Tag Archive | United States

America: Learn From Israel

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A few months ago, Yitzchak and I were talking.

About Iran.  About Syria.  About terror.  About car accidents.

Maybe we should move back to America, we thought.  No, we decided, only if we see World War Three about to break out. 

But in that case, is America a good option? 

Well, Kentucky isn’t the center of anything except maybe medical facilities, so it’s not too bad a choice, says Yitzchak

You’re right, I said, but why not bomb medical facilities?  Sounds like a good strategy to me.

So we left it at that.  If World War Three is about to break out in our “neighborhood,” we leave.  If we can, we take our furniture.  If we can’t, we just pick up and go.

Then –

Newton.

Michigan.

Hazard Technical College.

Florida.

Massachusetts.

Boston.

Texas.

Is America really a safer place than Israel?

In Israel, schools have armed security guards.  In Israel, guns are a bit better controlled.  Rocks, no.  Guns, yes.

We know to look for suspicious objects.  We know to alert others.  What happened in Boston would never have happened here, because it would have been caught in the very early stages, and the person would probably have been apprehended while laying the rest of the explosives.

And we have good anti-terror strategies.  True, we’re not always allowed to use them, because maybe the world will get mad at us for defending ourselves (gasp!).  But we have them.  And I think the policies regarding their use are about to change.

Late last week, someone in Brooklyn saw a backpack left unattended, and called the police.  It turned out to be a third-grader’s forgotten schoolbag, but it was good that they called.

America is learning.

Or maybe the person who saw it was Israeli.  That seems to be more logical.

America is not learning.  America just doesn’t get it.

America needs to understand: Terror is not about what you did.  It’s about who you are, and what you believe.  You don’t believe in Islam.  Therefore, you deserve to die – unless you convert.

You are a heretic.  America is the head of the snake.  Israel is a little problem; America is the bigger problem.

“We will bring this fight to American soil,” bin Laden said.  He may be dead, but his followers and other believers of those values, still live.

America needs to understand that.

And when they do, they will ask us to teach them how to prevent terror attacks.

And when they ask us, we will teach them.

But if they are allowed to kill terrorists, we should be allowed, too.  No questions asked.  No explanations necessary.

Obama, I hope you read this.  I hope you learn the lessons – that have already cost upward of 150 American lives, on American soil – and learn how to prevent future situations like these.

I hope you learn that terrorists are not logical.  They are not too intelligent.  And their hate is not something that can be taken away.  What we do is an excuse for their behavior, no more.

They act the way they do because of who we are.

Maybe there should be a U.S. Apartheid week?  After all, the U.S. stole land from the Indians and never gave it back.

Obama, please: If you read this, stop and think.  And don’t criticize Israel for defending its citizens.  Tell the world that terror has to stop, and terrorists are murderers.  Because, honestly, that’s what they are.

And if you don’t understand this by now – well, I hope you won’t have to have too many repeat lessons.  Because each lesson costs American lives.  And even though you’re not running for president again – it is your responsibility to make sure that Americans are safe.

No matter where they are.

And yes, there are lots of Americans in Israel.

Until America adopts Israel’s security measures, perhaps those Americans in Israel (including us) are safer here in Israel than in America.

Obama Revisited

Am I allowed to change my mind?  I hope so.

Since Obama left, some things have happened over here that have made me kind of suspicious.  It just smells funny, if you know what I mean.  What happened?

– Netanyahu apologized to Turkey, who then demanded $1 million per person killed in Mavi Marmara.  And was it our fault that they participated and were constituting a threat to our soldiers?  I don’t think so.

– There will, apparently, be more cuts in the aid that the United States gives to Israel.

– Obama helps flow cash to Palestinians.

– Netanyahu releases funds that he was holding from PA revenue – without receiving anything in return, and without using any of it to pay the PA’s electricity and water debts to Israel.  (Yes, everyone here pays electricity and water.  If you don’t pay, they cut it off.  But apparently if the PA doesn’t pay, theirs doesn’t get cut off.)

– There have been rumors that there will be an unofficial building freeze.  This means that we don’t state that we aren’t building, but we also don’t encourage it (or allow people to procure proper documentation).

– Both the US and Israel will help the PA out?  Really?  Especially when the home economy of each needs a lot of work?

– And then, there is Kerry.  But that’s for a different time.

See what I mean?

It’s all too coincidental; too perfectly timed.  It stinks of foul play and lies.

