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Our container, loaded with everything we own, arrived in port ahead of schedule but just days before Passover when virtually all activity stops here. That gave us a fighting chance to complete the move to our new, long-term place while wrapping up our stay in our 3-week rental. (The container-ship docked in Ashdod. Our map of Ancient Israel includes an Ashdod on the coast so it was apparently a viable place over 2,000 years ago.) In order to clear customs we had to fill out pages of forms written entirely in small Hebrew characters; so small that even if we could have read it we wouldn’t have been able to read it. We got help, although we had to cab to the outskirts of Jerusalem to meet the fellow that helped us. Days later the container arrived on a flatbed and parked in the street in front of our building. A local policeman made the driver jockey the vehicle back and forth several times so that its tires were entirely behind a painted line; this in a town where cars seem to park anywhere and everywhere, including on sidewalks.
In working with the Russian speaking crew that brought the goods we learned several new hand signals, some of which seemed rude, but after a long day and lots of multilingual commotion the work got done. We ended up as tenants in a beautiful old building in Rechavia. (More on how this happened below.) Our apartment is on the second floor. (What I would call the second floor; here it is the first floor; so the proper conversion from the US to this domain is plus seven hours, minus one floor.) The building sits about 15 feet above street level and the entry sits back from the street about twenty yards. So hauling furniture from the street to the building, then up two-plus flights of stairs (on two landings with tight turns), was substantial work. Our Russian movers were rugged, high energy and strong. Very few household items were damaged in the process, Greenville to Jerusalem.
On a sad note, Marcia’s ironing board arrived in perfect working order.
Marcia did a fantastic job bullying innocent people into helping her get the place in order. It looks great. She immediately conceived and carved out a clutter-free zone in the living room, so that room was very pleasant from the first evening on. We unpacked boxes, built furniture, lifted and moved things and wrapped and hauled trash for close to a week. (We agreed to split the work. I took pictures.)
Here’s a short pictorial tour of our place. First, a shot of our balcony (flower pots to come, I’m sure)…
Just paces from our door lies some history. First is the Valley of the Cross.
“Slightly south of the city center, where the neighborhoods of Rechavia and Katamon meet, in an incongruously green and deep valley bounded by busy roads, a valley dominated by the ancient monastery nestled in its center: the Valley of the Cross.”
Sure enough. We can walk to it in two minutes (without Penn_E). There are bike trails and walking paths there crisscrossing an expansive green area that leads to and continues in Sacher Park…
“The first thing one notices when presented with the expanse of west Jerusalem’s [Sacher Park] is a simple plant common in much of the world but rare in the big cities and towns of Israel: grass.”
Penn_E walks here (below) every day. If she happens to see a much smaller dog she strains at her leash for a shot at a confrontation. I won’t mention what she does when she sees a big dog.
Next is a shot of the Monastery of the Cross, part of which was built in the 4th century. A plaque credits Emperor Constantine’s mother with building the initial structure but our guess is that she subbed it out. It’s clear that the building is very old–Marcia would have to duck her head to enter through one of the doorways leading inside.
Next is The Knesset. I took the shot below standing about 20 yards past from where I stood to shoot the monastery. In the same complex are several other government buildings including the Ministry of the Interior. (We have a story for another day concerning the two things we accomplished at a Ministry branch office in a 2-hour visit: 1) getting our national IDs. 2) getting scolded.)
Our landlord’s name is Miriam. She is wonderful. She speaks very good English. Our apartment was never really “on the market” and we were very lucky, very blessed, to get it. Rechavia is in demand and we understand that the price we got is exceptional. The former tenant, not the landlord, placed an add in a Hebrew equivalent to Craig’s List saying it would soon become available. The same day the listing appeared several parties responded, including us through our real estate agent. We interviewed for the place competitively; it turns out that Miriam doesn’t rent to just anybody. Marcia’s agreeing to work in her garden (and my being relatively quiet) may have turned the trick. Below are two shots of Miriam’s gardening handiwork.
Below is a bonus shot showing a good portion of The Valley of the Cross. (Note the top of the monastery in the lower right corner.)
So, finally we are moved in and have a neighborhood. Miriam, our new neighbors, people we’ve met–waiters, waitresses (we ate out a lot at first), cab drivers and cashiers have all seemed genuinely pleased and surprised to learn that we’ve made Aliyah; big smiles, “Welcome to Israel.” A few days ago, on the street in front of the apartment, I bumped into on a young man who lives in our building. Squinting at first, he asked in Hebrew; “Are you my new neighbor?”
Then, in deference to the blank look on my face, he asked again in English.
“Yes,” I answered, showing off my language skills.Then I hit him with a well-rehearsed phrase, in Hebrew, “I do not speak Hebrew, now.” (“Now” being an indicator of my confidence that I will improve, someday.)
He smiled and said, “You will learn.” He walked past me and without looking back raised a finger and added quite loudly, “We will help you!”
We believe he will.
A moving video: