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Tel Aviv in Pictures

Tel Aviv was never my favorite city.  It’s big – huge, by Israeli standards.

It’s grey.

It’s polluted.

It has lots of people.

It’s full of cigarettes, and therefore, it stinks to high heaven.

It’s full of high-rise, modern buildings.

In short, it’s a modern metropolis.  If I liked modern, metropolitan cities, I would live in New York, Los Angeles, or Toronto.  I happen to dislike big, grey, modern cities.

I also happen to think that even though Tel Aviv has a character all its own, a unique stripe of Israeli society, it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the country’s unique style.

Sometimes, I think that Tel Aviv is a New York-wannabe. Or maybe a London-wannabe.  And in my opinion, that’s a shame.

Israel is unique in so many ways, and there is no reason to copy another country’s culture.  I like Israel, for all its identity issues,; anything that is SomethingElse-Wannabe, is not something that I’m going to fall in love with.

Navigating Tel Aviv isn’t easy, either.  Even native Israelis get lost in that metropolitan maze (except, of course, those born and bred in Tel Aviv and its environs).

There is one Tel Aviv train station (I don’t remember which one) that, if you leave it to the left, you end up in one city, and if you leave it to the right, you end up in another.

Another train station, Tel Aviv HaHagana, has a similar issue.  If you leave one way, you end up on a busy street near government offices.  If you leave the other way, you end up in a mall.  And if you mess up, you’re stuck.  Unless, of course, you want to pay for a cab.

While we were in Tel Aviv, I took out my camera and started taking pictures.  It slowed us down somewhat, but Yitzchak managed to put up with it.

One thing you can definitely say is that the Tel Aviv municipality has worked hard to make this area pleasant for pedestrians and pleasing to the eye.

There are enough benches here for a class picnic,

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but no shade.  It looks like the municipality is trying to change that, though, since in this kikar, there are

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lots of trees, each with a bench underneath.  They’re young trees right now, but it makes you wonder what will be in ten years.

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Following what I said about modern cities, this unique building gives you the feeling that if you could only climb up onto that bottom step, you’d be able to take the stairs to the top.

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Just outside the courthouse is a long row of motorbikes.

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Every time I passed by, I wondered if this was a general parking lot, or if these motorbikes belonged to all the courthouse workers.

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The city did make sure to gives us some shade, after all.  A long block of sidewalk was lined with trees in a small dirt “garden”, so that we wouldn’t forget what nature looks like.

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Cutting down on traffic, exercising, and keeping the air clean seem to be values to be encouraged.  The city has created a bike rental stand.  Pay, take a bike, and return it later.

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Of course, there is the ever-present line of bus stops, a must-have for all large cities in Israel.

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And to end off the post, we can’t forget a picture of the skyline – any skyline.

Since taking these photos, I have learned how to compensate for over- and under-exposure.  There are more Tel Aviv photos, though, so check back soon.

What do you think?  Does Tel Aviv sound like – and look like – a place you’d want to visit or live in?  Or are you like me, and prefer smaller, quieter, cities and towns?

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Clear Blue Skies and Sunshine

Today*, when I went outside, the sun was shining, and the weather was perfect.  It was slightly chilly; not too hot, not too cold.  For me, slightly chilly is perfect, because I tend to walk fast, and then I get sweaty.  For a few minutes, it felt as if I had stepped into a story, one of those, ‘This was a land of hope and green after the Holocaust, where the sun shone and the sky was clear,’ post-Holocaust, stories.

Why?  I thought to myself.  It’s true, it’s a beautiful day.  It’s true, this is my favorite kind of day, when it’s sunny, but still chilly, and it’s beautiful and green.  But why does it feel like a story? 

Besides, if it is like a story, how would I know that and recognize it?

*          *         *         *         *         *  

When I was twelve years old, I came to Israel for my cousin’s wedding, which doubled as a bat mitzva trip for me.  My birthday, and my cousin’s wedding, were in March/April, so I got to miss school for about two weeks.

