Only in Israel will a taxi driver want to know how much you paid for your apartment. Only in Israel will grown men drink little bags of chocolate milk in public. Only in Israel can Herzl Street be spelled three different ways in English over the course of a single block. And only in Israel will immigrants gather online to gripe and wax humorous on the aggravating and endearing foibles of their adopted homeland.
Only in Israel, a Facebook group created by Rob Anders, a 36-year-old Zionist youth leader from England turned high-tech entrepreneur, has garnered over a thousand members in only a few weeks.
Anders says that the idea for the Facebook group came about when he returned to Israel from a trip abroad and was quickly reminded of the odd set of interactions that are peculiar to this place. He was shocked to see a man filling up his gas tank while a lit cigarette dangled out the side of his mouth; the man was shocked that Anders had the audacity to call him out on his dangerous behavior.
Later that day, Anders felt compelled to tell his Facebook friends about the incident in a status update, and the story struck a nerve, judging from the multitude of responses that he received.
Anders says he was motivated to create a space where others could go to get their gripe on, complain about their bizarre everyday experiences.
"I'm not someone who believes in keeping things under the carpet. I've got far too big a mouth for that," he says, noting that the site serves a psychological need to let off some steam.
But he's also adamant about ensuring that it becomes more than just a complainathon. "I'm also not someone who believes in bringing it out just for the purpose of complaining," Anders says.
In addition to providing a place for people to commiserate over their trials and tribulations, Anders has a hidden motive for starting up the page: to gently nudge Israelis into being better citizens. "The purpose for Only in Israel is to try and have a positive influence on Israeli society, that's why it's there," he says. "If we can talk about certain situations, which everyone can relate to, and people can laugh at them, including Israelis - then at some stage when one individual is in that situation themselves, it comes into their consciousness, and they might actually do something different - or at least think about it."
Most of the status posts on Only in Israel fall into several general categories: poor spelling and pronunciation of English; informal attire and inappropriate intimacy out of context; unexpected connections with strangers; magnanimous generous behavior; rude eccentric behavior and both kinds of behavior manifesting themselves in the same person, often in the same instance.
The rapid growth in group membership and the steady stream of user-generated content has Anders speculating about spinning Only in Israel off into other forms of media, on and offline. But even if it remains only a Facebook page, he's already impressed with the results.
"At the end of the day, if one person is influenced - whether that's an oleh who's just totally pissed off and this just helps them feel a bit better and sends that person out into the street feeling a little bit happier - then that's alright, isn't it?" he says, smiling.
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