Can You Get There from Here? A Jerusalem Story

As I write this blog, President Bush is making his way to Jerusalem (where I am), to participate in Israeli President Shimon Peres’ “Conference on Tomorrow.” The conference itself is quite amazing. Just this afternoon, Tony Blair chaired a session on visions of the future with Mikhail Gorbachev and some nineteen other heads of state in attendance (all in celebration of Israel’s 60th!). It was heady stuff! And tomorrow, out of the blue of the western sky (let’s see who gets that reference!), comes our own President to join the festivities. As they would say in Hebrew, yihiyeh po sameah! It’ll be a little loony around here.

Truth to tell, the lunacy has already begun, if only on a practical level. While here, I’m staying with my son and daughter-in-law who are living for the year in Rehavia, in the center of town. In their mailbox yesterday was an 8×10 glossy multi-colored sheet detailing all the street closures (and other sundry inconveniences) that the Secret Service is demanding in order to insure the President’s safety. And there are already more people wearing the same lapel pin talking into the palms of their hands than you can shake a stick at. But of course you wouldn’t want to shake a stick at these guys; they have no sense of humor.

Basically, they are shutting down downtown Jerusalem. Not only is the street where the President is staying closed to traffic (King David), but all access roads leading to it, as well as all roads that might conceivably lead to it, are as well. Additionally, there will be intermittent closures of all the other major arteries (whatever’s left!) as both he and his entourage and the other heads of state are shuttled back and forth from the convention center where the conference is being held.

If your car is anywhere near any of these locations, it will be towed. All of downtown Jerusalem has been warned to “park elsewhere” for the next few days. You have to know Jerusalem well to appreciate exactly how funny that is. Parking in Jerusalem makes parking in Manhattan seem like a picnic. Just “park elsewhere.” Right.

On top of that, almost all of the rental car offices in downtown Jerusalem are across the street from the King David Hotel (where you-know- who is staying). So if you have to rent a car (which of course I have to do), they are moving their offices and cars to a remote location far away from the center of town (which you won’t be able to get to anyway because no taxi will be able to take you there because the streets will all be closed!

Now I’m from New York, and I’m used to street closures. In fact, former President Clinton visited my synagogue while he was in office, and people are still complaining. But most of the Jerusalemites I’ve spoke to would just as soon have President Bush spend the week of sheva brahot for his daughter Jenna in Texas, and leave poor old Jerusalem alone with its regular insufferable traffic.

As an honorary Citizen of Jerusalem for the week of this conference, I must admit to feeling the same way…

About the Author
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens.