Israel Stories

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A World of Difference.

There is an old joke told many different ways about a British Airways plane that was just taxing off the runway at Heathrow on a cold December day. The captain flicks on the com-link and announces “welcome to Heathrow Airport, for all those of you celebrating Christmas, have very Merry Christmas and happy new year, for those of you celebrating Chanukah, would you please sit down until the plane has come to a total stop and the seat belt sign has been turned off. Or the other version, “to all those sitting down merry Christmas and to all those standing up, happy Chanukah.”

It’s Israeli culture to break the civilized worlds’ rules and regulations. Etiquette, the art nurtured for thousands of years by the Europeans, never really filtered to our tiny country on the eastern Mediterranean. To the Israeli’s the word ‘please’ is someone who stops you on the highway for speeding and the word ‘thanks’ is something you use to defend your northern border with.

Contrary to popular belief Israelis do use the word ‘sorry’. Generally its ‘sorry America, please can we have our loan guarantees’ and ‘sorry UN for trying to defend ourselves’!

Talking of the UN, did you know they are the body for standardizing all traffic symbols like the ‘no entry’ sign or the ‘one way street’? The Israelis, as with everything else the UN does, are the body who ignores all these signs. I think the Israeli incapacity to grasp standard instructions like traffic lights, for example, must be a result of the all the wars we have fought. Code red means mobilize, code green means return, or red means go and green means stop, simple really.

Israelis, and Jews, for that matter, are not just instructionally challenged but they are challenged by global normality, the accepted ways of the world. In the autumn the whole of the Northern Hemisphere stays inside awaiting winter, even the animals seek shelter, hibernate or simply dig in. What do we do, build rickety huts, make sure the roof leaks and live in them for 7 days. In the summer when everyone else is preparing for their summer holidays what do we do, declare three weeks of mourning with two fasts, the second being the saddest day of the year.

It’s in our very genes to be different. That’s how we’ve survived. We have never fitted in; if we had we would have disappeared long ago, assimilated into the nations, our history and culture would have been long abandoned, long forgotten like the Philistines or the Hittites.

So what if we stand up when we’re supposed sit, so what if we make a noise when we are supposed to be quiet (unless its during the Rabbis sermon), so what if we say white when the world says black and so what if we try to survive when the world tells us not to.


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