Satire with a large measure of truth. The below after six years’ unwanted experience living next to endless construction sites in Jerusalem
Day 1, 07:00: You were deep in slumber when one morning you were awoken to the sound of drilling and jack-hammering emanating from that building next door. If this is your first time living in Israel, you might think nothing of it, assuming that the project will be over in a month. You will later come to laugh at this naivete. Construction projects in Israel never take a month.
Day 1, 14:00: You wonder why the construction site is now completely empty and desolate of workers. Didn’t they only start at 07:00? Why aren’t they doing anything?
Day 2, 07:00: You are awoken, once more, by the sound of jack-hammering.
Unless you habitually arise before 07:00, this will become a repeat pattern for the next X years of your life.
And so you will begin routinely rising before 07:00 because you know that attempting to sleep past that hour is futile.
You have a brief moment of heightened religiosity and remind yourself that G-d himself has dispatched these construction workers to outside your door in order to ensure that you finally get on a good sleep schedule.
You also wonder why the construction workers consistently begin the noisiest part of the construction process at the earliest part of the morning. Is G-d tormenting you? Are you receiving punishment, in this world, for your sins? Sadly, you will never receive an answer to this question but it will continue to vex you for the next few years.
If you work from home, the sound of periodic jack-hammering, sawing, and workers screaming at one another in Arabic* will become part of the background soundtrack of your life.
Around this point of time, you will also decide that you must own every form of ear plug that has ever been invented and place a bulk order for them on Amazon (because they’re overpriced in Israel, like everything else).
Like most Israelis, you begin channeling a disproportionate amount of your disposable income into dubious products from Aliexpress, a Chinese e-commerce marketplace selling what is probably sweatshop products to desperate people underserved by legitimate e-commerce marketplaces (like you). After 40 days of transit and hand-offs between unknown logistics companies that all sound vaguely fake, they finally arrive to your local post office (because in Israel the post office doesn’t bring stuff to your house; it brings stuff to their nearest distribution point.) Half of them arrive defective. Aliexpress won’t give you your money back and you notice that Max Stock is now selling ear plugs at half price. You begin to rue your existence.
(*The majority of construction workers in Israel seem to be drawn from the Arab sector or the Territories.)
Day 30, 07:00: What’s this, you ask? An empty construction site? You wonder what the world is coming to? Could the project be … over?
You tentatively head over to Paneco (an online alcohol store) or your local supermarket, in order to stock up on champagne.
Then you pass by the construction site and notice that there’s still wrapper on the windows and cups of Turkish coffee littering the perimeter of the site. The workers have staked out their turf, or rather are continuing to do so.
At this point in time, you’ve been in Israel long enough to be guarded and skeptical, much like the locals. Your sixth construction sense is now a finely-honed machine. You know that celebrating now could come back to haunt you. You don’t want to be burned. So you slot the champagne into the back of the fridge and decide to keep it for when the coast is truly clear.
Day 50, 07:00: As you knew it inevitably would, construction resumes after the mysterious 20 day hiatus period. You begin to have intrusive thoughts about gathering your own jackhammer and having an intervention with the foreman. These intrusive thoughts will torment you for as long as the site remains active. Which will be a while yet.
Day 51: You call up your local iriyah (municipality) in a desperate attempt to receive information about when this project might end. An 18 year old answers and mumbles something about the question not being “relevant” to her department. You never understand why Israelis love the world “relevant” so much or why it would have been too much hassle to transfer you to the department that does handle this matter. The 18 year old hangs up the phone on you. You punch the wall and need to ask the foreman, who you’ve become friendly with, if he’d mind selling you a tub of PolyFilla because the local DIY store only opens between 09:00 and 11:00 Monday through Wednesday. The foreman appears to be about sixteen years of age and to survive on a mixture of cigarettes, Turkish coffee, and falafel. You worry about his health and wonder whether his employment or side dealings in wall filler are legal before you move on with your day.
Days 50-80: A month long period of Jewish holidays ensue. During this period, the construction site operates for two hours per day rather than its customary four except during the days when the country is on legally mandated shutdown, which is most of them this month. As each week goes by and the pile of rubble still looks like a pile of rubble, you begin to slowly lose hope that anything is ever going to take shape. What has all this hammering been about? Little do you know that this is all a test of emunah (faith). To preserve what remains of your sanity, you see the entire progress of this and every future construction site through that lens.
Day 80: To add to the countless insults they’ve subjected you to over the years, the local municipality sends you a bill for your “contribution” to the construction project which has tormented you for the past 80 days and which you never asked for.
You’re told that it’s a work of public “beautification” (despite it consisting of mostly half-layed concrete) and that the local neighborhood committee, which you’re not a member of and never knew existed, voted for it. You know that in Israel civil process isn’t really a thing and that municipalities have the power to put liens on your bank account. So you hand over the money to the mafia. I mean municipality.
Day 81: The Jewish holidays are now over and construction has resumed at full pace. You un-enroll yourself from that Arabic night course that you have been enrolled in for the past 3 months simply to try to master the phrase “are you nearing the end, yet?” The language is now too triggering for you. Your hopes at peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews have been replaced by the simpler but more realistic wish that construction will end on this accursed site.
Day 82: You make the mistake of venting about the construction site on a social media forum. You realize that there are few groups more judgmental, or moralizing, than English speaking immigrants to Israel. You’re told to suck it up and buy more earplugs. You go back to learning Hebrew and seeking out the company of Israelis.
Day 83: You develop the beginnings of tinnitus due to excessive ear plug use. You begin to realize that Israel has begun to break you not only financially, emotionally, but also physically. You start screaming at your own family members in what you think is broken Arabic that you picked up from overhearing screaming matches at the construction site.
Day 84: The government declares another lockdown and you wonder how, when you’re legally confined to your home, the government can simultaneously allow a major source of noise pollution to go on a few meters away (construction is sadly exempted from the restrictions because it’s deemed to be a critical sector). You briefly toy with the idea of lodging an appeal, on humanitarian grounds, to the International Court of Justice at the Hague. Then you realize that the same Court is contemplating prosecuting Israel for its war in Gaza and realize that they probably have bigger fish to fry.
Days 100 to 1,300: Life continues in an endless cycle of the above punctuated by Jewish holidays and the Shabbat, which are the only times when there isn’t screaming or drilling going on ten meters away. You notice that you’ve begun talking to yourself and that your last remaining friends and relatives abroad no longer call or keep in touch. You have the grim foreboding that insanity has begun to set in. It’s already too late. You’re never getting out of here.
Day 1,301: Then, one glorious day, just when your last dram of hope had evaporated, you catch the construction worker bringing out his tools. He catches your eye and mentions that it’s all done. You rejoice. You open the champagne.
One year later to the day:
The property has fallen into new ownership.
They’ve decided that the work the previous renovators did was ugly.
The building should be torn down and started from scratch.
The demolition is due to begin tomorrow.
You place another order on Aliexpress for ear plugs.
Only this time you order 1,000 pairs.
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Daniel Rosehill is a technology writer and marketing communications (MarCom) professional based in Jerusalem. Originally from Cork, in Ireland, Daniel’s diverse set of interests include Linux and open source technology; backups and disaster recovery (and naturally, digital prepping); and language-learning and travelling.