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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Our bad neighbour–a Yom Kippur story without a happy ending

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There are a few things that make me sad here in Israel, believe it or not.  I’m about to tell you about THE thing that has made me the most miserable over the last 2-3 years.

EDITED TO ADD:  Before you read on, be aware – I was attacked on Facebook about some of the strongly negative thoughts I’ve expressed in this post.  I know it’s unlike me.  I’ll get back to the happy stuff soon, I promise – I am still in love with this country, don’t worry.  And I’ll share a couple of those negative comments below – just for fun.

I believe it’s important to share not just the good stuff.  Everyone who works in aliyah, whether professionally or just for fun, like I do, has a responsibility to present both the good and bad side of what goes on here, and I hope you know I always try to do that.  I love Israel, love aliyah, love our lives here -- but I'm also realistic and try to present the reality on the ground, not the rose-coloured glasses version some people claim is all they get before they arrive.

I’m saying this because I’ve gotten in trouble for posting negative stuff before.  Even though this site is about 90% gung-ho and positive, there are some people who simply won’t let you share your thoughts if they’re at all down.  If you’re one of those people, I suggest you st0p reading right now even though there’s an exciting bit with firetrucks a little further along.

So.  Still with me?

Good.

What's making me miserable these days is our neighbour.
We live in an almost completely religious neighbourhood, and he wears a kippah and you know, I wouldn't have been surprised if you told me before we moved here that there were evil, horrible people who wear kippahs.  I would have said, "Of course there are."  But meeting one in person is just making me sad, sad, sad.  It's bringing down my whole experience.

He plays music.  Super, super loud music.
We're on the ground floor.  In an apartment which is nearly perfect in terms of almost all our criteria for a wonderful apartment.  It has its flaws, like a lack of natural light and air circulation.  It's basically a concrete bunker.  But it's on the ground floor, which I love, it has a separate entrance, and a wonderful patio that can hold a sukkah and lots of plants.

And three floors up is this guy.
There are so many evil words I could use to describe how horrible this guy is.
He loves music.  He plays music, on a keyboard, and he sings, and he does it to "relax and unwind at the end of a day of work."  That's what he told us when we were new here.
Fine, right?  Not a big deal.

Until he starts to jacks up the volume on his music, from 8 (maybe okay) until midnight (not okay) and sometimes later.
He opens his windows and sings his heart out and you can literally hear it a block or so away.
We're on the ground floor in our bunker, windows shut, door shut, concrete all around.
And the building is shaking and I can hear his voice wailing from three floors up.

I cannot tell you how loud it is, and how pervasive the beat is.

Mostly, I can’t tell you because I have vowed to only use polite language here in this space.  If I permitted myself, there are many, many choice words I would use to describe him and his noise.  But I won’t.

How do the firetrucks come into it?  Hang in there, I’m getting to it…

So we've called the cops a few times.  If the noise is bad enough, they come in and shut him down.
There are actually pretty good laws here about noise.  It's just a matter of enforcement, and sometimes, about using the secret words to let the cops know you're serious.
For example, technically you're allowed to play music at home until midnight erev Shabbos or erev chag.  But it has to be REASONABLE music.  If you tell the cops the situation is בלתי נסבל / intolerable, then they are authorized to come at any hour of the day or night.

One year, he came to us before Sukkos and warned us in advance -- he was going to be playing music in his sukkah, him and his buddies.  I was so impressed.  I told him it was fine, it was a chag, we love to hear Jewish music on chagim (even if the music isn't exactly to our Ashkenazi / North American taste, which I didn't say).  I told him that's WHY we moved to Israel, to be Jews, surrounded by other Jews in their sukkahs, enjoying the yom tov.

Fair enough.

And then after Sukkos, he went back to his apartment and continued to torment us with his music all year round.
And then bought special extra-big speakers to make sure that the entire world can hear his music.
It's like a baby who doesn't know or care what anyone else wants... he's going to do his own thing and we'd all better just suck it up and like it.

In February, after I'd complained to the police a few times, he came to us and said, "I'm three floors up, I just don't know what you can hear and what you can't in your apartment."  He gave me his number and said to text him if it was EVER a problem.

Aha, progress, I thought.

Until I tried letting him know.  I sent him a message:

  • היי, מאור, כבר רבע לשתיים ואנחנו שומעים כמעט כל מילה ומילה. נא להנמיך בבקשה.
  • Hey, Maor, it's quarter to two and we can hear almost every single word.  Please turn it down.

To which he DID turn it down -- and sent me back a big thumbs-up.  Yay, I’d gotten through to him at last.

Except that's the only time it ever worked.

The next time I asked nicely again, he sent three messages in rapid succession:
"You can move."
"I was here long before you!"
"So inconsiderate!"

Ohhhkay.

Shortly after that, it was Lag Ba'Omer.  Now, there are a couple of evenings a year when you are allowed to make as much noise as you want ALL NIGHT LONG.  There is literally no noise law.  There is no sound too loud, even in a residential area.

