Decks is a restaurant built on the Sea of Galilee. It is Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu’s favourite restaurant (it is occupying the sea, if you like) and it is huge: two storeys of decking (hence ‘decks’) walking into the sea where Jesus of Nazareth fed his 5,000 Biblical Corbynistas. The view is of young Jewish girls jumping up and down in unison on a disco boat. From a distance it looks like one happy creature with 800 legs.
I came from the north where bluffs — once military installations — are tourist attractions with cafés. I stood on the Golan Heights and peered into Syria, and then I went to the new settle-ment named for Donald Trump. I thought it would be called Trumpton like the children’s television programme, but it is just a sign with Israeli and American flags intertwined saying ‘Trump Heights’ and a pile of rubbish on scrubland. Even so, I wonder if he will eventually come and live here. His approval rating in Israel is more than 70 per cent. I also went into a Hezbollah tunnel dug from Lebanon into Israel. It had a telephone inside it. My friend picked it up and said: ‘Hello, it’s the Zionists! Sorry about your tunnel!’ But the telephone has been cut off. Then I banged my head, quite hard, on a piece of rock. Even in Israel I am more of a danger to myself. So we went to a steakhouse.
The signs in the coach park were disturbing. I didn’t know coaches could be ultra-nationalist. ‘ITC Tours welcomes you home to Israel,’ says a sign on a coach whose occupants are presumably American Jews eating at Decks. ‘No one belongs here more than you.’ I don’t think that’s true, and I don’t know why the coach thinks it is. I wonder if it is a West Bank settler coach that got lost. The West Bank contains almost the maddest people in the Middle East. They sit in their settlements having conversations with themselves, at the end of which they are convinced everyone (that is, themselves) wants to kill them.
I do not think like that. I am a liberal Zionist — an oxymoron on the blogs — and I divide Israel/Palestine not into Israel and Palestine but into people who are crazy (tunnellers and people who write supremacist coach signs) and people who are not.
Decks is a Bar Mitzvah joint. American families have the ceremony in Jerusalem at the Wailing Wall and come to Decks to celebrate. I am boycotting the Wailing Wall because it is segregated but, being a wall, I’d be surprised if it cared.
There are vast tables of American Jews shouting at each other and eating glorious platters of steak, chicken, and lamb chops, with an onion loaf made from individual onions fried and wound back together. It is potentially as murderous as putting a diaspora Jew in a decommissioned Hezbollah tunnel and watching her maim herself. The waiters boss you around — they are Jewish. The meat is cooked on open grills.
There is a cabaret. The manager — apparently a friend of Sara Netanyahu — takes a microphone and calls the Bar Mitzvah boys up. It is a Philip Roth novella. ‘Ben Segal!’ she screams. ‘Ben Segal from Minneapolis!’ He slinks up, ruddy and embarrassed, and I feel a burst of love. I have never seen this many Jews outside of an anti-Corbyn protest — or a Holocaust Memorial Day — and I have never eaten kosher food this good. I did not know kosher food this good existed. It’s a minor effect of Zionism but it deserves to be mentioned: diaspora Jewish food is not good. It is Slav cuisine without pork, and few things are more desolate. The diaspora is our vale of tears and poor cuisine.