Matilda, I'm home.

Hey, I’m all the way down here. We left Israel on Tuesday night, stopped in Hong Kong and landed in Melbourne on Thursday morning. I don’t know if Wednesday even existed at all. I certainly don’t know how many sleepless hours I spent on two long flights.

Here is my experience up until I landed, in photos:


Sizing up the destination.

That annoying flight map thing, except going the other way.
All my money; if only the 20 and the 100 were reversed.
Hong Kong dollars and cents.
Hong Kong airport residents.
Hong Kong airport literature (look closely).
First stop in Oz. What did you expect?

Happy Burnout-avoidance Month.

So the Nesher just called telling us that we have a few more minutes until they arrive to take us to the airport; that’s impressive since Nesher is the only Israeli establishment that does anything early (especially when you’re running late).

We’re off to Australia for the next month. It’s a badly needed life-vacation/ nationality-break/ burnout-avoidance for both of us. It’s my first time going down there (shhh, what did you think?) and it’s an awesome feeling knowing I’ll be seeing new places… It’s been so long… Somehow, in two years, Israel is no longer a novelty and I’m craving a new experience. A month won’t be the be-all end-all, but it’ll satisfy something or other.

I’ll continue from the other side…

Israeli Pet Peeve #143: Elevator bitch.

I don’t get it. If I’m standing in the elevator when it lands at my destination (say, the fourth floor) and you are waiting to get in to go to your floor, why do you stand at the door, and start pushing your way into it before I get out? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if you stood to the side and let me go free?

And why do you give me the most incredibly bitchy stare because I try to get out before you push me back in?

You know who you are, Gan HaTechnologi freaks.

Yerushalmi.

I realized today, somewhere in Tel Aviv, between riding the Dan bus line – walking on Dizengoff – and getting served in a bakery-cafe – that I must be categorized as Yerushalmi. There is such an enormous difference between Tel Avivians and Yerushalmis. It’s like the difference between Brooklynites and Manhattanites: the view, the pace, the glare. All different.

In my head I’ve been living in the country-at-large, but now I realize after two years that I belong to a city. That includes belonging to the city-culture, the city-tradition, the city-stereotypes. That city is Jerusalem.

And as soon as I sort out the next move, I’m getting out of it.

The haircut.

I haven’t gotten a proper haircut in over a year and with sfira approaching, it was definitely time.

There’s a small, modest hair salon run by two guys down the block from my apartment. I got off the bus from work, after a long, painful day, and walked straight in, told the waiting hairdresser what I wanted in a humility-shade of Hebrew, sat in the chair and let someone else take charge for the first time in a while.

Growing up, haircuts were always big deals. Maybe because I’m my mother’s only daughter, and she was proud to ‘teach me the ways’ of makeup, hair and a sense of (some sort of) fashion. I went to fancy places to get my hair cut with my mom since I can remember. The first time I dyed my own hair – at 15 with hydrogen peroxide in summer camp – my mother went nuts. When I continued to dye my own hair (with lemon juice, facial bleach and colour-out-of-the-box), she started taking me to salons to get it dyed, too. Essentially, since high school, I’ve been getting my hair cut ‘n coloured at fairly nice salons where looks are everything and a lot of it is about ‘the experience’.

I can’t say that these were enjoyable occasions; I always loved my hair afterward but hated the anxious build-up to each session. Sometimes I’m just a guy, and can’t be bothered to pour so much emotion into my looks. Somehow, though, emotion got poured in every time. I also didn’t like not having control, letting someone else shape such a crucial part of my self-identity. Thus, haircuts were associated with emotional anxiety.

Living on my own in a foreign country, I have to be in control of so much when I really don’t want to be and I have to give up control so often when I really don’t want to. As well, every aspect of my life here is fraught with exploratory emotion: Will I make it here at the end of the day? Do I want to?

