This is a guest post by Abigail Pickus, a writer based in Jerusalem. Check out her site: www.abigailpickus.com. This article originally ran in The Jewish Week on May 1, 2012 and is being reprinted with permission.
As Israel celebrates its 64th year with joy and a haze of barbecue smoke, it’s easy to feel nostalgic.
After all, the creation of Israel is nothing short of a miracle. To think, on the heels of such destruction, to finally have a country of our own!
That despite the setbacks and the many innocent people who have lost their lives, what a thriving and impressive country Israel is. A real start-up nation.
You don’t have to convince me. I’m a Zionist. That’s why I moved here three years ago from Chicago: to take my rightful place in the national home for the Jewish people. (And if I were to find a husband in the process, so much the better.)
But that was before I woke up the morning of Yom Ha’Aztmaut to discover that I had no water.
Thinking someone had just messed with the pipes, I went outside looking for answers and found them in the form of my nudnik neighbor who informed me that in the dead of night, thieves had walked off with a bunch of the water meters. Which is another way of saying, there’s a whole underground business going on where thieves saw off pipes and cut the hoses connecting water to apartments just to get the iron that apparently brings a pretty penny on the black market.
What do they care if a bespectacled American and three other households have to go without water on the most national of holidays in the State of Israel?
Which is another way of saying, try getting any service on Yom Ha’Atzmaut!
Or try to live for even one day without running water. Certainly, there are those who can hack it, but yours truly is not one of them. Let’s just say I’m not used to not being able to flush the toilet.
So to this American mind, I was dealing with a national disaster.
The water company thought otherwise.
When I finally got someone on the horn, she said she could maybe, possibly, send someone out. But in the meantime, I needed to go to the police station and file a complaint. And then fax them that complaint. Don’t ask me why.
So I trotted over to the closest police station — a place I had only seen, but had never experienced intimately, if you know what I mean.
I suppose I should talk now about being moved by the memorial candle flickering in the entryway to remember all of Israel’s fallen. Or how gosh darn Israeli it was that the guard who checked my bag had to find out exactly why I was there, even though he was not asking in any official capacity, but was just a nosey-pants. Or that four others had also come that very same morning for the very same reason.
It seems Yom Ha’Aztmaut is a busy night for thieves.
Thinking I would be out of there in no time, I settled back in the lobby to wait.
After nearly an hour of waiting, I was still there.
“Cry,” my uncle told me when I called for sympathy.
I told him not to tell Barnard (my alma mater), but it doesn’t help with women — and I was right.
Because when the hard-as-nails policewoman, who seemed at this point to be the only one left in the office, finally deigned to acknowledge my cries for help, she was unmoved.
“It’s going to take a while,” she said, indifferently.
When I pressed for specifics she said it could be another hour, maybe more.
I got the distinct impression that she just didn’t feel like helping me. And that she was going to lord it over me just because she could.
I told her I was sick. She shrugged her shoulders. “Then go home and come back later,” she said, waving her arm to rid of me.
So I trudged home, calling the water company again to try to get some answers.
“Don’t you have a husband who can help you?” the water guy asked.
I’m not making that up.
As the tears rolled down my cheeks, he went on to inform me that the water company is only responsible for the meter itself, that any other property destroyed is my responsibility.
“Even if thieves did this?” I asked.
“Even if thieves did this,” he answered.
Back at home, the water guy finally showed up.
In between puffs on his cigarette, he fiddled around with a wrench and did some fancy work with twine.
He then told the few of us out of water that we needed to call a plumber and pay for hooking it up at our own expense.
In the meantime, I’d be washing my hands in a bucket.
Happy Independence Day!
(Faucet Photo: Phil Roeder)