In those days, I didn’t know about the maddening things the government did, I didn’t think too much about terror attacks, and I didn’t worry about the water shortage or if we were getting enough rainfall.  Sure, I knew that Israelis had to be careful to save water.  They would rinse the dishes, soap them, and then rinse the soap off, being careful to turn off the water between each step.  They would also take shorter showers, and turn off the water when they were soaping.  But I didn’t fully understand, and I didn’t worry. 

*          *         *         *         *         *  

Maybe I did fully understand, but I didn’t care.

*          *         *         *         *         *  

I came on this trip to Israel with my mother and 1.5 year old sister.  1.5.  Wow.  Shlomo’s only a little older than that now.  Kind of makes me feel like deja-vu, if you know what I mean, except it’s my child that I’m pushing in the stroller, not my mother’s. 

We went to restaurants, she paid with travelers’ cheques.  To this day, I can hear her saying “travelers’ cheques” in English, with the rest of the sentence in Hebrew, while she asked each establishment if they accepted them.  I was so embarrassed that she was speaking Hebrew except for one phrase.  It sounded so dumb.

It’s true, I’d left my pesky (sorry, Esther, but that is how I felt then, and how you felt, too) little sister at home, but I didn’t really feel that I had my mother to myself, unless she happened to be telling me how to act or dress or talk.  I didn’t mind that my baby sister came along – her, I liked.  I did mind that my mother didn’t really seem interested in spending time with me, unless it was walking around shopping, or doing touristy things that she wanted to do.  Except, that is, for my cousin’s wedding.  She wasn’t really paying attention to me then, either, but the wedding itself was nice enough to make up for that.

I walked around, I did some dumb things, I did some embarrassing things, but I loved the country.  When I went back to school, I had picked up, in the two weeks that I spent in Israel, a little bit of an accent.  I worked hard to keep it when I noticed that it was going away; I was proud of that little bit of an Israeli accent.

*          *         *         *         *         *  

I can’t say that I was successful in keeping my bit of an accent, but it certainly might have helped me to develop a better accent later on, when I moved here.

When we arrived back home at the end of the trip, I announced to my parents, “When I grow up, I’m going to make aliya (move to Israel).”  They replied (truthfully, my mother replied): “We’ll see what happens when the time comes.”

The time came, and I made aliya.

But it is walking, carefree, in a beautiful day like this one, with a chill in the air, green grass, gray trees, and the sun shining, that made me feel that today was a story-like day.

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This picture is one I took a few months ago, while waiting at a bus stop. Today there were no clouds, but the sky is about the same color, and it’s a beautiful picture.

 

* I’ve never used italics for thoughts/daydreams before, so please forgive any mistakes (and correct them).

Snow Day! (Jerusalem, Part VII)

So, I wasn’t planning on taking a new batch of pictures so soon, but I ended up doing so, anyways.  And for good reason: Yesterday, we got 10 – 15 centimeters of snow in the center of the city; in outlying areas, suburbs, and higher places, there was even more.

“Ten centimeters!  Wow!” I can hear you say.  “That’s really newsworthy [not]!”

Well, actually, it is.  Last year, we had snow here in Jerusalem for all of three hours.  And it didn’t even stick that well.  I don’t remember if we had snow the previous year, but if we did, it was maybe a centimeter.

In addition, you have to take into account that Israel has had several years in a row now, that we haven’t had enough rainfall.  This year, thank G-d, we have been blessed:  The Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) has risen a lot, and is continuing to rise.  So, between the rain and the “deep” snow, we are doing pretty well.

The flip side?  Jerusalem isn’t really prepared for snowstorms.  It made the news when the mayor bought lots of salt, to melt the snow that would fall.  Everyone was waiting anxiously to see the snow, and when it looked, yesterday, like the weathermen had been lying, and there was only going to be rain, and bits of snow that didn’t stick, most residents were really disappointed.  See, snow means no school.  And for many, no work.  Snow means a vacation day.  (Last year, they let school out in the morning, because it was snowing – and by the time the last parents had come to pick up their kids, the snow had stopped, and was starting to melt.)

Shlomo woke us up yesterday at 5:40am.  He snuggled with me for about forty minutes.  Then we got up and started our day.  Yitzchak left to go to the mikva and to daven.  It turns out that the buses weren’t running, and neither was the light rail train, until about noon.

