Boy oh boy, Old Man Winter is really sticking it to me. Seventy-four days into 2018 and I’ve only had one bike ride…ONE! By this time last year, I had been on Old Bessie nine times! It’s just not okay as far as I’m concerned.

So my one and only ride of 2018 occurred on February 14th. The temperature slowly climbed into the low 50s and the sky was that perfect blue with fluffy white clouds. On the usual route to my go-to place, I passed the former First Baptist Church on Pennsylvania Avenue and discovered it had officially become the Y.A.L.E. School (a special needs school for children with developmental disabilities):


I thought about the post I wrote last year (April 28, 2017), Is G-d dead? , questioning the abandonment of religion in America.

Taking the short cut through the parking lot, my mood lightened somewhat and I questioned whether or not I really wanted to know what kind of waste was being dumped there…


As I neared the river, the sky turned an ugly grey and a fierce wind began to howl. Defiantly, I carried on, determined to get in that one and only ride of the year and found myself exploring another building that had been abandoned around the same time as the church. Once a thriving private school, the Living Faith Christian Academy now lays in waste, succumbing to the Hoodlums of Cherry Hill – windows and glass doors shattered by rocks, wooden doors ripped from their hinges, graffiti- laden walls attest to the guilty parties and air conditioners plucked from their casings…

Outside, the playground stands desolate in mile-high grass and the hopscotch and four-corner boards lure the eye with their surprisingly vibrant colors miraculously preserved despite the elements while evidence of residency hides behind a concrete wall…

A former hotel and restaurant, the building directly next door was also vacated shortly after the school. Despite the owner’s attempts to close off the area with wire fences, the Hoodlums of Cherry Hill have managed to find their way over and through the boundary.

Feeling thoroughly depressed and not wanting to fend my way back home as the temperatures and the sun began to plummet, I made a pitstop to photograph the hibernating boats at the marina and longed for warmer weather…


…which I got exactly one week later when we abandoned New Jersey for the mother land – Israel.

Oh, and I lied – I did manage to get in another “bike ride” this year…

“I walk this empty street
On the boulevard of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I’m the only one, and I walk alone”
Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump


It only hurts when I burp

Lying on a gurney in the PCCU (Progressive Cardiac Care Unit) there was only one detail I kept focusing on – my heart was at peace.

For those of you who know me and/or have been following my blog, for over 20 years I have suffered from SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) (May 7, 2017 – Thank you Pearl and fuck you heart! May 16, 2017 – Me Day…June 25, 2017 – My life is going down the toilet…Israel: Part I – The path to acceptance):

“Atrial or Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a fast heart rate that starts in the upper chambers of the heart…Electrical signals in the heart’s upper chambers fire abnormally, which interferes with electrical signals coming from the sinoatrial (SA) node — the heart’s natural pacemaker. A series of early beats in the atria speeds up the heart rate. The rapid heartbeat does not allow enough time for the heart to fill before it contracts so blood flow to the rest of the body is compromised.” – American Heart Association

At some point in my 20s, I had an EKG (electrocardiogram) administered for no apparent reason and discovered an arrhythmia (a condition in which the heart beats with an irregular or abnormal rhythm) in my heart. After being told it was a common occurrence and knowing that mostly every member of my family had some kind of irregular heartbeat, I wasn’t concerned at the time. Several follow-up EKGs over the next few years pretty much repeated what I already knew – the arrhythmia wasn’t going away. If not for those EKGs, I never would’ve known I had this issue. And it wasn’t effecting my health in any way…until 1995…

As I mentioned in my last blog (January 12, 2018 – Go the f**k to sleep), in 1995 I was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition known as pseudotumor cerebri after two years of misdiagnosis while living in a painful hell. Electing not to have a stent surgically planted in my spine, I was prescribed the only medication that was going to alleviate my symptoms and get me back on the road to recovery – a medication that took advantage of the arrhythmia residing in my heart, setting forth the beginning of SVT over the next 22 years. Even though this medication was stopped when I got pregnant with the kid, SVT became a permanent fixture during the third trimester, landing me for the first time in the emergency room. A new medication helped to control the abnormal rhythm during pregnancy, but after giving birth my heart rate plummeted to 40 BPM and the medication was no longer an option. As SVT worsened over the years, I learned to control my heart rate by completely cutting out caffeine and it worked…until last year…

A year ago an endocrinologist prescribed levothyroxine (a generic form of Synthroid) due to a long-term battle with hypothyroidism. Unbeknownst to me at that time, its number one side effect is heart palpitations. Five months later, after arguing with this doctor ad nauseum about daily episodes of SVT (three of which were very serious episodes while riding my bike long distance), I took myself off levothyroxine and finally called my cardiologist…who was no longer practicing…now I needed to find a new endocrinologist and a new cardiologist.

At this point, you’re probably asking,”What the hell were you waiting for woman?!” Trust me, I’ve repeatedly asked myself the same question over the past year…and my reasons are quite simple:

(1) I “don’t do sick.” (March 30, 2017 – Death defying…) That’s just me and my genetics, plain and simple.

(2) About 15 years ago I had a cardiologist who performed a treadmill stress test and concluded that I needed a pacemaker – I wasn’t even 40-years-old and had a toddler at home. Needless to say, I ran from his office never to be seen there again.

(3) Ten years ago I was forced to find a new cardiologist who could perform a nuclear stress test prior to having laser surgery to eradicate some cancerous growths. Making the “mistake” of mentioning a history of heart issues, my oncologist insisted on the test before undergoing the laser to make sure I could handle the anesthesia. Luckily, my heart cooperated that day, and I passed the test with flying colors – hence my belief that I had SVT under control and surgery was no longer necessary.

(4) Seven years ago I had to have the same laser surgery, but this time the oncologist only wanted a treadmill stress test. Although the cardiologist was able to induce some palpitations and recommended cardiac ablation, he deemed my heart healthy enough to undergo anesthesia without incident. Of course I followed through with the laser surgery, but didn’t return to discuss the ablation.

(5) People die in hospitals…which I’ve witnessed firsthand. After 36 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing the kid out of my body at 11:30am, I was ready to leave by dinner time. Following my hysterectomy, I could’ve easily jumped from my hospital bed dragging my morphine drip and urinary catheter behind me. Don’t get me wrong, most days I’m a really good patient…until you put me in the hospital.

(6) Anxiety – I’m that 1% who suffers the “worst case scenario.” It’s my track record and just my plain dumb luck…

So after 20 years of denial reinforced by doctors, EKGs, stress tests, echocardiograms and ultrasounds, I convinced myself that I could live with it.

The good news was that I had found a new cardiologist last summer who I liked and trusted, mostly because he agreed that the levothyroxine had been the culprit in bringing my SVT out of hiding with a vengeance. However, he also strongly recommended cardiac ablation. I agreed to follow up with the electrophysiologist within the same practice and go through with the cardiac ablation by the end of 2017…until the kid called about making aliyah and we impulsively flew to Israel…and then I came down with a respiratory infection that last over a month…more excuses…until that last trip to Israel when I had that hour-long bout of SVT before takeoff. On that flight I promised the hubby I would call the cardiologist as soon as we returned to the states.

And I kept my promise and scheduled a cardiac ablation for January 16th.

Barely capable of sleeping the night before and fasting since midnight, the hubby drove me to the hospital. Arriving fifteen minutes early, the hubby made a B-line for the toilet and I signed in as a receptionist slapped onto my wrist a red plastic bracelet with bold capital letters reading “ALLERGIES.” Okay, the first hurdle of anxiety has been jumped – someone has actually read my chart and knows of my numerous and potentially lethal allergies. Before I could sit down and make myself comfortable, I was whisked off to an office where a woman slapped another plastic bracelet onto my wrist, this one white and containing personal information. Second hurdle of anxiety jumped – no one’s going to confuse me with the patient who’s getting prosthetic testicle implants…

Fifteen minutes later I was called back to prep for the procedure. Walking by the nurses’ station, my escort was asked by her supervisor what my name was, to which I announced in a sing-song voice with jazz hands, “Alice!” My escort followed suit and all the staff giggled. Anxiety hurdle number three – everyone’s nice and easily entertained.

Changing into a hospital gown and hopping onto a gurney, I was greeted by another nurse with a fabulous sense of humor and an ability to avoid pain through distraction – wiggle your toes while I shove this IV needle into your vein…and it actually helped. Fourth anxiety hurdle – limited pain through genuine kindness. Another nurse administered one last EKG confirming the long ago diagnosed arrhythmia lived with for over 20 years…and the hubby was allowed to wait with me…and we waited.

It suddenly dawned on me that I had met the electrophysiologist only twice – once eight years ago and the second back in August of 2017…what he hell did he look like?! What if some dude came over and claimed he was my physician?! What if I did end up with testicular implants?! Thankfully, all the staff confirmed his identity as he approached my little corner of pre-op. Anxiety hurdle number five – doctor recognition.

