Third journal from Israel

Hello all here I am again. This is my third journal. If you didn’t get either of the others, let me know.
When I left off last time, it was the day after my first mountain biking adventure and started my third week here at mother Intel. The week turned out to be pretty good. I got good reviews in two well distributed weeklies. (Intel requires everyone in the company to summaries their or their group’s activities once a week and distibute it to an appropriate audience) Then on Thusday night I went to a pub with a friend and a friend of his. Thursday is the last day of the work week.
The pub (aka bar) turned out to be cool. The crowd was everyday young people, not yuppies, but also not the constuction types. Here, again, I noticed the service in Israel sucks. Waitresses and waiters take forever to take your order. It takes forever for them to bring it. When you need a refill, they don’t notice that either. Other people here that I’ve asked about it concur. At this particular bar, like many bars, the wait staff provide a good view though. I felt like a deer stuck in the middle of the road, if you get my drift. 😉
It was fun. The girl that my friend Ari brought along (Daphna) was interesting. She’s the daughter of one of the division managers here and you could classify her as spoiled. One of the topics of conversation was that Ari and I both thought she needed to put on some weight. At one point, I even wrapped my fingers around her bicep and only needed another half inch to touch my fingertips. Baby had no back either but she was satisfied with her lack of weight. That’s what really matters though.
Another topic that recurred was the Uzi. You’ll recall that the Uzi is heavier and less accurate, albeit more feminine. Well, it also kicks back more. This makes things difficult if your a member of the weaker sex (that would be female ;-)) Ari’s desciption of some women practicing was pretty funny. I must admit, however, that the account of guys’ shooting wasn’t a whole lot better.
Anyway, the weekend came and on Friday I went climbing with two Russian guys from work. The way I found them was as follows: I emailed a climbing shop in Tel Aviv that was listed in Climbing magazine. They mailed me back with the number of the president of the alpine club of Israel who gave me three local numbers. One of those contacts climbs with one of the guys here. It took some effort, but I found a contact.
The rock that we went to was a little over an hours drive away just SE of Tel Aviv. There’s closer climbing, but they go there during the week. When I first looked at it, I thought, don’t you have something a little less challenging? The easiest one looks to be about a 5.10. (They use the american scale here. If you don’t know what 5.10 means, you can’t climb it) This is gonna be a long day.
The day of climbing was pretty communal. It seems that a couple people brought static ropes for toproping and each one setup their rope at one site and then people just rotated climbs. Takes out the pain of setting up the rope. You just hang out til a rope is free and flail away.
The climbers there were pretty good. I guess you need to be to even show up there. One guy led a bunch of 11s. At one point I heard mention of a guy on-site soloing an 11. I did ok though. I made it up a good portion of a bunch of the climbs and the level of difficulty taught me alot. If I climb this stuff on a regular basis, I’ll get better quickly.
For the most part, however, it was a pretty isolating day. A couple of the people were recent Russian immigrants and didn’t speak alot of English. The locals were doing their own thing and kept more or less to themselves. I guess I need to learn Hebrew.
The next day was much more social. Joining an athletic club (not a gym) is a great way to meet people. On Saturday, I went to a race by Galilee with the Intel mountain biking group which actually consists of half randoms. The race was fun and the weather was great for it. I can’t say that I was at the front, but I certainly didn’t come in last place. I even beat a bunch of full suspension bikes. One of the funnier sights that I saw was a full suspension Klein and regular pedals without toe clips. Everyone, of course has that cool biking fashions with lots of team logos.
Afterward, I hung out with a couple coworkers and randoms. One of the randoms Livnat (leave-not) always makes me think of Ralph Macio from the karate kid. She probably wouldn’t appreciate that but I can’t help it. She’s a physical therapist.
That reminds me of a funny incident. The week before, I had given her a ride since she doesn’t own a car. (import tax on car is very high here) One of the first things she said to me was that I have bad posture. She’s laughed at me alot for the rest of the day for being self-conscious about it. She’s right but it’s crazy that I’d respond that way.
