Back in Tel Aviv 1/12-13/10

The trip back from Eilat was interesting. Our bus was inhabited by a few colorful characters. The first thing that alerted us to the unusual nature of our passengers was the trip out of the bus station. We had just gotten about a block when a taxi blocked the bus’s route and a heavy-set woman with flaming red hair came dashing out of the vehicle and commenced pounding on the door of our bus to be admitted. The bus driver shouted at her in a frenzy “Ani lo poteah lakh!” (“I am not opening the door for you!” While the woman pounded on the door, the taxi driver (with his cab still blocking us)  sauntered over to the driver’s side of the bus. The bus driver told him, “Take her to the next junction”. It turned out that there was an official bus stop about a mile up the road. So the woman hurled herself back into the cab and we were treated to the spectacle of the cab trying to outrun the bus to the bus stop.

The cab succeeded and the woman clambered up into the bus, shrilly complaining of the driver’s ill behavior (her comments, not mine). He gave as good as he got and we were treated to an old-fashioned shouting match for about five minutes up the road until everyone calmed down.

After a couple of hours the bus made a convenience stop and we used the chance to pick up a bite to eat. As it turned out, someone slipped on through the back door to try to get a free ride to Tel Aviv. But to his chagrin, we also picked up some sort of bus company conductor who proceeded through the bus checking everyone’s tickets. When he got to the extra passenger a debate broke out as the gentleman insisted that he had 1) lost his ticket and 2) had no money. The conductor laughed at these excuses and quizzed him on how much the ticket had cost (he got that wrong) and what seat number had been written on the ticket (buses between Eilat and Tel Aviv actually have assigned seats). He got that wrong too. As it turned out, he also had no identification. So it was pretty obvious what he was dealing with.

The conductor labeled him “shaqran” (liar) and laughed about this all the way to Tel Aviv. But the amazing thing (to me) is that they didn’t throw him off the bus or even do something to record some information or have the bus met by police. He was allowed to continue to Tel Aviv and there he slinked off into the evening.

Anyway, while all this was going on the flaming red-haired woman sat with the conductor and it turned out that she was friends not only with the conductor, but also with the driver. So all that shouting about getting on the bus was actually among friends! We gleaned that she was heading for a wedding in Ashdod.

Several of the other passengers seemed interesting to me. There was a group of young female soldiers chatting like schoolgirls in front of us. To the back there was a woman traveling with a male companion but dressed like a street walker. Normally I wouldn’t comment on this, but at our second convenience stop I was behind her on line to pay for food and when she arrived at the register she gave the cashier a verbal whipping for taking too long to take her money ostensibly because he needed the time to inspect her bodice.

Well, we somehow pulled into Tel Aviv on time and in one piece. Despite luggage encumbrance we elected the regular number 4 city bus since we were already in the central bus station and that got us back home without much ado. After freshening up (and checking email) in our home-away-from-home we ventured out to our own personal hang-out, the Cafe Hurkanos, where our favorite waitress (Maayan) provided us with a delicious dinner. Terri had the Israeli salad with avocado, I the Hungarian goulash.

Tel Aviv University

At last we came to the day that was assigned to Terri’s one official duty here in Tel Aviv, a talk on circadian rhythms at Tel Aviv’s department of Zoology. After a breakfast of coffee (hot cocoa for Terri) and pastries we headed off on the number 25 bus. We thought about taking the bus all the way to the back of the campus where the Zoology department is located (in the middle of a zoo!), but I urged Terri to get off earlier since were were early to stroll through campus. As a result, we received a notice when we entered the security gate that a general strike had been called for noon and a demonstration with some pretty famous people. The list included Professor Yosef Kalter, president of the university (imagine the presidents of American universities participating in student demonstrations!), Dalia Rabin, daughter of Prime Minister Yitzhaq Rabin, and the sister of Nir Katz who was a counselor at a gay youth center and was murdered in an infamous anti-gay shooting rampage. The demonstration was to urge governmental changes with respect to welfare and education.

After receiving this information, we walked across campus. I thought it would be easy to get to the Zoology building, but security changes everything. The Zoology building is actually across a street which means that one has to find an exit from campus to the street and then another entrance to the Zoology area. We wound our way through a number of buildings before finding the exit. After crossing the street, we quickly came to a door to the Zoology area, but it was shut. We looked up and down the street and I finally walked over to the security guard at the parking lot and asked an attendant. He said that I would just have to wait until someone either entered or exited the area.

Meanwhile, Terri had gone back to the door and after trying the telephone intercom and telephoning our hosts (no answer), commenced banging on the door. We were saved by a student exiting who held the door open for us. A worker we encountered had no idea who our hosts were, but shooed us in the right direction and we found both Noga and Rotem engaged in conversation with students on the second floor of the Zoology building. It turned out that Noga had just returned from a sabbatical in Australia and had not yet fully restored her phone service and Rotem had left her phone with her belongings. The departmental secretary had wandered off and wasn’t answering the phone either. But all’s well that end’s well and from there the day proceeded perfectly.

The TA University’s Zoology department has a full-fledged zoo which combines animals that are there for research purposes with sick and injured animals that are turned in by anyone who knows they exist. They don’t accept house pets, but any wildlife they can help they do. We saw a wide variety of birds, cats, wolves, snakes, and amphibians. We’ll have to hear from Terri about all these wonderful beasts.

Terri continued on with her group and I slipped away. I took the bus back to central Tel Aviv, found a good showarma stand, then walked up Diezengoff. I was soon inspecting used books and found a couple of interesting volumes that I hope will provide me with some entertaining time in Hebrew. After that, it was a short trip home. Time for this Israeli journey is winding down.

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