Finally back in Israel. The night I flew in, my grandparents moved me into my room, a very spacious and well located, if somewhat scudsy, basement-cum-apartment in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood in Haifa. The neighborhood is a quiet, upscale hamlet of tortuous streets, lush parks and cramped, lilliputian groceries built into the slope of Mount Carmel and perched above Freud Road, which arcs down towards the seashore in panoramic switchbacks. The sun comes in fast and hard from the sea, and the wind with it. At night the land breeze howls down towards the wadis in fits, surging and swirling like floodwater through the jumble of tenements, so that it blows at you from all directions. The clipped avenues are always either deserted or brimming with neighbors walking children home and dogs around the block. In my apartment, The list of amenities is a little imbalanced: big fridge and microwave in the kitchen, T.V. with cable and two couches in the living room, queen bed in the bedroom and a second bedroom to boot; unfortunately there is no stove, range, or oven, no phone, no internet, no closets or dressers. Also, the hot water has to be turned on 45 mins before each use and lasts for about 6 minutes. The biggest challenge will be the total lack of natural light, which gives me that “lives in a fallout shelter” feeling. Nevertheless, it’s great to have my own place, and after some scrubbing and stocking I am getting pretty comfortable here.
For the last couple of days I have been working on registering at the University of Haifa, where upon close inspection of my drivers’ license, the bureaucrats laughed me out of their office and told me to come back with a passport. Apparently, a license doesn’t even count as a form of I.D. here. All the citizens have federal issue identification cards. Similarly, I was barely able to convince them to accept an official transcript from the UofM as proof of my graduation. They were adamant about seeing the original, signed copy of my diploma, which is molding under some pile of old pay stubs and tax returns back home.
Tomorrow I am driving down to Jerusalem to visit my uncle, who recently called us to say that he had just had a baby girl. Of course, we had no idea that his wife was pregnant, but who’s to say where privacy ends and paranoia begins… anyway, four days later the baby is still unnamed. I think they should name her Jonathan.
By the way, I picked up a fantastic CD at the store. Ray LaMontagne’s Trouble. LaMontagne is a bluesier Damien Rice with a voice that’s kissing cousins to David Grey’s and the compositional style of Ryan Adams. Check it out if you can.