One of the Intel guys brought his little son along and he (the son) and I bonded pretty well. They had lived in Virginia for a couple years so he knew English. Later, during dinner, it was obvious that he liked me much more than Livnat who was making an effort to befriend him. She got her payback, however, when the boy, Daniel, announced to the table that I remind him of his uncle. We’re both tall and have similar personalities. But the uncle at least knows SOME hebrew. Everyone found that pretty humourous, especially since it had to be translated for me.
Last weekend was a long one for Israel’s 50 independence day. It was rather interesting to be here for it. Memorial day and independence day come together. On the first night of it all, Tuesday, they sounded the sirens and everything stops and stands at attention for a full 2 minutes in remembrance of those that died defending Israel. The next morning, they sounded them again for independence. At the time that it went off, I was in my Hebrew lesson and my tutor and I spent the next couple of minutes comparing the attitudes of Israel and America.
I guess this would be a good time to go into the topics of race, religion, and partiotism. To summarize, I’ve never before been in an environment where people really don’t notice race (“I’m not racist. Lots of my friends are black” doesn’t count) When I walk down the street late at night and I pass some old person or a female I’m never avoided. If anything, it seems like people make a special effort to get in the way. 80%+ of the people consider themselves Jewish but very few of them are religious. Comparing Southern Baptists and other Christians might be similar. There is a minority of the Jewish community that wears all black, with the crazy curly sideburns and stuff like that and there’s the majority for whom it’s simply a shared history, struggle, and traditions. There’s a very real difference between Jewish religion and Jewish culture. As far as military service goes, everyone does it. Growing up, you know that when you finish high school and before anything else, you go into the military for a couple years and then when you get out, there’s reserve duty once a year until you’re 40 or so. People here are proud of being Israeli because it’s where they belong and where they’re from.
Israel has lots of different origins. Most recently there has been a large influx of Russians and Ethiopians. It’s wierd to see Africans wearing yamakas. (sp?) Before then, there were obviously lots from Germany. America is well represented as well. In any case, people are so used to being mixed with other origins that race becomes a nonissue. But America is the melting pot! I’m not exactly sure why it turned out so different but one guess is that a higher percentage immigrated in recent history.
One very large exception to this is with Arabs. Going back to my pub night with Ari and Daphna, we got onto the topic of what was the worst thing she could need to tell her father. (she’s spoiled remember) It was decide that the following would be it, “Dad… I’m pregnant…. He’s a drug dealer…. He’s Arab” It strikes me as a little funny that the Arabs would be the focus since as my friend Mark told be before I came here, “Israel is the most non-secular country I know”. People don’t feel so good about Orthodox Jews either so you can probably just liken it to the bad feeling against the Jesse Helms conservatives. Let me do what I do and I’ll be happy and as the media loves to point out, Arab don’t do that.
When I first got here, I found religion to be noticeable in a couple ways that I’ve talked about before. Kosher food in the cafeteria. No wheat during Passover. Stores close on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. These are the types of things that most people here cling to. Everyone has their bar/bat mitzvah. Everyone celebrates Hannuka, Yom Kippor, and Rash Hashona (sp?) Most people, if you ask them, will tell you they’re Jewish. Few go to synagogue. Not really that different from things in the states.

I was talking to one of the other two Americans here during lunch today when he mentioned the Scud Mall. I didn’t notice it at first and just asked him to clarify where it is; I wasn’t familiar with it. When he did, I realized that, yes, I do know the mall. It’s the one with the metal detector wand. He told me he and his family call it the Scud Mall because it was hit by a scud during the war. The mall is a 20min drive from my apartment. It takes that long only because there isn’t a direct route.
I’ll leave you with a political joke. Every year, close to independence day, people attach Israeli flags to their cars. Here’s and there you’ll also see an American flag, presumably because America has done alot to protect the country. Some of the flags have 51 stars.

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