Accepting things for what they are: On Israeli chutzpah, omniscience, empathy and the sense of joint responsibility

The last few weeks (months actually) became more than increasingly busy for me and finding time to write presents itself to be a serious challenge. Whatever I write in the meantime, when by brain is overactive cannot, of course, and should not be published for the public eye to see. It has, however, been an extremely interesting time, especially due to the long-awaited visit of my mum, who, despite her dislike for any sort of flying and long-distance travelling, overcame her fears to come and visited her oldest daughter – me.

I am sure I must have waited for her visit more than I can presently remember, because now that she is gone again I threw myself back into work and activities deliberately exhausting myself to the point where I can’t really think and simply aim to push myself, physically and mentally, consequently dropping dead on my bed and sleeping. We had an amazing time. Apart from the fact that my mother sleeps less than I (and I can by easily classified as mildly insomniac) we walked across Israel on foot, seeing all there was to be seen and experiencing the life buzzing on every street. I had doubts about how much mum will fall in love with Israel, but my fears proved to be too far-stretched. Following the walk around Beersheva and meeting my friends she told me that she understood why I wanted to live here. I thought to myself that if she loved Israel after seeing only Beersheva we had high chances that she would never leave once she saw the rest. Without any shadow of doubt, Jerusalem is my mum’s city. The moment we got off the bus she turned around and told me that the air was different there. I took her to all my beloved places and we immersed ourselves in the Machane Yehuda Market feeding our mutual passion for food. One thing about Israel she has never experienced in such vast quantity, she said, was an overwhelming number of such heart-warming and caring people. Of course mostly everyone was purely shocked to learn that we were at all related and thus they were even more friendly, just to have enough time to examine our case; as it turned out, mostly people thought that I was my mum’s madricha (which was true in a way). I had a job of translating between three languages and more often than required caught myself using the wrong language with the wrong people. Nevertheless, mum got presents for simply being my mum and she very much enjoyed the fact of shocking people at every step we met new people. Being with my mum and trying to see Israel with her eyes reminded me of what is so special about this place.

Just to give a couple of examples, the first thing about Israel is that everyone think they know things best i.e. better than you. Few weeks ago I was on the bus from Jerusalem to Beersheva and the bus driver informed us en route that the bus was on diversion due to the night run in the destination city – Beersheva. Half of the bus decided that the run must have ended by the time we got to the city and so there should be no problem driving through. They all sat around the driver persistently convincing him that by then he should be surely able to continue driving to the Central Bus Station. The driver didn’t look convinced, but also didn’t know where exactly he should turn so he easily gave in to the idea. By the time we got to the heart of the town, it was obvious that the road was still blocked by which point everyone wanted to make sure that the diverted bus drove closer to their homes. An elderly gentleman sat next to me. He had white hair and a confused gaze. I would not believe him, if he said he was a man. He did however insist that he was the authority in the field of the topography of Beersheva and he alone knew how to successfully divert the bus to the station. Needless to say he had no clue where we were going. Eventually other passengers noticed that there was something on the matter and began arguing which way the bus should turn, left or right. The left side won and the bus driver directed the vehicle into the road which became narrower and narrower making it increasingly apparent that the choice was not one of the most successful ones. Suddenly, one of the passengers demanded for the bus to be halted and he alighted. A terrible thought came upon the driver that he was used to drive that man home. If it wasn’t enough, problems intensified. The confused mob of passengers began shouting different suggestions. The elderly chap with the confused gaze continued grunting and waving his hands. I exploded and told them that, despite living in Beersheva for only few months, I knew we were going the wrong direction. My outburst was muffled and I decided to give up listening to grunts and shouts ordering the driver to turn into three different directions (yes, including the U-turn). Finally he couldn’t bare it any more and yelled: Chevre! What the hell are you doing! One person speaks!

And so it continued. One passenger indeed got the bus to the station, but not the coach station – the bus station. We all alighted, honestly not knowing how else we could be of help, still generally pleased that we could finally leave the coach. I heard the driver lamenting about not being able to access the correct platform and saw someone comforting him. I must say the destination was reached, with a minor detail of the bus driver left at the wrong station.

