February 29, 2012

Guest blog: a new Israeli's perspective on Israelis...

I've mentioned once or twice my dear friend Libbie Snyder Sagiv, and I want to introduce her now as Gingit's first-ever guest blogger!! 

For those of you who don't know our history, it's worth mentioning here that Libbie and I met in Boston, where she was born and raised. She made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) a couple of years ago, and is my go-to adviser when I have questions about how to be a real person here. Her Hebrew is excellent, she married an Israeli, and is herself an Israeli now...but that doesn't mean she doesn't still notice (and get frustrated by) some of the quirkier aspects of Israeli life. I want you guys to hear her unique (and hilarious) perspective.


Most immigrants to Israel complain about the usual Irksome Israeli behavior – Israelis’ rudeness, impatience, their inability to wait in line, their constant efforts to rip you off, the completely illogical bureaucracy, the list goes on and on.

But in my experience, there are two aspects of Israeli behavior that absolutely drive me nuts, and yet I never hear anyone talk about them. So I just have to get it out of my system, and see if anyone out there agrees with me.

Elevators. Now, elevators seem like a fairly straightforward concept. You use them in buildings to go up and down to different floors. It’s a concept that I always took for granted that everyone just understood. But living here in Israel, I’ve come to discover – to my horror – that many Israelis have absolutely no comprehension of or respect for the function of elevators.

The only way an elevator can be useful and do its intended job is if people ride it for the purpose that they need. That means, if you need to go up, you should only get in an elevator that is going up, and vice versa. So what happens in Israel? When Israelis need an elevator, they either don’t care or don’t pay attention to which direction the elevator is traveling – they simply get in. Always. 

So what happens is, elevators are constantly packed, no one can get to the floor they need, and there is sheer chaos every time the doors open. The people at the underground and high floors get stuck there for excessive amounts of time.

I think there is a lot of national psychological baggage underpinning this behavioral trend. It’s as if Israelis think, if they don’t act aggressively and get into the elevator while they have their opportunity, they’ll miss out on that chance for the foreseeable time to come, because they know that the other Israelis will act similarly selfishly. It’s a vicious cycle (pun intended).

This is an experience I go through every time I want to work out, because my gym is only accessible via the elevator in the Givatayim mall. Which has an underground parking garage.

This brings me to my second point of contention – the girls at Holmes Place. (Holmes Place is my gym.) I don’t know if the most appropriate comparison to accurately depict the girls would be roosters, monkeys or hyenas, but I can tell you that anyone who has witnessed the opening of the studio doors to a weeknight Zumba class can testify that I’m not exaggerating.  

A quarter of an hour before a class is due to start – whether it’s kickboxing, Zumba, or Step – the girls start hovering in their Spandex-clad circles, all eyes flickering about, as they passively-aggressively mark their little areas outside the studio doors. I try to make a point of looking nonchalant, like I’m not concerned about what’s about to happen when the clock hits the hour and the doors open. The poor people inside from the previous class, who are just sitting up from their relaxed Savasana poses, barely avoid a full-out stampede as the lights go on and the waiting girls charge in to claim their desired spot. (If that means stepping on people who are trying to get up, they do it – I’ve seen it.)

This is about when I stop feeling like I’m in a gym and start feeling like somehow I wound up at the zoo. The sounds these girls make as they squawk and run about, I swear to Gd, would make a henhouse sound like a museum. 

The rooster-girls don’t even pause to put their bags along the periphery of the room – they drop their belongings right in the middle of the room. Then their friends take turns guarding their territory while they THEN bring their stuff to the sidelines. If you leave your spot unattended, you can guarantee it won’t be there 5 seconds later no matter how many girls saw you standing there beforehand. 

And if you need a drink of water during class – ha, forget it. I one time made that mistake, and when I came back to continue my workout, I found myself pushed all the way to the back of the room. (And no one wants to be at the back of the room – that’s where any remaining concept of personal space goes out the window.)

