Follow by Email

Saturday, October 8, 2011

First Impressions

From the airport to Jerusalem:

My first impression of Israel, just as I am about to step off the ramp into the airport, is a lovely mural painted on to the wall into the building, of various sites of the country. In the middle of it, jutting out three dimensionally from some scenic vision, is a fire alarm box. It seems slightly ironic. Am I the only one who has noticed? I want to take a picture, but not sure of the protocols of security, and with various uniformed folks around, I choose not to. When does one officially enter a country, anyway? I haven’t yet set foot into the terminal. Am I in Israel, or still in limbo?

I take the Nesher bus into Jerusalem. This is a group taxi, a ten passenger van, that stops at each individual’s destination. At 58 shekels, about 15 dollars, seems like a good deal. It’s about an hourlong trip.

The driver lets off the first several passengers. When we are down to myself and two others, he tells us he won’t be able to make it further into the city, it’s too crowded because of the impending holiday. So he flags down cabs, tells me the private taxi will take me the rest of the way, for 30 shekels, “ a good price.” The taxi takes me the rest of the way, about 4 or 5 blocks, which I could have walked. There is not much traffic.

Impressions along the way: I alternately observe the views through the windows, and my fellow passengers. There are several orthodox looking bearded men, and an equally orthodox looking young couple with a toddler. A couple of foreign tourists. The young woman next to me is wearing a sleeveless black dress and has purple fingernails. I can’t peg her, or the language she’s speaking, until she says “da” a few times into her phone. I decide she must be Russian, I know there’s a large Jewish Russian emigrant population here. Another young woman boards just before we depart, asks the person behind me if he needs to sit next to the window, or if he’d mind switching with her. I assume she must get carsick. But, she explains that she can’t sit between two men. One of the Orthodox men gets up and switches with her, grudgingly, it seems to me. But that doesn’t make sense. And wouldn’t he automatically do that?

The young Orthodox couple with the kid, it turns out, is from Brooklyn. I find that out when the man chuckles and points out the Payless shoe store in a mall we pass. I had noticed it as well, and tell him so. They are clearly American, from their accents. I ask from where, they say Brooklyn, which I’d guessed (large Orthodox Jewish community) and I tell them I’m from the Bronx. Funny, the things that make for a bond, amidst all the differences. They are visiting a sister and a brother who have emigrated here.

Along the road there are intermittent communities, apartment complexes, and I wonder if they are settlements. Much looks very modern, but there are also stone terraced hillsides and men with donkeys and some poor looking communities. Some areas are surrounded by large barbed wire fences. Who is keeping out who, I wonder.

We pass a man with black top hat, pais (long side curls) and earbuds.

I catch glimpses of signs and monuments as we whiz by, ‘Sanhedrin tombs,” and at one point, a plane wing at the side of the highway. I can’t read the sign, assume it’s a fallen plane from some conflict. The 67 war?

I arrive at the Abraham hostel, tired but wired, sign in and get the key to my 5 person dorm room. It’s a good thing GoEco had switched the orientation from today until Saturday. I had been scheduled to arrive in Israel at 1pm, it was after 3, and near 5pm when I arrive. It is supposedly now scheduled for Saturday, which is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. That surprised me, and the hostel desk person too. So we shall see. I am not sure what the orientation involves, certainly don’t mind doing it, but don’t think it should be a problem if it doesn’t work out, either.

No comments: