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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Do you know how to protect yourself on Jerusalem’s sidewalks?

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This is actually more of a public service announcement than a blog post.  Know what the biggest threat is to pedestrians in Jerusalem?  From what I’ve learned this week it definitely isn’t terrorism… it’s slippery sidewalks.

Yup, those fabulous shining stone walkways that make Jerusalem look so lovely for so much of the year… are apparently (almost literally) deadly.

If you’ve ever walked through the Old City at night in the rain, you probably figured that already.  But maybe, like me, you thought you were the only one.  Nope, nope, nope.  If you’ve ever stopped yourself from running for a bus in our nation’s capital because you were scared you’d slip and fall and break your neck… it turns out you’re not alone.

Except some people aren’t just afraid of falling.  They’ve actually fallen, and maybe not suffered broken necks, but have definitely experienced scraped and busted knees, elbows, teeth, ankles, and worse.

A friend of mine asked about this in the Secret Jerusalem Facebook group because her mother tripped and fell, breaking some teeth and requiring surgery.  And to my astonishment, not just a few but dozens of people chimed in, tagging dozens more friends and relatives who have had incidents involving bad, broken, or slippery sidewalks in Jerusalem.

Responses ranged from “many times” to “my husband slipped” to “I fell holding a baby” to “I broke 3 bones” and “those stone sidewalks look great, but they sure are slippery in the rain.”

What the HECK was going on here??!?

This wasn’t “just” frail, elderly people who might be expected to trip, slip, or fall (not that it isn’t bad!!!!), but young, healthy, strong men and women who were just going about their ordinary lives until they were assaulted by a dangerous sidewalk.

Amazed at the response, and at the diverse types of people chiming in, I realized somebody needed to get the word out about this, so I shared the (public) thread and tagged the Iriya (Jerusalem municipality).  And the city actually responded.  Here’s what they said:

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Jerusalem Municipality | עיריית ירושלים Hi Tzivia, thank you for your post. We are investing great efforts in improving all infrastructures in Jerusalem, including sidewalks. If you encounter any specific problem or hazard - please report it immediately while citing the specific address by calling 106 or using the Municipality App - "Yerushalmi"

So that’s something, at least.  But from what I’ve heard, if you do get hurt, you still have very little recourse, and calling the city’s 106 hotline (or pulling out the app as you lie there flat on your back on the stone) won’t put your teeth back in place after they’re already busted.

Now, I don’t have statistics, so don’t ask me for any.  But as one person mentioned, “I feel safe on sidewalks elsewhere.”  So do I.  The only place I’ve ever felt scared walking down the street was in Jerusalem, and it had nothing to do with terrorists… it was because it was raining and I had to consciously plant one foot down in front of the other and make sure they were well dug in before taking the next step. 

Baruch Hashem I wasn’t carrying a baby at the time.

This is so hard for me to say, because I love the city so, so much, but I also really, REALLY want to warn you to be careful.

The summer before we made aliyah, I broke my ankle in Toronto (bike accident).  So when we came the following winter on our pilot trip, I was petrified the whole time.  We were staying in Jerusalem, navigating the Old City at night, in the winter, in the rain... BH, my husband got me through it! :-)

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[Jerusalem in the rain photo credit: Navot Miller via Wikimedia]

I’ve mostly been okay since then, but a couple of years ago when my sister was here, I was having a lot of pain and balance problems probably stemming from that old ankle injury (although, go figure, the problems were mainly in the OTHER ankle!).  I very nearly fell over a couple of times while I explored the city with her.  Now, I know already that that was due to balance problems, not the sidewalks, plus I had my sister with me in case I actually got hurt. 

All I’m saying was that it was still unbelievably humiliating (six months of ankle physio really helped after that low point).

And last year, I actually did trip and fall in Tel Aviv because I was running for a bus, focusing on the bus, and didn't see that the concrete sidewalk around a tree was somewhat cut out and sunken. Missed the bus, but baruch Hashem, not seriously injured. I’ve seen other people in Tel Aviv "fall into" trees like that, so I know I'm not the only one.

So yes, I know, Jerusalem isn’t the only city with problems on and around its sidewalks.  But the Jerusalem stone sidewalks, at least, present a unique hazard that you (yes, YOU) really must know about so you don’t join that horrible long list of “me, toos” I’ve been watching grow on Facebook.

Jerusalem, you are wonderful.  Your stones have an inner glow and they are truly beautiful.  They shimmer with joy with your exiled people’s return after 2000 years and my heart swells to see you at sunset, every single time.

But Jerusalem, please:  for those of us who walk on two feet, two legs, two ankles, two hips, who are made of bones and other fragile, brittle things that can smash and cause big owies… I beg you to demand that the people who run you just add a little grit (somehow!) to the texture of the stone sidewalks when they’re installed, and to put a little more oomph into their commitment to sidewalk upkeep, ensuring they stay smooth and level throughout all of your holy neighbourhoods.

In answer to the question at the top of this post: how can you protect yourself on Jerusalem’s sidewalks?  I don’t have many answers. 

  • Wear good, solid, grippy shoes. 
  • Don’t have a physical disability (sorry to those who already do!). 
  • Be active on social media, letting people know how you got hurt and why. 
  • And most important of all, hold the municipality accountable and maybe, just maybe (hey, this is even an election year!) something will eventually get done about it.

Has Jerusalem hurt you lately? Got any essential survival tips that could help others? I’d love to hear about it in the comments, or you can visit the original Facebook thread here.

(note: the fracture shown in this post’s heading is just an example—there WERE two actual x-rays shared in the thread but I didn’t want to borrow people’s medical records without their consent)

Jerusalem Old City photo © israeltourism via Wikimedia

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


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