One Night in Jerusalem

Last night I attended a wedding in Jerusalem. The groom, an Australian friend of mine who I met here in Israel, married an American, giving the wedding an American-Australian flavor (actually, the Australian flavor was more pronounced, especially with the groom donning an Australian Rules Football guernsey and guests kicking around a football). This is one of the great things about Israel: because you have Jews from so many different countries and backgrounds, weddings have their own unique flavor, as they incorporate different customs from different countries.


But this post is not really about this particular wedding, or weddings in Israel in general. It is about what happened to me after the wedding, and what this says about Israel and Israelis.


I leave the wedding at around 11:30pm, and make my way to my car. Now I should probably explain how my car’s security works. On my keyring, I have two separate “controls”: one contains a button for activating the alarm/locking the car and deactivating the alarm/unlocking the car; the other contains buttons for locking and unlocking the doors, independent of the alarm. In addition, there is a keypad inside the car, for inputting a code to enable ignition.


As I approach my car, I press the button for deactivating the alarm.






I press again.


Still nothing.


This is weird. This has not happened to me before.


And yet again.


What’s going on here?


Now panic starts to creep in. Here I am, in the outskirts of Jerusalem, at 11:30 at night, far from home, and I can’t even get into my bloody car. Or can I?


I have an idea. I press the button for unlocking the car, and a familar sound breaks the night’s silence. The car is unlocked. Unfortunately, a second later, a much more audible sound is heard. The alarm!!


Other departing guests stare at me, some guy in a car, with the alarm blaring, who, in their mind, may not even own it. Although I suspect my skullcap probably gives away the fact that I am no car thief.


I enter the car and sit down. The alarm stops after about 10 seconds.


Now what? Hey, wait, I have another idea.


I enter my code and start the engine. Phew! The engine starts.


So does the alarm.




So I am faced with a choice. I can, theoretically, drive home, but with the alarm blaring the whole time (I live about 30-45 minutes away). Of course, that would not only be annoying to me and all other drivers, but would probably result in me being stopped by the police. Or I can try to deal with this now.


I decide to drive. I am tired, and it is late. I drive down the road, to a more remote area, but then stop, realizing that this is not a good move. I need to somehow deal with this situation now.


As I am contemplating my next move, a bald-headed, tough looking guy knocks on my window. I open the door. He asks me, in Hebrew, what the problem is.


I cannot disable the alarm.


Is this your car?


Well, it’s my company car. The company leases it for me.


Give me your keys and I’ll see what I can do.


Now, in most other countries, I would never just hand my car keys to some strange, tough looking guy in the middle of nowhere. I would be too afraid. But in Israel, I feel differently. Crime is certainly lower than in most places, and I am used to Israelis bending over backwards to help someone in distress. So I hand over my keys without blinking.


The man takes my keys and starts playing with the button to deactivate the alarm. He is no more successful than I was. He then asks me to open the car bonnet. I ask him:


Do you think you can disable the alarm?


Well, I have stolen a few cars before.






So here I am, having given over my car keys to a man with experience in stealing cars. Yet I am not overly concerned that he will pull a knife on me and steal mine.


The man tries to see what he is doing in the pitch black, but has no success. So he asks if I have a number for the car leasing company. I retrieve it from the glove box.


Can you also give me your phone? 


I oblige.


Now the man not only has my car keys, but also my phone.


He dials the number and requests that a service van be sent to assist me. He patiently describes the problem, and informs the woman on the other end our exact location. He then hands back my phone and keys, and asks if I have a cigarette.


No, sorry. But if you find one, I wouldn’t mind one either.


The man laughs, wishes me luck, and disappears into the darkness.


Approximately 45 minutes later, the service van arrives. I go over to the technician, explain the problem, and he proceeds to replace the battery in the control. The old one was flat (have they heard of providing spare batteries with their rental cars?!)


