Friday, September 14, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Pass on the Gas...Masks

Shalom, chaverim! Well, I'd been wondering when I'd get around to this rather grim topic. As you are probably aware, there has been a lot of hysteria and terrible violence in some of our neighbors' countries, particularly in and around U.S. embassies and consulates in recent days. American residents in Israel have also been receiving numerous travel warnings from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, advising us to stay away from Amman, Jordan, and even, sadly, the Old City in Jerusalem. So it seemed a fitting time to talk about one basic element of life in Israel: the individual, free, and government-supplied gas mask.

Before making Aliyah, we had heard about this. "Oh my gosh, you're moving to Israel? The government gives everyone gas masks there! And there are bomb shelters everywhere!" And while we got settled in to our new lives here, we still had that nagging feeling that we just needed to get our own gas masks. Not that we felt any particular feelings of imminent doom or impending disaster, but that it was just one more thing, like always having an extra supply of batteries, water, canned food, and candles, that would just feel better to have on hand, rather than not. We know where our bomb shelter is in our building's basement, and now we've become adept at spotting the community shelters whenever we happen to be away from home.

After being here a few months, I eventually started bugging Elul about getting our masks. He quickly tackled the project of figuring out how to procure our gas masks with his usual aplomb. It was fairly simple: he went on the Nefesh B'Nefesh Facebook page where I had seen other olim advise each other on how to go about getting theirs, and he followed their instructions. He called a mysterious four-digit number, gave the person some information, and was told that for 25 shekels or so (about USD $6.25), the post office would deliver them to our home between 8 a.m. and noon.

We then more or less forgot about it, until early one Sunday morning a few weeks later, there was a knock at the door at 7 a.m. At the door was a man who, after confirming our identities, gave us our gas masks and promptly left.

We put them on the kitchen table and stood gaping at them for awhile, as they sat snugly and tidily packed in their brown cardboard boxes. Written in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, English and French were very clear instructions that we were not to open these boxes until we had "received instructions from the Rear Command." I was immediately reminded of the old spoof on an American civil defense poster, that used to be popular in the 1970's. On that poster was a long, long list of very official-looking instructions about emergency preparedness in the event of a nuclear attack. At the very end of the list, though, was the instruction that each person should bend over, grab one's own ankles, put one's head firmly between one's legs, and kiss one's own a** goodbye. So in that vein, from who else could it more apt to receive such gas mask usage instructions, than from the Israeli "Rear Command?"

"Where's MY mask?!" Pini silently, yet accusingly, asks.
On a happier note, it is now just before Rosh Hashanah, and I would like to wish each and every one of you "l'shanah tovah," or Happy (Jewish) New Year. May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life for the (Jewish) year of 5773, and may your hearts, homes, and families be happy, healthy and whole. Thank you so much for reading and for your wonderful, positive, informative, and encouraging comments to me on this blog, through emails, and on my Facebook page. I really have only the vaguest idea about who's reads this, but I'm so glad you do. I hope it is useful, or at least somewhat interesting and/or amusing. If it's all three, then I will have truly succeeded in reaching my goal.

Here's a link to my favorite Rosh Hashanah video, so be sure to turn your speakers up. And as usual, if you can't see the pictures or the video link, please go directly to my blog at

Shabbat shalom, chaverim!

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