Middle East Conference: Barrie, Ontario. Winter 2009
“Ladies and Gentleman, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”
We have a problem in the Middle East.
In the Middle East, there is tumult, torture, and trouble.
In the Middle East, and not in the Middle West
Or the North or the South
There is trouble.
Trouble is brewing in the Middle East.
Ladies and Gentleman: we can rebuild the Middle East.
We have the technology to make not only the first bionic man
But also the first stable peace in the troubled Middle East
We can kick the can’t and make it a can.
We can make it so for today’s children
And not just for their children
Or their children
Or their children’s children.
We can do it Now-and not in 60 seconds or 60 minutes.
Together, we will break bread, or challah, or pita.
Together, we will eat apple pie, chicken soup, and kebab.
Together, Americans, Jews, and Muslims
We will eat together
And the obesity problem will spread to the Middle East
And then we will all be (Ara) fat like Yasser-Avehu Shalom.
Peace will be with you.
You will be at Peace.
Help you I will.
“And now, a woman who needs no introduction, she has as many Nobel Peace Prizes to her name as there are bathrooms in Chelsea lofts, Natalie Fingerhut.
(Entrance is made to the combined sound of cheering and Hockey Night in Canada)
Dear Esteemed Leaders of the Middle East:
I have an idea.
Let’s turn the Old City into a hockey arena.
OK. You’ve had your moment of looking at each other in disbelief rather than in disgust. You’ve had your first moment in eons of actually being on the same page at the same time. Don’t try and get along now because I need your competitive spirits to make this work.
As you know, hockey is on the decline in North America having been upstaged by men getting into expensive racing cars and driving around in circles and occasionally blowing up. Just themselves though. Not women and children and innocent bystanders.
Hockey needs to expand somewhere and where better than the Middle East. The MHL if you will.
I mean let’s all be serious for a minute. The Old City is a dump, a 2-mile dry, dusty, unhygienic shithole. When was the last time the carpets were cleaned in the Dome of the Rock from all those stinky sweaty feet. Never mind the potential for a mass outbreak of Athlete’s Foot!! And the Wall needs a wash.
I remember the first time someone dragged me from the beautiful beaches of Tel Aviv where I happily checked out the cute guys . This 45 year old divorcee from South Jersey had taken my 25 year old self under her wing which was unattractively adorned in a turquoise wife beater that did not do wonders for her fleshy forearms. Bobbi decided that I needed to “Experience the Wall.” Though I protested loudly that I would have preferred to experience some hot Israeli ass, she ignored me. I even suggested a foursome but she declined.
Bobbi rented a car from a friend, stuffed me in her car, and drove along this road that has been graced with the classification of highway when in fact it is really just a death trap. Apparently, and I have no formal proof for this, more people are killed in highway accidents in Israel then in terrorist attacks. So, Arab leaders, take a note: more highways = more dead Israelis. If I wasn’t standing here trying to get you guys to kiss and make up, I’d advise a change of tactics.
When we got to Jerusalem, Bobbi took us to some hotel in that part of town that some of you really like to blow up. She told me that I needed to cover my shoulders which I did with my Sarah Lawrence College sweatshirt that I think I had used as a pillow one night when I slept through one of Sarah Lawrence’s horny and fun Saturday night invitation-only orgies. On my head, I donned God’s preferred head covering: a Toronto Maple Leaf’s hat.
Hey Hey Mr. Israel Security Guy..big gun back in pants. . .Why are you flailing your hands around, Mahmoud I’m sorry I can’t pronounce your last name. It’s more complicated than Khabiboulin whom I think hails from your sphere of influence. Not that he would know having spent 2 decades between the pipes. Not oil pipes, Sheik One and Sheik Two. Pipes. As in a Net. An innocent snarl of ropes that men stand in front of to prevent the puck from sailing past them.
Sorry, Mizz Livni. Are you trying to get a word in? You ask if women stand between the pipes. Well, they do. They do. But not as well as the men. Sorry, on this I have to agree with the more misogynist elements here today: in sports, women are not equal. I mean really, even Hayley Wickenheiser can’t make the NHL and her slapshot is 80 miles an hour.
Anyway, back to me. Bobbi and I walked to the Old City. She told me that I would remember this moment for the rest of my life. She was indeed correct. I remember beige. Beige everywhere. Dust, heat and beige. Nothing like the beautiful cafe that I had left back in Tel Aviv with its gorgeous view of the Mediterranean and the gorgeous men wearing red and blue Speedos reminiscent of the 1970s when I was only a toddler. And yet I remember them.
