Thursday, November 03, 2005


For a long time after I got here, I wouldn't answer the phone unless I knew who was on the other end of the line. If the caller ID read "unknown" or "blocked", I just would let the call go to voice mail. The same thing is true of my cell phone. If I don't know who it is, I am not going to answer.

Well, Yaacov got a job at the Supreme Court and when he calls from the office it's a blocked number. Now I have to answer. I don't have to, but I do. My Hebrew has improved and I am more confident picking up the phone and having a new Hebrew experience.

Yesterday the police called. Yep, I answered the phone and the female voice asked for Yaacov. I told her that he wasn't here, but at work. She asked for another number. I hesitated for a moment and she said that she was calling from the police. (All of this is happening in Hebrew, btw.) At this point my "they're going to steal personal information and ruin your credit" American mind clicked on and I wondered if she was really calling from the police. I mean, in the US, I am surprised when there's an operator available when I call 911 - nevermind the police just calling me out of the blue. I gave her Yaacov's cell number and then waited a while to call Yaacov to see what she wanted.

Turns out that she was actually calling from the police. We live near the President's house (not to be confused with the Prime Minister's house which is just around the block) and Yaacov had parked across the road from the entrance to the house (which is part of our neighborhood parking zone). They had gotten our phone number after looking up our license plate on the computer and learning that we had reported a lost/stolen license plate once. She was calling to make sure the car parked outside the President's house was our car.

I find it both comforting and creepy that they know all of this information and actually follow up on our little red car. It's nice to know that people are keeping tabs on everything, but it also raises questions for me about my privacy and how much I want the government to know about me. I am sure all of the information that I have given to the interviewer at the Interior Ministry for my visa gets typed into some database somewhere - accessible to the police and others who "need to know". I am not sure if I want the police to know which side of the bed I sleep on. (Yes, an actual question put to me from the kind folks at the Interior Ministry.)

Native Israelis and people who've been here longer don't seem to give it much thought. They're used to being asked invasive questions and everyone knowing all of their business (and being advised on it). There's a saying that goes something like the reason Israelis don't have sex in the road is that they don't want any advice on how they're doing it. Anyway, Israelis seem to have already come to terms with the sacrificing privacy to gain some degree of security. Another thing I am getting used to.


At 11/03/2005 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am so happy i finally made it to your blog!! it is adorable, like you! can't wait to par-tay 2nite! here is my blog:

At 11/03/2005 2:43 PM, Blogger Sam said...

The "side of the bed" thing really caught me off guard. (I can't imagine how surprised I'd be if asked that by a gov't official.)

Will you post a picture of the President's house from the street? I can't imagine being able to park in front of it. How far from the road is it?

Hope you're having fun with CB!

At 11/03/2005 5:10 PM, Blogger Savtadotty said...

I remember being taken aback by the intrusiveness of our bureaucracies. But then I consoled myself by thinking that there really is a security reason behind most of the nosiness. It's a trade-off Americans are now facing back in the "old country," thanks to the globalization of terror.

And I feel so much more secure now that someone in Israel's government knows which side of the bed you sleep on :-)

At 11/03/2005 7:43 PM, Blogger John said...

Matti!: I am writing a post about my fav Israeli bloggers - you made the list! I am looking forward to the party too. Y is taking a disco nap right now to prepare!

Sam: To be honest, they asked me that question and then interviewed Yaacov and compared answers to make sure that we actually lived together - it's very "Green Card" - I love Andy MacDowell! CB and I toured the Old City today. it was a holiday and many shops were closed. We mananged to eat lunch on a roof-top with an incredible view!

SD: i am looking forward to apple pie! I sleep on the right side - now everyone knows!

At 11/04/2005 7:51 PM, Blogger Sam said...

I so wish I were there with you and CB! Looks like (from her pics and tale) y'all had fun. Glad you got to meet in person and hang out a bit.

At 11/04/2005 11:55 PM, Blogger Matt Erlandsen said...

Seems to be that the Israeli Government manages everything. That's scarying!. Althought, thinkking about it better... that makes the country one of the "safest" -when that safety means a good life style, not that you can walk sure of yourself outside.

I even don't know where my President lives!... my city is so big that he could live anywhere here and I wouldn't ever know.


At 11/05/2005 5:04 AM, Anonymous Noorster said...

Yeah but which right side? Facing the bed or lying on it?

At 11/06/2005 6:23 AM, Blogger John said...

Sam: I'll work on the pic. It might be a little tricky b/c I am not sure that they want people taking pictures of it. But I'll find out. There are always guys with big guns out in front.

The whole "compound" is fenced and the house is set back from the road. So, you really can't see it from the road. There are cameras and guards stationed all around. It's still much closer than the White House though.

Noorster: the right side facing the bed. :-)


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