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Moses and the children of Israel wandered around in the desert for forty years. The old joke goes that even back then, the men wouldn’t stop and ask for directions.
It also took me forty years of wandering around the US, Latin America and Europe before I made it to Israel, and no, I didn’t ask for directions either. Nor did I need a GPS to find the way. In 1984, I almost made it there. I got as far as Perugia Italy, the same city where Amanda Knox got in trouble, when I made the mistake of calling home. For reasons that are unimportant now, I turned around and went home, instead of continuing on to Greece, and then Israel.
Almost thirty years later, I finally made it, accompanied by my wife, gifts for our relatives, some things my daughter requested, and a full on case of “traveler's diarrhea.” I tell you that, not because I want to be guilty of TMI, but so you can understand why I spent the following morning learning about the Israeli health care system, and not at the Israel Museum, where the rest of the group of visiting parents went.
Despite not having an appointment, I waited no more than fifteen minutes before being seen by an American trained doctor. After being poked and prodded, then giving him all the pertinent details I could think of, he made his diagnosis, and sent me off to the pharmacy. The visit cost about a hundred bucks, and the prescription set me back about ten dollars. If I were a citizen, it would have cost me nothing. By the way, of the small sampling I queried, no Israelis had anything bad to say about their medical system.
Armed with antibiotics and electrolytes, I let nature (and modern medicine) take its course. Lunch was out of the question, and rest was the order of the day, in an effort to make the trek into the old city of Jerusalem in the afternoon.
Somebody needs to introduce the Israelis to Gatorade, because I sure could have used some to rehydrate. Nonetheless, I tagged along with the group, a bit woozy from loss of body fluids and no food. As I remember, we meandered along in the old city, as our guide pointed out significant landmarks. We learned that the Ottomans constructed the large walls that surround the old city in the 1500’s. The old city itself is divided into four quarters – Muslim, Armenian, Christian, and Jewish. Unfortunately, most of structures in the Jewish quarter were razed by the Jordanians after 1948, and were not rebuilt until 1967 when Israel recaptured the city. All construction is done with Jerusalem stone, so all the edifices retain the old look and feel. There were some shops along the way, where we purchased gifts, and even wandered into the Muslim market or shuk, where my wife purchased some spices. Later we found out, these could have been obtained for a lot less in the Mahane Yehuda Shuk (Jerusalem’s largest outdoor market.)