People in Israel
My list of people in Israel is not exhaustive. It could be 20, 30, maybe even 50 people (What sane person wants to read that!?). These are just some (hopefully) comical observations I’ve made since my big return to the Holy Land nine months ago. Some of the titles could use work. Please offer suggestions. For people I left off the list as well.
And without further ado, I present fifteen people in Israel I Could Really Do Without:
1) The Line Cutter
Anyone who’s been here for any amount of time has had this experience. You’ve been standing in line at the store or bank or wherever for what seems like a week, and just before you get to that glorious moment of finally arriving at the clerk, someone pops in out of nowhere and adamantly exclaims that the spot right in front of you is theirs.
That guy. I could really do without that guy.
And speaking of clerks…
2) The Clerk
Oh the mighty Israeli clerk, so very disinterested in the fact that a customer is standing right in front of them. Please understand, my need to purchase a product from you is more important than your phone call, and your propensity to completely ignore me is not looked upon favorably. I have a secret for you: I’m going to give you money in exchange for the items I’m holding. And you will develop a reputation for being caring and attentive to your customers in a world where it’s not all that common.
It truly is a win-win. So please put down your phone and at least pretend like I matter to you.
And then you try and leave the store, likely to encounter…
3) The Doorway Stander
Israelis tend to perch themselves in doorways and narrow passageways. I haven’t quite grasped the benefit of doing so, and they haven’t quite grasped that they’re unnecessarily blocking foot traffic and forcing others to collide with them. You are pretty much guaranteed that wherever you go you will be slowed by a Doorway Stander, and you will be perplexed why they couldn’t just move five feet and stand completely out of everyone’s way.
Of course, you wouldn’t be out of the woods just yet…
4) The Slow Walker
iI needed to move to Israel in order to discover one of the most brilliant American concepts embedded in my mind from my earliest days: Always keep to the right. (Trust me, not a political comment.)
When a society understands this principle, walking can be a true pleasure. There’s a beautiful synergy. Barring large crowds, obstructions, or the few who just never figured things out, you just get to move freely wherever you go.
Israelis never learn to walk. They don’t keep right. They don’t really seem to have a goal of not colliding with others. Streets have tons of people just walking at one another. No system, just chaos. (Where’s Fezzik when you need him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Redc8bv8NOk?)
But there are some who take this inability to walk among others to a whole new level. They walk slowly—extremely slowly—and regardless of body girth, they manage to take up an entire sidewalk. Don’t even try to walk around them. Their keen homing beacon senses someone trying to get from point A to point B, and with a slight lean left or right, they render the breach impossible.
But if you find your way around, you still might not be safe, for lying in wait is…
5) Rolling Thunder
I understand the benefits of rolling carts for carrying groceries home. Things get heavy, few of us have cars. The only way to make it home at any reasonable speed without your arms in violent pain, is these silly, little carts.
However, as mentioned earlier, that’s all fine and good in a society that stresses walking skills and the awareness of others around you. But a walk through the market here is a series of near falls, crushed toes, and bruised shins.
But the bruises build character, as does…
6) Dr. Smokes Over My Food
I could (and might) write a post just about smoking in Israel. The omnipresent stench of cigarette smoke might top off my list of reasons I did not want to move back here. But that’s not for this post. Smoking, as repulsive a habit as it might be, serves a purpose in Israel. A tense society needs simple outlets for stress reduction, and until someone finds a suitable replacement, I’m afraid cigarettes are not going anywhere.
Nor am I writing about the people I see sitting next to their small children smoking, or even the pregnant women I’ve seen smoking. There’s no excuse for what they do. Prison is not good enough. Bludgeoning? Maybe.
No, this is about that guy in the market, selling nuts or spices or pita or whatever, with that cigarette nonchalantly dangling from his mouth. Smoke later. Smoke elsewhere. Use a friggin’ ashtray. Do something differently. But please please do not make we walk away from your shop conjuring up images of eating dried fruit with a hint of cigarette ash.
Luckily, once you’ve gotten around the slow guy and survived the carts and ash ingestion, your walk will be quiet and pleasant…
7) The Honker
Recent studies have showed conclusively that the average lag time between when a light turns green and the average Israeli driver starts slamming on their horn is 0.63 seconds. And when one horn starts, the herd follows.
If you’re lucky, after a long period of living in the city, you’ll learn to tune out the cacophony.
And now we’re almost at our destination…
8) The Ignorant Directions Giver
Oh this guy. He’s so sweet, and so well-intentioned. At least I hope and assume.
It’s fairly common to walk down the street and get this reply when asking for directions: “I don’t know”
A perfectly respectable answer. It’s honest, it’s concise…
However, it never ends there. It’s followed by 3-5 minutes of speculative directions, a chunk of time better spent on almost anything, for it adds nothing to the aforementioned “I don’t know”.
