Opinion |

Daily Life in Israel Is Hell

Unless you lose a child — through illness, accident or, best of all — in war. Then you get an exemption from hell for 30 days

Kobi Niv
Kobi Niv
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A man reads a newspaper as he sits in a café outside the US embassy in Tel Aviv on December 6, 2017.
A man reads a newspaper as he sits in a café outside the US embassy in Tel Aviv on December 6, 2017. Credit: AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ
Kobi Niv
Kobi Niv

Forget about Jews and Arabs and ultra-Orthodox and secular and Mizrahim and Ashkenazim and Bibi and Bennett and Bitan and Bougie and Lapid and Gabbay and the occupation and the settlements, and all this garbage and nonsense that are presumably our greatest concerns and are chewed over incessantly in the media. Because life here, everyday life, life in the public space, life in the State of Israel — is hell.

On the road nobody lets you merge into traffic, and everybody cuts you off and forces their way in, violently. Nor is there any parking. People park in spaces designated for people with disabilities, they take up two parking spaces or there simply aren’t enough spaces for everyone going to the mall, the ceremony, the funeral, the performance.

On the sidewalk, a family walks abreast, taking up the entire breadth, and none of them moves to let you pass. And the bicycles, regular and electric — there are lots of rules and regulations but in practice it’s chaos, it’s hell.

The cyclists do whatever they want. They ride everywhere: on the street, on the sidewalk, on the bike path, not on the bike paths; on crosswalks, on a green light, on a red light; with the traffic, against the traffic. Children, adults, with helmets, without helmets trample you, collide with trees, poles, slip, are trampled, everything.

In the supermarket there are never enough registers open. And in the express lane, for every person with fewer than 10 items there are 10 with dozens of items. And people jump the line, every line, as though you didn’t. And at the gas station, at the only self-service pump, there is a car blocking it because the driver, before or after filling the tank, went inside to buy cigarettes.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And it’s every day, all day long, everywhere. Israel is hell.

And for all the racists who are coming now to rake it in, forget about it. It’s not characteristic of a specific sector of Israeli society. It’s the characteristic of Israeliness — bestiality, rudeness, aggressiveness, violence, lack of consideration, a failure to recognize the existence of the other.

And the best example of the hell that is part of our essence is what happens on soccer fields. In recent years beautiful, pleasant, orderly stadiums have been built in Israel, with orderly seats. And presumably that’s great. But the assigned seats aren’t really numbered. It’s only “as if.” Because when you come to sit in the numbered seat you paid for, someone is already sitting there. “Excuse me,” you say politely, “but you’re sitting in my seat. “No, no,” he laughs in reply to your naivete. “There aren’t any numbered seats here,’ and those sitting around him join his laughter and add: “Of course, yes, there aren’t. You can even ask the usher.”

And after all, you built a stadium with numbered seats, and you sell tickets with seat numbers, so why aren’t the seats numbered? What is this need that we Israelis have to ensure there is no order anywhere, God forbid? Why do we insist, by force, to turn our lives into hell?

Because Israel is definitely hell, a place that is not fit for human beings to live in.

Unless you lose a child — through illness, accident, or best of all — in war. Then you get an exemption from hell for 30 days, during which they treat you as though you were a human being. But after the 30 days you go back to hell, in other words: “Hello, what do you think, that if your lost a child then the road already belongs to your mother? Yalla, get out of here fast, what chutzpah!”


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