2011-04-22

Silence (= absence of noise) vs. silence (absence of speech) in Israel

Paradoxically, I suffer both from silence and from lack thereof in Israel. The word "silence" in English is ambiguous: it can mean either 'absence of noise' (שקט in Hebrew and 静寂 in Japanese) or 'absence of speech' (שתיקה in Hebrew and 沈黙 in Japanese); I will call these two meanings of "silence" "silence (1)" and "silence (2)". What bother me here are silence (2) and lack of silence (1), especially when the same people have these two attributes at the same time.

I have almost given up any hope of escaping from lack of silence (1), that is, noise, whether verbal or not, not only in Israel but also anywhere in the world. Even where there are no noisy people, there will always be other sources of noise, including barking dogs and chirping birds. But I still find it difficult to understand and accept silence (2) of so many people in Israel, unlike in Japan.

The most perplexing and irritating kind of silence (2) here, which is even more rampant than in Japan, is lack of verbal responce of so many people to a sincere question I ask them, even when it is for their own benefit. They can be people from all walks of life, including a number of acquaintances, neighbors, students, colleagues, and even friends of mine. I have encountered this kind of silence (2) so often that I have already come to a conclusion that it is ingrained in the Israeli culture of communication.

There are behaviors I cannot accept but I can understand, e.g., smoking, eating junk food, etc. But I can neither accept nor understand the behavior of ignoring someone else's sincere question, which does not require even a few minutes to answer. Every time someone displays to me this enigmatic behavior that is totally beyond my comprehension, I feel like stopping and even choking them ;-) to ask them to explain it to me.