Say "Excuse Me!"


I apologize for the title of this blogpost. To me, at least, it brings to mind visions of overweight, middle- aged, smiling Americans, contestants on "The Biggest Loser" or perhaps the "before" on a radical diet plan that promises the ability to "Eat all the foods you love, while losing weight at the same time!" No. That''s not exactly what I had in mind. I''m not going to rant about how obese and unhealthy Americans are, versus the beautiful, slim, trim Israel [Insert image of Bar Refaeli, avoid bringing Bibi to mind...]. I''m actually going to talk about an American quality that is lacking in Israelis, one that I consider a good quality.

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I recall several months ago overhearing a conversation between two Israelis, one of whom had just returned from a visit to the US. Americans, my peer said, are such losers. "When one person bumps into someone else, both of them say sorry! Not just the one who bumped, both of them! What, is it his fault the other person bumped into HIM?" Both laughed at this seemingly ridiculous situation. And I thought to myself- Why is that crazy? Isn''t that manners?


America is all about manners. When in a supermarket, I had to remind my mother to say Excuse me, or pardon me, when we passed someone in the aisle. Why?, an Israeli might ask. You''re not asking them to move out of the way. They''re not interfering with your race to the meat counter. Yes, if they were blocking the aisle, then you could say "Slicha" obnoxiously, and follow it with a lengthy venting of your anger towards this person, who had the chutzpah to block the aisle with his cart so you can''t get through. [The likelihood is that the roles will later switch, and a different person will yell at you for blocking the aisle, but that''s not the issue right now.] Here in America, there was plenty of room. You and your cart could have walked by unnoticed. So why bother? The answer: Manners.

Fresh off the plane from Israel, I bought a drink, and like always, made sure to thank the person. Shockingly, however, the person responded: "You''re welcome". "You''re welcome. Over and over again. The bagger in the supermarket. The clerk at Gap. The woman who held the door for me as I walked somewhere. "You''re welcome." When was the last time an Israeli said "Bevakasha"? Is that even how you say "You''re welcome" in Hebrew? I can''t say. I honestly don''t recall ever hearing a response after the Toda, thanks. Oh, actually I have. From me. And my grandmother. Both of us are American, and both of us make sure to say Bevakasha.

Gradually, I''ve become more Israeli. I''ve taken to nodding my head, or giving a slight smile in response to the Toda. I certaintly don''t say "Slicha" when passing someone in the supermarket. And, I confess, I don''t always hold the door for other people. I understand my friend''s point about the American loser. Perhaps some of the manners are stupid. In America, I do make sure to act American, down to the manners. If I were to do this in Israel, however, I would probably be laughed at, and be the American Loser.

My father believes in teaching Israelis manners, one at a time. While he specializes in driving etiquette (which I can''t comment on at this point), I think it is his hope (and probably the hope of most American- Israelis) that one day things will change, and Israelis will become polite. I read an article not long ago about how Israelis are much more polite and friendlier than they used to be. This may or may not be true. It is certain, however, than Israelis are not at the same level as Americans with regard to manners. But, if I should ever hear a Bevakasha, then I''ll know that there is a change. For better or for worse, I''m not sure.



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