I’ve also been in classes where halfway through the instructor pauses and tells everyone to get a mat and come back, and it simply leads to chaos. It’s not like the instructor is going to start until everyone has a mat, but Israelis don’t think that way; they run, push and grab to get a mat, with no semblance of a line. It takes everything in me to stay calm and not scream, “You’re all going to get a fucking mat! Chill! This is not a battlefield, it’s fucking Zumba!” (excuse my French).

Alas, this is the reality of the world I live in, and as my darling husband loves to say, “These muscles aren’t just for looking good, they’re for survival.” So, up the elevator and to kickboxing I continue to go. Last night I actually rode the elevator down to the parking garage, squeezed between a baby carriage and my kickboxing instructor, and when I finally got to the class the first thing I did was drop my jacket and purse in the middle of the studio floor. Hey, I want to have a good workout too.

The real horror of horrors about living in Israeli society? I’m becoming just like them.

February 28, 2012

Switchin' it up.

So if I turn right onto my street when I leave my house I am very close to a cafe at which Nicole and I have become regulars, so to speak. The coffee is cheap, the food is delicious, and Nik and I have made friends with a few of the girls who work there. I thought for awhile I might try and get a job there. But, recently the guy who runs the place, Roni, has been creeping me out. He's sweet, and harmless, but he hits on me a lot and is oddly moody. 

(sometimes when we walk we hold hands)

So, yesterday afternoon Nicole and I decided to switch it up and take a left out of our building and check out what Sderot Rothschild has to offer in the way of people-watching and coffee-drinking (we also found, of course, a lot of graffiti hearts!). We both love to explore and this photo-safari was especially rewarding- I hope you enjoy a quick glimpse into my new neighborhood.

(mystery artist loves power boxes, modern benches, and other graffiti)

(there aren't words)

(why is this bike so small, and why is his track suit monochrome?)

February 26, 2012

Hostess(es) with the mostest...

...and by "mostest" I mean "not much to offer except a raw space to hang out".

Nicole and I decided to have another party this weekend 
since our housewarming was such a wild success.

It really is a lot more economic to drink at house parties here than to go to bars,
and a lot of people we know live on a budget (we are students, after all). So we have
decided that we want to throw as many mixers as we possibly can.
What better way to get to know your friends and neighbors?
We made an effort to bring in a mix of Israelis and TAU students, and at one point I think I knew about 30% of the bodies in my home. I loved every second of it. 

(I believe) everyone had a great time, and we're already talking about when the next one will be.

So if you are in Tel Aviv, and you have something to celebrate but need a space...let us know!
If you're abroad, and only get to live out our (soon to be world-famous) parties vicariously through the interwebs...
then come visit Israel

We'll throw a party in your honor. 

And it will be the best one yet.

February 24, 2012

My summer vacation.

Ok, it's not summer technically, but I've literally had oodles of time to enjoy Tel Aviv between semesters (with a smattering of schoolwork for good measure) and, as I've mentioned, the weather here is nothing like the winters to which I am accustomed. 

Many of my friends from school have gone out of town over the break, some to the US to visit family, others on safaris and trips to Europe, etc. I would love to travel, but I'm on a tight budget, and I said to myself : "Self! You're in Israel! You're already somewhere new, so go out and do stuff!" 

So, this is what I've been doing.

1. Road trip with Stacy and Katy to Caesarea:

Katy is Stacy's friend from Scotland, visiting Israel on holiday, so she rented a car and we all decided to pile in and drive up the freeway to see something new. We went up to Caesarea and saw the Roman ruins, walked along the beach, took some pictures of the ancient aqueduct (awesome), and did not (I repeat... did not) eat a delicious meal and hot fudge sundae at a McDonald's we spotted on the side of the road along the way. The thing is...McDonald's doesn't count if you're traveling, so even if we had eaten chicken sandwiches and french fries and pop and ice cream at McDonald's (which we didn't) it wouldn't have counted.

2. Graffiti hunting.

I'm still seeing these hearts everywhere. 
More to come, I'm sure. This guy is really getting around.

