The 11th Floor

A Perpsective Overlooking Jerusalem, Israeli Life, and Talmud Torah

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I don't know what the flags said, I can't read Hebrew

There is a phrase no newcomer to Israel can escape from hearing on a regular basis. It always comes unsolicited, and does not always come with help. You fill out a form at the post office, affix it to a box, and a voice from over your shoulder tells you (even though you did not ask for advice of any kind) “Zeh Lo Nachon,” which translates as “that’s not correct,” but implies “you’ve screwed something up.” Here are two stories from the “Zeh Lo Nachon” department that are hard to beat, courtesy of Fern and Jonathan, our hosts for this past Friday night dinner.

ONE- Fern goes to the Interior Ministry to renew her Visa. This is normally a trying and difficult process, but Fern is having a much better go of it this time than last. This time she knows what to put in each blank on the form- even the obscure ones. Name, date, passport, this time she can fill in each blank. She gets into the correct line, and this time it is moving. Soon there is only one person in front of her in line, who suddenly turns around and looks at her form.

“Zeh lo nachon,” says the lady in front of her.

Fern looks at the form. Everything is in order, she’s sure of it. And then she looks at the top of the form, and in tiny print in the top left corner, she sees it. “Teudat Meyt,” it reads- a death certificate. She had filled one out for herself- and it was completely in order- most likely, she would have been able to leave the country.

TWO – Jonathan takes their son D with him on the search for a used car. D is a cherubic young man who rarely wears a kippah yet usually has his tiztizt dangling out. Tzitzit, or a talit katan, is the 4 cornered garment worn by many orthodox men (and some unorthodox women) as an undershirt. Tzitzit are worn in a manner that lets the fringes on each corner hang free at the belt-line

In one of the most sleazy of the locations they went to, they waited for a salesman. Suddenly, in walks a man who would be completely at home at the annual Sturgis biker rally. Huge and scary, he is covered in leather riding gear. This is the kind of person that makes people in New York cross the street rather than get in his way. This is not the kind of person one would think is an expert in Jewish ritual or practice.

After a moment of staring at D, the biker begins to circle, pacing around him. Jonathan is of course startled and D is scared as the man circles closer and closer.

The man suddenly grabs a corner of D’s tzitzis. “Zeh lo nachon,” the biker states with some authority.

He lifts the fringes up to where D and Jonathan can see, and says “PASUL!”, a word that means that something is unfit for use in Jewish ritual. Sure enough, the tzizit were tied incorrectly, something that requires unusual expertise to spot.

So, when you are Israel, is your mailman just a mailman? The felafel guy just a felafel guy? Maybe, or maybe they will soon be telling you…

“Zeh lo nachon.”


Blogger So what if I am not married said...

Miron that is so funny. I just had a conversation with an Israeli friend. Someone asked him what the opposite of Nachon is and I said "Lo Nachon". So this Israeli guy just laughed so hard and said that I was right. The Who are touring and coming to Miami in November!! I hope I have enough $$ for the show. So when you go to the Kotel please pray for your Sis. Ask Hashem to bless me with parnasa, and health, etc. Please!!! I want to visit you.

6:10 AM  
Anonymous tushevatbaby said...

Lo Nachon could be my middle name as I struggle through my Hebrew class. That was a great story.

3:02 AM  

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