“Dinner at Shimon’s” could be the title of a movie. That’s what I was thinking as I stared into the eyes of the girl who I thought might become the first girl I would actually have sex with. She stared back as Hannah served us—you guessed it—chicken! We had a superb evening talking about our common goals, beliefs and hopes for this great country.
Rachelli was a joy to be with. She also brought a great deal to the conversation and we seemed to be getting along just fine. When you live on a kibbutz, there are not too many places you can go on a first date, something that’s severely compounded by the fact that everyone—and I mean everyone—knows where you came from, where you are going, what good and bad things you’ve done and who you have your eye on. This makes it hard to be involved with someone and then move on to another someone, especially if that first relationship ended acrimoniously. Your reputation follows you, as does your ability to avoid confrontation.
I thought this was going to be my first relationship, but I didn’t have to live here forever, so to my mind it was vital that caution direct my every decision. This experience instilled in me a sense of the value of privacy, something that has carried on throughout my life. My business is my business, and no one else’s. Shimon and Hannah explained that living in a communal atmosphere had its good points, none of which I particularly admired. At some point during my two month stay on Hazorea, it occurred to me that living without too many responsibilities on a kibbutz could be very nice, but that thought was soon replaced by a new appreciation for the power of claustrophobia and a new understanding that personal responsibility could breed education, sophistication and desire.
Later in the evening I said, “Shimon, my friend Andrew wants on the archaeological dig. I had a meeting with John Wayne, or Pistol Pete, AKA Ronnie, and he likes me, so, can I ask him to take on Andrew, please?”
Shimon smiled. “Let’s discuss this tomorrow, Eli. Tonight I think your date would rather talk someplace else.”
Rachelli blushed. I blushed. Hannah just laughed. We bid them thank you and goodnight, and we left. But where to go? Rachelli shared a room and I shared a room, so there were no private areas that I knew of. We were stuck. That is, until Rachelli said, “My room is empty tonight, at least for the next hour, so would you like to go there?”
“Fucking right I would!” said the voice inside my head—my other head, which was doing all the talking by this time. Fortunately, that voice stayed in my head. What came out of my mouth was shocking in its gentility: I responded politely, “That would be fantastic.”
The next morning came all too soon, and as I entered the dining hall for breakfast, I saw Andrew chatting to some girl I’d never seen before. I was sure he wouldn’t want to be disturbed; they looked like they were engaged in a deep “I’d like to fuck you” conversation. However, I’ve never been one to shirk a challenge, so I went in with all guns blazing, trying to sabotage my friend as only friends will do.
“Don’t talk to him, he’s a recovering drug addict and a closet homosexual!” I said as I sat down near them. The look on Andrew’s face was exquisite, as though someone had just stolen his brand new bike and he had no chance of catching up to get it back. His new friend, however, looked back at me and all she could muster was “Ma?” which in Hebrew means “What?” My humor had been totally wasted! Now it was Andrew’s turn. His Hebrew was better than mine, and in broken Hebrew/English, he informed his new friend that I was a Scottish pillock!
“Ah,” she replied, “the one with the chickens!”
Jesus H! I couldn’t go anywhere in this place without being ridiculed.
“Listen Jimmy,” I began, “I think I can get you onto the dig. I met Ronnie, our gunslinger friend, you know the one, Wild West Moses?”
“Well, I spoke to Shimon and he thinks we can make him take you, but you need to show an interest in archeology and not just fish!”
“We could tell him I went to Brighton once with my bucket and shovel, only to find out there was no beach and just rocks.”
“Be serious,” I said. I remained calm but I was becoming frustrated with Andrew for not taking me seriously—and also for not introducing me to this Israeli girl, who I was just realizing had the biggest tits I’d ever seen. I couldn’t imagine that he had looked northward of her chest from the moment they struck up a conversation, not that I would have done any different.
“You want this job or not?” Andrew could see my frustration now and quickly turned the conversation towards his new belle.
“This is Ruthie” (pronounced “rooty” in Israel). She lives here and she and I met last night at the pool. You know, the one you can’t cross?”
No way I was being baited into a discussion of my aquatic cowardice. “Okay, arsehole, quit the humor and let’s discuss the job. Do you want to lie like I did, for advancement, or do you want to be Captain Birdseye for the next six weeks? The choice is yours and you’re lucky you’re getting a choice! Oh, and nice to meet you, Ruthie!” I exhaled, as if tired and annoyed by all this drama.
Andrew knew I was right. “Yes, talk to John Wayne and get back to me.”
I left and headed to the office to confirm with Shimon. “Shimon, I want to talk to Ronnie about getting Andrew on the dig. Do you have any issue with me going to speak to him this morning?”
“What reason would Ronnie have for putting Andrew on his team?”
“Andrew wants to go to Oxford to learn archaeology!” Now I was doing Andrew’s lying for him! Andrew would be lucky if he made it to Oxford Street in London to shop, let alone study archaeology at Oxford University! “This would be a great experience for him.”
