Tuesday, February 28, 1995
Once again I did not sleep well, got 5.5 to 6 hours sleep total but broke up in 2 chunks. Breakfast for all its variety and such is going to get old real soon, the cold fish is not inspiring, while veggies and such are not spectacular morning food.
I am still having trouble getting my modem to connect to Israeli CompuServe, so I am actually calling back to the states to use it, fortunately I am doing it on Intel’s phones. If they complain I will ask to borrow a modem.
Yesterday I got someone to explain the hats, not the religious significance, but the reason for the variety. It turns out that the style of hat indicates what part of the world you (or you family) was from prior to coming to Israel.
Another thing I have noticed is that Israelis seem to always be angry at each other shouting and cursing and such. They never seem to be able to communicate for more than 3 sentences without somebody yelling and gesturing and possibly swearing at the other.
At lunch I tried the Meat section, had sesame seed coated chicken. Was ok, the mashed potatoes were bland and the broccoli was cooked nearly to a slime.
It is not looking like I am going to sneak out of here very early today. Oh well, will try again tomorrow.
Yossi Klavan, one of the Israeli’s I work with tells me interesting things about the country. He claims 40 % of the people live below the poverty level. (His definition of that being the minimum amount you need to live in this country, or for a family of 4 about 30,000 dollars a year, my suspicion is that the way we define the concept, it would be closer to 20 %). The way the side step this is that it is very hard to bounce a check in this country. He claims that the banks generally float your checks with the assumption you will eventually make good on them. He is 4000-5000 sheqels, he is not sure how much, overdrawn and the bank is ok with it (that is 1300-1600 dollars). Everybody in the country apparently lives with a constant overdraw.
His house was cheap because he lives on the West Bank, sorta like building in the central district. So it only cost 125,000 dollars to build a 2600 square foot house complete with concrete reinforced walls, bomb shelter and gas proof rooms. Which reminds me, we saw an Israeli soldier hitchhiking today with his machine gun slung in front of him. We did not stop to pick him up.
Well my grand plans for tomorrow are dashed. I have been appointed to go to Haifa to help with training, I am told it is a 2 hour drive. Also, the subject has been broached as to me staying for at least one additional week. I have made very loud noises about what a hardship this will be.
The trip home was not as harrowing as previous. The catching of the shuttle is proving interesting. Intel provides shuttles, about 10 of them going all over Jerusalem. They leave on the hour and few, if any, of the drivers speak English. They come piling out of the little portable building that they are stationed in and you just look at them and saying ‘La Romme’ or whatever your hotel name is. One of them will guide you to your shuttle. It is quite amusing, the herds of people wandering about calling out their hotel name.
I noticed that Jerusalem has lots of cats running about and mentioned this out loud. I was told of an old ‘myth’/’tradition’ that says the souls of anyone who does not make it to heaven or hell comes back as a cat in Jerusalem and thus you should not mess with a cat since you don’t know who it might have been.
Unfortunately I did not see the following for myself but had it related to me by some of the people I am working with. Last night they were arriving back at an apartment that Intel had rented for some of its people to find a building nearby on fire. They called the fire department. When the fire engine arrive it contained 3 fire fighters with no (0) Zero protection gear on. They pull up and look at the fire through a barbwire fence, smoking cigarettes all the time. Finally instead of driving the truck around the fence and getting closer they threw the hose over the fence, which had the predictable effect of putting multiple punctures in the hose. There were people in the building who were shouting for help but the fire fighters had no gear with which to enter the building, no masks, no helmets, no nothing. The people we ‘saved’ by others from the building and the fire was put out, but nothing was saved. It had little chance of spreading anyway since the entire city is made of stone.
I got called by Steve, my Haifa trip is off and he is going instead. This is good as I was not looking forward to a 2 hour car trip. The weather has been just about perfect here. Sunny 70 degrees, cool and refreshing in the evening. Most people are still wearing jackets and complaining about the cold.