"מונית הכסף" ["Money Taxi"] and "Chaim" Kafka
It has only one branch, no towels are provided, and there is only one toilet in the women's changing room, which also lacks paper towels. A man knocks on the door periodically to ask if he can come in to clean it, since they only employ one cleaning person and he is male. Since it is almost always in use, he rarely comes in, and it doesn't get cleaned very often. They often play very loud, bass-heavy music in the cardio room. It's very thumpy, and sometimes hurts my head. (I ask them to turn the music down about once a week.) When the weather is decent, there is often someone smoking on the patio, and the door to the cardio room is sometimes left open, which means that I am sucking in secondhand cigarette smoke as I run. (Someone usually tries to close the door, which sometimes stays closed. It still smells like cigarette smoke, though.)
There are elliptical machines, but only the kind with pedal-like foot things and arm things, not the kind on which you can change the angle or even the resistance, as far as I can tell. One of the treadmills produces electrical shocks every time you touch it, or continuously if you have earbuds in your ears while you run on it. The stationary bikes, a relatively new addition, do not have individual televisions. The only non-bike, non-elliptical machine, non-treadmill is usually either broken or its television is broken.
I joined this gym, instead of a slightly cheaper one, because it seems to have decent ventilation, nice showers, and an individual TV by most of the cardio machines. It also has enough elliptical machines that I can get one almost every every time I go (weeknight evenings) without waiting.
Anyway, so now I watch Israeli TV about three times a week. One of my regular shows (besides Friends, ER, and Ugly Betty) is "מונית הכסף" ["Money Taxi"]. Apparently (I didn't have a TV in the US and therefore didn't know), this is like an American show. Unsuspecting Israelis hail a taxi, get into it, and are shocked to find out that they're on a quiz show on national television. It has flashing lights inside and you have to reach your destination without getting three wrong answers in order to win your grand prize of the money you've accumulated by answering questions correctly. If you need help, you can call someone on your cell phone or lean out the window and ask someone on the street.
The questions are a mixture of Israeli politics, popular music, literature, and some basic world history. There is also a smattering of basic Jewish questions ("What are the names of the four sons at the seder?" "For what sin were Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden?"). To my pleasure, most contestants seem to get the Jewish questions right, as well as the Israeli politics and general sports questions, which I couldn't answer in a million years ("What is the nickname of MK Yossi Cohen?" "Which soccer player is known as 'the bomb'?"). One question that neither I nor the contestants could answer last night was "Which Israeli highway goes from Metulla to Eilat"? I guessed 1, the contestants guessed 4, the answer was 90. Sometimes, there are questions that I wouldn't expect them to be able to answer: "What was Elvis Presley's middle name?" The answer is Aaron, which sounded familiar to me once it was revealed, and which was mentioned in the subtitles (there are always subtitles on at the gym) as "Aharon," i.e. אהרון.
However, last night, there was a question that elicited a humorous response, in my eyes. The question, "What was the author Kafka's first name?" The contestants weren't sure, and threw around Yossi or Moshe as possibilities. "Wait," one of them asked, "was he even Israeli?" None of them knew. They called one of their sisters, who said, "Maybe Chaim?" so that's what they went with. When the correct answer was revealed as "Franz," they cursed the Ashkenazim who they said rig these games to be biased towards Ashkenazim!
I found the assumption that he must be Israeli and therefore must have a name like "Yossi," "Moshe," or "Chaim," sort of sad. I wonder if it reflects a larger problem in Israel of non-exposure to classic Western art and literature. I also found the immediate dig at Ashkenazim, once the name was revealed as "Franz," to be amusing, but also sad (outrageous?) that so many years after most Mizrachi Jews arrived in Israel, they still feel like they don't have the same educational background as their fellow Ashkenazi citizens. What's sad and outrageous is that they probably don't. (After Obama was elected I asked a few people if a Mizrachi Israeli had ever been a serious contender for Prime Minister, and the answer was no. Please let me know if you know otherwise.)
In general, I find the show interesting, both for the questions that contestants can and can't answer, and for the banter between the driver/questioner and the contestants, and between the contestants. There are some dati/chiloni [religious/secular] jokes, and some Ashkenazi/Mizrachi jokes. I don't think I've heard a single question referring to Arab culture or history, unless you count a question about the birth country of a famous Egyptian singer (who I had never heard of). There aren't usually questions about current events.
Anyway, just another slice of Israeli life. Now that the days are longer and the weather is better, I may be giving up my posh gym membership, since I really can't afford it.
Peretz was born in Morocco. You don't get more Mizrachi than that.
As for Elvis Presley's middle name, why not say it was Aharon? After all, the man was halachically Jewish--his great-great-grandmother on the maternal line was a Jew.