It was just a routine academic meeting, this time at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. I was representing tiny Ramat Hanegev College, the quixotic, antiestablishment institution that the small group of us American olim, somewhat at a loss over what to do with ourselves in Israel, founded against odds and smirks a year after we had landed in our small Negev home base of Yeroham. The middle- aged woman's reaction upon hearing the news was unabashed: "Ye-RO-ham! You really live in Yeroham!?" A bit too gauche, she realized at once; she made a nice shot at recovery with a full-blown "Kol ha-KaVOD [more power] to you." Over the past decade, I have lost track of all the kol hakavods! Some condescend, others gush: it is long since I have basked in their benign glow.
Nor do I any longer bristle at the alternative thrust: "Ye-ro- HAM! [You must be meshuge.] But what do you do there?" I have become adept at anticipating and parrying the narrow range of retorts to the delayed revelation of my hometown dazzlepiece. Most are variations, neither feigned nor malicious, on the theme of incredulity. No one, however, can misinterpret their true import: You must be some kind of idiot! The burden of "But what do you do there?" is never quite deflected by the offhand "Oh, I write and sometimes teach." Nor does the more aggressive "Much the same, I presume, as you in Ramat Gan (or Haifa or Jerusalem)," because the overt