Déjà vu all over again | It was all a BIG LIE!
Apart from the Grinch (Covid and its variants) that tried to steal Christmas again, I truly hope you had a very happy and safe Christmas weekend.
Now, before we get to the BIG LIE…
Let me tell you about the lump of coal Santa delivered to us
Or as we’re saying around the office…
Damn, it’s happening—again!
Despite our best efforts not to run out of stock, we will. Again.
This time it’s our teak shower mats.
Yes, there’s another container on its way—there’s always another container on its way—but because of the “supply chain” issue that the entire world is still experiencing…
It’s impossible to say when that container will arrive in port, and be unloaded.
At last report, there are over 100 container ships anchored off Los Angeles and Long Beach harbor waiting for a birth.
We had hoped these mats would be available for sale by the end of January—at the latest. But now, it’s difficult to know.
Compounding the problem, the warehouse that fulfils our orders lost an entire pallet of our mats.
We might’ve been able to squeak by till the end of January with the mats on that pallet. But not anymore.
That lost pallet was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
How does a warehouse lose an entire pallet of anything!
An Amazon warehouse
The above photo, reminds me of the warehouse scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Nonetheless, losing a pallet loaded with goods is not like misplacing your car keys.
A pallet filled with our shower mats is the size of a car!
Anyway, if you’ve been thinking about buying one of our shower mats…three words: do it quick.
Now for The Truth, part 5:
The BIG LIE!
To read this epic, spell-binding saga, soon to be a motion picture (not) from the beginning, click here.
…My father was not sending me the money he promised me!
And it was never his intention to do so!
So, there I was with no money, and no way to get the hell out of this barbaric country called Israel.
No money to fund my secret Hatari fantasy to work as a wrangler on an African game reserve.
And no romantic and dangerous adventures for me on the wide African savannas or in its dark and dense jungles.
No me Tarzan, you Jane.
Because my father had a different adventure planned for me.
To grow up, and man up!
It was all a set up.
Sink or swim.
I WAS OUT OF MONEY!
My father’s preposterous noble aspirations for me be damned!
I hung up the phone, looked around the lobby of the hotel and saw... nothing.
Only a growing panic.
Moments earlier I had been someone else, someone better—superior by virtue of my American birth.
I looked down at these Israelis, at their customs, at their country—that all at the same time felt like home and unapproachably foreign.
Now though, I was no longer superior.
I was a bug about to be crushed by an unimaginable circumstance.
Penniless on the other side of the world—with no clue as what to do next
I sat with Moshe at a table in the empty dining room, and told him everything.
It didn’t take him long to come up with a solution.
And his solution kickstarted a flywheel that sent me spinning down a path that in hindsight was pretty much what my father had envisioned.
Except for one humongous, unforeseen detour that nearly gave him a heart attack. But we’ll get to that later.
Moshe’s solution: volunteer to work on a kibbutz
In exchange for my labor I'd get free room and board, and also get paid.
Plus, it would give me time to map out a plan to get down to Africa.
Hmn, good idea!
A kibbutz back then was a socialist enterprise in the truest sense.
It was a large collective farm. A few kibbutzim even owned small factories.
And because it was a socialist collective there was no private ownership. The kibbutz owned everything, and provided everything.
Members of a kibbutz (kibbutzniks) ate in a communal dining room, and all the children slept in children dormitories.
The homes of the kibbutzniks, depending on the success (read wealth) of the kibbutz, were either small and modest apartments or very spacious multi-room cottages.
It was all very idealistic and egalitarian.
One for all and all for one
Moshe told me where in Tel-Aviv to go to volunteer to work on a kibbutz, and two days later I was on a bus, heading north to my new, and hopefully temporary, home.
Heading north though was an understatement.
The kibbutz I was assigned to was on a hillside right smack on the border with Lebanon.
Then and even today, Lebanon is in a state of war with Israel.
And the barbed wire fence separating the kibbutz from Lebanon was mere yards away from some of the homes on the kibbutz.
I thought this was ridiculously reckless—as was placing a minefield just on the other side of the fence.
But, all this was intentional.
The border kibbutzim in the north were considered the first line of defense in case of an Arab invasion.
Not only was I destitute, I was also a human shield in an active war zone.
Not the kind of adventure I had in mind when I left America
The volunteers on my kibbutz, about twenty or more, hailed from almost every imaginable country, but mostly from America, Canada, and Europe.
We had our own little volunteer village, down the hill from the homes of the kibbutzniks.
Slave quarters, as I saw it.
Wooden cabins that typically slept four volunteers on steel frame bed springs and thin foam mattresses.
Milk crates, or whatever could be scavenged, was used to store personal belongings.
Yet, despite the lack of amenities, the volunteer village actually reminded me of sleepaway camp.
The comradery and spirit among the volunteers was very kumbaya.
