Israelis Scared of Obama
Inside of a photo developing shop in Eilat I got talking with the woman who worked the counter. She was half-way old and looked a little like someone an uncouth USA teenager might call a “cat lady.” Her hair was a little wild, her eyes did not sit too well in focus, and she seemed a little jittery.
Chaya needed some passport photos as a result of a fiasco that will be appear in a future column on this travelogue, so we stood in front of this lady while the pictures aired out to dry.
We said the USA.
She said, “Obama very bad, not good for Israeli people.”
This was the first errant words that we have heard about Obama on this journey. Though the reasons why this reaction was excavated in Israel is obvious.
“The Muslims are very dangerous,” the lady continued, “Obama is a Muslim. Obama very bad, I am very scared for the future here.”
I cocked my head. I have long learned to keep my mouth shut when dealing with strongly held tribal opinions. The traveler who speaks against the tidings of a tribe – any tribe – could very easily put themselves in grave danger. When you visit a place where black walls are known to everyone to be white, you do not say that they are black.
You cock your head to one side and pretend to be an idiot.
To speak otherwise could very well put you in a position to rock the boulder’s of existence. Tribes are generally not capable of absorbing with open minds contradictory opinions. Otherwise, they would not be tribes, they would just be disconnected people pell melling about in proximity to each other.
I can remember when I dwelt in an anarchist tribe as a greenhorn in the USA. We thought that we were open minded, we thought wrong. Everyone around us had the same vision of the world as we did — the same opinions, the same thoughts — because we would not allow it to be any other way. If someone were to come into our tribe and say, “George W. Bush is a great man because he wiped out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein,” we would have sacked him.
By expelling contradictory opinion, tribes keep themselves well-defined and strong. To bring in diversity is to weaken the foundations of a group’s identity, and thus the group itself. Or so is feared.
To speak against a tribe from within its borders when traveling is to add a flaming match to a long dried out pile of thistle weeds.
This is what I thought as I stood in front of the Israeli women developing Chaya’s passport photos and lecturing me on the dangers of Islam. I thought that I was real smart by keeping my mouth shut. I smiled to myself smugly at what a good, experienced traveler I had become.
“Muslims very dangerous, Sinai very dangerous, Muslims very bad. Obama is a Muslim. He really, truly scares me. Not good for Israel.”
I stood with my head cocked to the side. I was saying nothing.
“What do you think of Obama?” she then asked me.
“I love him,” I replied.
I have no idea where this sentiment came from. I was not aware of having this feeling before.
“The whole world loves Obama. Wherever we travel, everyone says how much they love Obama and how he is really good,” I continued, to my own surprise.
Extremes have the tendency of provoking opposite extremes.
Chaya shot me a death glare. She was mad.
The lady grew tongue tied in anger.
I ran away, leaving Chaya in the fiery inferno of my creation.
“Are you mad at me?” I asked Chaya after she exited the photo shop and stormed passed me into the street.
Chaya was steaming.
“WHY did you try to bother that lady!” she scolded.
“I don’t know,” I replied, “I just wanted to see what she would do.”
My traveler curiosity usurped my traveler sense.
I think I may have found a country that the Obama charm has not yet serenaded.
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