Change

This is not a post about Obama.


Here is a little comparison based on my short visits to a few North American cities. The hobos in Vancouver introduce themselves to tourists, ask them where do they live, say that they have relatives in that country and then ask for change so that they could pay for gas, pizza or a stay in YMCA – that is, they do much the same thing as the hobos in Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Rome, Moscow and many other touristic cities. They were also the most annoying, but except that the city is very charming.

The hobos in San Francisco are quite similar, except they hold lovely honest signs such as “Need weed” and “Why lie? I want a beer!”

The hobos in Seattle didn’t try to harass me. In fact they all looked very intelligent, even in their rags. They actually seemed to develop intelligent conversations with the passers by. I didn’t talk to any of them.

Now, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the hobos and the weirdos of all the above cities are nowhere near those in New York City. I visited Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan below Central Park; i’ve seen the most interesting guys around Washington square. What’s really curious, though, is that the New York guys are also the ones that bothered me the least – they are very weird, but they mind their own business.

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Fighting Antisemitism

I helped two nice Italian tourists find their way in Jerusalem today. They knew English, but how could i miss an opportunity to practice my Italian? I barely touched any Italian for two years, so i spoke slowly, but managed to say complete sentences and didn’t mix in any Catalan words. They were pleasantly surprised, of course, and said that my Italian pronunciation was correct.

Now there’s a little less antisemitism in the world. But not just because of my Italian skills, but because the bus they needed to take arrived quickly, which, for Israel, is a miracle. So, Egged: Fight antisemitism, improve the Israeli bus services!

Reality – Women Singing

sinners only
sinners only

Some food products in Israel carry the mark “Kosher Dairy (Gentile powdered milk)” (אבקת חלב נוכרי). This means that the kashruth supervisor of the factory that produces this food considers it kosher, but duly warns practicing Jews who adopted stricter dietary laws for themselves and don’t eat powdered milk which was prepared by non-Jews. Most secular Israelis hardly know what it means—if they notice it at all—, and some laugh at it, but for some religious Israelis it is quite important. Some practicing kosher Jews are not strict, others adopt strictures for themselves.

Now this came to music, too. Some religious Jews avoid listening to the singing of women, because it is considered non-modest, due to the saying from the Talmud “a voice in a women is shame” (Brachot 24). Rabbis argue about the meaning of it. A tiny minority are so strict that they completely forbid listening to a woman’s voice (except one’s own wife). Many forbid listening to a woman’s singing; some of them argue that listening to recorded woman’s singing is allowed. Some rabbis allow listening to a woman singing as long as the woman and the song are modest.

This is the first time that i saw a CD marked this way. It was sold by a vendor of Jewish traditional music in Jerusalem, who added the sticker himself, knowing that some of his customers may dislike woman singing.

It is good that it is done voluntarily. I hope that the kashruth of music won’t become obnoxious, corrupt and commercialized, like that of food.

Independence 5768

Israeli Independence day celebration map - Yediot Akhronot
Click to enlarge

Today Yediot Akhronot published a map showing which artists will appear at the Independence day celebrations organized by municipalities around the country.

Let’s take a good look at this map. Gush Katif is simply a part of Israel. Golan is also just a part of Israel. Judea and Samaria are demarcated with a green line—a pretty rare practice in Israeli mainstream newspapers, though it often appears in Haaretz.

Now the craziest part: Afula and Petakh Tikva are way beyond the green line. (So is Jerusalem, but that’s a borderline case.) I just don’t have anything clever to say about it.

But the most lovable thing about this map is that Tel-Aviv doesn’t appear on it at all! (And Nesher is there, even though most Israelis don’t even suspect that a city with this name exists, but that’s a minor thing.)

Welcome to Israel 5768-2008.

Reality – 9 May

9th of May poster, courtesy of Mr. Arcadi Gaydamak

Hebrew: Keeping the heritage

Russian: Thanks for your valiant feat

These signs were put all around Jerusalem by Mr. Arcadi Gaydamak. Remember him? This time he is organizing a parade of The Great Patriotic War veterans, which the municipality of Jerusalem allegedly tried to cancel.

Gaydamak has money, so the design of these signs is very good. The writing is in Hebrew – throughout the whole city i’ve seen only one in Russian. There’s an Israeli flag too. But what is that Yellow-Black stripe? And the flowers? And what heritage is the sign talking about?

Every year as the 9th of May comes Soviet-born Israelis are shocked to find out that nobody knows what happened on the 9th of May, let alone celebrates it.

On that day the Soviets, with a little help from from the Western Allies, kicked the German Fascists’ ass – at least that’s what they taught us in Soviet schools. In the USSR “The Great Patriotic War” was usually said instead of “The Second World War”, “German Fascists” was usually said instead of “Nazis”, “Soviets” was mixed up with “Russians” in various ways, and the role of the Western Allies is a matter of heated discussion, but the main thing always remained – the 9th of May is День Победы, the Victory Day. Many countries have their national holidays in the form of an Independence Day, but Russia needs no independence from no-one (although there is some ridiculous “Independence Day” in Russia since 1992, but few people take it seriously.) USSR and Russia’s greatest national holiday, one with which the people really identify is the Victory Day. The concept of Victory was pretty strong in the USSR; it was especially convenient to talk about The Great Victory over the German Fascists, ‘cuz hey – the whole wide world agrees that the German Fascists were the bad guys.

In Israel few people know what happened on the 9th of May. So they don’t understand what is that “heritage”.

The Yellow-Black stripe is Ribbon of Saint George, attached to the Cross of Saint George award in the Russian Empire, canceled after the October Revolution and restored in The Great Patriotic War under the name “The Order of Glory”. Now it is called George’s Ribbon again and is becoming a semi-official symbol of the Victory Day in Russia, like the Israeli flags on cars on Israel’s Independence Day. Together with the flowers it looks very much like a Soviet greeting card for – you guessed it – 9th of May.

There’s also a linguistic curiosity: In Hebrew the date is written as “9 מאי” – literally “9 May”, while it should have been “9 במאי” – literally “9 in/of May”. But in Russian there’s no preposition, but a case ending – “9 Мая”. I wonder what exactly were they thinking. I’m quite sure that it’s not just a silly mistake – there must be a sensible reason for that.

Reality – Parking Parking

a parking coupon from Jerusalem, saying מדחני החניה מופעלים על סינגלור בע"ם. שמור עירך נקיה

This “Pay and Display” parking coupon says: “Parking parking meters are operated by Singelor ltd. Keep your city clean!”

There’s a nice short Hebrew word for parking meter, which is מדחן (madkhan), so מדחני החניה essentially means parking parking meter.

With this post i am finally starting the new series called “Reality”, which i planned for a really long time. For a somewhat similar (and daily updated!) series in Russian, see Art. Lebedev’s Idioteque. Unlike Lebedev’s, this collection is not supposed to be always funny.