Read the first chapter, "Five", from Pitching in the Promised Land: A Story of the First and Only Season in the Israel Baseball League by Aaron Pribble:
"“Have you ever had a bar mitzvah?” Babies cried in line behind me, adding undue stress to an already tense situation.
“A bar mitzvah? Um . . . no. Yes. No, not really.” It was a strange question to be asked in the security line, especially from a young, heavily accented ticket lady.
“Well, which is it? Yes or no?” Both answers were correct in truth, depending on one’s perspective, but that was not the sort of answer for which I surmised she was looking.
“Fine, sank you.” The young official dismissively wrote a large “5” on my ticket, circled it, placed stickers with the same number on both my bags, and nudged me toward a separate station. I was instructed to empty the contents of my neatly packed luggage, which was searched and swabbed for explosives. Around me several families were engaged in the same process, the women wearing head scarves and several of the men speaking Arabic. The search was clean, thank goodness. On my way.
After a search of my person and an additional electronic search of my belongings, I eventually made it to the terminal, where I discovered the vast majority of people waiting previously in the snaked ticket line behind me already seated comfortably, waiting to board.
“Man.” I sat down with a thud and exhaled loudly.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” I heard someone tongue-click beside me. It was a middle-aged Israeli mother holding a young, fussy baby. She pointed to the neon-green sticker on one of my bags. “Five. That means you are not Jewish,” she said with a bit of mischief in her eyes. “And this is why you are just now arriving to the terminal. Do not worry—you have not missed much.” She smiled and I smiled back.
“But I am Jewish,” I said. “Well . . . sort of.”
“What do you mean, sort of? You are either Jewish or you’re not, no?” Over the loudspeaker a plastic voice announced the commencement of preboarding, and the woman began to stand up, baby in the crook of her arm.
“It’s a long story,” I declared. “Have a nice flight.”
In the air I had ample time to ponder the significance of being labeled a Five. Born to a Jewish mother and Christian father, a sort of redneck Jew-boy, I was technically part of the tribe. Even if I struggled to recite the Hanukkah prayer from memory and didn’t go to temple for Yom Kippur, I was still a Jew, not a Five. No airport security lady should be able to tell me otherwise. And even if I was a Five, who cares? This did not seem like sufficient evidence to warrant an extra search.
Already it was becoming clear that this summer was going to be as much about discovering who I was as a Jew as it was about exploring who I was as a baseball player. Flying, I realized, toward the intersection of both my religious and my athletic identities. At least that latter part of myself I was sure of. On second thought, it had been almost two years since I’d played in a professional baseball game, and that was in France, no less. Perhaps I’d show up in Israel and they’d send me packing. Slap a sticker on my baseball bag that said no good. Just like the ticket lady. A Jew unsure or unconvinced of his heritage, I jumped on my average fastball, irregular slider, and decent change-up and rode them to the land of Abraham, the land of Moses and Muhammad, the land of vast deserts and clandestine oases, the land of occupations and cease-fires, the land of milk and honey, the land of Israel."
To read a longer excerpt or to purchase Pitching in the Promised Land, visit http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Pitching-in-the-Promised-Land,674766.aspx.