The doctor proceeded to walk us through the procedure – how they would sedate me, insert catheters into veins in both sides of my groin and thread these tubes to my heart in order to deliver energy in the form of heat to modify the tissue in my heart that was causing the arrhythmia. After years as a psychiatric social worker with a few years of medical transcription in between, his words didn’t phase me in the least. When he started to explain the possible “down sides” of the procedure, that’s when my brain got stuck…

Bleeding or infection at the site where the catheter was inserted – okay, I could deal with this one…wouldn’t be the first time.

Damage to your blood vessels where the catheter may have scraped as it traveled to my heart – okay, just try to visualize this one…that’s when the brain stops thinking…

Damage to my heart’s electrical system that could require a pacemaker…See! That cardiologist way back when was right!

Possible stroke -I had nightmares of this days leading up to the procedure.

There was no turning back…and the doctor literally evaporated…okay, so maybe not literally…

…and then I made it known loud and clear that I.WAS.ANXIOUS

By the end of the night, I was known as that “one who said she had anxiety…”

That’s when one of the OR nurses introduced herself (and when I started paying attention to names for some unknown reason at the time).  Her name was Holly, and she explained what her role was as well as all the other women (except for one man who she kinda blew off) that would be in the operating room with me. Obviously recognizing my anxiety (perhaps because of my repeated exclamations of feeling anxious), Holly managed to calm me down after answering the routine virally paranoid  questions about traveling abroad, to which I answered, “Yes…Israel” and to which she exclaimed her pending visit with her church group this coming October. Anxiety hurdle number six – interfaith love of Israel and a topic I love to talk about.

After meeting one of the anesthesiologists, Tom, who in the end had nothing to do with my surgery, Holly and I chatted about Israel as she wheeled me through a labyrinth of hallways to the OR. The last stop before D-Day, I waited and watched in the hallway as the ladies prepped the operating room…and, holding back sobs of fear, I clearly announced, once again, that I was ANXIOUS and guaranteed my heart would go into SVT upon request…and Holly, ever my savior, came back to reassure me that all was good with the world and we continued to talk about Israel. And then I met David (King David?!), the lead anesthesiologist who reminded me of my meeting Tom (doubting Thomas?!) and mentioned that Leah would be my anesthesiologist for the procedure (who, I would later find out, had a lunch break during my ablation?!) Wait…how many anesthesiologists do I need for this “quick” procedure?! Carefully sliding me from gurney to operating table, I made a note of all the names of the people present in the room – Holly, Kathy, Karen, Benjamin, Leah…and I reminded them about how anxious I was, trying to link their names to some personal significance…

Kathy! My oldest sister’s name is Kathy! Karen! Several of my best friends are named Karen! Benjamin (who was Asian and I referred to as Benyamin, which produced a giggle), the hubby’s paternal grandfather! Leah! Beautiful Leah, our matriarch and wife of Yacov! Anxiety hurdle number seven…as my vision got blurry and my speech slurred, I told Leah how sneaky she was for slipping me a Mickey when I wasn’t lookin’…

One of the things about my brain is that I dream very vividly – if I put my mind to it, my dreams would make fantastic screenplays. In essence, I sometimes have to consider whether or not my “dreams” are real or imagined. So when I found myself having conversations throughout my surgery, I thought nothing of it. I was simply “dreaming” about my experience. Only later did I come to find that I was actually conversing with the medical staff in the OR during the procedure.

Oh…the two things I failed to mention earlier:

(1) Warning the cardiologist that I was a sleep talker, and

(2) Asking Tom, the anesthesiologist, what would happen if I woke up during the procedure. Answers:

Cardiologist: “Can we record?!”

Anesthesiologist: “No problem! The drugs are so good you won’t even know what’s happening.”

I remember talking about Israel with Holly and having a conversation with Leah about being a red head. I “dreamed” about my mother and her family…did I discuss this out loud?! (Side bar – my mother’s father is buried across the street from the hospital Meemaw – December 5th).

Next thing I knew, Leah was talking to me about the procedure and I was WIDE awake…which apparently freaked out the entire medical staff…because I had been loaded up with twice the required sedation for someone my size…the words “elephant tranquilizer” whispered throughout the OR…

Although the procedure itself only took one hour (thanks to my cooperative heart going straight into SVT), apparently, it took almost an hour to get me sedated because I kept waking up throughout the procedure. Leah explained how I went under almost immediately…and then I opened my eyes and started talking again…repeatedly – something the hubby and the kid have experienced numerous times over the past several years. Yeah, it’s freaky for those witnesses, but I have no recollection whatsoever of these events. Leah explained that some people can metabolize chemical enzymes quicker than others. Who knew?! Either way, anesthesiologist Tom was right – I didn’t feel a thing and honestly didn’t give a s**t…

Doing better than anyone had expected, I actually skipped two levels of recovery because I was so alert. Four hours after surgery, the hubby was driving us home.


Two days post-surgery, I feel awesome…although the “elephant tranquilizers” are drastically wearing off and occasional chest pains remind me of my ordeal…but it only hurts when I burp…

I can’t get over how calm and quiet my heart feels. For the first time in 23 years my heart isn’t struggling and I barely notice it’s even there. Me and my happy heart are ready to live again.

I’m eagerly looking forward to my next bike ride…without incident…if only the weather would cooperate…

“Wo! I feel good, I knew that I would, now
I feel good, I knew that I would, now
So good, so good, I got you”

I Feel Good – James Brown

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Go the f**k to sleep…

“The cats nestle close to their kittens now. The lambs have laid down with the sheep. You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear. Please go the fuck to sleep.” – Adam Mansbach

When I was pregnant with the kid, the hubby and I “planned” the course of her life over the next nine months with precise judgment, Dr. Spock and What to Expect When You’re Expecting in tow. You see, my pregnancy was going to be “perfect” – there was no room for failure.

When I was a little girl, my “plan” was to have six children – yup, just like the Brady Bunch, three girls and three boys…minus the death, divorce and optional indentured housekeeper. As an adult, having worked with some of the most damaged children as the result of the most messed up parents in existence, I swore off children forever. The hubby wasn’t much keener on the idea either, thanks to Family Court pretty much zapping him of any desire to procreate. But then it happened…after seven years of marriage, me having transferred to the adult unit and the hubby becoming a managing attorney, we sat on the couch and admitted to one another through a waterfall of tears that we really wanted to have kids together…and then we discovered that I couldn’t get pregnant…

“Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” – Man plans and G-d laughs…

In 1995, after two years of multiple physicians telling me, “It’s just allergies, hun,” I was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition know as pseudotumor cerbri. Two physicians have earned street cred here – Dr. Howard J. Gross, Ophthalmologist (for catching it) and Dr. Robert Sergott, Neuro-Opthalmologist/Wills Eye Hospital (for successfully treating it).

“Pseudotumor cerebri literally means “false brain tumor.” It is likely due to high pressure within the skull caused by the buildup or poor absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The disorder is most common in women between the ages of 20 and 50. Symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri, which include headache, nausea, vomiting, and pulsating sounds within the head, closely mimic symptoms of large brain tumors.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

That “buildup or poor absorption of (CSF)” does quite a number on your head – headaches like you’ve never experienced ever in your life (and that includes migraines, of which I’ve had a number). Close your eyes and envision the inside of your body – your heart pumping blood, your lungs filling with oxygen, your kidneys filtering impurities, your bladder filling and releasing. Now imagine the fluid that runs up and down your spine into and out of your brain…and it gets stuck inside your head…that head that contains your brain…inside a skull made of inflexible bone. There’s only so many openings in the skull allowing fluid to escape…or get trapped. Enter the sella turcica:


Not only did my CSF push its way through my eye sockets, causing temporary blindness and frightening vertigo, it decided to form a pool inside my sella and, in turn, drowned and pulverized my pituitary gland into a pancake. Biology 101 – a mammal needs a pituitary gland to procreate. But my pituitary gland didn’t know that because it was a hot mess smashed against my sella wall.

Luckily for me, in 1997 the particular medication I needed in order to get pregnant had finished its trials and was available for use – cabergoline. It was the easiest medication I’ve ever taken in my life – half a pill once a week and no side effects whatsoever! Within two month’s time, I was miraculously pregnant with the kid. Eight years later, following my hysterectomy, the obstetrician would tell me how baffled he was that I ever got pregnant in the first place – numerous fibroids (one as big as a grapefruit) had grown like fungus on an old rusty pipe and severe endometriosis had left me hemorrhaging, my uterus having fused with my bladder and both fusing to the back wall of my abdominal cavity (which would explain a very painful pregnancy). By that point, we all believed the kid was a true miracle…

One of the greatest things about the kid is that she has slept through the night since the age of five weeks and in her own bed. She unquestionably takes after her father, who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat without warning. Since day one, every night at bedtime the hubby would take the kid to her room, read a book to her and she would fall asleep mostly without incident. What the kid sucked at was napping, which completely ceased the day we took away her binky at 18 months-of-age. In the end, it was a godsend – she was definitely going to sleep through the night for sure!

