in“Gee whiz”) and omit the “T” at the end thereby making it as French as berets and Brie. So if I named my son Henry Gilbert, I would be raising a snotty little Frenchman and that was out of the question.
When I came back to Israel a few years ago it seemed that people here still had trouble with my name despite the massive influx of Russians with good Jewish names like Maria, Roman and Christina. Good for them. I would still get the occasional Jackson and Johnson, but now there was a new one. Jameson. Like the Whisky. Let me tell you, every asshole Israeli thinks he’s a fucking comedian after a few shots of Jas… er Jameson. “You Jameson, huh? Like the Whiskey?” Yeah asshole. Just like the Whiskey.
There is a superstition in this country that you’re not supposed to tell anyone the child’s name until the bris. Personally I think it’s a stupid idea. Not the genital mutation part. Well, that too, but that’s a completely different rant. I think you should test drive some names. Call him Rafi for a while and see how that feels. If not try Segev. Or Itai. Or Sue. Whenever you land on a name that seems like it fits then stick with it. When I said my son’s name for the first time the Doctor-Mohel almost had a spit take. Really? That’s his name in Israel?
I’ll say one thing about my name. When I was living in the States for all those years I was never anything other than Jason. Or Jay. Or Jason G., because no matter where I worked or what I did there were always three other guys named Jason there who were roughly my age. I was never special. Never. I never stood out. My name was never butchered, mocked or mispronounced. Nobody wanted to change it. I was never remembered either. Not like I am here in Israel. To this day I will always be the only Jackson, Jameson or Johnson they have ever met and there’s something really special about that.