I'm back. Upon return I found a large backlog, an even larger forelog (is there such a word?), and not much time for any of them. So blogging may be a bit slow.
We spent part of the week at an upscale place of great beauty and - by harsh Israeli standards - some tranquility. The kind of place people only come to if they're seeking to be quite off the grid.
It turns out that given the right conditions, lots of people still read books. Who knew? (I mean the kind made of paper, with no hyperlinks and probably mostly no pictures).
Not being accustomed to reading books anymore, I looked around a lot. It occurred to me that the languages spoken in various corners of Israel can be informative. The staff of the hotel, for example, seemed to speak an almost interchangeable mix of Arabic and Hebrew. The guests spoke Hebrew, French (those would be tourists), some English (but not too much; English speakers apparently aren't attracted to calm); and rather a lot of Russian: these are the almost penniless but highly qualified immigrants of 20 years ago who have climbed into the upper middle class and can afford to pay for tranquility.
A month or two ago I was at a large conference of hi-tech entrepreneurs in Jerusalem. The booths set up by the local banks had materials in Hebrew. The ones set up by start-up companies were all in English. The folks wandering the halls spoke Hebrew, and English, and various accents of Asian English. The sessions were all in English. The electronic announcement boards were in English and Chinese.
Israelis who work in hi-tech, by the way, never write e-mails in Hebrew. I've got colleagues with whom I speak only Hebrew, always, but we e-mail back and forth only in English, always.
At the swimming pool I try to go to as often as possible, deep in West Jerusalem, the most common language, obviously, is Hebrew. Yet contrary to what you might think, the follow-up languages are not English or French, but Arabic.