No matter how often it has to be done, a mother’s heart crushes every time she has to say good-bye to her children…
As a friend from the states whose daughter also made aliyah at age 18 once wrote on my Facebook wall, “You know I feel this from here.” Having rested for a few days, the kid was feeling better and growing increasingly eager to get back to school in order to celebrate Purim with her program and friends – I get it…(crush)…
When we planned this trip, it didn’t dawn on me that the hubby and I would be in Israel for Purim. Needless to say, from what we had seen the week leading up to the holiday, we were pretty excited.
At Purim, as told in the Megillah Esther (the Book of Esther), we follow the story of how the Jews came dangerously close to complete and total annihilation. In a nutshell, the story takes place in Biblical Persia where a Jewish woman named Esther unwillingly becomes the king’s wife after he has his former wife put to death because she refused to dance naked for his buddies at a banquet he was holding. Being an orphan, Esther was raised by her uncle Mordecai, a man who refuses to bow down to Haman or the king. He later discovers a plot made by two guards planning to assassinate the king, resulting in Mordecai receiving all kinds of accolades by the king and his court. This situation ends up pissing off the king’s viceroy, Haman, who decides that since Mordecai is a Jew, he wants all Jews to be killed. Haman devises a plan to cast “lots,” or purim (singular pur=lot) to help choose the date for extinguishing the Jews. Unbeknownst to Haman and the king, Esther is also a Jew. Mordecai convinces Esther to tell the king about her true identity and manages to save the Jews from inevitable annihilation. In the end, Haman is the one who is put to death by hanging.
As per Jewish law, we are commanded to listen to the reading of the MegillahEsther (the Book of Esther) on the eve as well as the morning of Purim. We also celebrate our survival – aside from the prescribed seudah (meal) on the afternoon of Purim, we dress up in costume and eat and drink until fully intoxicated. In Israel, the party starts the week before…
The kid was celebrating Purim outside of Tel Aviv and then returning to us on Shushan Purim in time for Shabbat. Wanting to celebrate both Purim outside of Jerusalem and Shushan Purim in Jerusalem, we considered heading to Tel Aviv ourselves until the kid’s b’not sherut friends strongly advised against it, “Lo, lo, lo! It’s craaazy!” Okay, I was convinced…
And, because Esther fasted on the day before approaching the king, Jews also fast on Erev Purim (the day before). So what does one do on a fast day in Jerusalem? Yup, that’s right…you force march the hubby to Yemin Moshe to take pictures, of course.
Yemin Moshe is the first Jewish community built outside the Old City walls in the late 19th century and one of my favorite places to walk through, a hushed labyrinth of meandering sidewalks with brilliantly colorful flowers, endless stairwells, peekaboo windows and uniquely decorative doors devoid of human beings.
As the afternoon sun began to beat down on our chalk white skin and still not having a Purim costume for myself, I informed the hubby that we would be taking a shortcut through the park that I knew was somewhere close by because we had walked through it two years before after eating at the TouroRestaurant in Yemin Moshe and would lead us to Yafo Street where we could find places selling all kinds of ensembles just waiting for me to purchase. The hubby, being the boring old dote that he is, refused to dress up…party pooper! Nonetheless, he was willing to indulge in my unrelenting memories (that may or may not have been accurate) and questionably followed me into the wilderness…
Following somewhat familiar looking paths and checking with Google Maps, our tranquility was quickly replaced with the hustle and bustle of TeddyPark situated at the base of the Old City walls across the street from David’s Tower.
Aloe growing unbridled, sculptures made of odds and ends shaped like a canon, homemade shacks guarded by angry old dogs, ancient foundations, beautifully sculpted waterways and playful shiny globes…and, of course, being right again, all just a block from Yafo Street.
Coming across a store packed full of costumes, I bravely shoved my way through the crowd…
And while I was consumed by the vortex of humans desperately seeking last minute costumes in true Israeli fashion, I was missing this:
Deciding to head back towards Machane Yehuda so we could buy food for our seudah on Shushan Purim/Erev Shabbat, I came across this sign:
Just the night before, Regina had texted me a picture my brother-in-law had taken of an establishment in Wisconsin name Mikey’s Bar, where he sat and had a beer in honor of my brother Michael. I immediately snapped a shot of Mikey’s Place and sent it to Regina and promised her I would have a beer in honor of Mikey Bro at some point over the weekend…little did I know what awaited me there…
Arriving at Machane Yehuda, the hubby and I perused the hundreds of stalls offering everything and anything one could imagine in Israeli cuisine…along with some silly vendors getting into the spirit of the holiday.
After buying two bags full of freshly made salads and several loaves of fresh baked breads, we scoured table after table of baked goods in search of the best hamantaschen possible – and then, there they were…
CHOCOLATE HAMANTASCHEN!!! We were now set for our scrumptious Purim seudah to be eaten in Jerusalem – can’t get better than that.
Because Israel is an ADHD fantasy land, I wasn’t quite ready to settle down and troll away the afternoon in a darkened room. In a last-ditch effort to find the rest of my Purim costume, I sent the hubby back to the hotel to rest up and found my way back to Ben Yehuda. I was also in search of another restaurant that our neighbor Hildy recommended – Tmol Shilshom Café.
Finding Israeli mounted police horses taking a break in their day, an Israeli version of Escape Room, a lone pianist noodling on a random grand piano, some silly store fronts and a poser kitty, I failed to find the restaurant despite following the signs pointing the way.
Disappointed, I headed back to the hotel to grab the hubby so that we could attempt to find my second choice restaurant of the day – Anna Italian Café on HaRav Agan Street.
A mansion originally owned by Dr. A.A. Ticho (an ophthalmologist) and his wife Anna (an artist), the structure served as an eye hospital downstairs and living quarters for the couple upstairs. The home was later willed to the Israel Museum and repurposed into a restaurant on the upper level with a permanent exhibit of the Ticho’s belongings in one half of the lower floor and revolving exhibits of Israeli artists in the other.
Not only did we enjoy an amazing kosher dairy meal with staff who were cordial and exceptionally knowledgeable regarding the menu, we were granted free admission to the gallery below. We were also pleased to hear that the restaurant also hires disadvantaged teens, teaching them critical skills necessary for keeping them off the streets and providing for a better future.
Stuffed to the gills and exhausted from the day’s adventures, we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep – we were gonna need it!
“I’m comin’ up so you better you better get this party started”
Get the Party Started – Pink
“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump
This past winter was a bitch. She wasn’t giving up on her reins of terror for nothing. But spring wasn’t giving up and finally managed to kick winter’s ass to the curb.
There’s not one photo of evidence to prove that I’ve ridden my bike over the past two months. In fact, if not for iCloud Photos, I wouldn’t have remembered the one ride I took in late March. But I can’t post these photos because they’re pictures I took on my new iPhone…which now saves as heic (high efficiency image format)…and I can’t convert to jpeg…because I didn’t know how to use the camera properly…and somehow saved the photos on my phone as “live” (whatever that means)…and my computer doesn’t understand how to modify the file…
But now we gotta get serious here. I’ve decided to do the American Cancer Society Bridge to the Beach Bike-a-thon again this year and Old Bessie’s been sleeping in the garage a lot more this winter than last. The planned route is 55 miles – 61 if I ride from home. I am definitely not feeling as prepared as last year. The last two Sundays I rode 20 and 25 miles and felt like I was dragging my body through quicksand…and this week I needed to do 30…ugh…
Looking for a destination 15 miles away that would give me 30 miles round trip, I was at a loss…until my sister Regina called.
Back in the late 1980s, I started exploring my family genealogy. It wasn’t as easy back then – we’re talking when dinosaurs roamed the earth…there was no internet. My only means of research was to either make contacts on the telephone or through letters of correspondence – right, just like the poor old cavemen had to do. And when Al Gore finally invented the internet, it was S…L…O…W…and most services required large fees. Needless to say, my inability to sustain interest and the impending birth of the kid put my kinship on a to-do-much-later-in-life list. Thankfully, my father was looking for something to do in his retirement and happily took over the research. Once dementia kicked in, however, dad was incapable of continuing the task, his death screeching the brakes to a halt on anything more. When mom died two years later, that was it. I and my surviving two sisters would have no parents to ask about our family history – it was all so permanent…until Regina decided to pick it up again.