I can’t say I’ve ever been that good at going to sleep. And the kid takes after me when it comes to napping – they’re nonexistent…

When we were little girls, Regina and I shared a bedroom. Tucking ourselves into bed at night, we patiently waited for dad to come upstairs to turn off the lights. Begging him for a bedtime story, my father would reluctantly fabricate some kind of tale to get us to go to sleep: “Once upon a time there were two girls named Regina and Alice and they went to bed. The end.” Other times he seemed to be telling a story, but inevitably the “story” was just a lengthy joke with punchlines we seldom understood. And sometimes he liked to play pranks…

One of the big fads back in the 70s was baton twirling. On a regular basis the kids on my block would gather together (girls and boys alike) in someones driveway and practice various twirling routines. We even formed a “class” at one point, two older neighborhood sisters being our “teachers.” But the real rage of baton twirling at that time was the glow-in-the-dark baton – a green plastic rod with rubber glow-in-the-dark balls on the ends. Hours were spent in darkened rooms twirling away to watch the streaks of light flashing through the air.

Back to our nightly bedtime routine and that occasion when dad played a prank so worthy it sticks in my mind to this day. After telling whatever “story” of the night, my father turned off the light and pretended to leave the room, closing the door “behind” him. As Regina and I drifted off into la-la land, we heard the soft moanings of a ghost lost in purgatory. Sheepishly peeking from behind my covers to see the entity in the dark, all I could see were two small green eyes floating in the air…and then…”BOOGETY, BOOGETY, BOOGETY!” those small green eyes jumping up and down in some kind of ritualistic dance performed prior to devouring its prey. Unbeknownst to us, dad had secretly grabbed the glow-in-the-dark baton before turning off the lights and stayed in the room long enough to convince us he was long gone downstairs…

Now, decades of fear sleeping later, I can’t sleep. Between the hot flashes and mind-racing anxiety, I pray for one solid night of rest…waiting for those small green eyes to perform one more time…

“Scary monsters, super creeps
Keep me running, running scared”

Scary Monsters – David Bowie

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Baby it’s cold outside…

A year ago today it was 51 degrees, so I went for a bike ride to my “go-to place.” I don’t think that’s going to happen today…


It’s 23 degrees outside with a windchill of 9 degrees and 20-40mph winds – we are not leaving the house. Thankfully I thought ahead and stocked up on the necessary snow day goodies.

Last night I snuggled up with my little Latke and a quilt made by my mother, the temperatures outside plummeting into the single digits. Having forgotten a DVD purchased last year, I chose to watch the original Poseiden Adventure (1972), one of my (many) all-time favorites.

With an all-star cast of the decade, the movie is based on Paul Gallico’s novel of the same name. According to IMDB:

“Paul Gallico was inspired to write his novel by a voyage he made on the Queen Mary. When he was having breakfast in the dining room, the liner was hit by a large wave, sending people and furniture crashing to the other side of the vessel. He was further inspired by a true incident which occurred aboard the Queen Mary during World War II. Packed with American troops bound for Europe, the ship was struck by a gargantuan freak wave in the North Atlantic. It was calculated that if the ship had rolled another five inches, she would have capsized like the Poseidon.”

Until last night, I never knew the movie was based on a real novel. This is definitely on my next-to-read list (and hopefully won’t ruin the movie for me after all these years)!

What I didn’t know about the DVD was that it has a “Special Feature” showing the escape route of the survivors as they travel through the boat while watching the movie, and I was thoroughly entertained. I decided to look up some trivia about the movie and came to find there was a remake in 2006 – how did I not know this?!

I immediately rented a copy from Amazon Prime and continued on with what seemed to become a Poseiden Adventure marathon and then compared the two…

In the original 1972 version, the story was much more social. We are provided enough information about each character, either from themselves or from others, that you get a sense of who they are. There is also more of a collective interaction between the personae to the extent that they actually know something about each other. However, I was bothered by the 2006 adaptation and couldn’t quite put my finger on it until about halfway through the movie – it was social inept. Lacking any particular insights regarding a bunch of self-absorbed knuckleheads, I found myself truly not caring if anyone survived.

What I did notice was that the 2006 movie gets to the point, producing a true sense of urgency to stay alive and get the hell off the boat. And then I was reminded of something I said to the hubby when we were in Israel recently – what I love about Israelis is their no-beating-around-the bush approach to life – they get to the point. When surrounded by perpetual and hateful tension and children are raised knowing they will fight for their country (many with their very lives), there’s no time to waste – get to the point. Taking this to heart, the hubby and I have decided to embrace this recent empty nest of ours…which brings me back to July 4, 2017…

The last fireworks display in my township was in 2013 and gratefully the kid and I were present, albeit sitting on a muddy rain-soaked football field where we gagged on massive smoke plumes and were deafened by loud explosions along with thousands of other human beings. Needless to say, Fourth of July fireworks ended that year for the last time in over 30 years due to the strain imposed on emergency personnel in guaranteeing public safety. Many people have complained, but the mayhem of that night still sticks with me – it was true pandemonium.

Every effort to see fireworks since that night had failed year after year for some reason or another, so in 2017 the kid and I planned to see the Fourth of July fireworks in the next town over…but then I got sick and the kid got an offer she couldn’t refuse from a friend whose wealthier locality promised to be a much better event. The highlight of my evening was when an anonymous neighbor presented us with an illegal display of fireworks observed from our porch (most fireworks are illegal to purchase/own in the state of New Jersey) . Then I turned to the hubby and advised him that we would see “real” fireworks by the end of the year.

That night I sat at the computer and devised a plan revolving around Philadelphia New Year’s Eve fireworks. Discharged off a barge on the Delaware River along Penns Landing, many people from southern New Jersey go to the Camden waterfront to view the fireworks. Not knowing what the weather would hold, I decided to research places where we could watch from indoors and decided to get to the point – I was going to get a hotel room on the Philadelphia side of the Delaware waterfront with a window facing the river in full view of the fireworks, the Hilton…which I discover had no reservations available. Not yet ready to give up, I found the Holiday Inn Express a couple of blocks away and resigned to call. Providing a brief history of my love of fireworks followed by years of viewing suppression, I stressed the necessity of my scheme. I managed to evoke a giggle from the reservationist, who gleefully assisted in fulfilling each and every request. Pleased with my success, I also bought two tickets to the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra’s annual New Year’s Eve concert.

Arriving around 4:30pm to our little hotel nestled under the Ben Franklin Bridge with Interstate 95 in its backyard and the constant rattle of the commuter trains, the hubby and I settled into our room. Much to my delight, we were informed that there were TWO fireworks displays  – one at 6:00pm and the second at midnight – so we munched on fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers, washing it all down with a nice bottle of red wine while waiting for the first show to begin.


As the sun disappeared behind us and the windchill dropped into negative numbers, I was thankful to have had the foresight in 90-degree July to be indoors for New Year’s Eve. And I thanked G-d for all my fortune…and that I wasn’t homeless…

And at exactly 6:00pm, the fireworks began!



“I’ve gotta get home(but baby, you’d freeze out there)
Say lend me a coat(it’s up to your knees out there)”

Baby It’s Cold Outside – Frank Loesser

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Israel: Parts VII and VIII – So long, farewell…

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

November 20, 2017

With only two days left in Israel, we found ourselves quickly running out of time in the site-seeing department. Looking at our options, I declared today to be King David Day – an all-day excursion focused soley on his majesty…

Located inside the Old City walls next to the “traditional” entrance at Jaffa Gate (photo on the left), the Jerusalem Citadel is mostly famous for its Tower of David. Looking to the right, it’s the first thing you walk by as you enter the Old City walls.

An interesting fact about the “Tower of David” is that King David never stepped foot in his alleged tower, having been built by the Hasmoneans over one hundred years after his death.


The Citadel also houses The Tower of David Museum – the only museum in the world devoted exclusively to the history of Jerusalem. Beginning with the Canaanite period, assorted rooms fabricated within the original walls of the Citadel follow Jerusalem’s history through the First and Second Temple eras and ends with the Six-Day War, each room covering a specific time period. We were delighted to see a new room being added that will cover modern-day Jerusalem and anticipated it being open by our next visit.

Chandelier in the entrance foyer
David slays Goliath
Miniature of Jerusalem in 1873
Mohammed ascending to heaven on a flying horse

Although a fascinating museum, I wanted to spend most of my time outside exploring the ancient ruins thousands of years old, the Citadel’s history told through each and every stratum…

Archaeological Garden
Ancient manuscripts
Inside the Citadel


Tower of David from outside the Old City walls


Carefully climbing the narrow and slippery stone steps on my way to the Tower, I came upon an enormous sukkah in the process of being dismantled. I was saddened to have missed the festivities that had taken place only a few weeks before our visit. And then I was informed that climbing to the top of the Tower was no longer permitted…


At least the views from the ramparts are worth the hike!


Continuing on our day-long excursion in honor of the king and meandering our way down the labyrinth of stone streets through the Armenian Quarter, we headed toward Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem and believed to be the final resting place of Kind David. Quickly passing the swarm of tourists surrounding the infamous statue of David playing the harp, the hubby and I made our way to Kever David (Tomb of David).

