Lost and found
A family vacation is a time to leave the office behind, a time to relax, a time to reconnect with one’s family and, if one is away from home, it could be a time to have an adventure. It is a time to lose oneself, perhaps in a good book or a new adventure. Recently, I had the pleasure of doing exactly this.
In December, my family and I traveled to South Africa to celebrate the bar mitzvah of our son Levi. A bar mitzvah is the time in a Jewish boy’s life when, at the age of 13, he attains his religious maturity. A girl becomes equally responsible at the age of 12 on her bat mitzvah. This occasion is cause for great celebration.
As many of our family members live in Cape Town, we chose to celebrate this occasion there, in the same synagogue that was the venue for our wedding, the wedding of my in-laws, and of my bar mitzvah and those of my brothers. It was also in this synagogue that Levi’s great-great-grandparents used to worship. Needless to say, Levi gave his parents and family lots of joy (the word in Yiddish is naches) on his special day. A week later we traveled to Israel to take our sons on a very meaningful religious and historical journey.
I had a relaxing time in South Africa, reconnected with family, and lost myself in a few good books. However, it wasn’t until we arrived in Israel that I really got lost.
Driving in Israel is challenging at the best of times. The drivers are far more impatient there and love to honk their horns at you if you are too slow. I have managed to navigate the streets of various cities in Canada, the US, Australia, and South Africa with relative ease. I don’t believe in stopping to ask for directions.
Jerusalem, however, is in a league of its own. The streets are tortuous and chaotic. The street names are printed in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, but are not that visible when having to travel at a speed that doesn’t incur the wrath of the driver behind you.
Without GPS and cellphone, I relied on maps and directions that I had downloaded from the hotel’s web site. I should have realized I was heading for trouble when I read the directions to the hotel. They gave the same instructions from whichever direction one was traveling! We arrived in Jerusalem as the sun was setting.
After following the hotel’s directions, we were terribly lost in the opposite end of the city. Darkness and rush hour had descended upon us. Although the hotel was large, well established, and part of an international chain, it was not known to the taxi drivers of whom we asked for directions.
We must have been horribly lost for me to stop at a gas station to ask for directions! The gas station attendant could not help us. A Minnesotan tourist filling his car with gas had a GPS and offered assistance. Unfortunately, the GPS was no help either, as the hotel’s address was an intersection, not a street number.
Another customer told me she knew where I needed to go, but it was too complicated to explain! Her comments made me think that we may never get to our hotel that night. Thankfully, she pointed me in the right direction. After stopping a second time to ask for directions, after multiple illegal U-turns (I was secretly hoping I would be stopped by the police so I could ask them for directions), and after an unplanned 2-hour driving tour of the city, we finally stumbled upon our hotel.
For the rest of our stay in Jerusalem we walked and took taxis. Now don’t get me started on the topic of Israeli taxi drivers!
David B. Chapman, MBChB. Lost and found. BCMJ, Vol. 52, No. 2, March, 2010, Page(s) 62 - Editorials.
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