In scorching weather - the worst heat wave in June for 50 years, apparently - I travelled down to Jerusalem yesterday, after finishing the 10th session of my course
'Judaism and the Meaning of Life'.
I had been invited first of all to visit the
Israel Academcy of Sciences and Humanities
which is situated next to the
Van Leer Institute
Unfortunately, no-one on the local Jerusalem bus had heard of either, so I phoned the Academy and was told that it is opposite the
So that made things alot easier. The woman next to me on the bus was most helpful and turned out to be the wife of
originally from South Africa, who is an expert on apartheid.
After the meeting at the Academy, which was the epitome of civility and civilization - Israeli-style - I walked the 10 minutes or so to
St. Andrews Church of Scotland Guesthouse
and met up with a friend who, like me, had been invited to say 'Goodbye' to
its General Manager, who is leaving at the end of the week and returning to Scotland with her husband, Mark, having been here for three years.
Gwen looked absolutely radiant - as befits someone who knows she has made the right decision - which is to open a B and B in Ullapool. Details here:
In her 'goodbye' speech, Gwen said that she had tried to open the doors of St. Andrews to all faiths and ethnic creeds and not just to some.
There is no doubt that she has been an immensely civilizing presence both for the Church and for its guesthouse and that she will be sorely missed, both by the Church of Scotland (of which she told me she is no longer a member) and by all her friends here in Israel.
But as Tony Blair said to the House of Commons on the very same day (and in three different languages), it is
'Au Revoir' rather than 'Good-bye'.
And on the way back to Haifa today, it was fascinating to listen to another example of civility in Israel, viz a conversation (which lasted half an hour) between a young Ethiopian passenger and the bus driver on whether the ticket already in her possession was valid, or whether she had to purchase another one. I think she won out in the end, through sheer persistence. I should say that we were travelling along whilst the conversation was being held. The whole thing was terribly Israeli and ended in smiles, not tears.
So who says that the Israelis are the rudest people on earth? Not true, I'm afraid. As yesterday demonstrated - in more ways than one.