My next mission was to find the overlook above the tomb leading to the Cenaculum (“Upper Room”) a.k.a. the “Last Supper Room.” Once at the overlook, the view was dominated by the Church of the Dormition, believed to be where “the Virgin Mary passed from earthly life.”

Church of the Dormition (on right)

Peeking over the railing enclosing the rooftop, I cringed at a pile of neglected bicycles and resisted the temptation to visit a stranger’s sukkah…

Entering the Cenaculum, I studied the Christians who stood in awe and recalled the first time I discovered this place…

Israel was not an actual place for me when I was a child. When learning Bible passages, I imagined a magical land in some nether region of the world that no longer existed. Considering the State of Israel was created when my parents were teenagers and the Six-Day War occurred when I was two-years-old, my vision was not exactly fiction. And being fairly new to the Jewish religion in 2011, my Christian memories were definitely piqued my first visit to Israel. Almost 15 years since my conversion to Judaism, I too found myself in awe – for years I had learned about Jesus, the Last Supper predominant in my memory. But the following day, exploring Eir David (City of David), my mind would be forever blown – the Bible was brought to life and I’ve never been the same…but that’s a story for next time…

Having purchased package tickets earlier in the day allowing us access to the museum and a light show at night, we decided to have dinner and make our way back to the Tower of David for The Night Spectacular. Viewing the show from stadium seats, one is taken on a journey through the history of Jerusalem via giant images projected onto the walls of the Citadel accompanied by music. If you’re ever in the Old City, this exhibition is a must see!

With King David Day coming to a close, the hubby and I wandered back to the hotel where we discussed our plans for our last day in Israel…

November 21, 2017

Waking up to pouring rain and 40-degree temperatures, we resolved to be indoors for the day and agreed on the Bible Lands Museum, staying in our hotel room until the very last second before checkout. The highlight of our morning was watching Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s motorcade drive by, his home being a mere two blocks up the street from our hotel. Every time I’ve been to Israel, “Bibi” (as Israeli’s like to refer to him) has made an appearance…well, at least his limo has…

First you hear the spastic honking of the police car warning that the motorcade is approaching, followed by a police officer’s voice over an intercom telling everyone to stop driving and the police car is planted in the middle of the intersection. Always to my astonishment, people actually stop (albeit their car horns expressing dissatisfaction with the inconvenience), as the officer’s voice continues to urge drivers to “stay put.” That’s when you can hear the motors of the patrol roaring down the street, whizzing through the intersection like bats out of hell. Depending on who’s traveling with good ole Bibi is reflected in the number of cars, limos and SUVs hauling behind.

As checkout rolled around, we stored our luggage with the front desk and hailed a taxi to the museum. Taking the kid’s advice, I ordered the hubby to sit in the front seat and demand “HaMetre!” after a lame attempt to haggle a price based on what we paid the last time we drove to the same neighborhood, the driver blaming the traffic (of which there was none) for the hike in charges and refusing to “HaMetre!”. And off we went to the Bible Lands Museum.


The hubby was somewhat annoyed with the museum, primarily because of its title of “Bible Lands.” I think we both assumed the museum focused on the Bible, plain and simple. However, the title of Bible Lands Museum is actually fitting – the museum covers the people, places and things that existed in the time of the Bible and explains what life was like in relation to Israel and the Bible’s narratives. Of course, I wanted to see every.single.little.thing, but the hubby’s disappointment and the museum’s imminent closure, no other hints were necessary in convincing me to move along…

Having four hours to kill until our sherut arrived, we opted for dinner at a cafe up the street from the hotel. We had eaten at the same cafe upon our arrival to Jerusalem and were very pleased with the results. However, tonight was definitely an off night – our waitress was no doubt in the top three worst food servers we’ve ever experienced. As soon as she took our order, she went on break, sitting at the bar eating her dinner and playing on her smart phone. As we waited…and waited…and waited we managed to get the hosts attention and questioned the whereabouts of our meals. Running back to the kitchen and swiftly bringing out food, we informed the poor chap that it was not our order and yet another waitress appeared to straighten things out. Needless to say, the hubby refused to leave a tip, but I insisted on leaving a tip that was more direct and to the point – a few agorat (equivalent to pennies in American money).

Disappointed with our last meal in Israel, we walked back to the hotel and made ourselves comfortable in the lobby while waiting for the sherut to pick us up. Reserving our ride the day before, we knew our driver was due around 7:45PM, a little over an hour wait. Surprised at his promptness, our chariot to the airport arrived precisely on time…and stoned…this was not a good sign…

As we stopped to pick up each passenger, we endured the driver’s complaints about passengers not being ready, along with some other expletives in Hebrew we didn’t quite understand. As far as taxi rides go, that ride BY FAR was the most scariest one I’ve ever encountered. Driving what I believed to be the speed of light with a dash of psychedelia , all I could think about was Harry Potter on the Knight Bus…

The hubby and I nervously chatted with the girl behind us who had moved to Israel the year before but never made aliyah and ended up meeting a man from South Carolina and was now moving back to the States to live with him. Thank G-d for this woman! If not for her, I definitely would’ve had a stroke…

Breezing through security and customs, to the mild amusement of our ticket counter representative, we questioned if any Economy Plus seats had miraculously opened up. Hey…it never hurts to ask…And even though the hubby had changed our seats prior to leaving the States so that we would be sitting together on the aisle, they were reassigned – a religious gentlemen who didn’t know English and slept the entire flight…not to mention the nasty lady from Philadelphia sitting in front of me who kept reaching around and poking me awake to complain about me pushing her chair. Aside from a few choice words on my part, I just reminded myself that our next trip would be during Purim…and we definitely had Economy Plus seats…or else…

“So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight”

So Long, Farewell – Julie Andrews/Bill Lee

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Israel: Part VI – Dread and beauty

November 19, 2017

The overly generous hubby made the mistake of giving $10USD to the housekeeping dude who cleaned our room once…okay, maybe twice over a seven-day period. Daily, starting from 6:00AM we are bombarded by the little old man who sings outside our door, staff yelling up and down the hallway while standing in front of our door, doors around us, along with toilet seats, slammed repeatedly until we finally emerge from our cave.

Advice from a friend: “Next time tip the dining room staff…”

I was in no mood today – the kid was leaving early this morning and I was dreading every second. It was hard enough saying goodbye when she left home back in September, but I knew this time would be just as painful as the last. My only saving grace was realizing how competent a person she had become. As she packed up the Batman blanket and Kinder Surprise egg toys into the hubby’s much beloved hiking backpack he humbly handed over, she handed Dolly to me…and of course I started to cry…and off she went…


Israel Museum

Planning ahead, the hubby needed to keep me busy today. Having been to the Israel Museum before, I knew we could make a day of it. This is another museum with extensive grounds outdoors (much to my delight). With rain expected later in the day, I convinced the hubby to walk around outside before the weather turned gloomy. Our first stop was the Shrine of the Book, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Facing the complex with the blindingly white Shrine to the right, a massive black obelisk stands to the left – out of darkness there is light. Entering through the top of the white dome, we worked our way down into the story of the Scrolls and the history of the Judean desert through a multitude of ancient artifacts, finding ourselves in the structure’s inner circle containing the oldest Biblical manuscripts in existence, as well as a full-scale facsimile of the Great Isaiah Scroll and other ancient archaeological artifacts (no photos are permitted inside).

Looking at the time and having not heard from the kid, I desperately strained to shush the Little Voice by reassuring it that she had survived the bus ride and was back at her dorm and sent my first text – “All okay?” Even when the kid didn’t answer right away, I swept all anxiety aside, telling myself the wifi in her building must’ve went out again…

Exiting the Shrine, we were lead down a path to the Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period…

…and still no word from the kid…my second text – “Hello?!” No answer…

Remaining calm, we made our way to the Zen Art Garden, where outdoor sculptures are added on a regular basis.


My favorite of the sculptures is the one above entitled “LOVE,” a Hebrew version of Robert Indiana’s original LOVE sculpture displayed at the Indiana Museum of Art. What I love (no pun intended) about this work of art, is that it can be read from left to right, top then bottom or from top to bottom, left to right. At first we automatically see the alef and hey at the top and then vet and hey on the bottom – the letters forming the word ahava or “love,” for which the sculpture is named. However, when read top to bottom and left to right, you see alef and vet on the right and hey and hey on the left – Av Adonai – G-d our Father…love is G-d and G-d is love.

Another sculpture I hadn’t explored last time we were at the museum was something called “Space That Sees” created by James Turrell. Encountering a unassuming stark white structure, I was baffled by its title and couldn’t quite figure out what it meant.


And then I noticed a gravel path off to my left and heading down a small hill in front of the “building,” the hubby opting to wait on a bench while I explored further. Coming across a doorway dug into the stone, I walked through a short hallway and found myself inside a sanctuary surrounded by gray and white concrete and limestone. My eye was suddenly drawn upward to a square opening cut into the ceiling  – and all I saw was that beautiful blue sky with the puffy white clouds, creating “an ever-changing abstract picture of the sky.”


