I’ve done a lot of site-seeing here in Jerusalem, folks. It’s been an experience!
But I took a different plan yesterday: I went out to visit my younger brother in Israel. I haven’t seen Aaron in a few years, and coming to see him was really one of the main reasons for my whole trip.
So, I parted ways with Jonathan and went solo to find my younger brother’s place.
I got his address. Since I have no GPS (no phone service) in Israel, I was back to stone age navigation: remember before GPS? Maps? Maybe some directions written on a piece of paper? Yeah, that was me yesterday.
So, around noon yesterday, I put the directions into a note on my phone and set out through Israel on my own.
My first mistake was hiking to the first stop. I would have taken me 2 or 3 bus rides to get there, so I just hiked. Well, hiking in the midday heat of Israel for several miles is…challenging!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I left the apartment. I start walking down some streets, and immediately get lost. I return to apartment and it’s WiFi in order to consult the Google Map gods. After some more explicit instructions placed into my phone, I set out of the apartment for a second time. Jerusalem Journey begins!
I walk a good 45 minutes in the heat before I come to streets not found on my home-made map. I took this snapshot of a kind of dead-end street, launching off into a deep valley. Perfect “I’m lost” picture:
Getting worried, I asked several Israelis where to go, given my destination of Teddy Stadium Bus Stop. One woman finally knows where it is. “You’re walking there?!” she says in a kind of disbelief.
She tells me I took a wrong turn some 20 minutes back.
I backtrack 20 minutes, make the correct turn, and finally get on my way Asher Viner street. Now this is almost entirely an uphill walk, several miles, blistering heat. I decided to bareback it, stuffing my shirt in my pack. Only consolation now was the half-full, now-warm water bottle in my hand, and the beautiful scenery in the olive tree valley below:
As I got closer to Teddy Stadium, I had to take some smaller side roads to arrive. This is where Israel sucks: many streets have no street signs, therefore you have no idea if you’re on the right path. I ended up at a stoplight, totally disoriented as to where I was and what direction I was headed.
There was a group of 6 girls at this particular corner.
“English?” I asked.
“Teddy Stadium Bus Stop?”, I said, hoping they knew their whereabouts.
“Ehh take path straight, through buildings on left you take straight then right. It’s long path.”
“Ermmm…..ok. Thanks, uh, todah!”, I thanked them for the confusing directions anyways.
“Wait, here, take some bread.”
The girls handed me about 5 pitas. I hadn’t eaten yet today, and the hike was draining my energy. So I took, and ate!
I stuffed the rest in my pockets, and finally arrived at Teddy Stadium Bus Stop, drenched in sweat:
I flagged down the 291 bus. The driver shakes his head at me as if not allowed.
I was confused, but figured maybe the bus was full.
I waited another 20 minutes for the next 291 bus to Igrot Moshe. Next bus arrives, same thing: bus driver drops off a few folks, no one gets one. I try to get on, the driver signals it’s not allowed.
I ask an Israeli at the bus stop, after doing the you-speakity-English dance, “Can I take bus 291 here?”
I wasn’t so sure.
As I waited for the next bus, it occurred to my slow mind that maybe I was at the wrong stop after all. I spotted a 290 bus down the street, opposite side. It all clicked that I was trying to board an arriving bus. Wrong direction, boy.
Eventually, about 2 hours after arriving at Teddy Stadiom, I made it onto bus 291. Which should take me right to my brother’s home.
I get on the bus, but I have no idea when to get off the bus. There’s no announcement where you are. Many of the roads have no signs. I asked a modern Orthodox guy on the bus where the Igrot Moshe stop is. “3 stops after me”, he says.
3 stops later, I get off the 291. I walk up the street. Can’t find his house. Down the street. Can’t find his house.
No one was around, except a young olive-skinned Orthodox boy, probably no older than 12. Figured it was a long shot that he even spoke English, but I asked and he said,
“Go to circle. Then keep going.”
“Which direction at the circle – left or right?”
I tried that. I kept going. No bro house to be found.
I run into an Orthodox long-bearded guy. I think most of them don’t care for tourists, so I was hesitant, but I asked and he was friendly enough: it was left at the circle, down the street a half mile, on the left.
I started walking that direction and took this video:
I was almost there indeed. At dinner time, about 6 hours after departing Jerusalem, I made it to my brother’s home in Israel.
I regret wasting so much time hiking; had only a few hours before it got really dark and would make the trip back home difficult.
But the time I spent with my brother was really joyful for me. We joked around. He cooked me some eggs. Talked about life, jobs, Israel, the Palestinians. Deep stuff on Rabbi Nachman, Abir Hebrew combat. Laughed about broken chairs and stupid comedy.
Met Aaron’s beautiful wife (he scored big time). She’s kind and sweet and perfect for him. And she’s pregnant with their first child.
It was the 2nd “this is worth the whole trip” moment. Don’t mind admitting I was a bit misty-eyed hugging Aaron goodbye at the bus stop.
My adventures didn’t end there, I’m afraid. The bus from Aaron’s back to Teddy Stadiom went without a hitch – divine intervention, I say!
I get off at Teddy Stadium, and it’s now dark, maybe 10:30pm. Seeing as how it was late, I had no intention of hiking an hour or two back to the apartment. It was the bus for me, Smart Me required.
An Israeli man at the bus stop saw I was a bit disoriented about getting a bus back to southern Jerusalem. He gave me explicit directions in decent English.
“You take bus 4 to HaSod, then you get on bus 8 for Rishon Natsvim”
I took bus 4. A young American kid, just graduated high school, now an Israeli for the last 3 years, helped me out big time. It was nice to hear a clear English speaker, LOL! He told the bus driver to let me know when my stop was up. (Huge help.)
I got off bus 4, onto the almost-abandoned bus 8.
No one spoke English on that bus. “Rishon Natsvim?”, I asked the driver.
“Sure, sure” was the response from the Arab driver. I might as well have asked if he was wearing a thong.
I tried to make out where I was during the drive. Finally, the driver pulled up to his 5th stop, and I asked, “Is this Rishon Natsvim?”
Great. I get out. I look around. I’m totally lost.
I asked two Orthodox black hats where I am. They hardly spoke any English. One of them said, “car kel” and made a circular motion with his hand. “Circle?”
OK, circle. I thought. Left at circle?
OK. I’ll try that!
It’s now a pitch black 11:30, and I have no idea where I am. I go left, nothing. I run into a few odd characters on the streets – a group of teens throwing glass bottles on the ground. A tattooed Russian tall guy staring me down on the street. A pair of Arab twenty-somethings saying some (likely not nice) things in Arabic to me.
I took a few videos along the way:
It wasn’t until past midnight did I recognize a building – the UN
Ejaculating Penis Tolerance monument! Saved by the penis, I guess! That monument sticks out like a sore pecker thumb on the Israeli landscape, and its illuminated ejaculate decor caught my attention.
I knew I was close – maybe 10 minutes out. After yet more walking still, I made it back to the apartment in Jerusalem.
And that, friends, is my first adventure alone on the Israeli streets and insane bus system. Ha! What a blast. A memory for sure.
Today is my last day in Jerusalem. This afternoon, I’m headed out to northern Israel at a hotel in Netanya via – you guessed it – bus ride. In fact, I am closing the laptop now and packing it all up and saying “So long, for now” to Jerusalem.
Talk to you again when I arrive on the Mediterranean coast. Provided I find my way, at least!
Shalom from Zion.