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Soccer and destiny

I don’t know with exact surety, but I think this is my last column of the semester. This time, rather than merely describing the foreign-yet-homey culture of Israel, I thought I’d leave everyone with a lesson they can carry into the future. Thus, please allow me to tell you a story:

            It was October, at the end of the week-long break in our work for the holiday of Sukkot. I sat in my aunt’s apartment in Tel-Aviv with her and her kindergarten-aged daughter after an afternoon celebration of Simchat Torah, and I pondered what I would do with my evening. I had originally planned to go to a soccer game between Israel and Moldova to which my volunteering group had invited everyone, but by the time I called my city coordinator she had allocated all the tickets. I had even called all my friends to ask if anyone had spare tickets, but nobody had one. It unfortunately looked as though I had to just go back to Ashdod for the evening and lay in bed (the only piece of furniture I had to myself in the whole apartment) until everyone could get home to tell my how much fun they had without me. Once again I felt like a shlimazel (Yiddish, not Hebrew), a person so unlucky that when they open a funeral home people stop dying.

            So, dejectedly, I took a monit sherut (shared taxi) from uptown to the impoverished, whore-ridden neighborhood where bizarrely stands the New Tel-Aviv Central Bus Station. I stood in line to have my bag checked by the security guard, which they do this to everyone at every entrance to every bus station, mall, and airport in the entire country, and I walked inside to find the bus to Ashdod. As I passed a shoe store, only there because many of Israel’s newer central bus stations include a shopping mall, I quite literally ran straight into my friends from Ashdod. One of them asked if I felt sure that I didn’t want to come to the soccer game and try to scalp a ticket.

            At this point I got smart. I’ve never really believed in destinies or divine plans, preferring to relegate such things to “Legend of Zelda” games, but at that moment I decided that if I could see where the metaphorical wind was blowing, I ought to follow it. Hineh and behold, after that everything worked out that night. Sure, I almost had to buy a ticket from one of my own flatmates, but in the end I met the volunteer from Tel-Aviv from whom she had planned to get the spare ticket and ended up receiving it for free like everyone else. I enjoyed the game, made a new friend and learned that stadium naqniqiyot-sausages-in Israel are really just the same-old Shofar brand hot dogs they serve at Shea Stadium. Sure, we ended up having to take a taxi, a bus, and a monit sherut to get home from Ramat Gan via Tel-Aviv to Ashdod, but they actually wouldn’t have taken the extra step if my friends hadn’t paid the taxi driver for taking us to the train station instead of the bus station (you’ve got to go hard on Israeli taxi drivers).

            Of course, I suppose I should have followed that logic back last spring when I applied for the whole volunteering gig. If I’d recognized that endless requirements, changes in staff, and senseless requirements meant a path I shouldn’t walk down I probably would have spent the past semester at UMass, missing nothing but the opportunity to take in some warm weather. In contrast, my readmission to UMass has gone swimmingly.

            You don’t even need to believe in anything mystical to follow this philosophy. One can simply employ one’s time more productively and more enjoyably by doing the things that go right rather than the things that go wrong for no apparent reason. Obviously some things come with real challenges for real reasons – you can’t build a bridge without a solid understanding of Newtonian physics and some good old-fashioned muscle – but to avoid a chaval al ha’zman, a waste of time, you should probably check how things work out. It’s like driving. If you have a five-hour drive to complete and find yourself stuck in traffic every time you try to move a foot, you may want to find an alternate route or stop for lunch.  If, on the other hand, you find yourself on clear highways with a wide-open left lane and no cops, you should charge on ahead.

            Tazuzu! Get moving!

            Eli Gottlieb is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at egottlie@student.umass.edu.

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