On Sunday night our star shortstop needed a ride to his bus stop after our weekly pickup softball game and I was happy to oblidge.
“Have you noticed,” he said as we drove along Highway 4, “that nobody in Israel says ‘Thank you’ anymore?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, keeping my eyes on the road.
“Last week I went out on a date. Now I am coming by bus from Jerusalem, and she lives in Petach Tikva and has a car, so we meet at a cafe near her.”
“Ok,” I say, waiting for the punchline.
“Well, at the end of the date, which didn’t go all that well, see says to me ‘nesiah tova‘, have a nice trip.”
“So, no ‘thank you’ for buying me coffee, no ‘thank you’ for coming all this way to meet me! No, just ‘nesiah tova‘ and that’s it!”
I wanted to offer a counter argument, but he was in the middle of his rant, the likes of which would make Larry David on TV’s Curb Your Enthusiasm proud.
When he finally took a breath I interjected.
“Not everyone in Israel doesn’t say ‘thank you’. In fact, there is a nice lady at my workplace in WIZO who helps me with lots of things. Every time I say ‘thank you’ to her she replies with ‘ein b’aad mah‘ – you’re welcome! So you may be right that people hardly say ‘thank you’, but almost nobody here says ‘you’re welcome’.”
We soon arrived at his stop and as he got out of the car he gave me a loud and exaggerated ‘THANK YOU’ for the ride and I answered with an even more exaggerated ‘EIN B’AAD MAH‘.
Today is the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Although I won’t be celebrating with the traditional turkey feast I grew up on in America, it is a good opportunity to think about ‘Thank you’s.
My friend the shortstop was obviously generalizing when he said that nobody in Israel says ‘thank you’. Many Israelis do say ‘todah‘, thank you, but ‘ein b’aad mah’ , I admit, is much less common.
I have worked at World WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) for nearly a year now and the dedicated staff and volunteers there have really perfected the art of saying ‘thank you’. For example, when generous donors from around the world contribute to WIZO projects (WIZO day care centers, schools, youth villages, programs for women, and more) the ‘thank yous’ they get may be verbal, they might be in writing (by letter or email) or quite often they might be in the form of a plaque or certificate.
While all of the above are important and effective methods of showing gratitude and appreciation there is one form of saying ‘thank you’ that tops them all, and you need not say anything to express it.
The youngest ones in WIZO’s care are the children in WIZO’s 182 day care centers across Israel. These adorable babies and toddlers cannot express their thanks in words (as they cannot speak yet nor can they read the names of the WIZO donors printed on their cute t-shirts when those donors come to visit), but they all express their gratitude in smiles.
True, WIZO’s youth, the teenagers living and studying in WIZO’s half dozen schools and youth villages across Israel are able to say ‘thank you’ – and they do, but in my experience, their smiling faces say so much more than words can ever express.
And the same goes for the thousands of young girls and women WIZO supports, they also say ‘thank you’ with smiles’.
And yes, I also see ‘thank you’ expressed on the faces of the seniors residing at WIZO’s Parents’ Home.
Tricia, my division’s Chairperson, often reminds me that she is a volunteer at WIZO and that she, like all of WIZO’s volunteers, is ‘paid in smiles’.
This Thanksgiving I have come to the conclusion that we at WIZO are also ‘THANKED with smiles’.
So, by all means lets keep them smiling!