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Incidents that cry out: ‘They could only happen here’

Illustration by Denis Shifrin

Since coming to live in Israel how many times has an incident stopped you in your tracks, made you smile, and say: "That could only happen in Israel"? Many times, I'm sure, and it happens to me too.

My first time was a couple of years before aliya, on a pilot trip to Israel, a truly inspirational visit. A group of 35 prospective immigrants, we toured the country taking in historical sites, learning about job opportunities, considering the best place to live. On a visit to Jerusalem, just before approaching the Old City, the bus driver was about to turn into a street when he encountered a barricade across it. I thought nothing of it, assuming that the driver would find a different route, when he climbed down from his seat, removed the barrier and drove through, continuing on his way. Used to obeying the rules of the road, I was shocked - but welcome to Israel!

After six months at the Raanana Absorption Center, I bought my first apartment and moved to Ramat Gan. Neighbors were helpful providing me with information and tips regarding the neighborhood and, since I needed some electrical improvements, the phone number of an electrician who lived in the next building. Moshe was pleasant and quoted reasonable charges for the work. After looking around, he asked me where the television was. I explained that since I had only recently moved in I had not yet bought a TV as that was not a main priority. He completed his assessment, arranged to do the work within a few days and left. Ten minutes later a knock at the door signaled that Moshe had returned – carrying a small portable TV. "This is my spare set" he said. "You can use it until you buy your own."

Whilst living in Ramat Gan I often traveled on the crowded 61 bus, a long, extremely busy route. One morning a couple of teenage boys started to quarrel on the bus and within minutes the dispute threatened to turn nasty. The situation was becoming alarming when a man who was wearing a kippah made his way through the standing passengers towards them. He didn't say a word but stood in between them and didn't budge any further. His calm, tall presence soon had the desired effect and the friction subsided.

Taxi drivers are mostly a vociferous lot, full of opinions and comments, be it politics, weather, foreign places. I wasn't feeling too well one day, just a cold, but I felt miserable. After blowing my nose twice on my paper hanky, the driver turned around to give me a lecture on hygiene, explaining that he keeps a large packet of paper handkerchiefs with him always, and never blows his nose more than once on a tissue, because of all the germs. He remonstrated with me to do the same. I was just thinking that I could manage fine without his advice when he turned his head - and spat noisily out of the window.

I enjoy folk dancing and as it's a popular activity and Sefi's a great teacher. Often the class is crowded. One evening the lady dancing next to me tapped me sharply on the shoulder and said: "I've no room here at all; you need to move to the other circle."

The majority of residents at the retirement complex where I reside are charming and pleasant but regrettably, some are less so. I had to smile however, when I spotted one lady who always seems to look both serious and sad, on her way to a Purim party wearing a bright red wig and a jester's hat.

In England it's said that there's a pub on every corner and here in Israel it seems there is a synagogue on every corner and a school on many of the streets. Where I now live, in Ramat Aviv, it never fails to amuse me when I hear the tune the nearby school plays for break time – it's Jingle Bells. 



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Wednesday, 28 February 2024

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