Up until that point, most of the genealogy consisted of the Doherty line – dad’s side of the family. My mother was not very forthcoming about her past, so we never really knew much about her family. Separately, Kathy, Regina and I had snippets of information we managed to get from mom over the years, but it wasn’t enough to piece together any kind of life story (Meemaw – December 5th).
Having found my mother’s father’s grave back in December, Regina made another recent discovery – my mother’s father’s mother, Sallie, was buried in a cemetery in Burlington County – 15 miles from my house. Guess where I was going?
I was heading to Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey. Looking at a map of the area, it struck me that I had been within blocks of the cemetery at some point last year when I got lost on a ride. This time I knew exactly where I was going and easily made the 15 miles to Beverly.
Locating the cemetery, I couldn’t figure out how to access the grounds, briefly contemplating jumping the iron fence until I noticed the spikes at the tip. I stopped in a parking lot to check with Google.
It’s called The Green Cafe at Whitebriar B&B Inn. Realizing it was an old bank building turned restaurant, I walked around outside to peruse the “library” and discovered some old history. And, thanks to Google Chrome, I figured out how to enter the cemetery without impaling myself.
Quickly putting two and two together, it dawned on me that it was a cemetery for military veterans. One slice of info mom had given me decades ago was that Sallie had been remarried to a German man named Otto, who we now knew was buried next to her. I realized he must have been a veteran but wasn’t sure what his involvement had been. Riding in circles and making all the wrong turns, I finally found their plots. Otto was in the 3rd Pioneer Infantry, army grunts who were used for engineering and construction tasks during World War I.
Searching cemetery files, I learned a lot about this family – a history of German immigration, divorces, remarriages, blended families, childless unions. I had so many questions for mom that will never be answered in my lifetime. Why so many secrets? Did she know all these people? Did she know their whereabouts when living? Did she realize so many relatives were living and/or buried within a 20-mile radius of her home? Sallie died when I was 9-years-old – why didn’t I ever meet her? Why did I care?
This was a question Kathy had asked me and Regina last year – why did we care where our family came from? I’m not sure I can respond with a clear answer. On the one hand I’m interested in the people of my past. Who were they? What were they like? Where did they live? How did they make a living? Do I look like any of them? Are there any personality traits passed on through our genetics? On the other hand, why do I care? Many of my relatives are dead and gone, having taken the mysteries of the past to their grave. Any remaining relatives are scattered throughout the planet, most of whom I have had little or no contact with for most of my life.
So maybe that’s it – in a world of nuclear families who themselves split up after children reach adulthood, technology has made it easier for us to find one another but it has also thrust us further apart…there’s a need for reconnection. For now, it’s just me and the hubby, two empty-nest orphans all alone in the world…that’s why I care.
Packing up my pity-party-sorry-assed-self, I walked over to the church cemetery next door, meandering through randomly placed tombstones of families dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
I need to find more cheerful places to ride…
As I headed back for the next 15 miles, I stopped along the way to catch some gorgeous views of my perfect blue sky with the puffy clouds.
And I managed to ride 31 miles without too much huffing and puffing.
“Oh, got no reason, got no shame Got no family I can’t blame Just don’t let me disappear I’mma tell you everything”
Waking up to another cold and rainy morning in Jerusalem, the hubby and I agreed our day would probably be spent indoors – that’s right…da mall!
Thanks, once again, to our neighbor Hildy, we discovered that we could purchase Israeli SIM cards at the MalchaMall, the largest mall in the Middle East. Leaving the kid back at the hotel to rest, the hubby and I grabbed a taxi and headed out.
Across the street from the mall, we found this super cool apartment complex!
Stacked like giant lego blocks, every apartment has a balcony with an awesome view of Jerusalem.
Of course, by the time we got to the mall, the sun decided to come out and say hello. Oh well…we were already on our way and really needed to get those SIM cards ASAP so that we could finally communicate with the kid. And the mall was in full Purim swing! I think Purim in Israel could be compared to Christmas in America – although it’s only one day, everyone and everything pretty much stops for the week or two leading up to the holiday. Kids were dressed up as their favorite characters and employees joined in on the fun by wearing silly head coverings and crazy makeup.
Knowing that the kid had arranged to meet two of her b’not sherut friends (religious girls who choose not to join the army volunteer for national service or SherutLeumi) later in the evening, the hubby and I decided to pick out a nice gift for them and their families as a token of our appreciation for hosting the kid on numerous occasions. And, of course, we picked up a little shalach manot (a traditional gift given to children during Purim) bag for the kid. Having spent the entire day at the mall in quest of Israeli SIM cards, we successfully accomplished our goal, including the decision to sign up for an Israeli phone plan after finding out we only had to pay a monthly fee of just $10.00 for 30 Gig – in the U.S. we pay monthly what we’ll be paying for an entire year in Israel…and that’s only 2 Gig…go figure…
Exhausted from the day, the hubby took a little catnap while I went for a walk to Ben Yehuda, finding a magnificently decorated tile shop, young folk playing a random piano and an adorable little girl enjoying herself while jumping up and down a step.
Upon my return to the hotel, I did not fail to visit my boyfriend lounge before dragging the hubby and the kid out of bed and heading to dinner. Finding a Kurdish restaurant via Mr. Google right outside of Machane Yehuda, we made our way to Ima (mother in Hebrew).
Once again, we were too early. Although the rain had ceased for the moment (and I had mistakenly left my umbrella in the taxi), we tried to think of something to do indoors within the surrounding vicinity. Exiting through the front of the courthouse, we noticed a pedestrian bridge passing over the highway below and decided to investigate. From the sign posted along the way, all we knew is that it was the Supreme Court Bridge…makes sense…
Attached to the other side of the bridge was a large building known as Cinema City.
This complex is the largest entertainment and cultural center in Jerusalem, including multiple movie theaters, a mall with dozens of stores and restaurants, a theater for plays, a hall for conferences, a cinema museum and numerous other distractions that could keep you perusing for days.
Not able to convince the hubby and the kid to catch a movie, lunch seemed to be the only agreed upon plan. The kid brought us to a restaurant she has visited a few times in other locations, Greg Cafe, where I found Kosher Indian Food!
Quickly running out of time, we paid the bill and crossed back over the bridge to the Supreme Court.
Passing through security at the entrance, we waited in the foyer at the base of a large stairway. Among our compatriots curious to see the workings of Israeli justice first hand were an oleh (a foreigner who has become an Israeli citizen) tour guide who gives tours of Israel to interfaith couples, a female judge from Brooklyn with her tween daughter and a British female barrister and her husband.
Our guide, also a British oleh, informs us that the stairway was designed to mirror an old Jerusalem street. Facing the stairs, the unhewn wall on the right resembles the walls of buildings in ancient Jerusalem. The wall on the left is modern, white and unadorned.
At the base of the right-hand wall there are mirrors placed in an open space, creating the illusion that the wall continues on forever.
There are three levels of the staircase, representing the three courts of the Israel legislature – Magistrate, District and Supreme. However, the most interesting fact about this building is that it was designed with the Torah (the Five Books of Moses or Old Testament) in mind. For example, each of the three levels has ten steps, symbolizing the Ten Commandments. At the top of the staircase is a giant window casting intense light downward with a view of the blue sky and puffy clouds ahead, portraying an image of G-d as the ultimate judge above
However, as you ascend each of the thirty steps leading upward, one is rewarded with a gorgeous view of Jerusalem.
First stopping at the library, the Brooklyn judge asks about the pyramid on the roof of the building visible from the outside. The pyramid was inspired by the Tomb of Zechariah (located in the Kidron Valley at the bottom of the Mount of Olives).
Windows at the apex of the pyramid allow natural light to form circles of sunlight on the inside walls and on the floor. Because of this fixture, the space is known as the “pyramid area” and serves as a turning point before the entrance to the courtrooms.
