25 November 2007

SBB's Dose of the Israel Reality

Brace yourselves, it's going to be a wild ride!

Thanksgiving weekend was glorious, and all four pies were successes at their respective meals...Shabbat was restful, the Gators beat FSU, and I was pretty prepared for a "standard" week at school (ain't no such thing).

This morning, I woke up, did some Hebrew homework and got myself off to school. I only had Hebrew class today, and it was pretty fun. I have two ulpan teachers, and the one I have on Sunday and Monday is hilarious. Today, we learned all about advertisments. We even wrote our own slogans on a worksheet. Here is my personal favorite (translated from 100% Hebrew!):

Worksheet prompt: Beer for "Young People"
My slogan: The Beer the Underaged Drinkers Drink!

After Hebrew, my friend Melanie* and I got talked into attending a social action lunch and learn at Hillel. Sadly, the food didn't arrive until MUCH later...but we did learn about the kidnapped soldiers and about the Geneva convention laws about kidnapped soldiers and other prisoners.

* It's not a real Hebrew class unless I have a friend named Melanie...Shout out to JTS Squirrel Mail Melanie!

As I mentioned before, the food didn't arrive for the 2:30 start time of the lunch and learn. At first, it was presented to us as the Rabbi bringing the food was stuck in traffic. Over the course of the good hour and a half I spent with the group, waiting for the food, I learned a little bit about what a terror warning means.

The rabbi was stuck in traffic, because checkpoints had been set up around Jerusalem. Checkpoints were meant to thwart an Annapolis-thwarting-related (says Rafi) terrorist plot to attack Mahane Yehuda (the shuk, or open-air marketplace), Ben Yehuda (the downtown shopping strip), or somewhere else in Jerusalem. They also brought traffic to a near standstill. The rabbi eventually arrived, and we thoroughly enjoyed the lox and bagels. His thirty-minute drive to Hebrew U took over 2 hours, and we were hungry, but better we wait for lox than a bad guy gets through.

I left the group disquieted -- was the threat over? Or did the rabbi just finally make it through a checkpoint because they're not complete traffic blocks? I made my way to the bus station at school, thinking it was quieter.

Then I realized I wasn't fighting tooth and nail to get on the bus. No, maybe 20 people boarded the 4Aleph with me, instead of the usual crush of 100. Some other interesting characters boarded the bus, too. Three security guards, one for each door of the super-long bus (think crosstown). They checked people getting on and off at each stop. I was a little nervous, and put my book away. I was going to pay extra attention on this bus ride.

I noticed many little things. A girl in a Gators warm-up jacket walked out of the student village. Other buses didn't have security guards at every door. The Jerusalem sky shines with a radiant pink at sundown. The guy next to me needed to take a shower.

Rafi called me and scolded me for being on the bus. I told him to back off, there were a lot of security guards. Just as I said good-bye to him, there was a BOOM, and for a moment, I was terrified. Somebody had closed one of the little windows above my head. Such a terrible sound, something so mundane that would've never bugged me in Gainesville, sent my heart racing for a good 15 minutes. I didn't settle down until two of the three security guards left the bus in the center of town, and we made our way to Emek Refaim. I walked to Talpiyot and bought a (bright yellow) skating helmet at a sporting goods store by the mall, and went on with life as usual.

Safety first.

For now, I'm happy I took a taxi home from the helmet purchasing experience. The driver said Rafi sounded like Abba Eban. Rafi's happy about the compliment. But both of us are wary and curious about what transportation holds in the next couple of days.

This isn't like a New York terrorist threat, where you avoid the subway for a few days, and then get used to basking in the warm glow of the Amber Alert. I have a feeling that skating the miles to Hebrew U in this weather is not the best way to get back in the in-line skating saddle after 6 months. I may have to temporarily switch my method of travel to taxi.

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