Getting to Jerusalem from the kibbutz requires two buses. The first, a very short ride in to Be’er Sheva. But even before that it requires getting up a little earlier than we have thus far. So we stumble a bit bleary-eyed to the bus stop in the circle by the post office at the entrace to the kibbutz. We are early and watch other people leave in a sharout, a van-like taxi that individuals will share to go to a joint destination. Eventually the bus comes but it is full of air force people and zooms by to drop them at the base next door before returning to pick us up. Along with us are several other civilians and a bunch of army people heading off to begin their work week.
As the bus approaches the final stop I can see the length of the central bus station with a dozen or more stalls for buses to destinations all over Israel. What is unique is that each bus stop is filled with soldiers — army, air force, paratroopers, combat, brown boots, black boots, kaki, tan, and green uniforms, berets of every color. A sea of military people moving from one place to another. And, I learned, they all ride for free.
While waiting for our bus we indulge in a variety of train station delicacies. I have a crepe smeared with nutella. There’s schwarma with French fries, falafel with French fries and so on. Enough to keep up our energy for the 2 hour ride, or perhaps to lull us each into sleep for the duration.
On the trip, between naps and listening to my Hebrew language lessons, I watch the landscape, the incredible contrast between the sandy soil and the lush green the springs from it.
And as we get closer to Jerusalem the terrain begins to change from flat desert to rocky hills. And then the hills are covered with a mat of sand stoned colored cement buildings. The suburbs turn into the city and before you know it we are at the central bus station. We are now out of the homogenious environment of the kibbutz and immersed in the grand diversity that makes up Jerusalem. Black hats in black hats and heavy black coats. Muslim women in black head coverings and long dresses. Students with back packs and bags. Travelers with suitcases and packs. Soldiers. Arabs guys in plain street clothes and Arab women colorful skirts and head scarves. Business men, although rarely in a suit or tie. And everyone moving, through check points, through shops, and coffee stands, up the escalator, down the street, everyone is on the go.
Via foot and cab we eventually make our way to the Abraham Hostel. More on that layer. And to the market where Bernard and I stop for some nourishment. We end up at a little kurdish restaurant nestled between a judaica chachkah shop and an olive stand. Fried kuda (?) filled with meat or rice and meat or veggies and a beet soup with meat filled dough balls. Topped with a beer in my case and a lemonade for Bernard. Delicious. Our waiter, half American, half Israeli with some Romanian and Bulgarian thrown in was also delightful.
Later that evening the whole family regroups with the addition of Ben’s friend Daniel, a Laplander who has made Aliyah. We eat at Sami’s, a classic middle eastern style restaurant where the meal starts with the waiter covering the table with a zillion small dishes of salads, enough to be a meal whole group. But then we get entrees — schwarma, kabobs, steak, an the Jerusalem special — every kind of chicken part cooked up together. It was another feast.
Another travel day comes to a close. The youth head out to the bars. The elders head up to bed.