Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Verbal snapshots of Israel, part 2

V'achalta, v'savata--you will eat and be satisfied

Indeed, we did and we were (^), and we were thankful that this good land produces such delicious fruit and vegetables. People eat salads by the kilo here, and the cucumbers are wonderful.

S. said that fruit and veggies may be harder to find this winter because of the demolition of the hothouses for which Gush Katif was well-known.

Baruch. . . malbish arumim--Praised (is the One who) clothes the naked

You name the clothing style, we saw it--Jewish, Muslim, Christian, from sidewalk-sweeper skirts, covered arms, and necklines near the collarbone to bare midriffs, bare arms, low-cut tops, and anything else you can name. There were far more women in pants that went just below the knees than one sees in the US, and far fewer in shorts.

N. explained, in response to my query, that a woman who wears a skirt over pants is probably Arab.

While many married religious Jewish women worldwide cover at least part of their hair for reasons of modesty, in Israel, many girls and unmarried Jewish women also wear hats or scarves because of the heat. But the most unusual combination I saw was the clothing of a woman with her kippah- (yarmulke, skullcap) clad son in a stroller: She was wearing a skirt covering her knees, a scarf--and a sleeveless blouse. N. theorized that she was the less religious spouse in what passes for a "mixed" marriage in Israel.

Bet Yisrael--the House of Israel

Well, I've covered food and clothing, so shelter is next. Concerning those missing maaliyot (elevators, lifts), N. said that, by law, any building over four stories high must have a maalit. As a consequence, because the cost of installing and maintaining a maalit (elevator, lift) is prohitive, most apartment buildings have no more than four floors.

Aside from being walk-ups, many apartment buildings are much smaller than what we're used to in New York. There don't seem to be so many buildings with long halls. Many seem to stagger the apartments, with one or two on each landing.Most apartments have "recreational" and/or "utility" mirpasot. On a "recreational" mirpeset , you can sit and enjoy the view and catch a breeze. One uses a "utility" mirpeset (balcony) to hang the laundry and/or as a storage area. One doesn't need a clothes dryer in Yerushalayim during the dry season/summertime--the laundry air-dries very nicely in the dry, ninety-plus degree Fahrenheit weather. But S. told me that one does need a drier during the rainy season/winter.

One thing I remember reading about in Hadassah Magazine (my mother made me a life member decades ago) a while back is the Israeli method of cleaning floors. You stick a bucket under a sink faucet--and faucets are located much higher above sinks in Israel than in the US for that reason--fill it with water and cleaner, dump some water directly onto the floor (there's a dirth of carpeting in apartments here), wrap a rag around an oversized squeegie called a "goomie" (from "goom," rubber), wash and rinse the floor, take off the rag, and squeegie off the excess water. Where you squeegie it to (if you'll pardon my grammar) is another matter. In some homes, there's a grate-covered open drain pipe. But some apartments are not so well equipped. We actually personally witnessed a man squeegeeing the water out of his apartment and onto the landing and leaving it there to drip down two flights of stairs, creating a safety hazard.

I did not notice any evidence of cleaning staff for the public areas. I don't quite know how the condo owners handle that. I do know that few buildings have management companies--the residents have rotating committees to deal with maintenance issues. Poor N. is currently working with her fellow management-committee members to get a permanent replacement for a broken water pipe. The permanent repair is going to cost the residents of her building a fortune.

See part 3 for the continuation.


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