I guess that’s why when I walked into the little neighborhood salon I signed and let him have at it. He looked like he had a long day, too. I knew I was ultimately in control since I made a decision to give my hair to him, ridding me of the guilt for not being in control. The emotion was missing because both of us were tired, just existing, and I knew I had no one invested in this to please beside myself.

He kept offering mousse, fan, whatever, and I kept saying it was b’seder how it is. Just do what you do, let me be. No control, anxious-free.

A Cable Story.

A couple of weeks ago we were sitting in the comfort of our main room watching a movie when we heard a knock at the door. At 9 o’clock on a Sunday evening in our badly-numbered building, it could only be a wrong number.

It was not, indeed, a wrong number; it was two sketchy, lanky guys who looked like walking Kenvelo ads. They had HOT tags around their necks. As we are HOT cable internet customers, they wanted to come inside and see the registration number on our modem, (conveniently located next to the wall jack, where the cable internet is plugged in).

At this point I will pause and mention some background. We received a television as a wedding gift and paid the TV tax like an average Israeli citizen would do (right?). There are two ways to get the crappy basic channels: rabbit ears or the wall jack. We tried rabbit ears, which did awfully. Naturally, as someone coming from a normal country, I thought, well, I paid my TV tax and the rabbit ears don’t work; I’m going to use the wall jack that is located inside my own house. And so with a splitter in tow, we hooked up internet and TV into the jack and, voila: a bunch of cable channels found their way onto our wedding present.

Well, I may have come from a normal country, where cable is hooked up on the outside of your home, but I don’t live in a normal country, where it’s right there, in your own living room, ripe for the stealing. So, for about six months we’ve been – unknowingly – stealing cable (TV) by subscribing to cable service (internet). The way it works here is that when they come to install the cable internet, they put up a new jack which could also be used for cable TV.

Conclusion: You’re only supposed to use it for what you paid for (oops).

Back to our HOT friends at the door, who were getting louder in their insistence to come inside and check that we weren’t stealing cable. My husband took care of the immediate situation with his angry Israeli yelling voice, gave them his number to make a real appointment if they were legit and told them to piss off; who comes at 9pm on a weeknight without an appointment? (Israeli cable thugs, that’s who).

We knew, though, that we had transgressed and my innocent naive ideas of what should and shouldn’t be would not suffice, no matter how American or cute I look. He called HOT the next day to complain about the treatment and to clarify what constitutes a cable-stealing situation (leaving no details).

Kenvelo model-wannabe came back the next day, with an appointment, and worked it out with my husband, who played the ‘olim chadashim’ card: back in chul, we don’t do it this way. Actually, the cable guy apologized for the treatment and said if he had known we are Anglos from the beginning, he would have treated us much nicer.

And now, the kicker: He told us he felt bad we hadn’t understood how cable works and perhaps he could settle the issue of a grandiose fine in a more pleasant way. The fine was to pay back the cable we inadvertently stole at a whopping 2500 NIS. Instead, we could choose a second option: Get our names cleared from the record over at HOT and commit to paying for cable for a year tops at an extremely discounted rate, combined with out internet bill. Wouldn’t even charge us for installation.

I don’t have to be on a marketing team to tell you what a genius policy this is. Cut the losses; who cares that we’ve been stealing a couple of silly channels? Get ‘em hooked long term. Force feed us cable for a year without hurting our wallets and watch us grow in addiction. Keep us for life. Brilliant. And I didn’t even want a TV in my house in the first place.

So, what do you think we chose? Just don’t tell my mother, she’d hate that I’m paying for ‘trash’.

City feature: Yafo

This is Yafo or Jaffa, the second half of the area known as Tel Aviv-Yafo. Historically it’s always been a port city and today you can see the ancient ports as well as the modern docks. Its residents are both Arabs and Jews and has a healthy list of places to see and things to do, though it certainly does not get the kind of attention its other half across the beach enjoys. Its known for its gardens, art studios and galleries, fishing harbor, and of course - Jaffa oranges.

Jaffa mosque

Jaffa beach sunset

jaffa streets

I only have three photos which, alone, probably don’t do the place justice.