Briefly misplacing the hubby and finding him sitting on a bench looking dehydrated in what turned out to be a rather hot day with no rain, we decided to head indoors to grab some lunch and gulp some much-needed water. On our way to the museum cafe, we stopped to take pictures of our reflections in Anish Kapoor’s “Turning the World Upside Down” sculpture. I also attempted to convince the hubby to sit in the giant apple, but grumpiness had taken over…

Ordering a couple of sandwiches and grabbing big jugs of water, we decided to sit outside in a shaded section of the terrace. As we ate, some very Israeli hooded crows plopped themselves on the table next to us and consumed the scraps left by a former patron and posed for the camera. Apparently one like the cheese and the other the bread…


Finally the kid responded with her customary, “Yeah” and all was right with the world…

Before heading to the floors upstairs, we briskly perused the Youth Wing for Art Education, whose current exhibition was a colorful exploration about cats and dogs.

The abundance of exhibits throughout the museum are innumerable. This is my third time here and, once again, I exhausted myself with wanting to see every.little.thing. I try to remind myself every time to just pick a section to scrutinize for that one visit, but I never seem to listen to the Little Voice. Either way, the museum was closing soon, so we needed to hustle.

I have to say, I’m a sucker for Sephardi synagogues – brilliant white walls and columns with crisp accents and simple lines. The Tzedek ve-Shalom (“Justice and Peace”) synagogue, fashioned in typical Spanish and Portuguese style, was founded in 1736 and located in Paramaribo, Suriname, a small village on the northeast coast of South America. It was deconstructed from its homeland and later restored inside the museum.


Working our way to the exit, we came across a sukkah (“booth”), a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. Created in the town of Fischach, Bavaria (Germany) for the Deller family in the early nineteenth century, this elaborately painted structure was smuggled out of Germany in 1935 and now stands in the Israel Museum.


And, of course, we had to stop by a few masterpieces on the way out…

Thoroughly exhausted, we went back to the hotel to freshen up before heading to dinner.

We promised one another that we would not leave Jerusalem this time without eating at Burgers Bar and found our way back to Ben Yehuda once again.


The first time I ate there in 2011 was the hubby’s second. He had forgotten that it was a cash-only establishment at that time and, although we had no cash, the server gave us our food based on the honor system, telling the hubby he could go to the ATM up the street after we finished our food (the kid and me staying back as collateral). Things had definitely changed over the past six years – now they took all kinds of credit cards. The hubby ordered his “usual” burger with me choosing the fancier lamb burger and a beer, of which the cashier spilled all over herself upon opening and handed me a new one. Waiting some time for our food, I was approached by a young woman who asked me if I was Alice. Wondering how we possibly knew each other, she giggled and told me that the cashier had called my name several times (I guess I really look like an Alice). As I approached the counter, the cashier told me that they were all out of lamb, so they made a burger from entrecote at no extra cost. Despite not having asked me if I minded the change, I wasn’t going to complain…and then the hubby said, “I make you lamb!”

And I managed to get through the rest of my day without worrying about the kid…

“There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy”

All You Need Is Love – The Beatles

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Israel: Part V – Just another Shabbat in Jerusalem…

November 17, 2017- Shabbat

I LOVE Shabbat. Twenty-four plus hours of unplugged bliss and freedom from the daily grind. I’m guaranteed uninterrupted time with the hubby and to see my friends at synagogue and often for lunch. Time just ceases to exist…and this Shabbat I got to spend with the kid for the first time since September 9th.

Last night the kid announced she was meeting classmates from her high school who are also attending a “gap year” (the year between senior year of high school and first year in undergraduate school) in Israel, most of whom live in or near Jerusalem. So off she went to Ben Yehuda where young adults like to hang out before Shabbat and the friends gorged on pizza for lunch and caught up on each others lives. The hubby and I opted to do one of our favorite pre-Shabbat activities – walk through Machane Yehuda – a neighborhood in Jerusalem known as the shuk, a marketplace of multiple stalls filled with food, drink, merchandise, bars and restaurants and jam-packed with people shopping for their Shabbat meals.

Being there in person is the only way one can truly experience the flavors, aromas, colors and people interaction of this place.

Since meals were provided at the hotel we didn’t purchase any goods, but it was still fun taking in the action and stopping at our favorite falafel stand before heading back to home base.

The hubby and I decided to eat our falafel sandwiches on the hotel balcony overlooking King George Street when we heard a woman singing on the street below. Finishing our lunch, we strolled over to the railing and searched for the secret serenader.

Draped in an Israeli flag and wearing a crown made of foiled Magen David stars (Star of David), the lady singer wrapped crepe streamers around the electrical poles on the corner. Joined by another occupant of the hotel asking if we knew what was going on, the hubby hypothesized it had something to do with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 War. This seemed to satisfy the man’s curiosity, which I figured made as much sense as any other reason…but then the weekly Pro-Palestinian protestors appeared on the opposite corner…and the flag-draped crooner started dancing up and down the sidewalk and into traffic…so I guess there may have been other alternate theories…


This is when my interrogation of the stranger began (I’m really good at this – I can get people to confess some of the most personal stories of their lives, which at times can be very awkward). Upon introductions, his name is “Jeremy” and he is a “retired geological engineer” now living in Washington D.C. but comes to Israel to “consult” several times a year. This time he was joined by his “two buddies from down south” who decided to do some “exploring” around Jerusalem. Questioning why a retired geological engineer would consult several times a year in Israel, I pretended to understand Jeremy’s explanation of basics hydraulics and water technology. Feeling bold, I then questioned if he was originally from Washington, D.C., having detected an accent of southwestern influence, to which he admits he is a Native American from New Mexico. And then the hubby suddenly declared exhaustion and left me alone on the balcony with Jeremy. After a little small talk, Jeremy decided he was going to see if his buddies had returned and wished me a Shabbat Shalom.

Here’s where I’m the trustful one and the hubby more suspicious. Schooled in anthropology and becoming a social worker later in life, I was trained to listen and take notes. I’m also naive – I need to believe that what you are telling me is real (or at least I believe that you believe it to be real). The hubby comes from a very different educational background. He proclaimed that “Jeremy” (if that’s his real name) works for the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and is “full of shit,” stating that Mr. Secret Agent’s story is “too clean” – that being a geological engineer who consults on water projects in Israel is too easy and a substandard fabrication. And where are these “buddies” of his?! “Buddies, my ass…” As for D.C.? Apparently that’s where Jeremy blew is cover…

Grabbing a bottle of wine, I headed for the balcony off our hotel room and sat to watch the pre-Shabbat chaos while waiting for the kid to return from her pizza outing. Surrounded by the incessant honking of car horns, people were frantically racing to make it home in time for Shabbat (which was at 4:03p.m.), one of whom was a man carrying a mattress on his head…only in Israel…Around 3:30p.m., I became riveted by a middle-age man dressed in a suit and holding a bottle of wine as he stood on the median in the middle of the busy intersection trying to hail a taxi. Worried for him, I vowed not to leave the balcony until he caught a ride. I could feel the panic in his face. As the clock ticked louder and louder, I prayed he would find someone to offer him a lift to his Shabbat host. With ten minutes to candle lighting, a taxi pulled over and the man was on his way! Let’s go eat!

November 18, 2017- Yemen Moshe

Having the whole day to ourselves while the kid caught up on some much needed sleep, the hubby and I decided to walk down to Yemen Moshe. A small village built in the 1890s as a response to overcrowding, it is made up of the first Jewish properties built outside the Old City walls. Yemen Moshe is named for its original builder Moses Montefiore, for whom the famous Montefiore Windmill is named.


Being that it was Shabbat, I was unable to take photos. However, these photos are from our visit last year. It’s one of my favorite places to go in Jerusalem (and if I had a million dollars, I’d totally buy a piece of property there).

Returning to the hotel, we were greeted by “Jeremy” standing on the hotel stairway outside flanked by his “buddies” (who appeared more like bodyguards)…hmm…

Once Shabbat was over, we headed back to Machane Yehuda. I had recently read about Solomon Souza, a graffiti artist who started painting portraits and other figures on the doors of the stalls in the shuk beginning in 2015, and I was dying to see them for myself.


Only visible when the shuk is closed, dozens and dozens of doors are colorfully decorated with whimsical characters…

And dozens more of famous Israelis splattered across the market…

And then doors began opening and the bars and restaurants slowly came to life…

After heading to Ben Yehuda for some dinner, we wandered back to the hotel and enjoyed the little shops along King George Street before turning in for the night…

Israelis take their candy very seriously


…and we never saw “Jeremy” again…

“Mr. cab driver won’t stop to pick me up
Mr. cab driver I might need some help
Mr. cab driver only thinks about himself”

Mr. Cab Driver – Lenny Kravitz

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Israel: Part IV – This is why…

“To them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.”

Isaiah 56:5

November 16, 2017 – Jerusalem: Yad Vashem


“I will put my breath into you and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil.”

