Awoke this morning at first light and soon realized that half my brain cells were still en route from Tennessee (I think I’ll call the airport and find out when they will arrive). I was so happy to finally be in a warm climate that I put on my shorts, Coolmax shirt and sandals for Scott to drive me downtown to exchange money and buy a bus ticket.
On the way downtown I noticed people on the streets and that no one else was wearing shorts or, even, a short-sleeved shirt. Everyone had on long pants and a jacket or sweatshirt. Hmmm
When Scott dropped me off downtown I saw why no one else was dressed for warm weather. Although the sun was warm, the strong wind was freezing and cut through my shirt like a knife. Brrrrr. I thought about getting right on a bus and going back home, but I was only a few blocks from the money changer so I continued down the sidewalk.
I crossed a side street and worked my way through a large crowd standing on the corner to continue down the street. I only vaguely noticed a truck parked sideways in the middle of the street and that it was blocking the buses and cars from moving. Down the street I noticed another truck also blocking the lane of traffic coming toward us. None of this registered and I continued walking down the (now empty) sidewalk focused on my goal of the money changer’s shop.
I was immediately confronted by a soldier yelling at me to turn around and get back to the crowd I had just come through. You could say that I became alert at this point and realized that the military had completely blocked off the street not allowing any traffic to move. From time to time a customer would appear out of a store and be yelled back inside.
The truck which was blocking the street then began to to deploy a cute, little mini tank out of its back door. The operator was using a screen to maneuver the tank down the ramp. He was dressed in a thick, padded covering as he used a remote controlled device to drive the tank down the street, over the curb on the other side of the street and down the sidewalk. The crowd I was standing with was taking pictures and making lots of comments in Hebrew. The little tank stopped in a doorway and disappeared into a shop.
The tank operator (still standing next to his truck and maneuvering the tank by a camera mounted at its front), then picked up a microphone and said something in Hebrew that came over speakers somewhere on the truck. It was loud enough for everyone within a couple of blocks to hear. He ended his little talk with “Toda” (Thank you). Then he lifted up a lever on his remote panel and pressed a button. BOOM! Then twice more: BOOM! BOOM!
The operator walked down the street to the doorway of the shop where the little tank had disappeared and looked in. He waved to his helper who then got into the truck and moved it out of the center of the street.
Everyone in the crowd shrugged their shoulders and continued walking down the sidewalk. The buses and cars resumed their movement up and down the street and all returned to normal. I thought, “Just another day in Jerusalem”.
I exchanged my money for shekels and caught a bus back to the apartment. I sure hope it warms up before the group arrives next week.