“I’ve never even been there, but it’s been a part of my life since childhood,” he says. He recalls that his relationship to the State of Israel began to change in the 1960s, when he became friendly with leftists and Marxists and was exposed to their world view.
At that time, Pekar says, he was unemployed and so despondent about his life and his chances of finding work that he decided to look into moving to Israel. He knew that every Jew who came to Israel received automatic citizenship, and along with the new passport came the hope of ever-elusive salvation. But in one brief meeting, the clerk at the Israeli consulate in Chicago succeeded in dashing his hopes.
The clerk, irritated by the desperate man staring at him across the counter, told Pekar that moving to Israel would be a massive mistake and that he had no chance of finding work if and when he arrived.
In an instant, Pekar's lifetime illusions of life in Israel were popped like a sorry balloon. Without tact or empathy, the clerk cut him down.
“What the guy was saying was that I was a loser and Israel had no time to rehabilitate schmucks,” Pekar recalls. Even a kibbutz, the clerk tells him, won't have him. “I knew I was no prize. Also, I didn’t go through the Holocaust. Israel probably had enough trouble with neurotic American Jews.”