Sunday, March 25, 2007

Chasidic Hitchhikers and other Tzfat Sightings

It's early on a Friday afternoon in Tzfat and most shops are already closed so that their owners and employees can prepare for the Sabbath. Like a flock of eclectic birds coming home to roost, men of all shapes and colors, with tzitzit, beards and peyot flapping in the wind, are heading to their Shabbat destinations. Some schlep suitcases, others bear backpacks, a few travel on bicycles, and still others are trying to flag down motorists for a ride.

I don't pick anyone up.

The drivers in Tzfat must all be hurrying home for Shabbat because they are completely meshuga on the road, so far the worst I've experienced in my dozen hours of driving in Israel. They speed down hills, swerve around hairpin turns, and honk without hesitation if they are behind a slower car. They also exhibit a somewhat contradictory tendency, stopping in the middle of narrow streets to chat with friends and conduct business, heedless of the traffic gathering behind them. At one point, I am stuck behind a woman who is trying to negotiate a purchase without leaving her car, and because I am trying to follow another car whose driver is waiting for me, I feel compelled to honk. It works. She pulls onto the sidewalk and I plow ahead, cursing under my breath. It is not the most spiritual thing for me to do in this mystical city.

Perhaps next time I'll come by bus, leaving the driving to someone else.

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