By RUTHIE BLUM LEIBOWITZ
They convene for cocktails at various venues along the Herzliya coast and chat about worthy causes. Charity. Children with special needs. Cooperation between Jews and Arabs. Care for the elderly. Concern for the environment. Counteracting social injustice. Combating sexual harassment.
They bear titles. And bare shoulders, soft from spa and sexy from suntan. They bring bottles of Beaujolais and baskets of biscotti, sprinkled with pink petals of potpourri.
"Funny running into you here," they say to each other, a euphemism for: "Notice that I am in attendance."
And they indeed take note of who's who and who's with whom. And of who ought or ought not to be.
They are the best and the brightest of BMW Bohemia and beyond - but not beyond the Green Line, bite your tongue.
Some are still married to their first spouses. Others are securely ensconced in seconds. Singles are scarce. Adultery abounds.
They exchange air kisses. Not one, but two. European emulation essential. Not American, mind you. No smacking of Bush-land, heaven forbid. Only berating it, while boasting of having been there on numerous occasions. On business. Or for pleasure. Though "Paris is so much better."
"Just got back from Boston," they banter, as though bored of being burdened by baggage-checks at Ben-Gurion Airport.
"Heading to Holland for the holidays," they hasten to add, after joking about the injustice of jet-lag. "Unbearable here on Yom Kippur."
And they nod knowingly at each other. Fasting and atonement are rituals they regard with distaste. Religion is the opiate of the masses, they agree, preferring the real thing, of which some of them partake on the porch. The ocean view provides such a perfect setting for the profound contemplation of curing societal ills.
"Bad budgetary priorities," they say, sniffing sea-breeze and other substances.
"Poor planning," they pontificate, passing around the pot and the peanuts.
"Defense-heavy distribution," they decide, shaking their heads indignantly.
"When did warfare replace welfare?" they wonder, watching the waves hit the shore in the moonlight.
"When Volvos replaced values," they vent, validating each other's views.
"SPEAKING OF values," they say, suddenly springing to life, "how's that stock doing?"
"Plummeted momentarily during the missile attacks," they sigh. "But resumed rising after the cease-fire."
"Property's in the pits, though," they postulate, daintily dipping razor-thin radish slices into Roquefort dressing.
"Only in the North and the South," they reassure each other. "The center's solid."
"Solid gold," they laugh, proud of the pragmatism of their real-estate ventures. And relieved to be residents of the Greater Tel Aviv area. The "legitimate" Land of Israel. A relatively safe distance from rocket fire. And from the religious riff-raff without whom the country's coffers would be overflowing with funds for such true victims of "the situation" as Israeli Arabs, the Beduin and, last but not least, the Palestinians.
"Renovations coming along OK?" they ask, shifting gears from the meaningful to the mundane.
"At this rate, we'll be lucky if they're done by Hanukka," they lament. "With all these damned security measures following the kidnappings, it's a miracle that the workers are arriving at all."
"We use illegal foreign labor," they say, lowering their voices.
"Don't tell me you're contributing to unemployment," they gasp, grabbing a Belgian beer from an antique wine barrel filled with crushed ice.
"Don't be ridiculous," they retaliate. "Jews wouldn't do jobs like that if their lives depended on it."
"That's a new phenomenon," they point out, rolling another joint. "Who do you think built this state, brick by brick?"
"The good old days of Labor Zionism and kibbutz living are long gone," they consent wistfully, casting blame unanimously where they believe it is due. "Thanks to Capitalism."
"So-called free-market economics," they guffaw, greeting late arrivals - a.k.a. those who prefer grand entrances to punctuality. "Of the Bibi Netanyahu variety."
"Free for the rich, costly for the poor," they chant in unison, looking for a receptacle in which to discard hors d'oeuvres toothpicks and lipstick-stained napkins.
"Is it surprising that the name of one of the largest US chains is 'The Gap'?" they suggest, pleased as the spiked punch in the Steuben glass bowl they are being served with a sterling silver ladle.
"Our own gap is growing greater by the minute," they warn, welcoming the serene assent - and creme broule with raspberry sauce - that ensues.
"So's your paunch," they tease, light-headed from the imported dessert liqueur that has been brought to them.
"Our daughter's got a belly now, by the way," they answer. "The one living in LA. She's due in December."
"Boy, are we all getting old," they commiserate.
"Nothing a little plastic surgery can't fix," they retort, pretending not to mean it seriously, yet privately in the process of researching its cost and risks.
"LA's not bad in the winter," they comment, collecting themselves to prepare to call it a night. "Christmas sales and all that."
THEY DISPERSE in pairs to different destinations in cars of similar style and stature, designating the drivers among them who are least under the influence of drink and dope.
"Why do we go to these dreary things?" they ask their spouses rhetorically, to pass the time in traffic.
"For the conversation," they are told. "And the networking."
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