In addition, the little neighborhood grocery store (which is part of a chain) was closed.  I guess it’s a good thing that Yitzchak ran up last night to buy diapers and cornflakes for our neighboor (with her money, of course), instead of letting her wait until morning.  She would have gone up this morning, with her baby, and found the store closed.  (Her husband is in the army, comes home only on weekends, and they have a seven-month-old baby.)

Shlomo and I bundled up and ran out to the snow.  I was afraid that it would melt, and I wanted Shlomo to see it, and know what it was (and not be afraid of snow).  (Last year, he napped through the entire snowstorm.  Bummer.)  We kept changing places, just to play in different areas, and mess up different snow.

On the radio, they told us not to drive private cars, to stay at home, and to stay off the streets.  Roads were blocked, some for half the day; trees were blown down by the wind, sometimes causing power outages.  The electric company sent people to fix it, but the roads were all blocked, so the electricians were stuck.

And all this for 10-15 centimeters of snow in the center of the city, and maybe ten centimeters more on the outskirts.  Wow.

I have to say, before I came to Israel, we got almost two feet of snow, and there was still school.  An army of snowplows would come out, and the streets would be completely clear within two hours.

On the other hand, that’s what happens with terror attacks here: Everyone goes into action, and life returns to normal within the time span of a few hours.  Unfortunately, it has happened too often; Israel is prepared.

But, we are not prepared for snow.  I wonder sometimes, what would happen if the situation were switched?  How would America – or any country in Europe – react if they had terror attacks as often as they have snowstorms?  It would definitely be nice to switch places, and have more snowstorms than terror attacks.

After this long preamble, here are some pictures that I took of the snow.

This is the view of the snow falling from our window.  Most Israeli window shades are like what you see here: Wide, heavy plastic blinds that are usually built into, and slightly outside of, the wall.  They are rolled up by pulling a heavy string at the side, which is more of a pulley than a string.  These blinds, called “trisim” here in Israel, also provide some protection to your house, and they are often used for porches as well as windows.  When they are let down fully, there is a layer of heavy plastic (in some cases, metal) that covers the entire window (or porch door).  This makes it extremely hard to get in (or out), and I would assume (but maybe stupidly) also blocks rocks and debris from explosions, at least to some degree.

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After watching the snow falling, we went [back] outside.  (We had been outside at 7:30am, and then went back in so I could feed Shlomo breakfast, and we could warm up a bit.)  Here you can see the side of our building, and the trees.

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We then walked to a grassy hill, where there was lots of untouched, clean, snow, and no chance of cars coming even close.  Here is the beautiful view of snowy Jerusalem that we had from the hill . . .

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. . . and of some of the trees on the hill itself.  Notice that everything is green underneath.

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And one more view of Jerusalem . . .

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Then I put the camera away, and worked on making snowballs.  The snowballs had one of two fates: Either I threw them at someone (usually Shlomo, because he liked it), or I gave them to him to throw.  Since Shlomo didn’t throw his snow too far, the snowballs that I gave him usually ended up being recycled into new ones.  Shlomo also made snowballs – kind of.  And I rolled him in the snow, and he scooted down the hill – so, we had fun.  Or, he had fun.  And I enjoyed watching him have fun.

On the Bus Home (Jerusalem, Part VI)

My bus came.  I boarded the bus via the rear doors, and, to my delight, found that the bus was fairly empty, and that both sets of my favorite seats were available.  I chose which set I wanted.  I plopped Shlomo down in one of them, with my backpack on the other.  (I use a backpack instead of a diaper bag, nowadays.)  I folded the stroller.  Since there was such a long line of people, I decided to wait until they had boarded before going up to pay.  I then reconsidered, but it was too late – the bus had started moving.

