Is it just a dream?

For my friends in Montana, I’m not using the phrase in the context referred to in Chogyam Trungpa’s book, rather in the sense that there is no escaping the Arab-Israeli “issue”.  I don’t want to say conflict, since the issue can exist even where there is no actual conflict.  I am not personally in conflict with anyone, yet the issue affects me, even, as it turns out, here in Lugansk.  

A bird's eye view of Lugansk


We are in a remote corner of Ukraine, the last place one would expect to find Arabs, or Israelis, for that matter.  As it happens in so many remote locations throughout the world, Arabs and Israelis are thrown together not by fate, but by their shared love of the same foods.  

Those who are aquainted with DH, know he is a finicky eater.  Ukrainian food is about as far from his taste as one can get without eating dirt.  I’m not comparing the local cuisine to dirt, it’s just that food here usually involves either mayonnaise, beets, or both.  The very sight of either of the aforementioned is enough to put DH off his feed for at least 24 hours.  

Imagine DH’s delight when we came upon a restaurant named “Antalya”, after the region in Turkey.  It was especially inviting because there were pictures of the food served on a billboard outside, which meant that we could “point-and-order”, a technique favored by many intrepid travellers.   

We entered and were happy to find menus with pictures and a clean and Western toilet, not a squat hole like they had at the fancy mall across the street.  We ordered eggplant salad, kebabs and ribs of lamb, all of which lived up to the photos.    

Those of you who know Karen, are aware that she has a loud voice and likes to talk a lot.  She also likes to point and declare loudly, “What’s that”, at anything new that interests her.  Two men sitting at a nearby table were puffing away at a narghila (water pipe).  Karen pointed and loudly asked in Hebrew, “Abba, what’s THAT?”.  The men looked up, appeared to realize what language we were speaking, and quickly resumed their conversation.   

They were clearly Middle Eastern, and not Israeli. We asked Karen to please stop yelling, and to speak more softly.  As usual, she ignored us.  You see, when we come upon fellow Mid-Easterners, we have no way of knowing if they are Turks, uninterested Arabs, or if they are Palestinians who have lost a relative in The Conflict.  Likewise, they have no way of knowing if we are leftist sushi eaters from Tel Aviv or right-wing settlers who attack Arab olive pickers.  It makes for an uncomfortable situation, and in general, I like to follow the Israeli State Department advice and maintain a “low profile”. No point in advertising our presence as Israelis.  This is my usual mode when I travel, but how to explain it to a 5 year old?  

I’m actually not sure what the point I am making with this post, just wanted to share a little slice of life as an Israeli, and to show that even when you are away from Israel, and have no interest in any sort of conflict, my very “Israeliness”, can make me uncomfortable.  I’m sure that Arabs and Turks experience this to a much greater degree as they are profiled the world over anytime they fly or cross an international border.  No escaping it.