Moving through the pyramid area, we passed a wall with digital displays of the day’s schedule so that judges, lawyers, clients and spectators can locate the appropriate courtroom. Like the Knesset, the Supreme Court is completely open to any person who wishes to observe court proceedings whenever they are in session.
The path then opens up to a long and brilliantly lit hallway running the length of the courtrooms situated on the left-hand side. To the right are cubicles with horseshoe shaped benches provided as a waiting area for lawyers and their clients.
Supreme Court judges must retire at 70 but retain an office in the building for life.
There are fifteen judges on the Supreme Court, but they don’t all sit at the same time. Judges are rotated between cases with an average of three to five judges depending on the case.
There are five court rooms – two small, two medium and one large – representing the Five Books of Moses. The largest court room is positioned in the middle and reserved for the Chief Justice (currently a woman). The two smaller rooms bookend the five courtrooms with the two medium rooms flanking the larger.
The front of each court room is shaped like a “circle of justice” – the three judges sit in front facing the audience, the transcriber and clerk sit facing one another in front of the judges, and the lawyers sit in front of the audience facing the judges.
There is no set panel of judges – the panel changes every day via random computerized algorithms.
Prisoners are held in a pen below the court room.
There are two balconies on either side of the courtroom, one for press and the other for prisoners.
Prisoners are not handcuffed so they can speak freely.
Judges go through “Judge School,” where they are required to participate in a mock trial and are psychologically tested at the time to ascertain their ability to successfully withstand stress.
Judges are hand-picked on merit, regardless of experience.
There are three courts – Magistrate, District and Supreme. There are twenty-nine magistrates in Israel and one judge for each magistrate. There are six districts having between one to three judges designated for criminal and civil cases. The Supreme Court does not perform trials and abjudicates appeals of lower courts as well as government cases.
There are three other lower courts – Military, Religious (a.k.a. Beit Din) and Labor.
All lawyers must wear a white shirt and black pants or skirt and a black robe.
Lawyers and judges do not wear white wigs.
And then the are-there-any-questions-round began…I tried to warn our guide, but he didn’t listen…a New Jersey legal services attorney, a Brooklyn criminal court judge and an English barrister walk into a courtroom…oy…
If not for the very impatient guide waiting for the room and loudly announcing that our time was up, I do believe there would’ve been a big ole brawl that day…
With blue skies shoving their way through a cold and rainy day like a seasoned congregant at a shul kiddush (synagogue meal), we decided to walk back to the hotel…once again, uphill all the way…
Ten years ago, in 2008, we attended the Bar Mitzvah (when a boy comes of age at 13 years old) of our friends’ son, Ari. At the time, we hadn’t known this family very long, perhaps a year or two before they made aliyah (move/become a citizen of Israel) in 2009. At some point in the early 2000s, the hubby started going to a different synagogue he had discovered and felt more comfortable mixing with the people there. He especially loved the Rabbi, who just so happened to be the headmaster of the Jewish day school the kid was attending. The kid and I remained at our former place of worship, preferring to be with the friends we had made over the previous eight years. Early on, the hubby quickly became friends with Ken, the father of the Bar Mitzvah boy. Soon after, our dear friend Ken O was convinced to join the same synagogue, and the three men became known as the “Three Rons” (long story short, there was a congregant who was a veteran with mental illness and had great difficulty remembering peoples’ names, thereby referring to all three men as “Ron”). Ken O’s wife, Bonnie, followed shortly after.
For reasons too complicated to explain (definitely something to write about in a completely separate posting), I decided to join the hubby and his new-found congregation in 2007, where I could finally be with my BFF, Bonnie and befriended Ken’s wife, Sharon. The kid was not pleased. She made every effort of making our existence miserable (there’s a lot more to this story and the kid’s misery, but it’ll have to wait until that post I said I would write in the previous sentence). Despite her efforts to sabotage our new existence, we informed the kid that she would have to suck it up and find a way to be happy in her new environment…but she continued to resist, refusing to play with any of the other kids.
Enter Shira, the younger sister to Ari and the youngest daughter of Ken and Sharon (there is also an older daughter, Elana). Little Shira was on a mission to befriend the kid and convince her to at least like her new shul (synagogue) just a little bit…and she refused to give up. I don’t know how Shira did it, but I would’ve given up on the kid months before she finally broke down and realized the powerful friendship about to be created.
Needless to say, the kid and Shira became inseparable buddies over the next two years…and then her family made aliyah in 2009, several months before we would move to the suburbs of Philadelphia. Although we would see the family for brief periods each summer over the first few years, we slowly began to lose touch as the distance grew farther and each of our lives became more occupied with the hectic pace of raising teenagers.
Fast forward 2018, two weeks before leaving for our current trip to Israel, the hubby and I went to visit Ken O and Bonnie for a nice long Shabbat (the Sabbath) weekend. Knowing that Ken O and Bonnie had stayed in touch with Ken and Sharon, I had some concept of the life they had made in Israel over the last ten years. After informing me that Ari had met a woman four months prior, got engaged and was getting married, Bonnie presented with the wedding invitation, which revealed that the ceremony would be taking place while we were scheduled to be in Israel. Saying she and Ken O could not possibly make it to the wedding, Bonnie had made arrangements with Sharon for me, the hubby and the kid to attend in their place. I happily accepted the invitation and made a point of getting Sharon’s contact information in order to thank her prior to our arrival.
Fast forward again to today, February 26, 2018, and we’re in Jerusalem walking to the wedding of a long lost friend…
We weren’t prepared for the impact this event would have on all three of us. After running into a few families from our shore community with whom we had also lost contact after they made aliyah years ago, I almost didn’t recognize the wedding family. Although Ken and Sharon hadn’t changed much, Shira, Ari and Elana were more difficult to spot in the crowd – all three were now adults. And then it dawned on me that the last simcha (happy event) we went to for the family was Ari’s Bar Mitzvah exactly ten years before…and now he’s getting married?!
This was, by far, one of the most beautiful and spiritually uplifting weddings I’ve ever attended. During the kabbalat panim (reception), Ari’s entire class from yeshiva (a Jewish institution for men to learn/study traditional religious texts) was in attendance and boy did they know how to make a celebration! After a quick appetizer, the young men lead Ari to an area in the room blocked off by a mechitza (partition) where they played instruments, sang and danced while Ari looked over the ketubah (marriage contract) with his Rabbi.
Lead by its musicians, the group spilled out from behind the curtain singing and danced their way to an adjacent room where the bride sat in meditative prayer, waiting for her groom. A recording of instrumental music could be heard attempting desperately to break through the festivities and the room fell silent. Resting his hand on Ari’s shoulder in a fatherly gesture, the Rabbi spoke softly to Ari and smiles were exchanged between the two. Ari slowly approached his bride and whispered sweetly in her ear. As customary, the groom pulled the veil over the head and face of the bride (a.k.a. badeken – check out Bereishit/Genesis – Chapter 29, where Jacob is duped into marrying Rachel’s older sister Leah after he thinks he’s marrying Rachel – Leah had her face covered so Jacob couldn’t tell it was not Rachel; hence a groom now approaches the bride to make sure he is marrying the right woman and then covers her face with her veil). Backing away, Ari couldn’t take his eyes off the bride – he’s hooked for sure. The yeshiva boys began singing and dancing again, some grabbing Ari and bouncing him up the stairs, out into the street and back onto the mirpeset (porch) of the hotel lobby where the wedding ceremony will take place – the whole time Ari looking back to catch one last glimpse of the beautiful young woman about to become his wife.
And this is what the mirpeset looked like…
The place was packed! Wall-to-wall people and not an inch to move. We could hear the procession of yeshiva boys singing in the lobby as they poured out the entrance and into the crowd, the bride following carefully behind walking arm and arm with her parents. Reaching the chuppah (marriage canopy), the bride circled the groom seven times, alerting onlookers that the ceremony had begun.
