An Unusually Cloudy Day – Ulpan, Driver’s License, Children

This morning started out like any other day except for the unusual cloud coverage over the city. I should have taken that as a warning and remained in bed all day… we missed the bus, had trouble at ulpan, visited the licensing bureau from hell, and were saddened by a little girl’s tears.

After a nice breakfast of French Toast and honey (real maple syrup is more expensive than a good wine here), Yisrael and I headed out at 8:35 to wait for the 8:40-8:45 bus to take him to his first day (second week) at the new ulpan location in Mitzpe Nevo. The bus got us there 10 minutes before ulpan started and he ran right in without waiting for me – a good sign. I went down to confirm that counselors had arrived (because I knew it would be 20 minutes before the next bus).

When I came out it was getting very humid and my breathing was labored – I used my inhaler when I started to feel fluttering in my chest. I crossed the street to head down to the bus stop that would be heading in the right direction and Shelley Brinn (the Ma’aleh Adumim Community Coordinator) pulled up to chat for a few minutes. I missed my bus – and she was just arriving to go to the ulpan for an hour or so. Not wanting to stand around for another 20 minutes, I crossed the street and took the bus that was heading to Jerusalem, knowing that I could get off at the snail park.

And that’s just what I did… walked from the snail to the shul

Musar Avicha Shul

and cut through a few paths until I reached the correct bus stop on HaGitit. From there it turned out to be only one stop to get me home (I felt kind of stupid, but it was hot out there).

At 11:30 my computer told me it was time to walk up and catch the bus to go pick him up. Michael and I both went because we were heading to Talpiot from there. Well, we missed the 11:40 bus (the one that is rarely on time) by less than 2 minutes (I watched it go by as I huffed and puffed up the hill) and had to make the long walk in the hot humid weather, but at least it was mostly downhill. At one point I looked at my watch and panicked because Yisrael would be out in 10 minutes and it was going to take me at least another 20 to get there. I sent Michael on ahead.

At 12:10 I called to find out where they were (expecting they’d be walking in my direction) and Michael informed me that there was a problem… Yisrael had done something to hurt another child and the child’s mother was giving him a good talking to. My heart (that had already been a bit fluttery) sunk. I dragged myself the rest of the way down the hill so that I could receive some of her tongue-lashing as well. I apologized to her and scolded him for doing something bad (that had been done to him by mean children back in Cleveland) to another child and reminded him of how he felt when others hurt him. This was the first time I recall seeing true remorse on his face and I felt bad for him – I’m sure he has a clear understanding of the seriousness of hurting others.

Eventually we left and caught the bus to the Central Bus Station – this time a different and more interesting route because it was time for the driver to take his lunch break (I understood those Hebrew words), so he pulled into this lot full of what appeared to be abandoned buses and got out. Fortunately his replacement jumped right on and got us to the station. From there we went to Talpiot to the Licensing Bureau to jump through the next hoop in the process of obtaining our driver’s licenses. It was the first truly intimidating experience I’ve had in Israel! On Sunday this place is open from 8 – 1 and 3:30 to 6. We arrived in Talpiot around 2 pm with an hour and a half to waste so we stopped in at the Hadar Mall and went to the Home Store (similar to Ace Hardware but with more housewares). While Michael waited at the checkout line (to buy the cloth bags that hold clothes pins – hey not everything has to be exciting here!), Yisrael and I got a head start to the Licensing Bureau where we waited on line outside the building for half an hour.

The Licensing Bureau/Misrad Harishui (not in this photo) is next door to Best Buy, which is next door to the Police Station in Talpiot.
Finding Licensing Bureau

When the doors finally opened, we passed through security (discovering that Yisrael’s water bottle had leaked inside his backpack) and took a number as we entered the large and nicely furnished motor vehicle style room. As I looked at the number on the board (683) and the number on my ticket (680) I got a little concerned. The guy who took the number after me asked the guard about the problem and all hell broke loose because a woman in a bright yellow top – with nothing identifying her as an employee – was giving direction as to who was going next in line.

Suddenly the big old guard with the gun, handcuffs and other intimidating paraphernalia growled (literally!) and started yelling at everyone in Hebrew. The one word I did understand was “lashevet” which means sit down! So we located some seats. When he started calling off numbers in the 500s, I got a bit impatient and had to go back up and inquire as to when I could expect it to be my turn. As I was standing behind a group of people, something about me must have irritated him because he turned and pointed at me and said “Giveret, lashevet” (Mrs. or Madam – SIT!)

Eventually he called what sounded like my number so I went forward. He began yelling at me again! I lost the ability to communicate with him in even the simplest Hebrew (“ani lo mevina ivrit”) and told him in English that I didn’t understand (the incident with Yisrael at the ulpan had drained me of my fire). Someone from the crowd yelled up to him in Hebrew that I didn’t understand. Michael – my bodyguard – was standing back a short distance and slowly edged his way forward.

The man acknowledged that I had the lucky ticket, but he wasn’t letting me go yet – he said “rega” (wait). Then a window opened up and the woman had the audacity to advance the number system to the next number (684) and this guard gave her a piece of his mind and walked away leaving me standing there. Afraid to move an inch forward, I waited (without daring to say as much as “mother may I?” so as not to enrage him any further) for his permission. He came back after yelling at a few fools who thought they could sneak by him into a different corridor – this guy was sharp for an old geezer!

In the meantime, Yisrael had left his GameBoy sitting on the chair he had been warming and a very nice and pretty soldier brought it to him. She spoke English and was able to fill us in on what was transpiring around us.

