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Mikhail Baranovsky

10.12.2014
10:00

Izrailovka. Part 1




Dedicated to my dear and beloved foreskin.

The author.

 

 

We put on our seat belts, accelerated, took off and flew into the air.

All my life I had written from left to right, just imagine that. Now I would do everything in the opposite way.

Below me are clouds. Above me is the sun. I am between the sun and the clouds.

At a concert by the group Freilekhs in Moscow, at the “Warsaw” cinema, in 1981, in the intermission, at the buffet, in the line, everyone smiles to each other.

I think you were in front of me.”

No, I wasn’t, thanks.”

Grishenka, just look how nice the people here are!”

I look at my watch. It shows the time in Moscow. My German watch is set to Moscow time. Boldly and decisively I wind the watch back one hour. A fly is in the plane with us. A Russian fly – a refugee and dissident. Happy absorption to you, little fly!

Israel is yellow from above. It snuggles the shore of the Mediterranean. Palms, sand, beaches. We soar above the promised land. With two legs above Israel. In the long list of my family genealogy, no one ever hovered so low above this shore. Above this land, where my remote ancestors walked in sandals, swam in this sea, fought, built temples, prayed, loved and died on this land, or rather on this sand, facing Jerusalem.

In my first years at school we once filled out the first forms in our lives – naturally, with the “fifth” point about nationality. By that time I already knew my nationality. But the boy I shared a desk with, Vasya Drozhko, didn’t know his nationality.

What’s my nationality?”

Write ‘kugut’,” I said.

He wasn’t sure about this, and looked at my form, and saw the word “Jew”. He hesitated a little and then wrote “kugut” in the “nationality” box. He decided that a kugut was better.

At the pioneers’ camp we were marching in pairs. Someone asked my brother on the way to the beach.

Himmelfarb, are you a Jew?”

Sasha said:

No, I’m a German”.

My brother had decided that it was better for him to be a German in Russia than a Jew.

It was like the joke:

Armenians are superior to Georgians.”

How?”

To Georgians.”

The last person from our family to go to the synagogue was my great-grandmother Manya. Next to our house there were two synagogues. One disappeared a long time ago. The other now houses a venereal clinic. On the walls are verses by Omar Khayyam, which say it is better to starve and be alone. There are photographs of hard ulcers. So syphilitic patients are also better off.

Manya made forshmak and gefilte fish, and observed Shabbat. She also observed something else and prepared something else, but no one remembers what this was anymore.

Please fasten your seatbelts”. The Negev desert is beneath the wing. It was great forshmak!

To leave or not to leave? It is better to leave once than to regret it 100 times. That’s what I think.

If, as we know, there are only two problems in Russia, in Israel, according to numerous sceptics among my friends and acquaintances, there is a whole raft of them. But in my personal anti-rating cockroaches hold first place.

They fly here. Like helicopters, huge and terrifying. Although I heard that in Africa there are cockroaches the size of crows. They even cause road accidents. The person who told me this saw a cockroach knock over a cyclist in Dar-es-Salaam. But what do I care about Dar-es-Salaam?

I don’t think that anyone talks so much about emigration so much anywhere, except for Russia. In smoky kitchens the atmosphere of Sheremetievo-2 airport is recreated. You get the feeling that all of these conversations about the same thing will reach critical mass, and an explosive wave will scatter us all over the world.

Perhaps this wave pushed me to the shore of the Mediterranean, and I am walking to the ancient city of Jaffa. Through the heat and disappointments, through centuries and solitude.

I walk into the sea and soak in the water. I piss into the Mediterranean, like into the Don River. Only the waves are stronger here. They say that water has memory and stores information just as well as a computer, which can be used to recreate a picture of the whole. Perhaps one day someone will discover my informational trace from my diluted urine in the Mediterranean, and recreate me from some miraculously preserved ammonium molecule. This sad sight will stand before the gaze of stern descendants.

It is pleasant to walk barefoot through the land of Israel. To feel the warmth and roughness of the stones of ancient Jaffa with your feet. To wander through the labyrinths of ancient lanes, to get lost and sit down somewhere when you get tired, stretch your legs, smoke and thing about something pleasant. For example, about how once (either in the late 1980s or early 1990s) I was at the first congress of Jewish organizations and communities in Moscow, at the cinema at Barrikadnaya. Members of the “Memory” society turned up for the opening. They held signs: “Jews, go away to Israel!” The next day Moscow students from Palestine came along with the signs “Jews! Get out of Israel!” And it was completely unclear where we could go.

Mikhail Baranovsky is a writer, screenwriter and author of the children’s and adults’ bestsellers “I Bring Up Dad” and “About Chicks”.

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