“You’re too _____________ (FILL IN THE BLANK WITH “American/Canadian/uptight/awkward in Israeli society/etc.).” This is a phrase that pushes insecurity buttons for many Anglos. Whether we came to Israel temporarily or on aliyah, in the process we’ve often left behind loved ones, homes and professions, and most of us try very hard to fit in to this bubbling multi-flavored stew of a society. Yet sometimes it doesn’t hurt to hang on to a little Anglo reserve … especially because we’re dealing with an unfamiliar culture and language.
A few months ago, I answered my door to a smiling Israeli woman whom I had never met. She greeted me effusively.
“Shalom, motek! I just bought the apartment in this building!”
Well, I knew that there was a place for sale and assumed that’s what she was talking about.
“So tell me,” she continued with a warm smile, “are you an owner or a tenant?”
Wanting to get off on the right foot with this new neighbor-to-be, I answered her civilly. But her subsequent question made me uneasy: “How many people living here own their apartments and how many rent?” followed up with “How much did you pay for your apartment?”
I started to hem and haw. She was bypassing my comfort zone in a big way. However, she wasn’t discouraged and blithely went on to say, “I just want to see how other people in the building have fixed up their apartments” – as she attempted to walk over the threshold and into my home.
Time for a good old fashioned Canadian hockey style body check. Call me uptight, but I have a strict rule: I don’t let anyone into my apartment unless I know their name or business, preferably both.
“Sorry, but no,” I told the woman who was acting as if she was my long-lost best friend.
“But I already looked at your apartment when you had it for sale!” she protested. That really activated the warning bells in my head – I have never put my place on the market since I moved in. Still, she could have been mistaken, I thought. After all, these apartments all look alike.
So I used my all-purpose (true) excuse. “I have to get back to work. Kol tuv,” I said, as I gently closed the door.
Yes, I felt rude, wrong and guilty about my North American style suspiciousness at the time. Quite a few months have passed since then, though, with no further sign of Geveret Bubbly. The apartment she claimed to have bought is still standing empty. And I’m feeling a whole lot better about hanging on to that little part of me that is still too … well, you know.
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