Tag Archives: Israeli Men

On yer bike: The myth of the caring Israeli society?

I have not made the most auspicious of starts to the New Year.

Perhaps I am in some way to blame, having taken my bike out on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah . . . though I don’t really believe that He would have sent those brothers – one aged 14, the other around 10 – to crash their large korkinet (electric scooter) into me, head-on, on the bicycle path near the Mandarin Hotel on the Tel Aviv/Herzliya border.

The boys were riding the korkinet (resembling the one pictured, though with larger, fatter tires) together – little brother standing in front of big one, both without helmets – on the wrong half of the path (their left), heading north; while I was on the right (in both senses) side, cycling in the opposite direction. My front wheel (photographed below) totally buckled under the impact with theirs.

Following a knee-jerk “Atem meshuga’im?!” (Are you crazy?!), I surprised even myself with the speed of my composure-recovery time: “You are just kids,” I comforted the boys, who, while unhurt, were in visible shock from the instantaneous haematoma protruding like a golf ball from my right shin.

A long walk back to Jaffa – or, indeed, to anywhere – was clearly not an option. “Just call your father, and ask him to drop me home . . . oh yes, and tell him to bring some ice!” I was thoroughly enjoying my new found civility.

“I’ll take you part of the way,” said the boys’ father, Amir, on arrival on the scene – my bike still sprawled across the path – some seven or eight minutes later, “we’ve got guests coming in an hour.”

As it was, the 40-something couldn’t fit my bike into the boot of his snazzy BMW – just when I could have done with a 4×4! – and refused to risk scratching the cream leather seats in its rear; and he eventually drove us, boot open, the few hundred metres to his plush apartment complex (the boys returning on their unscathed korkinet), where he instructed the concierge to phone for a cab.

The aftermath

As we sat and awaited the taxi’s arrival, and still revelling in my bonhomie, I reassured Amir – who seemed like a decent enough chap – that I wouldn’t make a big deal of the incident, or of my injury, but “If [he] could just replace the wheel” (I own an expensive-ish bike, and feared that a new rim could set me back 500 shekels plus).

“We’ll settle it next week,” Amir reassured me. And, after debating the chag (holiday) fare with the cabby, he handed over the reduced one – of 100 shekels – for me to be driven home. Saving my number – he preferred this to giving me his – on his phone as I got in, Amir’s parting words were: “I assure you, I will make sure this never happens again.” I repeated to him that I had done far worse as a boy, and that he shouldn’t be too harsh on either of his.

Googling his full name – which he had provided, when asked, in the course of our conversation – I discovered Amir, who had said he was “in property,” to be a senior executive and shareholder at a leading Israeli investment house.

All that was on the Thursday afternoon. I didn’t go straight to A&E because, with my mother expecting me for Yom Tov dinner, I feared that it would be seriously understaffed. I had also once suffered a similar-looking injury playing football. So, I satisfied myself with a phone call to a doctor-colleague, who informed me that there was nothing that could be done anyway, and that I should just keep the haematoma well iced (the shin is still bruised and sore, some three weeks later, and I have been sent for an X-ray and ultrasound).

I was still somewhat surprised, disappointed even, that it took Amir until the Sunday morning – three days after the incident – to call and check on the injury caused by his children, though also by his lack of adequate supervision of them (I knew that, if the boot had been on the other foot, I would have called that very evening). I was in a meeting with my boss at the time, and whispered to Amir that I would call him back, which I did every day until the Wednesday, when the clearly overworked executive finally found the time to call again. He enquired about the state of my leg, but was extremely careful to offer no apology, just assuring me that he would no longer allow the boys to ride on the korkinet together.

Seeing as the phone call was clearly going nowhere, I decided to bring up the subject of the wheel. “I walked up and down Hashmonaim [Tel Aviv’s bicycle shop street] for an hour on Monday [not wishing to cause Amir too much expense, I had] and found the cheapest possible replacement, the odd wheel from a set. It cost 250 shekels [just under £45]. Where should I send the receipt?”

