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Posts Tagged ‘Socialism’

The Bike Trip

Last week, I started using my bicycle. I was riding north with my son. We were on a paved road that had almost no traffic. The road cut through fields of crops. Eventually, we came to an intersection — the road continued north and another road headed west.  There was also a paved bike path that followed both the northbound and westbound roads.  We continued north on the path and travelled for about a mile. Suddenly both the road and the bike path ended at a gate in a grapefruit orchard.

This seemed really odd that a bike path would end (or start) literally in the middle of an orchard — I always thought a bike path should both start and end at a place where people actually wanted to go.

We found a dirt trail around the gate and managed to continue through the orchard. This was much harder than it sounds because, in Israel, a dirt trail is mostly a sand trail with almost no traction.  We eventually found our way back to the Ra’anana industrial zone by traveling through the orchard.

Yesterday, I decided to spend a few hours riding west. I wanted to see if I could find a faster route to the sea. I wend back to that odd bike path with the hope that the westbound trail would go somewhere.

I travelled on this westbound bike path for about a mile. It suddenly turned south and ended in a road on the northwestern portion of Ra’anana. This bike path is really the strangest thing. It starts nowhere and dead-ends a mile and a half later at a place less desirable then nowhere. I guess there was extra money budgeted for a bike path and no one could figure out where to put it.

Anyway, I found another road heading west and I followed it for about half a mile until it turned into a sandy-dirt path through more fields. Eventually, it ended at a gate. The gate had a sign which I imagine said something like, “KEEP OUT” or “TRESPASSERS AT RISK OF ELECTROCUTION” or “MAD DOG RESERVE.” Since it was written in Hebrew, I had no idea what it actually said.

As I stood there trying to decide what to do, a guy on a moped drove past me and went around the fence on a little path. At that point, I realized that the sign probably said something like, “TWO-WHEELED VEHICLES WELCOME — TAKE PATH AROUND GATE.”

Persimmons!

Beyond the gate was another orchid — this orchid contained persimmon trees. The dirt path continued for a while and eventually turned into a paved access road. This road crosses the tracks of a commuter train. As I approached the train tracks, I was lucky enough to see a train pass.

The train travels quickly and it doesn’t take long to pass, so the wait is not a big deal. The crossing is a standard train crossing. It has the flashing lights and the ringing alarm bells and the gate that automatically drops on each side of the track to block traffic.

Keep in mind that this road is an access road to an orchard, so there really isn’t any traffic, but it is still really important to take adequate safety measures.

I guess it is really, really, really important to take adequate safety measures on this nearly deserted access road that turns into a dirt road through an orchid ending at a closed, chained gate, because in addition to the standard safety measures (flashing lights, ringing bells, and automatic gates that drop down over the road), there was also a second gate on each side of the road. The second gate, however, is not automatic. There is a little hut on each side of the track and when the lights start flashing and the bell starts sounding and the gates drops down, a man walks out of each hut, walks to the second gate, and manually swings it closed across the road. Later, after the train passes and the bells and lights stop, each guy opens his gate and walks back to his hut.

There are two guys, one on each side of the track, handling the important job of opening and closing the second gate by hand on a nearly deserted road. Incredible. In Israel, there is no excuse for not having a job.

Beyond the railroad tracks I found the communities of Shikun Rasko and Shikun Amidar. I continued west in my desire to find the sea. I knew that I would eventually run into Route 2 (a major north and south highway) and I assumed there would be no way to cross over it. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a pedestrian bridge crossing the highway. Unfortunately, I could see from the top of the bridge that there were no real roads (at all) on the other side.  The bridge exists because of a bus stop.

I went back to the east side of the bridge and started riding south. I travelled through a number of communities and parks until I finally reached a bridge that I could use to cross Route 2.  These communities are really beautiful.  Flowers in November!

Blue!

Purple!

Red(ish)!

Orange(ish)!

Pink!

Multi!

After crossing Route 2, I headed north into the community of Nof Yam and then turned west trying to get to the sea.  I discovered the sea at Apollonia. This is an Israeli National Park that protects the remains of a castle built by the Crusaders.  I had previously walked almost to this location along the shore, but I had no idea how to drive there.

