Wednesday, November 02, 2011

like having teeth pulled

In the past few months, I've noticed stalls set up seemingly randomly around Jerusalem signing people up for the Rav-Kav. I've always been in a rush when passing them by and so happily passed them by. As an irregular bus rider (my usual commute is by bike), I haven't noticed any major advertising campaign regarding why I should take any notice - my cartisia (paper ticket allowing for 10 bus journeys) serves me just fine thank you very much.

On November 1st however, Jerusalem stopped using cartisiot and Choshi Chodshi (monthly passes allowing unlimited travel for a set fee) and suddenly I was forced out of my stupor - along with many thousands of other Jerusalemites.

Other than cash the Rav Kav is now the only way to travel on Jerusalem buses and of course - our wonderful new light rail (which I used for the first time the other day). Paying cash means a more expensive ticket so I figured I'd have to go along and get the new device - the omens appeared good yesterday however as I read that demand from latecomers was causing tremendous crowds and therefore they were opening new stations to distribute them including one near my office. My initial reconnaissance however showed that the new stations were pretty crowded too.

This morning therefore, having checked the opening time (9:00) and what to bring (ID card or drivers license + form printed off from the website), saw me arriving at the correct spot on Ben Yehuda with a couple of minutes to spare before opening to find - nothing - no sign, no booth, nada - should I have expected anything other than a delay in anything connected to the light rail?

At 9:10 a team started dragging out the equipment, setting up a shelter, stands etc. By this time an initial crowd had gathered and began to engage in the Israeli tradition of asking "who's last? okay I'm after you" - complicated by the fact that there were two stands from two directions it became clear that the potential for nastiness was pretty high. "Do you guys have numbers?" I asked a staff member hopefully and got "choched" in reply.

By 9:23 they were able to announce that they'd be ready to begin work in 20 minutes once they had the computers set up - at which point I abandoned the enterprise, returned to my office and shot off notes of complaint to Egged and City Pass.

I decided to bite the bullet and returned later in the day. I found a line of about 35 people including Olim from France, Young Judea kids from the US and veteran Israelis. Moving forward at a snail's pace, it became clear that the staff members were not of the highest calibre nor work ethic. Despite the nature of the Jerusalem public neither spoke English or French (and were barely intelligible in Hebrew other than one consistently informing the crowd that the other was "meshuga". Tempers frayed as they ran out of forms at 2:30 (they were supposed to be there until 5:00) and they started to tell anyone that they could go to Kanyon Malcha or the Central Bus Station.

As I got to the front of my line one employee got up and, knuckles dragging, headed off for a smoke - fortunately his colleague had the good sense to relate to the two lines as one and finally, after an hour and a half waiting, I departed with my new card - lousy photo and all.

Having grown up in the UK, I'm no stranger to inefficient systems of public transportation and waiting patiently on line is second nature to me. The beginning of the light rail project has faded from my memory - it's certainly at least 6 years ago but I'm thinking more like 8 or 9 years of terror for Jerusalem commuters and small business owners? Given that lead time, you'd be foregiven for thinking that someone might have come up with a more efficient way of making sure that commuters were aware of the upcoming change - but given the way in which the project has unfolded maybe I'm stupid to expect anything different?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rainy Shabbat

Part of the pleasure of being home is that my baby bro can come for Shabbat with his family. We were joined Friday night by my old friend the Gooner and one of my soldier boys; Shabbat lunch by a young family and some sem girls.

Both meals were wonderful with lots of good company and food. Particularly special was the heavy rain fall over Jerusalem immediately prior to Shabbat which is so badly needed and the Sedra (Torah Reading) being one of the most Aliyah centred of all which I always enjoy.

We even had the pleasure of trying out a new (for us) minyan this morning, just down the road which, whilst lacking something in comparison to our usual haunt, is certainly a lot more convenient.

Shavua Tov,


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

(Mainly) so far so good

A long overdue post. It's 5:50 am and the sun is rising over Yerushalayim; I've been up for a while - I'm wired.

Home now for 2 weeks and couldn't be happier. After an amazing flight and arrival ceremony we spent our first ten days with my parents' in law who have been amazing. Free babysitting allowed us to get on and do stuff - really and truly, I take my hat off to all the Olim who manage somehow without a mother-in-law.

