I went back to Jerusalem for my first real visit in about thirteen years. No, I am not counting our trip last month, which was one night and one day, half of which we spent in the ER, and the other half of which we spent eating, sleeping, and being cold. I have a few observations.
First, Jerusalem is really religious. You walk around and you just feel it, in a large number of people. Haifa is not an ancient city; it’s just a place people happen to be born and live and work. It’s secular, it’s diverse, it’s modern like Tel Aviv although more conservative. But Jerusalem is ancient, and the people who choose to live there do so because it’s the holy city of the Jewish people. They’re not necessarily orthodox–in fact, Judaism in Jerusalem is more pluralistic than other cities–but by and large they are religious. I’m sure there are people who live in Jerusalem just out of chance, but I think the proportion is smaller. Just my unscientific observation.
Parallel to Emek Refaim, there is a defunct railroad track that has recently been turned into a tayelet (promenade) of sorts. Rafi loved it. We walked up and down playing train all weekend. He announced the stops that his pretend train made: “Hanita! Hagalil! Ziv! Trumpeldor!” Those are roads in our neighborhood, so they are actual bus stops that he has heard announced.
On Sunday we went to the biblical zoo. Rafi got to ride the light rail as well as the zoo train (tram), and I got to catch up with my friend David (author of the guest post recently). A very thoughtful person.
I arrived at the central bus station and found it in chaos: a suspicious object on the platform! No buses departed for about 45 minutes while the station filled with thousands of people. I should have turned right around and gone back out, but instead I waited around and in the confusion got on the wrong bus. It said “express” on it–a total lie. It’s express to the airport. After that it was very, very local. Rafi proved to me that he is for sure 100% potty trained because he held it the entire three-hour ride.
While we were waiting around at the bus station, a funny thing happened. It started when I had to take Rafi to the bathroom. Now picture the bus station. The platforms were upstairs, and so was the suspicious object. To control the crowd, both escalators were set to “down” so that no more people could go up to the platforms. No problem, the bathrooms were downstairs, so we went toward the escalator.
Rafi found a button next to the escalator. He was curious. He pushed the button.
The escalator stopped. Immediately, hundreds of people started pouring up the escalators, thinking that the buses were finally leaving.
Rafi and I fought against the tide down to the bathroom. Afterwards, we went to the top floor and looked over the balcony at the mob we had created. I felt a bit guilty, but no real harm done, only more chaos.
I overheard someone say she was sorry for the man who had left his suitcase unattended.