There followed a long, awkwardish silence . . . and then, “We should each pay half.”

Even amongst the rich tapestry of Israeli chutzpah, with which I have become all too familiar, I thought I was hearing things.

“Atah loh mitbayesh?!” (Aren’t you ashamed?!)

“You have to take your share of responsibility, too, for what happened.”

Naturally, if I had known that two boys were riding a motorized vehicle towards me in the wrong lane, and with little control, I would have got off the bicycle path altogether. But to equate our relative culpability was outrageous. Either Amir’s sons had fed him a load of porkies, or – more likely, to my mind – knowing that there were no witnesses, he just knew that he could get away with it. And I could only imagine the shtook Amir would have seen to it that I would have been in had the roles been reversed, with me being the one on the korkinet.

I told Amir to keep his 250 shekels, but that I would now be going to the police. And following a thinly-veiled threat – that “I shouldn’t misinterpret [his] [wait for it . . . ] softness”!  – I terminated the call.

Always one to feel guilty, however (even when I am far from), I still wished to resolve the matter civilly, and I sent Amir a text message, that evening, suggesting that he, instead, sponsor my upcoming charity bike ride (for which I had informed him that I was in training). Numerous folk, on hearing the sorry tale, have opined that Israelis, however wrong they might be in any given situation, never want to be – or, perhaps more to the point, to be seen to be – the freier. So I had given Amir a way out. Needless to say, he hasn’t taken it.

Perhaps I am too sensitive (and naive?) a soul, but the whole incident, to my surprise, has filled me with real sadness, saying so much, for me, about the current state of Israeli society and all too many of its citizens.

Of course it is “not everybody,” but what I can say with some degree of confidence is that the bollocks that we are often fed – that Israelis may be rude and arrogant, but that, when push comes to shove (how appropriate the idiom!), they will be there for you – is now at least, in the main, exactly that (i.e., bollocks): Whether in business, professional relationships, ‘queues,’ on the roads, in restaurants, shops or hotels, or with their children or dogs, my sad experience and conclusion – and that of most people (natives included) to whom I have related the unfortunate tale (some even expressed their surprise that I had expected anything more) – is that too many Israelis these days just couldn’t give a flying felafel about anybody or anything but themselves and theirs. It was once, I am told, very different.

Several days following the incident, I happened to be walking up my former happy hunting ground, Rothschild, as the individuals dressed up here as police officers were evicting the last tent dwellers from the Boulevard. And, after months of not taking the protest too seriously (see here), I now kind of recognized the attitude that has driven so many other Israelis – perhaps the ‘weaker,’ less ambitious and/or aggressive of the species – to despair.

My guess (and it is just a guess) is that Amir was an above-average soldier, who served in an IDF combat unit, perhaps even reaching the rank of officer. And as with a former friend – who, on the basis of such a CV (and all the while considering himself a noble human being), believes that it is just fine for him to screw other men’s wives – this (like the big-paying job he landed on military record, rather than intellectual/academic ability) gives Amir the arrogance to believe that he can do whatever he wishes in civil life, shitting on any poor bugger unfortunate enough to cross his path. (And, if this was how Amir saw fit to act in this situation, one can only imagine what he must be doing with client money!)

Naming and shaming  Amir – surname, position, company – has, of course, been hugely tempting. But this post is not the tool of my revenge. Perhaps, however, Amir will read it – I will forward him the link – and at least attempt to comprehend why I felt compelled to write it.

Perhaps, too, he will try to bring up those nice – and they were – boys into adults that this country can be proud of . . . rather than individuals, like their father, seemingly without moral compass.

Chag sameyach!

[http://www.justgiving.com/mike-isaacson/ . . . only 88 quid to go!]

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Using my loaf: Monkey business in Shuk Ha’Carmel

“They are all barbarians,” I exclaimed to Hanna, who had called me just as I was exiting Shuk Ha’Carmel – the Carmel Market – on Tuesday morning.

