Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rolling off a Blog - 1

July 12, 2007

I just came home from a teachers conference at which the hot news is that teachers are going to be teaching higher level teaching skills as part of the new literature curriculum. Last year, the conference was breaking up as war was breaking out, and today's sessions were held in the shadow of last year's tension. So we listened most carefully to the radio as we coasted down the hills of the 443, and we heard, not the broadcasts of a crisis, but Ehud Olmert proudly boasting of the peace he has brought us. This is the most peaceful year the North has had in the last 40 years, he bragged. Let's pretend that it took the Hizbowlers three months to completely rearm themselves for another go, despite all the agreements and ceasefires, and I'm living in a region where everyone is haunted by fear of the next round. Meanwhile, Ulmart has engineered a prisoner exchange in which we release several hundred terrorists and get nothing. These terrorists 'do not have blood on their hands.' They may have planned a terror attack, fired their weapon, and seriously maimed their prey. However, out of sheer bad luck, the man or woman or baby didn't die. So the hands of the perpetrators are now nice and clean, so get on the bus. The nation goes along with this.
Teachers, sign up for the New Literature Module as soon as you can. We'd better start teaching our pupils those thinking skills mighty quick!

July 18
Today is Rosh Hodesh Av ( The New Hebrew month Av. Av what? Of Av.) This is an ominous date in the Jewish calendar. It inaugurates the Nine Days during which we mourn over the destruction of the First and Second temples. Next week, on the ninth of Av, is the second most solemn fast day of the year. Many Jews fast on this day, and keep other customs of mourning, such as not shaving, eating meat, or participating in public fun for the whole nine days. In popular parlance these days are 'meyou-adim le'pooranewt' i.e. accidents looking to happen.
Speaking of which, it is exactly ten years to the day when I chose to cycle from Tel Aviv to Kiriat Shmona. I hadn't done such a thing in a long while, due to back problems that bothered me through the nineties.
I felt I was ready to tackle a longer trip, and I flew the bike from Kiriat Shmona to Sday Dov, which you could do back then, schmoozed away the hot part of the day, and set out at 6:00 PM.. What about the ill timed date? I just scoffed, and made sure that I packed my Tfillen and a Siddur that had the day's extra prayers.

I got about 2 kilometers down the Ayalon before it hit me. 'It' was a maroon Skoda pickup that took the turnoff too close to the shoulder, or I was sticking out too much into the lane. I have never been able to remember. There is a vague memory flash of looking up into a circle of khaki uniforms with the hot August sun beaming down, a lot of sticky stuff around and a feeling of 'now I'm in for it.'

. . . . . . . . . I did not go back to teaching until after Hanuka.

July 19
Speaking of battling highways on a bicycle, my friend Billious William is touring the country after an absence of many many years. One of his dreams was to cycle along his old haunts: Ramat Hasharon, Glillot, the Mandarin Hotel Beachfront. He rented all the right equipment and off he went, only to find himself a time traveler from 1979 caught in the swirling tides of 2007 superhighways. It didn't take long before he was washed up on a tiny traffic island, with unending streams of traffic flowing at 100 Kph on either side. He'd be there still if things hadn't calmed down by nine PM or so, by which time he could dare running across the traffic lane during a brief break in the flow. Thus he was able to make his way to the 'Country Club' intersection and down to the sea. The Mandarin was long extinct, and the once empty romantic beach was a civilized 'tayelet' of crisp green turf, teeming with people, music, barbecues, lights, restaurants. While the Nine Days didn't put him off a swim, the headlines about fresh sewage in the area did and he made his way up the coastal road. Here was a pleasant surprise: The whole way was ribboned with a clearly marked, clean, safe bike path, along which he proceeded until the Tel Baruch area.
Tel Baruch was notorious when Bill once lived in Israel, although he didn't expect it to survive in the era of the internet. Yet there they were, pathetic, drugged painted, pulling down about one car every minute. Only the accent had changed.
Bill politely asked, "How's business, girls, " and kept on pedaling. But to his surprise, a kilometer later, there was another turn off to the sea and another gaggle of bare legs and microskirts, "How's business, girls," Bill calls out again. But this time the reply is much hoarser: "We're not girls, we have dicks!"
"How nice that we have something in common," Bill replies, politely, switching to his fastest getway gear. Separate sections, even for prostitution, he marvels, once well away. Must be run by Misrad Hadatot!
Kiriat Shmona, July 2007