And then my moment came, he motioned that I should go forward. The clerk, who had probably been waiting for me for 5 minutes (her punishment for advancing the numbers without the guard’s permission), quickly rambled off something in Hebrew that was completely incoherent to me. I apologized in Hebrew that I didn’t understand and then she spoke English to me just fine. She took my American driver’s license, Teudat Oleh, Teudat Zehut and the green form I received from the optician’s office (that my medical doctor completed last Thursday) and wrote a bunch of stuff on the back of the form. Then the fun started, she walked off with my license to make a photo copy and I sent the Teudat Oleh over to Michael via Yisrael because he needed it when his turn came. The guard suddenly realized we were together (okay, so maybe he wasn’t as sharp as I thought) and scolded Michael to get over to the window with me – a completely unexpected turn of events.

The clerk came back annoyed because the copier was out of paper and grabbed a small stack from her bin (just enough to aggravate the next user) and left again. A few minutes later she returned and told me to go to the mall to make a copy and bring it back to her because the copy machine wasn’t working – no way! I was prepared and handed her the copy I had in my envelope. Then she snapped at me for not having given it to her in the first place – she hadn’t asked! She was annoyed to see that Michael also needed his done and why hadn’t he come to the counter with me in the first place?! In such an environment, who would have guessed that this would have been allowed?

She lightened up and explained that the next step is for us to call a driving school and make an appointment. And she smiled and told me that we have until July 10th 2011 to take care of this so if I feel I need lots of lessons, not to worry! Does that mean that it will take until 2011 to get this task accomplished?! I happen to know that we only have 1 year from our date of arrival to complete the process of converting our licenses – if we go beyond that, we’re up to the twenty-something lessons before we can take a road test. She also pointed out that I shouldn’t worry if I fail the first road test because I’ll get a second chance before having to take all those extra lessons. Thanks for the vote of confidence 😀 !

We rushed out of there without taking photos – I really did want to share the visual experience with you but after my experience with the security guard at the mall last week when I took a photo of the gate we came in because I like to leave breadcrumbs (in my camera) to help me find my way back out, I decided this old guy was much tougher and I didn’t dare snap a shot. The guard in the Malcha Mall came running after me and wanted to know what I had just taken a photo of. I told him and he demanded that I delete it from my camera! I swear, it was just the sign with the name of the gate! After arguing with me for a few minutes (by the way, I was adamant because I don’t know how to delete images from the camera without my computer software!) he must have figured out that I’m not a terrorist because he gave up and said “b’seder” (okay, alright…) – but this growling guard, I just didn’t feel too confident going up against him!

From there we stopped at the old shopping center to have keys made (so Yisrael will have one in case he arrives home from school before we get home from ulpan). The guy wasn’t there, but his shop was open so Michael waited while Yisrael and I went to my favorite ice coffee shop – I really needed one at that point. We finished our excursion at the 2 shekel (dollar type) store and picked up a few things.


Fortunately there was a bus stop a short walk from there but we had to wait in the blazing sun for about 15 minutes for the 21 bus to take us back to the Central Bus Station. The bus – an extra long one – was standing room only for the 20 minute ride and my back was hurting and Yisrael was cranky, and people were pushing and shoving… it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Upon arrival at the station we quickly crossed the street and passed through the tunnel under the road to catch the 174 back to Ma’aleh Adumim – which (thank GOD) had seats for us!

During the ride I received a call from Yoni the cabinet maker asking if I could stop in to see him before 7 p.m. because he had a new stain color he thought I might like for my bookcases and he wants to paint them tomorrow. I had been looking forward to going straight home, but decided this was important so I got off at the library stop and cut through the path to Kikar Yaalom while Michael and Yisrael went home (to cook – or so I thought). I was happy to discover that Yoni’s new stain was the exact honey color I wanted.

A quick stop in the health food store and I was on my way home. While I was standing at the bus stop waiting, a little girl of maybe 10 or 11 (who looked a lot like my niece Teresa did at that age), was walking toward me with tears streaming down her face. They weren’t tears of anger, but rather tears of a broken heart. I asked her if I could help her and what was wrong. We had a bit of difficulty communicating because of the language barrier. But she did know some English and I do know some Hebrew. But then sometimes words aren’t sufficient anyway. When I asked what I could do to help her she burst into loud sobbing and I hugged her and gave her a tissue – I didn’t know what else to do.

The bus came and I asked if she was going to take it to get home. She got on with me and during the 10 minute ride to her house I learned that her “friends” had ditched her at the mall. She couldn’t find them and was afraid to try to go home alone. I asked if she lived in Mitzpe Nevo (the first neighborhood the bus goes through) and she did. I was glad because my stop is after that and I wanted to make sure she made it home safely. I suggested that she talk to her mother about this when she got home. She cried some more and told me her mother wouldn’t be home – she’d be going to an empty house (at 7:30 pm) because her mother was working and her father wouldn’t around either.

The bus driver made her smile as she got off the bus and I hope she took some comfort in knowing that someone cared. I cried as I remembered how much it hurt me as a child when other kids did mean things to me – and then years later how Jessica was emotionally tortured by her “friends”, and most recently Yisrael being on the receiving end of mean kids’ behavior in Cleveland. I was disappointed that even in the Holy Land “kids will be kids” and forget everything they’re being taught about good character traits and treating each other as they would want to be treated.

It was a long difficult day and as I hear snoring coming from the other room, I realize it’s time to put this to rest.


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