I didn’t enter the park, but I found (yet another) dirt road that brought me to the edge of the cliffs that overlook the sea. In fact, I was located directly over the “Hermit’s House” that I wrote about last week.  There were trails running along the cliff edge, so I carried my bike along the trails for a bit.

The Hermit's House from above!

The sea from the top of the cliff

Looking down from the edge of the cliff

After I returned to the road, I continued south along the sea through Herzliya Pituah until I arrived at the marina.

After the marina, I continued south along (yet another) dirt road heading towards Tel-Aviv. This was actually a gravel road and after a while I became concerned about my tires. I turned around and headed back to Ra’anana.

The whole trip took about three hours and covered about twenty miles. I am more amazed by this amazing (and confusing and lovely) country every day.

Categories: Flowers, Israel, Trips Tags: , , ,

The Cough

I guess socialized medicine really does work.

Shortly after we arrived in Israel, I developed a really bad cough. I was coughing constantly — a really painful cough that sounded awful and included gobs of phlegm. After a week of it getting progressively worse, I decided that I really needed to see a doctor.

We use the Macabbi health plan. It is one of four competing, quasi-governmental health care organizations. I explained (in English) to the clerk at the Macabbi main office that I needed to see a doctor right away and she gave me a book. The book contains all the approved doctors (throughout the country) covered by the plan. It is a thick book. The book has small letters. The small letters are all in Hebrew. They don’t have an English edition.

Hmmm, one more time. I explained again that I needed to see a doctor right away and that I only speak English and that I didn’t know where any of the doctors are located and that I could not read the book. There was a brief pause while she stared at me and then, she suddenly realized that I was actually asking for help finding a doctor. She grabbed the book, leafed through it, and then circled an entry and explained that he speaks English and that his office is just outside the facility to the right.

The doctors don’t actually work at the facility; they have their own offices scattered around the county. This doctor apparently was located very close, although it did take me a while to find the office. I think the main problem was that the doctor’s office was actually just outside to the left.

When I entered the office and explained the situation, I was told that I needed to make an appointment. When I explained that I was there to make an appointment, I was told that I need to make the appointment over the Internet. However, since I was new (and didn’t yet have an Internet connection and wouldn’t be able to make the appointment on an all Hebrew website anyway), they would make an exception this time. My appointment was scheduled for later on in the early afternoon.

At the appointment, the doctor asked about my medical history and then listened to my lungs with a stethoscope. He then declared that my lungs sounded clear, that I probably just had a virus, and that it would all clear up by itself.

The coughing continued for a couple of weeks, but I just realized a few days ago that all my symptoms have vanished. I don’t know when it stopped, but it is now gone. So, the socialized health care really did work!

Categories: Israel Tags: , ,

Less Is More

I finally gave up yesterday.  I was clinging by my fingernails in the “advanced-beginners” ulpan class, but on the morning of the third day, it was obvious that I just didn’t belong.  I interrupted  the teacher and tried to say (in Hebrew), “I understand very, very little.  Is this alef-plus?”  She looked at me like I was standing on my head wearing pink pajamas. This is what I was trying to say:

אני מוינ הרבה הרבה קצת. זה א פלס?

I just ran this through the Google translator and it claims that the meaning is:

“Do I Make over a long, long while. It’s a spirit level?”

After babbling along for a few more minutes speaking both broken-Hebrew and English and using the other students as partial translators, we finally decided that I should be in a lower class level.  So, just like that, I packed my things and left.

Last week, after speaking with my wife about her class, I realized that I should not be in an advanced class. She was learning things that I didn’t know.  I spoke to the clerks and the manager and we all agreed that I should just start in a basic beginners class. However, I was specifically told that I could not join my wife’s class since it was closed. Instead, I needed to come on Sunday and join a new class.

On Sunday morning, all the new students were directed to a big auditorium to get sorted into classes. I’m not talking about a few students; there must have been 150 students in the auditorium. One at a time, each teacher would stand on one side of the room while the manager called the names of the students in that class.  My name was called in the fourth class.  As soon as my name was called, the manager looks at me, talks to a few other people, and tells me that I’m not in this class and that I’ll be in a different class.  Later, my name was called again for the last class and that’s the class that I joined.  It seems obvious to me that they added my name to a beginner’s class, but didn’t remove my name from the advanced class.

