Some kids protested, wondering what was the point of their studying all year long if the state was going to pass everyone at the last minute; others complained that the state-mandated passing grade of 65 was going to ruin their grade point average. I, on the other hand, was in no position to quibble about the justice of slackers getting the same grade as studiers nor what the effect of such a low grade would be on my GPA, if I ever knew what my GPA was in particular or what a GPA was in general. All I knew is that the Lord had saved me from perpetual ignominy and equally perpetual adolescence and therefore I was in no position to complain about the Lord’s chosen means of deliverance. The Children of Israel did not complain that they had to walk from one bank of the Red Sea to the other, what with El Al, the IRT, and pogo sticks being unavailable at the time, and so I kept my mouth shut and the complaints to the minimum required to maintain my teenager in good standing credentials. And that is how I passed my Algebra I class, earning the necessary math credit needed for graduation from high school. Without those Jewish kids deciding, no doubt with Talmudic logic worthy of Moses Maimonides, that swiping the state exams wasn’t quite a violation of the 7th Commandment, just as telling an untruth to a health insurance salesman about that nasty growth on your left lung isn’t quite bearing false witness, I would still be in high school, trying to figure out what the n in 3n +7x=41 is and wondering why the hell I should care one way or the other about why n wants to be incognito in the first place. You may accuse me of a great many things, and you would be right about many of them, but the one thing no one can call me is an ingrate.
Given my support of Israel over the years, a good many people have asked me over the years why don’t I take my support to its logical conclusion and emigrate to Israel. People usually ask me this at parties, for some strange reason, and the people who ask are usually guys out to make themselves look good to politically liberal and physiologically appealing women, who are often within earshot as they ask me this sort of thing. I can understand why these guys ask; guys will do almost anything to get laid and, let’s face it, arguing about politics beats listening to your next door neighbor talk about how he’s making a fortune in telemarketing seaweed-based laxatives in tedious detail. They often come out ahead in these arguments, and if helps them get the girl, then more power to them, the reason being that I am a terrible debater. It is very hard to debate anyone about anything with my mouth full of food.
I do not mean to be anti-social; I can be an entertaining guest, full of quips and jibes that keep the crowd roaring when I really put my mind to it; it’s just that I seldom do. I don’t mind talking to people at parties, so long as the talk is short and to the point and that they stay out of my way as I head for the free food. Yes, indeed, free food is available at a good many parties, you see, and when the food is free, I am grabbing while the grabbing is good. Conversation at such a time tends to get in the way of the grabbing and can lead to choking and even death, which tends to put a damper on any social event and to annoy the EMTs, who have better things to do with their time than show up at parties they weren’t invited to in order to dislodge a canapé from your gullet. In one way, however, I am the ideal guest: I am invariably the very last guest to arrive and the very first guest to leave, thereby putting the minimum strain on the host’s hospitality and good nature. Hosts appreciate this, and I find that if you limit your interactions with the other guests to a series of nods, frowns, and concerned looks while you stuff your face, you will acquire a reputation as a deep thinker and a sympathetic ear, and so you will find yourself in demand as a guest at a good many parties. Why is this so? Beats the hell out of me.
To return to the question of emigration, I should mention that I do not have noisy neighbors. I don’t know about you, but I like peace and quiet and most of my neighbors agree with that sentiment. Naturally, there are always exceptions to the rule. I have one neighbor whose dogs routinely relieve themselves on my front lawn and another neighbor who objected to seeing me do the same thing in my driveway. Then and now, I object to this neighbor’s objection; if a man can’t take a leak in his own driveway at four o’clock in the morning then what is the point of having property rights at all? But in the main, the neighbors are a pretty sober group, content with letting things be and going about their lives with as little fuss and bother as they can.
This, as anyone who watches the television news for any prolonged period of time, does not describe Israel, which has extremely noisy neighbors, most of whom have no intention of quieting down any time soon. Maybe when I was a young man I’d have gone over there, just to catch the excitement, but I am older and mellower now and I prefer to sit and listen to my arteries harden melodiously than to wonder about thrilling adventures elsewhere.
And then there’s that whole thing with me being a goy. It is not unusual for Jews to make aliyah, as we Zionists call it; it is more unusual for a non-Jew to do the same thing. This would, I think, put a crimp in my emigration and lead a good many Israeli immigration officials to wonder why the hell I decided to stop being a burden to the taxpayers of this our Great Republic in order to become a burden to the taxpayers of the State of Israel. Israel’s very reason for being, you see, is to be a Jewish state, and as a consequence of this demographic decision by the nation’s founders, there are a good many Jews in Israel and not a whole lot of Irish Catholics, the ethnic cohort to which I belong. I could, if I really wanted to, I suppose, emigrate to Ireland or to South Boston, both of which have a high proportion of Irish Catholics in the population, but I have relatives in the former, and relatives, as we all know, should be avoided whenever possible, and the latter includes a good many Red Sox fans and other devil worshippers, of which the less said the better.
I would also have to learn Hebrew. I have no objections to Hebrew per se, beyond the obvious fact that it is not English, but I am too old now to learn the alphabet again or to convince my already overburdened eyeballs to go from right to left while trying to read something. If I have the trouble I have now trying to remember some modicum of Spanish, which, people with a sick sense of humor insist on telling me, is the easiest language for English-speakers to learn, what troubles will I have in a language where I can’t even order two beers and ask where the bathroom is? What is the Hebrew equivalent of dos cervezas, por favor y donde esta el bano? I don’t know and I’ll bet you don’t, either. No, emigration is entirely out of the question, I fear; it’s better for Israel and better for me that I stay where I am and provide moral support to the great cause we both believe in. If the United Jewish Appeal starts hitting me up for money, though, I may have to reconsider. Gratitude is one thing, but 1974 was a long time ago, and I never did get one of those mimeographed tests, so let’s not push it, okay?