Grapevine: Road reminders

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

LGBT flag on Jerusalem's King George Street, July 31, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
LGBT flag on Jerusalem's King George Street, July 31, 2018
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The tragic death just two days before Passover of infant Herut Liebowitz should serve as a red alert to traffic police. 

Herut was being wheeled across the road by her mother when her carriage was struck by a bus on Keren Hayesod Street. At the time of writing, police were still investigating the circumstances; but as someone who lives very close to where the incident occurred and who witnesses daily violations of traffic regulations, I – and probably many others – am surprised that there are relatively few accidents.

Regular buses run two directions within the center of the road and along one side. Tourist buses also run on the other side, which means there are four bus lanes, two of which are not accessible to private vehicles. In addition, cars, trucks and tourist buses also come out of Ahad Ha’am Street into Keren Hayesod and can turn in two directions. The regular bus stops are diagonally across the road from each other on Keren Hayesod, near Ahad Ha’am. Cars coming from Aza Street also turn into Keren Hayesod.

Drivers of many vehicles ignore the traffic lights at Keren Hayesod and often drive over the crosswalk when pedestrians are still on it. Bus drivers often stop more than halfway along the crosswalk, thereby preventing pedestrians from seeing the color of the traffic lights.

Many pedestrians are either impatient or see their bus approach the bus stop and run to catch it, even though the traffic light is red. Some pedestrians, who show no signs of being in a hurry, cross the road on a red light because the road looks empty, and they are unprepared for cars and trucks that suddenly come whizzing around the corner. Parents wheeling baby carriages cross the road on a red light while they are talking on their cellphones. Senior citizens who can barely walk also cross on a red light.

 Israelis in the rain, December 25, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Israelis in the rain, December 25, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

These transgressions can be halted only if there is a uniformed police officer on the site. If there are not enough police available, then young people who are civilian service volunteers should be recruited for this purpose. Give them a uniform and assign them to sensitive areas.

People can change bad habits. Only a few years ago, smoking was permitted on public transportation on the ground and in flight. Not anymore. If that law could be enforced in a country in which so many people were heavy smokers, traffic laws can also be imposed until they become a habit. After all, we didn’t always wear safety belts in cars. Now we do so automatically.


ON THE subject of traffic, some municipal employees who drive city cars appear to think that this gives them the right to be the kings and queens of the road. Those who water down the streets often do so when people are going to work. It’s bad enough when people can step back from the splashing water, but there’s nothing they can do when these vehicles are driven along the Ben-Yehuda mall. Surely the streets can be washed at some time between midnight and dawn.

Then there are the employees who collect various bits and pieces of outdoor municipal furniture. Just before Passover, some friends living in Kfar Saba came to Jerusalem for the day, and we went for lunch to a restaurant on Hillel Street. After we finished, the husband went to get the car, and the wife and I waited outside the restaurant. A municipal van pulled up in the pedestrian area. How the driver ever got a license was beyond both of us. The van, with two people inside, bounced left and right before it came to a stop. It was perhaps three meters away from what was being collected, but the driver decided that he wanted to get closer. He then parked the car right across an access road for motor vehicles, causing congestion for about 10 minutes. 

My friend and I counted some 30 cars before the municipal van moved and cleared the road.


AMONG THE regular congregants at the small but exquisite synagogue in the grounds of the President’s Residence are members of Hazvi Yisrael congregation in Talbiyeh, who report that President Isaac Herzog frequently attends morning services. He did so on a daily basis during the year in which he was in mourning for his mother. During Passover, it was reciprocal. Herzog went to Hazvi Yisrael. This was hardly surprising, as his immediate predecessors Reuven Rivlin and Shimon Peres also did so on various Jewish holy days, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also found his way to the congregation on Hovevei Zion Street. Most people refer to this synagogue as Hovevei rather than by its actual title.

Israel’s presidents and prime ministers also attend services at the Great Synagogue, but now that there is such a strong cry for unity and fraternity, it will be interesting to see whether Herzog also puts in an appearance at the Conservative and Reform synagogues, both of which are within easy walking distance of his official residence.


JUST BEFORE Passover, the Friends of Zion Museum hosted 70 Holocaust survivors at a meal and a concert provided by 11 young harpists. Also present was Mayor Moshe Lion, who greeted the guests and, despite a busy schedule, stayed to listen to the music, which he appeared to enjoy greatly.


THE FACT that Passover, Ramadan and Easter are coinciding brought people of all three faiths to Mahaneh Yehuda market, which arguably has never been so crowded, as tourists were also there. It was almost impossible to walk through. Although there are outdoor markets and indoor supermarkets and mini markets in the Old City, many of Jerusalem’s Muslim residents could be seen frequenting the discount supermarkets in west Jerusalem, where not only were the prices cheaper, but there was also a greater variety of products.


SECONDHAND CLOTHES are not always less expensive than new. Certainly, garments made in China or India are very fashionable but also very affordable. Yet there is now a glut of secondhand shops springing up downtown and in suburbia, including a flea market at the First Station, where people can get rid of unwanted garments and pick up something else for a nominal fee or sometimes for nothing. Right next door to the downtown store vacated by The Boydem, when it moved to larger premises on Rivlin Street is another secondhand store that boasts good-quality clothing.

But another reason for buying secondhand is that the previous owner has already worn it in and stretched it in the right places for people who may have a little extra weight in certain parts of their bodies. That same garment may not have fitted them when it was new, but when worn by someone with a similar but slightly lesser body size, it’s been stretched and fits fine.