Monday, October 12, 2009

Sde-Bokerian Moments

I haven’t posted anything in a while and the reason is pretty simple: I haven’t gone anywhere. But I was thinking this afternoon – as I walked along the breathtaking edge of the Zin Valley – how crazy it is that after only 3 months, I’ve somehow gotten so accustomed to living in Sde Boker that it no longer seems exotic enough to merit a blog post. This is, of course, completely untrue as there are all sorts of weird and interesting things going on right here in Sde Boker, but it also just goes to show you how easy it is to get into the routine of daily life and to stop looking at things with the perpetually interested eye of a traveler.

I guess there’s something else going on as well, and that’s the fact that during most of the time I spend in Sde Boker, I’m not really experiencing Sde Boker in a very direct way – I’m thinking about my research, or writing about architecture, or talking to people about science, or chatting with people over the internet who have nothing to do with Israel. Much of the time I could be doing what I’m doing from anywhere in the world…there’s nothing particularly Sde Boker-ian about it. Now that I think about it, it’s kindof like being in studio all the time at MIT…which, as we all know, is not as much like being in Boston as it is like living in a hole...or maybe a shoe box...for overly designed and very expensive shoes.

That said there are, inevitably, moments when I step out of my architecture bubble and into the Midrasha and some of these moments are, maybe, worth mentioning. I dunno…I’m going to mention them anyway, and you can quit reading if it’s not holding your attention.


The other night I had dinner with some folks out in the sukkah. Afterwards, we were all sitting around talking and it turns out that one of the guys had been in Amman the same time that I was there [literally, he left on the same day and got back one day before me.] Unlike me, however, he’s from there. What was funny about the conversation that followed was that he and I spent like 20 minutes gushing over our respective trips to Jordan – agreeing on the quality food in Amman, the amazing canyons that make up the Jordanian landscape, and the beauty of Wadi Rum – to the exclusion of everyone else at the table [most of whom were Israeli, many of whom had never been to Jordan]. The conversation was interesting because for those few moments, it seemed like I had so much in common with someone that I, literally, had nothing in common with [I mean, other than the fact that we were both in the same place and had both been to the same place.]

It’s funny, you know…how you can go from outsider to insider, and back again, so quickly. In the next 15 minutes he [the Jordanian] translated for me select highlights of the Hebrew conversation around us…


A few weeks ago I was walking at night with another student from the university and his dog. A couple of guys were walking about 15 meters from us and the dog went ballistic. “It’s okay” the student said to me, “my dog always barks at Arabs.” When I looked back at him, obviously confused, he just replied “it’s because of how they smell.”


Just about every day, I go to the store. You might be wondering ‘what store?’ but if you lived here, you wouldn’t, because there is only one. Today I went to the store just to buy a chocolate bar and the lady who works at the store reprimanded me. I was like “What?! Come on, I eat healthy….you know that….you see everything I eat” because she does.


I still haven’t gotten used to the Ibex even though I see them every day. The other day, one ran across the Frisbee field….while we were playing. [?!]


One thing that I’ve learned, living in Israel, is that Israelis invented everything. No really…everything.

I brought this up one day in a car full of Israelis. They all immediately laughed, but then, one by one began to tell me about all of the things that Israelis have invented – drip irrigation, desalination, text messaging…

“I know” I deadpanned, “everything.” The second time around they just shrugged.


One Shabbat, I was having dinner with a bunch of Israelis and, for some reason, we were talking about racism and one of them made a comment about how Americans are much more racist than Israelis are. I was like, “wait a minute...a lot of Americans are definitely racist, I’ll give you that, but more racist than Israelis? I dunno. At least in the U.S. most people recognize that even if you think racist things, it’s not socially acceptable to say them out loud.” Then he said “yea, but aside from the Arabs, Israelis really aren’t racist at all…they’re very accepting.” And he wasn’t being ironic….I mean, at least not intentionally.


Every Wednesday we go over to the kibbutz to play Frisbee because they have a nice soccer field, with lights. The kibbutz is surrounded by a barbed wire fence [because, I’m pretty sure that all desert settlements are surrounded by a barbed wire fence] and getting in requires passing through an electronic gate, which none of us have the code to open because we don’t live on the kibbutz. [Btw, this kind of thing seems totally normal now, after 3 months in the Negev.] Turns out that if two people get out of the car, stand in the right places holding Frisbees above their heads, and jump at the same moment, they can successfully trigger the two sensors that are in place [to allow for public buses], automatically opening the gate.


Sde Boker is the only place in Israel where people are surprised when I say I’m Jewish. The response is always the same: pause, shrug, “sababa” [which means “cool” in Hebrew slang, i.e. Arabic]. I guess it’s because the campus is so international…that people don’t necessarily assume American-in-Israel = Jewish. But I still think it’s funny whenever it comes up…

1 comment:

  1. :) Loving the stories. I miss Israel, but probably for some different reasons than you are enjoying it.

    But the "Israelis invented everything" is so funny (and true).