Ezekiel 37:14


First rule of thumb – don’t ever go to a museum with the kid. I knew that one and still forgot to take it into consideration today. The kid has never been a very good museum goer, quickly breezing through each exhibit with a rare (if ever) stop to look (never read) something that might possibly catch her eye (if she’s paying attention). At two months of age, my very first museum attempt with the kid was to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City – my ABSOLUTE favorite museum of all time. When I was a child, my parents frequently brought me and my brother and sisters here to visit. It’s a great place to bring a large family because you only have to pay a “donation” – that is, whatever you can afford. You don’t even have to pay at all if you have no money thanks to huge endowments. Since that time, I have always paid full price to thank that wonderful institution for fueling my love of anthropology. Later rooting through old copies of National Geographic my father inherited from his father, I discovered that on the month and year of my birth the cover highlighted Louis Leakey and his discoveries in Africa. That was it – I was hooked! I would later gain a baccalaureate degree in anthropology and attempt a masters at the New School for Social Research with the lifelong dream of working at AMNH and following in the footsteps of Margaret Mead…a dream that would remain just that…sorry I let you down Lou and Peggy…

But I also remember that our trips to the AMNH (as well as most museums), were not always pleasant. Dad insisted on seeing every.single.little.thing. By day’s end, we were all exhausted and grumpy and couldn’t wait to leave. However, my memories of annual school trips left me exhilarated and yearning for more. Aside from everything being better with peers and friends (sans parental units), I realized the reason I loved it more was because the guide only hit on the “wow factors” – the stuff that would compress all information into a nutshell for us to crack open and explore in one spot. No endless meandering resulting in swollen feet and aching backs for hours…and hours…and hours…and hours…

Hence the first rule of thumb – don’t ever go to a museum with the kid. My bad…

This was my second time at Yad Vashem and this time I was determined to see everything (what can I say – the spirit of my father lives within me). During our last visit in July of 2016, we arrived in Jerusalem on a Tuesday with the plan to see Yad Vashem that Friday before Shabbat. Unfortunately for us, our tour guide, Asaf, received a message that week that he had been accepted into a masters level archaeology program outside of Tel Aviv and had to attend a meeting on the same day. Of course we were very proud of this achievement (having only known him for six days); however, being that his father, Arie (pronounced ah-ree-ay), was also a tour guide, he agreed to provide his services in turn. Having heard about Arie over the past week, the hubby and I were excited to meet him.

Arie was the grandson of a German Jew who was a high-ranking official in the German military as the Nazis were rising to power. As Jews were being forced into the ghettos, Arie’s grandfather was “advised” by his comrades to leave with his family and only with whatever he could carry. After escaping to England, the grandfather later emigrated to Israel. Asaf also told us of how his great-grandfather had somehow snuck back into Germany during WWII to collect the belongings left behind without getting caught by the Nazis. Many of these possessions included a number of religious artifacts made of silver, some of which are now displayed in the Israel Museum. Needless to say, with Arie as our guide at Yad Vashem, it promised to be an impactful morning. And it was…except…it was just like the tours we used to get in grade school – just the highlights…and I wanted to see it all.

So this time I forewarned the hubby and the kid and they agreed to allow me the time to examine every.single.little.thing…

Expecting temperatures in the 80s, the hubby and the kid also agreed to indulge me in walking the grounds outside before it got too hot. Upon entering the Yad Vashem complex, there is a fork in the road – you can either go left into the Holocaust History Museum or to the right where multiple footpaths wind throughout the entire complex to various gardens and monuments. So to the right we roamed…

Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations

Its first trees planted in 1962 (before Yad Vashem was even an architectural plan), the path is now lined with multiple carob trees honoring the non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. Next to each tree is the name of those being honored, along with their country of origin, it’s most popular site being Oskar Schindler.

Then I remembered the story Arie had told us about the significance of the carob trees and why they were chosen:

The Talmud relates the story of a sage named Choni HaM’agel who was traveling on the road and saw a man planting a carob tree. He asked the man how long it would take the tree to bear fruit, and the man replied, “Seventy years.” Choni then asked him, “Are you certain that you will live another seventy years?” to which the man replied,  “I found carob trees in the world, as my forefathers planted these for me, so I too plant these for my children.”


Warsaw Ghetto Square – Wall of Remembrance

Here is where the path ends, depositing the wanderer into a large square surrounded by trees, benches and picnic tables to the left, administrative buildings to the right and a giant brick wall directly in front.

The brick, symbolizing ghetto walls, is embedded with two large sculptures:

The first, “The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising,” portrays the leader of the uprising, Mordechai Anielewicz (24-years-old when killed), surrounded by other members of the resistance. The second sculpture, “The Last March,” portrays the mass deportation of Jews to the death camps. During WWII, over 1,000 ghettos were established by the Nazis as a means of dividing the Jews in Europe and separating them from the general population, the Warsaw Ghetto being the largest of that period in time. In these ghettos, Jews lived in miserable conditions closed off from the rest of the world and rarely (if ever) permitted to leave, living on a mere 134 calories per day in some places. If they didn’t die from disease or starvation, Jews were shot or deported to killing centers. The residents of the Warsaw Ghetto resisted deportation but were ultimately murdered or deported and the entire ghetto completely razed.


Memorial to the Deportees

Looking to my left, I noticed a sign that read “Memorial Cave” with an arrow pointing toward a parking lot. Ever the curious one, I demanded we follow the arrow, despite the lack of enthusiasm from my compatriots…

Walking down the road for some time, listening to the hubby and the kid complain about the unnecessary exercise they were being subjected to, we were suddenly greeted by a large red cattle car on train tracks hovering over the forest below…



I was flabbergasted, to say the least! We soon learned that it is a German cattle car donated to Yad Vashem by Polish authorities in 1991 and dedicated in January 1995. Awe struck, I couldn’t figure out where to begin – there were inscriptions on the walls surrounding the car and stairs leading in different directions. I just couldn’t take my eyes off that cattle car and its track floating in the air. And this cattle car had actually been used by the Nazis to transport Jews to the death camps. Reading the inscription carved into the marble wall standing in front of the car, goosebumps formed all over my skin. Written in pencil on the wall of that railway car were these words:

“Here in this carload I am Eve with Abel my son. If you see my other son Cain son of man, tell him I…” Dan Pagis


I was elated to learn that the boy who wrote these words survived the camps! A Romanian Jew, Dan Pagis (October 16, 1930 – July 29, 1986) was interned in a concentration camp for several years until its liberation, making his way to a pre-State Israel in 1946 and becoming a teacher on a kibbutz. He later received his PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and became a professor of medieval Hebrew literature. He is also known for his poetry and other writings.

That’s when the kid announced that her freshman-year English Lit teacher would be proud of her interpretation of this monument and said, “Jews had two choices – go over the cliff or crash into a mountain.”

She was two-thirds correct. On one end of the track, the cattle car is suspended on the brink of the abyss and on the other we are presented with a hill of solid rock – obliteration and nonexistence either way. However, what the kid (and we) failed to see at the time, was that the monument faces the hills of Jerusalem, conveying a sense of hope and renewal after the Holocaust. Man, this place is killing me!

The Memorial Cave

Oh, right…we were looking for a cave, remember? Continuing on our way down the road, we finally came to a sign pointing us in the direction of the cave. Representing a final resting place for the people whose grave sites are unknown, the Memorial Cave is formed out of a mass of stone with a labyrinth of passages, its walls filled with brass plaques dedicated to loved ones lost in the Holocaust.

No words…

As the temperature began to rise, we “collectively” agreed to head to the museum. I was eager to go explore more of the great outdoors, finding signs along the way for more monuments and gardens, but the pressure to succumb to the requests of my trollish partners decided otherwise…next time…

The Holocaust History Museum

Stock photo

Much to my chagrin, photography is prohibited in the museum. However, this ban forced me to pay attention. Upon entering the museum, we were swarmed with a multitude of IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers in “training.” Despite the kid’s impending enlistment a year from now, it didn’t dawn on me that we were in the midst of basic training, which starts with daily tours of Jerusalem as a means of reminding young Israeli men and women why and for what they are fighting. Swimming amid the multitude of soldiers, I attempted to look at and read every.single.little.thing. and listened in on their tour guide lectures. I managed this task until the third room when the hubby and the kid hunted me down and informed me that I had “a long way to go.” Hint, hint…

In customary fashion, the kid rushed through the museum, dragging the hubby behind her and lecturing him on her highlights of the museum. I reluctantly whisked through the remainder of the exhibits toward the exit with the hubby promising to indulge me on our next trip (without the kid). However, the pinnacle of our visit was when the hubby took me to the Hall of Names.