The Rabbi then spoke about the groom, the bride, marriage, family and Israel and tied it all together with the upcoming holiday of Purim. Luckily, a friend of Sharon’s was standing next to me and interpreting the Hebrew into English for me. At every juncture, the yeshiva boys began singing and dancing again as the Rabbi patiently attempted to gain back control of the proceedings. Before we knew it, vows were exchanged in betrothal, the ketubah was being read, a glass was smashed and everyone began piling into the hotel lobby, down the long stairwell and back into the room where it all started.
We schmoozed (socialized) for a while and wished the family a hardy Mazel Tov (congratulations), promising to contact them during our next visit to Israel and accepted an invitation for a Shabbat meal in the future. On our way out, we watched Ari and his new wife, as they posed for the photographer. They seemed so comfortable together and truly fit – beshert (meant to be).
We quickly headed back to our hotel to change in order to meet up with our friend Hadar who is currently studying at a seminary (a women’s version of yeshiva) in Jerusalem.
I decided to check out a fairly new restaurant suggested by my neighbor Hildy (My boyfriend’s back/March 30, 2018, Israel – Part Deux: Returning to the originally-planned-before-the-kid-decided-to-make-Aliyah-last-year trip/ March 23,2018), Corky Experience Wine, a mere two blocks from the hotel.
Receiving a text from Hadar telling us she had just gotten off the bus and was close by, I told the hubby and the kid how to get to the restaurant and dashed out to meet her. Phoning Hadar on WhatsApp, I asked if she had found Corky and honestly informed her that I had no idea where it was. Trying to locate one another, me walking west and she walking east, we could suddenly hear each others voices and managed to meet right in front of the restaurant. I never would have found this place if not by accident. It’s a small facility down a short flight of stairs off the street. However, I’m not sure how we missed all the colorful decorations and lights adorning the outdoor cafe…
As we waited for the hubby and the kid to arrive, Hadar told me how she almost got arrested for walking through the Prime Minister’s property because her GPS said it was a more expeditious route…the next time you have a bunch of dudes with guns in your face threatening to waste you, remember to second guess your GPS’s opinion on local shortcuts…
Corky Experience Wine is a cozy little dairy restaurant offering several different wine tastings and cooked-to-order homemade food with nightly themes. Tonight was Mexican night featuring enchiladas and sopes. Walking through the outdoor cafe, we entered a compact room, a long communal table with stools in the middle and seating of smaller tables and chairs along the walls to the left and right. At front of the room is the kitchen, where you can witness the staff cooking your dinner – no surprises whatsoever! The entire place was decorated in Mexican themed ornamentation, along with Purim decorations in preparation for the upcoming holiday later in the week.
Still waiting on the hubby and the kid, Hadar and I decided to order the wine tasting of staff favorites. Upon their arrival, we ordered the special and, of course, more wine. As we ate, one of the owners requested a photograph of us to be “tweeted.” We gladly accepted under the condition that he take a photograph of the four of us celebrating our reunion. Hearing of our “family” reunion, along with the kid’s news of making aliyah and impending Israeli passport, the owner offered us a shot of genuine Israeli whiskey…that just so happened to be the first batch distilled by The Golan Heights Distillery owned by David Zibell, a Canadian oleh who we met in 2016.
At that time, David told us that his whiskey would not be ready until late 2017 and offered us other spirits he was experimenting with at the time. And here we were being offered a shot of genuine Israeli whiskey we’ve been talking about for two years…and it was good.
Getting our fill of food and booze, we escorted Hadar to her bus stop and strolled back to the hotel, each of us passing out after a long, eventful day. We’ve only been here five days, but I’m already exhausted…and happily so…
“Don’t you look at me so smug And say I’m going bad Who are you to judge me And the life that I live?”
Don’t Judge – Bob Marley
“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump
Although it’s not necessarily a good thing for Israel, two days without rain and I’m a much happier camper.
As the hubby davened (prayed), I set off to find Gan HaPa-amon (a.k.a. Liberty Bell Park) again. It really wasn’t that hard – walk out the front door, cross the street and head straight for about 15 minutes. How did we never notice this place before?! Oh, that’s right…we weren’t looking…
Much quieter than on Shabbat, I wasn’t quite sure if this was the right place, but the sign on the gate reassured me: “KEEP CALM AND STUDY FRENCH.” The sign stating I was in the Koret Liberty Bell Park was also helpful…
Entering the park I took note of two older gentlemen sitting at a picnic table drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. With a friendly, “Boker Tov (Good Morning)!”, I began to explore…
Walking further down the path, I discovered an iron gate leading to the outdoor amphitheater.
Not sure who Shams is, but he/she/they kinda ruined the beauty of the stone, don’t ya think?
Directly next to the amphiteater is the Train Theater, a puppet theater situated inside an old train car. Although there were no shows that day, I definitely want to check this place out at some point.
Searching for that darn bell, I passed by the wormy sandbox missed the day before and met up with Jerry the Dragon as promised…
…and there it was again…an exact replica of the Liberty Bell – from crack to quote…
“No one recorded when or why the Liberty Bell first cracked, but the most likely explanation is that a narrow split developed in the early 1840’s after nearly 90 years of hard use. In 1846, when the city decided to repair the bell prior to George Washington’s birthday holiday (February 23), metal workers widened the thin crack to prevent its farther spread and restore the tone of the bell using a technique called “stop drilling”. The wide “crack” in the Liberty Bell is actually the repair job! Look carefully and you’ll see over 40 drill bit marks in that wide “crack”. But, the repair was not successful. The Public Ledger newspaper reported that the repair failed when another fissure developed. This second crack, running from the abbreviation for “Philadelphia” up through the word “Liberty”, silenced the bell forever. No one living today has heard the bell ring freely with its clapper, but computer modeling provides some clues into the sound of the Liberty Bell.”
“Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.”
Then it was time to explore some more – an abandoned can of olives leftover from a Shabbat picnic, Jerusalem stone walkways supporting archways of hibernating greenery just waiting to bloom, random baby bells envious of their namesake, an exercise playground for kids and adults alike, very loud and aggressive Israeli crows (we witnessed one steal someone’s lunch last year), tables of Chutes and Ladders, checkers and chess pining for someone to play and uniquely sculptured birdbaths…
I was truly enjoying the tranquility of this space removed from the hectic streets outside…until the very creepy dude who stared down the feral cats like Rasputin showed up…
Forgoing the skate park, I decided it was definitely time to head back to the hotel after hanging with the ladies doing yoga on the playground and the creepy dude made his getaway.
As I wondered if the dozens of feral cats hanging out in the area leading to the exit gate met there for their daily morning dose of Rasputin, a little old lady pulled up in a small beat-up sedan. Like some kind of underground feline radar had been detected, cats came running from every corner of the park to eat breakfast, as the little old lady strolled around the park leaving piles of wet cat food throughout the trails. Perhaps Rasputin was the price to pay for daily rations? Either way, I was done and headed back to the hubby…
For today’s adventure, the hubby and I agreed we both wanted to finally see The Knesset Building, having missed it on every other trip. The Knesset is the house of representatives of the State of Israel and is unicameral, composing of 120 Members representing numerous lists that are elected in general, country-wide, proportional elections once every four years.
*Tip of the day: For the most part, in Israel, English-speaking tours at various sites are conducted at 12:00 noon – you snooze, you lose (as we would later find out).*
Hailing a taxi from the hotel, we took a quick 5-minute drive and were dropped off at the security gate from where visitors are required to walk the rest of the way to the Knesset building entrance. Passing inspection without incident, we strolled passed Gan HaMenorah (the Menorah Garden) and took pictures of the giant menorah, as well as the sculpture of the original entrance gate to the Knesset and a representation of the Burning Bush adorning the anterior of the grounds…and, of course, I noticed the bike parked on the sidewalk…
Attempting to cross the road in order to reach the tour office, we were again stopped by a very serious security guard. Although small in stature, we weren’t about to mess with the guy holding an uzi…
Guard (blocking our approach with his uzi): “Hizmantem?” (Were you invited?)”
Us: “Umm…no? Were we supposed to be?”
Guard: (with a look of utter disdain) “Bo (come).”