Hearing my own words, however, I was immediately struck by their unadulterated foolishness. Indeed, such a pronouncement about bastot (stall) owners in the Shuk – and after 15 years here – was up there, in the obviousness stakes, with statements such as “Israelis can, on occasion, be not particularly considerate drivers” and “Bibi may not really be interested in a settlement with the Palestinians.”

Not wanting Hanna to think me a complete buffoon (I don’t think that either of us had yet ruled out – though she may have now – a friendship beyond the purely platonic), I attempted to justify my outburst by relating how a stallholder who has supplied all of my bread requirements for years had dismissed me with a contemptuous wave of the hand, as if waving away a beggar, as I was attempting to show him (for his information, as it were) how the last loaf purchased had not – through no fault of the Rechov Melchett freezer (as frosty as the drawers of a frigid Polania) – frozen properly through the middle.

“Are you mad,” said Hanna. It dawned upon me that my chances might have receded even further. “Do you think that he has the education to comprehend, or to care, why your bread might not have frozen?!”

I cannot deny it: over the years, I have had more than my fair share of run-ins with Israeli customer service. But the truth is that, on this occasion, I hadn’t expected understanding or sympathy . . . merely civility and, perhaps, that – for a good customer – the Persian would, like an English trader in his shoes, feign a polite smile and hand over (however reluctantly) a fresh loaf. And, before opting (wisely, I think) not to dig my hole vis-à-vis Hanna any deeper, I considered educating her as to how it is precisely such seemingly trivial gestures that make up the fabric of a livable society.

Talking of societies and fabrics, I grew up in a most “livable” one in which they could be returned to retailers even after they had been worn to numerous engagements/functions. Indeed, I could swear that M&S Brent Cross had a dedicated queue for Jewish housewives returning outfits with which they had become bored, or – horror of all horrors – in which they had spotted a rival (i.e., any other Jewish) female. Even my bar mitzvah suit went back immediately following the big day after a magnifying glass helped identify a miniscule imperfection in its pinstripe (“He finds it itchy” was considered unlikely to suffice). Moreover, a recently-visiting friend related how North-West Londoners routinely return LCD tellies to Costco (a cash and carry warehouse), which exchanges them for the latest model without so much as a query (compare that to the Jerusalem fax paper episode!)

On discussing this post in the pub, yesterday evening, my friend Yuval was of the view that while such wonderful customer service may be viable in the UK, the consumer chutzpah that can so easily abuse it makes it impossible in the Jewish state, where sellers do not wish to be freiers any more than buyers. Makes sense.

Even the knowledge that Shuk Ha’Carmel traders are renowned for their primitiveness and lack of education – as well as for living off largely undeclared income in the swankiest suburbs of north Tel Aviv – does not, as it should, help me to rise above and not get wound-up by their ill-breeding. Two other friends, and fellow olim, refer to this type of Israeli male (regrettably, not encountered only in the shuk) as “apes”/“monkeys”; often apposite-seeming epithets, which – before the accusations of racism start to fly – relate to their behaviour rather than (or, at least, more than) their ethnicity. Let’s face it, if it is swarthy, hairy, excitable and cheeky, it ain’t no sheep or swan!

Might I, however, have become one of them? It has been said . . .

On Tuesday, as I wheeled my trolleyful of produce back past the Persian – and in spite of having had at least half an hour to cool down – I experienced another frozen yogurt/Jerusalem Post moment, informing him that he was a “shmock” from whom I had made my last purchase.

As Hanna subsequently made very clear, however, on this occasion there had been only one shmock . . . and, from now on, I would be better off using my loaf.

Bitch, her 4×4, and other irritants

There is this woman in the neighbourhood – for argument’s (and accuracy’s) sake, let’s call her “Bitch” – who, every morning, parks her 4×4 on the pedestrian crossing next to the kiosk (‘our’ café on Rothschild).

