Harrassment, Sabra style

It all started one sunny, bright, Friday morning as I found myself strolling along in Tel Aviv’s Shuk Hacarmel with a bounce in my step, a bag of sunflower seeds in my hand, some French cheese in my bag, a good friend by my side and my new white straw fedora perched atop my head bought only moments earlier for a mere twelve shekels. To top off all of this pure shuk goodness, we made a stop to eat some awesome hummus for only ten shekels a plate while basking in the positive energy of the open marketplace that only a Friday morning in Tel Aviv could offer, when suddenly….

Geveret, neirot Shabbat?” -Miss, would you like some Sabbath candles?

Adoni , tefillin?” -Sir, would you like to put on tefillin.

There we were being offered a shel rosh (the head piece of tefillin) and a pair of Sabbath candles courtesy of the local Chabad chapter. I can’t even say it’s a one-time occurrence, get it now or never, because they always seem to be there, there being anywhere you go in Israel, always willing to jump in and save that little piece of your soul if only you would let them if only for a moment. To them it is their calling but to many of us it is just one big pain in the butt.

Oh sure, I wanted to talk back and be sassy. I wanted to grab the entire box of candles they were distributing and use them for a séance that Friday night over nargilas and a bottle of Arak. I wanted to but I didn’t because my Mama taught me to be better than that; to withstand the immediate temptation of losing control and to just be the lady that I am not.

So with a polite no thank you, we continue on our way.

Harassment comes in so many different shapes and sizes that sometimes it is hard to harness the exact moment when the harasser goes from being simple background noise to becoming a full blown, trumpet blast in your face.

One such example is the occasional drive-by honker, hanging out his driver side window, yelling something obscene as he drives by, thinking that you will just drop everything, jump into his car and elope with him since certainly your mama told you to find this exact specimen of a man: caveman-like behavior and his own mode of transportation.

The harasser, who may truthfully only be a fleeting moment in time, and hopefully in your life, is at that exact moment enough of a disturbance to make you think twice the next time you contemplate looking up or making eye contact with a complete stranger (let alone riding in a taxi).

There are so many, too many, other instances of harassment that are not so fleeting and tend to be subtly invasive, similar to the effects of water dripping on a stone.

Take, for instance, my ongoing experience with a company located in my office building whose corporate goal is to teach English to Israelis. Every day for the past three years when leaving the confines of my protective office space and heading out the front entrance of the building, without fail, the sales people stop me to ask if I would like to learn English. I bite my tongue so that the floodgates of English language blasphemy don’t pour out of me, while politely declining and telling them that I already speak English.

(remember to breathe)

By resisting the urge to let loose while politely refusing their advances and mumbling something under my breath about bothering people on their lunch breaks, I have been able to convince myself that I have won the battle, even if I am still losing the war.

…and no, dear beggar at the kotel, I am not giving you charity, for the three billionth time, especially since I just gave you five minutes ago.

…and no, I don’t want your flyer for the mayoral elections.

…and please, don’t give me a red string with a blessing and charge me 5 shekels for it because we already know that all you did was cut that oh-so-special piece of string from that not-so-special roll this morning and distribute it to anyone who looks like enough of a frier (sucker) to fall for your sales ploy.

“Ok fine, take your five shekels! No, I don’t want the string. Keep the string and please stop blessing me. Please. Stop.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am aware that sometimes in-your-face can be a good thing, especially in Israel (thank you random mother for finding my child who just wandered off ) in which case, I appreciate your caring.

But to everybody else, the next time you come to my door, honk at me while driving by, try to save my soul by giving me candles or red string, or just try to sell me a multitude of services I don’t really want or need please excuse me if I react coldly while trying to protect my own personal space. At the present time, I am able to withstand the temptation of giving you a piece of my mind but I can’t guarantee that this will always be the case because even Canadians have their limits.

“That’s right. Just give me 20 of those Sabbath candles. What’s that? Of course I have 19 children! Sheesh. What do I look like? A frier?”

About the Author
Devora Mason is a single mom of five who works in business development focusing on unique Israeli technology,and Innovation, specializing in subjects from AR/VR to the stars and back! Her life experiences lead her to write about social issues and people that she encounters in Israel. As a consultant she enjoys her work with Israeli startups and corporate entities and is currently the VP of Global partnerships at StellarNova, a female founded startup focusing on STEM blended education and media content for kids.
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