Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Life Is Good But Hard

To end the day at the Herzlia beach is to put a cherry on the sundae.

An excellent day spent experiencing the Land of Israel. As my people are already bored of hearing me say, one of my favorite things to do in Israel is to get small tasks done. I annoy, make people laugh, curse, whatever. I walk the land, trying to absorb the essence of Israel.

Israel has a special talent for developing complex systems of getting things done, as well as not doing things. This idea confronted me when I went shopping with my daughter at a local market. To get a shopping basket I needed a five Shekel coin to free the cart from the other carts – perhaps an anti-theft system, with the belief that a thief would not have a five Shekel coin.

I didn’t have the coin, so I went to the cashier and asked for change. She sent me to the customer service desk, which was unattended, and a sour-faced pensioner waited with a bag of items presumably to demand satisfaction from the management.

“We don’t need no stinkin’ cart,” I told the daughter. We then began to collect our items. A deli lady gave us a bag, which helped out immensely.

At the checkout line the man in front of us sent the cashier, a Russian woman in her sixties, to inquire for special brand of cigarettes. She came back after a bit and totaled the bill. “I forgot my money,” he said, slowly walking out the door. The cashier sighed and said we had to wait.

This gave us ample time to chat. “How long are you in the country?” she asked. “Two weeks,” I said, forgetting that this was a question about how long I had lived in Israel, as we were speaking Hebrew. The real question’s level of complication is similar to a word problem on the SAT. Somehow we moved beyond this.

We then had an Ulpan moment when she and the woman behind us in line all shared our views about life in Israel. “A special place,” I said. “Life here isn’t bad, but hard,” the woman said. Even the daughter got in on the fun, helping me out as I fumbled the words for olive brine.

Perhaps more/less fun was getting the passes to use the pool in the building where we are renting an apartment. I had to call Amiran and ask for the passes. He told me to go to the building’s office at a certain time.

I arrived at the office and found Moshe the superintendent and Amiran’s wife, who explained to me that that they shouldn’t have to issue pool cards every time someone rented the apartment. So I would pay 60 Shekels, and they would write the cards in the landlord’s name. Then I would be reimbursed when I returned the cards to the landlord at the end of my stay.

“You must give the cards to the gatekeeper. She will hold the cards while you swim and return them to you when you are done,” Moshe said.

Then came the issue of guests, assuming my relatives ever wanted to sit with us. As each resident in the building received only 15 guest passes each year, it would be unfair to issue any at all to us. A compromise was reached in that we would receive a handwritten note from the office should the issue of guests arise.

Finally the cards were written and laminated. But instead of swimming in the pool we went to the beach.

היום בירושלים

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