Bitch is in her mid-thirties, has a body to die for (and knows it), and couldn’t care less how many old folk, mothers and babies, schoolchildren, or people like me, walking their dogs, can’t safely negotiate the road while she sips on her hafuch (latte).

And ever since, a couple of months ago, Bitch hooted me from behind – essentially, for having the temerity to be on the same road as her – I have fantasized about rubbing something long and hard against that body while she sleeps. A key.

Hallelujah!

Size and status are everything to these terrorists of the road. And, whilst I am loath to agree with anything that emanates from the poisonous gob of Ken Livingstone, the very fact of owning a “Chelsea Tractor” tells us everything that we need to know about that person, making him or her fully deserving of our unbridled contempt.

Strolling home with Stuey and Dexxy, the other morning, after suffering Bitch at the kiosk, I thought about all those folk who I allow to aggravate me these days (and shouldn’t). Even excluding matters religious or political, against the law (for example, littering), or out of people’s control (most unfortunately, being French), I still managed – on the short walk back to Melchett – to come up with the following list . . .

1.  Tel Aviv cyclists: Both the menaces who harass you with their poxy bells – I swear that, some day soon, a surgeon at Ichilov is going to have his oddest retrieval yet from an Israeli rectum – and those on their ridiculously expensive bikes, in equally ridiculous designer cycling gear, for the 10 km round trip to Holon.

2.  Anyone – not using the site for commercial or publicity purposes – with more than 400 (ballpark) “friends” on facebook. To be deeply distrusted.

3.  Males, essentially new immigrants with tiny todgers, who post photos of themselves in IDF uniform – and holding their only weapon of any potency – to facebook. Tossers.

4.  Females who market themselves on Internet dating sites in their bikinis . . . and who then moan that all men ever seem to want is to get their “kit” off.

5.  Israeli women – again, often provocatively clad – who talk inconsiderately loudly in cafés as a result of feeling deprived of attention to anything that might be going on above their shoulders. Shut the f*ck up.

6.  Wannabe actors and, especially, actresses who are in complete denial of what everyone knows: that they are talentless f*ckwits. Tel Aviv is crawling with them. They shamelessly post videos of themselves on facebook in performances that they could only persuade their grandmothers to attend (and, then, only until the interval). There are also those attention-seekers who film nothing very much on Tel Aviv’s streets and boulevards in the hope that passers-by will think that they are actually doing something with their lives. We won’t. Get a job.

7.  Overuse of vacuous expressions such as “sound” (as in cool), or – in Hebrew, and I won’t bother translating . . . there is no point – “ke’eeloo,” “walla” and, most infuriating of all, “sababa.” F*ck off. You are not a student anymore.

8.  Anyone who smokes a cigar with a diameter of more than half an inch outside of a cigar lounge. A middle-aged guy walked past the kiosk with one, last Saturday morning. It was so thick, we thought it would split the webbing of the fingers it was wedged between. He was wearing a look of “See, I’ve made it.” We were saying “Look, what a prick.”

9.  Wearing cowboy boots without actually being a cowboy. Dexxy chewed the trouser leg of one such pillock at the kiosk, last year. It is amazing what dogs know.

10.  Non-Arabs who wear the keffiyeh (okay, that one is a little political . . . then again, they are twats).

11.  Anyone who listens to Coldplay outside of an elevator or a supermarket.

"Anyone know the way to Old Trafford?"

12.  “Glory boy” supporters of Manchester United, Chelsea and, now, Manchester City, who have never visited their team’s home ground . . . or, at least, never did when they were shit (City still are) and poor. These ‘fans’ deny their former lack of interest in football – pre-1993, 2005 and 2008, respectively – with a dishonesty that would make David Irving blush.

And the message of all of this? Don’t be an intolerant, grumpy old sod? Get a life? God knows. Perhaps there isn’t one, and I just wrote it to vent my spleen . . . though it would be interesting to hear (via comments below) what – otherwise legal – behaviours cause readers of melchett mike to spit out their dummies.

