I am marking 3 years of living in Israel by ordering Indian takeout and watching Orange is the New Black, while my almost 8-month-old sleeps and my husband is at the dog park with the pup.
I opened an email today from Nefesh B’Nefesh asking for advice for new olim. So, I’ve only been here 3 years – not totally equipped to advise others on how it’s done, but there is one thing that came to mind.
Lately, as I walk to the train from my office in Tel Aviv at the end of a long day, I have been really grateful for those telavivis that I pass by on the street. Some wear mismatched clothing, some are dressed to a T, some are smoking a cigarette or staring at a laptop, or sipping a latte, or chatting to their well-dressed companions. Everyone is relaxed. I am so grateful for them. I know that not all of Israel is this way, and to be sure, there are plenty of Israelis for whom I am not grateful, but these people – these laid back people on the streets of Tel Aviv – somehow they keep me grounded.
I think the best lesson I’ve learned so far about living in Israel is from watching these people – to relax, take it easy, and remember that life is beautiful. Especially as a new mom, I think all the time about how beautiful and precious life is, and how exciting everything is to someone who’s never seen it before.
Part of this finding beauty in the everyday, is to approach every person like he is your friend/neighbor/a human being. Have a laugh with the guy selling you coffee, make a joke with the customer service rep on the phone (even if it’s just about your terrible accent). When I first moved to Israel, every new experience was daunting, by virtue of the fact that it would take place in Hebrew. I would need to speak to someone who for sure wasn’t going to be patient with me, or maybe I would hold up the line at the register, or maybe I would do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing, and be totally embarrassed.
I am sure that my Hebrew language skills have improved by leaps and bounds, but the real difference is that now I’ve started to slow down a bit, take my time, in most of my daily interactions. Each time I am in a store, or on the phone, or trying to get anything accomplished by exchanging words with a Hebrew speaker, I pause, sometimes take a deep breath, and say “boker tov” (good morning), “mah nishmah?” (how are you?), “aich holech?” (how’s it going). Because chances are, they’re having a really nice relaxing morning, or a really long day – and if I jump at them with my bumbling Hebrish, it won’t help anyone. But, if I ask them how they’re doing, and let them know that I’m human too, we start off on a much better foot.
If you watch closely, this is how [many] Israelis do it. This could be the secret to having a pleasant exchange while shopping, calling customer service, or walking around your neighborhood. Approaching people like you care about them will always help you in the end. I actually think that if more people behaved this way anywhere in the world, we would all be better off. There’s no reason to treat someone like a robot – commiserate with them about how hot it is outside, and then tell them that you’d like to make a reservation, or that you’d like to find out if the bank is open on Saturday (it’s not).
Basically, take a breath, take your time, there’s no rush.