I went to buy tissues from the supermarket the other day. They were only selling them in packs of five. When I asked the cashier how I could buy just one pack, she started yelling at me for making demands unreasonable and impossible for any cashier to meet. This experience is important because I have lived it already. A week after I made my official aliya, I attempted to buy a single pack of tissues and was received by a similar response. I have not owned any tissues since then (except for during brief vacations in New York) and was resolved to this unfortunate deficiency in my toiletries collection.
That is, until this week. Suddenly, I was a hideous pile of coughing congestion. I tried to hold off buying tissues but my roommates once again opted for one-ply toilet paper and it just doesn''t cut it. I shlepped out to the supermarket only to be greeted by, “I don''t understand what you want! Tissues are only sold in packs of five! How can I sell you one pack if it''s attached to four more?!” (“What is this? A center for ants? How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read if they can''t even fit inside the building?”)
Each pack contains 100 tissues. I now own 500 tissues. If anyone should need a tissue, I am willing to share.
The fact that you can relive the same experiences here years later only confirms what I''ve always believed to be true – that with Israel, what you see is what you get. That''s not to say that Israel doesn''t have depth or dimensions that need to be discovered with time, because it does. You just see them them all at once. The minute you get off the airplane, your first trek to the supermarket, your first health insurance adventure, you are instantly bombarded with everything you are going to face in the course of your lifetime. It''s like every secretary is not only telling you that she can''t stamp the document you''ve just handed her. She''s telling you she won''t ever be able to stamp any document you will ever hand her. And the first taxi driver you have the privilege of bartering with is actually yelling at you, “Look at me! I have layers! I believe in many conflicting ideologies but am absolutely sure that they are the right conflicting ideologies to believe in and you will now learn about them. You will learn all about my layers.”
Is it overwhelming? Of course. It''s also incredibly desensitizing. Sometimes I''m not sure if people are yelling at me or if that''s just their tone of voice. Time helps you sort through and understand all of the confusion and noise here. If you''ve had a disturbing experience, it will probably reoccur. The difference will lie in your reaction. The difference between Rachel the Olah Chadasha and Rachel the Olah is that the latter was not startled by the exchange (although I think I looked it. I made my eyebrows a tiny bit thinner by accident and everyone insists that they can''t tell at all but I''m convinced that I look perpetually surprised) and will not avoid tissues for extended periods of time ever again (although I doubt I''ll ever run out and need to). And really, I shouldn''t even complain because with Israel, what you see is what you get. And I saw this my second week as a citizen.
Anyway, I''ve mostly lived on tomato lentil soup, rice cakes and honey-infused ginger for the past week and I''m feeling better. (In fact, I''m eating rice cakes with honey right now. A blob of honey has fallen onto my keyboard. I will use a tissue to wipe it up.) Here''s to hoping that the cough will leave for good so that I get back to being a productive human being.