Israel Stories

Friday, September 02, 2005

To Tree or Not To Tree

Jews in general, but especially Israelis are always fond of a ‘metziah’ that great deal, the two for one offer, the extra 50% and the all encompassing end of season sale. They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but to an Israeli that expression is as alien as ‘thank you’ or ‘excuses me’.

To an Israeli if its not locked up its probably free. Leaning against a newsstand an Israeli will have no problem picking up a paper, read it and replace it when he’s finished. Supermarkets lose thousands of shekels because of shoppers munching on fruit and vegetables (especially dried fruit and nuts). When stopped and questioned a shopper will generally reply, “you don’t expect me to but this without tasting it first”, as the last chicken bone falls from his mouth.

When questioned, some Israelis believed that buses were free. For years they were entering the bus through the rear door and never passing the driver, consequently they were never asked to pay. One old man was arrested for shoplifting. He thought it illogical that after all the blood and sweat he spilt in establishing the State, fighting in countless wars and skirmishes and paying such huge taxes, he should now be asked to pay for food. “They should be paying me”, he shouted.

Of course not all Israelis are shoplifters and petty criminals, but there is an inherent ‘you owe it to me’ attitude, especially to the Sabra (born and bread Israelis) as opposed to the Anglo community. The secret to success in this country is not to be a ‘frier”. Frier is a hard word to translate it means someone who allows themselves to be ‘taken for a ride’. The general rule is - never assume and always ask.

Each Xmas eve the Israeli people are tested in the cruelest way. The government supplies the Christian community with free Xmas trees. Yes, there’s that word - FREE.
The Israeli public goes mad. Why doesn’t the government supply free olive oil, candles and channukiot (menorah). Why doesn’t the government supply free Matzot and cheesecake?

I am sure Mr. Netanyahu did his sums when deciding the annual budget and realized that a few thousand trees was a more economically sound option than millions of boxes of matzah. But the Israeli people beg to differ. I am willing to bet that more Israelis have Xmas trees than Christians have burning channukiot.

The papers carried a story of Tamir. Tamir was one such Israeli who journeyed to Jerusalem to collect his tree. The man in charge of Xmas tree distribution questioned his Christian authenticity. What do you want me to do, Mr. Torquemada? How would you like me to prove I’m Christian. Tamir then proceeded to unzip his trousers, much to the concern of the genuine Christian crowd. That wont be necessary, cried the man. So, can I have a tree or not, shouted Tamir. Show me your ID. Tamir produced his ID. It stated his religion as Jewish. What, a Jew can’t celebrate Xmas? What sort of a country is this? What about my human rights? Sir, what will you be using the tree for? For Xmas of course. Yes I realize that but what are you going to do with it. Tamir was silent. Picked up his mobile phone, dialed a number, spoke briefly and then hung. Tamir looked up and with a big smile answered, eat it of course.


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