spies like us: still more love among the Lebanese
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 26, 2007
Earlier this spring I went out on a date with a dashing Lebanese man in his late 30s.
We drove off in his late model sports car, me cringing a bit at the thought of what my Boston-born père would say about a car too “flashy” for Iowa, let alone old school New England.
It was a weekend night – cars were out, and so were the military checkpoints. As we settled into a long line of cars near Verdun, he began asking me about my time in the region: where had I been, what did I work, on, and … did I speak Hebrew.
People here do ask me this question from time to time. Somehow in Lebanon the region-wide assumption that the United States is run by a Jewish cabal has morphed into the belief that all Americans speak Hebrew.
In fact, I have one friend who “reassures” me from time to time, believing (I assume) that I am simply too shy to reveal my language skills.
Its okay with me that you speak Hebrew, Little Diamond, he tells me.
Back to the date. Do you speak Hebrew? he asked.
No, I said.
No? he asked, and continued:
Oh my GOD, I thought, horrified. I’m on a date with a Lebanese Mossad agent. AND WE’RE GOING THROUGH A MILITARY CHECKPOINT.
Mistaking my “this is definitely the worst date ever” look for one of interest, he continued:
Hebrew is a beautiful language, Diamond.
Should I jump out of the car and run? I thought. Is this the start to some kind of recruitment pitch? Half the people I meet think I am a spy anyway, just because I am American. NOW what will I say when people ask? Panicking, I asked myself: Why oh why did I say yes to this date?
Happily, cowardice prevailed and I remained seated.
You must understand, Diamond, my date went on, blissfully ignorant of my distress, Hebrew and Arabic are very similar languages. We are cousins, really; politics is all that separates us.
Turning to face me (a rather worryingly popular posture for drivers in this country), he said sadly: I would love to learn Hebrew. I have tried to find someone who will teach me, but it is very difficult.
Mmm, I thought. I bet it is. Who do you ask – returned members of the SLA?
I bought a book, he continued, hoping to teach myself, but it is quite difficult.
Oh my Lord, I thought. You certainly didn’t buy that book here. What if your bags had been searched at customs?
What do you think? he asked, finally. Do you think it is possible to learn Hebrew on my own?
Mmmm, I replied, non-committally. I can’t imagine learning Arabic on my own, and I suspect that Hebrew is much the same. But if you look online, you might find some good self-study programs on the twenty million websites dedicated to building a Jewish identity and love of Israel among today’s American youth.
Really?? he asked, again happily oblivious to my tone. Oh, wonderful. I will search for them.
Oh boy, I thought. I can only imagine what the Lebanese internet censors are going to make of this.