Yesterday I stood in this line outside the Be'er Sheva branch of Bituah Leumi, Israel's social security institute.
It was like being squished inside a microcosm of Negev society.
With the spike in terror attacks in Israel these last several months, everybody is more tense than usual.
So one older woman told off two teenagers who were sneaking to the head of the line.
In heavily-Russian-accented Hebrew she said, "You have no respect for old people standing here in the hot sun for half an hour, that you push ahead of us?!"
In Arabic-accented Hebrew the boys stood their ground and lied, "It's OK, we have a number already." (There are no numbers at this stage.)
Then a Sabra with no accent, more well-dressed than the rest of us and obviously not used to being squished, shouted at the security guard who was regulating the "flow" of citizens, "Why do you treat us like animals?!?" (She meant why like cattle pressed into a chute but didn't have the vocabulary for that.)
The guard in tie and jacket answered her, "I only work here. For a security agency. Complain to Social Security about it, not to me."
I really wanted to (but didn't) tell the prima donna, "You think THIS is bad? Have you ever seen how Palestinian workers in the West Bank have to line up in real chutes at the checkpoints every morning before they are cleared to go to work inside Israel?!"
Only the Ethiopians and the Bedouins stood in stoic silence, knowing that with patience we would all eventually get inside the National Insurance Institute of Israel.
(Enlarge the photo to see one Bedouin man and the woman next to him in traditional dress.)
The second stage, once inside the door, is to wait in another line for one of the two security guards to inspect your bag; once you walk through the metal detector you might also get wanded and patted down; once I was even told to drink from my water bottle (to prove it's not a Molotov cocktail I guess).
The third stage of Gehinnom is then waiting in another line, with your ID card and documents ready, in order to go stand in front of a clerk behind a computer for a short minute.
Only rarely are you allowed to then enter the inner sanctum and talk to someone higher up who might have an answer to your question.
So, for ABC Wednesday today, T is for tension.