3. Furniture shopping in Yafo with Nicole.

We didn't find much except a lot of stores that remind me of the show Hoarders.

Well, that and...this:

a dog wearing a fur coat napping on a rolling desk chair in the middle of the sidewalk. 

That's been it so far. Classes don't start again until March 5th, so I'll keep you updated.

Until then...
שבת שלום
shabbat shalom!

February 19, 2012

Happy birthdays!

This has been my weekend to celebrate other people's birthdays.
Friday began with a lovely brunch for Jen- one of my favorite people.

Jen talked me off the ledge once or twice when I first moved here and had the
inevitable and occasional "oh shit" moments. Just look at this natural beauty.

Yom huledet, Jen!!!

The birthday brunch was followed by some birthday day-drinking at a bar called Hemingway's with Stacy .
We got our drink on around 3pm, and justified it by saying we were celebrating a birthday (for someone I literally have met once) and the fact that we turned in our Political Econ final.
Afterwards I immediately went home and fell asleep. At 6pm. Shabbat shalom!

Saturday was Stacy's birthday. She is a vegetarian. So she decided to have her
birthday party in a bar/club that is literally in the back room of a deli.
The bar is called....you guessed it:


So we drank, then ate (at the deli, obviously) and made merry the whole time.
Happy birthday, Stacy!

Also- look what I found.

Someday maybe I'll catch him in the act...

February 17, 2012

A graffiti artist who loved Tel Aviv.

Ok, so last time I shared with you a couple of these hearts that I saw around town.
But now I'm seeing them everywhere.
This guy loves Tel Aviv...strong.

We have that in common. 

He loves ladies shoes.

Stencils can be tricky.

Mystery lover loves wooden paneling.

He believes love is possible!

There's one on every column. 

He REALLY loves ladies shoes...

Maybe this is a self-portrait? No. Wrong color spray paint.

This is not another heart. It's just a street cat inside a store window.
How'd that guy get in there!? Crazy cats.

I'll keep you posted about the random heart-er. I'm sure I'll find more.

February 15, 2012

I should be writing a paper right now.

It could be a coincidence, 
but yesterday when I was walking around I kept seeing heart-shaped graffiti everywhere. 

The bleeding heart.

Happy V-day from militant lego-men.

I wear my heart on my wall.

I just thought this guy was funny.

And look what else I saw! Idiots. 
I told you it happens a lot. I've decided to document Israeli parking skillz.

This is my new favorite park to walk through.

February 13, 2012

There is trash everywhere.

Trash collection services are striking.
It's getting nasty.

Thanks to Alex Griffing for the photos from his fancy iphone.

February 11, 2012

I never want to forget this.

This morning I walked from my apartment for about 10 minutes and was at the Mediterranean Sea.

I met my friend Rose (Libbie's mom) for coffee and breakfast at a seaside cafe.
We chatted, drank coffee, watched the surfers and soaked in the warm sunshine.
After breakfast we walked along the tayelet (boardwalk), joining with scores of Tel Aviv-ians and tourists to enjoy the lovely shabbat afternoon.
Along the way we stopped and listened to a trio of older (Russian?) men sitting on folding chairs and playing music on two violins and a cello. 
I wish more than anything I'd had my camera with me to make a hard copy of this memory: 

the musicians playing skillfully and sweetly, the Mediterranean glistening in the sun behind them, children, couples, friends gathered around to just stop and soak in the beauty of the moment.
It's a moment that I will carry with me always.

אני אוהבת שבת בתל אביב
(I love shabbat in Tel Aviv)

February 8, 2012

weather.com FAIL

It might not look as good in a photo but yesterday I thought it was foggy or overcast,
which was a disappointment because weather.com called for "abundant sunshine".

Evidently, this is what "abundant sunshine" looks like in a sandstorm.

Yep, we're having a sandstorm
...and I was just thinking about how I'm no longer feeling surprised by
 foreign realities (like recycling cages) as often as I used to be.

In any case, 
this time of year, the weather I'm used to looks like this:

Here- sandstorms are still a WIN.