While in Israel, I needed two adapters for my American chargers. I knew what the adapter looked like but didn’t know the term in Hebrew. My cousin suggested that I might find the adapters in the local hardware store.
I easily located the store a couple blocks from my temporary Jerusalem home. I couldn’t translate the information on sign. The window display of light bulbs, hammers, and extension cords gave me clues that I’d found the store!
The customers waiting at the counter blocked the entrance. I waited semi-patiently until there was an opening in the crowd.
In my limited Hebrew, I asked the cashier if he spoke English.
Uh, oh. How do I ask for this now?
Visuals to the rescue!
On the counter, I saw an appliance that had a plug similar to my charger. Using my stilted Hebrew, I pointed to the plug. Slowly I explained that I have something from America that has a plug and want to use it in Israel. Where is something I can use with this plug?
“Sham, b’mageivot,” and he pointed in a general direction down the aisle.
I’m grateful the cashier pointed, because that was all I initially understood. As I walked down the aisle, I repeated his instructions. I knew that sham meant “there”. OK. I wracked my brain’s RAM and figured out that mageivot meant “drawers”. Progress!
Down the aisle I found drawers—lots of them—and all neatly labelled…in Hebrew!
My ability to read Hebrew is slower than my conversational ability. Methodically, I read some labels to figure out the system: From Location Name (such as Europe) to Israel. Finally, I found the drawer for America. Success! I pulled out two of these precious adapters. I clutched them as if they were my trophy for winning a marathon!
After I paid for my trophies, I asked the cashier, in Hebrew, “How do you say this item in Hebrew?”
I learned a new word!
“May I use your cell phone?” my bus seat mate asked, in perfect Israeli Hebrew.
Huh? She doesn’t have one? I thought everyone had a cell phone!
“I need to call my daughter. May I use your cell phone?” my seat mate persisted.
“Oh, sure! Here.”
“Will you be charged for the call?”
Confused by the question, all I could say is “Huh?” She repeated the question and added, “I’ll pay for the call.”
“Oh! No, need. The calls are free,” I responded in my broken Hebrew.
That settled, my seat mate called her daughter. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, yet couldn’t help overhearing the exchange with her daughter.
“Hi, dear,” my seat mate said in the Queen’s English! Mother and daughter chatted quickly about meeting details or something. After she ended the call, she handed me the phone with a pleasant Toda (thank you).
“No problem,” I responded in American English. “We could have done the initial conversation in English!” We giggled about the conversation and chatted how we were both trying to be Israeli. A lady standing near us joined our laughter and conversation. The three of us heaped blessings on each other for a year of health, joy, blessing from our families, abundant income, and anything else we could we could think of.
Where else would a cell phone loan lead to blessings?
The four double-busses, packed with passengers stood on the street.
Nothing moved. Clearly I wasn’t getting on a bus anytime soon, so I took a seat on the low cool stone wall outside Jerusalem’s Old City…me and hundreds of other bus-less passengers.
“Hey! That lady has a cell phone; ask her to use it,” a 10-year-old boy said to his buddy in colloquial Hebrew.
[I don’t know their names, so let’s call them Yishai and Doron.]
Doron turned to me and in rapid-fire Hebrew asked if he could use my cell phone. From my previous experience, I knew that question meant he didn’t have a cell phone. Without questions—my Hebrew is no match for a 10-year-old—I handed Doron the phone. He punched in a number and waited. No answer. Doron closed the call, and sighing returned the phone to me with a quick Toda. Yishai said something to him that I couldn’t understand and we parted ways.
I decided to trek back through the Old City and head home via the Jaffa Gate. That meant hiking up the road inside the Old City in 90 degree heat, without water. (Why had I forgotten to take bottle of water?) As I walked up the hill, I realized I had lots of company! Part way through the Old City, the police redirected us to a different exit route. Unfamiliar with those roads, I asked a friendly-looking woman if she knew the way; she did. I tagged along with she and her family.
I kept my eyes on this woman, intent on not getting lost. The shrill ringing I heard shocked me. I wasn’t sure what rang and looked around expecting some emergency vehicle to show up! Finally I realized that the persistent tone was my cell phone. I looked at the number, didn’t recognize it, and planned to press the Reject button.
Oh! Wait! Maybe it’s the person Doron called from my phone! I answered the call. Sure enough, it was Doron’s mother. She spoke in the same speedy Hebrew as her son. I patiently explained that I’m not fluent in Hebrew and Doron’s Mom slowed down.
“Did you see my son? Is he with you?”
“No, he’s not with me now. We met at the bus stop and he used my phone there.”
“When was that?”
“About 40 minutes ago” I guessed.
“So he got on the bus?”
“I don’t know. None of the busses were moving. I left the area to walk home.”
“But do you think he got on the bus?” she anxiously asked again. I really wanted to help her even though I didn’t know her. If it were me, I’d want as much information as I could get!
Calmly I said, “I’m sorry. I’m not sure what he did. But he was with his buddy and I’m sure they stuck together. There were lots of people; none of us could get on the bus.”
“Ah. Good! He’s with his friend.”
“Yes. I’m close enough to walk home so I decided to leave the bus stop. That was about 40 minutes ago.”
“OK. Thank you so much! Chag Sameach!” (Happy Holiday!)
I’m sure Doron and Yishai made it home safely.
Where else in the world would I loan a child my cell phone? Where else in the world would I take a call from an unknown person and try and piece together what happened?
And where else in the world would the person I couldn’t help thank me enthusiastically and bless me?
Only in Israel!
Bus photo from egged.co.il site