In addition, we may very well face budget cuts in the defense department.  Wonderful, huh?  I can’t wait.

So – what do I think of Obama now?  I’m not sure.  I guess I will just have to wait and see.  But in the meantime, I am trying to remember that he has sold us advanced war planes and funded the Iron Dome system.

At the end of the day – what Obama and Netanyahu decide is ultimately in G-d’s hands.  I believe that G-d won’t allow them to hurt us too badly (and now I am thinking about the Holocaust; but even then, those who saw it coming escaped in time).

 

Israel’s Socialized Health Care

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Israel has socialized health care.  I never realized what it was until a few weeks ago, when I read a couple of articles that gave a name to the health care system.

First of all, some background: Israel has an identification system in which each person has an identity number that is connected to pretty much everything: bank accounts, health care, drivers’ license, passport, places of study, contracts, phones, and everything else you can think of.  When you fill out a form, you fill it out with your name and ID number.  Sounds scary?  It’s not – as long as the government’s files are safe.  And identity theft is incredibly difficult here.

On to the health care system.  Here is how it works:

Each person has to pay premiums to the National Insurance Institute.  If you don’t pay, you get in trouble.  Why?  Because every citizen is automatically insured by the government.

While everyone is insured by the government, the government is not the one providing the actual health care.  There are four health funds: Meuchedet, Maccabi, Leumit, and Clalit.  These health funds are in direct competition for government funding.  They get paid per head.  Each has its own supplemental insurance plan that you can purchase, that is slightly different than the others’.  The basic basket, however, is identical and “free”.  “Free,” meaning, that it is paid for by your premiums that you pay to the government.

Just to be clear, a housewife (a married woman who does not work outside the home) and a child under the age of 18, do not pay premiums.  If you are a student or unemployed, you pay a minimum fee.  If you are employed, it comes out of your paycheck before you even knew it was there, with you paying part and your employer paying the other part.  What this means for us is that only Yitzchak is paying for health insurance now.  If I teach (or get another out-of-the-house job) again, they will take care of it.  If I don’t work outside the house, I don’t have to pay at all.  So, until our kids turn 18, only Yitzchak has to pay insurance.  Pretty good deal, no?

Now to the doctor visits: We are with Meuchedet.  They have a number that you can call to schedule doctor visits and other appointments.  Usually, they will have an appointment free within two weeks, unless you are insisting on going to a doctor who is booked for months on end.  It happens to be that I don’t insist on female religious doctors, so I have never had this happen to me.  Whether for Yitzchak, Shlomo, or myself, there is usually something available for the week you want.

Most medicines are 85% subsidized.  Meaning, you only pay 15% of their cost, if you have a prescription.  If you don’t have a prescription, you pay more, but it is usually not expensive.  I know that there are some medicines that are not covered.  Thank G-d, the only one I have encountered so far is birth control (and I didn’t end up filling it).  Please, G-d, I hope that no one in my family ever needs another medicine that is not subsidized – or any medicines that are, but are not benign.

Blood tests are free.  Urine tests are free.  Doctor visits are usually free, unless you are seeing a specialist, in which case you pay 21 shekels (maybe a bit more now – it goes up a bit every year).  OB/GYNS are not counted as specialists in this regard.

Ambulances and hospital visits, if they turn out to be medically necessary, are free.  If they turn out to be unnecessary (a false alarm for a birth, for example), then there is a co-pay, which may or may not be expensive.

Another bonus: You can go to any after-hours clinic that works with your health fund, and they will have your medical records at a swipe of your card.  If your card isn’t working, your identity number will.  In fact, a “temporary card” is a piece of paper, printed on the spot by one of their secretaries, that states that you ordered a card and lists your ID number.  It’s basically proof that this ID is part of their plan.  That’s all.

In short, Israel’s health care system is not perfect, but is definitely a good model for other countries to follow.

Roadblocks (Or Obama’s Israel Visit)

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This post is about Obama’s visit to Israel.  It is subdivided into several sections, each of which was a post that I wanted to write this week (but couldn’t, because my computer broke, remember?).

A. Me: “I don’t get it – why does everything have to be closed, just because Obama is in the general area?  What, do they think someone will assassinate him will happen?”

Yitzchak: “The United States has a history of its presidents being assassinated.”

Me (thinking that I’ve only heard of Kennedy being assassinated): “In the U.S., not abroad.”

Yitzchak: “Both in the U.S. itself and abroad.”

