Ulpan Reconnaissance: French Hill

After Morasha, I moved on to French Hill. I had to call 2 different numbers to get an English speaking woman who could only tell me that the #4 bus comes to their parking lot if you get a nice bus driver, otherwise you get off at “the stop” (which one she couldn’t clearly explain) and climb the stairs (I later learned that these are the 100+ terraced stairs in a nicely landscaped area). I knew this wasn’t going to help us coming from the direction of Ma’aleh Adumim and didn’t want to have to go back to the Central Bus Station (CBS) through security to wait on line at the information desk to determine what bus to take to French Hill so I bit the bullet and took another taxi.

The taxi missed HaHaganna by 2 blocks – he wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t pointed it out – he wasn’t sure where the matnas (community center) was so he dropped me off in front of an apartment building at 3:00 p.m. and I walked a short distance to the Community Council sign.

After walking up the path from HaHaganna and climbing the stairs I managed to press the right buzzer to gain entrance to the building.

Front of building

View of building from the parking lot on the other side.

I followed a woman up to the top floor and located the reception desk. I explained that I was there to check out the location and needed directions to the nearest bus stop heading to Ma’aleh Adumim. The woman very confidently pointed to the side door and told me to walk the path beside the parking lot until I came to a set of stairs, go all the way down, turn left and the bus stop would be there. I thanked her and proceeded down the 100+ steps in a very scenic setting.

As instructed, I came out the side door through the auditorium by the truck – the glass doors were locked.

Walking toward the path to the stairs, you see a tunnel that (I learned during my long walk) comes up from Bar Kokhva.

I took photos of each set of steps as I reached the next landing just to give you a feel for how steep this hill is.

When I reached the bottom, I turned left and saw the bus stop in the distance.

To my distress the bus stop was only for the #4 (the one the other woman had mentioned).

Figuring that there must be another bus stop a little further (and not wanting to climb back up those stairs) I continued on. After walking for about 15 minutes I got excited to see this bus stop off in the distance, with hopes that it might be the right one! It wasn’t.

About 10 minutes later I reached the end of Bar Kokhva St. at the intersection of HaHaganna.

Looking down the hill I noticed a Ma’aleh Adumim road sign.

And I figured that if I walked up the hill I’d be going back to where the taxi dropped me off – and I was determined to find the bus stop that was a short 10 minute walk from the ulpan!

I was hopeful that this would be the right bus stop… it wasn’t.

I made my way back up the hill to the Community Center alley and passed it to get to the bus stop that was in front of the shopping center. Again – no Ma’aleh Adumim bus.

On the verge of heat stroke, I stopped in a café for an ice coffee and decided to try walking down the hill toward the Ma’aleh Adumim road sign.

And there it was! The bus stop that clearly had #173 Ma’aleh Adumim on it!

I sat at that Ma’aleh Adumim 173 bus stop that was 15 minutes down the hill from the community center for 50 minutes waiting for a bus in the blazing hot sun! Not one Ma’aleh Adumim bus came by. I decided to follow the road signs that were pointing to Ma’aleh Adumim and walked to the next bus stop around the corner but there were no MA bus numbers. I asked a nice soldier for help and she told me that although the stop I had been waiting at for 50 minutes does have a 173 MA bus marked on it, that bus isn’t picking up there anymore! She instructed me to cross the street to the other side and pick it up there – but I couldn’t because there was no sidewalk, the road was being worked on. So I had to walk back to my starting point and up another block, across the street and down a block to the opposite bus stop. 173 was marked on that sign as going to the Central Bus Station – away from home.

The bus stop across the street.

The intersection to cross.

See the construction mess over there? No sidewalk.

After 15 minutes of waiting, and knowing I was being forced to backtrack at least another 30 minutes out of my way, I jumped on the next #6 bus going to the CBS. From there I managed to catch the 176 – which does go to Ma’aleh Adumim, but doesn’t go near my house – and then finally catch the 174 arriving home at 8:25 P.M. (I arrived in French Hill at 3:00 P.M.)

In my opinion, this is a completely unacceptable situation.

