Israel Stories

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Security Guard

She grabbed my hair and gave it a yank, mustering all her strength to scalp me. I felt the follicles protest as my hair held on for all it was worth. I could hear the follicles yelling “I know he’s Jewish but he’s gonna keep his hair beyond 40!” Luckily for me she released her grip and tried to pull my nose and upper lip off instead. What is it with babies and the need to disfigure whoever they come in grabbing distance of?

My baby thinks great, her comes Abba, let’s try and pull his nose off. Let’s see how far my little figures with the razor sharp nails can penetrate his nostrils, and if we’re lucky draw blood! Bless her she’s only 7 months, but already familiar with all the great rugby moves.

My wife tells me it’s all about learning so I stuck my finger up her nose and learnt that if you stick your finger up your wife’s nose without her consent you get a slap. She was right!

So what’s my point? Well the other day I saw a security guard wrestling some one to the ground. Needless to say the Spetsnatz training came in handy and within two seconds the offender was on the ground one arm bent impossibly behind his back and his head pulled back while the security guard held great tufts of his hair. As the inevitable crowd of onlookers migrated to the scene to observe and offer their opinions, one woman congratulated the guard on the way he had totally incapacitated the offender by puling his hair back. I casually joked that my 7 month old could do the same. Mr. Spetsnatz, didn’t find it funny and likened me to a person whose mother was a female dog, in surprisingly good English.

“All I meant”, I dug deeper “was that my baby really knows how to pull hair, it just reminded me, your man must be in a lot of pain”.

The police arrived and the crowd dispersed, except for me. As I left to go about my business being a model citizen, my legs, shoulders and head turned to go but my arm didn’t move. I realized that my arm was attached to a huge hand, which in turn was attached to a black bomber jacket, which in turn was being worn by a very determined security guard.

“I work #*%$^ hard” he shouted, “I don’t need @#$% like you taking the *$%#%#!!!” (I’m not drunk but the words he used are not really fit for print).

“Look, I’m really sorry, I know you work harder than any of us appreciate, I was just passing comment at the strength of my baby, not that you in anyway resemble or act like my or anybody else’s baby.”

That seemed to pacify him.

He looked at me, his head cocked to the side and with a deep and meaningful Clint Eastwood sort of croaking, final line of the movie, said to me “you know I have a baby to, she also pulls hair, but she’s no match for me, she only learns, I teach!”

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Swimmer

From: "Olly Goldstein"
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2005 5:07 PM
Subject: [Modiin] Forget about Pools........Stop asking why don't we have a pool!!!!

Yes I too would like a pool, a place for little Jamie to learn to swim......I too have numerous comments about Holmes Place that would get me thrown of the list and are definitely not appropriate reading by any means..........but for those mails that are undoubtedly about to start getting sent to the list in the next week from people sick of reading mails from us who are complaining of chlorine-withdrawal symptoms, complaining that people should stop going on about pools, it's been discussed enough etc, etc........that they're sick of reading "why doesn't Modi'in have a pool"
emails..........then let me ask them what I asked a year ago, let me put again to the council a much more pressing matter, much closer to my that I had full belief would be sorted out in the future when I decided to start a family in the holy land and in Israel.......a time where I looked at other cities and thought Modi'in would be the same one day, yet after standing up and asking nobody has taken me seriously, and still the council has not done anything with my complaint/request, allow me to release my frustration yet again upon this list by asking the question we all should be asking, which is "why hasn't Modi'in got a beach"?????


After all........lots of cities in Israel me, I've been to them, I've got the sunburn, had the ice-cream, and I've seen the beaches in tourist guides and everything, seriously, if you don't believe me a simple trip to Steimatzky will show you

Does this council not consider its residents at all.

I mean come on!! So many of us came from abroad, we love the sun, we love the beach, our kids love the beach, so while you're busy listening to me Mr. politician dude, and building my lovely beach (preferably one that has soft sand, but not too soft to build a castle with), would you please get off that shwarma-created posterior region and build me a sea too?

Why create a train station to join up Modi'in to the rest of the country?
Let's just join up the sea!!