[I am off to Kenya for a charity bike ride – it is not too late to sponsor me (many thanks, once again, to all of you who already have) – and, should you experience (understandable) withdrawal symptoms in my absence, I can heartily recommend the following websites to occupy yourselves until my return: boys/girls. To whet your appetites, there is a new sub-series of Hasmo Legends in the melchett mike “oven”, which I guarantee will offer a unique insight into the madhouse.]



In the Rudest of Health (The Israeli, Part III)

“You’ve got too much to say!”

So North-West London’s most famous French teacher would often chide his loquacious (he preferred “yapping”) pupils.

And not always having to say something – especially if, as my parents would remind me, that “something” is not worth saying – is an English attitude that the Israeli would do well to consider. Indeed, while silence and Jerusalem may both be golden, only one of them is “blue and white” too (for the time being, at least).

As I have documented on these pages (here, here and here), most Israelis are of the view that it is not only their God-given right, but also their duty, to give their opinion – even to complete strangers – on absolutely everything, whether or not that “everything” even concerns them.

Most common is advice . . . in my case, dating, dieting and doggy (dogging is, I am informed, something completely else). Earlier this week, for instance, there was the elderly lady on Rothschild who deemed it incumbent upon her to inform me that I was endangering the lives of Stuey and Dexxy by not observing the Do Not Walk sign (wonderfully altruistic, I thought, considering that Hezbollah is now in possession of scores of missiles capable of reaching, and destroying, her bidet).

The Israeli, however, does not limit him or herself to the purely prescriptive . . .

Two Saturdays ago, I drove Stuey and Dexxy to see Tal, a friend’s 6-year old daughter – housebound and miserable due to an upset tummy – who is particularly fond of my hairy flat mates, and who had summoned them to Hod Hasharon to cheer her spirits.

It might have been wise, before tucking in, to have spared a thought for the cause of Tal’s stomach ache. And, lo and behold, a short while after being amply fed by my Moroccan hostess, Tal’s mum, my bowels started to feel the effects of her schnitzel and couscous (delicious though they were).

While Edna’s apartment is small, and WC smaller still, I have brilliantly refined, over the years, the subtle art of camouflaging my lavatorial activities in other people’s homes. I don’t wish to give too much away – if the Made Simple or For Dummies people are reading this, you know where to find me – but it involves cleverly synchronizing  eruptions, emissions and plopping (to quote my earlier Blog on the Bog) with the ebbs and flows of living room discussion and/or peaks in television volume.

And on this particularly delicate – the smaller the abode, the greater the risk of social disgrace – occasion, I put in a typically sterling performance. Indeed, even the absence of a canister of air freshener in the poorly ventilated shoebox did not worry me unduly, as I had noticed that Edna had only just exited. The true professional, you see, leaves nothing to chance.

Fortune and fate, on the other hand, are vicissitudes for which even the ultimate pro cannot legislate . . .

Whilst washing my hands in the adjacent bathroom, I heard (who I immediately understood to be) Edna’s ex-husband (and Tal’s father) – whom I had never met, and who was totally oblivious to my presence – enter the apartment, and head straight for the toilet.

“Shit!” I exclaimed to myself. “What stinking luck!” One always likes a few minutes grace after visiting one’s host’s WC.

And my worst fears were confirmed at once, with the uncouth bellowing of “Ed-naaa . . . eifo ha’spray (where’s the spray)?!”

“Shut up!” I silently begged. “Pleeease!!”

I had, now, nowhere to hide.

I mean, I hardly expected a momentary awkwardness, followed swiftly by a forced (and redundant) clearing of the throat and an off-the-cuff comment on the day’s weather – the inevitable English response – off a Moroccan! But, meeting the corpulent, hairy native in the narrow corridor, neither did he deem a cheeky grin and a wink to suffice . . .

La’briyut, gever (good health, man)!” bellowed the great oaf – clearly delighting in my lavatorial faux pas – as he shook my hand in traditional, Gever Gever Israeli style (i.e., as if trying to yank my arm off my torso).

