Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Life on two wheels: Motorcycle tyres and Rabbis in Tel-Aviv

Monday morning I had to go to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned. At 8:40 AM I got on my bicycle and cycled 15-20 minutes to the dentists.  They injected one half of my jaw with anaesthetic and then cleaned it with what felt like a wire brush.

When I emerged slightly staggering and with no sensation in half my jaw, I realized that I had left my mobile phone at home so I cycled home (total time: 35 minutes cycling). After checking my e-mail and making sure no one had tried to rewrite my Wikipedia "history of Israel" I got back on my bicycle and cycled to the "employment office" (1 hour cycling). They should really be called the unemployment office because except for the clerks everyone there is unemployed. To get in you undergo a quick security check where they make sure you're not a bomber and then go up two escalators where they check you more thoroughly and use a metal detector. It makes for a lot of queueing and I met Neta (my partner) in the queue.  She was going to sort out her taxes in the same building. Forty five minutes later we emerged and I cycled up to Allenby (1 hour 15 minutes cycling) where I had an excellent Felafel (cost: 10 shekels) and went in to Halper's second hand book shop to find something to read.  Halper has an excellent history section (I read history the way others read fiction) but I couldn't find anything I wanted to read. Realizing that I had to get home to close up after the cleaner, I quickly grabbed a book about Napoleon, got on my bicycle and cycled home (1 hour 50 minutes cycling). As I neared the flat I approached a roundabout at speed.  There was a car coming at the same time, I decided I didn't have time to cut in front of the car and pulled to the side, just in time to realize that the driver was Neta, returning from work.

At home I got on my motorbike to go to the supermarket and found I had a flat tyre and that someone had slashed my seat. So I inflated the tyre and made my way to the Police station to lodge a complaint. The duty officer turned out to be someone I knew when I was 13. In those days he was called "Sammy" and had a "Jewfro". Now he's bald and called Yehonadav. I liked Sammy better. We chatted about England and Football and what had happened to various people and he sent me to have my motorcycle seat photographed. Then I went to the supermarket.  When I got home I realized the flat tyre was caused by a puncture.  Flat motorcycle tyres are potentially lethal as the tyre can't grip the road, but it turns out the tyre rubber is so stiff that you can actually drive on the tyre without any air in it. Its still dangerous though. I use good quality tyres because years ago I discovered that good quality tyres make almost as much difference to how a bicycle handles as a good quality frame - and they are a lot cheaper.  

Next morning I pumped up my tyre again and drove (gingerly) to find a garage.  I usually take my motorcycle to be repaired in the south of Tel-Aviv but with a puncture thought I should find something local. The place I found turned out to belong to Israel's motocross champion.  It was the cleanest garage I have ever seen and had a huge shelf covered in motorcycling cups.  He removed my back wheel and sent me to his neighbour the "puncture-macher" (thats yiddish for something) to have the puncture repaired. 

I carried the wheel to the puncture repair shop, getting my trousers black in the process. The shop was run by an ultra-orthodox Moroccan Jew.  A large man with a beard like Herzl's and a sort of working-class no-nonsense attitude.   I assume he was Moroccan because he had several pictures of the Baba Sally, who was the legendary leader of Moroccan Jewry.  In 1948 Sally told them all to get off their arses and go to Israel, which resulted in him becoming a demi-god. So many Morroccan Jews began arriving in Israel that the government actually tried to discourage them from leaving so as to slow the flow.

There was also a large picture of the (now dead) Lubavitch Rabbi, whose followers claim he was the Messiah, and of Rabbi Kadduri, the Iraqi Kabbalist who was supposed to be over 100 years old when he died. I guess orthodox garage owners have pictures of rabbis the way secular ones might have their favourite football teams. Its like a statement of identity.  I support these Rabbis. 
There was a little desk in the centre of the shop on which stood a book of talmudic studies which I guess was there just in case the puncture-macher found himself with nothing to do.  
Other than the pictures the shop was just a large, somewhat dirty open space full of tyres and equipment for handling them. Scenes like this can only be found in Israel and make me feel like I'm living in an Isaac Bashevis Singer novel.

I took the repaired motorcycle home and gave it a wash.  Then Noam came home from school and I made some salad, fed him and then took him on the motorcycle to his youth movement (also called Noam) where he was due to act in a play.  From there I went to the health food shop bought 2 kilos of porridge oats (I eat tons of the stuff) went home, read 
about Napoleon and finally rode back into Tel-Aviv, watched Noam's play and then drove home again.

Now I need to remember to go into the History of Israel and add a bit about how Shas gave out good-luck charms blessed by Kaduri during the 1990's.  The charms claimed that they only worked if you voted for Shas.  After Shas did very well in the elections the high-court decided this was bribery and banned the practise.

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