Sunday, June 11, 2006
The Art of Driving
A lot of people think I'm crazy driving around here. It depends on where you're driving. This past week I drove up North and then back on the Bika Road. Basically, if you drive out of Jerusalem going due East and then turn left when the road ends (at the Dead Sea/Jordan) you're driving through amazing desert, and very different than driving through the Negev. The road runs tight along the Jordanian border. If you have long enough arms, you can hold them out and practically get electrocuted by the fence that borders the very small swath of no man's land. It's got great roads that follow the curve of the hills and very few cars and lots of animals. The animals are the real adventure of driving in Israel.
On the way up North, I saw a lot of signs (like the above). If you look closely, it looks like a reindeer, or maybe a gazelle or ibyx, which is more of a possibility in Israel that reindeer should be. Whatever it's supposed to be, I didn't see any. Instead, I saw, and was stopped cold by cows, donkeys and goats. The only problem with getting stopped by animals is that given all the hills and turns, you don't get so much warning that they'll be there. The good news is that I apparently have excellent brakes in my car.
I learned a few things on the drive this week. One is that you shouldn't pass other cars on a road with no shoulders.
On the way to the Dead Sea (before you turn left), there are markers every 100 meters as you descend below sea level. At the exact sea level mark, there's a camel all dressed up and ready to take pictures with tourists. I've seen it every time I've driven by (over many years), and have yet to see anyone on the camel.
On a regular stretch of road up North (not on the Bika Road), I got pulled over by the police right after I'd left Kfar Giladi headed to Tiberius. I hadn't done anything illegal yet that morning, so it was a bit of a mystery. I opened my window, they said, "Mi afo At" (where are you from), I said in my best American accent "m'Washington DC" and they waived me on. I'm not sure how I could have possibly fit any profile they were looking for.... Two blocks later, missing the street I needed, I made an illegal u-turn with no trouble figuring that they clearly had other things to worry about.
I've also learned that while I tend to get lost a lot, there aren't too many places you are actually really lost. It's easy enough to figure out where you shouldn't be, and after that, people are mostly friendly and helpful and usually wait until you drive off to start laugh at my incompetance.
This morning, I was looking for the retirement home in Tiberius to meet a group of our participants who were volunteering there. Tiberius isn't really a very big town, and there's a big lake (the Kinneret) to orient you in general, but it still took us a good 25 minutes to find the place. Partly, the street we were looking for was not on any map, including one of the fancy ones that indexes every street and alley. But if you drive around enough, know you're looking for a big tour bus with a Taglit-birthright israel banner on the front, and then finally see a sign that says "Beit Avot", it's not hard at all to get where you need to be.
My last driving story. I have one CD here. It's a good one, but I've been doing a lot of driving and there's only so many times I can listen to it in a row. So I'm scanning for radio stations. In the desert, it seems that reception is only good if you're an Arabic station. Not only do I not understand one word, but I'm not so into the music either. So it was back to my one CD....