When my wife and I paid a short visit to Israel last week for the wedding of one of our students, I was positively surprised by the smooth running of our trip. At Schiphol, both the Israeli security and the ELAL staff were polite, we received an free upgrade to priority seats and they were also very friendly on the plane.
On arrival at Ben Gurion, the often rude customs officers had largely been replaced by more efficient machines, reducing the expected long queue to a few minutes. The rental car turned out to actually be ready and the ride to our residence went perfectly. And when we visited the Kotel the next day, the navigation had not navigated us through dangerous area (Ramallah) this time as it did on the previous trip. After the visit to the Kotel and our walk through the Arabian Shuk had gone smoothly and unscathed, I concluded that the country had come of age – perhaps as a result of the corona period. Modern Israel was all tranquility and civilization.
But then things went wrong… As we drove out of the underground parking lot of the Mamilla shopping center, I was blinded by the bright sun. I couldn’t find my sunglasses and suspected they had fallen somewhere in the trunk. I slowed down with the intention of stopping on the side of the road to find my sunglasses. In my rear-view mirror, however, I saw the bright headlights of an Egged bus. So from the front the blinding aggressive sun and now through the rear window the even more aggressive headlights of the city bus.
I expected and hoped that the driver would overtake me on the left, because “doesn’t that traffic rule applies here as well?”. But he kept driving behind me, blinking and honking furiously all the time. Despite my previous positive thoughts, I had to conclude that the established civilisation was very disappointing and that the country will probably never become as neat and friendly as our Netherlands.
At the traffic light, the bus unexpectedly pulled up next to me, the driver opened his window and I mentally prepared my reply to the swearing cannonade that he would undoubtedly pour out on me. “Selicha”, the driver shouted “Jeesh lecha mishkafajim al hagag” – which means “Excuse me, there are sunglasses on the roof of your car!”
This column has been published before in NIW # 16 (Feb 3rd 2023)