Hooters and Herzl

Doesn’t its diversity help make Israel the beautiful country it is today?When I heard a few months ago that Hooters was opening their first franchise in Israel, the following thoughts entered my head in no particular order: – I like …

Doesn’t its diversity help make Israel the beautiful country it is today?When I heard a few months ago that Hooters was opening their first franchise in Israel, the following thoughts entered my head in no particular order:

- I like buffalo wings.

- Hmm… that’s interesting.

- WHOOOOO-HOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, it was more like “ha ha!” While the value of a place to watch sports, drink beer, and act like men cannot be overstated, the potential comedic value of this particular place in Israel for me – a comedian – far outweighs it. In a land constantly struggling to define what it means to be a Jewish state, chalk up a point for secular Judaism. What, you were expecting waitresses in long skirts? (See, the concept is making me laugh already.)

Busting with curiosity, I had to check it out myself. And I did, finagling my way into the private opening night party a couple weeks ago as a media member. Some observations along the way…

** The opponents of the Gaza disengagement adopted the color orange during their protests in the spring and summer of 2005. At the Hooters launch, the color took on a whole new meaning. Why do I have a feeling these two groups will never, ever meet?

** Will they be selling Jewish Hooters calendars, complete with the holidays? ‘Holy chumus, Shlomo! Check out Miss Cheshvan! She is smokin’!!!’

** Suddenly, the IDF’s generation-long stay at the top of my ‘Uniforms I Find Really Hot’ rankings just got a little more tenuous, didn’t it? This is the biggest shake-up since Katie Couric and the Today Show took down Good Morning America in the 90s.

Ok, enough. Truth be told, the opening was a fascinating cultural experience. At least half the staff were flown over from the States to help the launch. As I suspected, the highlight was not being a creepy, drooling male, but having the rare taste of home, some greasy (albeit non-kosher) American food, a beer with friends, and good old-fashioned rock ‘n roll.

With my friends eager to hear firsthand about opening night, I raced home and immediately posted pictures on this site’s blog, Israelity, in my typical silly and sarcastic tone. I didn’t think anything of it.

Silly me. As the old saying goes, ‘two Jews, three opinions’, and Jews in Israel are certainly diverse in their beliefs and practices. The very first commenter took me to task for my celebrating and high-fiving tone for what he called a shameful event.

“This is what we waited for 2000 years for? To be like everyone else? To bring Hooters and culture such as that into this beautiful land?… What is the reason for living and building Israel if not for beautifying it, making it special? To be a light unto nations? not, to be like or worse than the nations. Why is Hooters breaking news and not the constant barrage of missles on Sderot and the Negev? You find Hooters more important than Jewish lives? You find Hooters more important than giving up Jerusalem, our capital, our home, our beacon of all Judaism?”

Suddenly, those buffalo wings didn’t taste so good anymore. Did he have a point? Was I making too much of this hedonistic restaurant which, yes, objectifies its female waitstaff? Was this going to contribute to the downfall of Israel? Nah?

While I fully respect and appreciate this commenter’s opinion, I feel great about Hooters’ arrival to Israel and not for the obvious reasons. Let’s face it: in a country known way too much for its politics and, ahem, situation with its neighbors, each new capitalistic venture from the Western world is a positive reminder that, hey, there’s more to this place than what Americans see on CNN.

I’m proud of what Israel has done as a capitalist country: the start-ups, the scientific breakthroughs, even that McDonalds can make it here with an Israeli twist by selling shawarma in pita. Do I think Hooters is going to make it here selling mozzarella sticks? I have my doubts. But I applaud people in this country for their risk-taking values.

I think we are a light unto other nations by not targeting civilians in war like our enemies do. We are a light by sending aid to countries affected by the tsunami in 2004. And as another Israelity commenter stated, while Israel is indeed the Holy Land, it is also an actual, functioning democratic nation with diverse citizens. Isn’t that part of what makes this place the beautiful country it is today?

After all, father of modern Zionism Theodor Herzl dreamed for a place where Jews would fill the workforce in their own state, as doctors, merchants, and laborers… and as hot waitresses in orange outfits. Consider his dream come true.

So count me as one of those who’ll be going back and enjoying every Zionist bite I take. Just don’t expect me to keep from laughing when the waitress offers me “bah-fah-lo weengs.”