Me (not sure, but not willing to argue the point): “They do know that if someone will assassinate Obama, it’s going to be an Arab, right?  Jews may or may not like him [FTR: I think I like him], but only an Arab would assassinate him – they don’t even want him to visit them.  Though, I’m not sure why, because he’s been pretty nice to them.”

Yitzchak: “Because they want to ‘cut off the head of the snake.'”

Me: “Hm, and this would be the head of ‘the head of the snake.'”

Yitzchak: “Yeah, and it would probably do them more harm than good, but they’re too blind to see that.  They don’t think that they [Muslim fighters] can be defeated.”

B. Me: “Why under the sun did Obama decide to visit right before Pesach?  He couldn’t have come during Pesach?  It’s not like he’s totally ignorant – there are lots of religious Jews in the White House, and he knows they’re getting ready for Pesach.”

Yitzchak: “If it were Bush, he’d have the excuse of being oblivious – all of Bush’s best friends are all Arabs.  But Obama’s best friends are all Jews, so he has no excuse for closing the roads when everyone needs to be shopping for Pesach.”

C. Today the 21 isn’t running.  The 5 isn’t running.  The 6 isn’t running.  I called the bus company and they told me that all three were running, but two of them had slight route changes.  On Wednesday, the 13 and 18 had changes or weren’t running.  The light rail train should be running, but we all know that “should” and “is” are two separate concepts.

None of these bus lines are running.  There are roadblocks set up, and buses can’t get through.  Neither can private cars.  And the taxi company in our neighborhood has been forbidden to send out taxis.  Yitzchak wasted over an hour today waiting for a bus that didn’t come, and then going to another neighborhood on foot, to wait for another bus that didn’t come.  And on a Friday, that’s pretty awful.

Yitzchak thinks – and I agree with his theory – that there must be American police involved.  Israeli police would probably allow buses through by making makeshift “checkpoints”.  Meaning, the bus stops at the roadblock, an officer gets on, he removes any suspicious people, and then allows the bus to pass.  Only American police officers could be stupid enough to freeze all of the traffic in three neighborhoods surrounding the one neighborhood where Obama is.  And no offense, but 9/11 would not have happened in Israel – simply because racial profiling is allowed, and the terrorists would not have been allowed to board.  Even today, with all the precautions that America takes, I am not sure that the airport security is enough.  And no, I don’t think that X-rays are appropriate, necessary, healthy, or acceptable.  All you need is to learn how to profile correctly.

D. (Theoretical conversation:)

Yitzchak (to a police officer): “Can I ask President Obama a question?”

Officer: “Why?”

Yitzchak: “Just because I’m curious, I want to ask a quick question.”

Officer: “Okay.”

Yitzchak (to Obama): “Mr. President, can I ask you why you decided to come, of all times, the week before Pesach?”

Obama: “That’s a very good question.  I’ll have to think about it and get back to you.” (or, alternatively)  “That’s a good question.  I really don’t know.”

(Both of these answers are actually very complimentary to Obama, since most people don’t know how to admit mistakes or say that they don’t know something.)

E. We have friends who were very anti-Obama in the elections and said that Romney is pro-Israel and Obama is an anti-Semite.  They encouraged us to vote for Romney.  Our voting cards did not get here in time, but we were planning to vote for Obama, and would have if we had had the opportunity.

This morning, one of them said, “Obama sounds like a Jew the way he’s talking.  He’s really being nice.  And he obviously knows his stuff.”

From one extreme to the other, huh?

F. One thing that does bother me is that this, “was not a political visit,” yet, students from Ariel University were not invited to Obama’s speech. That in itself is a political statement.  However, I blame the U.S. Consulate for this step.  I don’t know whether Obama corrected it, or why he did or did not (because my computer broke, remember?), but either way, I am more mad at the consulate than at the president.

G. Overall, I think Obama’s visit to Israel has gone pretty well.  He wants to speak to Bennett.  He has been pretty reasonable on the peace-process front.  And Netanyahu seems to be getting along with Obama just fine.  In addition, Obama seems to have realized – the first president in a long time – that peace truly depends on whether both sides want it, and not necessarily are both sides interested right now.

I like Obama as a person.  I was not sure that I liked his policies towards Israel last time, but I knew that Romney would undoubtedly be worse.  This is also Obama’s second term, which means that he can do whatever he wants without worrying about re-election and the political consequences.  The only – and scary – question for me, during the elections, was what exactly Obama wants, and what he truly believes in.  Was he being nicer to Israel than he would like to be, to get re-elected?  Or was he being nicer to the Arabs to get re-elected?

