This is the first of Efrat articles (I’ll write them as they happen…)
Things I’ve done in Efrat that I would never do in Jerusalem:
Everyone (who does not require someone to accompany them) hikes in the Gush Etzion area just south of Jerusalem, and particularly in and around Efrat. The Hebrew word for hitchike is to “tremp. One can presume that etymologically “tremp comes from tramp, AKA “hobo, those people who hitched around the USA during the Great Depression of the 20th Century. At least maybe. But, sorry, there are no hoboes in Efrat. There are Rabbinical types, housewives, students of all ages, caregivers, and me. I have hitched to and from Jerusalem as well as within Efrat. I have had door-to-door service with a smile, as well as slightly less convenient, but still fabulous and free rides, from generous caring individuals.
Just the other day a man stopped his giant size Mitsubishi besides the roadside hitching area and said one word, “Gilo. Four of us piled into his car, enjoyed air conditioning and light music – but not another word. I have been “picked up by all sorts of people, including a young woman who was taking her daughter to the doctor. Imagine having the ability, under pressure, to remember to give to others. My son hitchikes to and from his Yeshiva, and my daughter to and from the university. Surely, G-d is our driver!
Vineyard with town of Efrat in background.
To hitchike in Israel you put out your index finger, not your thumb. If the driver is only going a short way and cannot take you he will point down. If he is turning at the next corner, and cannot take you, he will point his finger in that direction. No one just passes by without a reason.
There is order at the hitching posts in Efrat. There is a particular place to stand for a ride to Jerusalem, and several meters away people hitch around the Gush Etzion area. No one lines up, but everyone knows who came first and who (for whatever other reason) may get priority. No one fights for a seat; cars pull up one after another – no one waits longer than five minutes or so. It is a wonderful non-system.
Each time I get to Jerusalem I now have to remember not to put my hand out for a hitch further along my way.
2. Talk to and smile at a total stranger:
Come to think of it, this goes with number one. Besides asking for directions (easy) and saying “Shabbat shalom (less easy), I have asked total strangers if I may pick fruit off their trees! After all, this is a S’hmitta year; growers are putting their hearts where their pockets may have been. I have asked our new neighbors for help for all kinds of things in and around our new home, including vital “protektziya simply because we live on the same block. And all these “total strangers are so happy to help. Even on the first day I moved in, someone brought me a cup of coffee. I don’t know when coffee ever tasted better.
Bench dedicated on the 25th anniversary of Efrat.
3. My husband has been giving rides around Efrat on particularly hot days:
Numbers one and two lead right into this. We have received so much in the short time we have been here. My husband went out one day to drive around the town and get oriented. On his way he gave rides. He noticed the need, and fills it several times a week, when he can. Then we found out, he is not the only one! There are people who drive between the two shopping centers (a five minute drive, too far to walk in the heat) to see if someone with shopping bags needs a lift.
4. I take my garbage out in order to meet people:
Yes, this is true. There is a huge garbage bin at the top of our street. I was correct in thinking I would meet neighbors by taking out the trash. It is not a long walk, but if I linger over gardens, etc, I am sure to run into someone. This is how we met at least half of our neighbors.
5. Opening the front door for a stranger:
Every time we do, we meet someone interesting. In the first few weeks we received flowers, cakes and fruit from neighbors (the half we did not meet at the garbage bin). Later on, there were a few beggars, with certificates from the local religious council. Each one was friendly, kind and appreciative. One Friday afternoon a man came by selling Kippot. He asked for a glass of water, which I realized was his real purpose in coming by. He told us just a few hints about his life, and then he was off to somewhere (Hebron, I think) as a guest for Shabbat.
These stand out as some of the delightful, peculiarities of life in a small town “over the green line. For me Efrat is Over The Rainbow!