Eisenbud's Odyssey: Sex, guns and chutzpa

By
September 28, 2011 18:49

Believe me when I tell you that you haven’t lived until you’ve sat on a bus across from an Israeli soldier who is in REM sleep – and clearly having a bad dream – while his M-16 is pointing directly at you.




Children with Israeli flags

Israeli flags 521. (photo credit:Illustrative photo: Reuters)

This week I decided to put on my official “Jane Goodall hat” to explore the sometimes astounding cultural differences between Americans and Israelis.

As many of our readers reside in the Diaspora, and no doubt have important questions about what it’s really like to live here, I have consolidated a brief “master list” of definitive cultural anomalies that I’ve experienced over the past 14 months.

So, to welcome the New Year and lighten the mood in these tense times, I present to you my (first) annual list of Israeli idioms that explore the very important sociological issues I have observed as a stranger living in a strange land.

They range from the lack of good beer here, to why it is that Israeli women appear genetically engineered to make Hugh Hefner finally fall into an irreversible epileptic fit. (Just kidding, Mr. Hefner. Please: Let’s hang out with some of your most gifted employees at your place sometime very soon.)

Now, without further ado, let’s take a minute to bask in the beauty that is Israeli culture.

Women

The women of Israel will always top this list, and blow my mind, for many reasons.

They are so absurdly beautiful that I developed whiplash during my first few days here from flagrant rubbernecking.

I had no shame, and kid you not when I say there was a dark period when I came perilously close to necessitating a neck brace, as (to the naked eye) it would have appeared as if I was watching a never-ending, epic Wimbledon final between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors – in their prime – every time I stepped foot outside.

Indeed, I became more excitable and afflicted with ADD than the fat kid in Willie Wonka with the golden ticket after he got past security.

But like all things in life that appear too good to be true, the vast majority of women here are no exception.

Most of them are in “very committed relationships” (or so they tell me), and are about as attainable as Super Bowl tickets in Philadelphia the night before a match-up between the Eagles and the Cowboys.

Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that “waiting out” relationships in this country is something of a national pastime, on par with humous-making or hookah-smoking.

Don’t pity me though, as I feel as if I’ve been juxtaposed into the most awe-inspiring Abercrombie & Fitch ad ever conceived.

Guns

I have never seen so many machine guns and side-arms in my life. It’s like the movie Starship Troopers, except with cooler uniforms and less appealing accents.

Believe me when I tell you that you haven’t lived until you’ve sat on a bus across from an Israeli soldier who is in REM sleep – and clearly having a bad dream – while his M-16 is pointing directly at you. Talk about courage under fire.

I have literally dictated my last will and testament into my iPhone – in the midst of radically irregular breathing patterns – while I was en route from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. (That said, Mom: you make out like a bandit.)

Obesity

Unlike in the US, fat people in Israel are the exception rather than the depressing norm. Indeed, compared to Americans, the majority of Israelis – young and old – are built like ninjas and view extra body fat as about as necessary as a third nipple.

It never ceases to amaze me how fit the people in this country are.

Undoubtedly, this phenomenon is largely due to the fact that most Israelis are former soldiers, and that food portions in restaurants here are roughly a fifth of what they serve in the States.

In fact, I’m convinced that if restaurants served portions on par with US standards, an Israeli would ask for multiple doggie bags and feed himself – and his entire family – for three weeks straight.

That said, if you were to take any given sabra to an American TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s or Chili’s, my guess is he or she would think it was some kind of bizarre eating competition being filmed for a bush-league reality show.

Beer

To my ongoing chagrin, you’d have a better chance of finding a Yeti in a tuxedo in this country than light beer of any kind.

I have done battle with countless bartenders over the past year about their limited beer selection, knowing all too well the high caloric intake of regular ales and lagers – and what they do to my waistline.

I swear, it’s like living in the UK in the ‘70s and choosing between BBC 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Jaywalking

In New York, jaywalking is an instructive art-form – on par with break-dancing or miming – at which I actually excelled.

To be sure, I reached a point in my development when I could have solved the most challenging of high school math equations involving how much time it would take to cross the street with any given number of ridiculous variables.

