Basia Monka – Adjust your reality and don’t always believe what you see…
It’s hard to believe but there are no Holidays this month in Israel. Neither state one nor religious. My soda bottle doesn’t wish me ‘Hag Sameach’ (happy holidays, literally: happy Holiday – one at a time ). In other countries you get it twice a year: for Christmas and Easter, in Israel Holidays are almost all the time. I am not complaining, I love Holidays and all kinds of celebration. I actually keep saying that having an opportunity to celebrate Jewish Holidays in the Jewish state is one of the best things of living here (even when you have to explain to your Jewish Israeli boss that those Holidays matter… ), but sometimes it’s good to have a break from them, too.
So the summer came. Israelis can finally talk about the things that really matter: “it’s hot” and “the ‘meduzot’ (jelly fish; ‘meduza’ – singular) are in the water”. The social media are suddenly full of discussions about the jelly fish. Every day I see someone posting a question about a number of jelly fish on a particular beach, people are sharing stories about being stung. No wonder Etgar Keret named his movie like that, ten years ago. Meduzot, those brainless creatures, are present here at least for a month. But many people are entering the sea anyway. If you are one of them, better learn the world ‘hometz’ (a vinegar), as that what you will be asking for from the first aid on the beach. Also, if you see someone running out of the water screaming from pain, don’t ask the person: “but did you see it? Are you sure it was a ‘meduza’?” Well, Israelis love asking questions…
Hot. Yes, it’s hot. But that’s why many of us moved here! To enjoy the ongoing summer. The heat was never a surprise to me, but the ‘mazgan’ (an air condition) was. When it’s hot in Israel, people freeze! The air condition in offices, buses, shops is often 16 degrees Celsius and while your friends think you, living in Israel, are constantly in a bikini, you are wearing a winter jumper and tights, when you are indoors… Carrying a sweater when it is 35 degrees becomes part of your life… So don’t always believe what you see on the photos.
Israel is a country of contrasts, not just when it comes to indoor and outdoor temperatures. On one hand I find people workaholics, here. 9-11 hours at work. Talking about work all the time. On the other hand – appreciation of life is big here. You can see ALWAYS full cafes, bars, people having breakfast almost at any time of a day.. Especially if you live in a big city (the country is small, but there are big cities, still) the number of social and cultural events is enormous. You just need to know how to look for them. And afford them. A kind of a vicious circle of existence here.
I keep looking for the key to the Israel life and I want to tell you about Yossi. I call him my beach resident. He is almost always there, unless he is fishing down South, at old Jaffa. I have never asked him how old is he (although, as I have mention before on the IsraelSeen, this is the most common question in Tel Aviv), I assume he is of pensioner age. He comes to the beach with his dog, chair and the beach umbrella. Mostly for the dog, I think, as Yossi is covered with years old suntan.
When I come to the beach, I try not to put my towel in front of a trash bin. Once I watched Yossi. He has chosen his spot… and went to move away the trash, so it would not disturb his sea view. It has never crossed my mind to move the trash! He has adjusted the surrounding to himself, not opposite. It must be it – I thought, that what makes Israelis strong. Not pleasing everyone but taking care of a personal comfort. Maybe that is what changed the desert into a fruitful, startup nation. And despite irritating outsiders, this ‘hutzpa’ (no need to explain that), can really make sense… Personally, I don’t think I will be able to learn that. After all, I am a European living in the Middle East. But I keep thinking of that. My beach friend Yossi, doesn’t need ‘Hag Sameach’ on a bottle, to him every day is a holiday, an appreciation of life. He can make life a Holiday. Even if life was not always that easy.
Tel Aviv, 02/07/17
Text and photo: Basia Monka