Day 19: Elevators and Attitude

Trip Start May 19, 2009
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Trip End Jun 16, 2009


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Saturday, June 6, 2009

(Day 19, Jaffa, Saturday) A "shabbat elevator" is one that stops automatically at every floor, so the Sabbath-observant don't have to press the buttons and break the Sabbath. Our hotel devoted one of the three elevators to doing so, so we finally got to see one in action. In the morning, this elevator stopped at our floor, a woman jumped out, and got on one of the other elevators with me. She said she was not really awake and hadn't realized she had gotten in the Shabbat elevator, and she was tired of stopping at all the floors. I think Kevin is getting a kick out of trying to figure out the quirks of Jewish law, such that they have an effect on modern Israel. This primarily includes Sabbath restrictions (affecting store hours, public transit, traffic heaviness, etc.) and keeping kosher (which affects the menus of most places). Not to mention other bafflements, like why police cars drive with the lights flashing all the time -- how are you supposed to know if they need to get by or if they are after you? (See Kevin's blog at www.travelpod.com/members/hkcigar.)

We headed out of town to a nearby Druze village, Daliat el-Karmel, to get a taste of life there. The GPS sent us god-knows-where, but we ended up back in the town center, and found street parking, which was a stroke of luck, given the traffic there. Known among other things for its furniture, D el-K boasts a lively market street, with lots of crafts, clothes, artwork, and home furnishings for sale. We dropped some coin at the first store we went to, which was full of the most interesting ceramics and metalwork. Did not get much of a break from the owner on the price, though. Kevin and I each got some nice things for home (a runner, some pillows) at several other stores, and then settled in for lunch on the back terrace of a restaurant. The view was not so great but the food was good and plentiful.

Time to press on, through the hills to the Mediterranean shore and Caesarea again. This time, we went to the historic area (of which the amphitheatre we went to on Thursday night is also a part, however), home to ruins from the Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic periods. Once the capital of the Roman province and home to an advanced port built by Herod, it's now bustling again after a long decline. In fact, we were surprised to see the historic area so full of restaurants, shops, and a packed beach. It was quite busy and commercial, but it sure is a great location to have lunch or get a tan. Anyway, we did walk along the sea wall, wander the ruins of the hippodrome, see the educational movie -- and shop some more.

Back sitting in the car, we were about to leave, when a woman in the next car opened her door such that it slammed into my driver's side door. She seemed unfazed and barely reacted. It took my obvious consternation to get her to issue a little "sorry" and her husband to inspect and wipe the area that got hit. No serious harm done, but it brought back my angry feelings about the reprehensible attitude of some Israelis in some situations. It's the kind of thing that would be taken as serious rudeness back home, but is par for the course here. On the other hand, they can be as warm and hospitable as anyone, and more sincere than those of us Americans who say "let's do something sometime."

Thus ended the pretty full 2/3 of our trip devoted to seeing the country. Now it was time to join the (sometimes crazy) traffic heading to Tel Aviv, where we will spend the next ten days: some sightseeing, but also just relaxing, hitting the beach, restaurants, and clubs, and experiencing Gay Pride on Friday. We raced to our hostel in Jaffa (more in a moment) so we could return the rental car on time, arriving there finally at 5:50 p.m., ten minutes ahead of the deadline. But no -- the place was closed! What's with that? Shabbat (today is Sabbath) must have something to do with it. Took a picture to prove we got there when we said we would.

Well, it was back down the boardwalk drive, past the incredibly jammed beaches to Jaffa, packed with traffic, and our hostel's quiet side street, where we found an improbable parking spot. The hostel is, in fact, great. Very old-style, British colonial (or Ottoman?), the staircase lined with tiles and old photographs. Our room is a bit like an apartment, a couple of stairs up to the kitchen/dining area, leading into a large bedroom/salon, with full bookcases, vintage furniture, lamps, and small items, a dresser, a couch, a comfy chair, more old framed photos all over the walls, and an interesting large semicircle of a window set low in the wall. It prompted us to actually unpack for the four days here.

We went back out for the sunset over the Mediterranean at the boardwalk's southern end, taking in the view of the length of the Tel Aviv beaches and skyline. As the mosque nearby blared out the recording of the call to prayer, we set out past the famous Clock Tower to find a particular restaurant, which we found by chance just a block from our hostel, after getting a bit lost on the side streets. Dinner outside was very pleasant, and it was a popular place. We adjourned to the hostel's rooftop deck, full of tables and comfy chairs, for email. After awhile, the cacophony of car horns, Israeli music from some club, and techno from a nearby rooftop party sent me back to the room.
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