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Israeli preppers speak my language

Like most Israelis, I use my 'mamad' as a storage room, but I also stock it with emergency supplies -- just in case

Shhh. I’m a closet survivalist.

Which is to say, you can only really tell I’m a survivalist by looking in my closet, otherwise known as “the mamad.”

It’s true that like most Israelis, I use my mamad as a storage room. Israeli houses aren’t typically built with closets, attics, or basements, so the only place you have to compulsively store excess junk is in the backyard or the mamad.

That said, unlike most Israelis, I also actually stock my mamad with some of the recommended essential emergency supplies — water, a few days worth of food, and gas masks for each of my immediate family members — putting me both in the 60% of Israelis who actually have gas masks for their families (as of February) and in the 0.5% of people who can seek safety in her mamad without having a yard sale first.

Up until recently, I wasn’t really sure how seriously my friends and neighbors took emergency preparedness. It’s not something I talk about often, mostly because I’ve learned that when I tell people I have a copy of John “Lofty” Wiseman’s “SAS Survival Handbook,” and try to engage them in conversation about Israel’s dormant volcanoes and active fault lines, they look at me funny.

With a wink and a quick “stam,” I can usually steer the conversation back to the results of last night’s episode of “Beauty and the Geek.” But a part of me is disappointed that my subtle hints didn’t open up an in depth conversation about how to best outrun a tsunami or “homeschooling in the after times.” Yes, being a survivalist is a careful balancing act between appearing responsible and being tagged as the town loony toon.

This is why last night, when I attended the community “disaster preparedness session” led by a professional from the regional council, I kept my mouth shut…mostly.

Of course, my mouth was reluctantly kept shut, both by my inability to understand 40% of the conversation, and by my limited vocabulary, which does not contain the Hebrew words for “bug-out bag,” “water purification kit,” or “duct tape.”

Bug-out bag

No, this time, my first-grade-level Hebrew actually worked for me instead of against me. By the time I looked up “r’idat adama” on Google Translate — I’ll save you the trouble: it means “earthquake” — we had moved on to evacuation in the case of forest fires, and I had completely lost my train of thought, as well as the opening to ask a question.

Despite this, I still somehow managed to implicate myself when the facilitator asked us if anyone in the room had a transistor radio in their mamad. I raised my hand. Just me. “Wow,” exclaimed the facilitator, as everyone looked my way. But I pulled out my secret weapon — the “silly olah” giggle — and everyone laughed. Some of them thought I was kidding. The rest thought I had no clue. Saved again.

Even though I left the meeting with more questions than answers, I was relieved to discover that there are some Israelis who see the importance of planning in advance for disaster rather than shrugging their shoulders “ain ma la’asot“-style. Not that I want to live my life waiting for disaster to strike, mind you. But as a human being with the will to live and three mini human beings who depend on me to care for them, I think it’s completely irresponsible to act as if there’s nothing to do.

There’s always something to do. It’s not as if our only two choices are to pray our way out of disaster or disintegrate as part of an extinction-level apocalypse. (Unless, of course, this near-Earth asteroid hits the Middle East next February. In which case, we will indeed be S.O.L.)

Doesn’t anyone watch “The Walking Dead?” There are plenty of in-between scenarios, many of which require us to know how to communicate with each other without our smartphones and how to properly skin rats to cook over an open fire in the wilderness.

I’m hopeful that my neighbors in the room last night were agitated enough by potential real-life scenarios to transform complacency into some serious preparedness action (at the very least, it drove me to consider putting my talents to good use). Sitting on a “vaadat hirum” (the emergency committee) is clearly where I’m able to make the most contribution to the community. With the proper budget, I can outfit us “Doomsday Preppers”-style. Which, in my humble opinion, is much better use of our community dollars than a ten-foot-high menorah at the entrance.

But that’s just me.

About the Author
Jen Maidenberg made Aliyah to the Lower Galilee with her family in 2011. A published writer and author, she chronicles her life in prose and poetry at www.andyaddayadda.com