We spent last year in Jerusalem. And the housing situation in that city is horrid. You get a dirty little hole of an apartment and you have to spend most of your income on it. But at least it doesn’t matter which part of town you choose to live in – the prices are astounding everywhere alike. Here’s what happened to us.
We lived in a lovely neighbourhood right next to the city center, in a walking distance (i.e., 5-7 minutes) from the market, the Central Bus Station and the main tourist routes. Our apartment was disgusting. It didn’t have AC or a solar heater, it was dark and dingy, the bathroom was dirty and there was nothing we could do about it, we had to bring our own fridge and furniture, and we paid the atrocious sum of about $500 for it. The price was in shekels, and as the year went on, and our stipend diminished due to the dollar rate, it left us with less and less money to survive on.
One day our (loud, intimidating, calls-you-sweetie-but-yells-at-you) landlord called. I wasn’t present. When I came home, A. informed me that M. had called and said that the rent was being increased by 100 shekels. Which is not that much, but what the hell? This was outrageous and what’s worse, it was illegal, but there was nothing we could do, because due to certain circumstances we hadn’t signed a lease and were renting the place solely by oral agreement.
In short, I was fuming and decided to call the landlord back. The conversation that followed went like this:
Me: Hi, M. dear, how are you?
M.: Hi, sweetie, what’s up?
Me: Well, nothing much, but what is this I hear? You told my husband you want to increase our rent?
M.: Yeah, why? Don’t you want to pay?
Me: Umm, well, not exactly, you see, 100 shekels is big money for us, and…
M.: Well in that case that’s off.
Me: Huh? Wha?
M.: The increase. It’s canceled. You don’t have to pay.
Me: Oh! Wow, thanks, M., I appreciate that!
M.: What could I do, you called me ‘dear’. Ahahaha!
Which is exactly like this ancient joke I like*, and this is why I love Israel.
*Two people walk into an apartment block and knock on a door. A man comes out. ‘Hi,’ they say, ‘We’re here to let you know that you’ll be hanged tomorrow at noon on Main Street. Bring your own rope. Bye,’ – the man is left hysterical. They knock on a couple more doors, sending more people into nervous breakdowns, and finally come to an apartment where a woman opens the door. ‘Hi,’ they say, ‘You’ll be hanged tomorrow at noon. Main Street. Bring your own rope.’ ‘But what if I don’t want to?’ says the woman. ‘Then you don’t need to come,’ the executioners reply.