If you didn't understand that title, then clearly you do not have American roots. I was referring to David Bowie's original song, entitled "Changes", a classic American hit. And indeed, there are some changes taking place here in Israel. I am here to alert you to one change for the better and one change for the worse. Which one would you like first?
I am going to go with the Good News first. That always seems to be the appropriate route to go. It was decided that beginning this month, there will be a new addition to the aliyah package. I have already detailed in a recent post about the plethora of benefits available for aliyah packages. See my post here about making aliyah. However, now new immigrants have one more reason to celebrate. Starting this month, a partnership between the Ministry of Absorption and local cell phone companies - including Orange, Cellcom and Pelephone - will gift new immigrants with 200 minutes of free cell phone usage upon their arrival in Israel. New immigrants will be given a SIM card containing 200 free minutes of cell phone usage when they pass through at Ben Gurion airport, in addition to their first sal klita payment, among other items in the absorption basket. For further information about this topic, please read on at the Ministry of Absorption's website here.
And the Bad News? Well, to soften the blow, this really is not so much bad news as it is inevitable news. Starting today, on December 1, 2011, the luxurious light rail which we have been enjoying care-free and fare-free for the last four months will finally be a paid ride. Today, don't think you will be able to sneak on and enjoy one last free ride on the Jerusalem light rail; instead, you will become a paying passenger. The good days are over, my friends. The fare will cost you the same as a local bus, or 6.4 NIS; but, you cannot pay in cash. If you are one of the many people who, like me, has not yet made it over to the central bus station to purchase your new transportation card, called a Rav Kav, then I suggest you get over there quickly. Because soon, you will find yourself without a ride. It's like when a new cell phone comes out and you are opposed to the advancing technology. Eventually, you will have to give in because there will be no other options. It is the same with the new transportation card; soon, it will be the only way to get onto the light rail and the buses, so do yourself a favor and go get yourself a card. The Rav Kav itself is free and you are able to add money to the card whenever fees are low.
We'll see how this paid journey on the light rail goes over. Personally, I have no idea how people will be able to access the swipe machine on the light rail because when the doors open, a mass flood of incoming people overwhelms each doorway. It's hard enough to even move, let alone try to swipe your card against the machine to pay for your ride. Nonetheless, that's the word on the street, so be prepared.
Little changes going on here in Israel, but they are changes nonetheless. Enjoy your Thursday (the equivalent of our American Friday) and have a great weekend! Shabbat Shalom!