Shabbat Goy: War on winter

By AKIN AJAYI
October 29, 2009 22:40

Shabbat Goy War on wint

4 minute read.



A schism has developed lately, between my wife and me - I blame the weather. She insists on sleeping with a duvet, a wonderful invention that nonetheless has no rightful place in this country, as far as I am concerned. "It's winter," she tells me. "Or at least it will soon be," she hastily continues, even as I open my mouth to tell her that I know that she knows much better than to play that line with me. To be fair, she's not alone with this line of thinking. In my local shopping mall, the stores have finally moved beyond the end of season sales - sales which, as far as I can tell, have lasted since sometime the year before last - and have began to actively push their "Fall/Winter" lines. Sleeveless tops and vests have been replaced by sweaters and scarfs; open-toed sandals by ankle-high boots. Meanwhile, someone forgot to tell Mr. Sun outside. Admittedly, the temperature and humidity have dropped to something below the punishing mid-August highs, but it's still much warmer now than many countries get to be all year round. As far as I can tell, the country appears to be engaged in one huge psychological experiment: If we tell ourselves continuously that it'll soon be winter, perhaps it will actually happen? Ergo, cognito Horef. On the domestic front, I know that my wife, at least, appreciates the difference between winter and the frankly quite pleasant seasonal interlude that we experience in these climes between December and February; we did live together in England for several years after all, in a cold and draughty flat that defied all attempts at generating any warmth whatsoever. Some weeks, we could dispense with the services of our refrigerator altogether. MAYBE IT'S that Israelis are in love with the idea of Winter, the word conjuring up images of snowy peaks and early evening fires; of course, if you do live in Israel, this is the sort of stuff that one only gets on a package trip to Bulgaria during ski season. And since this would entail dealing with the hassle that comes with a package trip, the reality sort of ruins the romance of winter. In any case, I see no romance whatsoever in the cold; if there is one thing that living in this country makes me truly grateful for, it is that I no longer seriously need to think about whether Hell will freeze over… But flights of the imagination do often stretch a bit further beyond dreams of package holidays. In her book, We Are Not The Enemy, the Anglo-Israeli journalist Rachel Shabi argues that one reason for the friction - still existing in her opinion - between Israel's Ashkenazi and Mizrahi communities stems from the attempts by dominant Ashkenazi establishment to align the country more closely with the Mittel-European cultural traditions of the countries from which they came, at the expense of the more geographically exact oriental sentiments of the Mizrahi population. I don't know whether this is a correct assessment - to be candid, I wasn't particularly aware of the distinctions between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jewry until relatively quite late in life, and I still have a lot to learn about cultural and social integration in Israel, even after living here for two years and a bit - but I must confess that Ms. Shabi's theory has its attractions. I can imagine the bemusement that North African immigrants, for instance, must have felt when confronted with booted and suited Yekkes sauntering about in the noonday sun. And I'm not sure whether to laugh - or to cry - when each night my wife drags out the duvet that I carefully store away every morning. So, in the interests of national unity - not to speak of domestic accord - I've decided to launch a campaign, on these very pages, against the use of the word Winter in the Israeli lexicon. In fact, rather than dwelling on the utter and complete uselessness of the word itself, I think I shall go one step further and campaign for the change of the names of all four seasons. Spring, I'll call "Too Sweet, Too Short;" Summer could be called "Mandatory Punishment" (if you need to ask why, then you are very fortunate indeed). Autumn - which, in my humble opinion, ought to be declared on the first day of November - could be called "Optimism," since the whole country is praying for rain at this point, to stop the Kinneret from drying up, thus sparing us from the need to share showers and do all sorts of other unpleasant things in order to conserve water… And as for the Season Previously Known As Winter? I'll call it "Hope." Because there never is enough rain, but life goes on nonetheless. People find a way to continue living with one another, irrespective of their personal eccentricities about the seasons of the year. Because, when we stop referring to the season as Winter, we might remember that there remains a serious water crisis in this country, one that cannot be solved by the rains and snows that pertain in countries that do have a proper winter season. And because then, my wife and I may find something to agree upon, beyond our first names and surnames. Actually, we don't agree on surnames. She's a feminist, and I'm not. But that's a story for another day…


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