The city is rapidly growing. There are high rise (well, high rise for Jerusalem) apartment buildings going up all over the city. And, at the same time, there is a clearly concerted effort to make the city very livable. There is a new Train Track Park that extends the length of Emek Refaim and follows the old train tracks. It is a beautiful walking and bike path that really takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. People have compared it Highline in New York, both in purpose and in form.
No one flinches when you say you have four children.
The bus drivers are amazing... a little terrifying all at the same time. Everyone of them can enter necessary information into their machine, count and give change, usually to more than one person at a time, and drive along the curvy and narrow streets of Jerusalem. I saw one who read a map for a passenger while making a sharp right turn.
The lines in the supermarkets can be pretty long. My parents spoke to one woman who was frustrated and explained that it is something she is still having trouble getting used to. When asked how long she had lived here, she replied, "60 years."
The schools are incredibly nurturing and caring. They work hard to ensure our children feel included and that they teach them from where they are, even though we are disrupting things by coming in the middle of the year, and even though we are only staying a short while. We are very grateful.
When people say 15 minutes, plan for an hour and a half. When people say that something will be done within the hour, you might want to specify to which hour they are referring.
Don't walk and text. Israelis have not yet embraced the practice of picking up after their dogs.
The juxtaposition of old and new. Yesterday, we walked to a 2,000-year-old catacomb, now a park in the middle of the Northern part of the city. It is surrounded by cars and buses on busy streets and has a playground build right above it.
Today, we saw a bus driver honk at someone in the crosswalk as opposed to stopping to allow the person to cross. Yesterday, we were on a bus where the driver made a special stop to allow the elderly passengers to disembark right at the open air market, rather than making them walk the block and a half from the scheduled stop.
Everywhere we go, people are willing and eager to assist us; by walking way out of their way to show us the building for which we are looking, by stopping in the street to see if we are lost and need help and by deciphering the special labels in the market so we can figure out which products are on sale.
On Fridays, people say Shabbat Shalom on the street. There will be parades on Purim. And, on Passover, restaurants will serve kosher for Passover meals.
Every morning we get to wake up in this 3,000-year-old city, the symbolic heart of our people. Life here sometimes makes you crazy, and sometimes overwhelms you with beauty, kindness and tradition. What a blessing it is to experience it all.
Rabbi Jackie Mates-Muchin serves Temple Sinai in Oakland, CA. She is spending her sixth-month sabbatical in Israel with her family.