Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tales of A Jewish Marine: What the Hell is Halvah?!

There aren’t a whole lot of Jews in the Marine Corps. I would venture to say I may have met more in Provo than I did in six years with the Corps. I guess Jewish mothers just don’t enjoy telling their friends that little Jacob just picked up Staff Sergeant as much as they would talking about his Med boards. When I told my mom I was enlisting she went in the hospital for a week. That is not an exaggeration. Becasue there are so few of the Chosen People in my blessed Corps, most Marines don't know much about Jews. This became quite obvious to me as I arrived on the Yellow Footprints in San Diego to begin my career as a United States Marine.

Since I was to be in Boot Camp over the holidays, and MCRD San Diego made no celebratory plans for the 9 or so Jewish recruits there at the time, we were actually permitted to do something almost no recruit is ever allowed to do: Leave the depot and interact with civilians. We were taken to a Hannukah party at Milton’s Deli in Del Mar, where we had dinner with several Jewish veterans, ate traditional Jewish food, and received a souvenir T-Shirt from the Naval Station San Diego Jewish Center. Unfortunately, no one had bothered mentioning this little shindig to our company commander, who called me into his office as soon as I got back, in full Drill Instructor rage.

Where the frick did you go, recruit?!” (Drill Instructors are no longer allowed to swear, so instead they use these "substitute swear words" that make their tirades even more comical).

“Milton’s Deli in Del Mar, Sir,” I replied.

Milton’s Deli in Del Mar?!He made a face as if I told him I had spent the evening at Chuck-E-Cheese’s and somehow thought that was appropriate behavior for a Marine Corps Recruit. “And what did they let you eat?” God forbid I eat anything that was discernable as food. Marine recruits are kept on a strict diet of cardboard, gruel, and the occasional banana. And Chili Mac, lest I forget the Chili Mac.

“Latkes…”

“Lacka? What the Hell is a lacka?”

“It’s like a potato pancake, sir.”

“Potato pancakes, huh?” he said. From his tone it seemed that Captain Cook thought the good folks at Milton’s Deli in Del Mar had figured out how to lace potato pancakes with cocaine. He sneered. “What else?”

“Some bris…roast beef,” I figured I wouldn’t tempt fate again just in case he thought “brisket” was Jewish slang for cigarettes, “carrots, a Diet Coke and some Halvah.”

“HALVAH!” He jumped up from his desk and screamed at me an inch from my face in a way only Marines involved in Recruit Training can do. “What the Hell is Halvah?!”

Now, how on earth is a scared, 18-year-old recruit supposed to explain to an irate officer who has probably not seen a Jew outside of his television, what Halvah is? I had to stop and think for a minute, since nobody had really ever bothered asking me to explain this choice Jewish delicacy to them before. My hesitation seemed to irk the officer. “I asked you a fricking question, recruit!”

“Sir, it’s, it’s well, it’s kind of like a combination of peanut butter and chalk.”This was the best I could come up with. It was at this point that I realized the Jewish tradition of humor was not appreciated by the Corps either.

“Is that supposed to be funny, recruit? You trying to make some kinda joke at me ‘cuz I don’t know what your fricking Hav-la-vah is? You think I’m stupid, recruit? Do you?” he screamed. It was painfully obvious that Captain Cook had never eaten Halvah before, as any Jew knows that a mixture of peanut butter and chalk is about the most apt description one can come up with that is not spoken in Yiddish.

“No, sir, that’s what Halvah is. This Recruit can see if he can get some if…”

“Shut up, recruit! I’m not gonna waste my night sitting here and discussing some crap you ate at some party you shouldn’t have been at. I don’t fricking care! But you bet your ass I’m telling your Drill Instructors and I’m personally seeing to it that you have firewatch for the next week!”

Stupid Halvah. Why couldn’t we just have normal desserts like normal people that some hick Captain from Middle-of-Nowhere, Mississippi could understand? No, we have to make some complicated dessert that, when you try and explain it, makes you sound condescending and sarcastic. No wonder people don't like us; we can’t even describe dessert without coming off like we know more than you do.

I returned to the squadbay and somehow managed to hide my souvenir T-shirt from the Drill Instructors, concealing it in my foot locker until I graduated in February. To this day, it is the oldest T-shirt I own and every time I look at it I think of Captain Cook and how I should have known, at that very moment, that nobody in the Corps knew a whole lot about Jews.

33 Comments:

At 3:27 PM, Anonymous rumandpopcorn said...

