Jewish Humour

Jewish Humour

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Bulawayo Musings - Aleh Uv’neh

PEM captures the essence of growing up in Bulawayo and Habonim

Republished courtesy of The Rome’s Of Israel

Paul, Arik and I left Bulawayo at 15 (overnight) for Capetown in 1976 - after a law was made forcing boys to sign up for the army at 16.

What does a young boy living in a small town in Southern Africa do on a lazy Sunday morning in the late 1960’s? He gets dressed up in a blue shirt, khaki shorts, a blue and white scarf rolled up with a leather toggle and goes off to the shul complex to be with other young Jewish boys. That was Habonim in Bulawayo, when I was ten. Little was I to know that from those Sunday morning meetings this youth movement would have such a profound influence on my life.

My elder brother, Nick, started going a couple of years before me, and I would remember watching in fascination as he would get dressed in the uniform. I could not imagine what he did there “at Habonim” but it always intrigued me. What I could not understand, although at the time I couldn’t put it into words, was why after an entire week wearing school uniform, would you want to also wear a uniform on a Sunday, your day off? But, he seemed to do it without objection, and that was enough for me to want to do it as well. So, it was with barely concealed excitement that I waited to go to my first meeting.

I loved it. Our madrichim were young and friendly and most of my friends from school were there. It was a fun mixture of learning about knots and learning about Israel, but mostly it was the social group that I liked. They tried to teach us Hatikva. I got the tune pretty quick but the words were a mystery. I found myself mimicking sounds which I later learned was gibberish, but nobody corrected me. A couple of years later, I got the words right, but the meaning of the lyrics continued to evade me. What I do remember, was that we would stand in a triangle at the end of every meeting and our madrich would say, “Aleh uvneh” and we would shout back “Aloh Na’ale”. I thought it was a kind of a password, and I felt a sort of pride to be a part of it. As we progressed in years, we started talking about Judaism and Israel more and did less “stuff”, but by that time, I was hooked. That was also where I met my first Israeli. He was a Shaliach. He spoke funny, but everyone looked up to him with a kind of awe, so I did too.

The highlight, every year, was “Big Camp” – three weeks spent by the sea, with Habonim members from all over South Africa. Imagine a thousand young Jewish teenagers gathered together to build a mini society for three weeks. Just thinking about it again and I feel a twinge of nostalgia. In all, I went to nine camps. Each one more addictive than the last. For those of us living in Rhodesia, the two day train ride down to the Cape was just as much fun as the camp itself. We would pile into the compartments together and pass the time singing songs and playing cards, getting to know new faces, who would later become dear friends. The guitar players ruled the roost and Nick, my talented brother and his friends, held court in his compartment. The corridor was jammed with people, pushing to get closer to the music. We would listen and join in the chorus, while we rocked to the clicketty clack of the wheels on the tracks. I remember standing in the corridor with barely any place to move while they played “Locomotive breath”, and thinking how appropriate as we sang along, feeling the vibrations below us and watched the plumes of smoke in the air. The sense of anticlimax when we pulled into the station, was quickly overcome by the excitement to get to the campsite and reunite with friends whom we had not seen for an entire year. Oh, how I miss those moments of anticipation and reunion.

I had my first crush on a madricha at Machaneh. Her name was Joanne and I was inafatuated with her. Whenever we broke off into discussion groups, I would feel a pang of disappointment when I was allocated to another group. But, when I was lucky enough to be in her “sicha”, most of the time I found myself stealing glances at her, marveling at how she sat, her exquisite posture and the way she led the discussion. I think it was her presence which made me take an interest in the subject of discussion, just to impress her. At least, that was how it started.

How can I describe the experiences at Machaneh adequately? The feeling of togetherness and friendship was intoxicating. “The group” took on a life of its own and I yearned to be a part of it. As we grew older, the discussions became more serious as we delved deeper into issues of Zionism and social justice, Socialism and Judaism. It was a living, thriving educational experience which we went through together, forming bonds to the movement, its ideology and each other, into a oneness that for three weeks became my entire universe. It usually took me about a week to recover after machaneh. I pined and yearned for that feeling of us all together. I missed friends and the atmosphere terribly. I would spend hours lying on my bed, remembering people and experiences with a nostalgia so intense, that sometimes tears welled up in my eyes. I resolved to go to the next one almost immediately after the last one finished.

