Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jerusalem Cable Car

  • The arrow on Hevron St. says, "Mt Zion Cable Car." Don’t get your fare ready! It points to the Cable Car Museum. Walk back a little towards the windmill and go up the ramp to the middle of the overpass. From there you’ll have a good view of the cable, running from the old eye clinic building to Mt. Zion ( ). Right up against the building at this end of the cable is the car. The cable is new, but the car is the one used to evacuate the wounded and to supply Mt. Zion in the War of Independence. Generally the museum is open by appointment (02-627 75 50).
  • The wheel and gears for winching the car back and forth are in place. Until 1967, the mechanism was maintained in working order "in case it was needed again."
  • The museum includes photocopies of the military forms setting up the project and assigning the engineer. An army runs on its paperwork.
  • The photograph of the engineer, Uriel Jefetz, made me think how happy he looked to have a technical problem worth solving.
  • See

Copyright 2006 Jane S. Fox

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006


  • Hamsin is a dry wind from the desert. By five in the afternoon, as the shadows lengthen, the day’s heat should radiate out through the cloudless sky and shade should be cool with the promise of evening. And so it is through most of Jerusalem’s spring, summer, and fall. But not when a hamsin blows. When hamsin blows Americans, especially from places where summer means humidity, laugh, "It’s a dry heat," but older Israelis say, "Hamsin, hamsin" and young ones, "sharav."
  • Hamsin blows hot day and night. They say it blows for fifty days. Fortunately these are not consecutive but spread throughout the year. Fifty straight days of hamsin would drive us all crazy.
  • On my way from the bookstore in the afternoon, I break my walk to tuck myself under a tree in a tiny, dusty park, waiting for the drip irrigation system to go on. The small holes in narrow hoses among the shrubs minimize evaporation; the air gets no cooler but even the faint sound of water is welcome. People walk by from early morning and into the night. When the day’s heat leaves, parents or older sisters will bring little kids to play here.
  • High-school students get off the bus, a group of girls, chattering, graceful in long slim skirts. Long hair in braids or sleekly caught at the nape wih a large barette swings past the back of their white, long sleeved blouses. They’re from a religious high school, maybe Evelina de Rothschild School for girls.
  • Back in the apartment I wash the floors.

Copyright 2006 Jane S. Fox

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  • Some preparedness official announced last week that we should have three liters per person on hand in case of an earthquake. I thought, "So after the earthquake we dig through the rubble to find our water bottles?" Eventually my slow brain figured out that we’re to store water in case an earthquake breaks the water mains. (See and )
  • "Water mains" includes the large pipes that bring water from the Kinneret (Sea of Gallilee) and from the desalination plant, built with typical bureaucratic idiocy in the wrong place. Its water is pumped south, but it lies south of the population centers and the pipes and pumps are not configured to move the water north. The builders knew that but figured the water would be used for agriculture. Unfortunately, desalinated water is not good for agriculture. I think it is like distilled water (maybe it is distilled water) and lacks minerals crops need. Don't people need them, too? Yes, but if the plant had been properly placed, water from it could have gone into the system with very hard water from other sources, ending up with water that was good for plants and humans both. It could also have been situated where its water could be mixed with purified sewage water to be used for agriculture. Or ... well, there were probably lots of other choices, but they didn't get picked.
  • I now have juice and soda bottles full of water in the refrigerator. In the summer, three liters each would last us for about a day . And Jerusalem's not like Madison where you could take your Brita filter down to a lake! Ah well, what are the odds there'll be an earthquake?
  • (Brackish water is good for crops like tomatoes, but I guess that if they added sea water to the system they'd have to separate the agricultural water system from what goes to people's houses.)

Copyright 2006 Jane S. Fox

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Monday, May 29, 2006


Copyright 2006 Jane S. Fox


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Water on Jerusalem Day

  • Men in their seventies will tell you that when they were in the army, they learned how to manage with very little water. It was a matter of discipline. They were, I suppose, all too dehydrated to notice that as their throats dried, their thoughts slowed. Finally someone did observe that, however heroic the spirit, bodies need water. Noncoms started insisting that their men drink. And again. And again. A friend's husband, cabdriver in civilian life, told me his job in reserves in the sixties and seventies was driving a water truck, a job without prestige but essential.
  • On the day Jerusalem Day was celebrated, a radio DJ mentioned that Betsalel and King George Streets would soon be closed off because of the parade. First I heard of that parade. I walked over to see it. An ambulance pulled up on the plaza outside the Mashbir at the top of Ben Yehuda. Volunteers got out gave volunteer vests to others who’d arrived on their own. There were a lot of metal barriers lined up on the sidewalk but traffic was still flowing.
  • Gradually clumps of police collected and clumps of soldiers. A soldier went from group to group saying, "There’s water over there." She pointed. "Go get some." A policeman went over to the cops. "Go get water over there," he said. Men and women sauntered over to get water and ambled back. Then they put up the barriers to redirect traffic.

Copyright 2006 Jane S. Fox

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Daughter of the Salwar Kameez?

  • Years ago, I used to see Arab school girls in school uniforms, similar to what girls wore in Britain, over slacks. I figured their rules of modesty required covered legs -- more covering than British wool knee socks. (They didn't cover their hair -- whether because that was not yet common or because they were Christians, I don't know.) In the last few years I began to see religious Jewish school girls in their long skirts over sweat pants. (See I figured they had the sweat pants for gym class (where, with no males around, they'd remove the skirts) or that away from home and school (where neither parents nor teachers would see them) they were going to remove their skirts.
  • This year I see both religious and nonreligious teenaged girls wearing denim skirts over jeans, flouncy skirts over matching slacks, and (among the nonreligious) miniskirts over jeans. Last night at folkdancing one girl, maybe 17 or 18 years old, wore a paisley micro-mini over jeans. The trendy but inexpensive shops near the ben Yehuda midrehov, have racks of skirt-pants combos out. Now was there a sequence? Did the idea get passed with modifications from girl to girl until designers took it up? Or was it re-invented two or three times. (I've got Richard Dawkins memes in my head.)

