Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Final day in Jerusalem

Israel Time means something specific over here. I told Aviyam we wanted to meet him and Ifat at 9 am at our hotel, to get to Yad Vashem and have plenty of time, since they wanted to show us some other things in the area. I wanted to leave Jerusalem no later than 3 pm so we could get to the Dead Sea on our way to Masada.

Aviyam called at 9 am, said he and Ifat were about a half hour away, then showed up at a little before 10. I should have known. Israel Time strikes again.

We arrived at Yad Vashem by about 11, it taking us several missed turns to get there. A bit of a rant is in order here about the horrid signage on Israel's roads. No such thing as a "reassurance sign," you know, where they tell you what road you're on, just so you know you're going the right way? They only tell you what turnoff or junction is coming up on the highway about 500 meters in advance, and hardly ever ( <5%) tell you what road is coming up on a regular city street. That, combined with the fact that often the same road is named something new every few blocks, makes for very difficult navigation. Yad Vashem was no less powerful the second time, although I wish Patrick, Aviyam, and Ifat had been there to hear Esti's guiding through the emotional maze. I would definitely recommend going through it with a guide, as there is so much to take in. We visited several sites on the Yad Vashem campus, including one exhibition about the Holocaust survivors in Israel, and their contributions to the world (the creator of Gottex swimwear, and the author of Once Upon a Potty were my favorites). We were there until almost 2 pm, and I still think we could have spent another few hours (or days) there to see the rest.

We then drove on to Ein Kerem, an artist's colony outside of Jerusalem. Yami wanted to go to lunch there, and even walk around some maybe. He also wanted to show us Menachem Begin's house in Jerusalem, and a couple of other places. I love my cousin, but 1) there was no way we were going to be able to see all that starting on Israel Time as late as we did, and 2) If he wanted to show us all those places, it might have been a good idea to actually know how to get to them. We drove around for close to a half hour trying to find Ein Kerem. We had to stop three people to ask for directions. By the time we stopped I was almost completely crazy. We had lunch at Pundak Ein Kerem (Pundak translates to Cafe or Inn, as I found out when I saw several other Pundaks on our travels). My chicken salad was not so good, but Patrick's stuffed mushrooms were tasty. By the time we were finished, it was 3 pm, the time I wanted to leave for the Dead Sea. Drat. I was trying to get zen with the fact that my plans were shot, and I can only say I was a work in progress. We took Yami and Ifat back to their car, and headed out. By this time, it was about 4:30. The better free beaches close at 5 pm, and even the pay beaches close at 6. By the time we got close to Ein Gedi, it was almost 6, so we drove on to Masada. We decided we'll stop tomorrow at Ein Bokek on our way back to Tel Aviv. Brief dip in the Dead Sea before we leave.

So now we're at the Masada Guest House. It's one of Israel's nicer hostels. Our room is on the first level down (their floors are -1, -2, and -3), right near the pool.... which closed at 6! What swimming pool closes at 6 during the summer!?!?! I really wanted to swim somewhere today, but that wish is denied. It is hot, with one of the hottest winds I have ever experienced. Usually when the wind blows in the evening, it's gentle and cooling. Not so tonight. A true desert scirocco (not chinooks which Patrick called them earlier this week). The room does have a/c (by the Israeli definition, not mine... so like cooling to 78, rather than 70), but it has the toilet paper squares, rather than rolls. That is a phenomenon I only experience in Israel, and I am not a fan. I share with my friend Class-Factotum the fascination with foreign toilets, but for me it is as much about the toilet paper as the facility itself. As I age I realize that I need the roll. I actually brought with me two rolls of toilet paper to protect against this phenomenon. I am about halfway through the second roll, so I planned well.

Man, I am old.


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