First choose a table. The best views out the windows are always the furthest from the buffet. Near the buffet, one gets relentless jostling, beyond means traipsing back and forth juggling laden plates. Once you are seated, should you start with the coffee you so desperately yearn for, or study the array of foods on offer? Life is a constant challenge of decisions.
I compromise on coffee and cheese cake. To be ingested leisurely whilst contemplating humanity.
At a neighboring table sit a man and a woman, he was the model for a Grant Wood portrait, she had posed for Rembrandt. Their plates are piled with eggs, cheeses, pastries. They are obviously expecting another couple as overflowing dishes are waiting on the third and fourth sides of the table. But no one comes so they simply move Mad Hatter Tea-party style and wolf down the other two portions as well.
I watch a boy, maybe 6- or 7-years-old, balancing one hard-boiled egg in the middle of a large dinner plate. His tongue peaks through his lips in concentration as he maneuvers between the tables, around bustling waiters and half-starved guests. He is small and hard to see in his blue Superman outfit. I see his speed pick up as he nears his destination, then just as he is about to triumphantly deposit his precious cargo on his table, a boy about his size wearing a Puma sweatshirt jostles him and the egg goes flying to land crushed and defeated on the floor where it is immediately trampled upon. I expected to see Superman burst into tears or crumple on his chair. I did not anticipate the look of pure hatred shot at Puma. It said, ‘a force to be reckoned with’.
I notice an athletic-looking young woman approach the salad bar. She piles her plate up with lettuce, cucumbers and various other politically correct vegetables. A zero percent yoghurt accompanies the feast, she has earned it after the hour spent in the gym that morning followed by a brisk 5 kilometer run. She joins her muscular companion at a nearby table. A short while later, she returns for a second helping, tomatoes and radishes added to the treat. But, do my eyes deceive me? I see her furtively slip a sugar coated chocolate bun into her pocket bag, before sitting down again. Naughty, but I won’t tell.
A group walk in, all speaking simultaneously in some southern state accent. I label them as pilgrims, many wear crosses on necklaces, and tote bags marked “Holy Land Wayfarer.” They are excited and we are informed through their chatter that today they will visit Tabgha where Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. They are determined to practice what they preach and manage to devour the equivalent of five loaves and two fish each, adding omelettes, Danish, salads and creamed potatoes to the miracle. The heavy rain outside does not dampen their enthusiasm. One lady is wearing just a vest and short pants, she was obviously informed that the weather in Israel is always warm.
Who comes to Israel mid-winter and stays in a luxury hotel? Mainly tourists taking advantage of the off-season prices and the bearable temperatures. The miscellany of languages is startling yet somewhat heart-warming. English, Arabic, Russian, French, Scandinavian, indistinguishable Far-Eastern and Spanish, representatives of every race and ideology are sitting in one hall, politely waiting for their turn with the pancake chef or coffee-maker. Treaties could be signed here and refugees settled, the atmosphere is cordial and the guests so united in their goals — that of consuming as much food as possible before the kitchens close. This is reality, not the artificial corridors of the United Nations and their minions.
A bewigged ultra-religious Jewess is recommending the smoked cheese to a hijab-wrapped Arab lady. Two kids with no common tongue are creating havoc with the breakfast cereal dispensers. They giggle in the same language. A southern Baptist priest asks a Rabbi to explain the various yoghurt options. Parents indulge their children, grateful that they don’t need to clear up the deluge after. An ancient Druze vigorously piles sugar onto his porridge, far away from the critical eyes of his wife. There is an ambiance of freedom, of triumph over the weariness of existence, of hopes and wishes being fulfilled. And above all – of egalitarianism. For all paying guests are equal in the eyes of the maître d’.
Superman has just accidentally poured some cornflakes into Puma’s shirt. I guess world peace will have to wait.