Today was not our favorite day. But, it got a lot better once we arrived at Hashmonaim and saw Seth, Lori and the kids. They are growing up so nicely (not Seth and Lori) and Yakir is absolutely adorable. Naomi has taken a liking to him and is helping carry him around the house. Even though it has only been a few hours, we miss Donna already.
Back to the beginning: we woke up pretty early to get a decent start on the day. We just had one thing we wanted to do in the city before we left – cash in our old Israel Bonds. So, off we trudge to Bank Discount to get there near opening time at 8:30 a.m. – nice Englishman/Israeli told us that the person who normally does it at the bank is not in that day and tries to find someone to help us. Then he tries to find us another branch that will help us. 25 minutes wasted. So, we noticed that the list that we got from the Israel Bond Office in Chicago lists a bank right across from our hotel – so we walk down. No luck there either. But Kobi, formerly of Connecticut, is nice to us and calls Bank Hapoalim up on King George and they say that they can cash the bonds. Back up the hill (it is now 9:30 or so). We go to Bank Hapoalim and the first person we go to (above her it said “General Bank Services”) tells us that Bank Hapoalim doesn’t cash bonds. We turn around and go to another woman who tells us the same – and tells us to go to Bank Leumi down the street. We tried to explain that we called and were told that Bank Hapoalim will cash the bonds – to no avail. So, off we go to Bank Leumi. Just to find that we can’t find the door. Why? Simple, because the bank is closed. Mike is swearing (not even under his breath) as we cross the same urine-soaked corner for the 3rd time to go back to Bank Hapoalim. This time we don’t even go to the Gen’l Banking Service “apartchiks” (bureaucrats), we go straight to the upstairs to find someone in (middle) management. We are told by a nice woman that indeed Bank Hapoalim does cash bonds, and we should go back down and talk to Monique or Esther and points to where we were before. So off we go back downstairs – but, we can’t find a down escalator (only ups). Things are really starting to get frustrating and we are finding no humor in this, but we find stairs down. We go down to this waiting area and interrupt one woman training another and ask for Monique or Esther. We are met with somewhat blank looks and told that there is no Esther and that Monique will be back in 5 minutes and they point to the desk of the first woman we approached! The one who told us that Bank H doesn’t cash bonds. Mike is really pissed; Sima is silent. We take a number and wait to talk to someone else. Now we know how Kafka could have given life to K in The Trial. We end up talking to a nice woman who explains that indeed Bank H does cash bonds, but not on Friday. She tries to explain, but Mike doesn’t want to listen (he figured it out). The office in Tel Aviv is closed on Friday and they need to get clearance for any transaction. Sunday won’t work as the currency exchange is closed and they can’t get a current f/x quote to pay shekalim for the dollar-denominated bonds. So, we figure we’ll take cash out of the cash machine (we need to pay for the apartment on Sunday). We put in one card in the Bank H ATM – we tried getting 2,500 shekalim. No go. We tried 1,500. No. 1,000. No. 600. No. We try another card – same drill. So, guess what? We go back to Bank Leumi and pop in one card and out come 2,500 NIS. Then another card and out comes another 2,500 NIS. (We are close to how much we need for the apartment.) You’d think we’d be happy? Relieved? No, hot and tired and bothered and it is 10:00 a.m. or so. We take a cab back to the hotel and the cabbie has the nerve to be upset that we don’t have change to pay the 13 NIS. Tough, take the 50 and give us change and you get no tip! We are getting to understand why Israelis are……….Israelis. (Lori helped us understand – everything in Israel should be thought of as a “pilot trip”; then, once you figure it out, you can do it for real next time. Sima will try a “pilot trip” to cash the bonds in Netanya on Monday while Mike is at work – touring shoe stores in Israel – and then we will go on the real trip the last day Mike is here, Tuesday.)
We grabbed some breakfast and head up to finish packing. We say goodbye to Donna as she heads to her grandfather’s for Shabbat. We actually were able to cram our luggage into our very-mini van and head out. We almost make it out of town uneventfully until Mike “almost” runs a red light and has to slam on the breaks to avoid getting into a really messy accident. (Blood pressure cuffs should be mandatory in all rental vehicles in Israel.) We get on Hwy 1 towards Tel Aviv to go to Latrun – the old British then Jordanian Police fortress that overlooks the valley from Jerusalem and commands the passes into Jerusalem. The Israelis tried 5 times in 1948 to capture the place, but to no avail. Not until 1967 did Israel capture it. Now it is a memorial to the armored corps. There are a lot of old (and new) tanks there and memorials. But, to get there, we actually have to get off at the Latrun interchange. Problem is that the signs say “Latrun Interchange” for kilometers and then when you get to the interchange there is not a sign for Latrun, only signs for Ashqelon, Be’er Sheva, etc. Stupid us go right past the exit and have to go 15 km more to the next exit where we can turn around. It was a quiet car ride. We finally got there and it is hot, and the girls don’t want to get out, so we stop for maybe 10 minutes and since the place closed at 12:30 anyway, we figured we might come back on Sunday. If only to take a picture of Eitan on a tank.
So, we head to mini-Israel, which is only 5 minutes from Latrun, very cool and very expensive (especially when Donna has the coupon in her magical, Mary Poppins bag). We “toured” Caesaria again (Eitan was psyched), Haifa, the Golan, Galilee, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, etc. They built exact miniatures – really exact. Down to the mosaic on the side of the wall by the building in Rosh Hanikra to get down to the grottoes (Noah noticed that). They had all of the main attractions, but Eitan and Naomi noticed that they didn’t have a mini mini-Israel.
We left there at 2:00 p.m. (closing time as Shabbat starts at 7:30 p.m.) and try to get the kids pizza in Modiin on the way to Seth and Lori’s. We get horribly lost in Modiin and finally find a little strip center with a makolet. We get the kids ice cream. Mike is so visible miffed that a nice teenager tries to help us. He tells us that we are nowhere near where we want to be and a nice girl tells us how to get to the road to Hashmonaim. Eitan has his first projectile vomiting experience in Israel, but is able to make it all 4 times straight into a garbage can. He smiled afterwards. Noah was fascinated by the DVD machine so Mike goes over to take a look and asks Noah to see if he can read the titles. On the far right is Miki (that’s Mickey Mouse) and Mary Poppins, the middle section has action, adventure, drama type stuff and then Mike looks to the left…..and, quickly turns Noah around and sends him back to the other kids and calls Sima over. There, out in the open, are several rows of porn with some interesting titles (not for reproducing). Mike was fascinated that one of them was advertised as “All Israeli.”
We found the road to Hashmoniam, or so we thought. We found our way all the way to Hwy 6 and figured out that we missed a turn off somewhere. We call Lori. She helps us and we find our way. We are here. We are clean. We are doing laundry. We are happy.