Israel Stories

Friday, September 02, 2005

Eruv Rav – A Mixed Multitude

My first job in Israel was for a software development company. To this day I still haven’t worked out what the product really was, and I suspect nor did most of the people I used to work with, which is why two years after I started, the company crashed. Actually, thinking about it, I believe that three of the programmers understood the product.

I shared a room with two of them, with their colleague next door. My first day in the office I was introduced to the twenty something staff. My boss showed me to my computer and introduced me to my room mates. “This is Boris”, he announced, “and this is Boris as well”. “Who is in the room next door?” I asked, “oh, that’s Boris as well”. Now I have nothing against Russians, but my Ivrit was a little rusaty and my Russian no existent. What was I going to say, how was I going to integrate into a company where my closest colleagues were not only Russian but all called Boris!?!.

After some time I established from the human resources department that to avoid confusion, the three Borides had been given different names. With a sigh of relief I asked what their pseudonyms were. “Well the Boris to your right is called Boris Aleph, to your left is called Boris Bet and next door is Boris Gimmel.” She saw the look on my face and said, “as you’re new in Israel you can call them Boris A, Boris B and Boris C.” Great, I thought, I’ve made Aliyah to Leningrad.

The Borises and I got on famously, they were all very good company, shame the company wasn’t a very good company. As my Hebrew improved from pigeon to sparrow I began to understand some of their conversations. We talked politics, culture and how amazing it was that in one small company so many Diaspora communities were represented. Moscow, Leningdrad, Kiev, London, Bagdad, some obscure Yemeni town and an even more obscure Albanian village. What a melting pot of Jews.

One day I entered our room to be met with rapturous laughter. The three Borises were sitting, a small bottle of vodka lay empty on the floor and empty shot glasses rested on top of the computer monitors, lined up like some fairground game. It was Boris B or Bets birthday. I large semi demolished chocolate cake lay melting by the window and chocolate covered finger prints replaced the lettering on my computer.

“Ahh”, a collective wail rose, “Jeremy, shev, shev, (sit, sit)”. Boris A stood up, “I Chav joke for you”, “two Russians on street in Moscow, one enquires ov friend, tell comrade, vat vatch chav you, da friend tells comrade, oh so you study English in Leningrad to”! “Its much funny, no?” “very funny Boris, tell me where did you learn your English?” Boris looked down and whispered, “In Leningrad”.

Two years to the day, and I remember because we celebrated Borises birthday again, the whole company assembled in the boardroom. Boris B stood up and announced he had a joke he wanted to tell us in English. Everyone sat attentively, I braced myself as Boris began his joke. “Two men meet in Moscow, one asks the other what the time is, the other man says, oh, so you also learnt English in Leningrad.” Absolute silence. Some have blamed the company’s demise solely on Boris’s joke, but in the melting pot that is Israel we are all in it together.


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