Sunset over Jaffa

We had several discussions about the origins of Jaffa Cakes when we were in Israel.

First there was the query as to whether the cakes came from Jaffa – no; then the realisation that Jaffa Oranges likely had something to do with Jaffa (aka Yaffo) although nowadays Jaffa Oranges are a brand name and can come from anywhere.

This I imagine to my kids was like my trying to understand Turkeys not coming from Turkey and Turkey in Hebrew being Hodoo, which means India, all mixed-up with Native Americans, Cowboys and Indians and the place where Gandhi and Buddha originated.

Language gets confusing.

This in turn takes me to Breughel’s Tower of Babel which is supposedly where all this complexity derives.

1200px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project

Imagine we had a monoculture of human language, worse still belief or ideology.

Imagine the Eurasian Plain covering the entire planet, even-out the Himalayas, Alps and Rockies, raise-up the Dead Sea and Mariana. Flat. Uniform.

Cakes would just be cakes and we wouldn’t fret about whether the EU considered them biscuits. (Oh, for the days when that was all we had to worry about!)

I doubt a Jaffa Cake or a Jaffa Orange will ever taste the same to my children.

Nevertheless, we headed out on Saturday night, along the beach.

We ate at the Blue Haj restaurant on the corner of Clock Square.

A huge leg of lamb stuffed with seasoned rice. You can see a picture of the dish on Trip Advisor here if you like.

I really wanted to analyse the cultural aspects of my visit – the cocktail that is Israeli culture – the Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Christian, Armenian, Druze, Ethiopian, Sudanese, Eritrean, Russian, you name it and multicultural diversity is somewhere near the conical Christmas Tree in the square.

I tried to understand but quickly became confused with my thank you, todah, shukran and spasibo – a jumble of, who to thank and how.

More confusion came later when a doppelganger, one of the many busied himself in the pastry shop.

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And me,

Fluent in Hebrew, yet hesitant to use the language for fear of confusion, the struggle of lapsing into guttural idiom or remaining in tourist-mode.

I don’t seem to have these dilemmas when I visit London which is more diverse.

Most of us inhabit our four by four worlds of culture and identity that keep us safe, secure. We don’t understand the fears or aspirations of our neighbours.

Shut-off we watch the TV, cook our pancakes and drive to work.

And, in doing this we allow ourselves to diminish. To become less; for are we not who we are when we are with others? Isolation leads to madness. Akin to the aspirations of the populists. Keep us pure. Keep the Blacks, the Whites, the Pinks out.

Imagine Yad Vashem at the centre of this and you get a flavour for the insanity.

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