Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

English Heard on the Street

I was walking on the street in a town next to mine.  This particular neighborhood (which, like much of Israel, consists of edifices with businesses and offices on the first story, and residential apartments at various levels above) does not have quite the concentration of Anglos as does the vicinity of my apartment (which itself is certainly is not the most Anglo-saturated neighborhood).  But some words of English were to be heard there this afternoon.

An American woman was doing her shopping with three young children in tow, two of whom were young enough to fit into a two-seat stroller.  The third one, about 4 years old, had apparently had his 4-year-old's patience drained, and was acting out.  Mom was likewise stretched to her limits.

The 4-year-old kid wanted a toy that was on display in a store window.  And he was very vocal and obnoxious about his desire.

So vocal and obnoxious that it caused a current overload in Momma's circuits, and Momma blew a fuse:  "I said 'no' and I mean 'no'!  You are a greedy, conniving, manipulative brat and if you ask me once more I will smack your butt!  I don't want to hear anything more from you until we get home!"

I was walking in the opposite direction about 2 meters away.  I looked at the woman and said, very audibly, "How good it is to hear some English spoken for a change!"

Fortunately, some of the Israelis in the immediate vicinity understood English, and a few started to laugh.  The woman's face broke out into a smile amidst the laughter.  I continued on along to my appointment.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Animal Observations

While I cannot say that Tel Aviv is my favorite city, neither is it overly depressing for me to make a foray into it.  This is quite fortunate, because as matters currently stand, I will have ample occasion to make forays into that city on more than an infrequent basis for the next few weeks if not months.  Not too difficult, inasmuch as there is a bus about 2 blocks from my apartment that takes me to another bus which, in turn, takes to my choice of a few relatively convenient locations in Tel Aviv.  Today's bus ride dropped me off across the street from the building in which my first appointment was held; the next appointment (which may or may not turn into a short gig) was a 10-minute walk away.

I have been using my running workouts to familiarize myself with the town where my wife and I now live.  Between them and my perambulations elsewhere (including but not limited to Tel Aviv), I have had the opportunity to observe certain animal life in the Land of Israel.

First of all, there are lots of pet supply stores.  In my town, I counted 6 in a 5-block radius.  People love their pets here.

Compared to the USA, there are greater numbers of feral cats in urban areas.  These felines, while not at all obnoxious, do seem to have a certain sense of entitlement; it is as though they know that they are in a special Holy Land.  There is a feline family around my apartment building, and there is at least one neighbor in the next building over who has made it her business to leave healthy nutritious snacks for the cats.

On the other hand, neither my town, nor Tel Aviv, nor the Holy City of Jerusalem seems to have quite the rat infestation problems that have long been the norm in New York, whether urban or suburban or rural.  Perhaps the cats have something to do with it.

The dogs also seem to have a certain discipline not typically encountered in the USA.  They tend to mind their own business.  When I go for my workout runs and pass a dog being taken for a walk, the dog tends to ignore me (though there have been a few exceptions).  They rarely bark at strangers on the street, and rarely try to aggressively insert themselves between their masters and strangers.

But then, again, the people on the streets seem to be less aggressive towards one another, at least in the established residential areas.  It is well known that dogs tend to assume their masters' attitudes and values (albeit from the canine perspective, which can differ considerably from the human perspective).  The dog owners walking their pets probably feel quite secure on the streets, so they do not proactively confront passers-by, so neither do their dogs.

But knowing something about the Israeli mentality, I do believe that the dogs' behavior would be remarkably different if their owners felt insecure in any given situation.  And I do believe that the dogs, like their owners (many of whom have done military reserve duty), are quite capable of mobilizing for active defense if they ever were to perceive a threat to their masters' security.

This is all personal conjecture.  If such conjecture is ever validated, be assured that I will validate it as a spectator and not as a participant.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Two New Words -- Or, Rather, Three

I shall not now get into the fascinating story of how the Hebrew language, which had long been relegated to use solely for scholarship and Jewish ritual, was reanimated as a living language by Eliezer Ben Yehuda.  It suffices to say that there are many interesting aspects and incidents involving the development, growth, and maintenance of Modern Hebrew.

Two words that are learnt very, very soon after one's arrival in Israel are "Mazgan" (air conditioner) and "Mikulkel" (nonfunctional, broken, kaputt).  It is not unusual for those two words to be learned from the same incident or transaction.

On those occasions where the two words come into one's vocabulary as a result of a single transaction, however, a third word is almost always sure to accompany them:  "Technai."

Fortunately, one of the Anglos with whom we have become mildly acquainted during our thus far short residency here knows a good Technai, who was able to schedule a visit to our apartment on rather short notice.  Our Mazgan is now operational.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Flagging Down the Confederacy

We arrived in Israel last week.  The trip to airport was uneventful.  The flight, while constituting what surely will be ranked as one of the top ten events of our lives, was itself mostly uneventful.  The only thing noteworthy was some kids whose parents lacked the skills of instilling discipline in their children, and it showed in their interactions with the brats.  But one of the stewardesses (to use the outmoded politically-incorrect terminology for a female flight attendant), a bit on the old side for an El Al stewardess, did bring the situation under control at some point over the North Atlantic. 

This woman, while friendly and cheerful enough, was definitely not big on bullshit; turns out that she is an Israeli Air Force Reserve officer with the rank of Rav Seren (or, in military jargon, "Rasan"), equivalent to an American O-4 (Major or Lieutenant Commander).    In any event, when the kids impeded passage of the service cart through the aisle one time too many, the stewardess called herself up for reserve duty, firmly grabbed the kids by their arms, sat them down in their seats and, with the parents impotently dropping their jaws, gave the kids a scary lecture (which, while physically addressed to the kids, was actually directed to the parents).  The parents, not desiring a full-blown confrontation with the woman (and mindful of the fact that she would exercise some control over the service they would receive until deplaning), took the hint and the flight was thereafter mostly free of outbursts from the brats.

Our son picked us up with his pick-up at the airport, and drove us to the apartment he had gotten for us.  We got settled in, and are still completing various arrangements for utility bills, parking permits, and everything else.  Our internet service was connected this morning, and I am now back online.  We still await delivery of our stuff from the USA; should come through in about a week or two.

We have already begun to make connections with other Americans in our new community.  Also some Brits, Aussies, South Africans, Canadians, and other Anglophones (or, as we call ourselves here, "Anglos").  One topic of discussion was about this Confederate Flag controversy in South Carolina; the issue came up in a discussion with a couple who lived in South Carolina for a few years.

I have no strong feelings about the Confederate Flag; I'm not yelling outrage to remove it from the South Carolina State House grounds, but neither can you expect to see it flying from my halyard or emblazoned upon my jacket, or on a bumper sticker attached to my vehicle.  I do, however, understand why some people would be quite upset about such a piece of cloth, and I can appreciate the comparison between the Confederate Flag and a flag with a swastika from Nazi Germany.

Never mind the discussions over whether the flag represents hate and slavery, or whether it is a testament to the bravery and valor of the soldiers who died in the Civil War.  And I shall not now split hairs over the many flags of the Confederacy, and whether, say, the Bonnie Blue Flag is or is not any more offensive than the battle flag most commonly associated with the Confederacy.  And neither will I delve into the plusses and minuses of the institution of slavery, other than to state most definitively that, try as I may, I have been utterly unable to find any plusses or advantages to it; slavery is a root cause of a long list of political, social, and economic problems that persist years after slavery is abolished.   And neither shall I write a brief for the Confederacy itself (though on the Union side, General Grant did attach his name to Order Number 11, a piece of paper that shall live in infamy in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people).

What I will do, however, is address those who stand and demand the removal of the Confederate Flag from displays, official and otherwise.  You certainly have reason to despise the Confederate Flag and the regime it represents.  You have reason to see that piece of cloth as a glorification of slavery, an institution that ought not be glorified.

But if indeed you find the Confederate States of America to be such a reprehensible entity, then you should be grateful to those who brought it down and made it a defunct entity.  And this includes the hundreds of thousands of white soldiers who served in the Union Army, who fought and died to put an end to slavery in America.  If, when you are not standing outside the South Carolina State House, you are spreading your anti-white vitriol, or are applauding those who spew such garbage, then you are an ingrate who is no better than the Confederacy.

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