The ongoing misadventures of a Jew in the Marines? I smell CW sitcom!

 
At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pulling your card right now - who were you with? Let me guess - after barely graduating from boot camp, you spent 6 years admin clerk with a reserve unit, 1 month after boot camp you got a big 'ol USMC tat on your arm, and 6 months after boot camp you were showing up for drill goateed, 30 lbs overweight in wrinkled cammies. Sound about right?

 
At 5:36 PM, Blogger SuperBee said...

Ew.

You actually EAT Halvah?

That's like the people that actually eat chopped liver...or cold tongue sandwiches...or snack on gribbenes.

While your peanutbutter and chalk analogy is appropos...

Halvah? Really? I thought only the serious frum ate that - and they like to torture themselves by walking down Collins on Saturday Mornings in August, wearing those fur hats and stockings...so I figured they'd want to suck all the joy out of dessert too...

Why didn't you just go for the lemon danish? I know they had some kind of apfelkuchen... There's always an apfelkuchen... ugh.

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

What happened the next day after he found out that you had permission to go?

 
At 10:40 PM, Blogger Bad at Life said...

What in the world is halvah? I've been invovled with a couple of jewish women, but this one is new to me.

Great post though.

 
At 7:45 AM, Blogger Virgle Kent said...

Now I have this ongoing arguement/ discussion with my Jewish roommate The Flurry all the time.I've known dude since middle school and he's my man 50 grand N all. Maybe you can help settle it once and for all.

Is being Hebrew the same thing as being Jewish or all Jews also Hebrews? In other words is Hebrew a race and being Jewish is a religion?

Help a brotha win $20 bones, I'll check back for an answear

 
At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like halvah...and I'm not even Jewish. But I've had a few Jewish moms try to recruit me.

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger minijonb said...

did the drill instructor look and sound just like R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, or is that shit just for the movies?

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger Yvette said...

Halvah is a tahini and honey concoction. It's the equivalent of eating chocolate (sort of) but made from ground sesame seeds. The texture is sort of chalky and crumbly at the same time, IMO.

Hebrew is an old language of the Jewish people. The religion is Judaism; the folks who believe in Judaism are Jewish; Hebrew is a language of the the Jewish people.

What was the original language of the Christian people, Italian?

 
At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Playter said...

Christianity didn't really have an official language, as its followers spanned a variety of nationalities.

Christianity (following Christ) started in the first century AD. Since Jesus and most of his first followers were Jewish, and lived in the time of the Roman Empire, the dominant languages used were Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Latin.

(Italian is rooted in Latin, but wasn't developed until centuries later. But you were on the right track! :) )

 
At 2:00 PM, Blogger White Dade said...

RP - Only if the put me on afte Gilmore Girls.

Anon - Pulling my card? Hardly. I served with the 8th tank Battlion TOW (Anti-Tank) Platoon, 4th Marine Division (that's the infantry for you civiliains) for four years before trqanferring to an Anti-Aircraft unit in Pasadena when I moved to California. So, no, I was far from a pencil pusher. I have no tattoos. I scored a first-class PFT all but one time I took it, and actually was usually held up as an example to young marines coming in of how to stay in shape once you are in the reserves. As you love to point out, I am a personal trainer. Goatees were not allowed and I never have sported facial hair. I was not too good at ironing, true, but I had my uniform professionally pressed before every drill. mairnes are not allowed to look that bad.

Superbee - When you're eating USMC chow hall food, Halvah sounds prety damn appetizing.

Rachel - Nothing. DI's and Series Officers never make mistakes.

BAL - I think some other people answered that for me.

VK - I really do not know the answer to that. I tinhk Yvette asnwered that, although the slaves in Egypt were often referred to as hebrews. Sorry, wish I coudl be of mroe help.

Anon2 - you are a sick, sick individual.

Mini - NO, R. Lee was dead on in his portrayal of a DI (since he was one at one time) and Full Metal Jacket really looks like someone took a camera int oa squadbay.

Yvette - I havne't touched the stuff since. But good to know a more serious description I could give should I ever find myself in that situation again.

Playtah - It is good to see that this comments box can now serve as an educational forum as well.

 
At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hebrew is a language.

Jews are descendents of Jewish people.

Israel is a country created for Jews in 1948, where Hebrew is spoken.

But I do not know if Jews can be called Hebrews.