The apartment is great - big with lots of storage, outdoor space and spare rooms for guests. All our stuff made it across from the old apartment without incident; most of our stuff has made it's way from storage in the attic at my in-laws safely (1 wine glass and 1 tea cup broken in transit). The shipment from the US arrives in a few hours so we'll have plates to eat off and the monkey will have a proper bed at last.

We have a car - nothing fancy - a 2007 Hyundai Elantra. Boring but with a decent sized boot and enough leg room for all.

I finally treated myself to a new grill and cooked dinner last night - our oven may be redundant!

The monkey had his first day at Gan yesterday and came through with flying colours. Today I'm taking him along, will spend the first 1 1/2 hours with him and then leave him with that Gananot and other kids. Mrs G says that a pretty girl kept hitting him yesterday which means she's interested......

Back to my Monday night football game after 3 years of absence. Despite signs of rust I scored a couple and was better than I thought I'd be - could I be the midfielder that Rafa needs to replace Alonso?

The only blots on the landscape have been a series of visits to various Doctors over the last 2 days; Monday night Mrs G. took off her fingernail and a slice of finger when opening the blinds; we spent 4 hours in Terem and Miyun and she's wandering around with a bandage and instructions not to do any washing up; yesterday the monkey managed to dislocate his elbow but is now back to his normal boisterous self. Visits to Terem (10 minute walk), ER, hand specialist, Pediatrician (literally downstairs from our flat) and Orthopedic specialist (10 minute walk) - where necessary appointments were made no more than an hour later and with a total cost (including prescriptions) of no more than NIS 150 and a tremendous level of care. I love socialised medicine.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Packing up

With less than a month to go before we get home, we've been having a busy couple of weeks. We sold our old apartment which was way to small and would have been hazardous for the Monkey due to it being on multiple levels. We've also rented an apartment close by - significantly bigger with lots of space for guests and big balconies to make up for the loss of the garden. We've signed up the Monkey to start at a Gan on September 1st.

With so much good stuff going on, I was really worried about today - the shippers coming in to pack up all of our stuff which has potential to be a stressful activity. Last night found Mrs G and I frantically getting things in order so that things would go smoothly and we were just finishing off the final details this morning when the shippers showed up - bang on time.

After showing them what needed to be packed up they set to work and in double quick time the apartment was filled with large boxes as our stuff began to be packed away. We hit a slight glitch when the freight elevator was not available for use at the agreed upon time but shortly afterwards the guys were schlepping stuff down to the truck and departing for the port with generous tips for their hard work.

The shipment should arrive shortly after we do - hopefully all in one piece. If the remainder of our move is anywhere near as smooth I'll be a seriously happy camper.

Counting down the days - 26 more to go!

Shabbat shalom

Friday, July 10, 2009

sending off

I spent 3 days in the Big Apple this week, giving our office there a bit of assistance in this, the busiest times of the year.

One of my conditions for coming to the big city was that I'd be able to go to JFK on Monday morning to see off the first NBN Charter flight of the summer which carried 21 of "my" Olim. It's one of my regrets that I haven't been able to do this more often during the course of my Shlichut (this was only the second time I've managed it out of 13 charter flights whilst I've been here) so I wasn't going to pass up on an opportunity.

I arrived at the airport with 3 of my colleagues and after saying hi to my friends on the NBN staff I went to find my people; a young girl just out of High School who's father I know from the football field who'll be going to the IDF, an incredible family who I've had lots of contact with over the years I've been here, young people from Philly, Richmond, Rockville and Atlanta and a great guy from SC. I missed 3 of my other people - young Olim, going to the army and also missed much of the goodbye ceremony when I realised that a family of 6 was nowhere to be seen.

Eventually I tracked the mother and kids down and it was obvious why they weren't at the ceremony; rental car being returned, unloading one car and another car with luggage somewhere at JFK (but not where it should have been). I take the view that different people need different things from their Shaliach. I did what was needed at that time - schlepped suitcases and drafted in others to help (a family of 6 takes a lot of bags!) and wrote out a dozen luggage labels to make sure that everything got there safely. I saw pictures of the family at Ben Gurion the next day so everything must have worked out (although I don't know about their bags).

All in all it was a tremendous experience to see my Olim off. The next time I do it, I'll be with Mrs G and the monkey and we'll be getting on the plane with the Olim on our way home - something which I've been dreaming of doing for a while (more in another post).