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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The smallest coldest room in the place

Remember that unfortunate kid at the school bus stop who somehow got tricked into licking the lamp post on a sub-freezing day in late January?  Remember the results?  Whether you recall - or perhaps were - that poor kid, you certainly understand the concept of tender flesh hopelessly frozen to an immovable object, right? 

Israel has a different take on this cruel game.  You see, bathrooms - what we Anglos euphemistically refer to as 'the smallest room in the place' - are actually the coldest room in any Israeli establishment.

You can be dining in the most upscale restaurant or catering hall, replete with carved marble accents and richly inlaid parquet floors... but when you walk into the bathroom it is as though you've been teleported to Siberia! 

The first frigid breath you take in the arctic confines of a typical Israeli public restroom actually hurts your lungs and makes all but the most hardy souls rethink the whole idea of 'dropping-trau' (or raising skirt, as the case may be).  Invariably, whatever call of nature compelled you to visit the bathroom in the first place evaporates instantly in the face of something more reminiscent of 'The Call of the Wild'.

The dilemma is only slightly less less vexing for men since a good percentage of the time we can, er, take care of business without exposing too much flesh to frostbite.  But OMG, the girls... I honestly don't know how they do it!

I have asked a few people about this phenomenon and have gotten the following wild guesses as to the reasons behind it:

1.  Manpower:  Fewer people actually using the frozen facilities = less clean-up for the staff.

2.  Hygiene:  Germs and bacteria normal extant in the petri dishes known as public bathrooms can't survive in sub-zero temperatures. 

3.  Frugality - It costs so much to heat the rest of the joint that they try to save money by not heating the bathrooms (this one doesn't pass muster since in most places the bathroom windows are deliberately left wide open!)

4.  Life Preparation:  Maybe the reason Israelis are such a hardy lot is that after years of using frosty public bathrooms, an army latrine doesn't seem quite so daunting.

Feel free to share your own experiences or theories concerning Israeli public bathrooms.


Posted by David Bogner on February 15, 2007 | Permalink


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How is it that I have not yet had such a torturous chavayah with any Israeli restroom I've been to? The only relatively cold restrooms I've experienced here are the ones with holes in the walls!

Posted by: tnspr569 | Feb 15, 2007 1:06:21 PM

The bathrooms in most apartments don't have sealed windows. They often have glass blinds, for lack of a better word. In the TA area it never freezes so this isn't much of a hazard, but it's not very efficient for the heating and A/C. Well, I hardly ever turn on the heat anyway, because simply keeping the bathroom door closed raises the temp in the LR by a few degrees. The circulation also keeps the smell out. Many bathrooms lead to the laundry porch and that door must be opened frequently. There might also be a large opening to hang laundry. Even if it's glass, it doesn't keep the room as warm as a wall and a small window.

You wanted to know.

Posted by: mother in israel | Feb 15, 2007 2:16:48 PM

To continue my ramble, they bathroom windows, if they can be sealed, are intentionally left open.

Posted by: mother in israel | Feb 15, 2007 3:25:29 PM

I can't really speak to the temperature of bathrooms in Israel, except when I was in Yeshiva, in the wintertime. I remember that being very cold.

I remember from when I was in Yeshiva visiting the Plaza and discovering that the bathrooms there were much nicer than my dorm room.

And then I remember that immortal bit of grafitti I saw in an Israeli bathroom during my first trip to Israel. "We aim to please; we hope you aim, too, please."

(I hope that wasn't too crude.)

Posted by: soccerdad | Feb 15, 2007 4:54:50 PM

Maybe they do it to ensure that people get in and out as quickly as possible, in order to avoid those long lines.

Posted by: Shoshana | Feb 15, 2007 7:36:57 PM

Cold bathrooms go with the rough toilet paper, at least I remember it that way. It was like using crepe paper, the kind of decorations that you hang from the ceiling at a party! Ugh!

Posted by: ac | Feb 15, 2007 8:31:08 PM

Actually, it's not possible to enter or leave an israeli toilet.The door usually pushing mm"s from the pot!
Hygiene? With exeptions seldom heard of

Posted by: Leen | Feb 15, 2007 11:17:48 PM

Hmm, strange didn't notice anything different about Israeli bathrooms when I was there... perhaps maybe because it was in the summer. I did notice that the gas station-like bathrooms are incredibly dirty... But I won't go there.

Posted by: Irina | Feb 16, 2007 3:42:13 AM

I noticed the same phenomenon in South Korea. I'm pretty certain that it's done there for energy conservation purposes. I've only been in Israel once, unfortunately, and it was brief. But to be honest, I froze most of the time I was there(December), no matter where I was. I shivered in Jerusalem and then almost cooked in Tel Aviv. Go figure. I thought maybe it was because so many houses were constructed with stone. Heating must cost a fortune. But it's great in the summer, I bet.

Posted by: Shosh | Feb 16, 2007 4:40:53 AM

I have this vision of timberwolves circling the porcelain, coming ever closer, closer, closer, hoping to get in at least one good chomp before the body stiffens in ice-solid rigidity.


I have an electric heater in my loo. I do not like freezing any part of me.

Posted by: The Back of the Hill | Feb 16, 2007 5:00:05 AM

I would gladly freeze my doodads and soak in lavender oil for another Photo Friday.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Feb 16, 2007 9:29:55 AM

You need to start eating at better restaurants . Haven't run into this problem yet--except at ulpan where restrooms are cold, have rough toilet paper and dirty floors.

Posted by: aliyah06 | Feb 16, 2007 10:57:06 AM

You are so right!
I think that in most public bathrooms the windows are left open simply to air out the bathrooms from smells.
Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by: Avigayil | Feb 16, 2007 1:56:23 PM

That's funny. The only thing I remember about Israeli bathrooms was how rough the toilet paper was.

I was at the University and our dorm rooms, classrooms, etc were always cold, and the hot water for the showers were lmited to certain times during the day, so I guess a cold bathroom was no different to the rest of our experience.

Posted by: jaime | Feb 16, 2007 4:46:24 PM

i remember as a kid having to use turkish-style bathrooms in israel. now that was tramautic.

Posted by: ari kinsberg | Feb 18, 2007 11:25:45 AM

We're talking small public restrooms, right? Depending on the size/quality/date of construction of the building, then I'm opting for the frugality option. The cost of integrating heating ducts into older buildings and the cost of heating a small space that isn't always occupied makes this a no-go.

Posted by: jennifer | Feb 18, 2007 3:00:53 PM

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