My relationship with Habonim deepened dramatically when I was sixteen. As the situation in Rhodesia went from bad to dire, the Rhodesian government passed a law requiring all young men aged sixteen to register for the army. Acutely aware of the inevitable outcome of the war, and the impossible situation of serving in an army fighting against a cause which I believed was right, while at the same time having to deal with terrible antisemitism among my “comrades”, I grabbed at the opportunity to leave Rhodesia to finish my studies in Cape Town. The thing about small town life for one growing up there, is that the sense of security, of everyone knowing everyone keeps you blissfully naïve. Suddenly I found myself left to my own devices in a big city, not knowing anyone and with no one to rely on emotionally. Except for Habonim. Habonim was my safety net. It became my support system. I cannot exaggerate the role the movement had in the development of my character in those initial two years away and how it enveloped me in a cocoon of warmth and security. I’m not even sure that people knew that they did that, and that is what is so special about that. The Shlichim in Cape Town, the amazing Yossi Lior and Michael Lanir became sort of surrogate parents. Whenever I needed someone to talk to, they listened. When I needed advice, they gave it. Their help and guidance helped me through so many periods of despair and self-doubt that people grappling with their self-confidence and identity go through. I owe them so much. While at University, and as a madrich myself, I delved deeper into its ideology and became committed to “the cause”. From about thirteen I knew I wanted to live in Israel, but Habonim gave me purpose and direction.

Perhaps the most valuable attribute that Habonim gave me however, was that it taught me to think critically and not to be afraid to think differently to others. For example, at a meeting one Friday night, a member of the leadership, whose opinion was well respected, equated making Aliya to anywhere other than to kibbutz as “second class”. I was incensed. “How arrogant”? I thought. There is a difference, I thought, between giving ideological guidance and judging people, and he crossed the line. I went straight home and wrote a scathing article for the movement’s weekly paper, criticizing him and his fellow “Aliya garin” members for their arrogance. I questioned their ability to lead, if they were intolerant of others’ thoughts and beliefs. When it came to signing the letter I lost my nerve. So I signed it with my initials P.E.M. I suppose you could say the article caused ripples. For about two weeks, people went round asking who was this PEM guy. I was found out, eventually and was summoned to a meeting with the “ba-Koach” (city head) and the shaliach. With my stomach churning and fearing that I was about to lose my safety net, I went to the meeting. As I entered Yossi’s office, my article was lying on his desk. “Did you write this?” he asked. With a tremulous voice and a dry mouth, I admitted to writing the article, fully expecting to be told to leave Habonim. He nodded his head and then said, “How would you like to be editor of our paper”? Tears filled my eyes with relief and emotion. And, that’s how I got my nickname.

Ironically, after that, I became enamored with the idea of kibbutz. At first I imagined it was a sort of perpetuation of the kind of community and togetherness of Machaneh which I loved, and that is what drew me to it. Later as I learned more about socialism and the allure of making a difference as a Zionist, my resolve to live out my ideals strengthened.

In 1982, together with my own “Aliya garin”, I made Aliya to kibbutz Tuval, in the Galilee. It is my home, which I built together with my committed friends and comrades. Now, after 37 years, it is my little corner of Paradise. No, kibbutz is not a perpetuation of Machaneh and I have moved to the community section, no longer a member of the kibbutz, but I still love it and the community life. And I have Habonim to thank – for this and so much more.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why Jews Get Ahead

Joke borrowed from Jeff Jacobson with thanks .

Bill Gates (about as Goyish as anybody can be) advertised for a new chairman of Microsoft Europe.  5000 candidates show up at the job screening.  They are assembled in a large room.  Among them is Maurice Cohen, a French Jew, a small, bearded, bespeckled man.
Bill Gates thanks the candidates for coming but asks all those who are not familiar with the JAVA programming language to leave; 2000 people rise and leave the room.  Maurice Cohen says to himself, "I do not know this language but what have I got to lose if I stay?  I'll give it a try".
Bill Gates then asks all those who have no experience of managing teams of more than 100 people to leave. Another 2000 people go. Maurice Cohen says to himself, "I have never managed anybody but myself but what have I got to lose if I stay? What can happen to me?”

Then Bill Gates asks all candidates who do not have outstanding academic qualifications to rise and leave; 500 people remove themselves. Maurice Cohen says to himself, "I left school at 15 but what have I got to lose if I stay? So he stays in the room.

Lastly, Bill Gates asks all of the candidates who do not speak the Serbo-Croat language to rise and leave; 498 people rise and leave the room. Maurice Cohen says himself, "I do not speak Serbo-Croat but what the hell! Have I got anything to lose?"

He finds himself alone with one other candidate. Everyone else has gone.

