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Thursday, January 18, 2007

"There's Nothing To Do In Jerusalem"

One day, the Husband and I accompanied the Boy over to Derech Beit Lechem for his haircut. We were schmoozing with the owners of the shop when a man and woman paused and looked over the hair products displayed in the window. The woman came in and asked about the hair products in fluent Hebrew. Her husband followed her and engaged my husband in chat about sports--in English. Both of these folks were clearly our age or a bit older. The shop owner disclosed that we were recent olim, and the two newcomers fell silent. Somehow my husband turned the subject to living in Israel, and asked the man why they didn't move here?

"We've done that already," he said dismissively. "We come for a few months every year and visit her relatives then go home." He practically sniffed as he said this.

"Yes," she chimed in. "Jerusalem is dirty and there is absolutely nothing to do here!" Indignation informed every syllable of this speech.

"Nothing to do?" my husband exclaimed. Just for fun, we sit on the couch at the end of every weeks' getting-ready-for-Shabbat-Marathon and peruse the seemingly endless list of things-to-do in Jerusalem that we would like to attend. We're right up the hill from the Restaurant Row of Emek Refaim, and haven't even begun to explore the downtown restaurant options. The Friday Edition Jerusalem Post lists concerts (rock, Irish, New Age, classical, Middle Eastern, folk, etc.), lectures (Hebrew, French and English), classes, movies, theatre productions, art and museum displays, walking tours by historical societies or by the Society for the Protection of Nature, as well as specialty items like the Oud Festival, the Harp Festival, the Irish Festival, or updates on archeological digs, or new learning classes for those who want to study almost any aspect of any religion here, and so on.....

Jerusalem is chock full of things to do at just about all hours of the day or night. There is no closing time for the bars so you can grab a Guiness at 4:30 am if you wish.

"Reaaaaally," I drawled, claws curling. "And where do you live now?" Anyone who knows me knows I'm dangerous in this mood.

"Oh, we live (drum-roll, firecrackers, cannon going off here) in New York!" the woman declared with only the slightest superciliousness. "City" was a given, I could tell. Remember, she's Israeli. Married to an older Yank. I thought New York City parochialism was confined to folks in that city, but apparently she's gone native.

"Ah, how nice," I purred, "My cousin lives in New York--we were just there to see her last spring. Uh, where exactly in the city do you live?"

Lots of fluster here. They hadn't expected two yokels from California to know anything about New York.

"We live in Queens," the man finally got out.

QUEENS?!!

Nobody from Queens can talk about a town being "dirty" and having nothing to do. Queens is a pit, and was one as late as last spring when I taxied through it on the way to Manhattan. Boarded up windows, bullet holes in various walls, drug dealers dealing, the recent addition of more and more Arabic on run-down storefront mosques and businesses, filthy streets full of garbage, homeless panhandling on the corners drug dealers didn't control. I'm sure there are nicer areas of Queens, but it's hardly in a position to compete with Jerusalem. Hey, I've got problems with my hometown, San Francisco, sliding rapidly downhill for the last couple of decades--but I'd take San Francisco over Queens any day of the week!

Queens can't hold a candle to Jerusalem. And by the way, there's not a thing to do in Queens. People in Queens have to drive to Manhattan to find something to do.

Jerusalem is far from the Heavenly City imagined by mystics and poets of the ages, but it's got a lot more to offer than Queens....so what was this all about?

The Husband and I howled about this parochial folie-a-deux for the rest of the month. Every time we were faced with a decision about where to eat, what to do, one of us would put on a snotty face and intone, "But there's NOTHING to do in Jerusalem," and then we'd crack up laughing.

I feel sorry for that woman's family. I'm sure they're subjected to this annual pilgrimage from their wanna-be sophisticate female relative who never lets a moment pass wherein she doesn't talk down to them from her perch of New York City know-it-all-ness. Queens! If only they knew!

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have an "aunt", my hubby's uncle's wife (weird though, till they got married in their late 40's 6 years ago, the family thought uncle would be marrying another uncle!)....NEway....she has been here to visit I think once and was APPALLED at how "dirty Jerusalem was....and I couldn't believe how the people hung their laundry out to dry everywhere!" ugh..... she'd rather be sitting on her couch scrapbooking all day than coming here again..........thank g-d!

Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 8:53:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Ellie's Mom said...

What a hoot about the Queens bit!! I know you're from SFO and life really is very different there. I remember in the early '70s, I convinced (not easily) friends to do their PhDs *not* in NYC. Got them all the way down to Princeton, a devastating hour back to the boroughs of NYC. Yes, truly chutz l'aretz as I told them. It was a wonderful experience for them and they've graduated to living their lives on the West Coast w/ nary a hair out of place. But my daughter lives in Queens, going to school, and there's an insolated community there that is very "Jerusalem-like". Not the dirt and the yuck of when you drove between airports. Rather a small (yes, still dirty) enclave where everyone lives, everyone is there, etc. And BTW, did you ever see the local news in NYC? It is the most provincial broadcast you could ever imagine, moreso that smaller towns I've seen!

On another note...wonderful news. Just found out this AM, that the tax authorities cleared the apt for sale so we'll be part-time Baka residents by the summer and full time (Gd willing) by summer of '08.

Monday, January 22, 2007 at 4:28:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger tafka PP said...

I have family who think that too. Basically, "nothing to do" translates as "no beach" for them. Anyway- what can you do... we know the truth... and to my ears, which spend a lot of time in town center, less loud complaining Americans isn't a bad thing ;-)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 5:40:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Living in the Central Valley,(our town in particular),has taken more than our share of slights,comments,& opinions. Even in the movie,"Castaway," with Tom Hanks the port-a-potty had the name of our fair city emblazoned in stenciled letters on the facade ... our claim to fame? Hmmmm. Anyhoo...folks that cast aspersions on another's hometown/homeland are the people you most want to not inhabit your community; for they fail to see the special qualities and they couldn't appreciate the treasures of the land and it's people.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 10:27:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

emah s--yes, friends like that are better enjoyed from 10,000 miles away!

ellie's mom--Mazel tov!! We'll be neighbors at last! And I know YOU will appreciate all that Jerusalem has to offer...

tafka pp--I couldn't agree more--less loudly complaining Yanks (or any other nationality--French springs to mind) is fine with me...let's not tell them about the beaches and maybe they'll all stay away? ((-:

jilly--having been to Bakersfield many times (and Fresno, where my college roommate lived) I, too, am sick of the put-downs and cliches about Valley towns....but OTOH, that's the sort of thing that makes your town wonderful to live in--people like I-Live-In-Queens! overlook the small gems of life due to their inflated sense of self-importance and the false importance of place-names and things...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 11:55:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger RR said...

I've been to the better parts of Queens, many a time- still doesn't hold a candle to the wonder of Jerusalem (dirt and all!) and you're so right, there's nothing to do there. Those people sound like they just don't know how to have a good time!

Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 12:18:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Evan said...

Hey, that's pretty cool you made aliyah from San Francisco. So did I! (Well, Walnut Creek.)

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 10:34:00 AM GMT+2  

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