Seeing that I am the only English speaker in the entire city of Or Yehuda I’ve been nominated by the mayor of this great metropolis to speak of its many attractions. And when I say ‘nominated’ I mean took it upon myself with no permission from any person of authority. And when I say ‘mayor’, I mean that dude who hangs his laundry on the porch of the next building over. And when I say ‘great city’ I mean small province outside of Tel Aviv that was once two Arab villages and which officially became a city in 1988. And who has only one sister city. Milwaukee. So here are the reasons I love this place so much. And why you should move here too.
1. You’ll be that crazy American. One of my favorite movies of all time is Apocalypse Now. If you haven’t seen it stop reading now. And go watch the reduxed 5 hour Director’s Cut version. I’ll be waiting.
Whew. What a fucking movie right? And now when someone says: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning…” You’ll know what the fuck they’re talking about. But what I love about it is Marlon Brando’s character. Colonel Kurtz. A rogue American deep in the jungle. Made insane by the horrors of war. Always in the dark. Because he got so fat. Just like me. Here I am in the heart of darkness, Or Yehuda, a place where no American would ever dare to go. Alone. With the thing’s I’ve seen. Waiting for some student loan collector to brave Route 4 and Geha to come and slit my throat. Oh, the horror.
2. You are more worldly and well traveled than your local doctor. Which is saying a lot. Since I haven’t done much traveling in my life. A few states on the East/West coast. A few European capitals. Bat Yam. But I was sick a few weeks back and went to the see my local kupat holim doctor. A rotund man in his mid to late fifties with a jovial St. Nick look. Who seemed more interested in my name and my background than my actual condition. “So where are you from?” “The States.” “What part?” As anyone who has ever called New Jersey home I lied and said “Philadelphia”. Silence. He nods his head. “Have you ever been?” No he replies. “I’ve never left Israel”. Which I was hoping was on account of some plane phobia and not a restraining order.
3. You are xenophobic. According to Wikipedia, Or Yehuda is 100% Jewish. Which is great if you hate those that aren’t Jewish. Matter of fact, the only other place in the world with that homogenous a demographic of Jew-density is Hollywood.
4. You are fascinated by cold war style architecture. Or, alternately, your fetish is 1980’s style “projects”. “Train buildings” they call them here. In which case you’ll be in heaven. Because who doesn’t love long interconnected drab grey rectangular slabs of concrete?
5. You have no sense of fashion. Which is saying a lot in a country where Crocs are the acceptable footwear to a wedding. But here even crocs are considered hoity-toity. The other day D. wanted to go down to the playground. And I had on my sweatpants which were ripped. And which M. had made into Capri pants. Which make me look like clownish. And a backwards faded T-Shirt. And sneakers. And boy would I have been embarrassed to walk out my old Bauhaus on Dizengoff wearing those rags. But here I fit right in. Nobody noticed. Not the guy next to me in the all white Kappa sweatsuit. Or the woman next to him in the: “I’m too sexy” sequined leopard blouse. What they did notice was my book. Which they looked at much like a puppy would look at a microwave.
6. You are in awe of airplanes and aviation in general. Well my friend you’ve struck the jackpot! The close proximity to Ben Gurion airport (less than 10K) means you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see (and hear!) low flying airplanes as they are about to land. Think of the all the hours of joy (both day and night) you can spend with your family watching the planes land. And you can even make a game out of it. “Name that airline!” In which you guess the origin and size of the plane roaring right above your head. (Advanced level requires you to state the flight number and Captain’s preference for facial hair.)
7. You don’t speak Hebrew. Great! Few people here speak Hebrew either. Historically speaking the city of Or Yehuda was built on the ruins of two Arab villages decimated in the war of Independence. In the 50’s they were used as quasi immigration camps, maabarot, for Libyan and Turkish refugees. In the late 50’s the Iragi refugees arrived. And in the 70’s and 90’s it was a combination of former Soviet Jews from exotic places like Bukhare. Or Ethiopian Jews. So the chances of anyone speaking Hebrew to you here is remote at best. But find me. Just ask for the crazy American. Using hand gestures. Indicating large abdomen. Wild hair. Capri pants. And “book”.
8. You’re dissatisfied with the ratio of cinema-to-synagogue you find in places like Tel Aviv. Or opera-to-synagogues. Or Tennis courts –to- synagogues. Well welcome home brave soul. There are a whopping 45 synagogues, two yeshivas and three mikvahs. Compare that with zero cinemas. Zilch. Nada. Nil. Kaput. Zero opera houses. And zero tennis courts. Home sweet home!
The greatest cities in the world have nicknames. Monikers like The Big Apple. The City of Lights. The Big Easy. Even Tel Aviv has a name. The White City. Not because of its distaste for African migrants. But because of its Bauhaus history. So in the spirit of naming great cities I’ve decided to crowdsource it and let all fourteen readers of this blog help name Or Yehuda.
My suggestion: The City That Should be Put To Sleep.
This has been my final post for Times Of Israel. Thank you all for supporting me this past year. I’ll be writing a book. Or die trying.
Follow me on twitter @privategilberto. Or on Facebook. Or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) Or by smoke signals. Just light up a joint and I’ll be there.