(photo credit: Courtesy)
Literally minutes after Seinfeld and I finished four great shows at The Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, where we played to a total of 32,000 people in two days, we stood at the stairs of the plane. We were getting ready to board and leave Israel to head back home to America. I hugged the head of our security team, Amir, and said goodbye.
Jerry and I agreed Amir was the type of guy that either one of us could easily be friends with. He was amazing. Every minute we were out of our hotel rooms, we had four to six security people walking with us. Some walked in front, some in back and some rode in a Mercedes SUV in case we wanted to ride. Plus Jerry had two or three guards outside his hotel room door every night. It was a small dose of what it must be like to be a prime minister, a president or a cartel drug dealer.
Because of the recent events in Israel, I felt that almost everyone I saw walking towards us, whether it was a man, woman or anyone over 12, could be a potential killer. I never felt like that in Israel before.
It was very sad to me. I also found that while walking the streets of Tel Aviv, I turned around occasionally to make sure no one was running toward me to stab me in the back. My friends Alan and Rachel Jacoby, who came to our show, made aliya 10 years ago. They told me that just that morning three people were stabbed just a few blocks from their home in Ra’anana. Rachel said to me, “We certainly didn’t expect this when we moved here, but then again, we’re not going anywhere.”
But Israelis are tough and you’d never know the terrorism exists when you’re out and about walking in Tel Aviv. The beautiful streets and cafés were full, and people were surfing and swimming in the ocean. People were playing matkot on the sand.
Good people were walking to go visit the sick.
Young lovers were strolling in the park holding hands. And tourists are still flocking to the holy land.
It’s hard for most people to understand that these killers who are doing the stabbing are doing it for one and one reason only: they want to kill Jews and terrorize the rest of the people of Israel. And eventually the rest of the world. And they are having some success. As my mother would say to me when I would do a bad thing, “So this makes you happy?” One thing the world knows is that you can kill Jews with little flak from most of the world. But they also know you can’t get rid of the Jews. We are not going away. Not now, not ever. Many have tried and none has succeeded. As my mother used to say, “If you’re trying to get rid of me, good luck!” When we did our shows, it took longer than usual to get people into the theater. There was a more noticeable presence of security since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. Those events have somewhat changed things. We also had a few guards around the stage and bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in before the show. While I was standing in the wings waiting to be introduced, for a split second I thought, “Where should I run in case there’s an attack while I’m on”? Not a great thought moments before doing standup comedy. When Jerry was on, I thought “if someone goes for him, I’ll run out and kick them in the face.”
My opening joke at The Menora was, “You know before I came here to Israel, people were saying to me, ‘Hey Mark, aren’t you scared about going to Israel with all the problems they are having now? Aren’t you frightened?’ “I said, ‘Hey, I’m married over 25 years. Nothing frightens me anymore.’” And then it happened...God added a few more words for me to say that just popped in my head.
After the applause died down from my opening joke, somewhere deep down in my gut I felt obliged to scream out as loud as I could, “SCREW THOSE GUYS. SCREW THEM.” There was a beat and then the applause from the audience was deafening.
Then even louder I screamed it again. More big applause. Everyone in the theater agreed with me, “SCREW THOSE GUYS.” We are Jews and we are here to stay. Not for a while but forever.
On the way back to America, Jerry and I were talking and he asked me when I thought it would be a good time for him to come back with his family to visit Israel. I told him a line I had heard before: “There’s never a good time, but for sure there’s never a bad time. No matter what’s going on. Now is the always the right time to visit Israel.”
The feeling I had from the second I landed in Israel until the flight home as I wrote this was, “Yes, I’m going home to Los Angeles. But yes, I left my real home and my people back in Israel.”
God bless Israel and the Jewish people! The author is a comedian based in Los Angeles.
This article originally appeared on aish.com.