By Eliana Rudee/JNS.org
Torah is awash in stories connecting water with miracles. This is not one of them. Six months in, and I have taken the plunge into an area of life in Israel about which nobody warned me.
You may not consider the shower the best place to introspect (although it totally is), but for me, the shower proved to be a wellspring of inspiration.
You see; my new apartment is quite charming (read: old but cute). Built just a few years after the State of Israel was founded, the owners subsequently decided to make it into a hotel. The guests of one of the hotel rooms (which, in current times, happens to be my room) wanted a “5-star experience” and recommended to the owners that a shower be built in their room. They must have been amazing customers, because the owners of the hotel, and my current landlords, agreed and made the balcony that was attached to my room into a shower room.
The only problem was that plumbing for a shower didn’t exist on the balcony—because why would it? But that didn’t stop them! They built a bathtub/shower anyway and a sink next to it.
At first, I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to fix the showerhead to the shower wall. But this whole situation made it clear.
When we moved into the apartment, the sink was clogged, so we bought heavy-duty liquid sink unclogger and hoped it would work its magic on a Thursday morning. It didn’t.
So on Friday, our plumber came and made a GIANT mess of the kitchen and my bathroom. At first, he came with a plunger for the clogged kitchen sink that started the whole ordeal. When that didn’t work, he opened the floor and began to plunge from a hole beneath the cement floor. The dirty water splashed everywhere, drenching our newly bought food pantry. Joy. Then, he did the same thing to my bathroom. Again, it splashed everywhere and the situation was circling the drain. Oh wait, there is no drain.
Imagine my surprise when I turned on the sink in my room, and the “bathroom” floor began to flood. Imagine my surprise when I realize that the hole we are supposed to squeegee the water into is a hole to nowhere. And imagine my surprise when I discover that the kitchen sink is also somehow connected to my bathroom, and my floor begins to flood with sink water, which is a lot chunkier than you might imagine.
So the reason why I’m not allowed to fix the showerhead to the wall is because it could spray extra water on the ground where there’s no pipe, and the walls aren’t made to be shower walls because they are really balcony walls.
As this happened right before Shabbat began, our plumber wished us “Shabbat Shalom” and left. We had to pile our dishes in the other bathroom tub and wash them there.
After Shabbat on Saturday night, our plumber returned. Finally, by 10 p.m., the problem was “fixed.” All we can do is hope the fix will last.
Post-ordeal, I talked to an expert (a friend who made aliyah 20 years ago) about plumbing in Jerusalem, and I quote: “Plumbing and "ritivut" (wetness) are very different problems here in Israel than in the U.S. There are two reasons: (1) Plumbers try to minimize costs too much and wind up doing things that don't last. (2) Construction techniques here fundamentally haven't changed in 2000 years. OK, we use a bit more steel and concrete now, but they use them much like stones and mortar. So, when you have a plumbing or ritivut problem, it often involves tearing open walls, floors and occasionally ceilings to fix. Not that it helps all that much, but you have my sympathy.”
Seriously, Israelis? Why would you install a pipe that goes nowhere? Why would you agree to make a balcony into a bathroom if there’s no infrastructure for a bathroom? I believe one answer is expressed in our national anthem: “HaTikvah”—The Hope. Another possible explanation was advanced by Theodor Herzl: “If you will it, it is no dream.”
Now excuse me, but I have the will to take a shower, and hopefully it’s not a dream.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her aliyah column on JNS.org, Facebook, and Instagram.