Aug 2011

It’s not often I get a chance to attend talks by authors, so I was happy to be able to go to one yesterday evening. I heard readings by Evan Fallenberg (from his new book, When We Danced on Water) and Abby Frucht (who is in Israel to teach creative writing), followed by a discussion on writing. A very pleasant evening.

And it was made more pleasant by the journey there and back. Despite my previous experience, I decided to brave the light railway again. What a difference! I left the house at 6:00 and arrived in the centre of town at 6:30. I couldn’t have done that by bus. I got a seat both ways and we didn’t stop for long at stations.

Now all I need is a sticker:

Four of us walked the whole length of Jaffa Road, from the bus station to Jaffa Gate. On the way, we were overtaken about every two minutes by a light railway train. Jerusalem has finally reached the twenty-first century. Well, not quite. Because it was the same train that kept passing us. I need to go back in time to explain.

As it was my birthday, I got to choose. I wanted to see the Mamilla shopping centre, which has been open for a few years but which I only saw once and not in the evening. So I chose a restaurant in the area that was recommended. We could have gone by car, but I decided it was time to try out the light railway. We’ve been suffering the building of this single railway line for eight years. The opening has been postponed four times. Last week, it started operation and for the first few weeks it’s free!

I wonder whether the powers that be will decide they made a mistake, opening it up as free transport during the summer holidays. We got on at the first station. When the train arrived, the seats were all taken in a second and we had to stand. As the train filled up, people jostled us – not just at stations but during the ride. The large number of prams and children didn’t help.

Jerusalemites aren’t used to trains. They’re used to buses, on which there is one door to enter and another to leave. When the train stops, no one thinks to tell them to let people off first. They push their way on, and then those getting off have to push, too. There are problems with doors. People stand in the way of the doors so that they don’t close. Over the loudspeaker, they say, “Boy in the green shirt, keep away from the emergency button. What you’re doing is dangerous.” That’s why the train stopped for about five minutes at each station.

When we reached the bus station, we’d had enough. We got out and walked, arriving at exactly the same time as the train.

The shopping centre was quite full. We found the restaurant and waited less than five minutes for a table. We sat outside, which might have been a mistake because it was rather noisy. The food was excellent. I had mushroom quiche with salad, followed by a rather large but tasty apple pie.

Walking back to the train stop, I took a photo of a sign that has been there for many years. What do you think it means? (Answer at the end of this post.)

While in a snapping mood, and because we had to wait nearly an hour for our train, I photographed one going the other way:

The return journey was also slow, noisy and uncomfortable. Hopefully, the teething problems will be sorted out and we really will have a convenient transport system in Jerusalem. We haven’t got there yet.

The sign? “REHOV PRATI” is a transliteration of the Hebrew. It means “private road,” but of course you knew that, didn’t you?

Of my online friends, there are a few who have birthdays in August. Growing up, I was, most of the time, the only one in my class whose birthday fell in August.

I was never sure whether I liked being born in August. I was pleased that I could celebrate in the summer, and that I didn’t have to attend school on that special day. But it also meant that my birthday wasn’t celebrated at school and I hardly ever had a party because other children were on holiday and, usually, so were we.

I once had a birthday party at a summer school. Children came and enjoyed the cake, but they soon ran off to watch the afternoon film when I wanted them to stay and play games.

Being born at the end of August meant that I was always the youngest in my class. I know that fact wouldn’t necessarily affect anyone adversely, but in my case being young and immature didn’t help my status in class society.

Now, I’m too old and not old enough to have a fuss made of my birthday, but I thought I’d tell you anyway.

I have a feeling not many people know about our local library. It takes up a large room in the community centre and is not well-advertised. I discovered it via an article in a local newspaper.

Yesterday, the temperature a little too high for comfort but bearable,  I followed my usual path to it, along a little road, across a main road, along a footpath, and past the Monster. Inside the building, I continued round two corners to the stairs, which I climbed to reach the quiet place. It’s hard to get away from noise in this country. This is one place where you can – on Tuesday mornings, anyway.

The library is small but well-stocked. There is even an English section and I always find something in it to interest me.

This time, I chose Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from my Father. My choice has nothing to do with my political views. I chose the book because I wanted to know where he came from, to read about the issues he encountered and to read something “Thoughtful, moving and brilliantly written” (The Times). I haven’t been disappointed with it yet.

The library is free. You leave a hundred-shekel cheque with them for each book you want to take out in one go. I decided one at a time is enough. Going to the library gives me an excuse for a walk, and I do read many other books.

On the way back, I stopped in a small park to read the preface – not the park with the Monster, where children on holiday were scrambling all over it and running around, but a quieter one off the path.

