On the Face
For an Israeli Hebrew speaker, a punch line is literally a punch on the face...
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For an Israeli Hebrew speaker, a punch line is literally a punch on the face.+ He'll laugh at that and fail to understand the cries of his victim. "He's not a sport," he'll probably summarize and beat him a bit more for that.
For the readers versed in Hebrew it is clear by now I'm making a bad joke on a Jewish-Hebrew expression; "al hapanim" means "on the face" (referring to falling on the face) and is used to describe anything that went very wrong.
My saying about my joke that it is a very bad one is important; actually the key issue of this article. I am making fun of myself: I can't tell a proper joke and am not shy of saying that. A Jewish-Hebrew speaker would rarely acknowledge – to phrase it softly - any fault with his sense of humor or with anything at all relating to him or her. This is an important cultural characteristic which is derived from religious issues.
Still believing being justified by the Old Covenant of Mount Sinai, Jews consider themselves as justified by right of birth, and thus… perfect. Hence, how can one make a joke on a perfect work of God? On the other hand, Christianity recognizes men imperfections, due to them we are sinners and dependant on God's Grace for our salvation. This Grace is the result of our Faith, which is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). Under these conditions, two things happen with regard to Christian - and Christian-Hebrew - humor. First, joking on yourself is an open acknowledgment of your understanding your own limitations. Second, this is a very social attitude. Joking on yourself is a way of bonding with people while making sure they won't be offended by your joke.
"He is a wild anti-Semite!" my Israeli readers are shouting by now while throwing their favorite cup of coffee on a fake picture of mine they put over their trash bin. Really? I already commented on an Israeli comedian named Dudu Topaz. One of his many racist jokes changed history.
In 1981 Israel was amidst a very complex elections campaign. The Labor was trying to return to the power after it lost it for the first time in the country's history to the Likud Party in 1977. The economic situation was very bad and it seemed Shimon Peres - the Labor's leader - would easily win against Menachem Begin.
The Labor invited a young entertainer to help in the campaign. His name was Dudu Topaz. For the Labor, he was "one of us," "the son of" and "educated at." All the right classifiers for the job. None of the Labor's leaders imagined the result.
In an elections rally held in Malchei Yisrael Square (now Tel Aviv's Rabin Square), Topaz said: "It's a pleasure to see the crowd here, and it's a pleasure to see that there are no chahchahim who ruin election gatherings. The Likud's chahchahim are at Metzudat Ze'ev," and changed history.
Why? "Chahchahim" is a derogatory term alluding to Sepharadic Jews, especially those of Northern African descent; its meaning is related to "being untidy," though it is just Hebrew slang. "Metzudat Ze'ev" - the "Fort of Ze'ev (Jabotinsky)" - is the name of the Likud Party Headquarters. Needless to say, most "Chahchahim" voted for Menahem Begin's Likud Party and gave him victory.
"But that's a freak that killed himself!" are now crying my Israeli readers. Really? Another good example in this category is the actress and entertainer Rivka Michaeli. Born to a family of Armenian descent, her original name was Michaelshvili. Being Armenian Jews discriminated in Israel, she took out the Armenian suffix from her surname and advanced quickly in the Israeli entertainment world.
In the 1980's, she built her career with a show called "Joking on the Week" (almost so, the literal translation of "Yordim Al Hashavua" makes no sense in English). Despite the show allegedly being a political satire, her jokes were almost exclusively based on the extremely funny (in her eyes) accent of Spanish-speaking Israelis (Moroccan, Turkish and South American Jews speak also Spanish or Ladino – a medieval form of Spanish). The potential victim turned herself into an executioner: many people spent the following years repeating her very bad accent imitations.
"Well, that's only Israeli Jews" are my Jewish readers from elsewhere saying by now. Really? In the October 25, 2009, episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" titled "The Bare Midriff," Larry David urinated on an image of Jesus the Christ. Can a Christian urinate on a copy of the Talmud – a book preaching for violation of little children – on the American television? These examples show a general and worrying attitude of the Jewish – in general – and Jewish Israeli – in particular – and it is an assurance there would be no lasting peace with them. Mark these words.
Now I can imagine Mossad agents attending the first course in "disguising Israeli-Jewish humor" designed after Meir Dagan expected comments on this article (the other one would probably be: "kill him!"). They'll meet after hours in a secret location and would be forced to make jokes on themselves. "I am an assassin!" the first would exclaim. "I'm a rapist!," the second would answer. "I'm a passports' thieve," and so on. It won't take long for them to realize these jokes apply to each other, describing their real and best qualities, land eading to a violent end to the theatrical scene. Oh, I apologize to the Mossad officers reading this; it was just another bad joke of mine. As I commented in the past, joking on the perpetrators is the only logical answer to terrorism, and I'll laugh at you to death.
+ Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? Genesis 17:17
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