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My Israel Blues

There’s a longstanding joke in Israel. It goes like this. Q: Why don’t people have sex on the street in Tel Aviv? A: Because if they did, everyone would stop to butt in with their own opinion. "Why are you … Read More

By / November 10, 2009

There’s a longstanding joke in Israel. It goes like this.

Q: Why don’t people have sex on the street in Tel Aviv?

A: Because if they did, everyone would stop to butt in with their own opinion. "Why are you licking her there? If you bite her right below it, she’ll really love it!" "Nu, what’s wrong with you trying that position? Are you not even trying?" "Slap her ass like this (slap) and she’ll really love you for it!"

Like most jokes, there is some truth to it. Without a doubt, Israelis are the nosiest, most intrusive people on earth.

It started a few weeks after I moved to Israel. The owner of the local grocery store was a hyperactive, gregarious middle-aged Moroccan. His English is a mess; my Hebrew is minimal. But once I learned some vocabulary from work and figured out how to speak with the past and future tense, we were able to converse. Within three days of me having a 10-minute conversation with him, I was invited to his family’s home for Shabbat and asked if I wanted to go on a date with his daughter. He wanted to know how come I ate pork and why all American Jews – at least in his opinion – were of Polish ancestry. I came over for Shabbat dinner, but the daughter and me didn’t click. Next time, he asked if I was interested in dating his niece.

Meanwhile, while learning Hebrew, I was practicing my verbs at a cafe. The owner slammed his fist on the table in a friendly way and asked me why I was butchering his language. Then for the next 15 minutes, he sat down with me and my ulpan classmates to show us his proper, Holon arsim-style pronunciations. Meanwhile, the four patrons who came in for coffee during those 15 minutes were told to buzz off by the owner because "the Americans didn’t know what they were saying."

Another time, I went out into Tel Aviv to take photographs. About halfway through, a middle-aged guy grabs me by the shoulders in the street. He starts shouting at me that I’m using the wrong kind of camera for landscape shots and that I’m wasting my time with a lens that is only good for indoor use. In-between the rapid fire Hebrew bursts, I make out enough to understand that he runs a camera store. At the end of it, the guy hands me his business card.

The next day, I’m puzzling over the encounter with a few Israeli friends. We both agree that the camera guy was probably insane. However, they don’t understand why I was so upset. The insane Israeli camera salesman was just trying to help. Those Israelis. Always trying to help.

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