Personally escorted to the tour office like royalty and dismissed in front of a large antechamber-like structure, the hubby knocked on the door and was greeted by another much larger and even more serious security guard…although he only had a handgun.
Guard (cracking open the door an inch): “Ma?! (What?!)”
The hubby: “Umm…we’d like to take the noon tour?”
Guard (in broken English): “You’re too early!”
The hubby: “I realize that, but we were hoping to buy the tickets now and come back.”
Guard (again, that look of utter disdain while opening the door wider): “Bo…”
Managing to convince the doorman to sell us two tickets for the noon tour, our uzi-packed buddy suggested we visit the The Wohl Rose Garden back across the street and behind the Menorah Garden.
Although it was a bit early in the season for roses, we managed to find a few here and there, along with some colorful wildflowers and winter leftovers…
…and we wondered who thought of the brilliant idea to put fires out with Coca-Cola.
Translating signs into English will be steady employment if and when we make aliyah.
We also checked out the various sculptures and other artwork throughout the park, as well as the ornamental pool and its adjacent Japanese garden.
And then we were asked (more like commanded) to vacate the grounds for wandering a little too far into the forest and a little too close to the snipers hiding on the other side of the fence looking for interlopers…smile and wave, boys…
Narrowly escaping, the hubby and I made our way back to the antechamber where we waited once again to be searched one last time. Face contorted as to what could possibly be in my bag, the x-ray technician called over her supervisor and questioned what she was seeing on the screen…
Okay…so exactly how do I explain this one?
Here’s the ADHD version because I don’t know any other way to tell a long story…
On our first trip to Israel back in 2011, I decided to bring along a couple of traveling companions who would accompany our journeys and help tell our story on Facebook.
Since then, I’ve brought someone along who had some kind of significance for us at that particular time – Tony the Tour Guide (Milwaukee 2015) because my brother, Michael, was the best tour guide there ever was; Mr. Gnome (Vermont 2015) because Travelocity was all the rage; Screaming Man (Maryland 2015 and Pennsylvania 2017) who I bought during our Milwaukee visit and who pretty much reflects how I feel when traveling solo with the kid; Flat Mom and Dad because we were on a food tour and mom and dad would’ve loved it and Moses (Israel 2016) because…well, he’s Moses and it’s Israel; and Batman (Israel 2017) because we were visiting the kid, who’s a big fan…
Mr. Haymon (a play on words from Haman in the Purim story), a clacking noisemaker, was our little friend on this particular trip because we would be in Israel for Purim.
Now, back to that x-ray technician…
Asked to unzip my bag, I reached in and revealed Mr. Haymon. With no explanation required, I was told to move along and join the tour…nowhere else in the world would you get away with not having to explain a clacking wood hand puppet shoved in your backpack…
Passing security for the third time, we exited the antechamber onto a long esplanade leading up to the Knesset building.
Not quite sure where the tour began, the hubby and I simply followed the people before us like lemmings in hopes of being on the right path – off the side to the left, down a flight of stairs, through the portico, off to the right, through the doors, up the stairs, across the foyer to several rows of chairs waiting for the noon tour. As we looked for two seats together, I noticed that the chairs were set up directly in front of the main entrance…
We were then greeted by our tour guide, a chirpy, petite young blond oleh (someone who has made aliyah and became a citizen of Israel) hailing from South Africa. Briefly explaining the tour ahead, the guide suited each of us up with a headphone system and walked the group across the foyer to a large screen displaying individual photographs of all 120 Members of the Knesset and showing which representatives were in the building at any given moment.
The term Knesset is a derivative of the words Knesset HaGdola (Great Assembly). According to Jewish tradition, the Great Assembly was composed of 120 scribes, sages and prophets who convened in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile in the fifth century B.C.E. The current Knesset’s structure is influenced by the First Zionist Congress lead by Theodor Herzl and held in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, as well as the Assefat Hanivharim (Assembly of Representatives) of the Jewish community in mandatory Palestine established in 1920 and to some extent the British Parliament. The first Knesset Members were elected after Israel gained its independence in 1948. Provisional State Council meetings were held at the Tel Aviv Museum (of Art), the Kessem Cinema building and the San Remo Hotel in Tel Aviv until the end of 1949 when the Knesset moved to Beit Frumin (literally House of the Frumins, the family that once owned the building) on King George Street in Jerusalem. In 1966, the current Knesset Building at Kiryat Ben Gurion (and area of government offices named for Israel’s first Prime Minister) was finalized and its Members moved for the last time to the Givat (hill) Ram neighborhood in Jerusalem.
I don’t recall the name of the piece above, but it had something to do with the circle of continuity. The hubby was wondering where we were when I took a picture of the fussball game…oy…
First we got to see the inside of a committee (of which there are many in the Knesset) room, which anyone, citizen and tourist alike, can observe any time meetings are being held.
Our guide made a point of stressing the openness of the Israeli government; that everything is full disclosure and nothing hidden from its people. Unfortunately, there were no meetings being held during our visit.
Next stop – Chagall State Hall – completely designed and constructed by Russian-born Jewish artist Marc Chagall, the columns of the hall are made of polished marble containing fossils, the ceiling is covered with wooden blocks, and the floor is made up of twelve separate mosaics.
However, this hall is most famous for its three Gobelins or tapestries – immense textiles splattered with vibrant colors hanging the length of the eastern wall.
Depicting biblical themes – the center tapestry portrays The Exodus, the left illustrates the Return to Zion and the right epitomizes the End of Days.
Photographs do no justice – I could have spent all day examining this beautiful masterpiece…but the tour guide grew somewhat impatient waiting for me to rejoin the group so we could end our tour with Plenum Hall.
Here the Members of the Knesset sit according to the parliamentary faction to which they belong and the seating determined by the Arrangements Committee. Typically, the largest group chooses its place first and sits to the left of the Speaker with the second largest sitting to the right, the Speaker sitting in the center.
The hall is divided into two parts – the lower half for members of the Knesset and Government and the upper for visitors. In the lower part there are 116 seats arranged in the shape of a menorah (a seven-branched candelabra). The center table is shaped like a horseshoe and reserved for the members of the Government with the Prime Minister sitting at the center. The upper balcony is divided into two parts by bullet-proof glass – the lower portion open within the hall is reserved for VIPs and invited guests, including a special area at the left corner reserved for the president and his/her entourage. The area to the right if reserved for the press. The upper area behind the glass is the public gallery, which is open to anyone from the public who wishes to listen to and watch the proceedings.
With the tour coming to an end, we made one last stop at large glass enclosure.
Inside the glass stood a replica of the Megilot Ha’Atzmaut (Declaration of Independence of 1948). Although the original as been archived due to deterioration, our guide reassured us that this copy was precise, right down to the color of the ink in the signatures.
After schmoozing with our guide for a few more minutes, I convinced the hubby to walk back to the hotel – a five-minute drive can’t be that far of a walk, right? According to Google Maps it wouldn’t be more than a thirty-minute walk. Of course, I neglected to listen when the hubby reminded me that we were in Jerusalem…which historically was built on top of seven hills. Okay, so maybe it would take a little longer than that…or maybe a lot more longer than that…
Flashback to this morning while we were getting ready in our hotel room…
The hubby: “I was looking at the traffic to see what would be the best time to grab a taxi so we miss rush hour. I see something here about some rabbi’s funeral taking place around 11AM. They’re expecting thousands of people to be in attendance and that some of the roads will be closed off – the roads around the Knesset.”
Me: “So let’s leave by 10AM and we should be okay.”
Just to be safe, we asked the hotel front desk clerk if he knew anything about the funeral and/or possible traffic issues for the day, of which he knew absolutely nothing.
Fast forward after I’ve convinced the hubby to walk the walk despite his warnings and obvious reluctance. Although expecting complaints and a few “I-told-ya-sos” the entire way, I was willing to put up with a little belly-aching and save 40NILS. Besides, it was a beautiful blue-sky day with 70-degree weather and a nice breeze – the makings of a really nice stroll…
Passing the security gate, once again without incident, we rambled down the hill to the main thoroughfare leading us back to the hotel and noticed a lot of cars parked along the side of the road that were not there when we arrived at the Knesset. As we walked further, we came across cars parked everywhere – at the curb, on the curb, over the curb, on the sidewalk, on the median, on the grass…amid absolute standstill traffic.
