When was the last time you were accosted by four teenage boys brandishing…Rubik’s Cubes?
My wife, Marcia, and I are now traveling in the US. When people here learn that we live in Israel they often ask how we manage to cope with “all the violence and unrest.” They seem surprised, if not stunned (or skeptical), when we answer that our neighborhood in Jerusalem is a safe and enjoyable place. Remember the following scene from the 1990 comedy, The Freshman…?
Matthew Broderick’s Rodolfo Lasparri’s take on Palermo, an informed judgment on Israel would surely benefit from a visit. Though the country has its share of problems it’s not the place one would imagine from having watched only network news. Following are five vignettes from personal experience that might help refine one’s impression of the Middle East’s only democracy.
1. Rowdy teens brandishing … puzzles
Bus line 13 in Jerusalem runs from the city’s industrial district in the south through the city center. One evening while Marcia and I were taking the 13 north, four orthodox teens boarded, flopped into facing seats across the aisle from us and began to challenge one another by scrambling, then solving a Rubik’s cube. Though each solution time was well short of the world record (see video below) each teen managed to solve the puzzle several times in the less than fifteen minutes it took to complete our bus ride. Kids, these days.
2. Video surveillance used to return money to a customer
An owner of the produce stand in Jerusalem where Marcia and I regularly shop approached me one morning and asked whether I had been shopping in his store three days earlier. Yes, I had. The owner then stepped to the register, pulled out a 50 shekel note (about twelve dollars) and handed it to me, explaining that he had spotted it falling out of my wallet on the store’s video surveillance camera. He had been on the lookout for me ever since.
3. And your dentist lectures, where?
When looking for a dentist in Jerusalem, Marcia and I were skeptical when we read our local dentist’s resume. A quick Google search, however, confirmed it. Our dentist lectures at Harvard, on dentistry, for one month each year. While in Jerusalem, she sees patients up to and often beyond 6:00 PM, daily. Say, aah…
4. The M-16 assault-chaperon
With few exceptions, all Israeli’s serve in the military, entering service at age 18, and they are required to spend much of their time while not on duty carrying a weapon. With even fewer exceptions, all Israeli youngsters engage in social pursuits. The dual constraints create a bit of interesting imagery.
5. Honk, if you love Israel
I am sorry to say I was not carrying a camera when, one morning in Talpiot, I saw and heard an Israeli man blow his horn in traffic. While nothing is more common than car-horn-honking in Jerusalem (It’s a more popular pastime than watching soccer or eating dessert.), this particular honking event was spectacular. The perpetrator, a heavy-set man wearing a kippah and sporting a long, gray curled beard, while stuck in traffic while driving a golf cart on a heavily traveled road, stood in his cart and, having produced a shofar easily five feet long, raised it and blew it as though he were assaulting Jericho.
Traffic began to move again, at once.
The above is a minuscule sampling. The truth about Israel is easy to discover if one will only look.
Juttah, the former wild dog of Jerusalem, befriended by Marcia and Miriam this past winter, is now living happily in the north in a permanent home with a family. We hope and pray that she will live a long and happy life.
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