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Reesa and her family in Be'ersheva Israel

Shomer Yisrael


Bus Station


by Reesa Cohen Stone, BerSheba, Israel, posted April 30, 2012


Anyone who has ever been to Israel is aware of the unique character of Israelis and the Israeli way of life. Every-day activities here are simply different than in other places. The adventure of getting on or off a bus is worthy of a sea pirate; entering a shop means disturbing the proprietor. Everyone knows that traffic laws here are mere suggestions; that 'snow days' are rare, but 'rocket days' are far too frequent; and that Israeli soldiers are the best-looking in the world. Even the specialness that is Israel often has an extra aspect of special. During Purim this year, a photo made its way around Facebook showing Spiderman, surrounded by oblivious chariedim, praying at the Western Wall. ‘Only in Israel’ was the title of the picture.

In addition to what is ‘known’ about Israel, there are small things that happen here in the Holy Land that don’t get much press time. I have no idea whether the Spiderman photo was authentic or not, but the following stories are guaranteed authentic and can only be described as 'Only in Israel' moments.

1.Beer Sheva’s mayor, Rubik Danilovich, is a young, energetic, forward-thinking, ambitious man. His plans for the city include building a beach front (no actual sea, just the front), the largest amphitheater in the country, a boating lake (not adjacent to the beach front), and restoring the old, dilapidated, neglected Turkish areas of the city into tourist sites. But first, to greet the hordes expected to descend on the city when all these projects are completed, Danilovitch decided to build a new central bus station. In truth, a new one is needed, as the current bus station, which sees tens of thousands of people a day, was built in the 1950s when Beer Sheva was a small immigrant town. Today, the Beer Sheva bus station acts as a hub for all points north, south, east, and west in the country, in addition to serving the nearly 200,000 residents of the growing city. So money was collected, architects hired, and plans were drawn up. This being Israel, an added challenge was thrown in, just to make it interesting. It was decided to build the new bus station in the exact spot of the old bus station, without interfering with or rerouting the daily bus service. No problem; the powers that be agreed to build the new station one bit at a time and rope off small bits of the old bus station. The plan was approved, and construction began. And then the problems started. That incoming buses had to detour somewhat around the new building site did not bother anyone. That dust filled the air so that travelers had a hard time breathing didn’t deter the plans. What threw a wrench in the works and stopped construction was the fact that shortly after digging the foundations commenced, ruins from the Byzantine era were found. Digging was halted, construction was put on hold, and the proper authorities were notified. Archeologists swooped down on the area and uncovered one of the largest sites from the Byzantium period ever discovered in Israel. Only after all that could be removed was removed, and all that could be preserved was preserved could work on the new bus station proceed. It appears that the new Beer Sheva bus station will comprise a 1500-year-old Byzantium bus station in the middle of it. Only in Israel.


2.Pesach and Succot are both National holidays, and many people have the week off work. The country’s forests and parks are full of picnickers and hikers of all ages and religious affiliations. This Pesach, we enjoyed a family picnic in a large forest situated outside of Beit Shemesh. Beit Shemesh is the home of many ultra-Orthodox Jews of several different sects, each with their own manner of dress, and there were many families enjoying the beautiful weather in the forest. Adjacent to the forest is the grave of Dan ben Yaakov Avinu (one of the 12 tribes), and within the park itself is the grave of Samson the Judge. Many of these Ultra-Orthodox were on pilgrimages to these holy sites. But not all. As we were leaving the forest in the late afternoon, our car was overtaken by a motorcycle, driven by an Ultra-Orthodox man in a black coat, white socks, and a large black kippa. The part that took me by surprise was that his peyos (sidelocks) were tied together in a ponytail and secured to the top of his head with his Kippa clips. Only in Israel.
3. Also during the Pesach vacation, we were invited to a ‘Parent’s Day’ for my son in the army. That in itself is an only in Israel occurrence. I can’t imagine any other army in the world that invites a new recruit’s parents to come and visit, meet the commanding officers, and make sure their precious son is happy and healthy. (In fact, we were told over the course of the day, that the boys are in ‘good hands’, and while there are times that they get yelled at, it was only done ‘for their own good’.) What made me laugh out loud, and shake my head in wonder however, was the signature at the bottom of the invitation. Inviting us to visit an IDF army base was Lt. Colonel Israel Shomer (which could be translated as Guardian of Israel). Only in Israel.  
Daily life in Israel is always full of surprises and adventures. Some of these surprises and adventures we could definitely and happily live without, and the press –both international and Israeli – focuses only on these items. In these days, Israelis are preparing for the memorial days of Yom HaShoah, (Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day) and Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism) and the holiday of Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day). And that is really what makes Israel so unique; the ability to remember and mourn those murdered by our enemies, and those fallen in the defense of our Land and our People, while at the same time celebrating the continuing miracle that is only in Israel. Chag Sameach to all.
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