A Day of Unbearable Heat in Jerusalem

The heat is unbearable. 100 people evacuated to hospitals (36% more than normal). I am not sure what is “normal,” but the forecast is “more of the same” for tomorrow and the next day and then on Thursday, a special treat, “an increase of a few degrees (Celsius).”

In Jerusalem everything stood still, as if the heat sat on the ground as the sun boiled from above. I exited a meeting, saw a mirage and escaped to a sanctuary. Now along the “lowlands” from the seashore inland, there is actually a breeze, it is somewhat comfortable in the shade, but it is scorching hot as soon as you set one foot outside.

The heat cannot mislead the body. I awoke from sleep drenched. I took a bottle of water from the refrigerator, and it instantly began sweating, forming a pool around its base. That I have not seen before. So imagine the toll on the human body.

I visited the air-conditioned bank, more to escape the heat than anything else. I thought about the Electric Company urging everyone to set the thermostats to 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). The clerk looked at me and said with indignation: “We are here the whole day, the idea is definitely not welcome.”

Simply put, a national effort to conserve electricity (for instance, it is requested one not operate different electrical appliances mid-day at the height of the heat) is wonderful in theory, but does not apply to me. I need my freezing cold working environment, I cannot endure anything outside an air-conditioned environment, from workplace to the car to an air conditioned home. It is a prevailing attitude that has nothing to do with the heat: “Conservation is good in theory, but excludes me.”

I drink all the time–more and more and more water. I know we need to conserve, but this is the cooling mechanism for my body. Israel, by the way, is also experiencing a severe water shortage, and the government is distributing water-savers free of charge to reduce the flow of water from the taps.

For a very smart person, I act very stupidly at times. For a person who donates blood every two months at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, a tradition of more than a decade now, I should know that donating blood when it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside is not recommended, especially when you are without air conditioning.

I was at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, and I saw a large banner “donate blood at Bay 22.” “Bay 22” is at the very end of the corridor, where hundreds of passengers are awaiting their next bus out of Jerusalem. There are soldiers lying on their bags on the floor, parents with children, the elderly and youth, either on the phone or (im)patiently awaiting the bus.

Four days a week, Magen David Adom (the Red Mogen David, Israel’s paramedic/ambulance service) conducts blood drives there, at the very last bay. Much like in the States, one fills out a questionnaire that is reviewed by a volunteer, the person’s blood pressure and hemoglobin level is tested, and as long as the latter is above 13, the person proceeds to donate blood. Here is where the similarities end.

Israelis get a little booklet, an insurance certificate of sorts, that you have donated blood and thus have credit in case of need. But the blood drive at the Central Bus Station in Israel’s capital was conducted in field conditions. I am used to the blood flowing into a bag that sits atop a small machine that tilts from side to side, measuring the weight up to the exact measure of the donation (a pint of blood, or 1/8th of a gallon). Here “in the field,” the person taking the blood eyeballs the volume and decides when to stop.

I was amazed at the non-stop stream of people, young people, soldiers, the elderly, all donating blood on this extremely hot day. No, there is no bandage with cartoons, there is no sticker to place on the shirt saying “I gave blood today.” There were some cookies and water (room temperature, feh), and I think there was even a “thank you for donating blood” (or maybe I wished there was).

I felt good. I gave blood in Jerusalem, Israel. Despite the scorching hot day, I was protected, and I know this donation would go to good use.

There are foolish things I do sometimes, but this makes me feel good. Let us hope such blood drives will not become necessary for other reasons, and more on that in our next Postcard about the intensifying Missile Threat on Israel.

(c) “Postcards from Israel-Postcards from America,” August, 2010

The writers invite readers to view and experience an Israel and her politics through their eyes, Israel visitors rarely discover.This point-and often-counter-point presentation is sprinkled with humor and sadness and attempts to tackle serious and relevant issues of the day. The series began in 2008, appears both in print in the USA and on numerous websites and is followed regularly by readership from around the world.

In the series “Postcards from Israel,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers throughout the world to join them as they present reports from Israel as seen by two sets of eyes: Bussel’s on the ground, Zager’s counter-point from home. Israel and the United States are inter-related – the two countries we hold dearest to our hearts – and so is this “point – counter-point” presentation that has, since 2008, become part of our lives.