Friday, November 19, 2004

...Making Out in the Middle East

When most Americans think of Israel they usually envision one of two things – a country that is invariably involved in a war of some sort or a place where men dressed in long black suits wear funny hats and pray a lot. So it may come as a surprise to non-members of the tribe to learn that to an American Jewish teenager, Israel is looked at as the Mecca of debauchery. You see, #1 It is a tradition for America Jewish teenagers to go on a youth trip to Israel between their sophomore and junior years of high school and #2 Israel has no drinking age. Therein lies the humorous irony of these youth trips – parents send their children on them in hopes that their kids will experience a spiritual journey that will forever solidify their Jewish faith, while most teenagers anxiously agree to the trip knowing they can spend the majority of a Summer getting wasted on their parents dime and quite possibly, get laid. I know it’s why I went.

Upon arriving in Israel we wasted little time in making our way to “The Underground” a popular Jerusalem nightspot so named because to reach the nightclub portion of the establishment requires a trip down a flight of stairs, technically leaving you “underground”.

An immediate disappointment to me was seeing that the group of guys I was out with took no time in congregating around the girls from our own Bay Area youth group. You have to understand that the majority of girls who were on the tour with us were girls I had known for years through Hebrew School and synagogue. It seemed like a colossal waste to travel halfway around the world only to hook up with the same girls I could hook up with back home.

This dilemma was more or less solved for us when the girls from our trip were approached by a herd of Israeli soldiers. Think the “Do you mind if we dance with your dates?” scene from "Animal House". I guess given the choice between soft, pimply-faced, immature American boys and dark, muscular, macho Israeli men, it’s not hard to see why we got left in the dust.

Now poised to do some serious skirt-chasing, I pushed and shoved and fought to strategically place myself next to my long-time friend Danny Katzenberg. This was quite a change of pace for me. Danny and I had been friends since pre-school, but somewhere along the way towards adolescence Danny had turned into a major junior Casanova. I swear, literally (and I do mean literally) every girl I knew who knew Danny had a major league crush on him. Just goes to prove the Chris Rock theory of 90% of the women going after the same 10% of the guys (and then proceeding to complain about the lack of good, available men). Worst of all, it isn’t like it was undeserved. In addition to being unbelievably handsome, Danny was a super nice guy too. There was no way to compete.

I had drifted away from Danny as we’d gotten older for two reasons. First, I was extremely turned off by the group of hanger-ons who tended to follow Danny around like little puppy dogs. Future “Yes-Men” of America. I’m assuming these guys figured that either some of Danny’s magic might rub off on them or that they may be able to pick up some of his leftovers. That type of hero worship just seemed kind of pathetic to me. Also, I theorized that strategically it just didn’t seem wise to be so closely associated with someone that desirable. Same theory as to why you probably wouldn’t open a Sizzler next to a Ruth's Chris. However, on this particular night, when the chance of scoring was actually a legitimate possibility, all my theories kind of went out the window. I figured the least I could do was attempt to be within Danny’s general vicinity so I could be guaranteed to be where the action was.

And this is how I found myself standing with Danny atop the staircase that led to the dance floor. Now, either Danny’s male prowess had been vastly overstated or my negative energy was so powerful that I was sucking all the life out of him because there was nothing going on besides us just standing there. I had honestly never been to a social outing with Danny where he wasn’t flooded by hordes of girls. You could just imagine what it did to my self-esteem to see that the one time I’d ever seen Danny completely lose his magic touch happened to be when he was hanging out with *me*.

We must have been planted there for hours before we were finally approached by two stunningly beautiful girls who pleaded, “WILL YOU SAVE US?” Apparently these two were not nearly as impressed by the aggressive flirting of the Israeli soldiers as were the girls from out own tour group. By saving them, they meant would we go out and dance with them to make them look sufficiently taken. We happily obliged.

Unfortunately, the amount of time we'd wasted just standing around came back to haunt us. We couldn’t have been dancing with these girls for more than 5 minutes when Rob, another guy from our group, grabbed Danny and I to tell us it was near midnight (our curfew) and we needed to hurry back to the youth hostel. Later on in the trip we would come to realize that many of the “rules” were made just so our parents back at home would feel more comfortable about sending their kids off to a foreign country without their supervision, as they were very liberally attended to. But this being our first night, we weren’t willing to take any chances.

Later that same week, our tour group had the opportunity to visit the historic Wailing Wall, one of the holiest sights on the planet. Traditionally, visitors to the Wailing Wall write down a personal prayer to stick within its cracks. Nearly 16 years later, I still remember the prayer I wrote down that day: “Please let Danny and I run into those two girls again sometime before we have to go home”

Should you ever get the chance to visit Israel and have the opportunity to put your own prayer within the cracks of the Wailing Wall, I would recommend against it. It’s a hoax.
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