My neighbor Mishu is renovating his flat. The knocking down of walls goes on well into the night.
Moving to Jaffa, I knew I was in for noisy nights. People here have a different approach to the idea of noise pollution. Usually, though, the noise consists of music and chatter, not of doomsday bangs. At midnight I walked down to ask of them to stop. I had a long day at work and needed a lot of sleep.
"Now you've made a mistake." said Mishu, "So far you've been OK, but now you made your big mistake." He was clearly furious. I came out of whatever prissy Jewish Zionist town into his native Jaffa and quickly seek to make changes. "This isn't Ramat Gan, you get that? We are different people here! You go back to Ramat Gan where you came from."
This created a problem for me, since I know nobody in Ramat Gan and can't really go back there. For a moment we stood in the hallway like two tomcats with our hairs on end. Him red with the collective memory of Kafar Qasem (see last post) et al, the occupation, the daily encounters with racism, me hearing "go back to Ramat Gan" as though it meant "go back to Poland". But My family was murdered in Poland! you get that, Mishu? They were murdered even though they were good neighbors and never kept anyone up knocking down walls after midnight!
Wow, what a bad spot. We had to break out of it. "Thank you." I said, nodded and walked back upstairs. They kept working in his flat but made no serious drilling or hammering noise. Somehow, I felt that this was no accident.
This morning I came over with two bags of freshly ground coffee. Mishu opened the door unsmiling.
"Listen, I brought you coffee because you didn't make too much noise after I left last night," I said, "One bag for you, one for your laborers, so they do an extra good job."
"Is it Arab coffee?" he asked.
"It is. I also got me some ear plugs."
"You should have gotten them sooner."
"Look Mishu, it's important for me to be a good neighbor and I want you to know that I respect Jaffa. I didn't mean to offend your culture and I don't think you meant to offend mine. In fact, I think I simply came knocking on a bad day."
It turns out to have been a horrible day. "I fought with everybody yesterday. I lost my voice completely. Man, I'm going to Jerusalem to be with the kids. That's it, I'm taking two days to relax, I need it.
"Sounds good." That meant sleep to me.
"Come on, let's go eat something."
So we went and had hummus and grilled meat and coffee around the corner. Then I went back to work and listened to my prissy Zionist French Chanson music. Barbara singing: "Never let the days of fear and hate return / 'cause there are people that I love in Gottingen." A beautiful rainbow appeared out the window over Tel-Aviv's skyline, this being the second day of serious rains. Pretty cheesy, huh? I was just glad it occured to me he might have had a bad day. We tend to disregard such factors when we have an enemy.