Fighting Words

Posted on March 2nd, 2006

2006-03-02I have just achieved a personal victory in my step towards becoming an Israeli. I yelled at someone in Hebrew and won.

I have already mastered the art of drinking milk from bags, and my car has a generous layer of pumpkin seeds on the floor (although to be honest, I still can’t figure out the sunflower seeds, I always end up chewing on the shell and spitting out the good part). Yet until last week, I still felt that there was something missing.

So what did I do? I got in an argument with someone and won! Even better, we argued all in Ivrit! O.K., the Ivrit wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to be understood.

I had to take a friend, (he’s fine now) to the hospital. I stayed with him awhile and then went to his hotel to get some of his things. As I left, I paid for the parking.

When I returned to the hospital it was rather late at night, and the parking attendant just waved me through without giving me a parking petek (note). Of course, a bit later when I tried to leave, a different attendant demanded my petek. When I told him I didn’t have one, here is my best recollection and direct translation of what happened.

Petek
I don’t have
Why?
The man said I don’t need.
No, you need. You must pay.
I already paid once tonight. I will not pay again.
You need to.
I don’t need to, I paid once, I will not pay again.
My friend, if you don’t have a petek, you need to pay.
Man in front of gate did not give.
Where is that man?
I don’t know, maybe in home of his. But he told me I did not need a patek!
There is no other man. You want to leave, you must pay.
LOOK, FRIEND OF MINE, IT’S TWO IN THE MORNING, I GOT NO PETEK, AND I AM NOT PAYING AGAIN. LOOK AT ME. I PAID. I AM NOT PAYING AGAIN. I WANT TO GO HOME NOW. NOT TOMORROW, NOW. THE FRIEND OF MINE IS IN THE HOSPITAL, HE HAS A PROBLEM. O.K. FRIEND OF MINE? I AM GOING TO GO. NOODLES.
(I meant to say L’hitriot, but I was tired and angry and said “Itriot” instead.)
Noodles?
YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. I AM GOING OUT FRIEND OF MINE. I UNDERSTOOD?
You are American?
I AM OLE CHADASH AND I GO OUT.
Ole Chadash? Baruch Ha’ba.
Thank you. Is it possible to go home?
O.K. friend of mine, have a good night.

I was amazed as he raised the gate and let me leave! When I got home and woke up Stella, she asked how our friend was. I told her that he would be fine, but believe it or not I just argued in Hebrew and won. I think she was very proud of me although she did not express her true feelings at the time.

Some people are put off by how much Israelis yell at each other. Others find it odd that when you are told something is not possible, it really is possible if you make enough noise. I think if they ever included arguing as an Olympic sport, Israel could finally start hauling in the gold medals.

A friend of mine went into ACE Hardware and bought something without his bonus card. Both he and the cashier knew from the start that she could just swipe the extra card next to the cash register, but it would not have been right to give up without a struggle. So they argued until he looked her in the eye and in perfect Ivrit said “Lo Fair.” That’s all it took!

I think I will suggest that Nefesh B’Nefesh redo their “Aliyah Steps” chart with “win argument in Ivrit” right between “drink milk from bag” and “shell sunflower seeds in mouth.”

Shabbat Shalom from our sometimes noisy but always blessed nation.

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