Sunday, April 19, 2009

Israeli Bus Drivers

As a tour guide, and as an Israeli who utilizes the bus system pretty regularly (we haven't owned a car since September), I quite often have the "opportunity" to interact with what we lovingly refer to here in Israel as the "nahag", or more simply, "the driver", or more specifically the (Israeli) bus driver. Taxi drivers are a category all unto themselves ("accidentally" taking the longer route to "avoid the traffic" (an impossibility) or overcharging you), but an Israeli bus driver …

I decided to write about this because of an incident which happened last week during the Pesach holiday as my 16 year old daughter Bat-sheva was making her way down south towards the Dead Sea by bus.

It seems that the bus driver had accidentally passed by one of his stops and it was only kilometers later that a passenger who needed to get off at the missed stop brought it to the driver's attention.

Now with Israeli bus drivers, as with people in general, but even more so, you never know what kind of reaction you're going to get from the driver. Listen. Bus drivers are taxed to the limit, and then some. Number one. Their passengers are Israeli. Need I say more? Number two. They are constantly being asked all kinds of questions regarding every single bus route in the country, they are busy giving change and selling tickets, they are fighting the traffic and dealing with an overcrowded bus with passengers arguing among themselves. Oh, and don't forget that all through this they are supposed to keep an eye out for suicide bombers. A dream job!

So sometimes your bus driver will simply refuse to drop you off at your designated stop, or sometimes he'll be especially kind and make a stop for you at an "unofficial" stop. You never know.

Anyway, getting back to my daughter's story. After the passenger told the driver that he had missed her stop, the driver pulled the bus over to the side of the road, got out of the bus, and for twenty minutes stood out on the highway with his finger stuck out trying to find a "hitch" for the passenger! Finally a police car stopped and they took the passenger back to their correct stop.

What a country!

A few of our major appliances are on the blink. Our freezer is out of commission and even worse (much worse) the washing machine broke down two weeks ago. The repair man has been out to visit us twice so far, but with the holidays … Anyway, with a house filled with kids and guests, you can almost imagine the "ba-la-gan" (mess) that not having the machine has created. The repair people now say Tuesday … We can only hope.

But in true Israeli hospitality, all of our neighbors have graciously opened their homes to us to use their own machines. One neighbor even insists on washing, drying, folding and delivering our laundry back to us! (Remember, we have no car.) But that's how it is where we live; neighbors knocking on your door for some milk and eggs, and you yelling out your kitchen window for some zucchini for the chicken soup.

Life on the Yishuv.
And so last week I finally had my knee arthroscopy. I was given an epidural, so I was able to watch the procedure on the computer screen as the surgeon did his work. Wow! I had the procedure done at Hadassah (Mount Scopus). The surgeon was great and I am, baruch Hashem, feeling great.

We enjoyed a wonderful Pesach, our 5th since making aliyah. (Just 7 days. Still feels weird). Again we participated in the catered communal meal on the Shabbat before Pesach. A life saver! Our married daughter Chaya with Joel spent the entire Pesach with us, as did Yaakov, Mazal and our grandson Uriel Tzion (They stayed on for a few extra days). The kids did some hikes, nearby and further away, and also found some time to go bowling. Ellie even found a few hours one day just to sit and relax in the sun. The weather has been pretty nice, except for the huge sandstorm that hit us full blast Wednesday night. Whew!!!

In another two weeks I begin a pretty full schedule of guiding. I'm pretty much booked up into July (including a 13 day Birthright trip), baruch Hashem, although I have not heard yet from the Pope and Obama who will be visiting here soon. So in the meantime I'm catching up on my writing (Isratimes), waiting for the publication of my book (September?), laying off the blackberry but spending time on Facebook with my Birthright alumni, and preparing a talk on time management for the Refuah Institute in Jerusalem.

The kids are back in school and Ellie is back to work, but before you know it will be more vacation days (Yom Ha'atzmaut, Lag Baomer), Shavuot (Ellie will be joining me in Jerusalem with a Birthright group), school graduations (Mendel into High School, Shimon into Junior High, Nechama into first grade) and birthdays! (Menucha Rachel 2, Shimon 12). Still another year until Menucha begins pre-school. Getting her to wear her eyeglasses continues to be a struggle.

We are still looking for tenants to rent out the apartment we renovated a few months ago. Hopefully soon. We got to see a lot of the family just before Pesach at a family wedding. A son of my brother Yosef got married. The kids had a ball. And it's real nice seeing all the construction going on in my neighborhood. Bunch of new homes going up. Wonderful.

And so I took this family from Chicago down to the Dead Sea before Pesach. On the way, traffic was stopped for about a half hour for a suspicious object to be removed from the road. And at Masada we got held up while we watched a daring rescue operation as a rope was lowered down from the cable car to recue a tourist who had slid down the snake path up to Masada.

Now this was stuff my tour guide course did not prepare me for.

Stay in touch. All our love.