Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Three Stories

10 Apr
English: Flag of Egged עברית: דגל חברת אגד

English: Flag of Egged עברית: דגל חברת אגד (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Occasionally, I witness events that I think are funny, but I am unsure if others will find them humorous, this week witnesses three small incidents that I think most will find humorous. Enjoy:

1) Early Sunday morning I was standing at the bus stop in Jerusalem, awaiting the arrival of the first of two buses that would take me back to yeshiva. Despite the early hour, the non-bus lanes were already clogged with traffic, and the lines at the red lights grew longer and longer. Suddenly an ambulance required immediate passage through the gridlocked lanes. Some drivers attempted to move their car into a more favorable position for the ambulance, others did not budge. A man standing next to me at the bus stop, sees this unfolding, and begins pacing the line of cars, yelling at the drivers to get out of the way, no luck. Then, as the ambulance nears us, close to crossing the intersection, the same guy begins yelling at the driver of the ambulance for being in the public lanes instead of the centrally located, and virtually empty, bus lanes. After finally passing, he turns to me to, in a loud over-excited voice, explain how wrong the driver was, and what he should have done. Of course, he also did not miss an additional opportunity to call the operators of the private vehicles all sorts of unpleasant names.

2) Moments after story number one, I witnessed two Egged drivers get into an argument over who was supposed to drive which bus. It is not an uncommon site to wait a few minutes on the bus when one shift ends and the other begins. The outgoing driver collects his things, usually a lunch bag and maybe a coat or a newspaper, lets himself out of the driver’s cubicle and the new fellow enters, taking a moment or two to arrange his belongings. I am not really sure why a shift was ending since the bus I was on was just the second bus of the day on that particular route, and had not yet reached the end of the line. So the two drivers begin arguing over whether it was that bus or the upcoming bus of the same route number that the relief driver was meant to board. I was sitting almost out of ear shot, but there were at least three rounds of, “It’s this bus!” met with, “No, it isn’t!” I am not sure exactly how the dispute was resolved, except to say that the original driver remained in the driver’s seat. I was a bit surprised that none of the passengers attempted to intervene, revolt, or offer to drive the bus. Then again, it was early and most were half asleep. Who knows what could have resulted if everybody had been fully awake.

3) Unsolicited advice or critiques from strangers is fairly common on the Israeli street. The critiques are always draw a laugh when they are slightly hypocritical. On Monday I was standing in the middle of an articulated bus, trying to maintain my balance as the floor swiveled beneath me. Four Hareidi boys, about 10 years old, boarded the bus and decided this was a great area to play. They were noisy and disruptive. A non-religious woman, who was scantily clad for her age (think Madonna), concluded a loud cell phone call, half of which the entire bus was privileged to hear, and began admonishing the children. She asked them if they new about “Kiddush Hashem” (the sanctity of The Name, practically it means acting in a way that honors God). Of course, being good Hareidi boys, they said yes. She then delivered a scathing review of their behavior, whilst trying to prevent some of her body parts from escaping her less than immodest clothing.   The boys, whether frightened or shocked, listened to every word, stood quietly and at attention for the remainder of their ride, then disembarked. After their departure, the woman answers phone call, where she begins a loud, profanity laced, intimate conversation.

Sometimes the best thing to do is laugh.

Walking the Land

3 Apr
Dried lake bed next to Beit  Zayit

Dried lake bed next to Beit Zayit

The Great Outdoors.

Most digital cable and dish networks in the United States have an entire channel or two devoted to the outdoors and the numerous related activities, from hunting and fishing, to hiking and camping. Israelis, although I am not able to vouch for the television coverage, certainly are committed to experiencing nature. More precisely, being outside and walking the breadth and depth of the Land of Israel is an experience that is near and dear to a large percentage of Israelis. In the week prior to the Passover holiday, the Israel Trails Committee estimated that 100,000 Israelis had set foot on one of Israel’s countless trails. Most popular among those trails are the Sea to Sea (From the Galilee to the Med.) or the monstrous Israel Trail (From Metula to Eilat). Regardless of the abilities of a particular hiker, each trail gives the trekkers the opportunity to have some up close and personal time with the land itself. Meeting fellow hikers on the trail is not to be underestimated, sharing information on routes, places for a hot shower, water, and safe camping sights. There is in fact a list of people who can help during the grueling journey on the Israel trail, affectionately named Trail Angels. In order to get a taste of the Land of Israel, it is not necessary to commit oneself to sleeping under the stars and eating canned tuna for days at a time, as there are shorter trails that can be done partially or completely over the course of a few hours, which are more appropriate for those with less time or less ambition.

Yesterday, as vacation begins to wind down, I, with a couple of friends, decided that it would be a good day to attempt a portion of the Jerusalem Trail. 42 kilometers in all, the Jerusalem Trail makes a circuit around the city, parts of the trail appear quite rural while others are close to the urban center. We joined the trail a few blocks from the central bus station along with a large school group of Arab girls who photographed every flower they passed. After some overtaking them, we spent a while on a relatively boring bike path before finally finding the “rugged” part of the trail. Picking our way over rocks in a dry river bed eventually we found our way to a reservoir which none of us knew was there, despite a combined 5 years of Jerusalem residence. Some of the water had already evaporated, leaving a crusty but still squishy surface to walk on, in which had grown the most painful hitchhikers (not to be confused with trempers). Enjoying the water were Hareidi and secular children, along with couples who had come to walk around the edge of the lake. We turned off from the reservoir and headed for several steep rocky and earthy uphill sections, which gave us a great views of the outskirts of dowtown. Our day finished with several kilometers in the Jerusalem forest and a lucky tremp to Ein Karem where we took the bus back to center city.

At times it was hard to believe we were still within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, while at others it felt as if we had not journeyed so far from home. At the risk of concluding with a cliche, there were a few moments during our tiyul when I had to stop and look around, almost to remind myself of having the privilege to walk the land.