On a recent sherut (shared shuttle) trip to the airport, I had one of those classic, only-in-Israel moments. Usually, a sherut trip from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion airport is at least a 2-hour ordeal, as the shuttle drives through every Jerusalem neighborhood you never knew existed, picking up one passenger at a time, and loading up the van with their screaming babies and giant suitcases filled with presents for the family back in the states, before hurtling at breakneck speeds to the airport - all this for the low price of 50 shekel!
Instead, I was the first pick-up at 6:45, and after just 2 more stops, I arrived at Ben Gurion in less than 2 hours. At our 3rd and last stop, we picked up...wait for it...an seven person Irish-American band from Alabama and ALL of their instruments. As Naomi said in response to the text message describing the absurdity of this, "What on earth were they doing in Israel?!" The previous weekend, a well-known folk music festival, Jacob's Ladder, had taken place in the north of Israel, and they had been in the country, their first visit, to perform. And they LOVED the country, their Israeli host Menachem, and the handful of Hebrew words they spoke in their Southern accents.
Of course, the only-in-Israelness of this isn't complete yet. Right after we drove through the security checkpoint at the entrance to Ben Gurion, the driver's phone rings. He answers it on speaker phone, and the caller is looking for the ish b'mishkafayim - the gentleman in the glasses. My first thought was that for some reason, airport security was looking for him, but it turned out that it was the band's Israeli host, Menachem, calling to say goodbye to his guests. Only in Israel is it normal for someone to call the cell phone of a shuttle driver to talk to a passenger.
Of course, on my return trip from the airport, the sherut driver got out to take a piss behind the van. Only in Israel...