I must admit after my last post (10 things I love about Israel) made the blog stats jump from an average of two readers a day to eighteen (18!), I almost fell off the chair. Someone out there loves Israel, or loves to read something positive about Israel.
Since after love comes hate, I wonder what is going to happen with this post … A drop to minus ten in the stats? A wave of antisemitic comments? Censorship? Nothing?
Let’s face it: there are things I don’t like about life in Israel. Here are ten of them:
1. the yelling of life guards at the beach. Imagine the following: you are leisurely laying on one of Israel’s 143 beaches, reading your favorite paper or simply dozing off. What would you do if someone picked up a loud speaker and started yelling orders in a peremptory Hebrew? If you are a tourist, you would probably think that the much announced Iranian nuclear attack is finally about to take place. Wrong! It’s the voice of the lifeguard. From the heights of his wooden tower, he is the omniscient Father looking after us, relentless sunbathers and amateur swimmers. He will apostrophe everyone very loudly, and very specifically: “you, over there! the brunette with the striped swimming suit, who do you think you are? You are swimming too far: come back!” or “you boys laughing in group like first-graders! over there, yes! The waves are too high: get out!”. During summertime peaks, the speaker is on all the time. I know, lifeguards are stationed there to care for people – especially children, but I wish someone would came up with some other non-invasive warning system (electrical impulse retractile yo-yos? fish-style low frequency sound communication?).
2. the yelling at the yeshiva next door (especially around 2.30 pm, when I am drowsy with siesta feeling). This is something no owner would mention to potential tenants, and in fact, the owner did not. The first time I heard the screams, I thought someone was being attacked in the street. Then I dismissed it as a group of visiting patients from a mental institution. With no intention to offend, the loudness of certain group prayers are a bit confusing for the uninitiated. Sometimes I wish I was a fly to be able to see what goes on in there, that makes so much noise. Thanks God there is Shabbat, when all is quiet in the neighborhood (do “shh!” and Shabbat share the same onomatopoeic root? Mumble mumble).
2. Being asked if I underwent plastic surgery to my nose by a stranger in the bus. Ok this happened only once, but it made it to the chart as a paradigm of the amazing, quite intrusive, straightforwardness of Israelis. In Italian I would say Israelis suffers from “sfacciataggine“, which translates poorly as shamelessness, or nerve. They just say what they think, and very openly do so. For the chronicles, as I replied to the curious lady on the bus: no, I did not undergo plastic surgery of any kind, I just happen to have a very flat nose.
3. Hummus. No, I did not confuse with the love-list. Hummus is certainly a delicious treat, but I came to hate it, or better, to hate all the fuzz Israeli make about it. I used to enjoy hummus as an episodic side-dish while abroad, but now that hummus is all over the place, it lost its unique appeal to my eyes (and to my taste buds). Whenever I am in the old city of Jerusalem, I fear the moment hunger cramps will strike me, because I know what awaits me on the menu of every single restaurant within the walls: hummus. With its many variations: hummus with snowballs. Hummus with tehini. Hummus with fave beans. There is even hummus with hummus, which is actually hummus (cream) with hummus (beans). Yes, because if hummus simply means “chickpeas”, Israelis seem to ignore that there are many other creative ways to eat the round bean. Israelis will speculate for hours about the mystified puree, spending an incredible amount of energy deciding and arguing on where is the best hummus joint in Israel. I personally haven’t been able to make much difference between Abu Gosh hummus and Abu Asan’s. It must be like wine, whose subtleties can only fully be appreciated by fully devoted experts.
4. Tel Aviv in August. More humid than Bangkok. Hotter than Cairo. More sweaty than a Swedish sauna. This is Tel Aviv in August. Can only be survived by moving from one A/c place to the next (possibly via an A/C car).
5. Taste of tap water. I am an advocate of drinking tap water, for economic, ecological and logical reasons: I hate purchasing water as if it was somebody’s property, I hate the hassle of carrying the bottles home, I hate plastic waste. But what comes out of the tap in Israel is yakeeeeing tasting. For my stubbornness, I insist in drinking tap water by filtering with a Brita, but lately I became concerned not only with its taste, but with its allegedly dangerous components: high levels of nitrates and conspicuous addition of fluoride (to help combat dental caries, thank you very much). Anyway, professors and hydrologists will say that Israeli tap water is perfectly safe, healthy and clean (see this article on Jerusalem Post), so I guess I’ll just have to deal with the bad taste.
6. Bicycle lanes on sidewalks. It is a hard cohabitation, since lanes are not well signpost and not respected. It bothers me when I have to dribble pedestrians on my bike, as much as it bothers me when I am a pedestrian dribbled by bikes. The solution might be to pedal on the roadway itself, but to do so at your own risk (see post & statistics about the dreadful Israeli driving style)
7. SUVs in the city. What are all those jeeps doing in the cemented, flat premises of Tel Aviv? It is an unpractical, un-ecological and un-economical (am I making up words here?) choice, in a city which suffers from parking problems and traffic congestion. But hey, do I look cool in my oversized SUV, in this sort of tank which makes me invulnerable. Ok, it might be that there are a handful for people who do have to pickup large items (cows?) here and there, but I suspect that the average driver will chose a SUV to feel protected (n.1 Israeli concern), filthy rich (n.2 Israeli concern) and literally one meter above others. I remember once a person rolled down the windows to ask the proud owner of a giant SUV if it performed well on mixed terrain. “I have no idea“, candidly admitted the guy “ I have had it for two years but never drove it out of Tel Aviv“. Grrrrrhh!
8. Poor costumer service. Double Grrrrh. Why do I have to consume my nerves trying to get things done with Isreali customer services? My complains range from the unprofessional phone companies hot-lines, to info-point staff who have no clue, to sellers hardly raising their look from the newspaper they are so totally absorbed in. Once again, what can be a positive trait in the Israeli character, the over-present easygoing-ness, turns into a nightmare when applied into customer service scenarios. Yes, we are all brothers and sisters living the Zionist dream, but could you please make an effort and actually look at me??? I spent 45 minutes in an Orange telephone stand in Jerusalem bus station, trying to get the seller to help me charging 100 NIS worth credit I had just purchased there on a Orange SIM card I had not on me (she cut it off by saying it can only be done when calling from the SIM card itself, but after 45 minutes of harassing her she had to admit it wasn’t true and hand me the number to perform the simple operation – all this while compulsively SMS-ing her friends and annoyingly repeating “ma at roza mami?”). Why do I have to feel that customer service is performed like an act of pity, as if someone was doing a me favor to even listen to me – you know who you are.
9. Shoes. Israeli clothing fashion is cool and affordable, but for shoes… nada, I will have fly to Italy, unless I’ll settle down for squared pointed, cheap looking, Chinese plastic-made boots.
10. This post. I hate how I enjoyed writing it. It makes me think how much easier it is to complain than to show appreciation. I hate the idea to add hating fuel to the widely available hate for Israel. I hate to spit in the hands that feeds me. Eretz Israel, forgive me: I am still a good girl and I won’t reverse my Israeli citizenship application. These are minor flaws which can be dealt with, as long as you are armed with a good dose of patience and the wonderful tools of new age and meditation practice, widely available in Israel (maybe there is a correlation after all).