After leaving the advanced class, I went back to the office and said it was too difficult and that I needed to join a beginner’s class.  Fine.  I was taken down the hall and brought into a new classroom.  There was an exchange in Hebrew with the teacher and I was told to sit.  The fascinating thing about this snafu is that my new class is also my wife’s class.

This class has been in session for over a week and they had already covered a bit of material. I made a great first impression.  The only open seat was right in the front next to a women from Venezuela (i.e., she speaks Spanish). The class was divided into groups of two (me and Ms. Venezuela were together) and each group was given a random photograph. We were suppose to create a story about the photograph using all the words that we learned. I figured we were just supposed to tell a story to each other, so me and Ms. Venezuela created a story with each other.  Meanwhile, everyone else in the class (behind me) was writing down the story knowing that they would have to stand in front of the class and tell it.  Ooops. The morah (teacher) started in the back of the room and had each group come to the front. The all did a really great job.  My wife was awesome. My group was the last. We went to the front and my extremely limited vocabulary suddenly plummeted to a level of a four-year old chimp. What a disaster. I forgot the story and I could not create a new one because I couldn’t remember any words. I think my wife is now more popular in the class because she married someone with a mental handicap.

Regardless, I can say that this is a much better class for me.  I am actually learning something.  Check this out:

עכשיו, אני לומד עברית ברעננה וגם אני גר ברעננה

––––

Today, after class, my wife and I had a bunch or errands (this happens every day). Since this is a socialist country, the government gives money to everyone who has children.  It is a small, monthly payment paid directly into your bank account based on the number of children in the home. The catch is that the government has to be aware that you have children.

We received a letter (written in Hebrew) from some government ministry that listed our children. We figured it was related to the child allowance and we used it as a reminder to sign up. The ministry in our region is located in the town of כפר–סבא (K’far-Saba) which is a neighboring city. I didn’t know exactly where it was located and I couldn’t really read the letter, so I looked up the address on the Internet.

We drove to the location and discovered that parking in K’far-Saba is just as bad as it is in Ra’anana, i.e., you basically cannot do it.  We were in traffic trying to figure out what to do when a car pulled out in front of us from the curb. Great! My wife (who was driving) tried to jump into the spot, but couldn’t really get the angle right because of the car behind us. The car behind us also wanted the spot and wouldn’t back up. After a few minutes, the car behind us gives up, and double parks a bit in front of us. The driver jumped out of the car with some garbage bags and raced into a store. Fine. We parked!

I got out of the car to find the actual office location. I was looking for address number 39. On one block, the addresses ran 32-38, then there was a huge building under construction, followed by a block with addresses starting at 42. Hmmm. After a bit of confusion, my wife asked someone in a store and was told that the address was behind the building under construction.

Eventually we found the access to this building-behind-the-construction-area and the clerk at the desk told us that the ministry was no longer located there. Apparently it moved a while ago and the web site was not updated. However, he showed me the correct address on the letter that we received in the mail. I was able to find the correct address on my iPhone map. This whole process must have taken half an hour. During that time, my wife and daughter left to look for a snack.  When I returned to the car, I discovered that the car was gone, but the other car was still double-parked and blocking traffic in one lane. Unbelievable! Eventually, I hooked up with my wife and we headed for the new address.

The ministry was actually a nice office located in a mall. There were two security checks. The first was just a quick check of bags. The second included a metal detector and a more detailed examination of bags. This was a serious inspection. I had to go through the metal detector three times (it found my phone and then my coins). I also had a wand waved over me and they went through all of the zippers in my backpack. They managed to find my laptop and a small screwdriver and I was then informed that neither were allowed. However, they could watch my laptop (and screwdriver) at the desk. I was given a hand receipt and we moved into the office. My laptop was literally sitting on the desk. My daughter decided that she would stand by the desk and watch to make sure nothing happened to my things.

My wife and I came together to this office under the assumption that we both needed to be present. We didn’t really know if it was necessary, but it would just be to annoying to come alone and discover that both parties were required. We spoke to a very pleasant lady who explained the letter, made a phone call, and then explained that we were already signed up and didn’t need to do anything. Apparently, the health insurance company notified the government for us and the letter that we received was a notice that we were already signed up. So, although we assumed that both of us needed to be present, in reality, neither of us needed to come!

Categories: Hebrew, Israel Tags: , , ,
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