Bill Gates joins them and says: "Apparently you are the only two candidates who know JAVA, have managed large teams of employees, have advanced PhD degrees, and who can speak Serbo-Croatian. I'd like to hear you converse with one another in Serbo-Croatian."

Calmly Maurice turns to the other candidate and says to him: "Baruch ata Adonai."
The other candidate answers: "Elohénu melech ha'olam."

Monday, February 5, 2018

Making the best of a situation

A Jewish man and his wife are having dinner at a very fine restaurant when an absolutely stunning young woman comes over to their table, gives the husband a long kiss and says to him, "I'll see you later".

"Who the hell was that?" says the wife.

"That was my mistress." says the husband.

"I want a divorce!" says the wife, "This is the last straw! I've had enough."

The husband says, "Alright! You'll get your divorce, but just remember this: There will be no more Winters in Barbados, no more summers in Tuscany, 

no more shopping trips to Paris, no more Mercedes in the garage, and no more Yacht Club, no more Harrods Diamond Card, etc. etc. 

But the decision is yours!"

Just then a friend of the husband enters the restaurant with a gorgeous young woman on his arm.

"Who's that woman with Moishe?" says the wife.

"That's his mistress", says the husband.

"His mistress you say? says the wife: "Ours is much prettier.".

Sunday, December 31, 2017

3 wishes

: One day an Irishman, who had been stranded on a deserted
island for over 10 years, saw a speck on the horizon.
He thought to himself, "It's certainly not a ship."
As the speck got closer and closer, he began to rule out
even the possibilities of a small boat or a raft.
Suddenly there strode from the surf a figure clad in a
black wet suit. Putting aside the scuba tanks and mask and
zipping down the top of the wet suit stood a drop-dead
gorgeous blonde!
She walked up to the stunned Irishman and said to him,
"Tell me, how long has it been since you've had a good
"Ten years," replied the amazed Irishman.
With that, she reached over and unzipped a waterproof
pocket on the left sleeve of her wet suit and pulled out a
fresh package of cigars and a lighter.
He took a cigar, slowly lit it, and took a long drag.
"Faith and begorrah," said the castaway. "Ahh, that is so
good! I'd almost forgotten how great a smoke can be!"
"And howlong has it been since you've had a drop of good
Bushmill's Irish Whiskey?" asked the blonde.
Trembling, the castaway replied, "Ten years."
Hearing that, the blonde reached over to herright sleeve,
unzipped a pocket there and removed a flask and handedit to
He opened the flask and took a long drink. "'Tis nectar of
the gods!" shouted the Irishman. " 'Tis truly fantastic!!!"
At this point the gorgeous blonde started to slowly unzip
the long front of her wet suit, right down the middle. She
looked at the trembling man and asked, "And how long has it
been since you've played around?"
With tears in his eyes, the Irishman fell to his knees and
sobbed, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Don't tell me that you've
got golf clubs in there

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Cabbie picks up a Nun

A cabbie picks up a nun. She gets into the cab, and the cab driver won't stop staring at her. She asks him why is he staring and he replies, ''I have a question to ask you but I don't want to offend you.

She answers, 'My dear son, you cannot offend me. When you're as old as I am and have been a nun a long as I have, you get a chance to see and hear just about everything. I'm sure that there's nothing you could say or ask that I would find offensive.''

''Well, I've always had a fantasy to have a nun kiss me.''

She responds, ''Well, let's see what we can do about that: first, you have to be single and second, you must be Catholic.''

The cab driver is very excited and says, ''Yes, I am single and I'm Catholic too!''

The nun says ''OK, pull into the next alley.''

He does and the nun fulfills his fantasy. But when they get back on the road, the cab driver starts crying. ''My dear child, said the nun, why are you crying?''

''Forgive me sister, but I have sinned. I lied, I must confess, I'm married and I'm Jewish.''

The nun says, ''That's OK, my name is Kevin and I'm on my way to a Halloween party.''

Monday, November 27, 2017


 Three friends married women from different parts of the world..... 

The first man married a Greek girl. 
He told her that she was to do the dishes and house cleaning. 
It took a couple of days, but on the third day, he came home to see a clean house and dishes washed and put away. 

The second man married a Thai. 
He gave his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, dishes and the cooking. 
The first day he didn't see any results, but the next day he saw it was better. By the third day, he saw his house was clean, the dishes were done, and there was a huge dinner on the table. 

The third man married a girl from Australia
He ordered her to do all the cleaning, dishes and the cooking. 
He said the first day he didn't see anything, the second day he didn't see anything either but by the third day, some of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye and his arm was healed enough that he could fix himself a sandwich and load the dishwasher. He still has some difficulty when he pees.