Tuesday, July 6, 2010


If you're chuckling at the illustration to the left, chances are you've been in Israel in the summer.  I don't know if it's a macho Middle Eastern thing, or if it's just part of the Sabra (native Israeli) culture, but Israelis seem to feel that it takes an entire can of lighter fluid to start a bbq!

While the air on summer days may have a touch of smoke from a nearby forest fire, you can be sure that come nightfall, the smoke you smell- and you will smell smoke, that's a guarantee- is from someone's grill. 

In Jerusalem, you know you're approaching Sacher Park by the clouds of smoke from family bbqs drifting onto the road.  Residents who drive by know to be prepared for a moment or two of temporary blindness, while visitors to the city have a landmark to help them find their way.

We've become used to quickly running around the apartment, shutting windows, whenever we get a first whiff of lighter fluid from our neighbors' terraces.   If we're not fast enough, within moments white puffs of smoke start drifting over our yard and into our home, followed by half an hour or more of gray clouds of smoke filling the air.  I guess in one sense we're fortunate that Israelis have a proclivity for an overuse of lighter fluid- at least it gives us a heads up to seal our apartment before being inundated with smoke!

This post is dedicated to our new downstairs neighbors, who certainly broke all smoke records last night.   I was doing some gardening in the front of our apartment, when my husband came out to warn me that our house had quickly filled with smoke from the downstairs bbq.  (He had been outside helping me for a while, so we were caught unawares.)

It was the first time that the new neighbors had started their grill, and it was memorable- they must have been smoking something, because a thick white column of smoke rose from their terrace all night.   Both floors of our apartment were filled with smoke, and we were caught in a bind- close the windows to keep more smoke from getting in, but in doing so trap any smoke that was already there; or try to keep the air circulating with open windows and fans, with the hope that we'd have some chance of clearing the air.

We kept the windows open, figuring that within an hour they'd be finished cooking, and the smoke would stop, never thinking that the smoke would go on and on (and on and on!).   Being the neighborly type, I hesitated going downstairs to say something, because I could hear that they had company, and didn't want to embarrass them or interrupt their evening.  But at 11pm, with the smoke still pouring into our apartment (by then I had shut most of the windows), I finally knocked on their door. 

[Aside: by writing that, I just gave away my immigrant status.  No native Israeli would have waited that long to complain.  (And again, if you've ever spent time in Israel, you can add a few other differences in approach .. !)]

Our interaction was very pleasant and civilized, although he did mention that he wasn't finished grilling yet.  (Gulp!)   I asked him to please, in the future, let us know before he started grilling, and also suggested that he consider moving his grill to the other side of his terrace, a bit further away from our apartment (but of course, that would mean the smoke would then be directed at his apartment, so I don't see that happening any time soon!).

This morning our home was still somewhat smoky, and when I returned from errands a short while ago, the smell of smoke hit me as soon as I opened the front door.

I know this sounds like a rant (go ahead, tell me you wouldn't be ranting in this situation!), but it's actually more of a reflection of life here in Israel (really!). 

You just gotta laugh  (and sometimes -OK, often!- shrug your shoulders, and sigh :-) ) .

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