Today I went ice skating. I bought tickets at the booth outside, and then entered the covered rink. Inside was nicely set up, with rows of chairs, snack vendors, and a large area for getting skates. The rink was glistening; there was loud rock music playing, and bright colorful lights. I quickly got my skates, and then proceeded to the rink.

This simple scene could be anywhere. Soon, though, I realized that the ice skating rink at Safra Square was unique. I''m not sure when I first realized this. Maybe it was when I observed skaters moving in every direction, as opposed to together in one loop. Maybe it was when I chanced upon a certain area of the rink, where the ice was hilly, not smooth and slippery. In fact, no part of the rink was slippery. I wondered when the rink was cleaned. Back in Bryant Park, in New York City, it was cleaned almost hourly. All the skaters would leave, and then a big machine would rumble across the rink, smoothing and polishing the ice. Here, I noticed a few young boys pushing a broom around, and depositing the loose ice into a green garbage can, which they pushed as well.

Perhaps the most obvious difference was in the skaters themselves. In Hebrew, "to skate" and "to slip" are the same word- "lehachlik." There''s a very good reason for this. A good half of the skaters kept a hand on the wall, going around and around. Of those actually skating, few were Israeli. Most were speaking English, as was the instructor. The rink was small and narrow, and between the so called "cleaning" of the rink, and people falling (when they ventured away from the walls!), there was barely room to skate.

I wouldn''t consider myself a professional skater, or even a good one. I can say, however, that I was one of the best skaters there. I didn''t have to worry about fast skaters weaving in and out, or graceful women doing fancy moves as I try to avoid crashing into them.
There was one moment that made me proud of Israel. An older man fell on the ice, and hurt himself. Three -quarters of the skaters (including myself) went over to help. The sole instructor came over and helped the man off the rink. It was a nice moment, something that wouldn''t happen in Bryant Park, something that probably wouldn''t happen anywhere but Israel.

After twenty- eight minutes on the ice, an announcement came telling all the skaters to exit the ice. "Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your day!" At over a shekel a minute, I can''t say that ice skating was very worthwhile. On the other hand, it was certainly an experience.

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