Between Two and Four

What is the number one obstacle to remaining sane while raising small children in Israel? No, it’s not the cost of your child’s birthday party in gan.

Shhh–I’m talking about the afternoon quiet hours.

Ask any immigrant mother how she first learned about the rule requiring quiet between two and four PM. Chances are she was chastised by an irate neighbor. You can see signs in public parks, and occasionally in apartment buildings. Many offices and stores are also closed between one and four. (This is changing.) Of course well-behaved children nap at that time. But if yours are abnormal on a different schedule, it’s your job to keep them quiet.

I gradually adjusted. I learned never to have the kids’ friends over before four; the parents wouldn’t send them anyway but it took me a while to realize this. I made sure my toddler stayed away from the pots, except one Friday when the neighbor called to remind me. We tried to have quiet games and activities and with any luck I would stay awake. But this is what you might hear coming from my house between 2 and 4: “STOP SHOUTING OUT THE WINDOW! IT’S BETWEEN 2 AND 4!” or “DON’T CALL ME FROM THE SIDEWALK! USE THE BUZZER! YOU’LL WAKE THE NEIGHBORS!”

Fortunately our former downstairs neighbors were so noisy that I never had to worry about disturbing them. The entire neighborhood knew and despised their teenage son for blasting his stereo, and nothing seemed to help. Once, however, when I went to complain, he apologized. “Sorry, I didn’t realize it was between two and four.” Any level of noise is acceptable in the morning, late afternoon, and evening. But between 2 and 4, he turns off the music. He shows respect for his neighbors. (When my son, then 6, asked me why the neighbor played his music so loud I told him it was because he was angry at his parents. That gave him something to think about. “But why, Ima, why?”)

After nearly eighteen years of urban living in Israel, I have learned to appreciate quiet hours. Sometimes I shop, taking advantage of empty streets and stores. I may sit with my children in the park, and hope they don’t shout too much. But with any luck, I’ll be taking a nap. So try not to call between 2 and 4.