I love my old TV: an Israeli populace in dire straits

There is something more than a little surreal about going to pick up a gas mask. And I have been putting off the task for some time now, in spite of regular reminders by post and having been sufficiently aware of the possibility of a heavy, sustained attack on Israel – and Tel Aviv especially – to have blogged about it every few months (most recently in Getting ready to rock ‘n’ roll with Iran and Reflections on Armageddon).            

Gas mask graffiti: man reading sports pages (Rabin Square, Tel Aviv)

Fortunately, it is not in the Israeli “live for today” constitution to lose sleep over such an eventuality, and many of the natives won’t even bother to collect their masks – or “individual protection kits”, to give them their official, Orwellian name – as they consider them a waste of time (and they probably are).             

My friend Itzik, on the other hand, has been preoccupied with the spectre of war for months now. Meeting another friend, an IDF intelligence officer, for the first time recently, Itzik spent the entire evening trying to extract hints as to when he should book his outbound flight. And, ever since discovering my source, Itzik has regularly been enquiring as to whether I have “heard anything”. I, of course, now delight in terrorising him: “Where are you?” I’ll fire as he answers his phone. “How soon can you be at Ben Gurion (Airport)?”             

The recent automated telephone reminders – supplementing the postal ones – to pick up gas masks, however, have started to make me think that something really may be up . . . and imminent.             

Collecting my prehistoric CRT (cathode ray tube) television from repair – show me the Polish Jew who can easily dispose of something that once cost him several hundred pounds! – last week, the workshop owner mentioned that he was born in Iran. Instantly forgetting the dilemma of whether I should leave him the great hulk of mid-nineties Japanese engineering and keep the three hundred shekels in my pocket (an option he offered), I asked Assi whether he thought that Ahmadinejad was “just a big talker”.             

I was looking, I think, for reassurance, from a man with some understanding of the Iranian psyche. I immediately wished, however, that I had stayed shtum.             

“Oh no,” replied Assi confidently (in a now unmistakable Persian accent), “it’s gonna go crazy here . . . and before the chagim (Jewish high holidays, beginning in the middle of next week). If you have got somewhere to go . . . go!”             

The nonchalance with which the TV repair man turned doomsayer delivered his prediction made it no less shocking.

I attempted to calm myself with the recollection that this was the very same man who had informed me, just a few days earlier, that old tellies display a far better quality of picture than state-of-the-art TVs.      

This time, however, Assi had nothing to sell.       

“So why don’t you go?” I retorted.             

“Where am I going to go with my kids? Anyway, I haven’t got the money.”             

I immediately handed over the three hundred shekels and somehow squeezed the giant Sony Trinitron back onto my back seat. And, by the time I had schlepped it back up to my second floor flat, I was determined to collect that gas mask once and for all.             

The postal reminder listed the nearest pickup point to be my local ACE DIY/home improvement store – a kind of B&Q with attitude – which somehow added to the surrealism of the exercise:    

“A pack of double ‘A’ Energizer batteries, some cheap tumblers, a plastic garden chair . . . oh yes, and a gas mask, please, in case of biological or chemical attack.” 

Gas mask distribution point, Ramat Gan

Two young frechot sitting at the rear of the store were checking teudot zehut (ID cards) and handing out the cardboard boxes. And there was a sample mask, in its constituent parts, on the desk in front of them.      

Seeing as I had never worn one – I was at university, in England, when they were last used, during the first Gulf War – and that the girls had informed me that opening the box is prohibited (before you absolutely have to, I interpolated), I enquired as to whether they would be kind enough to show me how. The twin gazes of incredulity, however, that greeted my request – reasonable, I thought, in the circumstances – told me that they had no intention of allowing their discussion of what is new in frecha fashion, or of which Avi, Benny or Yossi had abused them the previous evening, to be interrupted. I scuttled off home.             

Oddly enough, after the danger to those near and dear, the thought that most haunts me about Israel coming under heavy and prolonged attack is not of the ignoble mass party that will undoubtedly break out right across the knuckle-dragging Islamic world, but rather of the sickening glee that it will also bring to the Kaufmans, Galloways and Finkelsteins, not to mention the poisonous little Gerts, of the rest of it.             

Back in Sheinkin, I treated myself to a comfort sabich and chips. I had needed something rather more substantial than the information, provided by Assi, that “many Iranians secretly listen to Israel Radio English news”.             

David, a Welshman, still here some twenty years after meeting an Israeli girl in a Camden Town pub, joined me.             

“Do you think about it much?” I asked him, my head still in gas masks.             

“There’s not much to think about,” replied David. “You either stay or you go. And I’m not going.”             

And, after investing fifty-odd quid in that old telly, nor am I . . . but will – like a good Polish boy – be seeing out Assi’s three-month guarantee, at the very least!     



27 responses to “I love my old TV: an Israeli populace in dire straits

  1. melchettmike
    I am glad you picked up your gas mask because, if the terrible should happen, everybody who has one and USES it is a potential contributor to setting the medics free to take care of others.