Then the country doesn't have to spend billions on trains, security and all that balagan, we can all have our own surfboards (and yes, much more eco-friendly) and we'll all live happily ever after in our yellow submarine elegantly known as Modi'in

Then who will need a swimming pool?

Surfs up dudes!!!!!!!!!!!

(For all those agree, come on, let's get rid of our orange flags, our blue flags, and we'll hang little pirate flags with skulls and crossbones out our windows. Any volunteers wishing to take part in handing out said flags on the 443, please note - compulsory uniforms are Bermuda shorts, sunglasses and a white blob of sun cream at the end of your nose).

The Vest

On the first of January, New Years Day as we sentimentally call, while the civilized world slept it off, and while the Scots were bracing themselves for day two of celebrations, a new law came into effect in Israel – the Yellow Vest Law.

As of the first all drivers are required to keep a florescent yellow vest in the car, to be worn in an emergency situation or breakdown on the highway. The reason is, as with cyclists, if you wear florescent yellow you are more visible to motorists and therefore less likely to be run over when you’re changing a tire on the highway.

I think you’re just a better target.

My fellow citizens have taken this law very seriously. Every time someone stops on the highway for any reason, on goes the jacket. People here stop at the roadside for a number of reasons, not just because their car has broken down. I’ve decided we should have a range of vests in different colors depending on the reason for stopping and leaving your vehicle.

The most common reason for leaving your car should require a pale yellow (unless you are dehydrated) or brown jacket. I think you may be able to guess that one.

Next is the green and blue with red and yellow stripes for map readers.

Then there is the white with black stripes for those who feel it necessary to stop and pray on the hard shoulder instead of doing so before they leave or when they arrive.

There is the vest with matching picnic set for Israelis that can’t wait to eat, the off-road 4X4 vest for those drivers looking for a gap in the fence to drive on the other side of the barrier and miss the traffic, the black and yellow stripped vest for the same drivers who drive down the hard shoulder in a traffic jam (possibly the most annoying thing on the road) and Orange, Blue and Red vests for political affiliation.

The worst thing of all is all the super cool people who hang their vests round the back of their seats. I don’t know why this annoys me but it does. I suppose they think their either street cleaners or police. In other words they are subject to abuse, are in a thankless job and are generally very unpopular.

My last word on the matter is I hope I never have to wear the yellow vest.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Commando

Cats, I used to tolerate them. But Israel has changed all that. I absolutely hate them and would not hesitate in making life as unpleasant for them as I could. If you’re an animal lover I’d stop reading now.

A few months ago I arrived home to be greeted by a strange aroma in my front garden. I couldn’t quite identify it but is smelled like extreme damp. Coincidentally and probably attracted by the prospect of damp, my plumber walked passed the house so I called him in for a consult.

“Sorry mate, it’s not the damp you were expecting, smells like you have a resident cat whose marked his territory.” “We’ll see about that”, I grumbled. No cat was using my garden as a toilet.

To combat the growing rat population in Palestine, the British introduced cats, and now they are a plague. Thanks to my fellow countrymen I have one of those cats’ grandchildren using my garden as a lavatory.

Armed with a hose I set up watch. The smell was getting to me but it was worth the wait. In he came, sliding under the gate and on to the grass, then suddenly whoosh, my hose let rip and the cat bolted, but like some war beaten veteran, I continued spraying until the cat was out of site. Then I sprayed the garden down until the smell had dissipated.

Next day the cat was back with a mate. Two soaked cats scampered out the garden. Meanwhile what I didn’t know was that a second platoon cats had set up a base camp in my back garden. I only found out when one of my kids stood in something unpleasant.

I cant cope I thought. I cant be in two places at once. But tried running from the front to the back spraying anything that moved.

Suddenly I was in Apocalypse Now. “You smell that? Do you smell that? Water, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of water in the morning. You know, one time we had a garden bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' cat body. The smell, you know that water smell, the whole hill. Smelled like... victory. Someday this war's gonna end...” Yet for me it had just begun

My hose was my M16, a good cat is a wet cat, I mused. Then they appeared. Black, white and ginger. The whole gang. I had learned from last time and set up some traps. First I sprinkled pepper by the gate. Black was out of the race but white and ginger pushed on. Then there was the lemon juice, guaranteed to set any cat off. Ginger was off, just white, mean white. “Darling”, my wife called, “why have you painted your face green and black?” “If I don’t make it,” I replied “tell the kids I love them. I’m going in”.

