The 11th Floor

A Perpsective Overlooking Jerusalem, Israeli Life, and Talmud Torah

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

They call me MISTER Neshek.

This post is for those of you who have been saying "Where's the funny?"

Before we begin, a note about neckties and the term "Adoni". Both are rarely used by anyone in this country. "Adoni", meaning "sir" is usually used only by people wanting money from you. If someone on the street says "Adoni" (not to be confused with Adonai, a name of God), you check to make sure your money is secure in your wallet. Occasionally it may be used by waitresses or the Israeli version of secret service. And the only people whom I have ever seen wearing ties are- well- a few of the more prominent Orthodox Jews and the Israeli secret service guys. Once I saw a guy on duty in front of the P.M.'s house a few weeks back. He was wearing a rather spiffy purple tie, so I smiled and said "Anivah Yaffa"- Nice tie. His reply to me was ""Yesh Le’cha Neshek?" Which brings us to our main subject.

Security checks are obviously part of life in Israel, and the corridor outside the PM's house is no exception. Be it entering Balfour street or entering a Mizrachi Restaurant, the question is always the same. "Yesh Le’cha Neshek?"- do you have a gun? "Neshek" can refer to many weapons, and there are specific words in Hebrew for rifle and pistol. Neshek is an umbrella term, and while Israelis are better armed than Americans, they also are more particular about permits and who can bring what weapon where. So people get stopped from time to time by security, be it at the supermarket or the mall, with the question "Yesh Le’cha Neshek?" A quick reply of "Lo" or "Ain Li" is all you have to say to say you are unarmed.

I wondered why I was getting asked a bit more than some of my friends. Was it that I was in a rush? I took my time as I came up to the guard one morning. "Yesh Le’chaNeshek?" he asked.

The sunglasses- maybe that makes me look like I could have a weapon on me. I entered with the sunglasses in their case. "Yesh Le’chaNeshek?" came the question.

Maybe it was the hair, or the clothes. I dressed as plain as possible and with a simple hat over my hair. "Yesh Le’chaNeshek?" asked the female security agent.

Its not how you look, or if you are rushing, and it does not matter if you are alone or with a group. Many nights, I exchange a friendly nod with one of the well armed guards and I go on my way without a word said. Lately, I have not been asked by anyone- not at the mall or anywhere else. Its kind of refreshing. I was getting used to not being asked. I started wishing the guards a "boker tov" or a "erev tov." I wondered "is this what it feels like to be a Yerushalmi (Jerusalemite)?"

Sunday morning I entered Balfour street and after about 20 seconds, saw a guard on the other side of the street. "Boker Tov!" I shouted to him.

He smiled and promptly shouted back "NESHEK?"

I no longer wonder what it feels like to be a Yerushalmi.

photo- Rainy Day in J'lem.


Blogger Bloom said...

I once was asked at the entrance to a Mall in Afula if I had a neshek. When I said, "No". The guy asked, "Lama lo?" ("Why not?") Israel: damned if you do, dammed if you don't.

1:01 AM  
Blogger ranger said...

Amazing. Just amazing. Thanks for reading and sharing!

Kol tuv.

6:37 PM  

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