When the scuds fell on Tel Aviv,
I went over to the Greek diner on the corner of Broadway.
The Greek served me American coffee,
but I didnít pick up on his being Greek
until he asked: Where are you from? You have an accent likeÖ
You too I said.
He laughed, Iím from Greece, Iím already here twenty years.
Weíre neighbors, I told him.
From where? He asked.
The Middle East: I answered.
From the TV above his head the reporter from CNN
gave the first estimates of the damages in Tel Aviv
from a sealed room in Jerusalem,
and in the studio an American expert discussed
the deadly effects of mustard gas and nerve gas and I thought
of my mother and I remembered how shaken up she was at
the first air-raid siren during the í67 war, pulling
us kids along into the bomb shelter and whispering
prayers nonstop in Moroccan ArabicÖ
The Greek continued guessing in English: Jordan? Lebanon?
Yisrael, I said, in Hebrew.
you donít look Israeli, he said.
Depends, I told him.
He chuckled for some reason and added some hot coffee
to what was left cooling in my cup: Really,
you look more like an Arab.
On TV they were interviewing people on the street,
Israelis in the environs of sealed Tel Aviv,
and then I realized the Greek was right:
These Israelis are blond,
and they all speak perfect American English!
I thought I would write a sorrowful song,
but then I ordered a hamburger with lots of mustard.
From Hebrew: Ammiel Alcalay
Keys to the Garden, New Israeli Writing
Edited by Ammiel Alcalay
City lights Books
San Francisco, 1996