  • Is this a fashion elsewhere? I've often seen fashions here that later show up in the US. The clunky shoes of a few years back are an example. I don't know whether they started here or started elsewhere and were taken up in Israel before they arrived in the US. And how can I tell which girls are religious? I leave that for another day.

  • In addition to the skirts over jeans (which I think is a riff on the Indian/Pakistani salwar kameez ), I've seen what I call "remnant skirts," -- waistband and six inches of denim, six inches of gingham, six inches of georgette, six of paisley -- or some other combo. Only seen this in a little shop, not on anyone. About a year ago I saw something similar in a fashion news article in the NY Times.

  • Usually I don't notice fashion, but here there is so much variety -- lots of little shops including hole-in-the-wall businesses, many run by dressmakers showing their own stuff. I've become quite a "window shopper" (often without the windows because the storefronts are open to the sidewalks). See

Coyright 2006 Jane S. Fox


Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Jerusalem Neighborhood

  • From the living room window I look out over roofs. Across the street, the building has a "typical" red-tile Israeli roof, as do scattered buildings down the hill and up the next one. These are rolling, mounds of sugar, hills. The sky is always there, stretching into the distance. Other roofs are flat, and on these I see the solar water heater panels and water tanks ( ). The tile roofs, being pitched, hide these panels and tanks, which sit on the south side, picking up a little energy even in January, then coming into their own when spring moves in. From the dining-area window I see the boring wall of the building across the garden from us. Beyond it are tall trees. From the bedroom the view extends (at an angle between buildings) across the park in the Valley of the Cross.
  • Like many places in "the Holyland," that one's name comes from an early Christian guess. One story has it that the Emperor Constantine's mother (, who became a Christian long before he did (he waited until he was on his deathbed, confessed his sins, was baptised, and figured he'd go clean to heaven) would sleep in different places and say she'd drempt that the place where she slept was such and such a place mentioned in the Bible or the New Testament.
  • Academics have lived in this neighborhood for over 60 years. In his memoir, Amos Oz ( mentions that his father's ambition was to get a professorial position at the Hebrew University (where he was a librarian) and live in Rehavia.
  • Like every building that follows the building code, ours is faced with traditionally-cut "Jerusalem stone." This is limestone, rough cut-- faceted. Around the corner is a very well-preserved rock-cut tomb from the time of the Maccabees. It looks like a large, but simple mausoleum.
  • We are about 1.5 miles from the Old City ( and ), on one side, and the Knesset building on the other.
  • It is very hilly. Streets twist and turn as if Lewis Carrol had become a city planner. Only by looking at a map can I tell the shortest route.
  • In this neighborhood there are almost no private homes ( ). Most apartment buildings are no more than four stories high -- though there are a few "towers" with elevators.
  • Low walls along the sidewalk separate it from tiny gardens. The municipality has scattered benches along the streets and in the small parks. Green dumpster-like garbage containers ( ) appear along the way. You never see small American-style garbage cans.
  • Every block or so is a small store. I'd say these are "convenience stores" except that they've been around since long before PDQ. Each is no bigger your living room and dining room and all sell dairy products, basic canned goods, flour, salt, sugar, basic paper products, and usually a few fruits and vegetables. Also newspapers. There are three or four florists within five blocks and two or three small restaurants, plus three or four more cafes, which also serve pastries. Two blocks away are two banks, a hardware store, and a video rental place, with a dry cleaners just down the road, two hair salons, a tailor and the display case for a dressmaker whose shop is down a little walk.
  • There is a supermarket about three quarters of a mile up Aza St ( )and down Agron ( ) . Another is about a half mile to the north of us ( ). The open air market ( ) is about a mile and a half away. I want to buy so much there, but getting it home, even by bus, is awkward and the bags are heavy by the time I start walking up the steps.
  • We are on the third floor (which Israelis, like Europeans, call the second) in addition to almost a full flight of stairs up to the building entrance. It's a block to a bus stop with two buses ( ), and another two bocks to a main road with more bus lines. Behind us and down a hill is an elementary school. Instead of a school bell, they have electronic chimes that play really vapid tunes (for example, London Bridge is Falling Down).
  • The neighborhood is almost entirely Jewish. People speak Hebrew. In other parts of Jerusalem nowadays you hear a lot of English, Russian, Arabic, French, and Spanish, plus Amharic. Oh yes, there are Filipinos (actually more Filipinas) who get hired to caretake old people. Among themselves they speak their home languages. To Israelis they speak Hebrew or English.
  • Until recently Jerusalem was not built for cars. One way you can tell that this two-block street was built in the last thirty years is that it has parking areas, although not enough. A few blocks away, places are marked off for parking on the sidewalks, which are very wide. About twenty years ago people started parking on the sidewalk and some committee must have decided it was better to mark spaces that would leave room for pedestrians.
    Copyright 2006 Jane S. Fox

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Folk Dancing

  • To find a folkdancing group, post a query to the Yahoo rikud group. Venues change, but you can find dancing several days a week.
  • On Independence Day Eve there's dancing in Safra Square in front of City Hall.
  • For tango, ballroom, or other dancing, the Haaretz Friday supplement Akhbar HaIr is a good source, but it is in Hebrew.

Copyright 2006 Jane S. Fox