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The Good... The Bad... and the Downright Weird

Oil painting of Claire Rabin by Vadim Brusilov

Anglos are having a hard time fitting in. Some things have not changed and seem even now to be incomprehensible if not downright bizarre.
My view of Israel today is a mix of admiration and of deep puzzlement.
Let's start with admiration. I deeply admire aspects of the culture here that have developed over the five decades of my observation.
Recently, I had a fall and spent an evening in Maccabi's local hospital in Ramat Hasharon. It was the evening after a holiday and apparently lots of kids, parents and grandparents had had a fall. Hundreds of other people were being moved efficiently and respectfully through a system which seemed totally able to cope with so many people, many in pain or worried about their family members. Numbers were called out every minute for hours and patients moved through the system with little visible tension or conflict.

I was also very grateful to have been there for only four hours in which time I did 2 EKG's, an x-ray, blood tests, blood pressure tests, temperature assessment, two meetings with nurses, and two with the same doctor to plan out what next. I was reminded of a recent visit to a hospital in Los Angeles with the same hundreds of people. Since no one saw me at all I left after a wasted five hours. Not to mention the guns I saw people wearing. I was grateful to get out alive. In Israel I generally feel so safe and cared for. I see children freely walking around enjoying a life of social interactions and freedom. Like seeing four pre-teens having a snack at a coffee shop all on their own.
Now to the bad and downright weird parts. Again this is my subjective view and I hope people reading this will respond with their own take on the same kind of events. Maybe some readers would say these incidents aren't bad or are even good.
One morning I was chatting with my next door neighbor. Her bedroom faced my (then infant) daughter's bedroom. My neighbor commented "so your daughter didn't sleep well last night". I agreed, assuming I need to apologize for my daughter interrupting my neighbor's sleep. But she did not expect an apology but rather that I would thank her. Why? Because she had come into my house through the unlocked front door. She had gone up to my baby daughter's room and found her (the baby's not my neighbor's) pacifier and only left when the baby went back to sleep. My neighbor didn't see anything strange about that. I thanked her because I sensed that was what was expected. For me that was taking freedom too far but I thanked her anyway. Those of you who can see where I am going with this will not be surprised that I started hiding the keys of doors I now locked.
Some of you might say I already demonstrated an example of Israelis' 'weird' behavior. But no, there is more...much more.
Another weird custom. Israelis tend to be very social. Unlike back in the United States where I spent the first 20 years of my life, meeting up once a month would be considered a close relationship. Imagine my surprise at the end of a Saturday evening get-together when the host asked who will host next Saturday evening's meeting. I thought he was joking.
But lonely in a new land, I liked this custom.
But then I realized that I needed to start learning how to become a social Israeli. For example, a social evening didn't end when people started yawning or getting up to go to the door. Leaving a social event has to take at least half an hour and even an hour. Israelis signal leaving time by
1. Yawning
2. Slowly moving closer to the door and
3. Finishing up some topic that had been discussed before. (Not starting a new conversation near to the door). This part is crucial, since if you start a new conversation the guests won't understand if you mean to sit down again or move closer to the door.
Becoming an Israeli only takes about 50 years but ... it is really worth the effort. It is not by accident that as a plane is landing at Ben Gurion airport the passengers start clapping. It is great (although not easy) to become an Israeli.


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Thursday, 13 June 2024

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