WhiteDade, interesting post. I enjoyed it. And yay for you on getting no tattoos. They are the mark of trash

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger Ale8one said...

dade, you have to do a post on the upcoming Miami-Louisville game this weekend. I'm not a Louisville fan, but the annoying talk around here is that Louisville can win the nat'l champ. by taking down a weakened Miami team. that's pretty sad that Louisville has to stake their reputation on a lower ranked team.

 
At 11:53 PM, Anonymous MOS 67R10 said...

What is it with disparaging people's service record? It's like if you're not a cigar-chomping, bronze star wearing, fire breathing goddamn war hero, then it doesn't fucking count? Hell, a lot of good people have served entire no-shit twenty year lifer careers, and it all still happened in peacetime, they didn't see any "action," at least not in the civilian Hollywoodized "this is what official war looks like" way.

War can be boring, too, you know. Sometimes war is stocking aviation parts in some rusted out SeaLand trailer and going to sleep under some musty fucking canvas tent in some shitty mudhole corner of the Balkans. That's it, no heroics or violins or moments of self-discovery under graceful slo-mo fire. You don't have to be an Audie Murphy clone to serve your country.

Servicemembers don't get to pick their wars, the wars pick them.

 
At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no one is disparaging anyone's record. And there is nothing wrong with reservists or Guard, they have done a great job in Iraq and elsewhere. I'm just sick of people who make a big deal out of their service and even mischaracterize it as a way to try to impress people. No tats huh? How many stickers you got on your car? And as I (successfully, I think) attempted to point out, most of those said people's actual service is far, far, removed from the impression they put out. This guy served in the Reserves. Let me break it down for you - after 11 or so weeks of boot camp, he did his MOS school. Notice - although he claimed "infantry" he didn't say whether he himself was a grunt. Plenty of non-combat admin pogues and grease monkeys serve "with" grunt units and claim grunt status. Happens all the time. After his 6 weeks of MOS school, he settled back into civilian life. Once a month he showed up at a reserve post, ran 3 miles, did 20 pull ups, processed some paperwork and mopped some floors, then went to Hooters in uniform to impress the local bar sluts. If he was still in during 9/11, then he could have easily extended or re-upped and truly served his country - but he didn't. "6 years" my ass. If you string every day he put on a uniform together, I doubt if it adds up to more than 6 months.

 
At 9:26 AM, Anonymous AZChris357 said...

Anonymous,
You don't have a lot of room to talk...you make hit-and-run comments and don't even sign your name. Class act. That sure takes a lot of courage, all right. I'm glad you were never in the military...you seem like the type of person who would be the sniper hiding in the brush, picking off the women and children.

And please...feel free to have the last word. Go ahead. You seem to like that.

 
At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Playtah said...

WD~
Halvah actually sounds kind of interesting. Do you like it? Where would you buy it from? I may have to try some.

Oh, and you'd probably appreciate the humor in this--one of my friends (female, non Jewish) just had a birthday, and one of the birthday decorations was a large poster that said "Happy Circumcision" with "Circumcision" crossed out, and "Birthday" written underneath.

 
At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Johnson said...

"No tats huh? How many stickers you got on your car?"

I think the Baby Blue Saturn of White Dade sports one Corps sticker if I recall correctly. Or maybe none at all. Not exactly pushing his military service in anyone's face there, is he champ?

 
At 12:07 PM, Blogger Manola Blablablanik said...

Yvette, the official language of Christianity is Mel Gibson slurring!

I always thought Halvah tasted like Marzipan.

Oh and will someone please pull the steak out of anonymous' butt?

 
At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Feuer the Destroyer said...

Holy crap. I'm in an internet cafe in Marathon laughing my ass off at Halvah humor. Brilliant.

 
At 1:14 PM, Blogger imaginaryconversations said...

I used to eat halvah in Odessa (a city on the coast of the Black Sea in Ukraine) and it was called "halvah" in Russian, too. I'm not sure if it was the same thing people are describing here, cause that halvah was actually pretty good.

Damn, now I want some.

 
At 5:15 PM, Anonymous Yvette said...

Manola, halvah should taste like marzipan like whisky should taste like moonshine...wait, oh never mind. 8-)

Playtah, thank you so much for language info. And if there is a Greek grocer near you, you can find halvah there. I am only familiar with it because I'm (1/2)Greek.

 
At 12:17 AM, Blogger Dayngr said...

That was fucking hilarious! Don't hate me for laughing @ your pain. *wink

 
At 12:23 AM, Blogger Dayngr said...

PS - Anon posters are pussies. Grow a set buddy.

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger Captain Caveman said...

