Monday, October 18, 2010

Touchdown boy

The weeks leading up to my immigration to Israel, the most common commentary was that I should keep a blog over ensuing events. No such has so far happened, mostly because I've either been idling around, celebrating the exhausting string of Jewish Holidays that plague autumn (a period referred to plainly as "chagim - holidays), or running around in general. And as I don't have the time to chronologically relate everything that been going down in almost 2 months, I'll simply try to make a quick sketch of the places and persons in the coming days:

Merkaz Klita Yeelim

Home, sweet home......

Is a dump, fair and square. it's some 350 meters of grey concrete times 4 stories high, and on the website they brag about it being the longest building in the Middle East. It looks like a Soviet suburb. It is only the only building in Beer Sheva without A/C. And seeing Beer Sheva is smack in the middle of the Negev desert, there is a reason why all the other houses do have A/C - the summer temperatures can reach 48 degrees celsius. My flatmates made me go buy a fan the first night and I heeded their advice. Some 360 Russians, Latinos, South Africans and Yemenites live here. They sometimes get on each others nerves and fist fights are not unheard of. For reasons I fail to grasp the armed guards do not consider it their job to break up fights. Exactly what the consider their job is unclear, except being bored out of their minds and pushing the button to open the main gate.

The Laundromat

For these 360 peeps there are 4 washing machines, and usually they break down twice a week. They also don't clean your clothes very well. Once I stuffed 2 machines full and ended up with 10 kg of dirty, wet and cold clothes. I spoke twice to the guard who didn't consider this his problem, then onto the boss's secretary who did not consider it her problem and asked me to talk to the boss. "Ze lo tafkid sheli", he grumbled. I asked him whose damn job it was - mine? After a shouting match he called up the guy whose job it was, then gave the receiver to me. A stream of angry Hebrew in my ear. I gave it back to mister boss...

The characters

Benjy and Quentin - my flat mates, and fantastic people both of them. Former business men, body builders and really nice guys. Showed me where the buses are, told me to buy a fan, where to find the defunct washing machines and how to get a paying card for them, and all the other stuff you have to know to get around here. Because there is not one written piece of paper of how anything works in Merkaz klita.

Rabbi Nissim

Moroccan Rabbi who teaches at a Satmer Yeshiva in town. As the Satmer do not accept money from the government (they are Anti-Zionist), he hasn't been paid for 6 months. Marvelous guy whose doors are always open and with whom I spend most my shabbeses. He has 13 kids, loves his Arak and Brandy, and is teaching me Gemara. Lives in a house close to the Merkaz. Among his less fortunate traits is that he asks me to translate and explain things to Pavlova (below) who despite his own beliefs can't understand Hebrew (or much else). And Pavlova doesn't like to be told what to do and interprets absolutely anything as an attack on his personal honor.

Rabbi Nissim Amar and 2 of his sons


Madman. Famous for pulling a knife on a couple of drunk Russian kids for messing with his son. Hailing from Chile, he walks around in a beard and shorts, questioning people as to whether they are Jews or not. This is his only topic of interest - repeating that he, his son, his mother, his father and his pet parrot are Jews, Sephardic Turkish Jews to be exact. He is insulting everyone and starting fights by rudely questioning others Jewishness or by just generally being a jerk. Sooner or later someone will punch his teeth out, it's just a matter of time. The sad thing is that every now and again he does make an effort to not be an asshole - you can really see him straining. And then he goes back to what he does best.


The only Welch Jewess I met. Has complete knowledge of the Merkaz Gossip and is making up nicknames for everyone in her Ulpan class, whom she also impersonates with great skill. Basically she is very funny. She and her boyfriend also adopted a dog that was found in a garbage dumpster (pets are forbidden here, hence half of the tenants have pets), but they eventually had to give him up.

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