Friday, August 30, 2013

How to Explore in an Arab neighborhood

Today I had no reason to stay home--- no shipment delivery, no electricians nor handyman to wait for to fix something, no landlord to talk to about issues with the apartment, nothing! So I decided before our shipment arrives and I'm tied to the house unpacking boxes, I would go exploring.  And why not explore in one of the Arab neighborhoods, such as Beit Safafa.

So, with my 6 necessary items (wallet, phone, keys, sunglasses, water bottle, and map) I head off in the direction of Beit Safafa. It takes about 45 min to walk there and along the way I discover several playgrounds, a bike path, and the tennis center.  I keep walking and finally I am in Beit Safafa! Yay! So where should I go? Where can I go and practice my Arabic?  Where to Arab women hang out?  Ahhhh....the hair salon/beauty parlor!!! Yes! That's the place I want to be.

So I keep walking and I find 2 older ladies waiting for the bus. I approach them and we start chatting in Arabic. Of course, they want to know where I'm from, why do I speak Arabic like this, etc, etc. (By the way, they are waiting for the bus to go to the Old City to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque.) After the adequate amount of pleasantries, I ask them where I can find a ladies hair salon. These 2 ladies decide I need to go to Aida's Hair Salon at the top of the hill in Beit Safafa. Could I walk to it? Yes, they say, but don't. Just about this time, Um Munir stops a car that is driving by us. She tells the lady driver that I need to go to Aida's so could she please drive me up the hill. And the next thing I know, I'm sitting in the backseat of a total stranger's car being driven up the hill to Aida's Hair Salon. The driver and I start chatting in Arabic---  how to do you know Um Munir, where are you from etc, etc. And then she switches to English and says, "Maybe you know my father. He has written a well-known Arabic-English dictionary. His name is Omar Othman."  Wow....just the week before while dining with some friends, we were discussing a particular word in Arabic and we grabbed Omar Othman's Arabic-English Dictionary to look it up. And now here I was riding in the car with his daughter!??!! What a crazy small world!   Oh and look--- we've arrived at Aida's. Ok, yalla bye, thank you for the ride!

And that is how you go exploring in an Arab neighborhood.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Living without watching the news

    For the most part, in the past 2 months I have not watched the news.  (Ok, there were the few days we stayed at a hotel in Washington DC and yes, I watched the news on TV.)  That doesn't mean I don't know what is going on in the world-- each day I look at the headlines on Google News. Let me just say there is a HUGE difference between watching the news and reading the news.

    Yesterday I perused Google News more than usual because it seemed things were heating up.  Then I received a facebook message from a dear friend saying that she was going to be saying extra prayers for me and my family to stay safe. This led me to look out my my floor-to-ceiling windows to see how the "news" was affecting life in West Jerusalem.   I saw a mother pushing a stroller alongside a little kid riding his plastic Hot Wheels trike. There was another lady in work-out clothes (a modest long sleeved, long pants track suit) walking for exercise in the park. Another person was walking his dog.  I saw a guy on his balcony relaxing. Buses were going up and down the street. People were walking on the sidewalk carrying a briefcase or bag.  In other words, it all looked totally normal and like any other day in West Jerusalem.

So as you watch the news and their reporters, remember that they are interested in ratings.  They are going to say things that make you think the worst.  Then counter that with the view out of my living room window.  Life is going on as normal.  Not to say that  bad things can't happen, but it appears to me that the people in this country are prepared. Queen Elizabeth's advice seems to be the norm here: Keep calm and carry on.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Short Quiz

We, the Rubesh Family, have moved to West Jerusalem.  Here is a short quiz to gauge your knowledge of life in a Jewish-observing neighborhood. Decide if each statement is true or false. (Easy-- 50-50 chance of getting each one correct!!)

#1- Many of the women in our neighborhood wear a head covering.    true or false ?

#2- Many of the women in our neighborhood wear long skirts and long-sleeved shirts.  true or false ?

#3- Many of the boys in our neighborhood have short hair with 2 long-ish curls on either side of their head (just above the ears).  true or false ?

#4- During the Sabbath, the following items are off-limits:  cell phones, dishwashers, and Wii /Play Station.   true or false ?

#5-  In our neighborhood, it is common for marriages to be arranged by a matchmaker.  true or false ?

And the correct answers are..... true-- all of them.

Our neighborhood has nice big sidewalks, plenty of playgrounds,  manicured  flower beds and cross walks. (Don't laugh at my list....all of those things were absent in Costa Rica!!!) Satellite dishes can be found on all of the roofs. In the evening after the heat of the day has dissipated, children come out on bikes, scooters, and skateboards to enjoy the evening. And so here lives the modern with the ancient....modern conveniences coupled with the ancient laws from the Torah.

This is living in West Jerusalem.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Shwarma with a view: lunch on the rooftops above the Christian Quarter.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

One of our elevators is not like the other

If you happen to live on the 11th floor of an apartment building, Shabbat (Sabbath) can pose an interesting problem.  For many observant Jews, operating an electrical device between sundown on Friday and sundown on Saturday would be a violation of one of the 39 categories of prohibited activity on Shabbat.  It's kind of hard to operate most elevators without pushing a button, and the 11th floor is a rather long way up!  

Fortunately, our building's second elevator is a product of the Israeli Knesset's Shabbat Elevator Law, requiring all buildings with more than one elevator to install a Shabbat Module in one of the elevators.

Being new to Shabbat, my three assistants and I decided to take a ride today to see exactly how our "special elevator" worked.  First step?  You stand outside the elevator and wait.  And wait.  Eventually, (in our building at least) if you're on an odd numbered floor, the elevator arrives and opens up, awaiting passengers.  

We walked on board on at 11, and waited through the warning "beep" for the elevator to get on it's way.  No need to push a button, because no matter where you want to go, the elevator has a plan, and we were just along for the ride.

Apparently ours is a special "odd floor" elevator.  After leaving the 11th, we stopped on the 9th, 7th, 5th, 3rd and 1st before arriving at the ground floor, four and a half minutes after starting our journey.

After taking a tour through the bottom four floors of our parking garage, we stopped again on the ground floor before the elevator took us home directly to the 11th.  We hopped off and the elevator continued on its merry way.  Very impressive.

At sundown, our special elevator reverted back to being just another "boring old elevator".  And it will stay ordinary.  Until next week, when it becomes special once again!