JERUSALEM POST BLOG 12 – The morning after
Immediately after alighting from the plane at the brand new airport of Jericho, my wife and I head into the city, and hide for a while behind a promontory of chicken musakhan. The four-hour flight from Newark has rendered my belly a craving, empty furnace, and yet, my mouth gapes not at the prospect of nourishment, but at the whopping transformation that has taken place during my absence of thirty-eight years. Has it really been that long?
Diyala nudges me from digestive slumber. “Time to wake up,” she says, “you have a research facility to inaugurate, honey.”
“Right, right,” I mumble, unfolding from my shirt pocket a short speech that needs rehearsing. Hardly audible, nor, in fact, quite visible, like a mute ventriloquist, I saunter about the phrases that I’ve jotted down during the flight. “Cognitive Imaging has made giant leaps since my company stumbled upon this revolutionary technique, somewhat serendipitously perhaps (allow laughing pause for audience), five years ago. The choice of CI International & Co to lower anchor here, in the oldest city of the world, is no coincidence. Not, of course, because old age is in any way an issue for the graying man standing in front of you (laughing pause?), but because this teaming metropolis holds a number of cards that no poker face can, or indeed, should hide.” “Honey.” I startle as I become aware of the extra pair of eyes that are sneak-peaking on the coattails of my effort.
“You think they will get your reference to the old casino?” “What casino?” She frowns. I snigger. “Kidding. Of course they will.”
“You sure? Most of your audience wasn’t even born at the time of the Second Intifada.”
“Oh.” I realize she has a point, but I haven’t given up yet. “They still teach these kids history in the schools, right? It can’t all be business and science. Things haven’t always been happy and gleaming around these parts. Well, you know that better than I do.”
I drift off again, and cast a cursory glance over almost four decades of regional politics; the Annapolis memorandum, the Abbas-Olmert Accords, followed by failed referendums. Then, the Barghouti-Netanyahu deal, ratified without popular approval in 2011, and implemented with surprising success by a rather robust Arab League-EU Implementation Force. A series of expensive, and at times very bloody hiccups had the pundits out on a limb for a while, but the patient pulled through eventually, remarkably. A peace-deal between Israel, Syria and the rest of the Arab world was signed in 2013. Poor Lebanon convalesced quickly after a brief, but fierce second civil war, to join by 2018 the controversial, but highly fruitful East-Mediterranean customs union.
“You putting all of that in?”
“You’re still hovering there? I thought you were the history geek….”
“Tom, you might feel this need, this urge to recap everything that’s happened here after you left, but um…. Nevermind. I’ll be at the pool, mkay?”
I wait until the door says “click,” scrape my voice, and continue aloud. “For a long time, ladies and gentlemen, the region has daunted world leaders as some kind of Bermuda triangle of administrations, absorbing without a trace or hint of result, any and all conciliatory efforts hurled at it, and, might I add, the political fortunes of those who dared to poke around in its pungent innards. But, the code was cracked. Palestine has emerged, next to Israel, not only as a peaceful nation, but an extremely profitable one too. Not, of course, for our immediate competitors.” I decide to scrap this sentence since a fair share of rival brass will actually be present at the ceremony.
“With the high level of economic integration between both nations, the Hong Kong-style handover next year of Ariel, and Ma’ale Adumim and its Jewish inhabitants to Palestinian sovereignty seems almost irrelevant. And yet, and yet, as they (pause for effect!) will enjoy the same cultural, and linguistic autonomy that Palestinians have acquired within Israel, the symbolism, this landmark on the long, hard road out of hell, is hard to overstate.
Ladies and gentlemen, I was a snotnose when I first came here. Indeed, the snotnose, this feverish flue of mistrust and doubt pervaded a whole generation. Today, as I stand before you, I needn’t a handkerchief. A change has beset…” “Hey…” “Honey, is that you?” I startle. There’s that gnawing itch of a fresh mosquito bite on the left foot, and the warm presence of breathing in my face. Carefully, I pry open one eye, then the other.
Manual override. My head feels like a truckload of single malts ran over it, twice. I manage to focus, and startle again. “You calling me honey already? How sweet.” A pair of friendly, but alas, not overly familiar eyes stare back at me. Chards of music from a party cling droning to my ear. “Huh? Who-… What year is this?” “What year? Are you okay? It’s 2007.” She affects to wipe her brow, and sighs. “Phew, for a moment I thought you were going to ask me for my name.”
1. Yes, and I just saw about a dozen pigs flying in formation over a completely frozen hell. Sorry to see Mr. Kenis did not take the wise advice I gave him following his previous posting. Matthew, California, Oct 11 3:10PM