Some of the volunteers had brought their guitars, and even record players from home.
Evenings were spent visiting (schmoozing) in one cabin or another, or sitting in the “circle” around which the cabins were arranged.
Volunteering on a kibbutz back then was very in vogue, especially among idealistic twenty-somethings
Some former kibbutz volunteers include Bernie Sanders, Helen Mirren, Jerry Seinfeld, Anthony Hopkins, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sigourney Weaver, Sandra Bernhard, Annie Leibovitz, Bob Hoskins, Simon Le Bon (lead singer of Duran Duran), and Boris Johnson (the current British Prime Minister).
To make us feel welcome every volunteer was assigned to a kibbutz family.
They’d act as our support system, someone we could turn to if we needed help, or just to be friends with.
My kibbutz family was from India.
(Who knew there were Jews in India!)
Every time I visited them, typically after work on a Friday and before the entire kibbutz headed to the dining hall for Friday night dinner, “my kibbutz mother” would put out a spread of fruit, cookies and coffee.
She was really a very sweet lady.
“My father,” on the other hand, was as cold as can be. He never smiled, and never talked to me.
The volunteers had nicknamed him “chicken man,” because he was in charge of the kibbutz’s chicken coops—which was not a small operation, nor a very pleasant job.
The coops literally held thousands of chickens. And they stunk!
One reason I visited with them as often as I did was because of their 17-year-old daughter.
She was gorgeous, an absolute knockout. Tall, slender, big almond eyes and hair down to her waist.
Think of a brown Gal Gadot.
Unfortunately, and obviously, she was way too young for me.
Maybe that’s why the chicken man wasn’t happy to have me visit.
Anyway, after a while, so as not to tempt fate, my visits to my kibbutz family became increasingly infrequent.
However, after work, when my “sister” and many of the volunteers and kibbutzniks were at the kibbutz’s swimming pool—set on a picturesque hilltop overlooking the entire Hula Valley to the south—I’d stare dreamily at her in her tiny bikini until one of my friends elbowed me to stop.
Speaking of work…
This is what Jerry Seinfeld had to say about working on a kibbutz:
“I didn’t like the kibbutz. Nice Jewish boys from Long Island don’t like to get up at six in the morning to pick bananas.”
Agreed! But Jerry had it easy.
Every night I was awoken at 3 am to go work in the fish ponds, which had to be one of the most grueling jobs on the kibbutz.
Standing in knee-deep mud we hauled in huge nets filled with flopping angry carp.
It was an 9-hour workday with a measly half-hour to eat a measly breakfast of eshel (sour yogurt), cheese, and bread.
Chain gang fare.
The only good part of waking up painfully early to eat curdled milk and stand in mud was that we were finished by 1pm—in time to eat lunch.
Lunch was the big meal on the kibbutz—meat and potatoes, protein and carbs, and fruit for desert.
Dinner, on the other hand, was a big let down. The same as breakfast!
Plus, lots of veggies. And fruit.
Healthy, but boring.
Afternoons on the kibbutz was for napping
And after a refreshing snooze…it was time to jump in the pool.
I was lounging lazily by the pool, gazing out over the Hula Valley (when I wasn’t ogling my kibbutz sister)...
I noticed what looked like a huge swarm of flying bugs down below—and heading our way.
But as they got closer, they got a lot bigger.
These were not bugs!
They were wave after wave of Skyhawks and F-4 Phantom bombers flying slow and low, literally at tree-top level, to avoid radar detection.
Soon they were everywhere. To the left and to the right.
And the ones that were overhead...
I could actually see the pilots inside their cockpits as they flew in a deafening roar past us with Stars of David emblazoned on the underside of their wings.
They were headed into Lebanon
To avenge, as I later learned, a PLO terror attack that had killed scores of Israeli school children.
Then, all at once, they were gone, on the other side of the hill. As if they had never been there.
But, mere minutes later, they were flying back out of Lebanon.
This time though, they were way, way up in the sky.
Flying in large Star of David formations.
As if to say, message delivered.
Don’t fuck with us.
It was all so stirring, so martial. So Hollywood!
Like watching John Wayne leading a cavalry charge against marauding Indians—with bugles blowing and the Stars and Stripes snapping in the wind.
It was a thrilling, heart-thumping moment.
Yet, not one Israeli by the pool was smiling, much less applauding. It was almost as if they were lamenting the necessity of its occurrence.
I almost felt embarrassed for being so impressed.
And it wouldn’t be the first time I'd be out sync with my surroundings.
Already a restlessness was brewing in me.
I wanted more than I had, more than I was allowed.
In next month’s The Teakster: The Truth, part 6, I’ll tell you the rest of the story.
In the meantime, please, let me know below in the comments if you enjoyed reading this month’s part 5 of The Truth.
Until next month, I wish you all the best in 2022.
Happy New Year!
Stay teak strong!