Taking The Back Road
Today the Boy went back to school -- and we went to Modi'in. We are in the process of buying a home in Modi'in, and home-buying in Israel is quite a bit different from in the States. First, it takes forever. No 30-45 day close. Second, it's cheaper to buy the home before it's built. And as it's being built you, the buyer, can and must make certain selections: standard kitchen, or upgraded kitchen; tiles for the bathroom (a choice of 4 styles); which interior doors (choice of many); what kind of cabinets and countertops in the kitchen? In the baths? Showers or baths or combo? How many electrical points in the kitchen? the living room? the upstairs office/study? And so on...
Nor is this done in one trip. This is done through multiple visits to many places, including the Builder's office. But we have already visited the countertop place, the kitchen place and the interior door place, and made choices at all of these places. For some people, this may be exciting. I know remodeling our former home in California was both frustrating but rewarding. Buying a new home in Modi'in that we are "new-modeling" as we go is not rewarding -- it's a pain in the tush.
The Husband hates to shop. Until a couple of weeks ago, we didn't have a car. This meant getting anywhere was a major challenge. This takes all the fun out of shopping for tile, believe me! What we want is "standard" everything as much as possible just to cut down on the trips to the Builder and the subcontractors and materialmen's showrooms. We are upgrading the kitchen, but that's it for now. If I decide the baths are not luxurious enough after I live there for a year, I'll change them -- and may even have the language skill to do so.
Our English-speaking architect who worked on the plans with us is away on maternity leave for a few months. We are supposed to be working with her substitute, a dour guy who speaks Hebrew and French. I speak a little of both badly. Most of what I can say in French should not be repeated in polite company. So I called the French Connection last week because despite having a contract which explicitly states that the Builder will notify us in advance of any selections or changes we need to make, we haven't heard a thing from the Builder. This worries me. I call. I get the French Connection who bluntly tells me he doesn't speak English.
"This is Israel, you need to speak Hebrew," he tells me in Hebrew.
"I'm an olah chadashah in kita aleph--I'm trying to speak Hebrew," I say as politely as I can muster.
He then rattles off a lengthy sentence in Hebrew that is far to fast for me to comprehend.
"Rak rega (just a moment)," I murmured politely, while grabbing the Husband by the arm and forcing the cell phone into his reluctant hand. The two guys talk. My husband tells him that HIS Hebrew isn't good enough to comprehend the French Connection and could he please connect him to someone who speaks English.
That's just to make the appointment to come down to Modi'in today.
I call again this morning to confirm the appointment only to have the French Connection say, in tones of sheer disbelief, "Don't you speak Hebrew? I don't speak English."
That's it! "Yes, I speak a LITTLE Hebrew," I say through clenched teeth, "but not fast and not enough to understand everything you say. I'm an olah chadashah and I've only been here a few months. YOU are working with Anglos on these houses so why don't you speak English?"
"Rak rega," he says, and transfers me to Yisrael, who speaks fluent English and handles the entire morning's transaction. So we ambled down by car to Modi'in, looked at the items we were required to look at, signed for what we agreed to, and headed back to Jerusalem.
After weeks of rain, cloud and gloomy weather for the most part, today was spectacular. The last thing I wanted to do was deal with crawling bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway One. "Let's go the back way!" I suggested, expecting to be overruled.
"Okay," the Husband agreed, surprising me. "Which way?"
We headed for Eshtaol and took 395, a road I've wanted to take for just about forever. It's a country road, narrow and winding and as the winter ebbs and the sun comes out, the new grass coats the hills with pristine green and the almond trees splash the hillsides with their pale blossoms. Looking south from the ridge we can see Bet Shemesh and the hills to the south, but after we reach the crest, our view is northward, where we can see the folds and ridges of the ancient landscape disappear northward in purple haze. The road follows the crest past moshavim founded in this century and the last, many of which are sprouting new housing. The views are breathtaking, especially overlooking forested valleys which a century ago were nothing more than rock.
Along the way, we came across a car stalled in the road for lack of gasoline. We gave the driver a ride to Moshav Zova, home of the closest gas station where she purchased a liter for her car. We were prepared to drive her back to her car but somehow her two friends persuaded someone to either tow her car or give them enough gas to drive it to the moshav. Having been pedestrians dependent upon the kindness of other drivers not so long ago ourselves, helping out with a lift was the least we could do.
After that we headed into Jerusalem, coming into Ein Kerem from the west, a first for me. The village was looking a little tired, a little worn after the winter but the surrounding hillsides blazed with green pines and cypress, new grass and blossoming almond trees. Nature didn't look tired at all, and nature is what makes Ein Kerem beautiful.
Ending today's errand to Modi'in by coming back along the back road was perfect -- it got us out into the open country for the first time in months, allowed us to see a valleys and hills we wouldn't normally see from Highway One, and gave us a taste of the first bloom of spring in the hills around Jerusalem. And along that ridge road, just briefly, as we made drove eastward and upward, we passed a meadow framed by trees and I caught sight of the first calanit of the season--a sure sign that spring is arriving, and certainly one of my favorite flowers in Israel.
photo of calanit amid oak trees by Tal Israel; ridgeline by the Israel Agency