Hands down the highlight of today was seeing our cousins! (Actually, our nieces and nephew, and of course our sister who arrived in Israel yesterday.) We began our day going to Eretz Bereishit (Land of Genesis) – a place out in the Judean hills in between Allon and Kfar Adumim that is set up to be like Abraham and Sarah’s time. When we arrived, Sami and her kids and mother-in-law had just pulled up and Naomi shrieked, “Let me out of this van this instant! I want to see my cousins right now!”
We walked into a tent and we were met by Eliezer; Abraham’s most trusted servant. It was the 7 of us, Sami and her family and one other family from Detroit (with an incredibly loud and obnoxious kid). Eliezer explained his relationship to Abraham, their trip from Ur Kasdim to the land of Canaan, etc. He then offered us “clothes” to wear when we went back in time. We then went outside and many of us mounted camels for the trip to Abraham’s tent. Mike walked with Ilana, but everyone else rode (that’s right, everyone – including Sami’s mother-in-law). When we got to Abraham’s tent we were brought water with these strange clear little rocks that made the water cold and some dates, apricots and raisins. We were told that Abraham was off negotiating a treaty with Lot’s shepherds and some other interesting stories. We then went outside where there was a fire going and the kids used balls of dough to make raw pita; Eliezer then put those on the round metal on the fire and made pita for everyone. We (except Mike and Ilana – there was nothing going to get Mike on one of those animals, or Ilana either) then rode camels back. We learned a lot on the trip back, like that camels can drink 200 liters of water in 3 minutes and store fat in their humps. Once the camels where back down on the ground, Ilana jumped on for a quick picture. There was still nothing to get Mike on the camel.
After Eretz Bereishit, we came back to the hotel and met Sami. We wanted to be back so early because we wanted to make sure that we were able to park the car. Many of the streets in Jerusalem were being blocked off during the day in preparation for the Gay Pride Parade (more on that later). We then walked to the center of town to buy more souvenirs (a shofar for Eitan was the big prize for the day – he can make some sounds), shawarma and falafel. Donna, Mike, Noah and Eitan then went visit a Sofer (ritual scribe) to discuss buying Noah his tefillin. The Sofer is out of the country, his son who is getting married in a couple of weeks was not interested in helping us, and the other employee there decided that maybe he could talk to us for a few minutes. Turns out he knows our friends Michael and Selina Rovinsky and is related to the Nitsuns. We will call the Sofer from the US and buy Noah’s tefillin via phone/Internet.
We all then got back together and Donna took the kids back to the hotel to swim and we and Sami walked around looking for souvenirs for Sima (we bought a few). We saw a beautiful havdala set; it was only 45,000 NIS (that’s about $11,000). We decided to wait for a nicer one and moved on. (Actually, it was 1 of 50 made by an artist and 2 of them are on display in Museums in Germany and Chicago.)
We came back to the hotel walking down the middle of Keren Hayesod (usually an extremely busy street) as it was closed to traffic for the parade. We hung out with the cousins and waited for the parade. Turns out that the parade was supposed to cross in front of the hotel but the route was changed to a block away. We went over to see it, and there really wasn’t all that much to see. 8,000 police (including border patrol) to control a crowd of several thousand folks. The scary thing is that some guy who claims to be “religious” was caught trying to plant an “improvised explosive device” along the parade route. Whatever one may feel about the parade, the folks in the parade or what they do in private or public, we just can’t understand how someone who claims to be religious could do something that could kill people (perhaps us!).
We then tried to go to dinner, got blocked a few times, but ended up getting to Norman’s – this place we have heard a lot about (some good, some bad). Norman’s is “famous” for its “sumoburger”; an entire kilo of hambuger (2.2 pounds!). If you eat the whole thing (130 sheks; approx. $30), you get a t-shirt and free refills on your drinks and you get your name in a book. Mati (our nephew) got some burger that had a name that was “only” 500g (it was huge). He ate almost the whole thing, and took the little left with him to eat on the way to the car. Sami and her kids left as it was getting really late. Our take on Norman’s? Good food, a bit pricey, too many Americans (including the waitstaff) and the service was so bad that it alone could keep us from going back.
We then made our way back to the hotel and the kids crashed. We go to the Gersons’ tomorrow and we hope we can blog before Shabbat.
(We forgot to say that we went to Little Italy last night – a restaurant recommended by the Harsteins – thank you for the recommendation!)