A few years ago I spent about a month working in an orphanage in Tanzania and staying in a youth hostel there. Among the volunteers there were two brothers from L.A. in their early twenties. Let's call them Dumbo and Follo. Volunteer work is, much as I am loath to admit it, an egotistical pursuit in many ways. The volunteer gets a kick out of knowing that they're helping someone and gets a kick out of people saying "Oh, aren't you great to be doing that!" Nevertheless, these two clowns took the vanity of the exercise to magnificent levels. One brother could not encounter a Tanzanian child without the other brother making sure it was caught on video. Whereupon the child's ears would be assaulted with something along the lines of "You're WELCOME!! WE'RE JUST DOING WHAT WE CAN, LITTLE FRIEND." On one magnificent occasion Dumbo was calling home to his mother when the emotions of working in the orphanage overcame him and he started to cry. As he did so he quietly beckoned Follo closer and indicated that he was to start recording him. They didn't see anything comical in recounting this story to the other volunteers. Another time, the two were painting a classroom when Dumbo's wrist suddenly went limp and his brush began dribbling paint onto his pristine new boots.
"Dude, what are you doing?!" cried Follo.
"Bro, when we're back home I can wear these shoes to bars and when girls ask why there's paint on them I can tell them I got it painting an orphanage in Africa."
A grin flashed over Follo's face. "You're a fucking genius, dude," he said as he tastefully daubed his own footwear.
But I digress. Wildly. All you need to know about these guys is that they were chumps. They took chumpishness to transcendent levels. They were also Italian-American, as Italian-American as Paulie Walnuts or the gang from Jersey Shore. Guidos, as I believe they call them in the States. Only for some reason they fancied themselves as Jewish, despite the fact that they had no lineage whatsoever to that effect. They liked to prance around the hostel louding chanting and dancing at sunset on Friday evenings because that's when The Sabbath began. At other points one brother would wander into a group of entirely disinterested fellow guests and tell them not to look for the other one for the next half hour or so, as he was busy praying. Such spiritual fellows they were. It took only a little prodding after a couple of drinks to get Follo to admit one day that Madonna and her high profile Kabbalah guff had more than a little influence on them, and that that shit was hot in L.A. right now. They chose to wear their Judaism on their sleeves with obnoxious Israeli Airforce t-shirts, rather than red strings on their wrists. You could not have made these guys up.
And then there was Dani. Dani had just finished her two year stint of mandatory military service in the Israeli army and was now travelling for a bit before starting university in Tel Aviv. Dani went about her day quietly, and did not care one jot for the posturing of Dumbo and Follo, or the sorry advances they made at her. She laughed off jokes we made about Israeli military training consisting solely of throwing stones at Palestinians, and expressed exasperation at the whole situation. Two years of army bullshit still didn't seem to have put a warmongering thought in her head. She didn't think being Jewish made her better than anyone else. She wished it was all very different.
This all seemed to make a lot more sense when I began it a couple of night ago, feeling more shocked and saddened by a news story than I almost thought possible of my jaded head. I don't know exactly how I feel about it all. But I know that the actions of the Israeli army the other day weren't done in the name of people like Dani, but that they are enabled by people like Dumbo and Follo, stuffed to the gills with the romantic, dangerous bollocks that they attach to the idea of the rightful home of God's Chosen People.
As for the boys themselves? They couldn't be reached for comment as they are currently on a Buddhist retreat with the Jonas Brothers and three of the backing dancers from Glee.