I was reminded, by way of contrast, of an incident from my youth – at a friend’s parents’ dinner table in the genteel London suburb of St. John’s Wood – when a contemporary’s risqué crack was instantly met, by our friend’s mother, with a totally straight-faced “More meat, Jonathan?”

But the thought of saying nothing on the subject – or, at least, nothing that would heighten my considerable discomfort – had not even occurred to Edna’s ex. And I wouldn’t mind, but it is not as if your average Israeli male has exemplary toilet habits (see a philistine with a small pee).

On the other hand, perhaps I am just, still, a little too sensitive to that male. After all, the episode was nowhere near as humiliating as that experienced by a friend, backpacking Down Under, who – from overenthusiastic eating on suddenly being reacquainted with home cooking – chundered over the seder (Passover) table of his Australian friend’s parents, whom he had just met that same evening.

It was also far less excruciating than that suffered by another travelling friend, who chose the family home of an American girlfriend, no less, to discharge matter that stubbornly refused to be sent on its fetid way. Seeing no alternative – and I jest not – he fished the offending object out of the bowl, wrapped it in toilet paper, and smuggled it out of the house.

Nonetheless, hardly just reward for a well-intentioned visit to a poorly child.

http://www.justgiving.com/melchettmike

The Israeli male, a philistine with a small pee

Taking a Shabbes afternoon stroll through Jaffa last weekend, and feeling the effects of a liquid brunch, I had the sudden urge to relieve myself. And, spotting the wrought iron gates of a shack set back and largely obscured from the road, I took my chance.

“Zeh docheh” (that is revolting), Michal, my walking partner, hissed as I rejoined her a bladderful lighter, a (provocative) smirk of self-satisfaction emblazoned across my face.

Israeli women love a good hiss, though I immediately recognised this one to be symptomatic of the familiar female frustration that their anatomies – lovely though they are – simply do not allow them to do what ours can with ease.

Tel Aviv’s architecture has earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status. It is not just the Bauhaus buildings themselves, however, but also the gaps between them, that make the “White City” such a wonderful one in which to live. It proved impossible in London’s semi-detached, side-gated suburbia to locate any discreet, impromptu pee stops between the Tube and the Isaacson household, resulting in many a desperate, late night dash – “Please God, help me make it!” – up the home straight. The male, post-ale stagger through Tel Aviv, on the other hand, is a blissfully relaxed one, with alleys conveniently located all the way to Melchett.

Like any chivalrous English gentleman (after regularly witnessing them wee in WC basins, I exclude our football fans from such characterisation), I only spend my penny discriminately (in line with the sign, right, which tickled me during my trip last year to the Caribbean) and out of view. While still urination (and arguably even indecent exposure) in a public place – and strictly speaking, therefore, a likely breach of the penal code – I believe it to be an inalienable expression of my manhood, and a rite which I will fight to preserve.

In our ridiculously PC age – in which it is no longer considered acceptable to give an attractive female stranger a friendly pinch or pat on the bottom, or even to compliment her on her breasts – were this advantage and privilege to be taken away from us, then what, dear reader, would be left?

The indigenous male, however, does not possess the refinement or finesse of the Englishman, nor even of little Stuey for that matter, who will only raise his hind leg by trees, corners of walls or discarded plastic bags (his target of choice).

No, Israeli men possess no such subtlety, indiscriminately discharging the contents of their bladders anywhere and everywhere. The sight of them proudly urinating against shop fronts in busy high streets is a familiar one, as is that of unabashed motorists taking leaks in the full glare of oncoming traffic – and we wonder about our accident rate! – when they could just as easily take a few steps behind their vehicle or down the embankment.

Perched upon the pavement, together with other cheapskates, outside Leonard Cohen’s recent performance in Ramat Gan, we were suddenly treated, during the interval, to the delightful spectacle of long lines of local Neanderthals peeing in our direction down the Stadium embankment.

Like Stuey perhaps, Israeli males are keen to mark their (occupied) territory and to simply be “top dog”. It is part and parcel of the macho Israeli psyche: “I am a gever (male), and I will take it out wherever I like.”

