Monday, July 9, 2007

Sunday, July 8

We finally stopped this morning and checked out this really cool playground that I have been eyeing. It is in south Netanya and it has a huge wood climbing structures. It also has exercise equipment that is colorful and suitable for kids. Our kids gave themselves quite a workout. That turned out to be a fun little trip. Then we met Sami and her kids at the Wingate Institute. Happy Birthday to Mati. Our quirky pink guidebook told us that there is Jewish Sports Hall of fame there, and to call ahead for admission. So Donna called and was told to tell them at the gate that we were guests of Effie and to come into the administration building. We had passed by Wingate Institute many times as it is right off the highway, just South of Netanya, but we had no idea what it was. So it turns out that Effie is the head of PR, and he gave us a private tour of Wingate, which is the primary athletic training facility in Israel. Wingate runs all of the sports education training programs for teachers, runs youth sports programs, and is the home base of the Israeli athletes training for the Olympics. All of the Olympic athlete’s medical care is run through Wingate, and many athletes train on site. Effie brought us to the gym where the women’s volleyball team was practicing. Their goal is to be in the Olympics in 2012 and to win the gold in 2016. So in ten years we can say that we saw them way back when... The gymnasts train in Tel Aviv, so we did not get to check them out (though Maayan did see Israel’s top male gymnast last week when she was working out in Tel Aviv). The Wingate facility is colored by the tragic loss of eleven Israeli athletes at the Olympics in Munich. Many of the athletes had trained at Wingate, and the murdered coaches were all on staff there. In the middle of the campus is a memorial to those athletes, one of the buildings is named the Hall of Eleven, and reminders of the tragedy are throughout. So after an extensive and very interesting tour of the campus, Effie took is the to the un-air-conditioned Hall of Fame, where we cheeked out bios of Jewish athletes from the 1700’s until 2005, and saw some memorabilia including a Sandy Koufax jersey, and lots more tributes to the Munich 11.

After our tour, we all drove over to a nearby mall and shopping area (how strange it will be to go the mall without having the car and purses searched first). We had a yummy lunch and ran a few errands, culminating in a trip to the only Ikea store in Israel. It is huge. And I mean huge. And it is set up so that you have to walk through the entire store if you walk in at all. Near the entrance there is a play area a movie theater so that you can dump the kids. If you choose to take them with you there are play areas interspersed throughout, as well as puppet shows, clowns, and a kosher restaurant at the end for a reward after you make it through. For me, it was a living hell – a big store with no exit in sight. And a crying kid. But the other six kids enjoyed trying out all of the furniture.

We came back to the apartment to pack, and the kids and Donna went down the street to a place called Mini-Golf to play mini-golf. But it turned out that Mini-Golf is just a restaurant, no golf to be found. So they played soccer and did gymnastics instead. We all went to the kikar for dinner (again, ice cream followed by falafel/shwarma and corn) and said our goodbyes to the kikar. It is sad, we will miss this place.

Tomorrow we will say good-bye to Donna (sniff, sniff), and then load up and go to Renana and hang out with the Hartsteins. They are going to take us to the airport. Being with them will make a hard day much easier. This trip has been an education for us all – from map reading and driving, to Zionism, to ancient history and the history of medinat Yisrael, to archeology, to a language course, to a hiking and fitness experience, to opening ourselves to different cultures, to baseball in a foreign land. Such richness. We have to work at insuring that these experiences do not fade, but become a part of us and our life in America. We have been blessed. Wish us a niseyah tovah.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Shabbat, July 7

We had a very nice Shabbat of davening at home, reading, games, and a nice long evening walk in the park. Having Donna with us was a real pleasure – it made the day go so much faster. We are starting to think about the things that we are going to miss when we leave.
Noah: IBL, shwarma, the kotel, seeing signs in Hebrew
Naomi: Donna, the apartment, all the cute dogs, the kotel
Eitan: IBL, the kotel, all the cool Jewish history, Caesarea
Ilana: our favorite restaurant with the big huge couscous, the apartment, the pizza, and the meatballs
Sima: traffic circles, the freedom that the kids have, the hustle and bustle late into the night, all the beautiful places we have been, learning Hebrew, kosher food everywhere, and especially Pizza Hut delivery

Things we will not miss: traffic, cats, dirt, lack of air conditioning, people yelling at us, small washing machines, clothespins, the ElDan rental

By the way, the dogs here are the ugliest I have ever seen. They are little and mutts and they are the strangest combinations of features. Truly unattractive. But Naomi loves them; she has a very big heart. There are also stray cats everywhere. They are like squirrels.

