Since moving to the boonies, my commercial hub has become Beitar Elite, home of its own tzniut police. Imagine how thrilled I am about that as a secular woman, but considering it houses the closest Rami Levi, I am left with little choice.
Generally, my forays into the land of black and white are blissfully uneventful. People are respectful, or at the very least, happily ignore me. This past week, not so much.
Of course, being summer, I am pretty much dragging my kids everywhere with me (as are most parents in late July and August) and on this particular occasion, it was a very good thing that they accompanied me. I could not possibly begin throwing punches with the little ones in tow. Not that I’m generally a person prone to fisticuffs, but trust me – it was warranted here.
I should preface the incident by stating that I have three children, two of whom are male, and all of whom will serve their country, in one way or another, when they reach the age of majority.
We live in Israel. We are citizens. Both my husband and I work. We pay an exorbitant amount in taxes, just like all the other productive members of society who live alongside us. We receive incredible benefits in exchange for these taxes including constant infrastructure improvements and expansion, the best army in the world and national health care.
My youngest had an eye infection. The dutiful parent, I had him checked out by our local kupat cholim pediatrician, secured a written prescription and set off for the pharmacy to fill it. Poor tyke had massive eye boogers and his vision was blurred because of it. He’s my third, so I’ve been down this road before and was confident that within 48 hours, he’d be all cleared up. We parked at the pharmacy in Beitar Elite and the three of them fought over who got to push the elevator button. Regular day so far.
We stood in line amongst all the other customers and yes, we stuck out, like we always do. Most of the women were wearing snoods and house coats. We are used to this. I noticed one woman standing on the side, seeming hesitant. She wasn’t in line; she was just hanging out (Who loiters in a pharmacy?) staring at her written prescription like she didn’t understand it. Then she approached me, mumbling. Whispering.
It took me several attempts to understand her. My constant and immediate assumption when I don’t quite understand some one’s gist is that it’s due to a language barrier. In fact, after three years in Ulpan, my Hebrew is decent, but I am self critical and quick to assume that any misunderstanding is my failing. I could not trust what I initially understood, so I asked her to repeat herself. More than once, almost to the point where she was annoyed. But still whispering.
She was asking if I could fill her prescription with my national health identity card. Confused (hello, naive) I asked her if she lost hers, directing her to the secretary’s desk so she could request a replacement card.
No, she shook her head vehemently. Not lost, she mumbled. Not covered, she explained. No health insurance. Could I perhaps give the pharmacist my card and fill her prescription under my name? This was not a language barrier – the request was (although stammered) very clear.
No health insurance? In Israel? Where every citizen receives national health insurance whether or not he can afford it, whether or not he is employed, whether he is Arab, Jewish or Christian? What gives?
A very simple answer, when I asked her in an equally hushed voice. “Lo mikubal etzlenu”. What exactly was not acceptable? Becoming a citizen. Once one accepts citizenship, one’s children will be drafted at age 18. Into the Israeli army, she said.
You mean, like, my children? Like all of my friends’ children? Like my husband?
Lady, you want me not only to pay for your kid’s medicine but you want me (and the pharmacist, might I add) to commit fraud against my government on your behalf so you can keep your children out of the army of the country you and I both live in?
AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.
She’s lucky I didn’t choke her with that snood. I’ve watched enough MacGyver; I bet I could do it.
Listen, I love this country. There. I said it. Yes, I complain about personal space and bank fees and lack of manners like all the other Anglos but I also do my part. My husband put in his three years of active army service, paid into Bituach Leumi while he was in the States for six years after that, and spends at least a month of every year since in miluim. He’s 39. That’s a lot of months. I need to manage on my own with the kids and with work while he’s gone each time, because that’s my contribution to the security of our nation.
My entire job is dedicated to employing people in Israel. My company was founded on this premise and yes, I could make more money if I worked privately – ghost bloggers make bank. Don’t get me wrong; I like money. It’s just that it’s more important to me to keep intelligent, productive, amazing people here in Israel if I can, because we all need to contribute if we are going to succeed.
Snood Lady in Beitar Elite, you are very lucky that I was brought up in the Midwest and have a European Grandma-in-law who has taught me the value of being a lady. You better hope we don’t meet in a dark alley in my neck of the woods, because neither my kids nor Grandma will be able to help you then.