Israeli Chutzpah and Israeli Fun  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , ,

No matter what you do in Israel or where you go, you can be sure you will not forget it any time soon. It will either leave you frustrated and annoyed, or amused, or delighted, but it will undeniably leave an impression. So here are some of my impressions from Thursday, now that I have already posted about my impressions from Shabbat. (Friday coming up later.)

Our main plans for Thursday consisted of going to Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph. So we took a taxi to the Central Station (and if I was able to use a Hebrew keyboard on this laptop, I would show off my limited Hebrew skills). As the driver began driving, we remarked to him that the taxi we had taken the other day to the same location went a different route. He replied that the other way is longer and this is more direct. So apparently we had paid the first taxi driver much more than we should have. And there we were, thinking ourselves oh-so-clever for asking to pay by "moneh" (meter). Lesson: Don't try to outsmart Israelis.

There, we got tickets to Beit Shemesh. I was delighted by all the little shops and stands around the station, and could not help exploring. I ended up buying some jewelry from a stand.

We took bus 415 to Beit Shemesh, and I saw a young girl sitting near me in an IDF uniform. I have a lot to say about IDF soldiers in general, so I am saving it for a separate post.

When we got off the bus, we were greeted by my mother's cousin. He is the oldest son of my grandfather's oldest brother, so it was cool getting together. After we spent a while at his house, he accompanied us outside, where we hailed a taxi after equipping ourselves with some more water bottles at a nearby convenience store.

Our day's adventures only started when we got into that taxi. So what we wanted to do was take a drive around Ramat Beit Shemesh just to see the place and take some videos of the neighborhood. But how do you explain that to an Israeli driver who does not seem to know much English? So I had to rely on my Hebrew in order to communicate with him. That was funny; I loved it! Ten years of education were not wasted on me. Haha.

He finally got that we wanted to just circle around Ramat Beit Shemesh -- lehistovev. My father explained in English that we want to simply take some photos and videos of it, but I think the driver took that to mean that we want to go to a photo store or something, so I told him in Hebrew that I want to take photos and video from inside the car. He got it, although he seemed amused by my phrasing. My mother told me that she wants to go along the main road, so I passed on the message to him. He laughed and said that there is no main road there.

"Bishvil kama zman atem poh?" he asked, laughing at us and at how 'foreign' we seemed. You should have seen his expression and heard the tone in which he uttered those words. But when I said that we had only been there for a few days and will be there for another couple of weeks, he commended me on my Hebrew.

So he took us through Ramat Beit Shemesh and gave us a running commentary. Who lives there, who lives in other places, where the new buildings are, where the parks are, and so on. He tried explaining where the Chareidim live, and in order to demonstrate, he made motions with his fingers as if curling his imaginary peyot. For a whole minute he was showing what Chareidim are like. It was priceless.

At one point, after saying a lot of things about the area we were passing by, he shrugged and muttered in Hebrew, "I don't know if you're even understanding what I'm saying." I assured him that I understood some of it.

So that was fun. :]

We wanted to go elsewhere after that, but he did not recognize the address, so with many apologies he dropped us off at the nearest bus stop to seek another ride. There, we asked a few different people which bus to take in order to just get to Jerusalem. It took three people to finally tell us which bus would take us where we needed to go. So we took it and had a long ride.

I was sitting next to a teenage Israeli girl wearing jeans and a wifebeater, with black sneakers covered in white skulls, and nails obviously chewed on. She had a hoop-shaped nose ring, orange-tinted sunglasses, and gelled blonde hair. And it kind of made me want to cry because life will soon be so different for this girl if she goes into the army.

The bus stopped in the middle of nowhere, instead of stopping at the Central Station as the Israelis had told us it would. So my father asked the driver how to get to the Central Station. He pointed out the way, saying that it is only two minutes away. Wonderful! So we headed that way, and after five minutes of walking without finding it, we asked someone else, who told us to go straight, then in a circle, then straight, then in a circle. Um... okay. The third or fourth person we asked told us to take a bus there, because the walk would take us forty minutes. Um... very amusing. What was the guy who said "two minutes" thinking?! That it is fun to mess around with ignorant tourists from America?

Frustrated, we took a taxi. There is something about Israeli taxi drivers that just makes you nervous, whether it is the way they drive, communicate, charge, or tell you where you are going. This one, instead of dropping us off at the main entrance to the Central Station, dropped us off somewhere at the side, and it took us a while to find where we needed to be. But once there, I had a good time. I wandered around, checking out the shops.

