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Friday, March 25, 2011


I will try to write something more meaningful on Israel when I get back to the U.S. Until then I am observing my surrounding with unending astonishment.

So much has changed since my last visit. So far, the main shock was speaking Hebrew. Everyone speaks Hebrew in Israel! (and many other languages, but mainly Hebrew). I am not used to speaking Hebrew with total strangers.

For the past 25 years I've been speaking Hebrew only with people I know quite well. So Hebrew signals an intimate experience. Speaking it with strangers feels like a violation of my personal space. I think that was why I had a total meltdown on a bus when I realized how odd it felt to interact with so-called "people on the street."

On Monday I got on a bus at the central bus station in Tel Aviv (mainly because I wanted the experience - it was pre-latest bus stop bombing in Jerusalem so I felt very nonchalant about getting on a bus - still am...) with my daughter going to Allenbi Street. I had no idea how much it costs to go on a bus. So I asked. In Hebrew. And the bus driver UNDERSTOOD me. He didn't even flinch when he said "twelve shekels." I asked if twelve shekels covered one ticket or two. Since my daughter and I were the only people who got on the bus, he probably meant twelve shekels for two tickets, but I didn't get it. I know little about the value of the shekel. So I asked in my very native Hebrew if twelve shekels covered both of us.

The driver very patiently said yes, but I could detect a certain expression on his face: this woman is a little retarded. I fished several coins from my pocket and looked for the place to put them. I had absolutely no idea what to do with the money. I was also not sure whether I had to give exact change because riding a bus in some places entails paying with exact change. So I asked the driver what to do with the money. He looked at me like I fell from the moon and stretched his cupped hand out. I put the coins in his hand and stumbled to my seat. And then I burst out laughing, totally out of control.

It's been quite a while since I've felt that stupid.