Being in another country

Two years ago I visited Israel for business trip.
It was my first trip to Middle East. I had a fixed image. A very strong set of image. Most of them were wrong, and that shaked my confidence, as a self-claimed “international person” ha ha…..;-(. Let’s see how biased and naive my perspective was.

Every female covers some part of their heads, if not all. They don’t look directly into the eyes too. Male has beard or mustach. They only wear black and white clothes. And they are alway, always serious. Never laughs. They eat with their hands, and I cannot eat fresh vegetable more than once a week.
Soldiers are everywhere and buildings are all broken or half-broken. They are very conservative and suspicious of foreigners (anybody has the potential to become the bomber). If you go outside late in the night, someone will stop you, and if you don’t have a legitimate reply, interrogate you in one of those secret prisons.

Reality check
Every female covers some part of their bodies. I went out to the beach next to the hotel, and I saw hundreds of people chatting, eating, dancing, playing. Without exception, women were dressed in Bikini. Although I didn’t see anybody in topless, every one of them exposed their bellies. Slender or not, young or not, good-looking or not.

They look directly into your eyes. Or never give you a sxxx. When they recognize you, they are very direct and (important)open-minded. When they don’t, I am non-existent. In Tokyo sometimes I feel the opposite way. Everybody recognizes me but none of them approaches me in a friendly manner.

Except for the ultra-orthodox people(very religious people – those we can see in the movies. I always remember Once upon a time in America when I see them in traditional outfit), men have clean-shaved faces.

The black-and-white clothes seem to apply to the orthodox people, but other than that, people dress in a casual and relaxed manner. But not in a weird style, as we see in Shibuya or Harajuku streets(I think I should stop beating up on my nation). Most of them wear T-shirts (Israel is hot), so I felt like I am in a university town all the time.

Are they serious? I cannot say no. They are serious in a different way than we (Japanese) are. They don’t try to be serious – they are just serious. It’s part of their life and it’s nothing special. They can play with seriousness, they can joke about it, they can relax, they can have fun, but the seriousness is always there. “I know how a woman from the United States, who is not beautiful, scored a very handsome guy as her husband. How? Very easy. She went to the beach, lay on the sand, took out her U.S. passport, and put it outside so that every local Israel guys can recognize it. Soon she got several boyfriends around her” – heard from a local Israeli, whom my colleague introduced.

I think I and most people around me have to act or behave seriously, when actually what needed is to be serious. When we go back home, take a hot bath and grab some beer, we return into the “normal” or relaxed mode, as we say. Seriouness is something we put on according to the situation, like the black suit we wear when meeting our clients. But in Israel, the situation is there all the time. (I am not saying they are scary or nervous people – it is completely the opposite.) They also laugh a lot. But whatever they do, I felt like I am dealing with philosophers who know everything before dealing with the real issues (like Merlin in King Arthur’s tale). They don’t seem to have any illusion about who they are or what they can do.

They don’t eat with hands, they eat with folks and knives. Chopsticks are also available at Asian restaurants. Food is great – I never got disappointed in Israel, except when I tried a mutant Toufu, in which a beef flavor was added. Please.

I didn’t see many soldiers but witnessed a lot of machine guns. In front of every major restaurants and hotels you can see young guys with T-shirts and sunglasses AND machine guns. Hanging from their shoulders, occasionally aiming at me.

Everybody was extremelly friendly to me. I walk down the street, somebody local pulls the car and ask me the direction to nearby supermarket. Or asked me if I am one of those Ninjas(I told him I had such ancestors). Or if I am from Japan, and what Tokyo looks like. The hotel was “guarded” by security personnel who asks you to show what is inside your shoulder bag. One of them was a blond young guy whose name is Cat, and after five minutes of chatting he gave me his phone number and made me promise I call him when I visit Israel the next time. My colleagues also took me outside for several times, during the two week stay. I never had a warmer welcome from any other nations.

I made up my mind after this trip. When in doubt, go there. See it by yourself.
Easy to say, but in reality it is also easy to do. And I am still a lazy person.