On Community and Israeli Survival Mentality

Back in the days where I lived in the UK, war in Israel was cause for panic all round. Checking the internet for updates, emergency fundraisers for Magen David Adom, demonstrations and the works. As soon as I heard of an incident, usually a bomb, I used to ring a good friend who is a nurse at Shaare Zedek Medical Centre and lived in Jerusalem. Our conversations used to go something like this:

ME: [panicked voice] Are you ok? Did you hear it?

THE FRIEND [breezily]: What? Huh? Can’t really hear you, am walking in the street. What’s up?

ME: Am just checking on you after the bomb and all …

THE FRIEND: … bit noisy here, cant really hear you … bomb did you say?? Can’t chat just off to meet a friend for coffee!

ME: Really??? OK, er, great! Byeee for now …

You get my drift. My friend often heard about things after me, unless she was actually on duty at the time in which case she would often see the worst of it. But despite living in the thick of it, I got no impression of her stopping her life. Far from it. Jerusalemites, especially single ones, do not stay home for anyone.

This seems to be the generic Israeli coping attitude. Yes everyone listens to the news attentively, and people are VERY proactive when it comes to helping one another, but there is no sense of panic or misery. People just, well, they just live really. More interestingly, some make jokes about the situation, publish cartoons making fun of the iron dome, that sort of thing. The general idea seems to be along the lines of “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Reminds me somewhat of the stiff upper lip displayed by East Londoners sleeping in filthy underground stations during the Blitz of WWII.

Although they may appear relaxed and confident, and most people try to avoid living in fear as much as humanly possible, this by no means detracts from the lack of community. The 24-hour news advertises a support hotline for those living down south. National charities are directing as much aid as they can where it is need (Leket Israel, for example, are taking kids on outings who would otherwise be cooped up in shelters). And all over the country women muddle along whilst their husbands are rounded up. Since we made aliyah after Husband had turned 30 he was deemed ” too old” for basic training. As cross as he was at being told he was too old for anything, it is somewhat a relief for me. For olim especially, miluim (reserve duty) is particularly difficult as they have no other family support as backup. Saying that, many of the women on my yihsuv have family who live hours away, and they are basically in the same situation. Again, the community steps up, everyone helps everyone else out and nobody is left alone for Shabbat meals.

Israelis are super quick off the mark to offer help. A couple of days ago, Husband posted a desperate plea on our yishuv forum asking for help. I had (very randomly) got some weird THING on my knee which had swelled up hugely and I couldn’t walk. Or move much at all really. He asked if anyone could help me out the next day as he had to go to work (see previous blog about employment laws and sick leave in this country). Within half an hour … A pair of crutches from someone I don’t yet know was delivered to my door by their daughter. Several people offered to drive me to my doctors appointment the following morning.  And several others texted/emailed generic offers of help. It seems that Instant Messaging and Israeli Chesed are a dynamite combination. Whilst I spent the day-traipsing around various doctors and hospitals, my neighbours were really helpful with my kids. This is a community that can truly be called extended family. (And I’d always thought Ramsay Street was an outdated concept …)

Oh, if you are worried about the knee thing. It looks much better today.  Thank god. I was given copious amounts of drugs (despite my pregnancy) as I have prepatellar bursitis, which led to a nasty infection in my blood. Or something like that.

Anyway, I have told Husband (who was in fits over the laymen’s term for my affliction) that this is a definite sign I should be doing less housework.

So friends, excuse my dirty house. According to the British website, I have a nasty case of Housemaid’s Knee.



About the Author
Deganit made aliyah in 2010. She is a full-time earth-mother and an aspiring writer living quietly tucked away on a hilltop in Northern Israel. Her writing features encounters with Israelis, her advice (wanted or otherwise), living with small children and animals and her family's attempted eco-living against the odds. The views expressed are her own.