The Most Painful Example
I was sitting in between my nine-year-old brother and an elderly Dutch man named Ferdinand on the plane from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam.My brother was engrossed in a movie, and Ferdinand kept flashing me dirty looks as I made whimpering noises. I didn't want to leave. But he didn't know that.I didn't feel like watching anything. Nothing seemed interesting. I pulled out the Etgar Keret book that I had bought, and suddenly I started crying again. No particular reason-- I had just come across a word that I had learned earlier that week.Dugmit. A micro-example.The taxi driver had taught it to me. We were having an animated discussion about politics when he said the word "dugmit." "At yodaat ma ze dugmit?" Do you know what a dugmit is, he asked me.I shook my head."A dugmit is a micro-example," he continued in Hebrew. I nodded, and we continued our conversation.He liked me so much that, by the end of the taxi ride, he complimented my Hebrew, gave me a discount, and offered to drive me to the airport on my trip home.I smiled and thanked him, not even registering that I would have to come home eventually. Or was I already home?A dugmit. I rolled the word around in my mouth like a marble. It felt strange. I never thought I would have to use this word.Ten days of wandering around Israel-- no particular plans. An evening in Tel Aviv here, a day at the moshav there, two days in Jerusalem, so on and so forth. And each day was a dugmit of Israel. Israel of the city, Israel of the moshav, Israel of the Holy Land. Each day was a micro-example of a certain face of Israel. And when I read the word in the book, I cried. Because I realized that I was another dugmit of Israel.Israel of the Diaspora.Oh, how I loathe that title. I introduce myself as Israeli to everyone who asks. Israeli-American. "Az, ha'mispacha shelach yarda me'ha'aretz?" a friend's father asked me when I visited them in Ashdod.Ouch, right in the heart.So did your family leave Israel? Literally-- did your family come down from Israel?No, they didn't. They are Russian immigrants who had never been to Israel in the first place-- up until last week, obviously. But, in a way, I would have to come down. Leave a higher place. And the taxi driver, who had taught me the word "dugmit" would be an accomplice.Dugmit. Dugmit. Dugmit.Part of me had come to loathe that word. Every day I spent in Israel was a day closer to my "coming down." A day closer to my being a new "face of Israel." The face that leaves. That micro-example of the Israeli in exile.I shook myself out of my deep thought. Chances are, Ferdinand had no idea that I had committed the grave sin of leaving and my little brother was too absorbed in his movie to care.I put the book down, and circled the word "dugmit." I looked at the window and took a last look at Israel, and then I knew that I would return and become a different micro-example. The Israeli who came back.