So, I waited until the next bus stop, when I placed my backpack on top of Shlomo (keeps him occupied, seated, weights him down a bit more, and provides something soft that he can lean into in case the bus moves slightly), and went up to pay.  True, I cut in front of the passengers who were just getting on, but what can I do?  It’s not like anyone offered to take my fare up, I don’t want to take Shlomo up to pay with me, and I have to get back to my seat – and my toddler – before the bus starts moving again.  In my own defense, though, I don’t think anyone minded – what I did is fairly common, almost expected.  It could be that I felt rude because I’m American.  The truth is, I actually don’t think that Israelis consider it rude at all for a mother to come up to pay when everyone else is getting on.

After that stop, our next stop was the Central Bus Station.  Note the security guards (yes, they are armed) and the metal detectors – typical of all Israeli buildings, establishments, and offices.

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This is still the Central Bus Station, just a bit further down the street.  The plastic “triangular” “building” sticking out of the sidewalk is an underground public bomb shelter.

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Passengers boarding the bus – and the inside of the bus itself.  I am sitting right behind the rear doors.  There is a set of two seats, one on each side of the bus, just behind the rear doors (with an aisle in between, of course).  These are my favorites – easy to board, fold the stroller, unload bags, and keep an eye (and a hand) on Shlomo at all times.  My set of seats has a clear plastic “wall” in front of it, presumably so that in case of a sudden stop, passengers do not bang into the doors.

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A bus stop just past ours at the Central Bus Station.

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The string bridge itself.  While I don’t think it fits the character of the city, it is still impressive.

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Notice the contrast between the building and the walls erected for the light rail train.

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At a red light, I was able to photograph these plants, that are growing right beside an apartment building.

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We turn onto a side street, to continue our journey home.  The light rail train, Herzl (the main street, where the string bridge is) is one-way only for a few blocks.  The other way is diverted to a neighboring street.  We are “the other way” right now.  This is a view of the corner, at a red light.

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Construction across the valley, while driving on the “other” street (Ish Shalom, if you must know).  There is a bus stop at the beginning of the street and at the end.  The good part – one of the only good parts of this whole train business – is that the bus goes faster now.

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Here, we did a U-turn and went to the joint light rail/bus stop at Yad Sarah.  This picture is of the school across the street.  Notice the fence: all schools here, or at least all Jewish schools, have fences (often high fences) and security guards.  (The schools pay the guards, I think.)  There is a metal booth on the left; this is for the security guard to sit in, while he watches.  Once an hour, the guard locks the gate and walks around the campus to make sure that no one has jumped the fence or thrown any suspicious objects into the school grounds.  The security guards, just like the ones at the Central Bus Station, and everywhere else, are armed.  I’ll leave it to you to guess why.  (Hint: It’s not because of kidnappers or mentally ill people who have guns.)

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That’s the end of this series.  I didn’t continue taking pictures for two reasons: 1) I’d rather keep some semblance of anonymity.  2) Shlomo was getting cranky, and my camera was slowly using up its battery.

Waiting for the Bus (Jerusalem, Part V)

In my last post, we had walked down Agrippas, and were waiting for the bus at the bus stop.  So, we continue from there.

It’s funny how before I started this series, I never realized how much went on while waiting for a bus.  I just kind of made sure to keep my spot in the line, jiggled my foot, watched the time, and waited for the bus to come, planning how I would get a seat, and where I would put the stroller.

Now that I am posting it, I realize that there are a lot of things that I don’t think about anymore, because I started considering them to be part of everyday life.  Maybe that’s what changed since I made aliya (moved to Israel):  I started seeing things as ordinary, everyday things, instead of special moments to be savored and remembered, of a year that will never happen again.  But the truth is, no year, and no day, will ever happen again.  I am so worried about what-ifs, and obsessive about what I need to do and where I need to be, that I often forget to just be in the moment.

The exception is when I am at home with Shlomo.  For some reason, staying home with him has relaxed me, and de-stressed me, in a lot of ways.  Now, I understand why:  I don’t [usually] think about where I need to be, what I need to do, and worry obsessively, when we are at home, playing.  Sure, I have to work, but I know, and expect, that I will be interrupted, and I try to work when he is either napping, sleeping, or playing happily by himself.  When he wants to play, I try to be available.  After all, that’s why I made this decision, right?