Now I breathe a sigh of relief that I looked at the other aspects of his relationship with Israel, and trusted that it would only get better with time.  Obama seems to be the most reasonable, intelligent American president that Israel has seen in a long time.

His friends are Jews, not Arabs.  He wants his children to grow up in a safe world.  And he can do whatever he wants, because he is not running for re-election.  I hope he continues to be a true friend of Israel.

Store Renovations

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A bakery in the shuk – not the one doing the renovations.

The convenience store seven minutes’ walking distance away did renovations recently.  They did not close; they simply worked while the customers were there.  When they had to redo the floor, they did it piece by piece.  They had their blowtorches going while they worked, with sparks falling all over the area.  Granted, they did a more superficial renovation than some do.  But, they never closed their store to do it.

One of the bakeries in the shuk is doing renovations.  They have been working on these renovations little by little, but now they have to do the tough stuff.  This is not a superficial renovation.  This is a complete renovation.  They have closed the parve (non-meat, non-milk) section of their store for the past two or three weeks, and it will remain closed for another two or three weeks.  In the meantime, their dairy store, adjacent to the parve store, is still open.  It is so crowded there that if you are behind the counter, you can’t move.  To find anything, you have to dig.

To cut their losses, the bakery is renting a store that used to be a hardware store, then a variety store, and is now closed.  They are baking from there, and shipping all their goods to the shuk, right across the street.  The reason they went to all this trouble?  The owner did not want to take a loan.  And it is common knowledge in Israel that if you close for renovations, you might have to sell soon afterwards.

People patronize stores.  If the store isn’t open, they go elsewhere, and may not come back.  This bakery has several stores in the shuk, so they have less of a worry than some others.  But, they still have to keep up their sales.  After the basic renovations are finished, the store will reopen, and they will be renovating while the store is open for another six or seven months.  In the meantime, another bakery in the shuk is selling some of their wares, for a cheaper price than usual.  It seems that they have distributed their wares to several different stores in the shuk.  Don’t ask me how, or how many.  I have no idea.

There is a meat store just around the corner from this bakery, also in the shuk.  They are closed for renovations, but are renting out the space just in front of the store, which is on a slight platform, to someone selling vegetables.

This is the way business in Israel works.  Any good American would take out a loan, close the store, renovate, and reopen with a grand sale.  The Israelis don’t want to incur such losses.  And so, renovations while the store is open are nothing even to blink about.  This is Israel.

Israel, Syria, and Egypt

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from The Israel Project

Suddenly, my internet works again.  I can check my email, the news, and work, while Shlomo is sleeping.

And I realize that even though we have good news, that no one was killed in Judea and Samaria during 2012 because of terror attacks, that is very isolated good news.  The rest is worse.

I have been skimming and skipping articles on the Syrian rebellion.  I know that the IDF changed the rules of engagement, and I’m pretty sure they widened the border area to keep Israel’s north safer.  So, I felt better.  Then I read Arlene’s blog, and I remembered something that I had forgotten, or chosen to forget: The Syrian government is losing control.  They are on the brink of collapse.  They have one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the Middle East.  This stockpile, if not moved or destroyed, may well fall into Hezbollah’s hands.  And we all know what that means: Bad news for Israel.

And I read more, and remember, and realize, that things never really calmed down after Operation Pillar of Defense.  For that matter, they did not calm down, really, since Operation Cast Lead.  We are on the brink of the third intifada – not that the second one ever really ended.  That, to me, is more scary than Syria.  War with Syria is one thing.  Intifada is another.  Intifada, to me, means bus bombings and restaurant bombings.  These I cannot deal with.  Air-raid sirens and bombs falling are something else.  These I can deal with, very simply: Everything is canceled, we all stay home.  I work as usual, Yitzchak continues studying.  We go to a bomb shelter when needed, and we are safe, even if our stuff may not be.  This I can deal with.  Worrying about buses being blown up or turned over, or restaurants being blown up (not that we go to restaurants, but still), or riots in random neighborhoods – this I cannot deal with.  (Not that I don’t deal worry about it anyways . . .)  There is no warning siren, there is no safe place to run.  Yitzchak thinks that a third intifada will take the form of rockets.  I hope and pray that he is right.

And then there is Egypt, which is also undergoing a serious civil war.  Luckily, they are not as immediate a concern as Syria is.  But a concern they certainly are, and it is just a matter of time.