That’s when the hubby recalled our conversation earlier in the day about the funeral – the one for “some rabbi” who just so happened to be Rav Schmuel Auerback…
Despite the funeral having taken place while we were on our tour of the Knesset, we waded our way through tens of thousands of people aimlessly finding their way back to their vehicles and managed to locate the correct road back to the hotel…which was uphill…all the way…of which the hubby reminded me and my comeback, pointing to the miles-long row of parked cars behind us, “Would you have rather gotten a taxi?”
I love being right all the time…
And if that walk wasn’t enough, I again convinced the hubby to go further and find Pomeranz Bookseller, where I knew that Artscroll Chumash would be in stock and much less expensive than the shop in the Old City…and I was right…again…
As we ate our handmade pasta and French onion soup served in giant loaf bowls of fresh-baked bread, the kid updated us on her weekend with Garin Tzabar and her upcoming plans for Purim. And, as promised, we reserved a room at the hotel for the kid to get away and rest up after coming down with a severe respiratory infection. It’s not so easy for an only child to live in populated settings. Plus it gave this mother an excuse to spoil her only child for a couple of days.
“The night is young And full of possibilities”
You Can Ring My Bell – Anita Ward
“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump
Eating breakfast alone while the hubby went to services next door, I people-watched other guests and imagined who they were, where they were from and why they were in Israel – Jews, Christians and Muslims of varying religious observance, along with the unaffliated tourists visiting a stop on their own personal bucket list. Picking up on Hebrew- and Arabic-speaking diners and staff, I also caught different English-speaking countrymen – fellow Americans, Brits and Australians – Russian, French, Italian, various forms of Spanish from around the world, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Ethiopian and other African dialects, Polish, German, all kinds of Norwegian vernacular. People from all walks of life from around the globe coming to see one of the most holiest cities in the world…or just checking out a really cool place to visit if you like ancient history and archaeology.
Other times I postulate on the lives of the staff working the dining room – the middle-aged host who flirts with the young ladies and doesn’t need to ask our room number because he remembers all the long-term guests; the station chef who speaks every language but English and has a good sense of humor one can apprehend despite a lack of translation; the tiny man in the kitchen who will gladly give away a recipe if you can transliterate the list of ingredients and preparation; the waitress with the a face so sad I can’t help but suffer her sorrow and the waitress some years older who must be her mother simply due to the same dispirited look; the older waiter who always smiles and generates a sense of hospitality worthy of eating in his own home…oh, and of course, the wine steward who would quickly become my friend over the next two weeks…
Going back to the room to wait for the hubby to return, I sat on the balcony and watched the larks that flew around the building every morning and took note of how crowded it was getting at the Great Synagogue around the corner.
With a few hours to kill before Shabbat lunch, the hubby and I decided to take a walk and explore two of the surrounding neighborhoods – Rehavia and Talbiya. Immediately west of our hotel, Rehavia was designed back in the 1920s to be a garden community with very limited commercial businesses, aside from small specialty shops and cafes. Being primarily residential, Rehavia is prime real estate for those wishing to live within peaceful environs, including the home of the Israeli Prime Minister, currently Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.
Heading southwest down Azza Street and meandering north through the many side streets throughout the area, we took note of the different pedestrian crossing signs – men wearing suits, some with hats and some without and one even carrying a bouquet of flowers, each one having in common unusually long arms. Of course there was graffiti I most definitely would have photographed if not for Shabbat, which I was reminded of as observant Jews walked up and down the streets, children laughing and playing with pre-Purim gifts and masks along the way, only to be drowned out by incredibly loud car stereos splitting the silence of the day…oh, did I mention we planned our trip to coincide with Purim?! Don’t worry…there’s lots of stories for that one coming up…
Finding our way back to Ramban Street, we made our way east toward the hotel to make a “pit stop.” Feeling refreshed, we then headed south toward Yemen Moshe to a place I had read about in one of our tour books – Gan HaPa-amon (a.k.a. Garden of the bell or Liberty Bell Park – as in the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States).
The park is named for a smaller-scaled version of the Liberty Bell that was hung inside the park in 1976, honoring the U.S. centennial. [Side bar – when this bell was dedicated in Jerusalem, I was 11-years-old and visiting Disney World with my family on the 4th of July …that was pretty awesome, I might add]. Slowly finding ourselves back at the hotel for Shabbat lunch, I informed the hubby that I would be walking back to this place the next morning while he davened (prayed) so that I could take photographs and that I wanted pizza for dinner that night because I was really just craving pizza…
Falling asleep briefly after lunch and awakened by the anti-“Bibi” demonstrators at the fountain across the street, I reminded the hubby that I wanted pizza, and we headed toward Ben Yehuda knowing I would find the necessary nutrients my body was demanding…
Stuffed to the gills with enough meat and potatoes and Tuborg to feed a family of four, we waddled our way out the exit. However, before I could even get to Ben Yehuda Street, a beggar approached me and asked (in perfect English) for money. Remembering I had some change in my passportfolio, I unvelcroed the pouch expecting to see those not-so-shiny-coins in the zipper pocket (oh s**t), forgetting about the two brand new 20NILS proudly featuring the face of poet Rachel Goldberg I had also hastily shoved in. Once he saw the first 20NILS, he insisted on my being more generous. Quickly doing the math in my head, “20NILS is about $5.00 U.S.” Okay, so I’d NEVER give that much in the United States, but I was feeling a little charitable that night…and then I discovered the 20NILS was wrapped up with another 20 NILS…and that’s when the beggar haggling began, “If you can give me 20NILS, you can give me 40NILS…”
Okay…so that’s like $10.00 U.S. I must’ve been mad, but all I could think of was, “This guy’s English is really good, so he’s probably an American who made aliyah years ago and has now found himself destitute,” along with the hubby’s mantra of, “You never know which one is Eliyahu (Elijah the prophet who will foretell the coming of the Messiah),” along with my father’s never-ending kindness to those in need. Of course I had to put my own personal spin on this altruistic enterprise, insisting that he not spend the money on drugs or alcohol whatsoever because I will know if he does and that he buy food and other items necessary for his survival…and then I got the list of psychotropic medications he requires to keep himself sane…dammit…and then he said, “Well…maybe just a little beer,” forming his right thumb and forefinger into a small C shape. Okay, he had me there – aside from his haggling skills, I felt for his aliyah status, his need for sustenance and his blatant honesty. That’s when I let go of my two brand new 20NILS proudly featuring the face of poet Rachel Goldberg I had also hastily shoved into my passportfolio zipper pocket…
[Sidebar – remember this guy…]
And I sit there Get stoned Mellow Stoned, feelin’ good Real mellow Dreamin’ After a while, I looked down the bar At the bartender I said, “Hey, what do you want?”
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer – John Lee Hooker
“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump
One of my favorite things about Israel is being able to eat a variety of kosher food unavailable in the United States – although Israeli breakfasts are, by far, my most favorite part of the day.
Salad for breakfast?! Salad for breakfast! Who else does this?! I love salad for breakfast! It’s such a great thing that I watched in astonishment as three grown men hoovered a large portion of the green salad station – watching three grown men eat that much salad is just foreign to my cereal-and-or-scrambled-egg-American-eating-self.
Going back to our room to clean up before heading out to the Old City on a mission to find a pocket-sized Artscroll Chumash (the five books of Moses or Old Testament to Christians)*, I walked out onto the merpeset (balcony), only to find my good ole friend, Mattress Man…but this time he had a partner (November 27, 2017 – Israel: Part V – Just another Shabbat in Jerusalem…)
Although the skies were still cloudy by the time we ventured out, at least the rain took a break long enough for us to search for that Chumash.
Taking our preferred route to the Jewish Quarter, the hubby and I stopped along the way to look at all the new sculptures along the Mamilla Mall.