Friday, July 6

This morning Donna went to Tel Aviv to meet a friend, and the Oberlander’s cleaned the apartment for Shabbat before heading to Maayan’s Bat Mitzvah party. The party was just outside of Jerusalem at a moshav called Yad Hashmona. It was a lovely venue. The directions to get here were something like this. Get off at the Chemed interchange, go and do a U-turn and get back on the highway going the other way. Get off at the gas station, go behind the gas station and turn left and then follow the road till you get there – and we made it without one wrong turn! The guests were mostly Jacqueline’s family, the food was delicious, and Sami gave a very nice speech, though it was in Hebrew and we didn’t really understand. Then we drove back to Netanya and the drive was a pleasure. Fridays there is no traffic, and we blasted Sarit Hada the whole way. Donna was already back at the apartment and got ourselves ready for Shabbat. the kids are so excited to have the Israeli version of pigs in blanket – here it is called Moshe b’teva. Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Thursday, July 5

I won’t bore you with all the driving stories from today: turns we couldn’t make, streets we missed, times we couldn’t turn around, etc. Suffice it to say we spent alot of time in transit but did not hit anything, and Donna was sick of driving and she wasn’t driving. We left the house at 7:45am, and just returned at 10:30 pm. So where were we?

Our first stop was the Palmach museum in Tel Aviv. It is an experiential museum that takes you through the story of one fictional Palmach brigade from 1941 to 1948. The story is presented mostly through film, and with lots of special effects. As you walk from one room to the next you are singing by a campfire, on a long training hike, blowing up bridges, on a boat etc. The museum got rave reviews, but I think that something was lost in translation (all of the dialog is in Hebrew and they give you these little telephone things that translate some of the narrative, but most of the dialog is not translated). The kids liked it because it was cool – I thought that it wasn’t very substantive. Donna and Ilana skipped this part – Donna has already been twice, and Ilana would have been bored silly.

Next we headed to Rehovot and the Ayalon Institute. This was the code name for an operation that ran from 1943-1945 in which a group of people who were working to start a kibbutz were recruited to produce bullets in a secret, underground factory. Above the factory was a working kibbutz. The factory was accessed through a laundry on one end and a bakery on the other. The secret of the factory was kept so well that only the kibbutznicks who worked in it knew it existed. They had all kinds of elaborate ruses to trick the other kibbutznicks who were on the kibbutz; they thought that this group worked in agriculture in a far away field. The secret was kept for many years, long after the Israel was a state and the factory had been moved above ground, and the workers had gone on to start their own kibbutz, Maagan Micha’el. We toured the laundry, saw the secret passage to the factory, and then entered the restored factory through the bakery. It is an unbelievable story. They even did laundry for the British soldiers in the very washing machine that covered the entrance to the factory.

Next stop, a water park in Holon where we met the cousins. Maayan went to a gym to work out, and the rest of the kids slid and swam for several hours. We headed out at dinner time and stopped at Yarkon Field to watch the Ranana Express v. the Petach Tivkvah Pioneers and eat Burgers Bar. I told the kids that they could collect 2 foul balls for the family – that they should not be greedy, as there were more kids at the game this time and I thought it fair that everyone get a ball (after all, we already have 4 from last game). At the end of the game as the kids were getting balls signed, a player asked if any kid did not have a ball. Noah and Ilana were holding ours so Eitan raised his hand and the player gave him one. Naomi also said that she didn't have one, so a player gave her his wristband, but some other kid snatched it. The guy then took pity on her and gave her a bat (it was cracked). She was the envy of every kid there! It turned out that the guy who gave her the bat had just acquired it during the game, he had swapped bats with a teammate named Scott, whose mom had been sitting near us. Both guys signed the bat for Naomi, and they all took a photo together (Scott’s mom is going to e-mail it to me).

Kids fell asleep in the car. We are home and tired. Lila tov.

Wednesday, July 4

I clipped a bus today. Just a tiny bit. There is a little scratch on the side view mirror, hardly noticeable. The bus driver yelled at me. The check out lady at Supersol Deals (the equivalent of Sam’s Club) yelled at me too. A woman yelled at Noah in the Supersol justifiably, he was pushing the cart around a corner too fast, and a six pack of 1.5 liter bottles flew off the bottom of the cart and hit her in the leg.

