Time flies when you’re having fun; it does really weird things when you have the flu. In fact, everything takes on an other-worldly element, I discovered, as I lay in bed without the strength to even budge the cats (at least they were pleased to have me there on a weekday morning).
When you have a cold you can wallow in self-pity; with flu, wallowing in anything other than used tissues is too strenuous. At one point last Friday it seemed that nearly all my friends were either participating in, or cheering on, the Jerusalem Marathon – some covering 10 kilometers, others 21 km. and a few fanatics running the full 42-km. course. I thought of them as I congratulated myself on managing to totter the few meters from my bedroom to the kitchen. It was such an accomplishment that as I opened the fridge door to get a drink of orange juice, I heard thunderous applause. Turns out it was just the pounding of my headache.
By midweek, up on my feet again, I was struggling to make up the missing work days. If you could figure out where time flies to when you’re feeling ill, you could possibly find the missing Malaysian airliner. That the exact nature of the plane’s misfortunes remained unknown so long after it disappeared is curious in itself. In an age when Google could probably trace my progress in sickness and in health, via emails and Facebook, it seems extraordinary that a large aircraft carrying more than 200 people could literally fall off the radar system.
One of the mysteries I pondered – when I felt strong enough for pondering – was whether the pilot and co-pilot were villainous hijackers of their own plane or heroes who had tried to prevent its terrible fate, whatever that might be. And how tragic it is that ever since 9/11, that dreadful day, the world is constantly on the alert for further terror attacks of the type that would once have been deemed possible only in the realm of Hollywood movies.
FOR A COUPLE of days, I have been busy trying to figure out the difference between flu-induced delusions and actual news stories that I had heard on my bedside radio. Truth being stranger than the side effects of flu, it has not been an easy task.
I found it hard to believe, for example, that Defense Minister Moshe (Bogey) Ya’alon was in trouble for reportedly criticizing the US administration again. It’s not difficult to believe he made the withering criticisms at the Tel Aviv University event on March 17 – he didn’t say anything that many other Israelis haven’t mulled over during Friday night meals – it was the response that was unusual.
I have noted before that US Secretary of State John Kerry is very sensitive to criticism for a decorated war hero who is tackling peace in the Middle East (and like Ya’alon I’ve probably also just offended him again), but the reaction the defense minister provoked in the White House seemed extreme. Kerry phoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest Ya’alon’s remarks, stopping short of calling for his resignation, according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who described Ya’alon’s comments as “not constructive” and “confusing to us.”
If Ya’alon – call him the Bogeyman – can confuse Kerry and the Obama Administration with a talk, I don’t want to ask how they cope with understanding the rest of the Middle East, allies and former allies as well as enemies. I fear we can all see the results. In any case, the real mystery is why an official from a country that places freedom of speech at the very heart of its cherished democratic values should think it worth calling the Israeli prime minister to complain about comments made by one of his ministers in a limited forum.
And it wasn’t as if the prime minister didn’t have other things on his mind, although he wasn’t too busy to appear on Saturday night’s prime-time State of the Nation (Matzav Ha’uma) satire show. I’m pleased he did go on air: The program made me laugh so much even I couldn’t tell whether I was coughing or spluttering. It can’t be easy to be the head of state, let alone the head of this particular state. At least Netanyahu understood that the joke is sometimes on him.
I had a strange awakening on March 23. My swollen glands and fever were both going down satisfactorily and I was up to tackling some work when I discovered I am, apparently, a nobody, at least professionally speaking.
My Facebook feed was full of colleagues boasting that they had received threats on their phones, ostensibly from Hamas. Many recipients belong to the Foreign Press Association, and one after another they posted that they, too, had received the message: “Al-Qassam has chosen you to be The next Shalite [sic]...Be Ready,” referring to Gilad Schalit, abducted by Hamas and held captive for five years.
Other messages went out to Israeli officials, written in grammatically incorrect Hebrew.
My son thinks the reason I didn’t get threatened is that my ancient phone isn’t smart enough. I can live with that. Incidentally, I noted that nearly all the threatened journalists had the same curious response – to edit the threat for spelling and syntax. Don’t say we don’t take our work seriously! THE SOUND track to my flu-ey days is a feel-good phenomenon: Pharrell Williams’s Academy Award-winning “Happy,” which is spreading through the social media faster than flu germs on a crowded bus. There are more than 750 tribute versions of the song on You- Tube from 92 countries. But try deciphering the meaning of the lyrics “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof” when every time you get up the room with a ceiling is spinning.
Still, I was happy (clap!) to learn that the version filmed in Tel Aviv-Yafo by ISRAEL21c was chosen by Williams to feature in the UN’s International Day of Happiness (which might have passed readers by on March 20).
“We’re so excited about the success of this film,” said Nicky Blackburn, editor and Israel director of ISRAEL21c.
“Israel often scores highly in world happiness surveys and it was a pleasure to show the world why. We thoroughly enjoyed making the film and seeing the spirit of Israel come alive for thousands of people around the world.”
Viewers included those in countries like Iraq, Pakistan and Syria.
I’m not surprised. I enjoyed the version of “Happy” filmed in Beirut that media analyst Tom Gross shared.
Apart from being well-made, it showed a normal, happier side of life in Israel’s northern neighbor. And in addition to providing a few minutes of hand-clapping, foot-tapping happiness it also offers hope – that one day, inshallah/God willing, we’ll be able to travel freely – Israelis and Lebanese – sharing the best the Mediterranean coast has to offer.
It was as I began to fantasize on this joyful future – in a world that has managed to get over most of what ails it – that I figured out that flu and social media trends share something in common: They are fortunately fleeting.
Have you even bothered to ask yourself whatever happened to Gangnam style – the hit that had the globe dancing in 2012 – or last year’s Harlem Shake? May all our viruses be silly, chirpy viral dance hits.
The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post.