Postcard from... Jerusalem


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The Independent Online

I have always believed that if you're going somewhere, you really ought to brush up on a few words of the local language.

I can probably politely ask for a beer, for example, in about six different languages, and the subsequent bill in slightly fewer.

As such, I'm a bit disappointed that thus far, my Hebrew learning hasn't really got off to a flying start and I'm still a long, long way off anything considered complicated.

But, in Israel, as in other parts of the world, there are universal indicators to help out the likes of me – a zebra crossing means the same in most parts of the world. Stop. An "ATM" sign pretty much anywhere indicates cash is close at hand, and a big golden "M" obviously means lunchtime.

As such, one might reasonably expect a sign on the roadside, or something similar (yellow lines, perhaps?) to indicate that one cannot park at a particular point. Alas, no. At least not in certain parts of Jerusalem.

After a meeting this week, I went back to my car to see a big red piece of paper on the windscreen. There is nothing to suggest you can't park where I decided to leave the car – except, of course, the red paper. Although that is rather retrospective justice, I would argue.

I am clearly charged by the Jerusalem Municipality with having parked my car illegally (and guilty, it appears), and the sentence is equally clearly a 500 shekel (£86) fine, but beyond that I'm at a loss. I don't know where to serve my sentence, and emailed appeals, rather pathetically explaining that I don't speak Hebrew, have of course been replied to in Hebrew. Time to buy a textbook I think, but only after a birah me'chavit