Adam and Eve in their ultimate shame, sheep aimlessly wandering the stairwells, a baby saying “Hello!” or could it be “Shalom!”?, a brilliant turquoise mother with children in tow, whimsical teddy bears, a lone jazz musician, an Indian chief, the Judgment of Solomon and a random ladder climber. I love the ever changing exhibits every time we come here.
Along the way we came across three brothers playing music. The hubby suggested we were watching the Israeli version of the Jonas brothers. I couldn’t help but think of Tracy Partridge when I saw the boy with a triangle…
Oh…wait…she played a tambourine…never mind…
And then there’s the Breslover Hasidic rock guitarist…
Today’s special, Hotel California. I honestly don’t think he knew any other song that day after walking by him hours later and he was still singing the same song…
Finally making our way to the staircase leading to the Old City, we were blocked by a group of Bnei Akiva students (a religious Zionist youth movement ) dancing and singing for donations to the poor.
Walking through the labyrinth of alleys and streets toward the Kotel, we found the Judaica store that carried the Chumash I was looking for…$61?! Realizing I could order the same book in the U.S. for half the price with free shipping, the hubby and I opted to wander around before heading back to the hotel in time for Shabbat.
So many different kinds of doors, all unique to the people living on the other side.
After visiting the Kotel (a.k.a. the Western Wall or Wailing Wall) I decided we should take a different staircase back up into the Old City, to which the hubby begrudgingly agreed.
I’m sure he wasn’t disappointed with my choice once we got to the overlook…
Navigating our way through the network of narrow streets filled with ancient residential constructions, I again decided we should explore an area never noticed on previous trips that exists beneath the Golden Menorah…
forgotten remains of a church dating back to the German Crusader period. Exploring the ruins, I was befriended by another kitty who escorted me around, revealing the evidence of homeless residents – makeshift bedding, previously lit Shabbat candles, safe storage for belongings among a stalwart archway and a sculpture of the Ten Commandments.
As we exited the church grounds and began our ascent, we discovered IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers giving out food and beverages to the homeless and destitute in order for them to have a Shabbat meal.
One of the most beautiful aspects I love about Israel and its people is the chesed (compassion) given toward one another – an attribute we would witness again and again throughout our voyage.
We paused briefly to observe a Bar Mitzvah boy who was staying at our hotel having his picture taken at the Cardo (an ancient Roman street and marketplace running through the Old City)…and he didn’t look too thrilled…
and then there was the kid carrying a chair on his head…like I said, there’s never a dull moment in Israel!
Looks like Mattress Man might have some competition…
So we had come all this way, over 6000 miles from home, to visit the kid and her first Shabbat during our visit would be spent with Garin Tzabar (Israel – Part Deux: Returning to the originally-planned-before-the-kid -decided-to-make-Aliyah-last-year trip – March 23, 2018).Oh well, I’m sure we’ll find someone else to entertain us…
“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim I had to stop for the night.”
Hotel California – Eagles
“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump
*I made a vow last Rosh Hashanah to study Torah for the entire year. Because Chumashim are so heavy, I didn’t pack one assuming I could easily find it somewhere in Israel – easy but not cheap.
Ornat – Represents people with high verbal expression, understanding and intuition who are gifted, charismatic and kindhearted; who have a tendency to innovate and are dynamic, supportive and understanding; often they think about others and not about themselves; they are kind, sympathetic, generous and supportive and help and direct with confidence; they may be too stubborn and dominant…
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Thanks to our neighbor Hildy’s broken old-school Hebrew and excellent negotiating skills, we managed to share a taxi from the airport to Jerusalem without too much collateral damage to our wallets. Dropping the hubby and me off at our hotel, we wished Hildy and her mom a wonderful visit and waited in the lobby until our room was ready. I reminded the hubby that we NEEDED to stay awake and NOT sleep before nightfall. Anyone who’s traveled long distances knows this fact – when you fly through several time zones in one trip, you need to force yourself onto the host country’s time schedule as soon as you land or you’ll never physically adjust. It’s painful but necessary.
In less than an hour, we were unpacking in the room and convinced ourselves to take a walk in order to resist the Sandman’s evil temptations of slumber. Zombie-eyed we dragged our exhausted bodies out of the hotel in search of food, heading north toward Ben Yehudah…or maybe it was east toward the Old City…or…did we find food at all?! These photos taken along the way tell me it was probably Ben Yehudah…
The horse statue stands in a park where there’s an occasional pop-up craft market and where you can find a mobile lending library – borrow a book and return it at any of the dozens of kiosks located throughout Jerusalem. One of the things I LOVE about Israel is the artistic expression seen around every corner, particularly the graffiti – it’s everywhere and it’s beautiful! The other thing the hubby and I love about Israel is the English translation on street signs – “COATION! TRUCKS CROSSING!” I’m thinking it was a “caution” to others that trucks were crossing; however, it is quite possible that Croatian trucks were crossing as well…?
Next thing I knew, we were passed out in bed back at the hotel…dammit!
Woken up by the buzzing of WhatsApp messages from the kid alerting us of her impending departure from Tel Aviv (i.e. “I’ll be there in about an hour”), the hubby and I were forced to get out of bed. That’s when the hubby found that all-too-familiar envelope attached to a small box of chocolates that was missed once again when unpacking – and that the hubby, once again, took it upon himself to open and read aloud despite being addressed to yours truly (November 12, 2017, Israel: Part I – The path to acceptance) – yup, it was from my hotel boyfriend…and this time I got a free dinner for two (perhaps the hubby wasn’t included in this one?)…
Me: Hmmm…what time is it?!
With barely enough time to hightail it out the door to meet up with the kid, we made a quick pit stop at my boyfriend’s lounge (hey, when it’s free, one must abide!) before heading to the kid’s choice of restaurants, our treat – Crave. Of course I took photos along the way….
Bicycles, feral kitties and orphanages hiding around corners, Hello Kitty hukkahs and marvelous alleyway graffiti…
Ethiopian restaurants, scarcely supplied army/navy surplus shops, costumes waiting for the upcoming holiday of Purim, bill posts dedicated to the Rebbe, street musicians earning their keep and colorful flowers popping out from a local merpeset (porch).
However, my most favorite mural was what we later dubbed “The Cat Wall…”
Never a dull moment…until we realized we had no idea where we were going, which, of course provoked an argument of whose fault it was that we were “lost,” along with the reminder of why the purchase of an Israeli SIM card was imperative ASAP.
Being a man, the hubby refused to ask for directions. I, on the other hand, used whatever elementary Hebrew I could conjure up. Approaching one of the stalls inside the shuk on Machane Yehuda, I asked, “Ayfo Crave? (Where is Crave?)” Thank goodness for the Jews inability to not speak with their hands because my question was answered completely in Hebrew, but I understood where to go simply based on directional hand signals. Just around the corner on a small alleyway street, we found ourselves at the restaurant waiting for the kid to arrive.
This place was an artistic funk palace. Colorful graffiti on all the walls, including black and white portraits of famous rock musicians and playful frames on the bathroom mirror.
On the way back to the hotel after dinner, we caught sight of these gorgeous murals painted on the side of a storefront apartment building.
I was also on a mission to stump a Facebook friend on a can-you-figure-out-what-this-food-item-is-in-the-shuk game…
Kohlrabi – happy to say, my friend was stumped…
And the first of many kitties who knew I was a total sucker…
Back at the hotel, after saying goodbye to the kid until Sunday, I found myself WIDE AWAKE thanks to our little catnap this afternoon. My brain was just not willing to settle down and allow my body some much needed sleep. To make the situation worse, the cord adapter to my cricket chirping sound machine necessary to drown out chronic tinnitus fried when plugged into the electrical outlet, and we had no AA batteries as a backup. I attempted to listen to some classical music on my Amazon kindle as a means of lulling my brain into sleeping but with little to no success. Next thing I knew it was morning…and it was cold…and it was raining…an experience I have never had in Israel before…
“He’s been gone for such a long time (Hey-la-day-la my boyfriend’s back) Now he’s back and things’ll be fine (Hey-la-day-la my boyfriend’s back) You’re gonna be sorry you were ever born (Hey-la-day-la my boyfriend’s back) ‘Cause he’s kinda big and he’s awful strong (Hey-la-day-la my boyfriend’s back)”
My Boyfriend’s Back – The Angels
“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump
The kid: No…you really don’t need to visit at all. I won’t need to see you.
