Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Israelis Aren’t Feeling the Good Vibrations
Firstly, if you don’t know the song Im Eshkachech and/or if you want to see a nice slide show of Yerushalayim, look here: Im Eshkachech.
Three days a week I commute from Yerushalayim to Tel Aviv on the train. When we arrive at the Beit Shemesh station, the back car of the train comes alive as men don their ta’alit and tefilin (phylacteries) and begin the morning service. Inevitably, at least once during each prayer, someone’s cell phone will ring. It won’t just ring quietly as if on vibrate. Rather it rings a loud, pronounced, obnoxious, intrusive ring. Often times people don’t answer the phone, they just let it ring a few times and send the caller to voice mail. Other times, people will answer and speak quietly, and other times, my personal favorite, people will answer just to tell the caller that they will call them back. The phone ring is an inconsiderate interruption to the prayers and is often disruptive to my concentration and the concentration of those around me.
When I get to the office, I will throughout the day hear people’s phones ringing from down the hall and will most certainly be nearly startled by Uri, my office-mate’s, blaring cell phone.
Later in the day, I attend afternoon service in the synagogue located on the 2nd floor of my office building. It is a near inevitability that again someone will receive a call and their phone will let us all know that they are very popular.
One would at first wonder whether cell phones in this country come from another place – maybe the Israeli cell phones don’t have a vibrate function and there is no other option but to blare your ringtone to know that you are getting a call. However, I can attest that phones, at least Uri’s have vibrate capabilities, because as his phone puts on a concert staged from out desk, the vibration rumble adds a percussion section to the melodies that they produce. Also, Israelis are gadget hungry people and many people here have smart phones, blackberries, iPhones or fancy Nokias.
I have not yet understood why it is that Israelis don’t use vibrate on their phones. It kind of drives me crazy – especially during prayer services, when people don’t simply switch their phones to vibrate. I have not yet been to a movie since I arrived, but I think that will be the ultimate litmus test as to whether there are any borders of consideration when it comes to muting one’s cell phone.
So now, back to Im Eshkachech. There is a guy on the train, I have named him Im Eshkachech man. His ring tone as you may have guessed is to the song Im Eshkachech. It starts at the line “Im lo e'eleh Yerushalaim al rosh simchati” “If I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy,” which is the peak of the song and most strongly demonstrates the vocal prowess of Yaakov Shwekey. Im Eshkachech man’s phone goes off more often than anyone else’s on the train in the morning.
A few weeks ago, I was at afternoon services in my building and I heard it… Im Eshkachech man’s cell phone ring. I looked at the owner of the phone and realized that I did not know what Mr. Im Eshkachech looks like. The train makes 3 stops in Tel Aviv and since I get off at the last one, I spend the 15 minutes between the end of services and my stop either eating breakfast – cottage cheese – the diary products in this country are incomparable to America, everything is so fresh, or I am closing my eyes/sleeping, or I am writing blog posts. I do not pay close attention to which stop people disembark from the train.
Last week when his phone went off again, I made sure to take a good look at Im Eshkachech man and decided to pay attention to when he got off the train. Low and behold, he got off at my station! As if I were Jason Bourne, I decided to subtly follow Mr. Im Eshkachech to see where he worked and determine if he was in fact the same cell phone ringing culprit from afternoon services. Unfortunately, my secret agent training did not include a lesson on walking really slowly. Before I knew it I was walking side by side with the man I was “following.” He was headed in the general direction of my building, but was not taking the fastest route. I decided to head in my direction and if he were coming to my office I’d see he would be following me. (sneaky I know). I walked a little longer, looked back and he was gone – a true case of spy vs spy.
I have not ruled out the possibility that Mr. Im Eshkachech works in my building and/or he comes to my building for afternoon services. The mystery remains, but I will be sure to keep you informed. Until then, Agent Oracle signing off.