  • It is not right for people who have cars, and are unable to provide accurate bus information to those of us who don’t have vehicles, to make these location decisions for us.
  • Having receptionists and ulpan teachers who don’t know how to instruct patrons to get to their buildings is unacceptable – maybe this is one of those “only in Israel” things but I would expect that since these people go there to work every day they could at least record the numbers from the nearby bus stops. We all know that the bus routes are changing constantly due to the construction in Jerusalem (and sometimes even here in Ma’aleh Adumim) – so much so that Egged can’t provide us with a route map or even accurate telephone information – but if we knew what numbers to start with we could call or e-mail Egged for some confirmation.
  • Planning an ulpan outside of our community and expecting both parents to be out-of-town at ulpan with a risk of not making it home in time for their children to come home is not acceptable.

During the hour and 15 minutes I spent between those 2 bus stops, traffic was at a standstill quite often – so if there were an emergency and I had to get to my son’s school even via taxi it could take 20 (or more) minutes to get there from French Hill. I doubt there are very many olim parents (or children) who would feel comforted knowing that the schools will rush their children to Terem in case of emergency (chas v’sholom) while they are in Jerusalem at ulpan – in my family I know that both my son and I would be terrified.

No ulpan in Ma’aleh Adumim this year means that I may miss out on ulpan this round.

French Hill Ulpan Information:
HaHaganna St. #13
02-541-6000
B’Hatzlacha! (good luck!)

September 4th update:

The French Hill ulpan is beginning on Tuesday, September 9th at 9 a.m. What time will it run until and what days of the week? They’re not sure, it “depends on what works best for the pupils” according to Shlomit, “just come on Tuesday and we’ll work it out”.

After complaining to enough people, it was announced today that the original instructions were incorrect and now it is necessary to change buses to get there. According to the broken English I received on the phone today:

1) Get off at the 3rd bus stop after the tunnel on Sderot Eschol(although I’m not sure if that’s the 3rd stop after the 1st tunnel – which would be the 2nd stop after the 2nd tunnel – or the 3rd stop after the 2nd tunnel).

2) Cross to the other side.

3) Take either the #4 or #28 bus (which supposedly come every 15 minutes) and get off at the shopping center near the matnas. If you’re not sure where that is, ask the bus driver. (Good luck! If you don’t speak Hebrew, how will you ask the bus driver and get a comprehensible response? I have experienced much frustration with bus drivers who don’t want to – or can’t – provide such information)

4) Walk in the direction of the matnas. I happen to know which way that is now, but for those of you who don’t – if you’re facing the shopping center there is a grocery store at the left end and clothing stores, Burger Bar, and hair salon to the right. You need to go in the direction of the grocery store (the direction I was standing in when I took the photo below), pass it, cross the street and turn right down the alley where the Community Council sign is.

How do you get back to Ma’aleh Adumim in time for the children to get out of school? Not sure yet but “there certainly must be a bus leaving there between noon and 1 p.m. (Yisrael gets out of school at 1:20 on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday next week, and 12:35 on Tuesday.)

What was originally presented as a 20 minute trip in each direction will be 40 to 75 minutes of travel time for me to get there and 55 to 90 minutes to get back (provided the buses are running on time):

1) Catch any Jerusalem bus after walking Yisrael to school at 8:00 – this means walking 10 minutes from his school to the bus stop down by the bus depot corner and waiting 15 to 20 minutes. Coming back on the 174 involves a trip through Mitzpe Nevo and takes an additional 15 minutes.

2) Bus ride to next stop approximately 15 minutes (if I catch the bus from my house, I have to wait for it to do the entire Ma’aleh Adumim run which takes another 15 minutes).

3) Catch the #4 or #28 bus once I’ve arrived in Jerusalem – another potential 15 minute wait.

4) Bus ride to French Hill shopping center: 5 to 10 minutes depending on the number of times he has to stop.

5) Walk from bus stop to the matnas, climb the stairs and walk to the ulpan room: 10 minutes.

If ulpan were to run the 5 hours a day/5 days a week as planned, it would be completely impossible for me to attend the Sunday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. classes and make it home on time for Yisrael to get out of school. Back to looking for an evening ulpan with a nearby Ma’aleh Adumim bus stop – and hoping I can stay awake for it (I have to be up by 6:30 a.m. in order to get us out the door and on our walk to school by 7:40 a.m.)!

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