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The Walk
by Judy Lash Balint
July 20, 2003

In the old country, I used to get up around 5:30 a.m. every morning and be out with a close friend walking the 2.8 miles around a scenic peaceful peninsula jutting out into Lake Washington.

It was a great way to start the day. Here in Israel, my early morning walk is a completely different experience.

Since my working hours often have to coincide with American working hours, it's rare that I get to sleep much before 1:30 a.m. So there's no way you'll find me out walking anywhere at 6 a.m. It's generally the 7 a.m. news that gets my day going.

This morning, I headed out the door at around 7:15 a.m. to try to beat the heat. School is out, so the traffic is noticeably lighter. I pass purposeful women with their heads covered in a modest snood, long skirts cutting a swath through the air.

My route takes me past the house of Benzion Netanyahu, Bibi's father, and on down toward the San Simon Park. To the right I notice a business owned by American olim that has just closed. But a few blocks later there's a new bookstore offering mostly religious books to serve the many observant people in the neighborhood.

In the park, a middle-aged man is trying to concentrate on his Tai-Chi movements while groups of older neighbors amble around as they share the local gossip. In the alleyway on the west side of the grassy area, several young adults in wheelchairs are getting a hand rolling into the special van that takes them from their residential facility to their work. The building they live in is pockmarked--this alley was the scene of one of the fiercest battles for southern Jerusalem in the War of Independence.

I cut through an upscale complex in Givat Oranim and round the corner. Men carrying tefillin bags scurry through the streets on their way in and out of the Shtieblach--a unique shul where a minyan forms every 15 minutes around the clock.

I pass a few strapping young men in T shirts and jeans, a tiny knitted kippa perched on their heads just behind their pushed-up sunglasses. They look as if they would be more at home on their way to the gym. Right behind them are black-hatted Haredim in full regalia, and a block down, three high-school age boys with tzitzit over their shirts are hurrying toward the building.

I make a detour toward Palmach street to visit the ATM at my bank. Two men are peering into the beeping machine, muttering away in Arabic. Their VISA card finally makes its exit from the machine but no cash accompanies it. They step back to let me get my cash, and watch closely as I go through the 3 second procedure. On purpose, I choose the English version of the instructions...As my money appears, the Arabs get an "Aha" moment.

They've left the engine running in their van across the street...7:15 in the morning and these guys are just now trying to figure out how to get this Platinum card to spew cash in their direction? I walk away and call the police...within minutes, a patrol car pulls up and the blue shirts get out to find out why these two can't seem to complete their transaction.

Just another Jerusalem morning.....