  2. Cathode ray TV!?! Buck-frick’n-Rogers…is your modem coal-driven? Is your internet black-and-white?*

    Are you sure you’re comfortable with a gask mask, Mike? Given your penchant for anti-deluvian technology, perhaps you’d prefer a Roman cassis with an extra-high focale?

    *Shamelessly stolen from Armando Iannucci

  3. Silke’s comment is ‘on the nail’.

    Surely there must be a DVD instruction guide accompanying your ‘individual protection kit’ which is why you had your prehistoric entertainment viewing system repaired.

    You should be in training for your “two sponsored bike rides” .. not seated like a lounge lizard in front of ‘the box’ … unless you’re pedalling away on your steam driven exercise bike !

  4. Daniel Greenspan

    Someone to repair a big old Sony for 300 shekels – you found a Tzaddik.

    May your phosphors glow longer than Ahmajinedad’s Iranium Uranium!

  5. now I’m beginning to think that our wonderful government really don’t consider us folks in gush etzion part of the real country as we’ve had zero notification about gas masks! unless of course they realise that it’s you guys in the TA area who might need them more!
    anyway – sorry we missed you over shabbat! have a shana tova and keep on writing…

  6. Mandy, you guys in Gush are probably safer than anyone. Come to think of it, Liz’s might be my refuge of choice!

    I have a confession to make . . .

    Dexxy took a sizeable dump outside the house a couple of doors down from you, on Friday evening. And, not having any “doggy bags” on me, I was forced to use a dirty old knitted kippa lying on your front wall.

    Eitan and I discussed it. I was for, and he against. But I overruled him, basing my decision on the fact that someone standing in Dexxy’s “doings” would have preferred an old kippa sruga to have been sacrificed rather than their Shabbos shoes!

    I trust that none of your boys were attached to that kippa . . . 😉

  7. Moshe Abelesz

    Thanks for reminding me that I should be doing something about picking up mine – and I’m sure the gas masks will be very useful against the nuclear party he’s planning 🙂

  8. Moshe
    to be serious for a moment, the most likely scenario, at least initially, is that once he feels protected by virtue of having the bomb, he will give his minions the go-ahead. I haven’t read anything substantial that they have gas but it seems highly likely. Why should they stop at anything? They care as little about their own everyday man, woman and child as they do about Israelis. They care about their own weird variation of grandstanding i.e. who is better at kneecapping the other (and that’s the well-behaved part of them)

  9. “Thanks for reminding me that I should be doing something about picking up mine . . .”

    Moshe, I didn’t know that you also have a dog. 😉

  10. kippa didn’t belong to anyone in our house – it’s been lying on our wall for months. so thanks for removing it! pretty big of you to admit you used it for removing the poop, but we all appreciate you not leaving it lying on the side walk for us to step in – cheers!

  11. Is a dirty old discarded kippa “kodesh” (holy)?

    Daniel Marks?

    (Maybe I’ll start an “Ask the ex-Hasmo” section . . . )

  12. Daniel Marks

    Okay, I’ll start from the end. There is no halachic reason not to throw a kippah away if you so wish.

    Again, I remind you that I’m not a rabbi, but as this is a simple question I shall answer.

    There are several categories but for the purpose of our discussion there are two:

    1. Tashmish Kedushah – like a sefer torah or siddur.

    2. Tashmish mitzvah – like a lulav, succah, wine cup or a kippah.

    While the former have sanctity in their own right, the latter only facilitate us in carrying out a mitzvah.

    In the case of a kippah, in my opinion, it has less sanctity than a lulav (which we throw away). After all no bracha is ever made on wearing it and no mitzva is dependent on it. There are several synagogues which require men being called up (to the Torah) to have a hat rather than a kippa. By that logic, hats should be even holier.

    There is no halachic requirement to wear a kippah in the first place. In Mesechet Kiddushim Rabbi Huna reports that he never walks four steps with an uncovered head. The custom caught on and has (probably) today acquired the status of law.

    However, this is nothing to do with a kippa. Nobody would ever tell a person wearing a hat, cap, helmet or anything else to take it off and put on a kippa.

    Perhaps it might be more logical to compare a kippa to a skirt or pair of trousers as halacha requires us to cover certain parts of us, especially when performing a mitzvah, but makes no fashion statement as to with what. Do you throw away your skirts, Mandy?

    On the other hand, if you find throwing away a kippa upsetting as I might feel about throwing away a flag or anything else of sentimental value, then don’t do so.

    Over the summer I was in Sunny Beach, Burgas, and the Chabad house was lacking in kippot. I said I’d send them a few before next summer. If it makes you feel good:


  13. If the de facto “posek” (you take what you can!) of melchett mike would have gone to the trouble of reading all of the relevant correspondence, he would have seen that the question relates not just to the throwing away of said kippa . . . but also to its use, of which I am not proud (I acted out of necessity), to pick up Dexxy’s fetid turd.

  14. I was answering the question:

    “Is a dirty old discarded kippa “kodesh” (holy)?”

    Regarding your question I’m reminded of rabbi’s wife who after her husband had been asked to check the kashrut of a fish said, “The rabbi said that the fish is kosher, but it stinks!”

