Locham Yisrael - לוחם ישראל
Random thoughts about current events with an emphasis on the Middle East.


      Name:     Michael L. S.   [E-Mail]
      Location:  Earth
      Website:  Middle East Resource Center

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Posted on: Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Well, after just over a year--interspersed with a month here and there--I am finally leaving the Czech Republic's capital--Prague. My time here has been eventful: I have met some wonderful people, made friendships which I'm sure will last a lifetime, and had quite a few experiences: some pleasant, some VERY pleasant , others less so.

The most disappointing aspect have been the Czechs themselves. I came here with the impression of Czechs imparted to me by my father. After the War, when the Allies liberated the natzi detention camp he was interned in, he was taken along with other children from the camp on a tour of central and eastern Europe. He forever regaled me with his reminiscences of the Czechs' warmth, friendliness, altruism, openness, particularly contrasted with e.g. the Poles or Slovaks whom he found sorely lacking in these virtues. I, however, discovered them to be everything but. Now, I've lived in quite a few countries in Europe, including Croatia and Slovenia. For the uninitiated, the latter two have an almost identical cultural, historical, economic and cultural background as Czechia. And yet, I found the people there to be invariably more virtuous than the Czechs.

So, what's my beef with them? I don't want to get into too much detail but the facet I found the most distasteful is the enviousness and avarice I encountered in almost every context of life in Prague. Put simply, when Czechs see that you have money, they immediately assume an attitude of very thinly disguised jealousy. And when they figure out you're a foreigner to boot, they simply hate you and they don't even try to disguise it. You see it in the way they look (read: glare) at you, the way they walk past you, the way they talk to you. I actually experienced a saleswoman not wanting to touch my hand and telling me to put the money on the counter! That was in Luxor: one of the biggest and somewhat exclusive bookshop in the state. You also become a target of backbiting, gossip and intrigue. Sure, one can find this everywhere--England, for instance, is notorious for its class consciousness. But in England one does not encounter this comportment in absolutely every sphere of life. You walk by a construction site there and you're liable to get a remark thrown at you by the low class construction workers. But then you go into Sainsbury's and are entreated with courtesy and professionalism. Aych, it's difficult to explain in words--one has to live it to understand how the foregoing is actually manifested.

On the plus side, I have to hand it to them: they are easily the most tolerant people in Europe... - toward Jews, that is. The Roma are another matter. And the food is good, for European standards. But most importantly, Czechia has a vibrant, if warring, Jewish community. It is the first place and time I ever got involved in a Jewish community to a significant degree. I'm still agnostic / humanist but the b'ney Yisrael, the ritual, the tradition are all very important to me. This I could experience to the fullest in Prague and jolly well I did.

In conclusion, I have no regrets and see my time here as positive. I now move onward to a new stage in life, outside Prague and indeed outside Europe. The one gaping hole left in my life is love. I have still not found it and this is my only big wish for the future. B"H it will happen, too. I do leave a big piece of my heart in Prague though: the girl I lost before I even had her; the desperation of wanting to be with her knowing fully well it would be impossible due to her background, etc.. I'll never forget S.

Yallah, zeh hu. For those in the know, my final words--citing those of Governor Schwarzenegger: "I just [made love to] her!! I just [made love to] her!!"

Shalom l'kulam. Kol tuv uv'hatzlakhah rabah.

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