Outside of ulpan, we are spending our time getting to know the neighborhood. Notably, we have found an enormous indoor pool several blocks from our house which we have already used twice; we have found several playgrounds all in walking distance - one with a lighted basketball court for nightime play; and we have found a pizzeria we all agree on. This evening, Bennett and I set out on a walk to find the neighborhood library. Two hours and several miles later, we never found the library but had a wonderful walking tour of various Jerusalem neighborhoods. I am pretty sure it is the longest walk our rather lazy son has ever taken in his life. Surprisingly, he saw it as an adventure and loved it!
Against my better judgment, while on our "adventure" we wandered into one of the shopping malls. It was quite an experience. Needless to say, Israelis have a very different notion of a shopping mall than Americans.
I said "against my better judgment" because many Israelis believe that shopping malls are terrorist targets. It is interesting. Before we got here, I was told that our bags would be checked prior to entering most malls, restaurants and stores. While there are security guards outside most establishments, and while they allegedly check our bags, they really do no such thing. Maybe I don't look very threatening, but they do such a cursory job of looking in my bags that it gives me no sense of security. I was definitely on edge the entire time we were in the mall. I think we will stay away from them from now on.
This brings up another point. When we were walking home Bennett asked about taking a bus. I am standing by my decision to refrain from taking any buses. That said, as I watch buses filled to the brim with ordinary people pass by on a regular basis, I can't help but start to think that it must be safe because why else would all these people be on there. The same is of course true of the malls. The mall was filled with people - adults and children, Jews and Muslims - all having a good time. Surely they would not deliberately put themselves at risk! All that notwithstanding, don't worry Mom, we will continue to stay off buses and out of malls.
We continue to feel happy and safe. We hope you feel the same.
One final note. I was reading an on-line account of the war tonight. The reporter went to great lengths to note the huge number of Palestinian casualties as opposed to Israeli. Make no mistake. This war is not only in Gaza. Many, many Israelis are spending their days and nights in bomb shelters. They may not be dying, but they are living in constant fear and under constant attack. Our prayers are with them and all the soldiers fighting for our survival. (Mindy and Jeff sent us an article today that addresses this point. For anyone interested, here is the link http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/05/AR2009010502343.html )