So tonight is Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli independence day. Sixty-four years, we’ve been around. Makes me feel like we should start renting cottages on the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear.
Things haven’t been that great with me recently, and my plans kind of changed at the last minute so I’m not really doing anything this year. But I figured, at the very least, I should walk around to the streets that they’ve blocked off to car traffic, over to the square where they set up a stage for various singers.
It’s kind of like the Fourth of July. You’ve got folding tables with a bunch of cheap, vaguely patriotic-looking balloons or noisemakers. You’ve got kids running around spraying something that vaguely resembles shaving cream. You’ve got the vague scent of people grilling on a barbecue that’s going to be even stronger tomorrow. And, of course, fireworks.
But somehow, wandering through this mass of people, these bodies flowing down the street like a river, it just reminded me of the kinds of things I wrote about here the other day, how despite my efforts I still don’t really fit in here. That, while I’m glad this country is still around, and while for now I’m glad I’m here, I’m not really sure why. If I look at my direct surroundings, can I identify with even one of the thousands of people sharing street space with me? If I look at the country as a whole, is there a single national leader that I can respect? Am I even a part of the culture here, or just a blue person in a story that’s supposed to take place in a green world?
But then I decided that I shouldn’t be thinking like that. Not on Yom Haatzmaut. Maybe on Friday or sometime thereafter, but not tonight and not tomorrow. There has to be something I can feel good about in this country. If I can’t stand the Mizrachi music that this particular fellow seems to insist on singing off-key, if I can’t stand the kid who just accidentally sprayed my leg with faux shaving cream, if I can’t stand the fact that I don’t even have anyone to turn to and say “wow, this is ridiculous,” then I’ll have to find something else to be proud of. Something that I can say “this is a part of the country that I understand, that I like, and that is as integral to the country’s identity as it is to my own.”
That’s right. Memrach HaFucking Shachar. For those of you who don’t know, Memrach HaShachar is an easily-spreadable chocolate cream that comes in a plastic tub which you’d, for example, put on bread like jam. Except it’s not jam. It’s chocolate.
Some of you may be thinking “oh, it’s like Nutella.” You’d be wrong, though. Nutella is a derivative. It’s an offshoot of Memrach HaShachar. It doesn’t spread as well as Memrach Shachar, it doesn’t *quite* taste like chocolate, and you pay more for a jar that holds less. No, Nutella is what happens when someone tries to fix something that ain’t broke. It’s like Microsoft Bob.
But Memrach HaShachar. It’s absolutely ubiquitous in this country. It’s been around almost as long as the state, and is as likely to be found in the sandwich of a kid’s bag lunch as cold cuts are. It’s a staple food. The army’s come up with its own version that goes into field rations. I’m told that there was a time they tried to update their product’s logo, and people revolted all New Coke-style.
This is it. This is my reason to be proud of this country. We didn’t just come up with this ostensibly goofy, yet somehow amazing product, we goddamn mainstreamed it too. No matter what else goes wrong, no matter what happens, Memrach HaShachar will always be my connection to this country, will always be my reason to be proud, even if I’m not entirely feeling it.
Memrach Hashachar, I thank and salute you.