Yeah, I could do without that.
Alright, you’re almost at home sweet home. What could go wrong in your own neighborhood?
9) The Litterer
I hope—I passionately hope—that the day comes when Israel as a society realizes how revolting it is to throw its trash on the ground. I understand that it’s not part of the education, nor is it frowned upon by the society at large. And for certain there are not nearly enough trashcans.
However, at some point there’s simply no excuse. I recently watched a teenager fling the cap of his beverage into a tree display, about five feet away from a trashcan. It mesmerized me. Why? No further effort, no inconvenience to his life at all, but I guess he still couldn’t bring himself to make the most minimal effort to keep his city clean.
I’m not a wildly spiritual person, but come on. This is Jerusalem! Jews waited nearly 2,000 years to gain control of this land again. Half the world thinks it’s the holiest place in the universe. Pick up your damn trash!
And to dispel some common myths: Your cigarette butts, leftover food, and your dogs’ waste absolutely DO count as littering.
10) The Cat Feeder
Cats are a phenomenon in Israel. They are everywhere. And they are not the friendly, cuddly little fellas who snuggle up on American couches across the country. They are aggressive and leap out of dumpsters when you throw out your trash.
I understand that it’s wonderful to be caring and compassionate to animals. However, if you’ve had the misfortune of living near one of the many who place food outside for the cats to swarm upon, you know that you will daily be trudging through a veritable forest of little, mangy felines every time you walk up your street.
Really want to be compassionate? Open the door and let them live with you. Seriously. I don’t want to trip on any more cats!
11) The Public Urinator
The top of my street smells like pee. I avoid it at all costs, and I’m embarrassed when someone comes to visit, because it’s pretty much inevitable they’re going to walk right past that vile little spot.
I’ve caught the culprits a handful of times, unabashedly urinating right behind the dumpster up my street. I’ve confronted them. Nothing. No reaction. For some in this country, dropping ones pants and going whenever and wherever is just their way of life.
And a few more folk you might bump into before the day is out…
12) The Laughs at American Accent Guy
There exists a fella amongst Israeli society who needs to explore the world more. He’s stoic, almost absent a sense of humor. That is, of course, until he finds the one thing that truly tickles him: An American speaking Hebrew.
All others get a free pass on their inauthentic accents, but the American supplies humor without limits.
It’s hard moving to a foreign society and learning another language. I salute the rare helpful Israeli who overlooks the odd accent and comical mistakes, and respects our daily challenges and chooses to assist us rather than mock us. You might not know it, but we really, really like you.
13) The Five-Minute Warning
The words “five minutes” have very little meaning to people in Israel. It’s not uncommon to be told something will take five minutes, only to be left waiting for hours or even to not hear back until the next day.
I don’t like meaningless phrases. We all need to get stuff done. Please please please give me a proper estimate of how long it will actually take!
14) The Unnecessary Beggar
Walking down the streets of Jerusalem is like walking through a carnival of people shaking coins at you, pouring all sorts of guilt on everyone trying to get them to fork over their cash.
Yes, I’m aware that life can be very challenging, and that there are many circumstances in life that render people unable to work or pay for basic necessities. And some are certainly more fortunate than others.
What I can’t seem to understand is this: Equally as ubiquitous as beggars in Jerusalem are signs on shops saying they are looking for workers. And yes, I’m aware that the jobs are less than thrilling. And I’m aware that the wages are terribly low, and very likely less than what’s made by harassing each unsuspecting pedestrian.
But don’t you think life would be better if you earned your money? Don’t you think there would be less stress and more pride if your paycheck were consistent? Your life improves, stores run more efficiently, and walking down the street is more pleasant. Win win win!
15) The Opinion SharerThere’s no opinion too big or small for residents of this wild country not to share. Giving unsolicited opinions is one of Israelis favorite pastimes. Click To Tweet
There’s no opinion too big or small for residents of this wild country not to share. Giving unsolicited opinions is one of Israelis favorite pastimes.
This really came to the fore for me after my recent dog purchase. I’m certainly out and about a lot more often. And I can’t walk ten feet without someone commenting on how I walk my dog.
When I first got him, there was a moment when his harness came off. I had to run after him and hold him down to attach the leash to his collar. As I was doing this—frantically—a girl walking by and shouted at me in horror, “What are you doing to him!?” I started explaining myself, bumbling through my words as I wrestled with my dog, until I finally eked out some form of, “Go away. This has nothing to do with you!”
I hope to, as the days go by, learn to just ignore the barrage of opinions flying my way. Hey, it’ll free me up to hear more of the sweet sounds of horns honking.
* * *
And now that I’ve alienated 90% of the people in Israel, my country of residence, I’ll go home and work on my own patience, and my tolerance of the wildly inane. (The sequel!)