How do I know?  Because at 1:30 in the morning on Lag Ba'Omer, this neighbour set up his super-big speaker on our front lawn, literally 8 feet from my sleeping son's pillow (there was a wall with a window in between!), and started the Big Sound Adventure.  He and his buddies played for over 2 hours.

And I know there's no law because I called the police around 2.  They said, "He can make whatever noise he wants," and hung up on me.  The other nights it's legal to do this include Yom Ha'Atzmaut and Mimouna, the night after Pesach, but fortunately, he didn't take advantage of those.  (There may be more -- I'm not a lawyer.)

Yeah.  So he sits out there, or upstairs, making his noise, just like a baby, or a bully who gets whatever he wants.  And we're in here suffering.

There were no firetrucks on Lag Ba’Omer.  Fortunately, so they could be free to fight potential fires elsewhere.

I do want to mention here that – to his credit – he always stops before Shabbos or Yom Tov.  Maybe 5 minutes after the siren, but baruch Hashem, he always does quit.  If not for that, I might have wrung his neck before now.  Just kidding.  He’s a little guy, but wiry and strong-looking.

So that’s the good side of all this.  The bad side, though, is pretty bad, and calling the police doesn’t really help in the long term.

Oh.  And did I mention that he retaliates for calling the cops?
- One time, he turned off the hot water to our apartment in the back of our building.
- One time, he stomped one of my cactuses (after threatening to ruin my plants on the patio -- so not-subtle!).
- One time, he barged into our apartment without knocking and poked his finger at my husband's chest threatening him if he ever called the police again.

Now, I know that to some extent he only has the power to bother me that I hand to him.
To some extent it's a matter of my state of mind.
If I resolve not to let him bother me, maybe he won't.
But it bothers me.  A lot.

I don't have a solution.  This isn't a happy post.
We can't afford to move, and there aren't all that many ground-floor apartments in our neighbourhood to begin with.  We could move somewhere else, but I don't want to uproot the kids from their lives just because of one evil jerk.
And I don't understand why nobody else does anything about it.  There are 8 apartments in our building, including his, and 8 in each of the 2 buildings on either side of ours.  As far as I can tell, except for Lag Ba'Omer, when there were two of us shouting at him (pointlessly, as it turned out), nobody else ever says or does anything.

Is that seriously what Israel is all about?  Complacency?  Do the neighbours love his music that much, at 11 o'clock or midnight?  Do they hate the music but don't care enough to call?  Is everybody deaf?  I honestly have no clue.  I wish I didn't feel like I am alone.  It's also hard because my husband doesn't speak Hebrew -- so I have to be the one to call, every single time.

There's not really much point in calling.  Apparently, it's not cumulative.  Every time I call the cops, it's like they've never heard of this guy, despite my having logged at least 10 complaints about him over the last 3 years.  How is it possible in 2018 that they keep absolutely no records?  I have no idea.

But sometimes, I still call.

Last Friday, at 2 p.m., I called the cops.  That's the start of the daily national 2 hours of rest, when you have to be quiet in residential areas, so the police respond more readily.
I heard the police stomp up the stairs, and then the volume was turned down as usual.
They stomped back down, left the building, and a few minutes later, he turned up the volume again.

Business as usual.  Just showing us who's in charge.  We can move if we don't like it.

And then, a few minutes later, the music stopped and I breathed deeply.  It really is lovely when it gets quiet here.
And because it was Friday, I went about my regular things: working on my computer, cooking and baking off and on, dealing with the kids, whatever.
Until the cops showed up.

It was maybe 3:15 when I looked outside and saw was a firetruck.  A police car.  An ambulance.  And two cops on my front porch.

I told you there’d be a firetruck.  And I opened the door, having nothing to hide.

"There's a fire in your oven?"
"No."
"Did you call to report that your oven was on fire?"
"No."
"MacLeod family?"
"Yes." (the name is on our door, and my kids said they saw the neighbour standing in front of our apartment staring at the door sign a few minutes before he left)
"Did anyone in your house call the fire department?"

We have one phone, and it was right in front of my on the table, where I'd set it down after calling the cops at 2.
We have one oven, and it was right in front of me because our apartment is tiny.
It wasn't on fire.

Starting to panic, and wanting to prove how sane and nice and not-on-fire we were, I started calling the kids.
At that point, the cop realized that it probably wasn't us, because we don't speak Hebrew all that well and also were not dumb enough to have a fire and not realize it.

The cop in charge said, "No, no, you don't have to call the kids.  It's fine."
She checked with her colleagues.
I told her that they should check the recording of the call.  They should check what number the call came from, because it for sure wasn't us.  I'm 100% certain she believed me. 

By that point, there were two firetrucks and a whole crowd of people in front of our building.  Our daughter's friend's father was just passing by and pulled over and came up to make sure we were okay.  That part was lovely, the nice thing about living in a small town, I guess.

Sorry there were just firetrucks and absolutely no fire.  It sure felt dramatic enough at the time even without our apartment up in flames.

I told the cop what had happened, about the neighbour and my calling the cops and that he'd gone out.
I told her I was almost certain he'd been the one to call, out of revenge.
She nodded, took the information, and slowly, all the emergency services people left.

Two days later, he was back at it.  Making all the noise he wants, like a baby or a bully.

