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August 2, 2017 | by Esther Mendelsohn

As a British Podiatrist in Israel, every day that I get to deal with Israeli corns is an adventure.

They say the English have a paternalistic approach to medicine; in other words, you do what your healthcare practitioner tells you to and don’t ask too many questions. Having grown up and studied Podiatry in England, I was used to assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients without too much opposition. Since moving to Israel, all that has changed. Take the simple diagnosis of an Israeli corn:

“That’s not a corn. Why would I have a corn? I don’t have a corn!”

ME: Ah, yes. That’s a corn.

PATIENT: A what? No it’s not.

ME: Um, it’s a corn.

PATIENT: No it’s NOT. Why would I have a corn? I don’t have a corn!

ME: It’s because of your footwear -

PATIENT: Do you know how much money I spent on those shoes?! Do you know how much?! Probably more than you earn in a year!

ME: Probably, but they’re bad for your feet.

PATIENT: Look, my gut feeling tells me that this isn’t a corn. (Patient squints at sole of foot). It’s just a little lump, it’s - wait, a lump on the skin? A LUMP? Is it... is it... is it... you know... cancer?!

ME: It’s a corn.

PATIENT (palpitating): I’m going to the doctor. I need to get this checked out. Oh my goodness, I’m so scared.

Patient leaves.

ME: Sigh.

As you can see, Israelis don’t have much faith in conventional medicine. They’ll graciously allow you to assess them, but they’re very proactive in their own care; whatever works, goes; be it praying, alternative medicine, or hacking at their hard skin with hedge trimmers.

‘You deal with feet, right?’ an acquaintance asks me. ‘Well you’ll know all about fig sap then,’ she continues. I brace myself. ‘Fig sap,’ she explains, leaning forward as if imparting some great secret ’does wonders for recurrent corns! I think my fig tree’s dying now, though, takes quite a clump of twigs to get enough sap. And my feet end up sticking to the bath mat.’

‘And your corns are gone?’ I check.

‘No!’ she frowns, ‘I’ve left them to grow out now, on purpose, because my Podiatry appointment’s coming up and I want the Podiatrist to have something to do!’

Or better yet...

‘I cure my corns myself,’ a middle-aged lady recently told me proudly. ‘Really?’ I asked, waiting to hear her fail-safe version of the fig sap/baby oil/ washing powder/milk-bath corn cure.

‘Oh yes! I went to a wise woman in the heart of Jerusalem, and she told me the ultimate cure for corns.’

‘Go see the Podiatrist and get a good pair of insoles?’ I venture. A girl can try, right?

The lady sighed regretfully. ‘No, the cure she prescribed was fabulous, but I just couldn’t keep it up. Finding the right bird, getting someone to kill it for me, squeezing the blood all over my corns... I’ve done it religiously for years, but at my age it’s getting harder.’


‘Look,’ I offer, ‘in future, just come and see me, ok? I’ll be happy to just whip ‘em out without all the blood and gore.’

‘Nu,’ she sighs, considering allowing me to do her the favour. ‘I was about to try my neighbour’s method, dipping her whole foot in bleach, but maybe I’ll just see a Pod instead.’

‘Please do!’ I beg. Bird’s blood and bleach?! Better and better.

Last summer, we rented a bungalow in Northern Israel. The kind owner explained how she decides which potential tenant gets the bungalow. ‘I listen to the voice in my head,’ she told me seriously, ‘when the voice in my head tells me, ‘Ah! This is the one!’ I listen and so I choose you to stay by me.’

‘The voice in your head,’ I repeated faintly. ‘Yehuda,’ I said brightly to my husband, ‘did you hear? Our hostess listens to the voice in her head that tells her to whom she should rent her bungalow for the summer. Isn’t that great???’ My husband wiggled his eyebrows noncommittally.

‘Right,’ our landlady beamed. ‘You treat the feets?’ she continued, having previously quizzed me about my profession.

‘Yes,’ I responded warily.

‘You will look at my husband’s thing on his feets?’

‘Of course,’ I graciously acquiesced. ‘That’s a corn,’ I told them, after a quick preliminary assessment.

‘I know, I know already,’ the husband grumbled. ‘I blast it, you know, explode, then with shaver and chicken knife, I dig-’

I put my hands over my face and groaned softly. At least no birds died in the removal of that corn.

Not that I’m complaining; I love Israelis. From the Rabbis who come in and bestow heartfelt blessings on me and my entire family, to the teachers who tell me firmly how to bring up my kids while I try to bring the conversation back to their feet, and yes, right down to the patient who tells me that I don’t know what a corn is and must be crazy and should start drinking a cup of boiled fig sap and regularly dip my feet in bleach.

Israelis: you gotta love ‘em.


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