“Okay, be it at your own pearl,” Shimon said. “But Ronnie is never easy to talk to.”
“Oh, I think we have some common ground,” I replied as I began walking out of the office with one purpose: to get help my friend secure employment doing something that he knew nothing about. I figured the episode would yield some great comedy material in the years to come. I was right.
Andrew had never held a brush for any other purpose than cleaning his teeth. He didn’t know the first thing about archaeology. To him, artifacts were trinkets bought while on holiday with his parents in Spain. After I’d met with Ronnie and with Shimon, I gave him two words of advice: fake it. Unfortunately, Colin, our new best friend from South Africa, was a smart cookie. He knew immediately that Andrew was a fake, and I suppose Ronnie did, too. They said nothing.
Word had gotten out about what I did for Andrew, and now everyone was lining up to get a better job. All week I’d been inundated with requests from people I’d never even met. I was offered bribes ranging from extra cigarettes (on the kibbutz we were given a supply every week, and since I didn’t smoke I gave mine to Andrew as a trade for him doing my laundry) to cash, to a chance to actually fuck someone’s girlfriend (which, by the way, she agreed to).
I had become the Pimp Daddy for the entire volunteer workforce. In Hebrew, Pimp Daddy is written out like this…
…so Shimon (who was clearly loving this) made a sign with those characters and placed at the front of my desk. Boys and girls and young men and women would line up as early as five in the morning, pleading with me to get them out of the cow sheds, the fish ponds, and the chicken coops and into something more suitable. Of course, it was impossible to accommodate everyone—indeed it was nigh on impossible to get anyone into a position they would find satisfactory. But moving Andrew had set a precedent and as I’ve already mentioned, on a kibbutz news travels fast!
It was around dinnertime one evening, about three days after Andrew had begun his education with Colin and Ronnie. He walked into my dorm about a half hour before we were supposedly going on a double date to Tel Aviv for the evening. In those days of immortal youth, I could go all night without sleep and work through the next day before crashing. I remember Hava’s mother, a 89-year-old German Jew with the strangest Israeli/English accent I’d ever heard. She would look at me when I’d been on an all-night bender, frown, then say “Eli, you eez verry verry tired. You need schluf.” In other words, Alan, get the fuck to bed, you look awful!
“So, Jimmy,” said Andrew as he walked into my room, “I have an idea.”
“Uh-oh, time to run,” I replied.
“No, this one’s a beauty. Listen up.” Andrew told me how he and two of the other volunteers on the dig had decided to play a huge prank on Colin and the rest of the crew, who were, of course, very serious about the work they were carrying out. They would plant a “find” in the dig site. The find in question would be a bull penis.
“We’ll wrap it up in a silk sheath and bury it,” he told me. The idea was to transplant the penis in a silk receptacle, as they apparently did in Roman times, and then secretly bury it in a place where, after two or three days, as the dig progressed, they would eventually stumble across the miraculously preserved organ. Andrew was certain that they would believe it was human and in perfect condition.
“What a find, what a story!” he said. He was convinced that his teachers would be all over this find like it was the greatest find since Tutankhamen.
“Are they that stupid?” I asked.
“Worse! Every time we dig something up, they are so wound up and excited, they ‘down tools’, and have a two-hour powwow just in case this item they’ve just found turns out to be the Holy Grail. The three of us just want to take the piss out of them for one brief, shining moment. What do you think?”
I went right to the—ahem—heart of the issue. “Where’s the bull’s penis coming from?”
“Gideon, from Australia, says he has a contact in the cow sheds. They can get hold of one.”
“Fuck, it sounds like a real hoot, and one that will really get their backs up if they find out we did it, but…” I pondered the consequences for the briefest of moments, and then said, “I’m in!”
And so the plan was hatched. We all knew that to contaminate the dig would be a sin of the highest order. But this was Israel, land of forgiveness for Jews, so what was the worst that could happen? I didn’t get ejected from Hazorea after causing thousands in damage in the bag factory, so why would anyone in their right mind throw me out for pulling a stupid prank with a penis? We would find out, but in the meantime, we were off to Tel Aviv, for some dancing, eating and a wee bit of hanky-panky.
Here’s a question I’ll bet you’ve never been asked: have you ever seen a bull’s penis? If you haven’t, don’t ever consider investigating, even for curiosity’s sake. Gideon showed up in the dark of the night with a full-sized bull penis in hand. We rolled around laughing as he displayed it on the floor of our dorm.
“Is it real?” was the question on everyone’s lips. No one could believe that he’d actually managed to pull this off (so to speak) and now we were quite excited about what we were about to do. We were a Gang of Five about to create havoc, not only here on Hazorea, but all over Israel, and perhaps even into countries far away from this ridiculous ruse. It beggared belief that we were actually going to do this.
“What are we wrapping this monster in?” I asked.
“Let’s take pictures!” Andrew said.
“Should we do anything to preserve its shape?” Gideon said.