Here's the hardest part of this whole story, which I haven't even mentioned so far:

Despite his Moroccan last name, once a year, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, he davens at our shul.
And I sit up on the balcony where I have a perfect view of him.

Draped in his tallis, pure white shirt, just another Jew before Hashem.  Standing there during Kol Nidrei, beating his chest during Neilah, joking with the Chabadnik beside him as he tries on his hat.  And I stand above and look down and glaring white-hot flames deep, deep into his horrible little soul, wishing he would die a hideous and painful death.

It's not conducive to beautiful davening, that's for sure.  I want to tell Hashem:  “He’s lying, whatever he says, don’t believe him.” 

I know Hashem knows, but this is the ancient problem of theodicy, why evil flourishes and good people suffer.

But is he actually evil? 

One time when my big kids were little, we had to walk past a man who was ranting in an insane fashion, a man who looked unshaven, unwashed, unwell in every way possible.  My big boy, YM, asked, “What was wrong with that man?”  I explained the situation as compassionately I could, that he was ill, that he couldn’t control his situation, whatever I said, I don’t remember.  But YM listened, stood and processed it, and then looked up at me:  “Maybe he’s just EVIL.”

If you’re not 4 years old, it is hard to hold hate in your heart for an entire Yom Kippur.  For me, it’s impossible.  His behaviour is evil, but just like mosquitos, there’s got to be a reason Hashem put this guy here, even if I have no clue what that reason is right now.

Someone told me last week that our neighbour is known around the neighbourhood for having once been religious and now being a druggie.  So I tried to keep that in mind, to think of him as a person with a disease he can’t control rather than just a jerk and a million other unflattering names.  It is interesting, looking down on him because he seems so small, even though our balcony isn’t tremendously high.

It’s like a “Hashem’s-eye-view.”  Seeing this one small, horrible man as pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things and maybe trying a little harder to feel compassion for him if indeed it’s true that his life is out of his control in some mental-health way, which we’re pretty sure it is, because he’s so far from normal.  And maybe the neighbours don’t call the cops because they’re just feeling sorry for him?

חמול על מעשיך… I read out loud from the machzor, along with the entire shul. 

Hashem, have mercy on Your creations.  On him, his heart full of whatever it is his heart is full of, which only Hashem knows; and on me, my heart full of anger and sadness that I can’t just sit back and enjoy this beautiful, holy day in the Holy Land Hashem created.

In Unesaneh Tokef, one of the holiest parts of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur davening, we read about how we all pass like sheep beneath Hashem’s staff, and he enumerates us and chooses our destiny…

בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה יִכָּתֵבוּן
וּבְיוֹם צוֹם כִּפּוּר יֵחָתֵמוּן

“On Rosh Hashanah [it] will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur [it] will be sealed”

מִי בָרַעַשׁ. וּמִי בַמַּגֵּפָה

“…who by noise, and who by plague…”

- here, the word רַעַש / ra’ash – literally, noise, is generally interpreted to mean upheaval.  But in my life, this year and last and maybe the year before, it also means noise.  Who will ultimately be undone, their life unravelled and perhaps ended, by the noise from above that never seems to go away?

Hashem, I am so, so sad, and I don’t know what to do.  He’s Your creation and so am I.  May this be the year that Hashem figures out what’s best for both of us so we can both survive the year and come out somehow healed on the other side.

-----

EDITED TO ADD:

A few people on Facebook attacked me for some of the negative content in this post, specifically the part about wishing he’d just die.  I agree that that’s a terrible way to feel towards someone.  I don’t agree that just SAYING it in this kinda-anonymous way makes me a terrible person.  One person also accused me of “prejudism” because I said that he was Moroccan but davened in our Ashkenazi shul.  I will explain, as I did to her, that there are about 10 shuls within walking distance here, and most people do stick with their own nusach.  I personally welcome anyone.  She said I shouldn’t call it “our” shul when he lived here first.  With that kind of reasoning, I suppose I shouldn’t call this “my” country, either.  Sigh.  I think she was single – maybe I can set her up with our neighbour. :-)


Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


3 comments:

  1. Have you ever asked your neighbors their views on the situation?

    ReplyDelete
  2. It would drive me super nuts.
    And the other neighbors don't care or wouldn't call the police. Right?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I understand you 100%!!! I despise living in an apartment building with neighbors. I did not grow up like this in the USA. I have had other kinds of problems with neighbors such as hiring Arab labor which endangers the other neighbors and hearing their screaming in Arabic and their drilling for several months. The building is so horrible that every bit of noise feels like it is in my apartment. The neighbors who hire the enemy Arab rent elsewhere until the work is finished leaving the other neighbors to suffer. There is simply no consideration for others in Israel. This is one of several reasons that I miss America. What makes it worse is that I also live in a religious neighborhood. One would think that they would care about their neighbors but the truth of the matter is that I am the only neighbor out of six families in our building who does care. Everyone else is apathetic. Thank G-d, it is a neighborhood with a minimal amount of apartments and not these tall apartment buildings. I probably wouldn't be able to remain in Israel in a situation like that.

    ReplyDelete

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