No, I know that I just wrote about what happened to me last Friday and I promise that this won’t become a series of blogs on my day but, sometimes I need to write about all the good things about Israel and the people who live here. All too often most folks who are not lucky enough to live in this tiny Jewish country, receive news that is always negative, especially about what we Israelis call “ha matzav”- “the situation.”
Now this phrase can mean anything from all out war to the price of cottage cheese or the long wait at the post office. But for us, the meaning is usually the same-what is happening now, to us, the local folks. However, since the impression of many in the Diaspora that we are a brash, arrogant and rude citizenry, it is my patriotic duty (and yours as well) to remind our distant friends and relatives, that we do not live in a constant state of fear and anxiety and that we, just like them, kvetch ( a word that is really not as translatable as most dictionaries interpret it-just the alliteration of its monosyllabic tone denotes the emotion behind its employment) about everyday life and its problems.
Sure, there is plenty to complain about, but there is much to be thankful for and, the best part of living here are the encounters with our friends, neighbors and even, (gulp) storekeepers and taxi drivers. No, I am not on hallucinogenic medication well, maybe the clear desert breeze coming through my window…….
Well, a couple of months ago I fell (old, klutzy me) down a flight of stairs and really gave my head a good knocking about and my wife, bless her, rushed me to our 24 hour emergency center (TEREM) here in Maaleh Adumim. Since I was bleeding from my head, the nurse took me immediately to the doctor who brought me to the X-ray room, and within 10 minutes of arrival, I had been photographed, examined, my wound cleaned and dressed and they watched me as I sat there for a couple of hours, just to make sure I was alright.
The nurse, the X-ray technician, and the doctor could not have been more caring and concerned. Yes, I know it is their job to take care of any of us who need help, but I saw genuine concern and attentiveness which made me, and my wife, feel more at ease.
A couple weeks later, I was getting dizzy from time to time, so my doctor sent me to the ER at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem and they did a CT of my head and, thank G-d, there was nothing there to be worried about. (I hear you laughing already, bunch of wise guys). No, I didn’t have to ransom my children to pay for it-as a matter of fact, the HMO had already faxed the referral and the authorization to the hospital ( so I thought).
This morning, I got a phone call from the hospital that they never received the authorization and that would mean I would have to pay out of pocket, So, I went to the HMO and the terrific secretary there (I won’t mention her name except to say she was stunningly gorgeous) called Hadassah to get their fax number for the CT department as, I guess, each department in the hospital has a different number. It took almost 20 minutes for them to answer the phone and then, they gave her the fax number. Now, you would assume ( a deadly habit in Israel) that a HMO would have a list of these phone numbers and faxes…..nope. Even the secretary couldn’t believe that the first person that got on the phone didn’t know how to look up the fax number at the hospital! My Hebrew is okay, but since the language has very few oaths and curses that are not Biblically translatable into modern patois it’s a good thing that I know quite a few young people who have, from time to time, familiarized me in the local scatological vernacular.
However, after she got the number, she apologized to me and brought me a cup of water. She even knew my name before I gave her my ID card. Don’t faint!
Then, I went to the butcher in our mall, a delightful young man. As he only speaks Hebrew, his skill at cutting meat and the fact that he always has a nice greeting for me, makes it a pleasure to do business with him. You see, many salespeople, especially young women, act as though customers were the bane of their existence.( I am not sexist, the young men are also lackadaisical from time to time) Sometimes, no, all too often (there are exceptions) these youngsters are busy on their cellphones ( or whatever they call these contraptions these days), doing their nails, or otherwise engaged in pursuits other than helping the customers whose shekels pay their salaries.
When I worked in retail for many years, there were only two rules that you had to be aware of-Rule1-The customer is always right. Rule 2-When in doubt, refer to Rule 1. When a customer walks into a shop, a competent salesperson should always inquire if they need assistance, FIRST. Then, if a person says no, go on about your other business.
Anyway, the butcher not only smiled and struck up a conversation, but told me what was available and helped me pick out some meat. He also, sliced some steaks for me just as I like and could not have been friendlier. You know, I’ve shopped there before and the meat has always been terrific, but so has the service. There are service people here who know how to keep customers happy, and more importantly, have them coming back. I have been to most of the stores in our mall and there are a few of them that I will never step foot in again.Customers, especially when the prices for many items here are outrageously expensive, don’t want to be ignored.
Oh, I almost forgot the real pleasure of this morning. I took the bus to the mall, and on one of the stops, this elderly man with a cane got on the bus, and as usual, the bus driver just steps on the gas as soon as the last person pays for their ride, ignoring that there might be folks still walking down the aisle to a seat. Well, this old man almost fell when the bus pulled away from the curb, and he landed just a few inches from the open seat next to me, so I grabbed his arm and helped him sit down.
Being from “da Bronx” my angry outrage usually comes in gutter English or, more than usual, in Yiddish, So, I didn’t think anyone would understand me when I said, a bit too loudly, I guess, “A shvartzer cholera auf dineh tuchas!”-“A black cholera on your ass!” Well, guess what? The grey haired gent sitting next to me, started to laugh till he cried. In Yiddish, he told me that he hadn’t heard that said in years. He asked me where I was from, where did I learn my Yiddish, where my parents/grandparents were from, etc. This wonderful country, where a woman will tell you that your baby needs to be fed, or where it is not strange for a person to ask you how much money you make, never ceases to amaze. And here is something, else, this older man actually knew the area in the Ukraine where my father’s family came from! Talk about a tiny, Jewish country.
Since I was laden down with stuff from the butcher,groceries from the supermarket and a few other items, I decided to treat myself to a luxurious taxi ride home. Nu, I’m not lazy, just have a hard time physically shlepping every so often. So, I get in the cab, tell the cabbie in Hebrew where I want to go, and he starts speaking English and tells me he lives just down the block from me-in fact, he often picks up one of my neighbors and takes him to the doctor.
So, we strike up a lively conversation, again, where am I from, how long in Israel, do I like Maaleh Adumim. etc. So, he brings me to my door, helps me shlep the bags off the back seat of the cab, and gives me his card and says that since he is my neighbor, if I ever need a ride, call him directly and don’t call the taxi stand. Sure, I figure he does this for his business, but sometimes, one needs a ride in a hurry and it’s always a good idea to have something like this handy.
I know, this article isn’t very interesting politically, or even an accurate depiction of what all life in Israel is about. but that is not my intention. Rather it is to demonstrate that our lives here are not bound up in worrying what the UN will vote on , or what the Europeans will demand of us, or even the current relationship with the USA, and, no, we don’t sit up at night scared of the Iranians either. If we did all that, the last person leaving the country would have to remember to turn out the lights.
You see, thousands of Jews still come here to make their homes every, Almost three thousand from the “Goldeneh Medina” (America) come back to our ancient, blessed homeland. You know, it is sort of a full circle when I came here and when many of us former Americans arrived-maybe our grandparents came from Europe, where their ancestors fled during the centuries of the Exile from Israel to the USA and now, we, their children and grandchildren, returned homewards and are still going up to Zion and Jerusalem.
We live from day to day, doing many of the same daily functions as people everywhere because to give in to the threats around us, is to give the enemy a victory. They can march and burn our flag, boycott our goods and call for our destruction-we are still going to the malls, the movies and the markets.
Every morning in Maaleh Adumim is a blessing and a gift. Just like last Friday morning and this Thursday as well. Israel, our tiny, Jewish country is a gift and for us to be living here, is a blessing. Shabbat Shalom.