This March marks our family''s four year Aliyah anniversary, and much as I hate to admit it, in some strange ways, Israel is starting to feel like home. As I drive from our home town of Zichron Yaakov down the winding hills through Binyamina and on to the flatlands of Pardes Hanah, I now recognise fields and landmarks as if I had grown up amongst them. I know how to avoid the morning traffic and still get to the bank on time. I know the shortcuts and the back roads, and I know the one way streets even though the inadequate signs are covered with overgrown foliage. That old familiar feeling of knowing an area well enough to give directions, in Hebrew, to strangers who suddenly stop in the middle of the road, oblivious to the seven car pile-up they have caused behind them, sits comfortably in my psyche.
When I arrogantly dare step onto the pedestrian crossing and confidently march across the street, admittedly risking my life but more importantly disregarding the shock I inevitably cause drivers, now obligated to stop and let me cross, I feel like I have conquered something within. I have developed a strength of character, a certain ''don''t mess with me, I''m Israeli'', which I now naturally express through my body language and hand gestures.
I have even taken on the ''Israeli queue pusher''. At first I spent hours simply observing their behaviour, let''s face it, what else are you going to do when the Moroccan woman behind you has a knife in her elbow and the voice of a man? I tried desperately to understand how a relatively normal person could be so incredibly oblivious to the effect their behaviour has on the emotional wellbeing of those around them as they bulldoze their way in demanding service out of turn. I observed the habits of the person serving and tried to decide if they were equally at fault for responding so quickly. I decided they were. After three years standing back and waiting till my number was either called or ignored, I decided to challenge them both, though quietly, under my breath and in English of course. But this year something has shifted within. This year I have given birth to a ferocious inner being; I have embraced my inner Israeli.
Last week after dropping the kids off at school, I met my friend Debbie for our regular early morning coffee at a local gas station (yes, we Israeli''s like our coffee with our gas, go figure). As I was standing at the counter ordering, a pleasant looking, intelligent looking, normal looking Israeli projected his voice across the shop and over my head where it hit the targeted ear of the guy serving us, who looked up at him and in a magical flash of some kind of secret communication, understood his command, which was to ignore me and carry out his order first. It was as if they had served in the same secret unit in the army together, which they hadn’t, because the guy serving us was a young Arab boy and the man issuing subliminal commands was at least my age and Jewish.
I turned my body to face him, opened my hands in a gesture of ''what the hell do you think you are doing? And out of my mouth, came the simple words, "how can you do that?" It turns out that my friend knew him which made me even more comfortable challenging him. He immediately admitted I was right, (though not that he was wrong) and I proceeded to order our coffee while he waited patiently to the side. Rebecca one; Rude Israeli zero.
I ran home to ''Google translate'' my challenging phrase but in Hebrew it turns out the appropriate thing to say is a somewhat less confronting ''lama kacha?'' which means ''Why like this?'' and which, in all honesty, better suits my Anglo sensibilities. Since then I throw it around at every opportunity I get, which is often. These days I am less inclined to be seen standing at the back of the queue with my mouth open, shaking my head in dismay as I gently challenge the behaviour of those who believe their time is more important than mine.
The other bad habit I have come to understand is that Israeli''s start with ''no'' and work their way begrudgingly to a ''yes'', when pushed, and ONLY when pushed. When I asked the women behind the counter at the ''Misrad Hapanim'' for a new plastic sleeve for my ID papers, her immediate response was ''no''. She wanted me bring in the old one to exchange it for a new one. For a moment I was excited, thinking the Interior Ministry had perhaps embarked on a recycling campaign, but even if that were that the case, which believe me, it wasn’t, my newfound inner Israeli was not so easily moved. I looked her squarely in the eyes and said " Are you really asking me to drive all the way home to find my old plastic cover in the bottom of the garbage bin and bring it back to you before you give me a new one?''. She turned the corners of her mouth up and reluctantly handed me a shiny new plastic sleeve, which I thanked her for in Hebrew and left.
It takes a certain abrasive confidence to deal with Israeli''s everyday and I am starting to get the hang of it. They are just badly brought up; it''s as simple as that. They have no sense of personal space, no regard for personal boundaries and they all believe their time is more important than anyone else''s. Perhaps their mothers were too busy working or defending the State or surviving, to teach them not to push in and not to turn suddenly without indicating. But now that I have claimed my own inner Israeli, I feel that it''s both my right and my duty to teach them, which only goes to prove the point.