In the Old City, there were a lot of men but not a lot of Speedos.
We walked down some steps and emerged onto a very clean floor. The books that I had read as a kid were indeed correct; the area in front of the Wall was split in half by those dividers that one sees at concerts used to block high teenagers from jumping the stage. On the left were the men and on the right were the women. It felt very Josef Mengele and I wanted to tell Bobbi, but Bobbi was in the opening phase of a transformative moment . She had wrapped her pink with black polka dots shawl over her head and around her shoulders. I had another momentary memory recall – this time of Barbara Streisand on the cover of The Way We Were 8-track also from the 70s. Her face was the epitome of every cliché that I know you know: glowing eyes, mouth slightly open, nostrils flared (and she had a real shnib ifyou know what I mean—a real snout). And then I had a vision.
“You feel it too?” she whispered as though talking to a lover.
“I know. I feel it every time I come here.”
“A new start”
“Tell me more.”
“I feel hope....and sportsmanlike conduct.”
“Hope yes. I always feel hope here.”
“Men, women, children cheering together.”
“A sound from heaven.”
“Everyone welcome; none turned away at the Gate.”
“We can do it.”
“The men section could be the penalty box.”
Needless to say, after I had been removed by security guards for drawing centre ice in blue indelible ink (which happily cut across both the male and female sections), and explaining that since there was already space dug out under the wall, we could easily put in dressing rooms and then players could make their dramatic entrances out of the Wall, Bobbi disappeared into the dull night of Friday evening in Jerusalem never to be seen by me again.
You don’t mind if I sit down and put my feet up on the mic stand, do you? .Now let me all tell you something and you listen. You all listen up good. You guys remind me of Madonna. Whenever you feel like you’re not getting enough attention, you go ahead and blow something so that the media notices you. But you know what? This is getting old-like really old. No one’s interested anymore. We are looking at Stan these days, and I don’t mean Lee or Rogers . I mean Stan as in Afghani, Paki, Tajiki, Kazakh and it goes on. They are the ones making all the big noise now and since most of them, unlike yourselves, actually have something called winter, we should really consider expanding the MHL to Kabul. Apparently, there are lots of young guys hanging around there dying to learn how to shoot.
That Wall that has you all up in arms, let me tell you the truth about it. A Jew named Herod who spent his days kissing the Roman Empire’s butt built this temple that you refer to as the Second Temple; the first one destroyed by some extinct people called the Babylonians. Took Herod 50 years to make this thing and fifty years later, guess what happened. The Romans destroyed it. Razed it to the ground, in fact. And they left..a wall. A wall, people. And not even the wall of the temple itself, just a supporting wall. A supporting wall, people. You likely have them in some of your houses.
And for you Muslims, the story is equally pathetic. One of your caliphs, Umar, ordered the building of a mosque on the Temple Mount. Do you know what the Temple Mount was used for before it had a mosque: it was a garbage dump. And even more insane, on this garbage dump, your ancestors found a rock—a big rock for sure—but a rock nonetheless. And they decided that this rock was the very rock that Muhammad was lifted to heaven on.
So basically, you guys, you’re killing each other’s kids for a former garbage dump and a supporting wall.
Let’s get those Romans back and do some razing people. It’s arena-building time.
No more drowning in blood. Let’s drown ourselves in Labatt Blue. Your sons should be shooting pucks not shooting each other, and your daughters should wear less not more and set themselves the goal of becoming puck bunnies.
You think blowing yourself up is painful? Try getting a puck in the face and having King Clancy stitch your cheek up on the bench as you get ready for your next shift? Or worse, forgoing the stitches and using a styptic pencil.
Hey...you with the Yasser scarf that you bought in Greenwich Village for 10 bucks...please send your scarf to Don Cherry care of the CBC so that he can have a suit made from the same pattern.
It’s time to move on everyone. Time for The Jericho Red Wings vs. The Tel Aviv Lightening.
And it’s going to happen you guys. Really it is. As you all sit here in Barrie, Ontario , 2 Zambonees together with 2 drivers are making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem . Please don’t mistake them for tanks and blow them up. Next month, the good folks from Tim Horton’s will be doing a pitch for us in the atrium of the Al-Aqsa mosque. We’re going to make Timbits a part of the Middle East’s vocabulary. We’re going to replace your Turkish coffee with Turn-up- the-Rim to win contests. One God is going to become One Game.
It’s Gut Checking Time.
Time to shut up and lace up.
Shalom and Salaam.