This is just a small example of how omniscient people can be, even though, I think, they know in their hearts of hearts that they may not know everything. When I was waiting for my mum at the airport last week I noticed a young woman setting up a normally obscure table in the cafeteria with a prettily crocheted white table cloth, roses, a bottle of red wine, two wine glasses and two candles. She had been waiting for her ‘date’ for a long time and eventually people began coming to her table, touching the items and reorganising them. Every now and then I saw her dashing back to the table and telling them to back off. It didn’t have a desired effect, clearly, especially when one couple saw the table and decided to sit down there and enjoy the wine. They were also told to leave. It did however make me think of either short-sightedness in these people’s approach or just a pure Israeli chutzpah. It was clear someone made it special for whoever they were waiting for. If that couple didn’t take part in organising that table, what made them think that they were entitled to sit there? And who asked those two men to reorganise the poor girl’s table? I am asking these questions knowing that there are no answers. It’s just how it is here. Everyone feels they are an integral part of everything that is happening around them and feel no remorse in interfering with your affairs at any time convenient for them, quite clearly due to a certain level of boredom as well as pure human empathy – they really think they can do better than you and they feel for you that you are, sadly and irrevocably, not as brilliant as them.

When I told my head-teacher that after the program I am moving to Jerusalem, she was shocked. She told me that I would not go anywhere. She has already thought of a job for me and a nice man I should marry. Needless to say her words, however much I love that woman, made me even more determined to complete the move as soon as possible.

All these aspects of the Israeli personality are also what makes these people so adorable; and this is clearly what my mum saw. My doctor, for example, got out of her way to find the best treatment for my symptoms after I insisted and refused to take regular pharmaceuticals. She asked me to come after her regular working hours and sat down with me, looked online for natural remedies and then spent time looking through her list state-approved medicines, singling out those she could prescribe for me thus consequently saving me some money.

More recently, a picture of a university professor holding his student’s baby has been circulating in social media. In contrast to Britain for example, where you either had a family or studied and no one was allowed to bring their children to the lecture, such thing is perfectly normal in Israel. This country is so crazy about everyone’s babies that when the baby in question began crying, the professor took it from it’s mother and continued the lecture holding it as if nothing happened. These things really only happen in Israel.

I could talk about each example for hours, really, because it is really heart-warming to think about such community despite it’s problems. There is one cardinal, but informal rule: if it’s not forbidden, it’s allowed and you make sure you do what you want before you ask, if you can. In fact, you don’t ask, you just wait for someone to come and tell you that are not allowed to do the specific think you have been happily occupying yourself with. If no one comes, your action was granted an unspoken recognition and you can enjoy that loophole until someone else comes in and tells you that you are not allowed to do such and such after all, at which point you need to argue that you have been allowed so far, so what, suddenly, the problem is. While you are arguing, you should, by rule, continue doing what you have so far, as long as you are presented with an actual legislation specifically forbidding you to perform the activity in question.

Oh and another thing, before I fall asleep, nothing waits for people here. Even if you refuse to do anything, things will happen twice as quickly and you will be left behind. There is no rest in Israel unless you come here for holiday. It is however, an extremely vibrant and a loving place, full with idiosyncrasies, but an enchanting top of the world. And yes, because of that, my mum is coming back very soon.


2 thoughts on “Accepting things for what they are: On Israeli chutzpah, omniscience, empathy and the sense of joint responsibility

  1. IT is nice to read your point of view about things here. it reminds me what i love-hate so much about this country and how thing taken as natural are not always so clear if y can adopt new comer’s point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mony. It is a love-hate relationship I must say. We love things that are great and despise unnecessary difficulties. Sometimes it’s hard to balance the two, but also, as humans, have the incredible capacity of finding positives in all negatives. After all a negative thing is just an extension of a positive thing.

    I think it’s much harder to acclimatise in Israel if one compares it to where they came from. I dropped my British way of thinking the moment I landed, quite happily forgetting everything that I had to learn within the last 10 years of living in London. Cheerfully I returned to my old self, sadly also dropping the level of my patience.

    The thing is, there are things in life that one has no choice but to wait for, so… why on Earth do I have to wait so long for the traffic light to change?! 🙂


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