Saturday, August 30, 2008


I know that many of you think I lead a glamorous life, working in cafes and getting to do fun stuff for free. I want you all to know that such “glamour” has a flip side – and I’m not talking about the fact that my income goes up and down like a yo-yo.

A certain publication for which I write often is coming out with an issue soon on “Israel Travel,” and I have the good fortune of having been assigned several stories for it, which is how it came to be that last week I went to Tiberias for three days on someone else’s tab.

I love Tiberias. I try to go there once a year to sit on the banks of the Kinneret and swim in its cool, sweet water, and generally enjoy the change of scenery. The North of Israel is just gorgeous!

I usually go to Tiberias in September, after the busy summer season is over. But for this work assignment, I had to go last week while certain tourist attractions were still open.

To fully appreciate how much I did not feel like going, you have to understand that last Shabbat I was sick, so sick that I cancelled my weekend plans with Sparky, and lay in bed drinking plain chicken broth from my crockpot. On Sunday, still suffering from, uh, gastrointestinal difficulties, I forced myself to pack, haul myself into a taxi and then onto a 3-hour bus ride to Tiberias, sweating the whole way and wishing I was dead.

And then there was Tiberias itself. If you read Treppenwitz, you may have guessed that last week everyone in Israel – everyone – had taken their families out on vacation. It was the infamous week after camps have ended and before school has started.

The town was crawling with Israelis, as if the city were a pile of lunch leftovers and the Israelis were ants. The restaurants were all crowded, the beaches were crowded, the boardwalk was crowded, and I had to get everywhere by foot or by taxi, in the 40-degree (Celsius) heat, because I had not been given a budget for a car rental.

I learned a few important things about Tiberias, things which will not make it into my article because I know from experience that the rest of the year Tiberias is a great place to visit, though I may recommend that readers avoid the city during high tourist season:

1- You know how Tiberias has lots of religiously important people buried there? And people do pilgrimages to pray at the burial sites of these important and inspiring people? And each memorial site has its own character? Well, I do not know what Rabbi Meir ba’al HaNess did to deserve such a thing, but the entire area around his grave smells like the dark underbelly of an ill-regulated shuk. Perhaps this is because it is a shuk, with a line of food and souveneir shops leading to the actual sanctuary, and a row of picnic tables where families were picnicking – and leaving their leftovers behind in the heat. Seriously, haven’t these people heard of garbage bins? I mean, it’s nice that Rabbi Meir ba’al HaNess’ grave has such a festive atmosphere, with music blaring and vendors yelling how cheap their passionfruit ices are, but seriously. It smells disgusting.

2- When a taxi driver in Tiberias says “sure, I’ll be there in 5 minutes,” what he means is “I will keep you waiting outside in the blazing sun for 40 minutes.”

3- When someone in Tiberias says “Where did you say you are going? Oh, you don’t need a taxi. It’s right up the road. You can walk there in 5 minutes,” what they actually mean is “If you had a car it would take you five minutes. On foot it will take 25 minutes, in the heat, and we’ll forget about the fact that you are in a hurry because you are seeing 8 tourist sites in one day, OK?”

Toward the end of my last day, I called my friend Beth and nearly burst into tears on the phone.

“Now I know why people hate Jews and Israel,” I said. “I hate us, too. We smell. We are a nation of smelly, rude people who leave their garbage behind to rot in the sun. It is too hot, and we smell gross. Tiberias is disgusting and I never want to come back here again.”

Thank God, Beth knows when to argue and when to just let me talk because I don’t really mean it (or she thinks I don’t).

“If it makes you feel any better,” she said, “the whole country is like that right now. The entire country really needs the kids to go back to school. We are all just waiting for school to start.”

From now on, Tiberias waits until September, and I insist on a car rental.

The funny thing was when I got back and read about the great time Treppenwitz was having on vacation.

With his kids.

In the North.

Trust me, from any one blogger you get only part of the story!

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