Anyone who is hesitant to make aliya because they are concerned about their ability to speak Hebrew should not worry about it. Israelis generally refuse to speak Hebrew to me if they can help it.
I recently went to Burgeranch in the Malcha mall and ordered a large meal, which consists of a large double burger, “chips”, and a drink for a few pennies savings over the cost of ordering them separately. I ordered in Hebrew, but the guy responded to me in English, “Large?”
“Yes, large,” I said.
“Two burgers?” he asked, flashing me two fingers, just in case even the English wasn’t enough.
“Yes, two burgers.”
“Kaful,” I replied.
This was an actual conversation. I did not embellish.
As the beef was cooking he placed packets of barbecue sauce and thousand island dressing on my tray. I told him I don’t need that, just ketchup.
“We’re out of ketchup,” he said. Yes, a burger joint, out of ketchup. Can you imagine Kosher Delight, or, lehavdil, McDonalds running out of ketchup?
No problem, though, I had a large bottle of ketchup in my backpack for just such an eventuality. Really. I brought it because usually they are very stingy with the ketchup, and two or three packets just wasn’t going to do it for my large, two burger, double meal and fries. But now that bottle of ketchup — something you’d probably have laughed at me for bringing, like people laughed when I bought a pizza bag — really saved the day. Who’s laughing now?
The food court was packed. I spotted someone getting up from a table and hurried over, placing my tray there a split second before some girl tried to claim it. Tough luck. Tray on the table wins.
The burger people did not give me a single napkin. Usually they give you one with each order over 40 shekels, but I guess they ran out of napkins with the ketchup. No sweat. I always carry extra napkins in my backpack for just this reason. Really. You have to.
(By the way, for all the talk about a water shortage, a huge national problem that goes completely unmentioned is the napkin shortage. I’m not kidding. I could go the men’s room and use all the water I want. But there are no paper towels to dry your hands, only a hot air machine. And the washing stations don’t have any paper towels either. You have to use your shirt (which is forbidden), use that one precious thin napkin you MIGHT get with your meal, or do as I do: bring your own. No one is talking about this.)
After washing (and drying!) I went back to my table and started my meal. As soon as I took my first bite I knew something was wrong. The burger was too easy to chew through...too thin. I took off the top of the bun and my worst fears were confirmed: there was only one patty inside.
I left my backpack and drink and took the tray back to the store. There was quite a line, but I finally managed to get the attention of someone and told him there was only one burger in my large meal. He took the burger, went to the back, and returned soon after with a second patty nestled atop the first. B’seder.
I went back to my table to find a tray with pizza where no tray had been before. I pushed the tray aside, placed mine down, and sat back on the bench. Just then a woman showed up, the owner of the pizza. She said she thought the table was empty and that my backpack was a “chefetz chashud”. One of the mall workers was behind the woman, and she dismissed him. She then took her tray and left to find another table.
Stop and think about what had happened here. The woman was concerned enough that my bag might contain a bomb that she felt the need to alert someone. Yet she was simultaneously going to sit down at the same table and eat a meal. Talk about hedging your bets! In times like this I think we need to ask ourselves, what would Mohammed do? On one side of the scale we have the minuscule yet nagging concern that there is a bomb on the bench. On the other side of the scale we have an open table in a crowded food court. How can we balance everything? Get a guard, but guard the table.
As incongruous as it seems, though, I suppose the woman did the right thing by taking the table. After all, if she doesn’t, the terrorists win.