the 90th minute

Until September 2007, when my oldest daughter was born, this blog covered daily life and politics in Israel, as well as Hebrew-English linguistic issues, from the perspective of an American-raised journalist and translator living in Israel. Now it mostly serves as the SmunchMonk&Bear news agency, a portal into the bizarre universe of the little people. Read more at:

Monday, September 11, 2006

Making pee-pee at Ben-Gurion

This blog was first posted April 28, 2005, on Haaretz Underground.

Airports seem to constitute the very symbol of transition, and that would appear to be all the more true for Terminal 2000, the new face of Ben-Gurion International Airport (just add much-touted sleeves and subtract shuttle buses). But it turns out that all the fancy terminal really does is demonstrate once again that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For some reason, the women’s bathroom saw fit to serve as the site of my epiphany, both on my way out of Israel and upon my return. First came confirmation of that occasionally lovable but always blunt approach that we may as well call “openness,” for which Israelis are so justifiably known.

Making my last pit stop before boarding the plane to South Africa, I overheard an Israeli woman speaking on a cell phone from her stall. Not content to merely use her toilet time efficiently, she also insisted on informing her conversation partner exactly what she was doing at the time. “Moti’s standing outside, the boys are wandering around, and I’m making pee-pee,” was her tell-all synopsis.

Then there was the way back, when I served as a guide to several frustrated South African women who saw the closed doors of the bathroom stalls in the Israeli airport as a sign that the ladies’ room was not in operation. Before they took a self-guided tour of the sleeveless terminal in search of another place to make pee-pee, I told them the secret: Push the doors open.

I hope they remember that clue, because their visit to Israel can only be eased by keeping in mind that around here, if you hesitate to elbow your way through, you’re bound to be standing around for quite a while.


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