I said it before: you can literally drop me off anywhere on the globe and all I need is the relevant Lonely Planet guide book to make sure I have a peaceful, hassle-free, insightful journey. I learned this while travelling in South Asia back in 2001-2002, and that’s why upon returning to Israel I also purchased the Lonely Planet guide for Israel, as I knew it would be interesting to read about my own country from the point of view of a backpacking foreigner. Following is one ‘boxed’ nugget for your enjoyment written ten years ago:
Sorry For What?
[singlepic id=210 w=320 h=240 float=right]Two recent immigrants, one from Russia and one from America, and a native Israeli are at the supermarket where they come across a sign reading ‘We’re sorry, but due to shortages we have no meat’. The Russian turns to the other two and says, ‘What is meat?’. The American shrugs, ‘What do they mean by shortages?’. The Israeli shakes his head and looks perplexed, ‘What do they mean by this sorry?’.
The Israelis tell this joke about themselves, and any visitor who’s been in the country for more than five minutes will nod despairingly at the punch line. The Israelis, as they’ll readily agree, are not hot on the niceties of social intercourse. No official or sales assistant will acknowledge your presence until addressed directly. Dining out, staff will frisbee a menu at the table, then indicate they’re ready to take the order with a disinterested, ‘Yeah?’. Likely looking places to ask for directions or timetables ward off all potential enquiries with prominently displayed ‘No information’ notices.
For those who perceive the difference, it’s not, explains writer Stephen Brook, that the Israelis are bad mannered, but rather that they have no manners at all. Faces with a waiter who shrugs aside your complaints of cold food with ‘People don’t like it if it’s too hot’, anyone might feel that such subtleties are irrelevant; but one thing to remember is never lose your temper and start shouting, because there’s nothing Israelis love more than a good row.