Jack Cohen

Paddy’s Day in Israel

St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) was celebrated in Israel by the Israel-Ireland Friendship League at Murphy’s Pub in Netanya. Yes, there is a chain of Murphy’s Pubs around Israel and they provide an authentic Irish experience. Every year the Israel-Ireland Friendship League organizes a get-together and lots of Irish Jews who have made aliyah to Israel (up to 2,000) come together from Jerusalem, the north and south for the occasion. The Irish Ambassador to Israel, His Excellency Breifne O’Reilly, came and made a speech and then there was lots of Irish music, singing, dancing and Guinness, of course.

Last year there was a professional Irish dancer, an Israeli, who had won prizes in Ireland, and who has set up a dance studio in Israel. Yesterday two young women graduates of his program danced, and they were fantastic, looking around it would have been difficult to believe that you were in Israel. Personally I don’t particuarly like the Irish style of dancing, with the hands hanging passively by the side and the feet banging out a staccato rhythm. But, apparently I am in a minority considering the success and popularity of programs such as “Riverdance.” I regard these as the “Hollywoodization” of Irish dance. Nevertheless the dancers did their steps and everybody clapped in time and enjoyed themselves.

 I once had this experience, I got onto a crowded underground train at Heath Row airport in London. As usual there was silence, apart from the noise of the train itself, no-one talked. The proverbial drunken Irishman got on and began haranguing the crowd, “You stuck-up Brits, if someone gave you a bottle you wouldn’t know what to do with it, probably stick it up your arse. Look at you missus, you’re a sight for sore eyes, wanna make a threesome with your hubby. Oy, you, mister, with the hat on, do you think it makes you look handsome, well it don’t” And so, on and on it went for many stations. I was standing nearby, smiling and trying to look inconspicuous, but it didn’t work. He looked me in the eye and I thought, “Oh, oh, here goes..” and he said “hey, you a Jew?” “Yes” I replied. “What do you think of these stuck up Brits?” I said “They never talk on trains, its ingrained in them.” He looked at me with his rheumy eyes and said “See that you m–f–s, here’s a Jew boy that’s got your number.”

I always think of that poor Irishman, out of his element among the staid, sober British, when I celebrate Paddy’s Day with my Irish friends in Israel.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.