For example: Let’s say a livery cab driver is traveling erratically down Broadway in midtown Manhattan at 50 miles per hour, with three oil slicks, four crater-like potholes, two agitated, intoxicated homeless men, and a family of seven cute ducklings waddling between point A and point B.

How long would it take to cross the street? Answer: 4.7 seconds.

Yeah, I’m that good.

However, since I’ve been in Israel I have come extremely close to getting several jaywalking tickets from traffic patrolmen who surreptitiously lie in wait to collect a small fortune from anyone who dares to illegally cross the street. These guys come out of nowhere!

Although I understand that Israelis have been conditioned to follow medieval traffic laws, it’s still bizarre to me that these people – perhaps the most independent and strong-minded in the world – act like sheep when it comes to crossing the street.

I have watched in disbelief countless times as the most hard-core of sabras ever assembled stood in complete obedience – while there was no traffic in sight – waiting like highly-trained seeing-eye dogs for the light to turn green.

My talent is clearly wasted here...

Grocery Stores

Only in Israel will someone roll a shopping cart overflowing with enough food to feed a family of 12 up to a “10 items or less” express line without a hint of irony or embarrassment.

This happens to me virtually every time I go food shopping.

I rarely have more than 10 items to buy at any given time – and am almost always in a rush – so you can imagine my displeasure at the prospect of waiting for an already apathetic (and seemingly functionally illiterate cashier – always with elaborately decorated acrylic nails) re-scan a bag of cashews 20-plus times for one of these line-violators – who invariably has an “A-ha!” moment, remembering that there’s a two-for-one sale on humous in aisle 54, and continue to flagrantly hold everyone up as they nonchalantly walk to the Siberia section of the store.

Argh!

Cats

Arguably, there are more stray cats in Israel per square mile than in any other country in the world. They’re even in the desert!

I have heard blood-curdling sounds from these creatures in the middle of the night that would make even the most devoted death metal fan reach for earplugs and beg for mercy.

Don’t be deceived by their cute exteriors – these cats ain’t Garfield. To be sure, when provoked, Israeli cats make rabid pit bulls look like hamsters.

That said, cats here are capable of committing ungodly acts of violence within nanoseconds that would normally be associated with mythical deadly animals like “Jaws” or “Cujo.”

Take it from me, when a cat fight is about to go down in these parts, stay low, and don’t even think about being a hero. You’ll live longer.

I kid you not when I say some of these felines could singlehandedly run a cell-block holding Attica’s most violent prisoner population.

However, I’ll also say this: If you feed them and are generally kind, they’re pretty damn loyal (albeit in a gross way).

For example, when I was living in the Negev for six months, I regularly fed a mother cat and her three kittens, and was rewarded every time I opened my door in the morning with various decapitated pigeon heads and wings at my doorstep. Nasty.

I just told myself that it must be like being friends with “Dexter.”

Chutzpa

I would be remiss to overlook an opportunity to articulate the absurd double-standard to which only Israel is subjected.

Indeed, it would appear that only in Israel is it acceptable to have missiles routinely fired at civilians; neighbors who exuberantly and chronically restate their mandate to blow you off the face of the earth; media, countries and institutions of all kinds falsely libel you; and a UN that does absolutely nothing to help – and in fact, facilitates the despicable behavior.

As an objective observer, and seasoned journalist, it is abundantly clear that the international treatment of this country is utterly deplorable on virtually every level.

Any other country in the world would have accepted defeat by now, been irreversibly  traumatized, or filed – and won – the largest harassment lawsuit of all time.

In America, if an enemy of the State ever had the temerity to launch a violent attack of any kind against its civilians, they’d be rightly snuffed out by any means necessary – as quickly as humanly possible.

But in Israel it’s different.

Here, evidently, women and children can be targeted and the international community will still denounce us when we retaliate with near surgical precision against terrorists who cowardly hide behind women and children of their own.

However, in my heart, I know that I’m taking part in the greatest story ever told, with the most outnumbered and unfairly attacked people in the history of the world.

And because of their otherworldly resilience and remarkably positive attitudes – despite their abhorrent treatment – I remain profoundly proud to be an American- Israeli. And always will be.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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