by Harvey Gould
OK, the short answer to the title of this piece is that while I’m Jewish, my wife is Irish Catholic and she introduced me to Ireland. However, as we all know, introductions to things are no guarantee of falling in love with them.
Case in point: My mom introduced me to squash when I was a youngster, and I still hate the stuff. So there has to be something innate that takes you from introduction to love.
In my case, a starting point is that my wife and I both are horseback riders. Being one shrewd cookie, she masterminded that the first time we went to Ireland together was on a horseback riding trip. Horseback riders going to Ireland on a horseback riding trip and not loving it would be akin to a wine connoisseur not enjoying a wine with a 100 point ranking: It’s just not possible.
So that was the hook. When we returned the next year, I began to see deeper into the country, not only the physical beauty, but the character and strength of its people. As it turns out, we returned 14 times over a 20-year stretch for extended stays there.
Some jokingly refer to the Irish as the lost tribe of the Hebrews - and I can see why. Jews have been persecuted for millennia. The Irish had a fair run of their own, being persecuted by the British for about 800 years, but they still came away with a sense of humor.
In the early 1920s, the British occupied Ireland in its continuing effort to put down another of the numerous Irish attempts to throw off English rule. As part of that effort, an ad hoc paramilitary organization was formed called the Black and Tans, comprised mainly of British World War I veterans. (The organization gained its name based on their uniforms of black boots and khaki slacks.)
Though ostensibly its task was to fight the Irish Republican Army, it became known for its attacks on the Irish civilian population, thus becoming vilified by the Irish. Today, though, the Irish don’t rant about the brutality of the group. Rather, if you go into any pub in Ireland and order a black and tan, you’ll get a mix of a black stout (typically a Guinness) and pale ale. Couldn’t beat the British militarily? Then make a beer out of them!
How could a Jew not marvel at the Irish capacity for self-deprecation? Toss in that there is probably no place in the world where you can find better witty banter (or in Irish terms, craic), and it’s a virtual Jew’s paradise. Ah, yes. We Jews tend to pride ourselves on education as a hallmark of our existence. Well, as it turns out Dublin has produced three Nobel Prize winners for literature, more than any other city in the world. Okay, okay, I admit it. I’m crazy mad in love with my Irish-Catholic-American wife, and that counts as part of the equation.
Still, for those not familiar with the Old Sod - whether Jewish or not - I say what famously was said in a TV ad campaign some years ago: Try it, you might like it.