26 May 2008

The “Dude”

I would like to sing you a little ditty about the most important guy in Israel...the Dude!


For the last year, I have been living my life, my existence, tied to a small piece of machinery that ruled my evenings. Those of you living an America take hot water for granted. Some try to save energy by wrapping you house’s water heater in insulation, or try to conserve space by storing brooms and other miscellany in the same closet, or maybe shoving in a washing machine and dryer in the same closet.

Here in Israel, they harness the power of the sun with something called the “dude.” A Dude Shemesh (sun water-heater) utilizes solar panels to heat the water, usually in a tank on top of the building. At night, when there’s no hot water left, you flip on the dude’s switch, wait 30 minutes or so, and the electrical water heater heats up some scarce Israeli water for your shower.

The solar panels all face the same way, like how Jews face the Kotel / Western Wall to pray, and the Muslims face Mecca.
I think hot showers are a religious experience, so this little analogy makes sense to me.

Let’s say you’re coming home from a Gainesville club, circa 2003 (before the cigarette ban that wasn’t enforced in my day), and you smell. You reek. There is cigarette stench in your hair, your jeans, and you’re pretty sure that even your toenails are exuding the disgusting odor of cancer-facilitation. Those of us who played the role of designated driver often came home reeking thusly, and the lack of an alcohol-induced sleepiness meant one thing: straight into the 2:15 AM shower. (I miss the 2 AM bar closings, not going to lie.) Similarly, in Israel, you can simply grab a taxi at any hour and come home smelling the same, as the taxi drivers often smoke in their cabs (ick). The difference? Chances that the dude is still hot that late in the day are slim to none. You flip the switch and sit down for a half hour of computer games and crappy late-night television. (At least there are subtitles in Hebrew!)

More dudes, more solar panels.
Much like sorority girls on spring break, they are all facing the same direction, where the sun is coming from. Except for me. I never faced the sun. I hid from the sun under sheets, towels and SPF 50.

Sometimes, when it’s nice and sunny out, the switch is off, but the water is hot. When cooking for Shabbat with Elie, before Rafi went back to the States (yes, he left before I did), the dude was enjoying the beautiful sunshine, like everyone in the neighborhood, and the pre-Shabbat showering (for three people over the course of maybe an hour) required no dude. An anomaly!

A large collection of dudes, close to Malcha, close to the Jerusalem soccer stadium.

Interestingly, there is a political statement to be made with the dude. In fact, Israeli Jews have white dudes. Arabs have black dudes. You can tell what sort of neighborhood you’re looking at, just by checking out the roofs of the apartment buildings. Black dudes, I think, make more sense, because that’ll keep in the heat and warm the water faster. But my dude is white, as dictated by careful political rules.

A grey dude. Maybe its owners are Palestinian-sympathizers, or maybe their dude is just old and busted.

I appreciate the power of the dude. I am a fan of solar power, and recently, as gas prices rise all over the world, I find myself turning greener and greener, reusing plastic bags, and carrying my canvas bags to shop for groceries. I really hate waiting for a hot shower (since I usually shower at midnight), although I haven’t forgotten how, during shower time at camp (all of them), the showers can run out of hot water during heavily-trafficked periods of use. But I have to say, I’m really looking forward to getting hot water whenever I want it.

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