Well before the coronavirus struck, my wife Judith and I enjoyed watching the action on the plaza below our fifth floor Tel Aviv apartment. Set in the heart of the city, the place has become a popular destination for families, particularly on weekends. Young children adore running around it.
Now, with schools closed, every day is like Saturday, so the plaza has gotten even more use. Unfortunately, with one of our building’s custodians furloughed, the area is not as well-tended.
Abandoned face masks, empty pizza boxes, crumpled napkins, used drinking cups, and other garbage linger on the ground longer, creating a bit of an obstacle course for the little ones, who don’t seem to mind.
Then there are the dog owners. They love the plaza, too.
And I love dogs.
The son of a veterinarian, I’ve owned dogs, been a part-time dog-sitter, and dream of adopting an Israeli homeless puppy one of these days.
In the meantime, Judith and I couldn’t stand seeing all the donations left by dog people who, frankly, don’t seem to care about the kids, or other adults, for that matter, as much as we do.
So, we decided to pick up the plaza the other day. A family with two small children asked us what we were doing when they saw that I was recording our work with a video camera. I explained that I was producing a segment for a web series about life during the pandemic, hopefully, to make a point about the important of good-neighbor behavior, even when our world seems to be, well, “going to the dogs.” (No offense intended.)
He and his wife agreed that abandoned shit seemed to have increased around the plaza since the lockdown, when there have been less people about to see what dog walkers might be leaving behind. The parents also agreed that, perhaps, dog walkers might be asked (required?) to stay out of the plaza, the way cyclists are prohibited from biking through Habima Square.
Let them stick to the public sidewalks. Or they can go to Gan Meir, a few blocks away, with its fenced-in dog area where folks seem to do a good job of picking up after their pets.
Anyway, American-born, new citizens of Israel, people like me are sometimes called freiers by the natives. A Yiddish word, from the German frei, meaning free, a freier is a sucker, someone who follows the rules and can be easily scammed.
Picking up poop in the plaza below our building, without being on the building management staff payroll, might have made us freiers, in some Israelis’ eyes. I prefer to think of us as civic-minded citizens, but I’m an Oleh hadash, a newbie, so what do I know?
Anyway, you’re free to call the wife and me whatever you please. At the same time, I invite you to share this blog post. And here’s the video I recorded of us in all of our freier splendor, dutifully wearing our facemarks while bagging dog do do.
If enough people get the message, when the pandemic passes and the lockdown ends, maybe more of us will appreciate how wonderful our world can be when everyone gives a crap.