a different side of Israel

Not Jewish?! What are you doing here? (Part 11)

Jill Cartwright

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten

Shalom to all that (3) by Jill Cartwright

Jill continues her good-byes, soaks up the Shabbat atmosphere, and looks for the power to pack …

Isn’t it amazing just how much stuff you can accumulate. I had come to Israel with one solitary backpack, stuffed unceremoniously with a few items of clothing that had done me for my year’s traveling round South America. And even though my one pair of sandals had sufficed for the “laid-back sand bowl” look of Be’er Sheva, I hadn’t quite realised before my arrival just how serious Tel Aviv women can be about getting dressed up for the night.

I’d thought Tel Aviv would be full of Israelis of the kind you meet in Koh Phi Phi or La Paz – all in floppy patterned trousers and Teva sandals, and was quite taken aback to meet a whole new breed of made up, sprayed up, nailed up tottering beauties squeezed into designer jeans and sparkling tops – not to be outdone of course by one of the largest and proudest gay communities in the world.

And so as always happens when you live out of your own country for any extended period of time, not only do you start picking up a few of the language habits (walla and yoffie had long ago become standard garnishing to my English sentences) but I had also submitted to a few Tel Aviv fashion trends, and had now amassed a wardrobe of spangly vests, figure-hugging trousers and a small but not insignificant collection of that original Israeli invention – the platform flip-flop.

I remember once when I was in England for a short break and was wandering around London shops wasting time before heading to Heathrow for my flight and one of the saleswomen had asked me where I was from after asking her, in perfect English (or so I thought) how much something was. “I’m English,” I’d told her, thinking maybe the fact that I had a slight tan had thrown her. “Oh,” she’d said, surprised. “You don’t look English at all. Something in the way you’re dressed.”
I’m not sure if it was a compliment or not.

And books. How had I managed to accumulate so many books? I hate throwing away books, so I knew I would have to lug them all the way back home with me. It’s the curse of the wandering bibliophile: nowhere can even start to be called home until there is a bookshelf stocked with the familiar faces and a steadily growing population of new ones.

I stared vacantly at the physical objects that were the result of my two years in Israel and tried to think of how I was going to summon up the energy to pack them.

I padded barefoot through to the lounge to call my best friend in London to tell her I was coming home. Her excitement was muffled through her scarf and was swallowed up in the churning of the trains as she stood on the platform at Clapham Junction, jokingly telling me I was crazy because it was “bloody freezing” there. It was late October. It was also Saturday. “I have to go into the office to do some work, nightmare,” she started telling me. “I’ve been there all week from 8 til 8, you wouldn’t believe …” and then the line went quiet as she had obviously boarded the train and rattled off into a tunnel. Oh yes, I remember working in London. And I remember now why I’d vowed never to do it again.


  1. I’ve only lived where I am now 2 yrs this July. I’ve taken 2 car loads to goodwill, not to mention all of my younger son’s things passed to the cousins. And I need to go again. And I am not even really a shopper! Just not much of a pack-rat.

    Those 8:00 to 8:00 jobs, where you work on Saturday are everywhere; if you’ll work ’em. Not me, life’s too short.

  2. But then again, if you’re doing what you love and have not had children yet, one could do it all day long! (re-thinking, don’t ya love it 🙂 )

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