The Daily Grind
Evening in Tel Aviv, city dwellers crawl back to their rabbitholes at the end of the work day. I had a lunch meeting today with Ilan, a friend of my parents, whom they met in New York at a conference a few weeks ago. While dining, Ilan interrupted our conversation several times to field phone calls. He acknowledged to me that in America this would be considered anti-social behavior, but he explained to me that in Israel, it is rude to ignore your phone calls. In Israel you are required to pick up your phone and explain to the person on the other end that you are busy and you would like to call them back. Ilan claims that if you don't do this, you run the risk of offending your Israeli friends.
Do Jews have higher expectations than other people? Friends, parents, students, children, there seems to be so much pressure for Jewish people to fulfill this unspoken threshold of relationship. Ilan had a different spin. He says that the Israeli existence is anchored in the here and now. According to Ilan the entire mindset of the nation has been affected by the paranoia of not knowing what tomorrow may bring. Israelis are less concerned with making sure they have their college fund set up and much more preoccupied with the daily obligations of community. It is an existence that has many benefits. There is definitely a greater appreciation of human presence here. Young people and old alike, watch the days pass from the numerous coffee shops that dot the streets of Tel Aviv. On Shabbat everything is closed, it is a day of rest. Imagine all the restaurants and movie theaters and shops being closed on Saturday night and Sunday in the United States. Never. In the US, our days off are when we go out and do things. We fill our free time with activities that take our minds off of our daily lives. Not so here. Shabbat is a time to settle and be contemplative, to share and bond with friends and family, because you never know what tomorrow might bring.