Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

You gotta weapon?

I have been in land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rachel and Miriam; Jesus, John and James for exactly 24 hours. The mediterrenean climate was the first thing to smite me like the plagues smote pharoah. 33 degrees in October? My sweater, and jacket were promptly put away before I got to the end of the airplane gang way. The Lord himself must have wanted to deliver me from the diaspora with a sweat taste in my mouth since when I checked into my flight at Newcastle airport at 445 am, the BA check in lady said to me: "Mr Libeskind, it appears that you have been randomly selected for an upgrade to business class." To my delight I asked her why, and the longer she spent trying to figure it out the more I felt that she would soon discover her mistake and demote me back to slave class. So I quickly shrugged off the enquiry with a "oh never mind", and enjoyed the perks of "random selection" (for once i felt like one of those privaledged dm particles that makes it into the dot plot).

I arived at my student-esque apartment on Guatemala street in the evening. My apartment is in a student flat that would normally house 6 students in 3 bedrooms, but as a post-doc my space is more respected? The empty space is completely wasted, although for less than 200 quid a month (with 75 quid subsidized by my fellowship) I feel for once in my life i can waste real estate space. Needless to say there isnt a housing shortage in Jerusalem.

As I awoke this morning I noticed an Uzi-carrying guard decked out in black guarding my apartment building. Whats the correct ettiquette with which I adress this man? I mean, from my time in New York, I know you raise your eye brows and smile to a janitor, say a full "Hello" to a doorman, a "Hello, thank you" to some one who opens the door for you, and maybe even a "have a nice day" to the concierge of a hotel. But not only do I not want to distract the guard who is protecting my building from multiple immanent suicide attacks, with an insignificant acknowledgement of his presence, but Im also totally petrified by the question "You gotta weapon?" he asks me every time I enter the building. Actually this question is one of the few sentences I have learned in hebrew (together with "Ani lo medaber Ivrit" - I dont speak Hebrew) since it is asked ALL the time. Upon entering a bank, the university, my house, a supermarket, the bus station: its always asked before a quick check of your bag and a wave of a wand. So many people are armed in this country that it reminds me of what mafia torn sicily must have looked like in the days of Vito Corleone.

And thats not the only similarity with sicily. trying to open a bank account this morning was an equally unpleasent exercise in beurocracy and how needless it is. In short: I arrive at the bank (with all the relevant documents). I spot the manager and ask him how i open an acount. He points me in the directions of some desks with some people congregating around them. After waiting for some time I get my chance with the woman behind the desk who sends me upstairs to talk to the manager, who sends me downstairs again. I quickly learn that the congregation of people mulling around the desks (resembling a FOF group with a linking length of 10) is in fact some sort of queue, yet without any priority given to anyone. At first, my british ettiquette gets the better of me and I try to stand in line, patiently waiting my turn. I make a mental note of who is there before me and who arrives afterwards. However, it becomes quickly appearent to me that the loose congregation of a queue more closely resembles the darwinian struggle for survival, as people are blatantly pushed aside. Soon I realize that if I dont grow a brain (and some muscle) I will go the way of brontosaurus. As someone gets up from the table, I grab the seat pulling it from under the disgruntled hasidic family of 7 who tried to get there first (I noted however that they entered the bank a good 20 minutes after myself). Finally I have the teller to myself who makes me sign on the dotted line for 30 minutes (I signed my name 41 times and initialled paragraphs 16 times, without having any idea what i was doing). So now I have a bank account. The hassidic family alas didnt survive as the bank closed and since they hadnt a teller they were escorted out. Thats the darwinian nature of israeli beurocracy!


Blogger Rob said...

Hey dude! Great to hear from you. Sounds like your upgrade was aptly antidoted by your banking experiences.

Hope it all goes well for you mate. Keep on posting.

9:35 PM

Blogger Mark Norris said...

Indeed, I can't wait for the next installment.

9:02 AM

Anonymous craig said...

Good read Noam, hope Israel continues to treat you well.

3:38 PM

Blogger NPR said...

Keeps Noams for the post. Be v. interesting to hear more about your settleing in experiences.
Take care for now dude!


9:37 PM


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