Jeez, I go one week without reading White Dade, and I miss out on a Marine Corps discussion. Damn.

Well, Anon, if you're still lurking around, suck it. What's Dade supposed to do, append his posts with Note: I was in the Reserves, which gives active duty people the right to judge me? Fuck that. He earned the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, and he served out his contract. Furthermore, having served with 1st Tanks as both a tank platoon and scout platoon commander, I can tell you that the infantrymen who ride in Humvees and operate .50 cals or TOWs are, indeed, still grunts, and the only people that look down on them are grunts who think that they somehow have more cred just because they're in a straight-leg unit.

Sorry for the rant. Nice post, Dade -- my best friend from college/the Corps was Jewish, a LogO who spent a year in Oki and seven months in Iraq.

 
At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, that does sound like something out of "Full Metal Jacket." Too many swear words to believe its real. (Marine officers and DIs are not supposed to use foul language at recruits. At least, they weren't in the mid-90's.)

Occasionally, they slipped, but mostly they said stuff like "friggin'," "fricking," "doggone" and all sorts of inventive uses for the word "nasty." When particularly incensed they would say stuff like: "Nasty! Doggone, buttcrack nasty!"

 
At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Captain Cavemen - uh yeah. Fuck you too -- sir. As I wrote, not a thing wrong with reservists. I just think this guy is an ass and he picked a fight (albiet online) with everyone who lived through 9/11, and I honestly doubt whether someone so self-absorbed would actually be able to make it in the actual Fleet. Thats why I choose to point out to his non-military fans the very clear distinction between his service and that of active duty Marines.

And nothing wrong with grunts who ride on Humvees. My question is, was this guy a grunt, ie, went to SOI, etc. or is he another MOS who was attached to a grunt unit? Inquiring minds want to know. if its not important, how come he hasn't cleared that up?

 
At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Eurosabra said...

"Sir, it's sesame seed cake, sir!"

Or just go IDF and get the holidays off, even in BAKUM. (Recruitment Center). But, darn it, it's YOUR country, YOUR Corps, and YOUR dessert. And no one should have to stand watch because of his dessert.

 
At 4:37 PM, Blogger Quantum said...

you are obviously an imposter. real jews do NOT eat halvah. they buy it and then store it away for years, then repeat until death.

 
At 12:03 PM, Blogger Shawn said...

"Jewish" is a term for those who follow Judaism. Many people incorrctly think that "jewish" is a race. However, most of those that became jews were originally known as Hebaru. (some disagree on spelling) The Hebaru were a misplaced people who entered Egypt after some form of disaster had driven them from their homelands. Some theories state that it was a flood,some a drought. This is what brought the "hebrews" to egypt some time between 2000 BC and 1400 BC. The Hebaru became known as Hebrew, as did their native language. Some think that they proposed the idea of one god to Ahmenhotep. The first reference to a belief in a single god. This was shortly before the events that have become known as the exodus ocurred. Some think that Moses was actually an egyptian who sided with the hebaru when the egyptian people revolted against the single god idea and went back to a pantheon of gods after just a few short years. It just so happened that the santorini eruption ocurred around the same time and caused most of what is thought of as the "plagues".
Anyway, Hebrew refers to these people and their descendents as well as their language. These people began the basic beliefs that would become Judaism. A Jew, though can really be of any racial extraction. "Jewish" is a religion.
I might add, I Love Halva!

 
At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo Fuck kikes fuck you racist jew "chosen people"...Bitch you were chosen to die fuck you making fun of white people wtf are you doing the marines bitch if I saw you or any other jew I would do the Gestapo Stomp on you. Pussy

 
At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yo Fuck kikes fuck you racist jew "chosen people"...Bitch you were chosen to die fuck you making fun of white people wtf are you doing the marines bitch if I saw you or any other jew I would do the Gestapo Stomp on you. Pussy"

Go and rot in hell stupid Nazi!

 
At 5:39 PM, Anonymous FrumCurious said...

This is some of the most re-donk-ulous shit I've ever heard.

Jews are not a race, they are a culture of people based around a religion.

I'm an administration reservist and I LOVE having the benefits of a civilian life and being able to stay close to my family and being able to have my fill of active duty time whenever I want. I'm in college, I chose reserves and am proud of it. Just because I'm not some dick-swinging grunt who sleeps around and thinks lowly of women it makes me less of a marine? Do I really need to prove myself to some asshole? No. I love my job and I love being in the military, I look forward to my activation in the coming years.

 

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