In spite of last week’s flash floods here, it is a continuing source of wonder to me how, with such a paucity of annual rainfall, the country’s agriculture survives such uncomfortably hot summers and almost entirely arid springs and autumns. Perhaps now, however, I have the answer: it is the continual watering of the Land by the uncouth Israeli male – providing showers of a rather different nature – which performs, however unwittingly, the critical role in its irrigation. “Jerusalem the golden”, indeed!

So, Michal, the next time the English oleh (immigrant) needs to pull out his “hose”, praise rather than scold him for performing his Zionist duty . . . and, still, with a sprinkling of class.

Gever Gever*: The Israeli Male

In most societies, for a man to be referred to by a woman as a chnun – the Hebrew for geek/nerd (rhymes with ‘fun’, in a silly northern English accent) – would generally be considered a grave and emasculating insult.

When my ex, Nurit, used to refer to me as such, regularly – sometimes in public, to amuse her friends (I liked that) – I would take it badly. No woman in the UK even nearly called me that. I mean I am just not. Okay, I wear glasses, and don’t do drugs or ride a Harley, and I call my mother a little too often . . . but I am into Dylan and punk and footie (I am sure I could think of more things, given time). But when the next woman (and the one after that) confirmed Nurit’s assessment, it made me start to think that perhaps I am just not the wild man that I had once considered myself.

It then started to dawn on me that, to these women, this was not an insult. Far from it. They cherished their chnun, a male who could show emotions other than through, inter alia, greeting another male with a bear-hug so tight that he feels his ribcage being crushed, or a handshake consisting of a vertical slap and then shake so strong that he has the sensation that his eyeballs are being forced out of their sockets.

Straight Israeli men also often greet each other with a kiss, something virtually unheard of where I come from. But such demonstrative displays – interestingly, performed most by the very types who I get into regular trouble for referring to as “monkeys” (“apes” for the even more challenged) – clearly don’t run very deep, perhaps being the remnant of some macho army bonding thing. And they tend to be the very limit of your average Israeli man’s emotional range.

Witnessing the behaviour of an Israeli male around an attractive female is somewhat akin to watching one of those National Geographic documentaries on baboon mating rituals in Gabon. Take the manager of ‘my’ café/kiosk, on Rothschild Boulevard, for instance. I have always found him nothing less than ungracious and thoroughly unpleasant. But, come an attractive woman, and he miraculously transforms into a gushing nincompoop.

For a general lack of etiquette, Israeli men have few peers. I will never forget having garinim (sunflower seeds) spat all over my lap for 90 minutes, by a Beitar (of course) football fan, during a match in Jerusalem. And the guy knew full well what he was doing (I decided to say shtum, however, rather than later have to recount words similar to those of Woody Allen’s character in Play It Again Sam: “Some guys were getting tough with Julie. I had to teach them a lesson. I snapped my chin down onto some guy’s fist and hit another one in the knee with my nose.”)

An interesting anthropological exercise involves observing groups of Israeli couples in a restaurant. In most other countries, there tends to be some cross-gender interaction. In such situations here, however, the males and females often chat amongst themselves, Goodfellas style, the former usually about football, sex, and/or – if they are a little more sophisticated – property (one often even sees tables with the men all seated at one end and the women all at the other). It’s as if the men are saying to their lady folk “You wouldn’t understand”. Of course, they are right – they wouldn’t – but Israeli men don’t even go through the pretence.

Whatever issues I have with Israeli women (and they are not few), the men here have a far better deal than the women. Moreover, the reason Israeli women behave in the way that they do (and I will get onto that, I hope, in the not too distant future) is because they have had to bear the brunt of Israeli men for all of their adult lives (though the men, in turn, can reasonably point to the fact that, unlike most normal teenagers – who, following high school, go off to party at university for three years – they are thrust into the IDF [but melchett mike is not about fairness]).