Here, I am standing at the bus stop.  Obviously, you can’t see me, because I’m the one holding the camera.  I stand a little bit up from the stop, since I have a stroller.  Strollers board the bus from the first set (or only set, depending on the bus’s size) of rear doors.  This prevents the stroller from taking up place in the line.  It also, usually, allows a quick-thinking, quick-acting mother to save herself, and child/husband, a seat.  If the bus is too full, I will at least have a place to stand.  And standing on a bus, with a baby or toddler in your arms, is a very good way to guilt someone into giving you a seat.

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The other side of the street.  You can see a brand-new bus going in the opposite direction, trailing behind some cars.  Actually, Yitchak says that the more buses on a street, the slower traffic goes, and the more private cars, the faster.  He believes this to be true because buses stop, and let people off, at every bus stop, and are also larger, heavier, and slower than private cars.  I disagree, because I think private cars are more likely to have slowpoke, rude drivers.  I have only met one nasty bus driver in my entire five-year, bus-taking career – and he was a Muslim, and got fired after he harassed too many people.  All the bus drivers here are nice.  Some have more patience than others, but they are all really nice.

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The store right beside the bus stop.

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A big building across the street that recently got decorated.  You can see the decorations above the parking signs, on the pillars.  Here, it’s no big deal: this is typical of Israelis, and of Israel.  It looks pretty, so why not?   When I first saw it, though, a few weeks ago, it sparked the teeny-tiny American tourist in me.

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A bus came (not mine), and two women stood huddled over their whatever-you-call-it-type cell phones.  You can see the reflection of some people on the sidewalk, in the bus’s windows.

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The bus passed . . .

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More buses going in the other direction . . .

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The sky, which I couldn’t help photographing because you can see so much from where I was standing: The cranes to the left, on the next main street over; in the far right background, the pink-and-blue building that is the Central Bus Station; the top of the big “string” bridge by the entrance to the city; and, of course, the mountains and trees that are part of what make up Jerusalem.

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And here comes a line of buses.  I don’t think one of them was mine; I think mine came just after this bunch.

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That’s all for now, folks.  The next post, which is the last in this batch, before I return to regular post-writing, will be after I get on the bus.  I put my camera away after taking these pictures, so that I’d have my hands free to board the bus that I suspected would come soon (it did).  And, I took the next batch while I was on a moving bus, looking out the window.  So, I can’t promise the same quality.

To the Bus Stop (Jerusalem, Part IV)

We’ve finally reached the corner.  Now, we turn right, onto Agrippas, and start walking down towards the bus stop, to go home.  These bus stops used to be on Yaffo, where the train now is.  When they built the train, they transferred all of them to Agrippas.  Now the “bus stop” is no longer a [useful, not pretty] old shelter, with a sign on top.  It is just a sign post on a small sidewalk, where people waiting for the bus push and are pushed by the people walking on the street, or going in and out of shops.  In other words a too-small sidewalk became even smaller – without actually changing the sidewalk itself.

The corner:

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The store on the corner, selling newspapers (and beers, and cigarettes).

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And a restaurant with a tiny smokers’ area.  It keeps the restaurant smoke-free, but what about the rest of us?

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A store selling snacks . . .

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. . . and a store selling all kinds of drinks: soft drinks, alcohol, water, juices – you name it, they have it.

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We finally reached the bus stop.

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Next post: Waiting for the bus.  (Yes, I will eventually finish this series and get back to normal writing.  If you must know, I thought of this series for two reasons: 1) To help satisfy readers’ curiosity about life in Israel, 2) To help aid my writers’ block that will only allow me to write rants about how awful formula is.

Honestly, though, we all know that posting too many pictures in one post is never a good idea.  So, I’m trying to divide the pictures up in a sensible manner.)  But, if you are getting bored of this, let me know.

Through the “Fake Shuk” (Jerusalem, Part III)

We left off, in my last post, in the middle of the fake shuk.  Now we continue, all the way the end of the street.

This is the second turn into the main shuk.

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Then we pass another housewares/paper goods store . . .

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. . . and a store selling nuts and dried fruits (as well as the third, and last, turn into the main shuk).

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Someone else has just received a delivery . . .