(Stock photos)

A memorial to each and every Jew murdered in the Holocaust, we entered a brightly lit circular room with a dome dangling over a pit in its center surrounded by shelving containing millions of file folders encompassing the testimonies of survivors and records of the deceased. Looking down into a pit of bedrock leading to oblivion, one is compelled to look upward into the dome overhead where thousands of photos line its surface – photos of those who have perished. Leading me to a computer, the hubby told me how he looked up his father’s paternal grandmother, Zlata Gershuny nee Trapido, who was murdered in Kovno, Lithuania in 1941 at the age of 75…


The hubby showed it to the kid…and she wept…

The kid is (and will always be) a slap in the face of every Nazi and every anti-Semite who dared test our people. It was at that moment that it all came together – the kid was meant to be here…and I was proud…

And the view off the museum balcony brought it all home…

IMG_20160715_132415114 - Copy

Pillar of Heroism

Ejected once again to the outdoors, I dragged my reluctant ogres down yet another path where we were faced with a shiny towering column with Hebrew writing commemorating the Jewish Resistance throughout the Holocaust:

“Now and forever in memory of those who rebelled in the camps and ghettos, fought in the woods, in the underground and with the Allied Forces; braved their way to Eretz Israel; and died sanctifying the name of G-d.”

Children’s Memorial

Moving onward, we come to my dearest place at Yad Vashem – the Children’s Memorial.

For those of you who have not been here, these photos in no way do justice to this place. In a blackened space in an underground cavern, numerous candles are lit behind glass and reflected off mirrors to represent the 1.5 million souls of the children murdered during the Holocaust while the recorded voices of a man and a woman enumerate the names, ages and countries of each and every child...you will not leave dry-eyed.

Uziel – “G-d is my power”

Hall of Remembrance

Continuing on, we find ourselves at the Hall of Remembrance:


A “tent-like basalt structure” commemorating the martyrs of the Holocaust, twenty-two of the countless camps and killing sites are embossed on the floor of the hall. A perpetual flame burns next to a tomb containing the ashes of victims brought to Israel from the extermination camps.

Janusz Korczak Square

Working our way toward the exit, the final monument pays tribute to Dr. Henrik Goldschmidt, a Polish-Jewish educator who ran an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto. Repeatedly refusing to leave the orphans behind, he was later murdered along with the children at Treblinka.

As we departed, I was overcome with sadness, incapable of comprehending the hatred portrayed throughout the complex. I would later have a conversation with a friend who had just completed a DNA test through 23 and Me, to which he responded, “Imagine if Hitler had this technology…” and I was frightened…

Har Herzl (Mount Herzl)

To the east of Yad Vashem, a few miles down the road is a military cemetery named after Binyamin Ze’ev (Theodor) Herzl, visionary of the Jewish State.


As far as cemeteries go, this is by far the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen.

Meticulously cared for by members of the fallen soldiers’ families, each military grave site is unique in its own right –  tombs adorned with flowers, ivy, rosemary, shrubbery, personal belongings and ornaments, watering cans hung on the ready for visitors to quench the multitude of mini-gardens. National leaders are buried here –  Shimon Peres, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, to name a few and numerous memorials are scattered throughout the grounds. Herzl’s tomb lies on the crest of the mountain range overlooking the Judean Hills on the side and both old and new Jerusalem on the other. Dozens of IDF soldiers wandered about, eyes glazed at the tombstones of past comrades who died at the same age as their onlookers, some weeping as they come upon the resting place of a loved one. I was suddenly reminded that the kid will be in the IDF a year from now…talk about sobering up…

As dusk abruptly cut off our tour, the kid assured us of a reliable and tasty chain restaurant a short walk away.


Agreeing to stock up on breakfast at the hotel each morning, skipping lunch and only eating dinner out, the long day had left us famished. And the kid was right – the restaurant was very good! As I sat in my capri pants and tee shirt, soaking up the 70-degree weather while my Israeli counterparts froze in their parkas, I noted a window sign off to my left:


A sale in the store next door displayed a collection of umbrellas – “winter” in Israel = rain…I was not looking forward to returning to the States and the impending (real) winter snow that awaited us…

That’s when the kid announced it was time for ice cream…

Grabbing a taxi and heading back to Ben Yehuda Street, we walked the short distance to Aldo for some gleedah (ice cream) and watched the street performers as we window shopped.


Thoroughly exhausted, we headed back to the hotel and into the Kings Lounge for a nightcap. Among our many conversations, the kid calmly reported, “My anxiety is challenged here.” This was one of many fears I had for the kid traveling alone to a foreign country over 6000 miles away…but she was unruffled even when stating a fact. For the first time in her life, the kid had managed to take The Bully by the horns…

31713288604_231e0217fd_cand I wasn’t so worried anymore…

“You can take everything I have
You can break everything I am
Like I’m made of glass
Like I’m made of paper
Go on and try to tear me down
I will be rising from the ground
Like a skyscraper, like a skyscraper”

Skyscraper – Demi Lovato

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Israel: Part III – “Soul to soul”

November 15, 2017

Dehydration…every time I go to Israel. It’s an awful feeling. In July 2016 I became so ill I was plastered to the bed for 48 hours. I just can’t seem to get enough water when I’m here – a testament as to how much water I must drink at home and how precious water is in the desert…

But today was not the day to be sick, so I chugged as much water as humanly possible without floating away and we were on our way to a busy morning of site seeing and an even busier afternoon of paperwork and interviews. Not feeling one hundred percent, I sucked it up in true Doherty fashion, knowing it was the most important day of my daughter’s life. We told the kid that our first stop must be the Kotel (the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, a.k.a. Wailing Wall) – it was necessary for her to know exactly why she was making such a courageous decision that will truly impact the rest of her life. Passing the mighty lions standing guard at the entrance to the long and winding stairway with the magnificent view descending to our destination, we passed through security and walked onto the Kotel Plaza.

Looking toward the Temple Mount
Looking away from the Temple Mount
After Herod was appointed king of Jerusalem in 37 BCE, he initiated a renovation project for the Second Temple, the First Temple having been destroyed by the Babylonians in 70 BCE. Architectural plans included widening of the Temple Mount by flattening its peak and building four support walls, one of which is the Western Wall. Many events are believed to have taken place on the Temple Mount, known to Jews as Mount Moriah and where Haram al-Sharif (The Dome of the Rock or the Noble Sanctuary where the Muslim Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to the Divine Presence on the back of a winged horse) now stands surrounding the Foundation Stone. In Jewish tradition, the Foundation Stone located at the peak of the mountain is where the creation of the world began, as well as the creation of Adam. It is where Abraham bound Isaac in preparation for sacrifice and Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending a ladder. Originally, the Kodesh HaKadashim (Holy of Holies) was located within the Inner Sanctuary of both temples. Inside the Holy of Holies was the Foundation Stone, upon it an Ark containing the Ten Commandments, relics long ago lost. Needless to say, this place is quite significant…
One of the “agreements” we came to (or perhaps I demanded), was that the kid was going to be our interpreter so she could practice her Hebrew. So far we were fairly impressed with her ability to order food in a restaurant, but I hadn’t really seen her engage in a full-fledged conversation. And then a tiny old woman approached us as we stood before the Wall.

As most of you may know, it has become a custom for Jews and Christians to write a note and place it within the cracks of the stone that make up the Wall.

The tiny old woman, not knowing any English asked us for a pen, of which I promptly retrieved from my backpack. The woman then handed the pen and a small piece of paper to the kid, asking her to write a prayerful message for G-d to bless her children and grandchildren and that her grandchildren would be happily married and provide her with great-grandchildren – all completely in Hebrew, verbally and written. Man…did my motherly pride glow powerfully that moment!
Next stop was a mutually agreed upon choice – the Temple Institute where we could envision the splendor of the Second Temple…in miniature…


Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed, but this place was fascinating. Several rooms are encircled by oil paintings depicting the history and daily life during the temple period according to Scripture. After scrutinizing the miniature Temple, the museum is chock full of artifacts created according to Biblical requirements specifically for use in the future Temple…wow! Needless to say, I was dumbfounded…

Our third stop of the day was one the hubby and I were curious about and the kid convinced us to visit – the Four Sephardic Synagogues.

Yochanan ben Zakai Synagogue

Eliyahu Ha’navi Synagogue

Istanbuli Synagogue

Dating back to the late 16th century, the oldest and largest of the four is Yochanan ben Zakai Synagogue, the other three (Emtsai, Eliyahu Ha’navi and Istanbuli respectively) being added throughout the following centuries. Taken over and all but destroyed by the Jordanians in the 1948 War, all four synagogues were painstakingly restored to their original design after the Six-Day War in 1967. This place was SO beautiful I took way too many pictures to post. (However, I failed to get pictures of the Emtsai Synagogue (Middle Synagogue).) There is a multitude of information online tracing the history of this amazing structure. Needless to say, I pretty much drained my iPhone’s battery taking photographs…


The kid declared, “I’m davening here on Shabbat.” We’ll see about that…

Last up – the Hurva Synagogue to view the city of Jerusalem from its lookout.


Twice destroyed over a 300-year period, the Hurva Synagogue in the center of the Jewish Quarter was restored to its original structure in 2010 and continues to be an active synagogue to this day.


Encircling the top of the dome is a veranda with a 360-degree view of Jerusalem no words could possibly describe…

I definitely challenged myself climbing that spiral staircase in an ankle-length skirt. Climbing down was even more frightening, but the view was worth the terror!

After a jam-packed morning in the Old City, we decided to head back to the hotel to freshen up before heading to the Nfesh B’Nefesh office elsewhere in Jerusalem.

