One of my great pleasures in life is going to the nail salon. Silly and indulgent, but I love to get a manicure and a pedicure. I always feel totally relaxed when I leave and I know that for the rest of the day and maybe two, I looked better groomed than usual. Hard to keep up appearances here. The sand gets everywhere and clothing is beyond casual - unless you like bling.
Anyway, my local is not a bar, it is Yullia. It is more expensive than some place in TA but it is very clean and very professional. Almost everyone - and I mean almost everyone is Russian or Ukrainian and the lingua franca is רוסית (Rusit). But like almost all business in Israel, the staff understand enough English or French or both to serve most customers.
I try my best to explain what I want in Hebrew, but there are some words and descriptions that are reduced to pantomimes. Mostly I get by. I am not a talker in the salon. When I get my nails done or my hair cut, I delight in enjoying the peace. So I am often in the position of listening, whether I want to or not, to the ongoing chatter in the next chair.
Today a woman walked in and asked for a mani-pedi in English. They set her up in a chair and ran the water and then she said she didn't have time so she stood up and walked to the table for a simple manicure. As soon as she sat down she started to question the woman who was working on her hands. She was young and new and didn't have any English. The manager came over and facilitated the exchange. The customer wanted to know whether her manicurist was Israeli. She wanted to know if she was Jewish. She wanted to know if she was married. She wanted to know if she was married to a Jew. Then she started on the Manager - asking her the same questions. She continued on - "where did you get married?" - "do you have children?" "don't you want to live in the States?"
The Manager was very patient. She answered her questions and said when she was younger she wanted to go to Canada and had applied for a visa. The customer promptly replied that she was from Toronto and that Canada was better than the U.S. Then the Manager said that she got the visa but decided not to go. The customer asked her what city was her destination in Canada. She replied "Saskatoon". Well, that unleashed a long diatribe about how Saskatoon was simply an awful place and no one who knew anything would go there. She told her that she should have tried for Vancouver or Montreal or Toronto. No one goes to Saskatoon. It is nowhere.
I had to restrain myself from jumping out of the chair and having a middle-school fight with the customer from Toronto. The whole thing was ridiculous. I was embarrassed by her incessant questions and her arrogance. She talked to the workers like they were exhibits in a social experiment.
But of course, most important to me was her remark about Saskatoon. Saskatoon is my hometown. I left a long time ago and I am not likely to live there again. But everyone has a home town and to each of us, it is not "nowhere". My grandparents didn't think so when they left Russia and emigrated to Canada. They thought they had won the lottery. And they had. They had a new life.
I think the customer from Toronto needs to listen to a recording of herself. People make a home wherever they are. The women who work in Yullia left their old lives behind. Some will stay in Israel, some will move on. For me, it is quite charming that they all speak Russian. They take in new émigrées. They mentor them and let some of them fly away. They haven't forgotten where they came from. .כל הכבוד להן. הן עבדות קשה
Some people think Israel isn't a real place. It is temporary - like camp. Trust me, it is real.