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A store that sells legwear and accessories.  To the left is a store selling only accessories, with a wider variety of them.

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An outdoor cafe.  It seems a bit too fancy for the surrounding stores, but it is just as busy.

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A store selling kippas, the religious headcovering for men.  This store carries a wide variety – wide enough that someon from almost any religious stripe can find something in their style.

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And a new juice bar.  It is too fancy, and too American-style, for the surrounding area, which is probably why I have almost never seen anyone actually buying there.  Chances are, the chain (of which this store is a part) will go out of business soon.  I have to say, I’m waiting for that day to come.  Israel has its own unique flavor, and American-style stores just ruin that uniqueness.

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We will turn the corner in the next post.

In the Fake Shuk (Jerusalem, Part II)

After we got off the train, we met up with Yitzchak for a few minutes, before he headed back to where he’s studying, and we headed home.  There are many places to switch from a bus to a train, but because Yitzchak had to give me something, I chose to switch at the shuk (marketplace).  It’s not the easiest place to switch, or the best bus stop, but it works, and it has the advantage of being an earlier stop – which means that I’m more likely to find a seat.  Even if I didn’t get a seat right away, the bus stops just above the Central Bus Station and lets everyone off, before going on to its “official” stop a bit lower down, to pick people up.  That two-minute break usually allows the quickest passengers to find seats before everyone else gets on.

So, we walked through (or cut through, if you like) the shuk on our way to the bus stop.  I pass through here a lot, but this was the first time that I actually slowed down, or stopped at all, when I wasn’t actively buying something.

This part of the shuk, or as Yitzchak calls it, “The Fake Shuk” is uncovered.  It is the widest street in the shuk, and has streets leading off into pretty much every other part of the shuk.  Yitzchak calls this part the “fake shuk” because the stores here tend to be, as a whole, fancier [and sometimes more expensive] than those in the other part.  Also, Yitzchak defines shuk as, “A bunch of people competing and yelling at each other from their little holes in the wall.”  This street doesn’t exactly fit that description.  Well, it almost does, but not quite.  (Now he has changed his definition slightly, but I don’t have patience for the new, fancy one.)

When we turned into the “fake shuk”, apparently, there were a few deliveries that had just been made.  This one is for the olive store that you see on the right.  (Again, all these pictures are mine.)

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As I walked along, I snapped pictures with one hand, while pushing the stroller with the other.  In this picture, I wanted to capture the people on the ground, along with the lights, wires, flag, and balcony colors.

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A fruit shop (and the first turn into the main shuk) . . .

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. . . and a cold cuts/ canned goods shop.  Notice the wares hanging from a bar near the ceiling.

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The entrance to the Iraqi shuk, off of the “fake shuk”.  Notice that it has a kind of plastic ceiling.

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A housewares store.  This used to be my favorite store – it sold all kinds of useful stuff, cheaply, and then it changed hands.  It’s still a pretty good store, though.  Again, not the items hanging from the ceiling.

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The first turn into the main shuk.

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A [hippy] musician, and a soldier with his daughter.

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And with this, I will end off for the day.  We haven’t finished walking down to the bus stop yet, and are still passing through the shuk, but there are a lot of pictures.

From Davidka to the Shuk (Jerusalem, Part I)

Today, Shlomo and I went to Katamon, for a doctor visit for me.  Since we don’t have a car, Katamon is pretty annoying to get to.  We stick with this clinic, though, because they are into preventive medicine – something that hasn’t yet caught hold fully in Israel.  (We’re getting there, slowly.)

Since I we prefer to be able to go to the doctor just for a checkup, and Israelis don’t seem to have patience for that, we go to a clinic that works with American doctors.  It goes against our philosophy and lifestyle to do anything specifically “the American way”, but health is health.  Don’t get me wrong – Israelis, and Israeli doctors, are terrific.  But, not always do they have patience for routine checkups.  It’s more of a problem-solving way of looking at things, instead of problem-preventing.  Which is good for some people, but not so good for obsessive worrywarts like us.