The five of us just stood and stared, not knowing quite where to begin. Time was on our side. We had a good three hours to plant the penis and run before the kibbutz rose for its workday. But with the discussion and the sheer size of the task, we were stuck to our floor and completely intimidated. Someone had to take control. Foolishly, I did.
“Okay,” I said, “let’s take the penis, wrap it in a sheet, go to the dig and then figure out where to plant it.”
“Who has the flashlight?” Gideon asked.
“I do,” said Andrew.
“Lead on, McDuff,” I said. “Let’s keep it quiet.”
And so, like the five little schoolboys we were, all revved and ready to become big time pranksters, we left the dorm in “stealth mode” and headed to the dig site. What was a ten-minute walk in broad daylight became a 30-minute trek in the middle of the night, carrying a penis and flashlight. We were engaging in our own international covert operations!
All conversation on the way was whispered, though no one actually knew why. After all, there was no one about to listen in. Everyone was asleep except for the poor bastard who’d been conned into replacing me on the plastic bag factory night shift. Our little group of conspirators had wrestled with the question of who would take responsibility should we be caught red-handed—or perhaps more accurately, penis-handed. None of us was brave enough to admit that this misadventure might backfire spectacularly.
Arriving at the dig site, we stopped, prepared our materials, and stepped carefully and quietly into the site. We were now committing archeological blasphemy—contaminating history, as it were. And with the way we were behaving as we stumbled about blindly inside the perimeter, we were doing so at record pace.
“Watch that fucking shovel!” someone whispered.
“Shit,” I cried, “a mosquito just bit me.”
“Shh,” from my left. With our hearts pounding, drenched in sweat, we completed our task, hiding our treasure in a remote corner we knew was only about 48 hours away from being excavated. Finished, we left the dig as quickly as we could and headed back to our dorms. There, we were so high on adrenaline that none of us could get to sleep. Since slumber wasn’t an option, I decided to go on a kibbutz sortie. I knew where Rachelli lived, and I also knew I wasn’t allowed anywhere near her room, but that wasn’t about to stop me. I’d just pulled off the bull penis crime of the century. A covert visit to my girlfriend was nothing.
I tapped on Rachelli’s door, much to the annoyance of her roommate, Becca. Within minutes we were headed to the pool area, where the cool grass made for a perfect place to lie down and make out.
“Why have you never swum across the pool?” she asked as my fingers fumbled with the hooks on her bra strap.
“Just can’t do it,” I replied, at that moment caring far more about a different kind of “breast stroke” than the one I had consistently failed at in the pool.
She pulled away just as I was about to free her glorious tits and said “Come on, let’s do it now!”
“What? No way!” I’d been within millimeters of copping a quick feel—or perhaps more—and now she wanted to swim? Her clothes were off in a flash and she dove in. I looked, stunned, and then I realized, that this was it. This was my chance. Rachelli was naked in the water. I was fully clothed, sitting on the bank of the pool with an erection that could have broken stone. All I had to do was strip, wade in, and boom!
Easier said than done. Water phobia meets teen lust. Irresistible force, meet immovable object.
“Come back out,” I pleaded.
“No.” she was adamant.
“Please?” I sounded like a spoilt brat who’d lost his favorite toy, which technically, I was.
“Eli, come in, and I will look after you.”
I was sure she would, in more ways than one, but fear is fear, and that night, fear won, even though I knew that I was being stupid and irrational. When a naked 17-year-old Israeli girl streaks into a swimming pool and offers to look after you, shouldn’t you throw over all inhibition and join her? Most definitely yes…unless you’re me.
I left the naked girl in the pool and slunk back to my dorm.
After catching three hours of sleep and eating breakfast, I returned to my now regular position in Shimon’s office.
“Eli, you look tired,” he said. “Exhausted in fact. Do you have something you want to tell me?”
Caught completely off guard, the first thing that entered my head was: We’ve been caught!
“Uh, no…” I was stuttering, stammering and pretty darned scared, and then I realized from the smile on Shimon’s face that he was presuming that I’d been up fucking Rachelli all night. “Oh, no it’s my business, not yours.” I blurted out.
Shimon was having none of it. “Come on, tell me all the details.”
“Let’s move on, Shimon. I was up all night because I couldn’t swim across that stupid pool.”
“You need encouragement,” he said. Little did he know that I’d had plenty of encouragement and still couldn’t do it.
I was about to tell him that when the door burst open and a little Asian guy about 19 years old ran in, sweating profusely and shouting in Hebrew.
“We need you at the dig, NOW!!!”
As Shimon got up off his seat, I shit my pants, thinking they’d found us out already! But how was that possible? We’d been so careful! We’d planted the penis a long way from where the team was excavating, or so Andrew had told us.
“Come with me, Eli,” Shimon ordered. And so I was off, back to where I’d been only hours before, but this time, with a conscience so guilty you could have hung me from that first banana tree without a confession and still have been right to do so. This, I thought, was going to be a very interesting start to the day.