Maybe I should stick my head back into the sand.  It was much more peaceful there.

More good news is that Israel has had less terror attacks this past month than in the previous months.  Thank G-d.  These are miracles, true miracles.  Perhaps it is because security is tight, and we are on guard.  No matter what the reason, it is definitely a miracle, and we need to say, thank G-d.  But, we cannot rely on this miracle to continue.

And now, more than ever, I am grateful that I work from home, on the computer.  It gives me flexibility, and it allows me to not obsessively worry about Shlomo’s safety, because usually, I am with him.

May G-d protect us and keep us healthy, safe, and secure.  I will not leave my country, but sometimes I seriously contemplate it.  G-d helped us win the war in 1948, He helped us win the war in 1967, and he helped us in 1973.  War is ugly, war is cruel.  But G-d has helped us, against all odds, and I pray that He will do so again.

Taxi? Car! Bike?

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I went with Shlomo today to go pay two bills – one at the post office, and one at the bank machine.  Since I had to pick something up from Yitzchak, I chose to go the the post office near the shuk.  From there, it is about a minute’s walk to the bus stop (not the one by the shuk, the one right after).  I figured that at 10:30 in the morning, the bus would be empty enough to justify getting on a stop after the shuk, and I would still be able to get a seat.  Thank G-d, I was right.

While we were waiting for the bus, Shlomo started getting antsy (read: tired and bored).  I asked him a little while prior if he wanted to go to sleep, and he said, “Yeah?”  I gave him his doll, but he hadn’t gone to sleep yet.  So, to keep him from getting upset, I asked him where there were cars.  (Answer: Parked on the other side of the street, and driving on both sides.)  He immediately perked up and started looking at the cars.  “Car?  Car?”  And I started pointing to the cars that were parked opposite us.

In Israel the way you hail a taxi is by sticking your arm out, and pointing your finger.  That’s right – hold your arm out, over the curb, and point your index finger.  We were pointing at cars, and one of the cars, going the opposite direction, was a taxi.

“Car!” I said.  “Oops, that’s not just a car, it’s a taxi.”  At the same moment, I saw a taxi going in our direction.  I took down my finger, and shook my head (and wagged my finger from side to side), but it was too late.  He slowed and stopped, and I shook my head again, apologizing.

“What are you doing?” he asks in Hebrew.  He was kind of annoyed, and justifiably so, because he thought he had a customer, who then recanted.

“I was pointing, ‘car, car, car, car, car,'” I said.

The taxi driver grinned.  Suddenly, it was no big deal.  “Also, ‘bike, bike, bike,'” he said.  “Have a good day!”

We were standing right outside a bike shop.  Good idea, taxi driver.

“Sorry about that!” I called after him.  I don’t know if he heard me, but I’m not sure it matters.

Dates Confuse Me

calendar, april, calendar dates, aprilThe calendar type, that is.  I haven’t had a date of the other type with anyone except my husband in, oh, four years (we’ve been married almost three).

I was looking for an email last night, just as a reference point for something that I had seen (on someone else’s kid) that concerned me.  So, I looked for April 8, 2011.  I found 8/4/2011.  But I couldn’t find what I was looking for.  There was only one email from that date, and it wasn’t related.  There were other emails, dated 8/2/2011, 8/7/2011, 8/9/2011, and so on, but none was what I was looking for.

Then I understood: 8/4/2011 means August 4, 2011.  Obviously, I wasn’t finding anything!  So I started looking for 4/8/2011.  It was kind of tough, because I kept misreading the dates, but eventually, I found what I was looking for (and yes, it was as I thought it was).  Argg.

The funny thing is, this happens all the time.  Since I came to Israel, I have switched to using a 24-hour clock, and putting the day before the month.  In Hebrew, 8.4.2011 is “shmini l’rivi’i alpayim vshteim-esreh”, or, “the eighth day of the fourth month 2011”.  So when I see 8/4/2011, I don’t read, “August 4, 2011,” I read, “The eighth day of the fourth month (April), 2011.”  It makes more sense to say it this way, honestly.  Don’t we all say, “Your appointment is on the eighth of April?”  So, why not write it that way?  Apparently, because America likes to be contrary, and G-d forbid, we should use what the British (and Eurpeans in general) use.

Sigh.  Will I ever get un-mixed?  Or, alternately, is there any way for me to change the settings on my emails (and everything else) to say what I expect it to say?

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 . . .