A name game of geography

One fine Sunday my dear anonymous brother asked me: "Wanna go t'Nortown n'see' western witme?"

That meant: Did I wish to accompany my esteemed brother to the highly regarded Nortown theater to see a movie set in the Wild West yester yore of the United States.

"Cowboys n' Indians n' all??" I asked, all excited.

"Y'know some other kinda west, wise guy?" my all-knowing brother haughtily answered.

"Nah" I said deferentially. And it turned out that neither did he!

So we walked a mile to the Nortown, which I guess was called that – as opposed to being called the Soutown – because it was on the north side of town, but too far from downtown to be called the uptown. That's geography. Anyway – in those days they let kids walk or ride a bike for miles away from home, without getting your parents in big trouble and you in a foster home.

We bought popcorn at the cheapo place next door and a couple of tickets and went in. Usually westerns start with a panorama shot of a ranch or a close-up of a deep thinking horse… or the guy on the horse. It wasn't always clear who the deeper thinker was. This western started with some guys dancing and writing graffiti. They were white so I figured they must be the cowboys and the name of the ranch was Jets. Then these other guys were dancing and they were darker, so I asked my wise brother: "They the Indians? What tribe are they s'posed t'be?  Never heard of a Sharks tribe"

"Shh" my brother reacted, "Just wait and see!"

I didn't relent. "How come they got no feathers? How come they look like city people? How come we gotta go to a musical western? How come there aren't any horses?"

After not seeing any Indians, cowboys, horses, a home on the range or a harmonica playing – I started to suspect this wasn't a western. So I challenged my brother: "Who said this is a western?? Huh?"

"Quiet!" he shushed me, "Of course it's a western! It's called West Side Story, not East Side! Just wait! Maybe because of all the fighting they move out west to find some peace and quiet!"

Well, the West Side Story, as you all know, was NOT a western.

Sometimes a word, name or phrase can mean something different than you think.

Take Henry the Eighth – the guy who had six wives? But in day camp we sang about a guy who called himself "Henry the eighth" because he married the girl next door who'd been married seven (!!) times before, and every husband was a Henry, making him Henry, her eighth husband!

The same with the name of a place. Some people use the word "Palestinian" exclusively for Arabic speaking people. I tell people: "Look, there never was an Arabic-speaking independent state, country, district or province called Palestine! It's just a European (originally Greek) name of a geographical area! There are people who live in Mid-Western U.S. – does that mean there's a nation of Midwesterners who have a right to a state? Nonsense, right?"

So they point to stamps, coins and signs all bearing the name Palestine. I answer: "Look, it says Palestine in English, Arabic and Hebrew – because it's the time of the British Mandate over the land, the mandate that was to establish a Jewish Homeland in the Land of the Jews."

The San Remo Conference after WW1 gave vast Ottoman lands to the Arabs and one tiny niche to the Jews – our homeland. We wished nothing but our homeland, not an inch of someone else's land. The Mandate (accepted by 51 countries in the League of Nations) called on Great Britain to:

"… be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home… safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion". Palestine is a region – the Jews a nation. All people there were to have "civil and religious rights", but national rights were reserved for the only people who had ever called the land their one and only intrinsic homeland: the Jewish nation!

 Next time… I'll tell ya about the West Bank Side Story!