As you can see, the story had a happy ending. Sure, I am extremely tired today, and somewhat peeved that I was delayed by 1 hour because of a flat battery in the car alarm control. But the point of the story is to give you an insight into a great feature of life in Israel: complete strangers are willing to bend over backwards for you, and, consequently, you are willing to place your trust in complete strangers. And while this is not unique to Israel, I believe it is certainly more prevalent here than in any other place I have ever lived or visited.


(Cross-posted on Israelity)

About Aussie Dave

An Aussie immigrant to Israel, Aussie Dave is founder and managing editor of Israellycool, one of the world's most popular pro-Israel blogs (and the one you are currently reading) He is a happy family man, and a lover of steak, Australian sports and girlie drinks

Facebook Comments

  • Anonymous

    This is what I love about Israel. The guy who pushes in front of you in the post office with “just a question”, would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it in an emergency.

    I know very well how to change a tyre on my car – but I’ve never needed to. On the few occasions I ended up with a flat tyre, I was stopped on the road for only about 5 minutes before some lovely macho Israeli turned up to change my tyre for me – ensuring that a) I didn’t get dirty, and b) I didn’t break any fingernails!


  • Anonymous

    Great story! But I’ve learned not to trust someone just cause they have a kipah. It’s apparently not uncommon for non-religious men to wear it to appear more honest and trustworthy than they really are.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, what a story! I am actually laughing out loud while I read this. And so very Israeli. Its odd really: the Israelis can be quite rude and arrogant in everyday life- but when they see someone in trouble, even the worst of them will magically transform and do their utmost to help.

  • Anonymous

    Reminds me when I was at a random tachana mirkazit, which was really more like 3 or 4 bus shelters. I was sitting there waiting for my bus and I got into a conversation with someone who turned out to be a kid who had just gotten out of prison recently and going on a trip late at night to gind a lawyer the next day. At first he asked for my cell phone to make a call, I tired to explain to him that all I had was my Australian sim card and I lost my Israeli one, so instead he had m watch his stuff while he phoned his parents at a payphone. So of corse, being Israel the security is making thier round and they ask me whos bag that is I argue with them that it was ok for me to watch it its only a very small bag and I wait untiil he comes back to claim it. Later a russian comes to the bus shelter and this criminal(he later told me some of what he did it wasn’t that nice) gets into a heated arguement about how the Russian doesn’t really want to go to teh army, the criminal berates him saying that its everyones tdream to enlist and that if he weren’t bogged dowbn in legal proceedings he would rush to try to get into the best unit. The bus came and I helped pay 1/3 of the criminal’s fare becuase it was more than expeted and it was only a few shekel anyway. I fell asleep on the 3 hour bus ride thinking about the normal Israeli scene that just occured.

  • Anonymous

    heh i would have started freaking out when he asked for the cell phone :)

    one night my dad was coming home to jerusalem from a wedding all by himself, when he burst a tire. 1am, highway between tel aviv and jerusalem, intifada going on around him (this was circa 2002) and my dad is stuck. a few minutes barely pass, and this minivan drives by, notices him, and stops. my dad must have peed in his pants and started wondering if he whould call his wife or the police first to tell them that he was about to be kidnapped by terrorists. Then out of the van popped three heads, obvisouly belonging to young yeshiva students, who rushed over to him and told him to stand aside, there is no way on earth that he will change his tire while being so well dressed. So my father stood there, watching his tire being changed by complete strangers, and half an hour later he was home :)


  • Anonymous

    i had the luck to live in Israel for a few years, and it was the best time of my life. It was great because of the people there. They aren’t just there for you every time you need help, but they are also the most honest, and selfless people i’ve ever met. I live in Ireland now, and things and people are very different. I often feel lonley here, although i never felt lonely in Israel. I really miss it every day, and i hope i can return to Israel one day.

  • Anonymous

    Guernsey and Jersey are both Channel Islands. ‘football jersey‘ is what you meant?

  • Anonymous

    Correct – ‘A jersey , a jumper or a guernsey is what Australians call a sports sweater.

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