March 12, 2020
I woke up this morning after sunrise, realizing it has been a few days since the call to prayer has disturbed my sleep. The hubby has been getting up early to daven (pray) the past few days and told me that there has been no call to prayer at all. The silence in Jerusalem is starting to unnerve me. To break the tension, the hubby and I are now referring to this whole thing as “The Zombie Apocalypse.” At least that’s how people in America seem to be reacting, like some kind of doomsday movie. Apparently, Zombies use a lot of toilet paper and like to drink hand sanitizer. Who knew?!
All kidding aside, the hubby and I believe G-d is trying to tell us something – something that I’ve been missing here…but what? It all started Erev Rosh Hashanah when that macroburst hit my neighborhood, the entire thing occurring within the eruv (boundary). We would find out several days later that the downdraft reached the surface of the highway at the entrance to our street, its horizontal winds spreading throughout the one-mile radius of the eruv. The damage was staggering. One home had a tree crash through their roof into the bedroom where two of their children were sleeping. Miraculously, the tree landed in between the beds, although one of the children needed to be extracted from the rubble. Dozens of trees were uprooted like twigs, my next-door neighbor’s tree shattering into pieces as if detonated by a military-grade explosive device. We would also later find out that the tree was one of the horizontal bursts resulting from the downdraft, which also blew up a tree in our yard. We lost power for two days, however, our Rosh Hashanah feasts were not disrupted thanks to our other next-door neighbor who loaned us his generator while he and his family went camping. Needless to say, it took weeks for everyone to clean up the devastation. The house that was hit is still being repaired.
And now we hear our community back home is shutting down. No schools, no religious institutions, no libraries, no entertainment establishments, no stores, no nothing. Only grocery markets and restaurants selling food that can be carried out are permitted to remain open. What is G-d trying to tell us? We’ve already had our hail during this visit and waiting on the other nine. Is this some kind of eleventh plague?
To make matters worse, the kid has to leave today. The IDF is apparently working on getting all soldiers back to their bases and will be locked down for at least 28 days. She’ll have to get home to drop off and pick up her belongings before heading to base. The kid is not happy, but I keep reminding her that we at least didn’t have a wasted trip, and she got her required eight days to be with us, something many lone soldier parents and children didn’t get, including her best friend’s mother. Walking the kid to the corner on her way to catching whatever bus she could find, I also reminded her to pack enough socks and underwear. What else would any mother say?
Attempting to get over my malaise, the hubby and I headed to Machane Yehuda for some Shabbat food, stopping off at our now favorite hummus joint, Hummus Arbase, as well as the Levy Brothers falafel stand, not knowing if either would be open 24 hours from now. We aren’t leaving Israel without one more taste!
Stopping at the apartment to drop off our food, we reserved a Gett (taxi) to take us to the Malha Mall, our mission to replace the two Luminarc plates I broke last Shabbat. Remember those? Yes, I did find two replacements in gray the other day, albeit the wrong color, so I’m determined to find replacements in white. There’s a Hamishbar in the mall, the place on Jaffa Street where I bought the wrong color ones, along with several other home goods shops claiming to sell Luminarc. I’m feeling super confident, and the hubby is being super supportive. After 30 years of marriage, he knows to humor me. Besides, there’s pizza and ice cream reward for him waiting at the mall.
Tomer, our Gett driver, speaks excellent English and shows no signs of corona paranoia, arguing that the virus is out there in the air and that there’s nothing we can do about it. Tomer agrees that G-d is trying to tell us something, but he refuses to panic like the people in America. And, despite our current president’s lunacy, Tomer loves Trump. I don’t think I’ve yet to meet a taxi driver in Israel who doesn’t like Trump. I guess when every single one of your neighbors hates you, you’re willing to hang on to whatever support you can get. I like Tomer, mostly because he’s blasting Billie Eilish. Did I mention my obsession with Billie Eilish? Yeah, it’s serious.
It’s good that we decided to come to the mall because now it’s raining outside. We’re surprised at how empty the mall is compared to the last two years we’ve been here at this time. I refuse to feel paranoid and will not let it bring me down. Besides, I’m on a mission to find those plates.
