By Heather O.
If you are going to take an intercity Israel bus, you should find out when it stops running. We learned the hard way, at 5:30pm, that our bus stopped running at 4pm.
Teenagers like to push the envelope when it comes to modesty. Even Jewish teenagers.
Orthodox Jews (or is it Hasidic? I’m ashamed to admit I’m not entirely sure what the difference is) are VERY big on families, and their rate of reproduction puts even Mormons to shame. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many pregnant mothers pushing strollers. It’s kinda awesome.
I also had an interesting conversation with a Jewish woman who was also American, a woman who has lived in Jerusalem for 16 years, 12 of them in the Old City itself. She was friendly, if a little reserved, and I asked her a few awkward questions, trying to figure out how to get as much information about her life as possible without sounding nosy or being offensive. We stuck to easy topics, like transportation issues, safety issues, family, and life in the Old City. What I really wanted to ask was, “Why are your husband’s forelocks (those ringlets on the side of Jewish men’s cheeks) shorter than some others I’ve seen? Why isn’t he wearing a long overcoat, like others I’ve seen? What does he do for a living that allows you to live in the Old City? You say you have a car— where do you park it, if you live in the Old City? What made you decide to leave New York and live in Jerusalem for the rest of your life? And if you have 9 (yes, NINE. Toldja they put Mormons to shame) children, when did you start having kids, because you don’t look a day over 30?”
I didn’t ask any of those questions. Instead, I asked about the Arab buses.
Another American family in our ward told us about the Arab buses, small buses that you can flag down and have them take you to Damascus Gate (the Old City) for 5 shekels a seat. We were talking about transportation solutions (given that they also didn’t know the bus we all needed stopped at 4) and I asked if they had ever taken them. In retrospect, it was an astonishingly stupid thing to say to a Jewish woman. Her face darkened and she said, “I would never risk that. I try to stay clear of those buses. And if I were you, I wouldn’t risk it either. They don’t like Mormons any more than they like Jews.”
Hunh. Arabs hate Mormons?
I related the conversation to my American friend, the one who had told me about them in the first place, and she laughed. We ended up taking an Arab bus just yesterday, and it was quick, easy, and cheap. We also felt perfectly safe, and the only dirty looks we got were people glaring at crying children. DH lost his wallet in the Old City yesterday, and took another Arab bus back to Damascus gate. Again, he was back so fast I was hardly out of bed yet, and said that compared to the Israeli bus system, the Arab buses were totally awesome.
So what does it mean when a Jewish woman tells me Arabs hate Mormons as much as they hate Jews? I don’t know. I’m still making sense of the underlying tensions and prejudices and fears and attitudes in this (sort of crazy) place. There is so much to digest, so much to think about, so much, SO much that we as Americans can’t begin to understand.
We heading to the Garden Tomb this afternoon. On an Arab bus. Our driver last night told us to always take bus number 74, his bus. It sounds like he might not hate us after all?
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