“Do you feel lucky, punk…?” I mumbled. White looked up to receive a blast of icy water. As he turned to go, another blast. He wont be walking with his tail up for the next few days.

Then I heard a fight at the back. I quickly sprayed lemon juice and pepper mix over the garden and ran to the back. Hose plugged in, water ready, I edged my way along the wall and rounded the corner to see two cats going at each other like two women on stock day in Fox. “Ok Ladies, drink this”. A squirt of lemon juice followed by a blast of water. And that was that.

Then white was back, sliding along the back wall. Whoosh. “Have you had enough White”, I shouted “or do you want some more?”

White never came back, nor black or ginger. I get this vague satisfaction now when I see cat road kill.

They are all part of creation but exactly what roll they play has yet to be determined. My grass will recover, I suppose, but the cats won’t be back.

Who am I kidding?

The Meteorologist

“Terrible wind”, he said to me in a gruff Chasidic voice, you know the accent, W’s become V’s and everything else is a mumble of unintelligence mastered after years of whispering prayers and revising Talmud. “Yes”, I replied, and kept my thoughts to myself, anyway he wouldn’t have found a wind joke funny.

We both stood on the street assuming the Bet Shemesh wind position, one hand on your head to stop your kippa, hat or other head covering from blowing over to Syria, Lebanon, Jordon, Saudi Arabia or the sea depending on wind direction, the other hand left free for speaking with.

When I finally returned home, wind swept, streaming eyes, no kippa that had long gone and is probably at this moment being worn by some Saudi prince, my wife presented me with a list of chores to complete since Hurricane Sharon had swept our little corner of the world. Clear the leaves from the garden, repair the fence, make sure the front gate locks, tie up the Rimon tree that appears to want to join your kippa in Saudi, I think the toilet is leaking and wash up from breakfast.

First job, the thankless and pretty futile exercise of clearing the leaves in a cyclone. With a black plastic bin liner, rake and broom I set to work. Methodically and meticulously I started clearing the garden, first the flower beds, then the grass and finally the path. As I was just finishing the final section of the path I looked up to see my Chasidic pal from earlier walking up the steps to my house.

“Terrible wind”, he said to me in a gruff Chasidic voice, you know the accent, W’s become V’s and everything else is a mumble of unintelligence mastered after years of whispering prayers and revising Talmud. “Yes”, I replied, and kept my thoughts to myself, anyway he wouldn’t have found a wind joke funny. I had to repeat that because it’s the way it happened.

“I think”, he continued “it might get worse and we may even get some rain”. Now there is only one nation on earth that makes a habit of incessantly and obsessively talking about the weather and that is my nation, Great Britain, the United Kingdom, The Center of the Empire, this Sceptered Isle, Pastures Green and of course White Hart Lane. “Never knew wind like this in London”, he said, confirming my suspicions. “No”, I said, waiting for the pleasantries to be over so he could ask for money for his yeshivah and I could refuse on the grounds that I only had a credit card and no cash or cheques. “I have come collecting for Nachal Haredi” (The armies ultra religious unit).

I dropped the bag of leaves which spread like our exiles to the four corners of the earth, stunned, shocked and with a ‘well this doesn’t happen everyday ‘ look on my face I reached for my wallet.

“You see those clouds up there, they are called (forgive me if I cant remember the word he used) that is a sign of low air pressure, its going to get colder and will rain either tonight of tomorrow”.

“Know lot about the clouds do you?” I asked out of genuine interest. “I used to work for the meteorological office when I lived in the UK”, he answered “Then”, he continued “I looked above the clouds to the heavens and here I am”, and he smiled.

With that he thanked me for my donation to Israel’s Haredi army unit, turned and left. “Oh, by the way”, he shouted over his shoulder, “I think you should tie up your Rimon tree and did you know your not wearing a kippa? Terrible wind!”

