Packing Away Pigs

Avital Muth // Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine

After almost a year apart from Amit, my Israeli boyfriend, spent mostly on Skype or the phone as we tirelessly planned our lives around one another, I finally packed everything up and moved from New York to spend a summer in Israel.

Every Saturday morning we would pack a huge picnic lunch for the beach filled with various fruits, meaty sandwiches and beer. We usually arrived just as the sun was hitting its highest point, then spent the afternoon on the beach draining our bodies of energy.

One day we went to the supermarket to buy ingredients for future picnics. We went to Tiv Ta’am, the Mecca of gourmet supermarkets in Israel, where Amit ordered Shenkan.

“What does Shenkan mean?” I asked.

“Chazir…pig,” Amit told me.

I was shocked to find out that I had been consuming ham during our picnics, a meat that I had refused to eat my entire life. I assumed that every meat I ate was kosher in Israel, the Jewish State, even though I had previously encountered non-kosher practices inside Amit’s family’s home. I did not know whether it was fair of me to be upset because Amit knew I was not strict about being kosher; however, I was sure that he knew I did not eat pig.

Oh well, I said to myself acquiescently, I guess I had become a pork eater.

The pig, in its own way, became a metaphor for my relationship. I did not want to be a pork eater. Around the time that I discovered I had been eating treyf, I quickly began resenting my time with Amit, as our summer together, full of discomfort and doubt, was looking less and less how I had envisioned it.

Later on in the summer, we gathered our belongings for a trip to Jordan for what I saw as our last chance to salvage our relationship. I meticulously prepared ten sandwiches filled with the meats available in the fridge, mainly pork of course, piling extra ham onto each sandwich.

When we reached the Israel-Jordan border, a sign informed us that no food was to cross country lines. I sat down at the border crossing and slowly threw each sandwich, which I put together so carefully to please my boyfriend, into the garbage bins. With those sandwiches, I also threw out any hope for us as a couple.

Later that night, while lying in bed in a small hostel in Petra, famished, unsated from the ham that we were unable to eat—that I didn’t even want to eat in the first place—I blurted out, “I think that we should break up.” I was done pretending that it was okay to be in a relationship so contrary to my values, just as I was done eating the ham I had spent my life avoiding.

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