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Israelis Have the Biggest Hearts

September 19, 2011 1 comment

There is a term to describe Israeli born Jews, Sabra, which means prickly on the outside, soft on the inside.

Israelis can seem very aggressive to Americans: the way they drive, the way they seem to “cut” you in line, their directness. Most Americans have a difficult time getting past this prickly skin. If you can just go with it and join in the spirit of beseder (Hebrew for “It’s OK.” They say it constantly.) you will greatly reduce your stress. If you are willing to ask Israelis for help, they will astonish you with the depth of their patience and willingness to spend time with you to make sure you are OK. Even complete strangers will do this.

Example 1:

My colleague, Hagit, offered to help with whatever I needed. I was struggling figuring out which stores to go to for what. (See An American Shopping in Israel) I sent her a list of things I was looking for and she suggested meeting at IKEA since it was close to her house. As we shop I say, “So, how far did you have to come?” She says, “Oh, not far–about an hour.”

She rearranged a meeting, drove two hours (round trip), and sacrificed a Thursday night (= Friday night in American society) to help me shop. She listened to me vent about the challenges we’d been having, and generally helped me feel more at home.

Example 2:

In the grocery store, I am completely puzzled by the garbage bag selection. I’m trying to convert centimeters to inches in my head and I have no idea what size bags to by. A woman walks by and I say “Slicha. (Pointing at the bags) are these big (making big gesture with arms) or small (small gesture with hands). I want big.”

She starts picking them up and reading them carefully. She points to Hebrew on the package and says “For big kitchen.” She would not leave me until she felt like I had what I needed.

Example 3:

In the same grocery store, I’m checking out with the cashier. She says something in Hebrew, I look confused, and she points to the readout: 190.22 NIS.

Me: Hand her 200 NIS

Prickly Cashier: Says more in Hebrew I don’t understand

Me: Check the readout again to make sure I didn’t really owe 19022 NIS–I sure hope not. I say, “It’s 200 NIS.” Give her my what’s-the-problem?’ look.

Nice Man Behind Me: “She wants to know if you have 22 cents.”

Me: “Slicha. I only have 16 cents. She can’t make the change?”

Nice Man Behind Me: “She doesn’t want to go to the trouble.”

Me: Give my so-what-do-I-do-now? look.

Nice Man Behind Me: Reaches into his pocket and pulls out 22 cents for the cashier. I try to give him my 16 cents, but he won’t take it.

Example 4:

Liam confused our couch with a trampoline and well… I don’t think I have to tell you the rest. We wandered around a street in Netanya with no signs in English trying to track down the medical clinic our relocation assistant sent us to. I can read (i.e. sound out) enough Hebrew to identify the sign for the place, but it looked like an abandoned warehouse. We found out from a nice lady on the street speaking broken English that it had moved to another location. Another lady out with her son spent about 10 minutes with us calling around on her cell to find an open clinic.
Instead of stitches they glued the cut back together, thank goodness. Liam was a real trooper and even though the staff spoke almost exclusively Hebrew he followed their requests (via gestures), was totally calm, and asked to go to McDonalds when it was all done.
This is what I mean when I say Israelis have big hearts. I don’t know how they fit them in their chests. ❤