Dec 062008

I’m too tired to write the post I intended to write, but I don’t want to break my stride, so I dug through some old pictures…

Meet Menashe Stefan. Hebrew name, given name; last name unknown. I came to know the lad during a brief stay on a kibbutz in the Arava Desert, a sun-blasted sliver of mostly lifeless land along the border with Jordan in Israel’s extreme far south. I only stayed a few days, but the emptiness, the stillness, the immutable landscape and the mind-bending 110 degree weather made those days stretch onward endlessly, seventeen hours of merciless July sunlight in which all one could do was slouch motionless beneath thatched awnings and smoke dessicated, seed-filled bushweed between feedings of industrial chow and weak tea in plastic mugs at the dining hall.

Menashe Stefan was a slightly unhinged Francophone Belgian with mildly dodgy English and extremely dodgy Hebrew, who spent the day among the cattle in the refet – a job he performed with such diligence that he one day stayed late stroking and whispering to a dying cow in order to ease its passing. But outside the refet, he listened to Israeli indie pop star Mook-E, earnestly attempted to share the secret knowledge gleaned from a small book of Bible codes with anybody willing to listen, and diligently wrote down extemporaneous French rap verses in a small notebook. “Michael,” he said, “you must help me write rap. I will write in French, and you will write rap in English. We will rap together.”

He has of course been photographed in his element, shirtless and laughing on one of the kibbutz’s thin, stained mattresses, indulging in, as Isaiah might say, some Arava blossoms.

Ultimately, I believe, the kibbutz expelled him for overindulging in the harvest – which was odd, since it was an extremely local product. Beyond that, though, I don’t know what became of him. So Menashe Stefan, if you are out there…hip-hop, et vous n’arrêtez pas.

And here’s a picture of the neighborhood:

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