Every time I come to Israel, I feel like there are more and more things that stand out to me as "only in Israel" kind of experiences. I think it's staying in an apartment and not a hotel that aids to this experience, but also schlepping around and seeing Israelis and experiencing the life that really makes these things stand out. There are moments when I'm actually saying to myself, "Good lord, this would never happen in New York!" ... Let alone Teaneck, New Jersey.
I mean, we complain about keeping kosher in the U.S., but here it's a ridiculous experience trying to buy a jar of mustard in the store let alone figure out which booths at the shuk are good for spices or loose-leaf tea. It's funny how the te'udot (the document that explains a restaurant or booth's kosher affiliation) have changed since December when Tuvia and I were here last. I still can't manage to tell the difference between Kosher L'Mehadrin and Rabbanut. Yes, I know, I should just read the documents, but, when you're being shoved around by a hundred other people trying to buy tomatoes, it's kind of hard to stop and smell the roses and analyze a document hanging high above a wall under which is a man yelling for you to buy his delicious, red agvaniot.
Things that happen only in Israel?
- You take a shower and soak the entire bathroom floor. Why? Well, either the shower doors aren't really shower doors, or the Israeli folks behind the bathroom's construction expect that small tilt in the floor to do the job. Of course, there's always the gigantic squeegee.
- Your feet, the floor, and everything else is perpetually dirty, no matter how much time you spend cleaning (with the squeegee, of course).
- Leaving your door open for a nice cross-breeze means stray cats think you're inviting them in for a visit.
- A man will sit on the stairs outside your apartment screaming at the top of his lungs into a cellphone -- wearing a kippah and cursing, that is -- without a care in the world. And no one, not a single person, screams out the window "SHUT UP!"
- Another man (or maybe the same one) will walk down your street coughing as though the world's largest hairball has found its way into his mouth, again, of course, without a care in the world. (The word "restraint" must not exist here.)
- People on the street move for no one -- not the elderly, not babies, nothing. You can say slicha (excuse me) a million times, and they won't budge. Not even IDF soldiers! Call me old fashioned, but ...
- Strangers will speak to you freely, willingly, saying whatever is on their mind or asking you any kind of information.
- People don't know the next street over. Unless they live on it, they can't tell you where it is. Especially in Nachlaot.
- People will push, shove, and knock you down to get to the Kotel on a holiday. They'll watch you freaking out, being crushed in a crowd, when they know that there is no room to move forward or backward, watching children be crushed in a crowd, and they will continue to push and push and push until you're forced to freak out in a way that you've never freaked out before. I will never forget the word for stroller (agalah), and I will never forget the nice EMT who once-upon-a-time lived in Memphis, TN.