Incredible Plumbing Stories from Israel


We’ve had some water leak issues in our apartment this year with old pipes rusting through and wreaking havoc. First it was in the wall and the guy the landlord’s insurance sent over did everything he could to only focus on that one area lest he find something else and get paid once for doing twice the work.

That’s how the second leak just a few feet away in the floor went undetected and ended up damaging the neighbor’s ceiling below.

For this one a plumber named Yisrael did a number of tests before coming back a second time with an infrared device which picks up heat signatures. With the hot water running the scanner allows him to follow the pipes inside the walls and under the floor and through a small screen decipher where something unusual is taking place.

Of course, when Yisrael showed up with the device he realized the last guy who used it forgot to plug it back in so we had to sit and shmooze for an hour until it charged.

As we sat drinking tea on the porch in the sun he noticed our herb container garden and started telling me about his previous career working for the Rabbanute’s Kashrut division. There he learned about bugs on vegetables and how they are nearly impossible to get rid of, how Israel’s Gush Katif brand of bugless leafy greens are  scoured with so much pesticides it’s understandable why they are without bugs, how worms hide in the leaves of green onions, how there is a special bug that likes rosemary, and how most of the bug problems weren’t prevalent 2000 years ago but are a result of becoming an industrial nation in the modern era.

Moving inside for a refill he then noticed a picture of Shlomo Carlebach on the wall and veering off from bugs recalled the following story:

“I have a friend here in Jerusalem who owns a money changing store,” he said. “He once told me how Shlomo used to always go to him to cash checks and how the checks usually bounced. He’d call Shlomo and Shlomo would say he’d come down as soon as possible with the money. My friend had no doubt Shlomo was on the way but more often then not he’d show up empty handed because he’d always run into someone who needed the cash more than either of them….”

It was a typical Shlomo story but from a plumber who is a 9th generation Jerusalemite and who now lives in Petah Tikvah because his in-laws gave them a house? It begged for more discussion but the infrared scanner was just about charged.

Picking it up Yisrael walked to the kitchen sink and turned on the hot water. A few minutes later he pointed the device at the wall, then the floor, and followed it into the halway towards our second bedroom. “I’ll be back in a minute with my tools,” he said after pinpointing what he thought was the problematic region.

In the course of the next two hours I watched as he smashed through floor tiles digging out wet sand and cement with his hands. When he reached the puddle beneath our floor he announced, “There it is.”

As he began sopping up the water with a towel and clearing more of the fill he half-jokingly said, ‘if I find gold can I keep it?’ to which I answered, “How about we split it 80 -20.”

That’s when he said, “Don’t kid yourself. I’ve heard some amazing things in my time as a plumber, things you would never believe.”

Sitting on the floor in a pile of debris he told me the following:

1. A number of years back there was a plumber in Tel Aviv who was working on a home once owned by a Holocaust survivor. The survivor had no relatives and when he died the home went to the state and was eventually sold off. The new owner decided to fix it up and this plumber ended up working on part of the project with an electrician.

With one looking for pipes and the other wiring, they broke the wall in a particular room and to their disbelief found a bag of dollars. Astonished they kept breaking the wall and then the ceiling and by the end they discovered nearly a million dollars in cash hidden away. Unsure what to do they took the money and lets just say lived happily ever after.

2. On another occasion a plumber was doing work in the kitchen of a particular home where the owner had passed away and the children were taking care of the estate. The plumber was looking for something in the wall by the counter when he noticed a hole  behind the refrigerator. Thinking it would aid in his search he moved the fridge and put his hands in the crevice feeling around.

When he touched something which seemed like a plastic bag he pulled it out, opened it up and found a stack of cash. Reaching in again he pulled out more and before he knew it he’d found $100,000!

Figuring it was his responsibility to say something he called the son of the former owner and told him the story. The son couldn’t believe it.

“Our father left in his will that there was $100,000 dollars in the house. After he died we searched everywhere but found nothing,” said the son. “We suspected he used it up before he passed away but there it was all along!”

It’s unclear if the plumber got a reward or not but by the way Yisrael told the story he was simply doing a good deed.






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