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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

EXISTENTIAL PROBLEMS as appeared in Binah, April 19

When I was in kindergarten, my mother taught me to memorize my address and phone number just in case I would get lost. That was then. Today, although I have no problem remembering my phone number, I’m really not sure where I live. Okay, yes, I KNOW I live in Jerusalem. And I do know where my apartment is located, and I can even give accurate directions. But I don’t have an address, or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I have three addresses, but, depending on who I’m speaking to, they can all be wrong.

Until recently, our official address was 7 Shmuel Hanavi Street, and that’s the address we usually use— at least for mail and other official things. But the problem is that our building is squeezed between 97 Shmuel Hanavi and 101 Shmuel Hanavi, which means that logically, 7 Shmuel Hanavi  should be over a mile away. And that’s why, when people rely on their GPS instead of on my detailed directions, they end up completely lost and call me asking, “WHERE is your building? I see fifteen and five, but seven seems to have disappeared.”
Just to make things a wee bit more confusing, although our building is on Shmuel Hanavi Street, the entrance is from a small alleyway called Etz Hadar. There are two problems with this alleyway (at least as far as this article goes). One is that most people are not aware that it has a name. The second is that there are three alleyways circling our complex, and all three are called Etz Hadar. But since the Etz Hadar address works with the GPS (although not with the Israeli Postal Authority), I usually give that address to people coming by car. But more times than I can count, the person will say, “I got so lost trying to find you. Why didn’t you just tell me that you live on 7 Shmuel Hanavi Street?”

Because of all the confusion surrounding our address, the city decided to make things even more complicated and give us a NEW address. About two years ago, we received an official letter notifying us that from now on our address would be 32 Etz Hadar (I think. I’m not really sure). Posters were placed in all ten of our building’s entranceways, and we were given instructions to place a lighted number above our entranceway, with a warning that we’d be heavily fined it we didn’t.

I think we were the only one of the seventy-five families living in my building that took this seriously. When we realized that we were the only ones to do so, we quickly forgot our new address (which no one uses, including the post office and including official letters from that same office that informed us about our change of address).

But when the city changed our address, they also invested in new street signs. So, beneath the name of our alleyway there is now a large arrow pointing to our building with the numbers 32-40 underneath it, since — I kid you not — every entranceway in our building was given a different address! Therefore, when I tell people how to find my apartment, I always have to add, “Don’t look at the numbers of the street signs. Just follow my directions.” But more often than not, people do follow the signs and not my directions.

To make things even more confusing, my building borders four streets: Shmuel Hanavi, Etz Hadar, Chativat Harel and a second branch of Etz Hadar. Although Chativat Harel is a major throughway, most people have never heard of it. That’s because the street is only a block long! Actually, it’s one section of a long street that for the last half century has been in the midst of a major identity crisis, changing its name every few blocks or so. It starts off as Yirmiyahu Street, becomes Bar Illan Street, turns into Chativat Harel and finally changes into Sderot Eshkol. People coming to visit me by bus must get off at the Chativat Harel bus stop, but more often than not, no one, including the bus driver, has heard of Chativat Harel.  

But once people finally get to my apartment me, their reaction is usually something like, “What a great location! You’re right in the middle of everything.”

And we really are. My home is the best location. I’ve devoted a large portion of my life to creating it. It took me years of trial and error, of searching and learning, to realize that the recipe for finding it cannot be memorized. And as for directions, since each person understands things according to his own experience, the journey was not always easy.

On Purim, a friend called me in the middle of our seudah. The house was topsy-turvy and grandchildren were everywhere, while their parents were rushing back and forth bringing food to the table. I was enjoying every minute of it. “I don’t know how I got here,” I said to my friend. “Neither do I,” she responded. “It’s amazing! Who would have believed it – forty years ago we were two young kids, trying to find our way, and today, here we are. We've succeeded in creating a true Jewish home!”

And that’s the real reason why, when you come to my home, you’ll realize that, like every true Jewish home, it really is the best location.

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