Last Monday was my driving test. I won’t pretend I wasn’t absolutely terrified of failing, because I have quite the history with not passing my driving tests, but I duly took myself down there with enough sleep and enough coffee balanced with fennel tea for calmness.
My wonderfully characterfull driving teacher took me round the test route a few times, telling me repeatedly to ‘slow down’ until I was going at about 15km per hour. As we reach a stop sign I begin to slow down but don’t quite come to a complete stop. In slight panic, he begins to exclaim with increasing volume, “go to stop…go to stop!’
I will not dwell on my confusion at the seeming oxymoron of going to stop, nor on the actual driving test and my panic as the examiner exited the car without a word, and I was left flapping in confusion as to my status like a fish on dry land (in Israel there are laws against telling you whether you passed or not immediately after the test after an instructor was shot by a dissatisfied customer).
No, instead, I will focus on the phrase ‘go to stop,’ which seems to me to be a typically Israeli expression. This country is a land steeped in contradiction and paradox, of which this sentence is only one example. In practical terms, on the road, I can see this principle at work when Israelis barrel ahead at top speed heading toward a red light where they will only have to decelerate massively (no judgment I do this too).
But perhaps more suggestively we go forward with the idea of a religious-nation state only to have to stop at the limits of trying to combine synagogue and state in the modern world. We fight like mad to have a Jewish state and then find ourselves caught up in defining exactly which kind of Jews we mean. It is, perhaps, a paradox to hold on to a religious identity at all in today’s world.
But I would like to think that (especially in today’s world where its difficult to legitimately stand up for something) it’s an admirable quality to retain one’s enthusiasm and forward motion. It’s no accident this country has been called ‘Start-Up Nation,’ and perhaps hurtling towards a red light can sometimes decrease road safety, but at least we make the effort to hurtle towards something at all.