I am lucky enough to have visited Israel enough times that I am able, in good fun, to tell you about the things that irk me when I’m there. Call them cultural differences, or you can say I am getting old and cranky, but polite, sedate, safety and health conscious Canada it is not.
The beautiful boulevards of Tel Aviv are filled with cars. But does that mean cyclists have to use the sidewalks? Walking on the sidewalk, you take your life in your hands as the bikes whiz in and out. Their drivers ring their bells sometimes angrily from behind. It startles you and you have to wonder if they think they have the right of way.
I promise I am not exaggerating, but many of these are motorized bikes, which are heavier and go faster. I can’t imagine what would happen if you got hit by one.
Most of the cyclists riding on the sidewalk don’t wear helmets but, then again, they are not the ones who need them most. It’s the pedestrians who do.
On a beautiful night with a warm breeze after an unusually hot March day in Kfar Saba, we went to a restaurant in the market for supper. We opted to sit on the terrace. Before the food arrived, my nostrils filled with that ugly smell I hadn’t encountered in a long time. At the next table there were six people, three of them smoking. I insisted we go inside.
I was told it was a great achievement in Israel to get smokers out of the restaurants, so big an achievement, that restricting smoking to terraces was actually considered a victory – to which I say, some victory.
One day I was on a city bus in Jerusalem with my daughter, my grandson and a stroller. I was holding on to the stroller as the bus took off, and I mean took off. Talk about drivers with lead feet. As we turned a corner, I lost control of the stroller as it careened away from me. Thank goodness the baby was in the arms of his mother at that moment.
It has been a long time since bus drivers here in Ottawa gave change, but they do in Israel. The scary thing is that they do it as they drive, driving too fast for my liking. I must say, no one other than me seemed concerned, so maybe Israelis are just used to it, or maybe they are all in a hurry.
Speaking of buses, there is the steady stream of buses that go to cities and towns across Israel. They, too, go fast, but I want to mention something that happens when they’re actually stopped. There is often just no orderly, polite way to get on these buses as people storm the doors when they open. The prize is a seat on the bus, not standing room, or a seat on the next one.
The beautiful light rail train in Jerusalem is a jewel. But, like the buses, something seems to happen when the doors open. People in Jerusalem can’t seem to understand that exiting passengers are supposed to leave the train before the new passengers get on.
And then there are the lineups in grocery stores. One day only one cashier station was open, and I had to wait in an annoyingly slow line. Finally, employees noticed how long the line was and opened a second cashier station just when I was the next in line. Suddenly three people charged from behind and I stuck my arms out to stop them. Yes, I got physical and, yes, I beat them to the checkout counter.
I was with my daughter and baby grandson Shalev when she had to change the address on her identification card. We went to the government office, which, by the way, is not open to the public every work day and, lo and behold, there was a lineup just to get a number before getting in a long line. I could only think of how Service Canada and Service Ontario are first rate in comparison.
But all those things matter not in the grand scheme of things. I will be back to Israel in six months. I would go tomorrow, if I could.