Walking along the road, I remembered I needed to look around more in order to have something to write on the blog, so I stopped where there is a lovely view of the Jerusalem Forest. The other day, I saw an amazing sunset from this place. Sunsets are fast here, and in a minute or two, the deep red ball disappeared behind the horizon. Turning back, I noticed the wall of a block of flats decorated with different-coloured flowers. I’ve walked past this place so many times, looking without seeing.

Flowers decorate block of flats (the real thing looks much better)

Right, let’s try this. There’s nothing more everyday than buying food, so I’m going to guide you through an Israeli supermarket. Obviously they’re not all the same and I haven’t been to all of them, so this is mostly about the one I usually go to. It’s medium-sized. I go there because it’s fairly cheap, convenient and only ten minutes’ drive from my house. There’s a supermarket just down the road, but it’s smaller and annoying. The most annoying thing about it is the loud advertisements over the loudspeaker for certain products at “x shekels, ninety-nine.” They make it hard to concentrate on deciding what I want to buy.

So you drive your car into the underground carpark, stopping to take a ticket, an action that opens the barrier. The guard will probably just watch while you do this, although presumably he checks inside some of the cars. Park the car, remembering to take the ticket with you. If there are trolleys down there, you can take one. (I hope you remembered to have a five-shekel coin ready for the purpose.) Otherwise, after going up in the lift, you have to exit the supermarket to take a trolley.

You don’t have a car? No problem. They do deliveries.

If you brought bottles back, put them in the trolley provided and tell the head cashier. They might give you cash; usually they’ll tell you to mention them at checkout.

Right, fill up the trolley. Fruit, vegetables and the rest, it’s all there – mostly. Sometimes the specific things the children ask for are missing. Too bad. There’s a counter for cheeses and salads, another for meat and another for borekas and other baked/fried goods. Hopefully, you won’t have to wait too long at each one.

Now the fun starts. There might be only two people in front of you in the queue, but each one takes an age. When it’s your turn, you’ll know why. Just hope no one pushes in front of you saying, “I’ve only got two things and the queue for the quick checkout is very long,” because that’s the one who will take the longest when it comes to paying.

Finally it’s your turn. You’re beginning to worry because if it goes over two hours, you’ll have to pay extra for parking.

The woman asks you if you have a club card. Usually, she does it in a Russian accent, so that moadon comes out as moadworn. If you’re unlucky, while she puts your card through the machine, she says, “Why don’t you have our credit card? You could save money. It’s worth it.” My answer to that has become, “My husband decided against it.” She continues to talk about the wonder card (because she gets commission on sales), but soon realises that I’m not going to give in against my husband’s wishes.

It takes you longer to put the food in bags than it takes her to check them through, so she has plenty of time to gossip with her neighbouring workers, read your newspaper, talk on the phone, etc. Sometimes, she talks to you. One of them, I discovered, used to be a piano teacher in Russia. Now she has to do this boring job. Sometimes, there are problems. An item is missing the price code, so the customer has to run round the shop looking for another, while those waiting behind get impatient. A cheque needs to be checked. When you tell her about your bottles, she has to get permission before taking the money off your bill.

She might ask you if you want any of the items on discount and if you want to donate money to the current charity. You pay with your credit card and then sign. Those machines on which you enter your PIN haven’t arrived here yet.

That’s about it. Don’t forget to have your parking ticket validated on the way out. If you hurry loading the car, you won’t have to pay for parking. B’tayavon (bon appetite)!

Catdownunder has made a suggestion for this blog. She wrote, “Lots of us would just like to know about everyday life in Israel instead of all the usual news stories. Is it really so very different from life Downunder. I wonder about that.”

My question is: is she right? Do you want to know?

I’ve always found it difficult to make friends – not because I don’t want them, although it probably seems that way. I tend not to contact potential friends because I’m sure those people don’t need or want me.

Online friends are easier to make, although the same doubts can appear here, too. When online friends become offline friends too, that’s wonderful. Such friends have the advantage of being able to see inside my head, as it were. Gill is one of those, and I’ll always be thankful that I rediscovered her online.

So I was delighted when I received the Liebster Award from Rosalind Adam.

Everyone says Liebster means “friend” in German, but I studied German and remember that friend is Freund. Liebster has to be connected to love. When I looked it up, I found: sweetheart, beloved person, darling. I’m not sure that’s exactly what’s meant here, so I’m taking it to mean a special friend.

The rules for this award vary from blog to blog. I chose these:

The Liebster Award is meant to connect us even more and spotlight new bloggers who have less than 200 followers – but hopefully not for long. The rules are:

1.Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2.Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3.Post the award on your blog.
4.Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the Internet – other writers.
5.And best of all – have fun and spread the karma!

Actually the 200-followers thing only makes sense for blogs that display the followers and aren’t on WordPress so my list is only a guess:

Do visit them all. And many thanks to all  my friends. I love you all.


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