Only in Jerusalem: The full nine months

Excuse me, but do we olim have ‘sucker’ written on our foreheads?

’ve been in this city nine months. A significant period of time. Some women give birth. I on the other hand have managed to move into an apartment that feels like the fortieth floor of a dilapidated building in Mahaneh Yehuda market. Yup, my Jewish mother back in South Africa is crying real tears at the thought that under her daughter’s window a vegetable store has been set up and the constant background hum is the loud yelling of “shekel l’kilo.” She’s also not much comforted by the fact that during this time, her princess has successfully managed to accumulate a mattress, a washing machine, and a chair. Okay, to be honest, the chair comes from the neighbor across the landing. “Le’at, le’at” people keep telling me. Sometimes this “le’at” is going so slowly I fear I might be going backwards. It’s not easy setting up home in this city. Yesterday I needed a holder for toilet paper. What would you call that in English? I guess a holder for toilet paper. And people would know what you were talking about, right? Well, I managed to go to seven stalls in the shuk explaining to all and sundry (who must have thought I had a bad case of diarrhea) before I found someone who vaguely understood my wild gesticulations. An hour later, with the little contraption neatly packed under my arm, I naturally needed toilet paper (and no, I didn’t have diarrhea.) Two dozen rolls, clearly marked “NIS 21,” were proffered to me by the friendly stall owner for “only 30.” Excuse me, but do we olim have “sucker” written on our foreheads? When I pointed out the huge emblazoned black sign with NIS 21 written on it, in all seriousness the stall owner said, “For you I give it at that special price.” Yeah, right, for me and the rest of the shuk clientele. Anyway, I might not have furniture but that hasn’t stopped me from getting the absolute essentials like an ADSL Internet and a telephone line. Encouraged to set it up through HOT, I phoned and was greeted with a very pleasant recorded woman’s voice. On my fourth call I managed to work out that she was saying, “For Hebrew press 1, for Russian, press 2.” Kaput. End of options. Sadly reminiscent of the other day when I phoned the immigrants department of the Interior Ministry and all the answering machine instructions were in Hebrew. I mean, for crying in a bucket, has this country not heard of immigrants who perhaps might not know the language? It’s a difficult thing, this Ivrit business. I had to laugh in ulpan class. I’m in kita alef and we were going around introducing ourselves. The teacher asked a newcomer his name to which he replied “Ken.” She smiled and asked him again, and he obligingly again said “Ken.” Becoming a little impatient, she asked him a third and fourth time, until someone managed to explain to her that “Ken” was actually his name. In between the madness here, there are things to chuckle about. Back in South Africa we spoke of “Jewish geography” because everyone knew everyone else in no small part because we were all related. But living in Jerusalem has given this term new meaning. I’m a journalist and the other day I was looking for the number of a freelance television cameraman to work with. A friend recommended a guy called Yoram whose number I promptly typed into my cell phone and dialled. “Yoram, my friend tells me you’re a cameraman.” “No, I’m a taxi driver.” At this point I’m thinking either my friend or this Yoram chap are smoking something. “But she said you were a good cameraman.” “No, I’m a good taxi driver.” I put down the phone confused, but not before Yoram promises that his friend, Boaz who is indeed a cameraman, he informs me will call. Five minutes later Boaz phones. But alack, he films only stills no video. But, wait for it, he knows a good freelance cameraman whose name is yup, you guessed it Yoram. The very same Yoram I was supposed to phone in the first place had I not taken the number down incorrectly! Just when I think nothing else can surprise me, Yoram asks if I have a “gun” mike. I look at him as if he’s got a few screws loose. All over the world the broadcast industry refers to those long, thin microphones as “directional mikes” here they’re called “gun” mikes. Only in Israel. You’ve got to love it.