Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shorts from Israel, July 30, 2010, on subjects big and small


1)  The city of Kiryat Malachi continues to upgrade the way the city looks.  We see street sweepers at least twice a week go by our apartment. 
The roundabout at the intersection of Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky really looks lovely, with a mature olive tree in the center and a bubbling fountain too. 

There are signs of construction in town:

2)  We are amazed at the building of new roads and improving old ones.  We found out that one reason there is a huge push to improve roads in the south of the country is that the army will be moving its basic training location from the center of the country and some parts further north to the south, in the greater Beersheva area.

Expanding road outsdide of Beersheva
 Most main roads have dividers (see left of photo above) between the two different flows of traffic for safety.  To reduce congestions, there are new and improved roads going on the outskirts of Beersheva The new highway intersections/cloverleafs are quite spectactular in that area.  We also noticed a number of speed traps with police using laser guns to catch speeders.

There is a new train line that will go to Beersheva and a lot of improvement is going into the roads there.  Highway 6, the toll road, last year opened its branch from the Ashdod/Ashkelon exit southward.  There is no toll on that part of the highway as the government built it and not private industry as the volume might not have been big enough for profit, but it was needed because of the army shift and to encourage more people to move into that area.

3)  This past week, Israelis were shocked by the deaths of 4 pilots and 3 other air force officers in helicopter training exercise in Romania.,7340,L-3927326,00.html  The helicopter is huge, and could carry 50, but they only allow up to 20 in one after 50+ were killed years ago in a training exercise.  After the names of the dead were announced, the daily national newspaper Maariv dedicated one page for each of those who died in the crash.

4)  Some of the people who left Gush Katif and moved into temporary housing 5 years ago north of Ashkelon are now moving into their permanent homes.  We visited with the librarian at Nitzan, Ayala. 

Ayala on right at work
Her family should be able to move into its new home before the holidays. 

Ayala in her new kitchen
Her son Itai was a counselor in Seattle a few years ago.  We met another man, a doctor, who had rented a home in Gaza when he lived there.  As a result, he was not given a subsidy since he had not owned a home.  Others like him are in limbo.  They are trying to negotiate with the government to get something so that they can get out of the temporary housing they have been in for 5 years.

5)  Here are a few signs that we would not see in our communities in the US:

No entrance on holidays and Shabbat

                           Beware of Camel Crossing near Mamshit--also visual signs with picture of camel    
Street signs in 3 languages, Hebrew, Arabic, and English
The letter "Q" not followed by a "U"
This is one of the few signs in the area pointing toward Kiryat Malachi.  It is about 7 miles from town.

6)  Friday night we were invited to friends for dinner and we offered to bring a bottle of wine.  Suddenly at 3 p.m. I remembered to buy it and rushed to the supermarket across the street.  I was afraid that it had already closed, but I was assured by the guard on duty that the store would stay open until 3:30 p.m.  Most of the other businesses in town usually close before that on Friday afternoon and stay closed until Saturday night or Sunday morning, the start of the week.   Here is a picture I took in front of our apartment at 5:30 Friday afternoon.  The usually busy streets were empty, as you can see.

7)  Plastic  and glass bottles are the main items recycled by residents in towns.  Large plastic  bottles  (a liter or more) are collected in huge bins, while smaller plastic and glass bottles can be returned to supermarkets for 30 agorot each (approximately 8 cents US).

8)  One day I went to buy 1% milk.  When Howard took a drink, he wondered if something were wrong with the milk.  I looked carefully at the container and realized that it was a milk "drink" with sugar added....and yes, it was 1%--lower fat but added sugar.  Phoey!
9)  Bread is the staple of life, so for many people it is hard to throw away.  In the US we often freeze it for stuffing or make bread crumbs from it.  Many Israelis don't like to throw it away either, so they often put it next to the community garbage can or in other conspicuous places.  Here are two of my favorite ones:

Bread on a fence post
A crow pecking at a bag of bread on top of the plastic bottle recycling cage

10)  Driving in Jerusalem is an experience that we don't want to do very often.  Even Dalia Burgana has told me that when she has to go to Jerusalem, she drives just inside the city and then takes a cab to where she has to go.  We drove in Jerusalem last Thursday to get to Har (Mount) Herzl and then to visit some cousins in Katamon (now called Gonen).  It was definitely harrowing.  Twice Howard made u turns where they were not allowed.  If he hadn't we might not have been able to turn around for a long time.  There is a lot of traffic, many hills, huge intersections, new one-way streets, a lack of numbers of buildings, often a lack of street signs, and crazy drivers.  What more can I add!

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