    It sounds funnier in either Hebrew or Yiddish.

    I don’t know the whole story but assuming that law required you to pick it up and you had no other choice, you had no choice. The obligation to keep the law surely overrides any of the aforementioned considerations.

    Rav Bariach

  15. What “whole story”, Edgwareve Rebbe?! Dexxy shat, and – using the kippa found on Mandy’s wall – I picked it up and threw it in the bin. Hardly a complex set of facts!

    As to whether the Rebbetzen’s “it stinks” might have been referring to something other than the fish, I will leave such question to someone far less pious and respectful than an ex-Hasmo and Gush boy like myself . . .

  16. I apologize. I thought you were asking about throwing away a kippa. I have no idea why.

    Put it down to old age.

  17. Does not a good posek, like a good judge, have to consider all of the surrounding circumstances?

    Perhaps “Rav Ovadiah” would be a more fitting name for you . . .

  18. Whilst you all have a good old banter about it which is really wonderful I read that with a racing heart and a severe loss of apetite.

    This thing about getting out of Israel? What of those who have no where to go and don’t have their dual nationality? What of those who are of the mind of “I’m not effing going anywhere, this is my home?”

    I feel the need now to speed up our return to Israel. Isn’t that what the enemy wants to drive us all out of Israel?

    BTW My stupid cheapish flat screen tv just told me that it has no signal. So I went into the unchartered territory of playing with the remote control to win back the signal so I might watch some after a bloody hard day. In my efforts to get back a signal I have wiped out all the channels (even the cable freeview ones) and none are left. I did not even know you could do that. What is the f******g point of a feature that wipes out all channels? Not even BBC1 remains. Ask your Iranian friend about it. I’m going to bed now with a book.

  19. Ruth, I see that it didn’t take you too long to get over your anxiety about a possible nuclear holocaust in the Middle East! 😉

  20. should we accept this threat of chemical attac seriously? if so-why did not i get my mask? and where can i get it?

  21. If the question is serious, Dekel . . .

    Pikud Ha’Oref: call 1207 or http://www.oref.org.il

  22. No Mike some serious hours lapsed between me writing the first part and then with the TV situation. Just the remote control fiddling to wipe out all the channels took a whole (wasted) hour.

    In order to cope with the thought of a serious attack I have had to put myself in a mild state of denial for now until I can deal with this reality. It should not take too long.

    You know most things in life are uncertain. But one thing in my world that is unshakable, unquestionable and immovable is my knowledge (not even faith, my knowledge from the depths of my soul) that The Jewish People are here to stay for eternity. And no one, not Hitler and not the sick f*** Arma-Dinner-Jacket can take that away from me or from us as a nation.

    I can only suggest that as well as preparing our gas masks and bomb shelters etc, some preparations are made by us, (especially the secular society in Israel yes that’s me too) to hold onto our faith like our life depended on it, we will need our faith/belief whatever you want to call it as much as we will need our gas masks.

    Anyway, back to seeing if my friend Ben can fix the stupid TV and do some man stuff with it.

  23. What? Ben’s gonna f*ck your TV?! 😉

    Sadly, Ruth, not only do I not share your “knowledge . . . that The Jewish People are here to stay for eternity”, but I don’t even believe it.

    Take a look at the history of this little piece of land. What makes you think that our generation is any different from previous ones who inhabited it? Ego, perhaps? Denial?

    We are mere dots on the “i”s in those history books . . .

  24. I am talking about the Jewish Nation. As a loud and proud Zionist I pray for the State of Israel and I pray that it is not just a fleeting period of being back “home” in our history. (I do more than just pray, I’m pretty active but that’s for another time)
    The Jewish Nation is eternal regardless of where it is forced to reside if things go wrong in Israel.

    Anyway Mike I don’t know about you but if any monster tries to kick me out of my homeland, I will make be making my way back home regardless.

    I would rather go on a honendous perilous journey than be stuck in grey London all my life. Sod that.

  25. Okay, Ruth, I thought you meant here here . . . as in Israel. Anway, I of course hope that I am wrong!

  26. Talking about discarded, dirty old kipahs….Here is a cute little thing I noticed yesterday while parking my car.
    I usually park on a dusty vacant lot on the backside of the “new” bus terminal in Tel Aviv( because it is free.)
    Late at night, this same lot is obviously used by a hooker or two, because of the vast amount of condoms and tissues strewn about in the dirt every morning. (Personally, I’ve never seen them there, really!)
    Yesterday I noticed a huge black velvet kippah laying incongruessly amoungst the battered, dusty condoms. Guy must have had some explaining to do when he got home bare-headed.
    Needless to say, I suppressed my initial urge to pick it up, leaving it there to disintegrate with the other “devrai kedushah”.

  27. albert de gogan

    Fours months on and nothing happened, and I don’t think anything will happen in the near future. If it ever does happen, it will most likely be biological. And will be delivered by “D” type SAM Missiles from the Lebanon. I can’t see this happening, because it would be the end of time for the Middle East.

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