The Doctor

As I stood shivering, trousers down around my ankles, the doctor, in his usual gruff and unfriendly voice simply looked over to me and barked “card!”. I bent down to retrieve my medical card from my trouser pocket now located on the floor next to the doctors table leg. He swiped my card through his reader and immediately my medical history popped up in from of him on the computer screen.

“What’s the problem?” the doctor asked. “Well”, I started, I have a really bad pain here”, I pointed to my thigh. “I think it’s a hernia”.

“Pull down your shorts, lets get a better look”, the doctor ordered. Now, I have by no means led a sheltered life but at the same time don’t just drop my shorts for anyone. “Is it really necessary?” I asked. The doctor looked up at me. “If it wasn’t necessary I wouldn’t ask you, do you think for moment I want to waist my time?”

I figured that was a rhetorical question and didn’t answer. Instead I dropped my shorts and winced as the doctors cold hands manhandled me. “Cough!” he ordered, and then worked his hand around my thigh “I’m not very impressed”, the doctor commented as I pulled up my shorts. “S, s, sorry?” I stammered wondering what on earth he was talking about. “I am not very impressed with your diagnosis of a hernia. You have a pulled muscle, probably did it in your sleep. I also think you have a trapped nerve which we can manipulate”.

“Do you enjoy your work?” I asked the doctor as he completed typing in his notes. “I wouldn’t do it unless I did”, he growled. “Fair enough”, I said and finished fastening my belt.

“You’re sticking out” he said. “What?” I asked in a sort of nervous time to get out here voice. “You’re sticking out, if they get caught in your zip, they could get cut off and then you’d be in trouble.” “Is that so”, I nearly cried, “I can’t feel anything” I said as my hand moved nervously south, and I thought ‘is it too late’?

“Your Tzizit, man!” The doctor shouted, “be careful or they’ll get sliced off.”

Relief, yes I think that’s the word, relief.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Taxi Driver

I’ve never been shot in the foot before and never been slapped in the face with a wet fish. I have never accepted bribes and never been convicted of murder, manslaughter or J-walking. I have never run over a cat, killed an animal out of pure sadistic pleasure or cut my own hair. I have never eaten food out of a rubbish bin, flown an airplane or crashed a motor bike into a flaming pile of tires.

But I know a man who has and more. Of course I don’t believe a word of it, but when I’m stuck for conversation in a particularly boring social gathering I can always rely on, we’ll call him Itzik, to bail me out of those long and unbearable silences with your wife’s friend’s husbands.

Itzik has helped me escape the PDA comparison conversation, the ‘I do all my work in XHTML’ boring, boring, boring, conversation and the “I’m a lawyer and work to midnight every day’ bragging.

So when I am stuck with sad lawyer or uninteresting programmer I retell one of Itziks many fantastic stories. One day its Itzik the once millionaire from LA, another its Itzik the goldmine owner in South Africa, Itzik running from the Chicago mob or Itzik the stock broker who was actually responsible for Bearings downfall.

Actually I like the one called Itzik the delusions of grandeur sad taxi driver.

Itzik is not of this planet, at least mentally. You can already imagine what he looks like because you’ve met him, either her in the Holy Land or on the streets of New York. He’s shortish, long curly hair, dark skin, plenty of gold to make the world go ‘bling’ and he knows everybody, has done everything and is owed money by the world richest and most notorious.

With his sandals, flared jeans and shirt open for business right down to his carefully trimmed speedo line, Itzik drives his little Skoda as though he were Michael Schummacher driving a burning Farrari waiting for the nuclear engine to blow Bet Shemesh off the map. He takes great joy in watching pedestrians dive for cover as he mounts the pavement just to get the edge on some car driving slowly twice the speed limit.

He is, as we say in the UK, a complete and utter nutter. But he is also the most incredible resource for the incredible. His imagination could put Jules Verne, Arthur C Clarke, Stephen King and Umberto Eco to shame. He has been there and done it all, wherever there is of course because there is somewhere located deep inside in his sub, subconscious.

I like Itzik and in some ways I am jealous of him. For one thing he doesn’t care what he says, when he says it and to who. He is so happy and content in his own little world that the real world doesn’t bother him and probably has no meaning. For him the world is his cab, the streets of Israel and wherever his mind carries him.