There is a popular notion that all Englishmen are like Hugh Grant (in his non-Sunset Boulevard persona). This is not true. While an Englishman might know how to hold his knife and fork correctly, place him in a football ground, in front of 22 men chasing a pig’s bladder, and you will soon see how civilised he is (this experiment produces even more interesting results if you first let him spend a couple of hours in a public house).

If two Englishmen have a disagreement, they will usually settle it by knocking the living daylights out of each other. Over here, on the other hand, fists are rarely raised. I once witnessed a road rage incident in downtown Jerusalem, which consisted of one man holding another in a headlock for an entire 15 minutes, not wanting to throw a punch. The scene took me back to Jewish Sunday league football in England, where squabbling opponents would trade ‘handbags’ (at twenty paces), not truly desiring to hurt one other.

Cut through all the bluff and posturing, therefore, and inside your average Israeli man you will ultimately find a “nice Jewish boy”.

* Gever is Hebrew for male. Israeli men commonly greet each other with this word, a more macho version of the English man (as in “Hey, man”). Gever Gever (see title) is an expression used, often sarcastically, to describe machismo.

The Israeli

A friend in London, who is in a perpetual state of considering Aliyah (emigration to Israel), e-mailed me again this week with questions about life out here: “I know it’s tough and Israelis are supposed to be rude and untrustworthy. Is that true?”

Keith’s blunt question goes to the heart of the paradox inherent in many new immigrants’ daily existences – they love living in Israel, but . . .

What one can say, with some certainty, about Israelis is that they, on the whole (and we are dealing in generalisations here), make a mark. With the exception of a few non-Jewish friends in England (most of whom I met at university, law school, or through following Leeds United), I simply don’t remember any other English people. You meet most Israelis, however, and you never forget them (however hard you try).

There’s Avi, for instance, a permanent fixture at ‘my’ café on Rothschild Boulevard. He has an opinion on everything. We threw cricket and rugby into the conversation, a few weeks ago, just to test him. He didn’t disappoint (even though he has never seen the game played, and wouldn’t know his backward square leg from his silly short one). The English (again, on the whole) don’t have much to say. They are renowned for talking about the weather (which, like them, tends to be grey).

And you are always getting advice in Israel (however unsought). I have heard from many a mother who, on walking around with their babies, would be accosted by other females telling them what they were doing wrong. And, when one of my dogs, Stuey, was limping quite badly a month or so ago, I would get 2 to 3 strangers – during the course of every walk – informing me of the fact and telling me that I should take him to the vet. “Really?” I would reply. “The vet? You really think so?”

My other dog, Dexxy, came with a vestigial tail (either that, or some sicko had cut it off). But no end of strangers still confront me about it, seeming to almost wish that I will finally come clean under interrogation, and admit my dark crime against canine. Last week, my patience finally snapped with one such busybody, deadpanning that “I cut it off and put it in the soup. You should try it. It is so tasty.” On another occasion, I got attacked by a rabid local as I was trying to forcibly remove a potentially lethal chicken bone from her mouth (Dexxy’s, I mean!)

The famous Jewish advice, “Don’t get involved”, was seemingly left behind in the Diaspora. And the English, in similar situations, would just look the other way (however strongly they felt inside).

There’s also the unfunny, Israeli wisecrack merchant. I went into a CD store in the Dizengoff Centre, last month, and asked a perfectly harmless question, only to be met by a pitifully poor, sarcastic response from the manager (who then, even more irritatingly, looked to the rest of his troop of monkeys for approval). Israeli men, especially, can be like that (but my theories on Israeli men will have to wait for a post of their own).

So, in answer to your question, Keith, yes, Israelis can be rude, arrogant and nosey. And they invade your space (that’s also a post of its own, as is the causes of such behaviour, along with many more on these fascinating creatures!) But, for good and for bad, Israelis make a mark. And, more importantly, they care.

Perhaps the words of Woody Allen best sum up the Israeli subgroup too: “Jews are just life everybody else . . . only more so.”