For those unfamiliar, Nefesh B’Nefesh was formed in 2001 “in cooperation with the Israeli government and The Jewish Agency for Israel (and) is dedicated to revitalizing Aliyah from the USA, Canada and the UK by removing or minimizing the financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles of Aliyah and the move to Israel.” Prior to its creation, making aliyah was a very labor-intensive and difficult task only to be followed by the multiple challenges an oleh (new citizen) would face trying to settle into their new home. This program has made it possible for thousands of English-speaking Jews to realize their dream of living in Israel.


Not taking any chances with traffic (or any other unforeseen calamities), we collectively agreed we would start hunting down a taxi outside the hotel by 2:00p.m., but not without a lecture from the kid about dealing with taxi drivers. We were sternly advised, “Don’t say a word! Keep your mouths shut and I’ll do all the talking.” Nice, kid…real nice. First rule of them, we were informed, was to tell the driver “HaMetre,” which means you want the ride “on the meter” and not just given a number before driving. As luck would have it, the doorman was talking to his friend who just so happened to be a taxi driver and we were offered a ride. As instructed, the hubby and I kept our mouths shut tight as the kid looked at the driver and said, “HaMetre.” After trying to convince the kid that he knew what the cost would be and attempting to haggle a price, the kid again looked at the driver and said, “HaMetre,” to which the driver mumbled an annoyed, “B’Seder, B’Seder (Okay, Okay)!”

No longer having to keep our mouths shut, the driver asked us why we are going to Nfesh B’Nefesh. The hubby and I enthusiastically told the driver that the kid was making aliyah. His response was the same as all the others we had received every time we told an Israeli that the kid was making aliyah, “WHY?!” with the follow up of, “It’s hard, you know…” This is really not what the parents of an only child (let alone a female child) who is moving over 6000 miles away from home at the tender age of 18 1/2 want to hear. Of course after every conversation, each individual did manage to muster up a “Mazel Tov (Congratulations)…”

With a change in topic, the driver entertains us with his wit and humor, asking us how it is possible that all the roads in Jerusalem are named after Ashkenaz (Eastern European) Jews when there are so many more Sephardim (Mediterranean Jews) in Israel. He then asked the kid what her plans were after becoming a citizen and tells her that it will be much easier for her because of her young age. That was something I did want to hear…

Finally arriving at the Nefesh B’Nefesh building, the driver attempted to pull over to collect his money and allow us to exit the vehicle. Now, anyone who has been to Israel, especial Jerusalem, knows the roads were not made for large vehicles, let alone multiple vehicles. That’s when the fight between cabbies ensued. I’m not sure what was said, but I don’t think they were nice words telling by the anger on both their faces. Either way, I think our driver won that one…

After waiting for the kid’s friend to arrive from Beit Shemesh, we all boarded the elevator and found ourselves at the doorstep of the Nefesh B’Nefesh processing center. The first table was manned by her current advisor who would no longer be her advisor as of that night. (Each phase of the aliyah process provides applicants with a new advisor familiar with the tasks of that particular phase to make it easier on the potential citizen as well as the employees.) Being asked to fill out a packet of papers to get the ball rolling, the kid presented hers already filled out online months ago, eliciting an excited smile from her soon-to-be-ex-advisor.


We were told to have a seat until the kid would be called to the next table and helped ourselves to the coffee, soda, pastry and bourekas free of charge. As the clock ticked past 3:30p.m., the kid was surprised by the arrival of one of her advisors from her gap year program. We were then notified by the staff that they were “running a bit behind schedule” and would be “changing things up” to get the process moving. Being told we could not accompany her, the kid was whisked away to a room downstairs where she and a few other applicants met with the supervisor of the program and discussed logistical matters such as banking, Israeli passports, health insurance and the like…topics completely unknown and foreign to the kid…and then anxiety snuck its way into the fold…and the kid heard nothing that was said. This is why I’ve always insisted on being present when anyone wants to speak to my daughter – she doesn’t listen very well. But this was my and hers reality now – she would need to handle matters on her own from now on. We had successfully launched a child. Now it was up to her to navigate the world she was entering and it was up to me to allow her the keys to the rocket ship.

As I waited for the kid, I met dozens of people from all walks of Jewish life, the youngest a young woman from Canada named Rivka who had just turned eighteen and was born in Israel but moved to Montreal at the age of one and decided she wanted to “move back home.” The oldest applicant was in his sixties making aliyah to be with his aging father who had made aliyah 40 years prior. Sisters, brothers, parents, couples, families and friends all wanting to live in Israel – 57 altogether we come to find…and that was just today. This processing occurs on a Wednesday every two weeks all year round except holidays. I was in awe at how many people wanted to do this and even more amazed by the staff that tirelessly worked more than 10 hours that day – all with smiles on their faces the entire time. That was the other thing I couldn’t get over – everyone was happy. I don’t mean fake happy for the cameras – I mean genuinely happy about what was going on there.

After returning from her group meeting and our attempts to squelch The Bully who had taken over the kid’s brain and blocked her from apprehending any of the information given to her, the hubby and I brought the kid over to the supervisor and had him explain everything again (in a nutshell) so that we could make certain the kid knew exactly what she needed to do next. Right up to that moment, the kid was convinced she would not be accepted and have to return back to the U.S. – and fate worse than death in her mind. She was afraid of doing just one wrong thing that would award her a big red rubber stamped “DENIED” on her application. We managed to calm her down and she resumed socializing with her friends and spoke about her lifelong dream of making aliyah to the cameras as they live streamed on Facebook.


Now the kid was on to the third table of the night – the interview.


I have no idea what she was asked or how she answered, but less than 30 minutes later the kid was done. She would later find out that her interviewer is notorious for very difficult and long interrogations, sometimes turning people away and denying their citizenship. But that didn’t happen in the kid’s case – on to the fourth and final table.


Before we knew it, the kid was being handed her temporary citizenship card and teudah zehut (personal identification card)…and that was it…she was officially Israeli. Her lifelong dream had come true…and my reality as an empty nester started to sink in…

In celebration of all her hard work, we took the kid and her friend to Papagaio Jerusalem. The only word to describe this restaurant is meatpalooza with it’s crowning glory the “Papagaio Conjunto” – a sample of the various meats and poultry available are brought hot off the grill to your table and served the way each individual personally requests. Once you’ve tasted all, you choose your favorite…and then it comes to your table until you can’t possibly eat anymore, forcing you to turn the green button provided at the beginning of the meal to red – the waiter’s signal to inform the grill master to stop cooking for your table. We were definitely up for the challenge!

As we ate ourselves to gluttony, for the first time in the kid’s life it felt like I was talking to an adult…and I felt proud of her and me and the hubby – launch successful…and then a server dropped a tray full of glasses that dramatically crashed to the floor followed by a collective “Mazel Tov!” from all the patrons. Mazel Tov indeed!

Home again
Home again
One day I know
I’ll feel home again

Home Again – Michael Kiwanuka

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump


December 5th

Today my mother would have been 83 years old. I still miss her and regret the shared opportunities I was too selfish to embrace.

This past month has been a roller coaster of familial information related to my mother’s family history…

My mother’s maiden name was Hooker. Giddily joking that “our mother was a hooker,” I loved the reaction elicited from strangers, yet on a serious note my mother painfully held so many hidden secrets never discussed or known…until now.

This past month my two remaining sisters and I discovered that our mother was born “out of wedlock” two months prior to her parents’ marriage. That was the beginning of an anguished life of alcoholism, divorce, abandonment, remarriage, blended families and outliving two children. In the end, my mother was rewarded with my wonderful father and a life of privilege she never knew as a child.

During the last weeks of my mother’s life, she told me how much she missed her father and wished to see him again. My mother had vague memories of her father, who she believed had died at the age of 52 after gorging himself on alcohol and cigarettes. However, she had no idea where he ended up in life or where he was buried.

On the 81st anniversary of her birth, Kathy, her husband and I spent Shabbat night celebrating the life of our mother. Being the birthday theme celebratory person that I am, we went with Frozen thanks to the suggestion of a colleague.

Two months later, the day before my 50th birthday, my mother took her last breath.

Last Sunday I drove with the hubby to the New Camden Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey after my sister Regina’s discovery that my mother’s father was buried there. Six miles from my home and less than a mile from my Cooper River bike route, the hubby and I scrutinized the surroundings, desperately attempting to locate my grandfather’s plot. Phoning my Irish twin and asking for direction, she told me to look for a big tree and there it was…a faded metal sign signifying the section where our grandfather was laid to rest at the age of 54 from heart failure, as was my mother.


Saddened by the thought that her father had been only a bike ride away, I pitied my poor mother for not having the opportunity to visit her father’s grave. And then it dawned on me – who put the jack-o-lantern there and who has been visiting the grave of my grandfather?!

“Hey Charlie I’m pregnant and living on 9th Street
Right above a dirty bookstore off Euclid Avenue
And I stopped takin dope and I quit drinkin whiskey
And my old man plays the trombone and works out at the track”

Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis – Tom Waits

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump