Sunday, December 30, 2007

I had two really great "Only in Israel" stories to relate, but now that I'm sitting down at my keyboard, I can only remember one. Maybe that's another story in and of itself - you know, the whole swiss-cheese-for-brains kind of thing. Not!

We'll get to one of the stories eventually. First I'll try to remember what's been going on in my life.

Last week I went into Yerushalayim three days in a row. I just felt like I needed to get out of the house and off the yishuv. The first day, Miryam and I first drove to Pisgat Ze'ev where we took a zillion (more or less) empty soda and water bottles to the recyclable bin, and then to the pet store (she needed bird food). We had fun taking the #8 bus into Yerushalayim; I love riding different buses and seeing what their routes are. After changing buses at the takanah merkazit (central bus station), we headed down Yaffo Street intending to go up King George and head to Talpiot. Instead, we got off the bus right as it turned onto King George so Miryam could get some American bills changed into shekels. Once we were there, I asked her if she was up for some walking and we decided to try to find Yosi Peking, which used to be a fabulous restaurant when David and I would come to Israel as tourists. I say "used to be" because they've switched locations three times, and I knew that they were just a small carry-out place now. My dentist's receptionist had told me they were now on Keren Hayemet, so we headed down King George to find it. It was supposed to be a fairly warm day, but it was overcast which kept it kind of chilly and I had just worn a light jacket. It was still SO nice to be walking in the fresh air. We found the restaurant without any trouble, but I have to say that the meal was very disappointing, especially considering how fabulous it used to be. There were just five tables inside and a few more outside; it was definitely too chilly to eat outside. The menu was small, and the food was already on a warming table ready to be ladled up. The soup was delicious but I don't think we'll be eating there again.

After lunch we just walked around. We found a great used book store where Miryam bought a couple of books. Lately it seems as if there are a lot of book stores with English books opening up. I remember when Nathan was going to yeshiva here he was always looking for bookstores with used English books (much less expensive than new ones) and now they're all over the place. Most of the bookstores even buy back the books at 70% of what you paid for them. Many of the books, though, look as if they've been packed away since the 40's and 50's, although you can always find whatever authors you're looking for and the latest bestsellers.

The following day, I jumped on a late afternoon bus and browsed around Geulah (a religious neighborhood with lots of stores) until David got off work and joined me. Waiting for him at the bus stop I ran into Karen, a friend from Ramat Beit Shemesh. It was nice to talk to her for a few minutes until David's bus came. Karen and her husband, Al, are going to the states for three weeks in January. I wish we could afford to go for a visit. All I really want to do is go play mahj with my old group! For a week straight!

David and I just walked around for a little while until we went to the takanah merkazit to catch the #143 back to Kochav Yaakov. We got there just as the bus pulled up. If David hadn't had to get home to study for ulpan the next evening, we would have stayed in town later.

The following day, my friend Ellen in Ramat Beit Shemesh and I each got on the 9 AM bus in our respective communities, and met at the takanah merkazit. We arrived at practically the same time! It was so nice to spend some time with Ellen again; we have so much in common. She doesn't get into Yerushalayim so much, so we decided to go exploring. This time we took the #14 to Talpiot. Talpiot is where most of the shopping is - for cars, furniture, household items, you name it. Every block has another mall or car lot. This day was absolutely gorgeous - 60's and not a cloud in the sky. We went through a couple of malls and then ended up walking all the way back to Emek Refaim in the German Colony. It wasn't actually so far and we both enjoyed the walk. There are a lot of restaurants on Emek Refaim, even a lot of mehadrin ones, but Ellen didn't hold by any of the hechsharim. It's amazing to me how religious people hold so differently in what they'll eat. We ended up going back in to Cafe Rimon which pretty much everyone holds by, and we split a salad. Afterwards we walked up Strauss and I got Ellen to the bus stop for the #417 back to Ramat Beit Shemesh, while I grabbed a #56 down to Shmuel Hanavi and Bar Ilan where I waited for the #143.

It's always iffy not getting on the #143 at the starting point, which is the takanah merkazit. But it was 3:15 in the afternoon so I thought I had a good chance of getting a seat. While I was waiting for the bus, I heard someone saying, "Mrs. Lecy, Mrs. Lecy" and I looked up to see Chaim, a boy who lives on my yishuv with his mother and sister. I greeted him, and then he ran back to play with his two friends; they'd obviously just gotten off school. Within two minutes, the #143 showed up and it was totally packed. All of us (and there were many) who got on at this bus stop were totally squeezed together in the aisle. I had four bags, my purse and my jacket in my arms, so I was extremely appreciative when a young girl offered me her seat (there are SOME positive aspects to getting old, it seems).

While I was getting situated in my seat, I realized that the bus driver was continually yelling, "Yeladim! Yeladim! (Children! Children!) out the door. (Get ready - this is the "Only in Israel" part.) When I looked out the window, I could see Chaim and his two friends racing around each other, oblivious to the fact that the bus had been loading for the past few minutes. They continued playing while the bus driver continued to call for them. Now where else would a driver of a packed bus be concerned about three kids who would have to wait for an even more crowded bus a half hour later? And to be cognizant of the fact that they probably rode his bus every day at that same time? The boys finally realized he was yelling for them, and they raced into the bus, having to stand in the doorway for the 40 minute drive home.

It's so wonderful to see people who care about others, whether it's bus drivers or just people on the street, and you see it every day. On one city bus I was on last week, an elderly man was still walking down the aisle to a seat when the bus driver took off, making him lose his balance. A secular girl sitting near the man grabbed his hand to help him get his balance, and they both smiled at each other as he nodded his thanks to her. I just love seeing those kind of exchanges.

It's now several hours later and I still can't remember the other story I wanted to relate. Guess I'll have to blog again when I think of it!

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