Anyways, we (i.e., Shlomo and I) got out of the house late enough that I wasn’t sure we’d make it on time.  And, long story short, we didn’t.  But, they took me anyways, and I only had to wait fifteen minutes.  On the way back, I started taking pictures (which means that yes, these pictures are from my camera).

This is Kikar HaDavidka (Davidka Square), close to the city “center”.  In it, you can see a security guard drinking coffee, a sign for the police station, and two women – one Muslim, one Jewish, talking to each other.  They are at a “train stop”, waiting for the light rail train.  You can also see, in the windows of one store, red writing covered by black graffiti.  I have to say, I have never, ever been able to read the words.  On the rare occasions when the window is clean, I was always on a bus passing it too quickly.  (Yes, there used to be buses here, instead of trains.  That was back in the good old days.)  But, someone always makes sure to re-scribble it immediately.  Once, I saw a hand sticking out, cleaning the window.  It looked pretty funny.

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Further down at the same stop (there are two shelters per stop [the shelters are pretty but useless; why do those words go together so often?] ).

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And the train comes (going my way, not theirs).

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I took the train one stop, to the shuk (marketplace).  It was lazy, I know, but I had a bus transfer, and during that time of day, the stroller is free, so why walk any more than I have to?  (Understand:  I’m not anti-exercise.  BUT, I was walking with a stroller, and I had already walked for about twenty minutes pushing a stroller, up and down hills, on an empty stomach.  So, I will walk some more later.)

These people are getting onto the train that I just got off of.

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The other side of the train stop at the shuk.

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We live in a country of constant renovations (and construction).  This store, at a diagonal from the shuk, for years, was a cheap clothing and blanket/slippers/etc. store.  Last year, it closed.  It was renovated (and, I assume, sold), and turned into a steak and fish restaurant.  Now, it is again a cheap clothing etc. store – with the interior design of a fancy restaurant.  This is normal – if you don’t absolutely have to renovate, then you leave it as is.  Don’t you wonder what the story is, and who owns it now?

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The [redone] square opposite the shuk.  In the background, you can see the above shop.

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That’s all for now, folks.  I have more pictures, but I also have stuff to do.  I will keep posting . . .

The Last Day of Chanuka

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The above picture, as well as those below, were taken by me, last night. 

I kept meaning to take pictures the whole week, and finally I decided that I was going to make sure that on the eighth night, the last night, with the most lights, we were going to take pictures.  And we did.  So, here are some of them.

Today is the last day of Chanuka.  Last night, we had a full menora.  It makes me kind of sad, to think that Chanuka is gone.  Don’t get me wrong – Shlomo and I did not end up doing most of the fun stuff that I thought we would.  It was mostly his fault, because of his poorly timed naps, and early candle lighting.  Or maybe that was my fault.  And Yitzchak didn’t get vacation, so we couldn’t really do anything as a family unless it was around candle lighting time or afterwards.  And, obviously, after 5:00pm is not prime time for activities with a toddler.  It is prime time for getting supper on the table, really fast, and helping said toddler relax and go to bed.

But still.  I like the lights, seeing people more relaxed, and the jelly donuts (sufganiyot).  I like seeing Chanuka menoras all over the place, and how the buses say “Happy Chanuka” (in Hebrew, of course).  I like waking up in the morning to a quiet campus, because there are no classes during Chanuka break.  And I like seeing my adoptive parents slightly more relaxed, because they have vacation,  just like everyone else.

And I can still do what I had planned.  It may not be as exciting, but it can still be done.  I can take Shlomo to my cousin’s, and see her two youngest kids, even if the four older ones are back in school.  I can take him to the mall, just to walk around and climb on the riding toys that I’m not paying to activate.  He won’t care if there are Chanuka decorations or not, just like he won’t care if I activate the electronic car or not.  I care, because I think it’s cool to be living in a Jewish country.  But he won’t care, because he doesn’t know otherwise.

So, Chanuka has gone, but we have enjoyed it.  And now it’s back to the regular schedule, with a couple of tweaks in order to ensure that Yitzchak finishes the material in time for the Rabbinate’s test in a few months.

Here are a few other pictures.  They admittedly aren’t much, but they are pretty.

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