Me: Umm…sorry kid, we’re coming to Israel whether you want to see us or not. If you decide you don’t need to see us, we’ll just have a really nice vacation without you.
So the originally-planned-before-the-kid-decided-to-make-Aliyah-last-year trip was booked by the beginning of July. The consensus (at least between the hubby and me) was that we would visit the kid halfway through her gap year, which landed at the end of February. Of course, despite her confidence, the kid was ready to see us by the time we visited in November (December 12, 2017, Israel: Part III – “Soul to soul”) and probably could’ve used a visit in December and January for that matter…
Way back when, on November 15, 2017, the hubby and I witnessed the kid being told she had ninety days to “change your mind” about making Aliyah with “no consequences,” resulting in a temper tantrum every time we (okay…mostly I) reminded her of this emergency exit loophole. And she reminded us (yeah, okay, mostly me) that there was absolutely…positively…NO…WAY she was rescinding this decision…until she had thirty days left…
By January 15th, after sobbing daily through September and October and maintaining as much control as motherly possible throughout November, by December I was finally capable of accepting the kid’s decision and resigned to the fact that we would live over 6000 miles apart until one of us gave in and returned “home.” But on January 15, 2018, I was challenged with one of THE MOST difficult parenting days of my life…
The kid (sobbing on the phone): I’m so stupid! What was I thinking?! I’ve made a terrible mistake!
Me: You’re killing me…
By the end of that conversation, we had it all figured out. The hubby and I would visit in February, the kid would visit for several weeks during Passover and then she would return home at the beginning of June, forgoing any final exams, since none of her credits would transfer to the U.S. anyway (why stress over it, right?). I’ll admit it – being the mother of an only child, a daughter mind you, I was beyond ecstatic that she was coming home. I couldn’t bear the idea of being separated from her for an unspecified length of time – months, years, perhaps decades. What happens when she gets married and has children? I won’t be there to watch my grandchildren grow on a regular basis and help out annoyingly even when not needed. I wouldn’t be a regular part of her life for long and painful periods of time. Not to mention the army! OMG…I couldn’t even begin to think about my only daughter in combat in a country where conflict is a daily circumstance for its soldiers. And what happens when I get so old I can’t travel anymore?! Will she come back to nurse me on my deathbed? Or will I die alone, forgotten so many thousands of miles away…?
And then I started to panic about what would happen after she returned this summer. Having turned down an acceptance to Drexel University, along with the other eight schools she got into and their generous scholarships, could she get into any other school at this point?! Does she even want to go to college?! Will she work? Can she work?! We’re starting from Ground Zero again…holy shit…
While my brain was taking a ride on the Kingda Ka, the kid was calling her lone soldier* and Nefesh B’Nefesh advisors to discuss her ninety-day term limit and how it would effect any future decisions of returning to Israel. She was informed that, although there was indeed a ninety-day grace period, if her permanent residency and/or citizenship was rescinded and Aliyah not made, she would be considered a draft dodger and not be able to return to Israel without arrest and/or immediate induction into the army. This is when I made the hubby take over the phone calls…
Thankfully, by the end of January, all was right with the world again and the kid was back on track. In a nutshell, the kid didn’t want to fail, her biggest fear being broke and homeless with no social or emotional support. Making Aliyah has been her life plan. Much to my chagrin, there was never any other plan. In an attempt to convince me that her “plan” was to go to this school or that and study whatever seemed like a sure thing for the future, the kid had no desire toward following through (too bad she couldn’t have told us this before we spent thousands of dollars on testing, applications and acceptance fees). All in all, after years of refusing to ask for help from anyone, the kid finally found the massive support system she needed to get her through the day – she was going to stay and finish the Aliyah process. By February 15th, ninety days after declaring her intentions to make Aliyah, the kid was applying for her Israeli passport and became an official Israeli citizen with permanent residency.
So the-originally-planned-before-the-kid-decided-to-make-Aliyah-last-year trip went from an I-won’t-need-to-see-you visit to the interim we-need-to-talk-her-off-the-ledge intervention to the let’s-celebrate-this-amazing-woman’s-journey journey.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 – EWR (a.k.a Newark Liberty International Airport)
Thanks to the learning curve of monosyllabic responses, we breezed through check-in and security without incident…and then our flight was delayed 1 hour and 15 minutes…dammit…
So we entertained ourselves with free wifi, eavesdropping on nearby conversations and foraging for whatever kosher food the terminal had to offer…until the cops showed up…well, two police officers to be exact, who had a strange resemblance to Mutt and Jeff…
While “Mutt” brandished his firearm and loudly threatened little old men because they “abandoned” their luggage while attempting to daven Mincha (afternoon prayers), “Jeff” slipped away before being associated with Manic Mutt. Several different men unsuccessfully tried to explain the situation to Mutt – the men were praying and Mr. Mutt was being downright rude for interrupting their service, the baggage was not “abandoned” and, quite honestly, at over 6′ 5″ tall and pure muscle, Mr. Mutt was absolutely scary. Some of the older gentlemen were Holocaust survivors and scenes from WWII Nazi films flashed through my mind. I’m not sure what convinced Manic Mutt to finally relinquish his post, but we were all glad to be rid of him. I briefly chatted with an older woman who was heading to Israel to visit her children and grandchildren and agreed to watch her baggage while she visited the little ladies room lest Manic Mutt should return.
Climbing into our Israeli Time Machine, we finally began the originally-planned-before-the-kid-decided-to-make-Aliyah-last-year trip. Having booked our flight back in July, the hubby managed to reserve two seats in Economy Plus – a row of three seats that have no seats in front. The only downfall to these seats is that you’re on the wing (which can be quite noisy) and you have to promise the flight crew that you’ll “take charge” if the plane should crash…gulp…
Our take charge crash buddy was named “Bella,” a woman our age who was going to Israel ahead of her husband who would be flying the following week so they could visit four of their eight children and more than half of their twenty grandchildren shown to me in hundreds of photos stored on her cell phone while she ate constantly because it helped with her motion sickness…and the “conversation” continued for more than half the 10-hour flight until she literally talked herself to sleep. I can’t complain – she actually made the time go quickly and was quite amusing.
The only other downfall to Economy Plus is that the space in front of you is a social hub. Being a social butterfly myself, this is certainly not a downfall. I thoroughly enjoy meeting people from all walks of life and hearing their stories about why they are flying to Israel. There was our neighbor Hildy and her mom who we discovered the week before would be on the same flight. She was going to visit her daughter who had been in the same army program as the kid and was instrumental in helping talk the kid off that ledge of potential failure. There was the Russian woman who made Aliyah years ago with her parents and now resides in Brooklyn, her parents remaining in Israel. She was traveling with her son who was also born in Israel. Together they were heading to Afulah for her father’s funeral. There was Shirley who was born in Israel and attempted to live in Brooklyn where her family’s textile business was located; however, she returned to Israel because she and her father didn’t get along and now has two sons. In between all this frivolity, two separate minyanim (Jewish prayer services) were held, one in the galley in the back of the plane and the other in front of our seats, as I wondered how the pilots adjust to the sudden weight changes within the cabin. Then there was the flight crew – post-military Millenials with the attitudes to match, the one male who viciously bit his nails during take off and landing, refusing to assist passengers with their luggage and to whom all the fashionably coordinated female attendants giggled and swooned over.
Aside from the “oozy juice” pouring from the freezer and splattering all over the fashionably coordinated female attendants while the cute nail-biting resistor laughed, the flight was fairly uneventful…
When you try your best but you don’t succeed When you get what you want but not what you need When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep Stuck in reverse
Fix You – Coldplay
“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump
*A “lone soldier” refers to any foreign soldier with no family ties in Israel. The kid is currently involved with the Garin Tzabar program – https://www.garintzabar.org/
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 ninetimes! 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