The Mask of Confusion
By Petra van der Zande
Many people ask us why we prefer to live in Israel, instead of Holland.
"The people are always so nice there, and it's so green and cool," they say.
When I tell them I'd rather be here than in Amsterdam, they look at me as if I'm crazy.
"You actually LOVE living here?" They shake their heads in unbelief.
Yes, we really do. As for the frustrations of daily life, we take them in our stride and try to see the humor of it.
The following story happened on an average day.
Gasmasks. After all the trouble obtaining them, trying to put them on without fainting, but in the end (thank G-d) were never needed, we thought we could store and forget about them.
"There's a guy outside collecting gasmasks. Do you know anything about it?" Yael, our neighbor's daughter sounded as surprised as I was.
While the guy with the clipboard patiently waited outside, Yael and I held a quick behind-the-door-conference.
We couldn't plainly ignore him, so the task fell on me to confront the guy.
"Why didn't we know beforehand?" I asked him.
"They sent notices by mail," he answered.
Of course we didn't get them.
"But our masks are stored somewhere. Do you think I have time to go looking for them now? And how do you transport them? Where's your car?" I know I sounded suspicious and paranoid, but it didn't feel right.
"I stack them somewhere nearby, and when I have enough, I call the truck to pick them up." It was as simple as that.
Unsupervised boxes with atropine needles lying around; curious children looking for them - that did it. I refused to participate.
"Take it or leave it." The guy didn't bat an eye. He only followed instructions.
His hand-computer did show our family's ID's and other information, so I figured he was on official business after all.
"Call this number and they'll tell you where to drop them off." He handed me a form with a bar-code sticker.
When I called the Tel Aviv number, instructions came in all languages, except English. Zehava, our neighbour, helped me get the necessary information.
"But which street? Where do they collect them?" she asked the guy.
"On the Holy Land parking lot. I told you, I don't have a street name. It's a big truck; you won't be able to miss it."
My husband gave it a try.
"I see a truck, but there's no one around," he called 10 minutes later. "There are several people with their boxes, but nobody seems to know what to do."
Upon returning home, he told me the collector had been hidden behind some trees, far away from the truck. He found him by following someone carrying a similar box.
Later, Zehava shared her experience.
"I went to address they gave me, saw the parked truck and approached the men sitting inside. 'No,' they said, 'you have to go to the person over there,' pointing to a man standing in the full sun, on a sharav day! I went to the poor man and asked why he didn't move over to the shade. 'No,' he replied, 'my boss (sitting in the air-conditioned truck) told me to stand there,' and that's what he did. I felt so sorry for the man; I marched back to the truck and gave them a piece of my mind. So they yell from the truck, 'Hey, Moshe, move over to the shade!' Can you believe it?"
We had a good laugh, and agreed it was a complicated government business, trying to give those gasmasks back.
Petra van der Zande has lived in Israel since 1989 with her husband and is a free-lance writer.
from the November 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine