Israel visit – changes in plans

Sunday (Feb. 6) morning I got up an hour or two before the girls so I could map all the driving directions for the day.  When I lived in Israel, I didn’t know how to drive and only used public transportation, but everywhere I’d be going that day would be entirely new to me in any event.    This took an hour and a half, but I was finally satisfied I had worked out all the different directions I’d need for our drive to Tzfat later in the day.

We finally left around 11 am or so, and I was very glad to see someone I had wanted to visit the day before (but hadn’t had the opportunity) waiting at the bus stop.  We ended up sitting together and talking all the way to Jerusalem – she was marrying off the last of her children in a large family, and I wanted a financial rundown of how she did it!   At the last stop in Beitar, one of my old neighbors got on the bus – she had lived upstairs from me, and at one point, had taken care of my oldest when he was 2 years old between the time his playgroup was over and I had returned home from work, and I had taken care of her baby in the mornings at a later time when I was home full-time.  I was so glad to have the chance to see her, even though it was really a very brief conversation.  I pointed out dd14 and dd16 sitting on the bus behind me; she still remembered dd16, but we had moved from that building to a different neighborhood when dd14 was quite young.  We were about 19 and 20 when we first met, and it’s an interesting feeling to be so conscious of how much time has passed. 

When we got to Jerusalem, we took the local bus (with all of our luggage for the week – was the least fun part of traveling on buses was having to deal with this) and took a very scenic path, shall we say, from the bus stop to the car rental place.  On the map it didn’t look too far, and it wouldn’t have been, but we were directed through a park with a long winding path that took us only a tiny bit closer to where we needed to be when we got out than when we started!.  I was so glad our luggage had wheels, because this would have been really horrible without it.  As it was, it was physically exerting – lots of good exercise since I was pulling two full suitcases behind me.  Lots of opportunities for positively reframing situations were sent to me on this day!

We finally got there and signed in, and as part of the process was informed about extra costs, etc.  I decided to get the extra insurance, and after I had finished signing all the paperwork, was informed that my credit card would be billed afterward for any tolls.  I told him I planned to pay for tolls in cash, but he explained that in Israel you can’t do that, your car is automatically billed.  But not to worry, the car rental company would take care of it for us – it would be just a 49 shekel charge.  And how much was the toll on the road I wanted to take?  17 shekels. 

This sounded a little extortionist, so I decided to take a different route, one that another representative mapped out for me.  She said it would take about 30 minutes longer than the original route, but I was okay with that.  It was too bad I had spent so long on all of those carefully arranged driving directions and they were no longer necessary, but I took an attitude of rolling with the punches – it’s a small country, and on the map it didn’t look like too complicated. 

When our car was pulled up for us, we piled our suitcases in with a sigh of relief that we wouldn’t have to take them out again until we got to our destination, and the girls sank back and relaxed.  Though I can’t say I relaxed at that point (after all, I was the driver!) I was glad to have gotten the car and be on our way, and glad that the girls were feeling good about it! 

The first difference I noticed about driving in Israel was when a traffic light blinked at a major intersection.  I wasn’t sure what that meant, and since I was the driver closest to the light, I couldn’t take my cues from another driver, so I figured I’d take it as a warning to slow down.  That was a smart decision – the only problem was that I didn’t realize that although there were two traffic lights, one after the other – there was only one place to stop – before the first.  So I stopped before the second – which I learned a few seconds later was smack in the middle of the intersection,  with traffic turning in front and behind me.  This was more than a  little unnerving, since I clearly realized at this point no cars were supposed to be there, so I mentally focused on feeling safe and not getting hit. 

Well, you live and you learn, and though it would have been nice if I had had even one traffic light prior to this major one learn on it would have been more pleasant, but that’s okay.  As we accelerated after the light, our car was jittering horribly, which continued to happen every single time I stopped for a light and then reaccelerated – eventually it had us laughing hard about this phenomena and we nicknamed our car the ‘Jitterslug’!  But we continued on and I slowly started to ….well, not relax, because driving in a foreign country when you don’t know where you’re going isn’t relaxing…. but I got into the groove. 

It was a gorgeous day, I was appreciating the opportunity to extend my comfort zone by doing something that had previously been outside my comfort zone, and I was enjoying the drive.  At one point, dd16, who was navigating, asked if she could take a break since we were on a highway that we would be continuing straight on for a long time, so I said fine.  After about fifteen minutes, I noticed a minuet coming up on the left and since there were  no Arab villages on my planned trip, I looked around to see if I could roll down the window to ask another driver to confirm I was on the right road.  And as I looked all around, I saw only Arab men and women in headscarves, so I very quickly at the light made a sharp u-turn and sped in the other direction.

This jolted dd14 in the back seat awake, and I told dd16 she better quickly look at the map and tell me where I was, because I didn’t want to be there!  It turns out that to stay on the highway we were on (that appeared straight on the map), we needed to make a 90 degree turn, and that by continuing straight, we’d ended up on a road that looked as if we’d have to make a 90 degree turn to get onto!  Lesson: pay attention to the map and the road signs closely, even if you’re sure you know where you’re going.

Well, a while later we were back on the highway we needed to be on, and I told dd16 she couldn’t take any more breaks, that I’d appreciate an extra pair of eyes paying attention along with me.  But as I drove, and drove, and drove – it seemed to be taking a very, very long time to get there, even though my driving speed was good.  At this point, I should have been in Tzfat, and I could see by looking at the map that we were nowhere close to there.  It was also obvious at this point that the route designated was the scenic approach (this was becoming a regular experience!) which took us along every major city along the coast – it would have been hard to have had a less direct approach. 

Well, about an hour after that, I told the girls we were going to have to make a change in plans, since it was getting dark and I was starting to feel confused by the road signs that seemed to keep changing – I continually was wondering if we were on the road we were supposed to be on, and no amount of looking at the map was helping since the numbers on the map didn’t match the numbers on the sign, I think because I was then on local roads and only major highways were marked.  I was by now really tired and was feeling very concerned about my ability to find my way without daylight on my side – after all, we’d had gorgeous weather all day long and it hadn’t been easy even then. 

We were in Haifa at this point, and I said I thought we should stay at dd’s school (in Kiryat Motzkin, about twenty or thirty minutes past Haifa) for the night, which wouldn’t be that much out of the way.  Neither of the girls liked this idea, but at this point I put my foot down – I knew I couldn’t drive safely much longer – I hadn’t had much sleep the night before, and now I was really feeling worn out.  So dd called the dorm mother to confirm it was okay (we had already been there the first night of my visit and were planning to be back there on Tuesday night, so it just meant arriving two nights early), and it was.

After five hours, we arrived at dd’s school.  I know, those of you in Israel will wonder how it could possibly have taken that long – you can practically travel from one end of the country to the other in that time – but it did (and my detour only accounted for half an hour).  Part of it was getting stuck in Haifa’s rush hour traffic, part of it was not knowing how to get from the highway to dd’s school, part of it was a couple of small wrong turns – but the main part was taking a very long route from Jerusalem.  It was such a relief to get to her school, and after hours of wondering where I was and when I’d be there, to be somewhere familiar. 

I called our hosts to let them know we wouldn’t be there that night, though I still hoped we’d make it the next night.  We got to dd’s school around 7, in time for dinner, and by 8:30 pm, I was asleep.  And I slept for the next eleven hours straight. 


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