First stop, pizza at Greg Café. Greg Café is a chain restaurant in Israel, each one offering a different menu. I’ve been to three other locations, Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem, Grand Canyon Mall in Be’er Sheva and one in Cinema City across from the Supreme Court of Israel. Greg Café has never let me down.
Next stop, ice cream. Although Katzefet Ice Cream has a number of branches throughout Jerusalem, selling ice cream, frozen yogurt, crepes, waffles, shakes and smoothies, as well as other assorted hot drinks, this is our first time trying them and are not disappointed.
Now it’s time to get serious – find a store that sells white Luminarc plates. Hamishbar was our first stop, since we know for a fact that they sell it but are hoping they sell them in singles. Walking around the store, we finally located the dinnerware section, narrowing our sights on the Luminarc display. Although it looks as if they only sell the set, I decided to press my luck and ask a sales clerk, only to be criticized for not knowing enough Hebrew.
Sales woman: You are in my country! Why do you not know Hebrew?!
Me (to self and whispered to the hubby): You just lost a sale lady.
Didn’t matter anyway. They only sold single plates in gray – been there, done that.
Disappointed with every other home store we visited, the hubby noticed a dollar-type store hidden at the back of the mall. With no other leads and me dreading that phone call to the landlord telling him I broke his plates and could only replace them in gray, we decided to check it out. And guess what?! No only did they have Luminarc plates, the sold them as singles! And guess what else?! They were 50% off today! Someone is smiling down on me. Let’s go home!
Returning back to the apartment, the weather is taking a turn for the worse, which is not a good thing because we are scheduled to meet up with friends who made aliyah last August. I’m not looking forward to going out in this mess. I don’t like rain at all, let alone cold, windy rain. The wind is so violent, we can hear it whistling through all the windows and are waiting for the building to buckle under its bullying swells. The landlord also sent me a message suggesting we close all the motorized roller shades to protect the windows from damage. The fact that he knew how windy it was from America tells me I should heed his call.
Lucky for us, the rain subsided, so we’ve decided to keep our date with friends at the Waffle Bar, which is next door to their ulpan and a very reliable place for dessert. Despite the dryer weather, the wind continues to be relentless and the temperature has dropped to 40 degrees. Needless to say, we ordered a Gett to take us to the restaurant because there’s no way we’re walking 20-30 minutes each way in this crazy cold wind. Our Gett driver is completely paranoid, the antithesis of Tomer. All the car windows are rolled down, he wearing a parka with the hood wrapped around his face in an attempt to ward off corona cooties while leaning his head out the window as he drives. Not a single word is spoken. I miss Tomer.
Not unlike last night, the streets are even more deserted tonight. Malaise is starting to creep back in, along with my anxiety over what will happen to us while we’re here and whether or not we’ll be able to get back home next week. Something is definitely happening here. Catching up with our friends who we haven’t seen since last August helped shake the tension. Of course, dessert and wine never hurt either.
I feel sorry for the Gett driver on the way back to the apartment. In broken English, he angrily lectured us on G-d’s message about coronavirus – how “corona” means “crown” in Hebrew and how the Jews in America were being put in their place. Not quite sure of the connection, I completely missed the boat on this one. I “agreed” with him and starting talking about the toilet paper shortage in the United States, to which he grew angrier, questioning me as to why I would be talking about toilet paper with regards to a serious discussion of G-d’s wrath.
You can let us off at the corner here, dude. I’m done talking about corona.
Back at the apartment, I sent off that long dreaded email to the owner of the apartment about my breaking of the Luminarc plates last Shabbat, but not without telling him of our successful replacement. Not only was he stunned by our honesty, he was even more surprised by our search and rescue mission. One less thing to worry about. Now, if only COVID 19 would just go away, I’d be a much happier camper.
“Give me a break
Yeah, I made a mistake
For G-d’s sake
Hope my train ain’t too late
My skin is in a state
Sorry ‘bout the broken plates”
Broken Plates – Aardvark Asteroid