From there, we wanted to go to Safra Square, to the Pera e Mela restaurant. That was an adventure by itself. Once again, we asked many people for directions, without any success. Everyone said something else.

The thing about Israelis is that they won't admit that they don't know the way to some foreigner (or perhaps to any person for that matter). So many of them just confidently give you directions, which are wrong, and confuse us poor tourists. Crazy stuff.

So we resorted to the same thing as the last time we were lost -- a taxi.

After having a delightful dinner at Pera e Mela, we noticed that there was a stage set up right outside and at least a hundred people already sitting in white chairs on the lawn. And wherever there is a crowd, there is bound to be something interesting or worthwhile, so we joined it.

A few guys were making a instrumental performance (which, by the way, seemed very professional, from the way it was set up, to the way the audience was seated), and we watched it for a while until my parents decided they want to go back to Maalot Dafna already. I could have stayed there another half hour, but we left.

Here are some of the pictures I took there. It was late (past 9 PM) so it was very dark outside and I had to rely on the stage lights (and occasionally my camera's flash) for these photos, but you get the picture. :]

When we came home that night (at about 10 PM), we were greeted by a very unexpected surprise: IDF soldiers everywhere. There had not been any earlier that day or anytime the day before, so apparently they had just arrived there that day. We were not quite sure why.

I was sitting on one of the staircases near our apartment at night, writing about my day, when an orange cat walked up to me and looked me straight in the eyes. I had seen cats around our building earlier that week, but mostly on the ground level. This cat had gone up the stairs and was now staring at me. I was not sure how to react; I did not want it to think that I was the intruder. So I just sat still. She approached me and, to my great surprise, began rubbing against me. Walked circles around me, she rubbed her back, her sides, and her head against me, the end result being that my sweater and my skirt were covered in cat fur. Then she discovered my notebook and thought that its corner was a great place to rub her face. Shocked, I did not protest. When she put her paw on me to get to the notebook, I realized just how sharp her claws were. I would not want to be clawed by that cat, even unintentionally. The next thing I knew was that the cat was climbing onto my lap and settling there. Once she was comfortably settled, she began scratching at my sweater calmly, looking up at me with those huge yellow eyes. She obviously wasn't doing it maliciously, and I could not feel much through the three layers I had on (Jerusalem becomes chilly at night), but I still did not appreciate it.

Finally, my mother came outside looking for me and I requested her to bring me my camcorder so I could have some videos of this friendly neighborhood cat relaxing on my lap. It was so adorable!

It was becoming very late, but it was hard to convince the cat to find another place to rest (and I admit it -- it was hard for me to part with the cat too). Finally though, I got her to get off of me. She looked at me reproachfully, but there was nothing I could do. There was no way my parents would allow a cat into the apartment.

Here is a photo of the cat sitting right outside my apartment door, hoping for an invitation. I wish I could have given her one.

And here is another guest that came into our apartment uninvited. He was quite friendly though, and did not mind that I was trying to make his acquaintance.

Now that is called Israeli chutzpah right there. The people, the cats, the bugs -- they all have it! :]

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 8, 2009 at Saturday, August 08, 2009 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


that was my favorite restaurant when i was in israel!

August 8, 2009 at 10:00 PM

..and you say "IDF" like you're a BBC jounalist. It can be supposed that the soldiers in Israel are, in fact, our own Israeli soldiers (it's like a guy in Ohio, who sees soldiers in Ohio saying "I saw a bunch of "American" soldiers").

August 9, 2009 at 8:22 PM

Eeew, you let a stray cat rub against you? What if she had fleas?

It sounds like you're spending way too much on taxis. You always have to negotiate a flat rate with them before getting in.

I could have done without the roach picture.

August 9, 2009 at 11:15 PM

Harry-er -- It would become my favorite too if it weren't for the fact that it takes over half an hour to get there from where we are staying.

Shlomo -- ... So you have an issue with me calling them IDF soldiers? I think you might be the first.

Sophie -- What exactly would you do if a cat fixed her yellow eyes on you and went up to you and started rubbing all over you? (Here's a hint: They do not react very well to you trying to get rid of them.) This cat for some reason didn't come across to me as a 'stray'. It wasn't shy at all like stray cats usually are.

And yeah, the taxi drivers are totally taking advantage of us.

August 10, 2009 at 2:53 PM

What would I do if a cat came up to me? Maybe give it some food, but never ever touch it!
Follow this link and read about all the nasty parasites that can be contracted from stray animals.

August 11, 2009 at 1:52 AM

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