Other highlights of the day had a naval theme. We drove to Haifa (the train turned out to be too much of a hassle) and went to the National Maritime Museum and the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum. The former was pretty dry and filled with screaming campers (Naomi was mistaken as one of them by a madrich and herded to the group). They had many model ships on display, strangely enough they also had bios of the people who built the models. On display were some very cool very old maps, and some ancient relics from the sea. They also had an exhibit on pirates. We made it there for about 45 minutes and then headed next door to the much more interesting clandestine naval museum. This museum is the equivalent of Latrune for ships, and with shade. In the back lots of old boats, boat missiles, torpedoes, and boat guns, and even a mock up a sub control room complete with working periscope are on display; you can climb on almost everything. The also have on display a boat that carried ma’apilim, and a movie about the ma’apilim that we could not stay to watch. Inside they have various artifacts from the navy and stories of many battles at sea. We were very impressed by the resourcefulness of the navy – they reused parts of ships that they had captured to build new ships, recycled missiles, etc.

Then we tried unsuccessfully to get lunch in Haifa (that’s when I clipped the bus). We wound up driving down to Caesarea to visit Eitan’s favorite ruins at eat at the beautiful restaurant in Old Caesarea where we ate the first day of our trip. On the way to Caesarea we had a brief detour near Atlit – we saw a castle like ruin from the road, protruding out into the sea, and tried to drive to it but wound up at a military base. So we left that ruin unexplored.

We then had our next great adventure at the Supersol Deals, which is an equivalent to Sam’s Club. We bought lots of hard salami and dried meat to bring home – it is so much cheaper here – as well as teddy bear and dino shaped chicken nuggets and our favorite yogurts. And we made it out alive.

We decided to have ice cream for dinner at this delicious looking ice cream place in the kikar, Tony’s Ice. Noah and Eitan had shwarma for dessert, and then all the kids had corn on the cob for an after dinner treat. We bought the corn from the corn man on the street and I was shocked to find that the corn was 7 shekels each. So I paid 7 bucks for corn that would have cost one dollar at home. But with the savings on the salami, I think we still broke even.

I am appreciating our home base in Netanya more and more each day. Not only is it well situated geographically, it is also so kid friendly. The rides and activities and food in the kikar are all just a short walk away and in a relatively contained area that gives the kids lots of room to run and explore and be independent. Noah and Eitan feel totally comfortable going to buy shwarma by themselves, the kids go into the makolet to get their own drinks, they can walk around on their own. despite the traffic and grime, this was definitely a good choice.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tuesday, July 3

Today we took to the North, heading first to Nahal Me’arot, a national park in the Carmel mountains south of Haifa. The park is a large reserve with many caves, some of which were found to have evidence of early man (from about 20,000 years ago). The mountain was formed from a coral reef -- the entire area used to be under the sea. When the Carmel mountains were pushed up from the earth, the rock from the reef and the caves were exposed. The park ranger directed us up some stairs, toward the biggest cave, and told us to push the button for English when we get to the cave; there is a movie. By the way, there was no one else in the park and we had to get the ranger from her office to let us in, which should have been a sign. We got far enough in the cave to see some coral fossils in the cave wall and find the button for English. A big booming voice started speaking, and lights flashed on part of the cave wall. We could hear animals that sounded like bats squeaking from inside the vacuous cave, and it was very dark inside except for the lights that illuminated different sections as the booming voice described various parts of the cave. Absolutely no one else was around. The kids went running out of the cave in terror, and Donna and I weren’t so keen on going in either so we made a quick change of plans and did a hike instead. It was supposed to be a short easy hike, but it was probably the hardest one we have done. It went up, around, and down a very rocky mountain and involved some real climbing. We had to carefully follow the trail markers – it was easy to get off course. Ilana was again a little mountain goat and we all took turns helping her, and the weather was relatively cool, so it was a good hike.

After the hike we drove to the Atlit detention camp, where Jews who tried to enter Palestine illegally (ma’apilim) were held by the British. The camp was in use by the British from about 1933 until 1948. Donna (thank goodness for Donna!) had called ahead and found out that there was an English speaking tour group coming, and we joined them for the tour. The tour guide gave us a brief history and of the camp, and then took us into the disinfection barracks where incoming ma’apilim were stripped and sprayed with DDT. Their clothes were steamed, and they were taken to the living barracks. Men and women were separated, but could leave their barracks area and meet once a day on the center road through the camp, which they called the “Boardwalk.” The kids thought it was very sad that families were separated couldn’t imagine having to live apart from their dad (kids under 13 stayed with the women). Three barracks buildings have been restored, and one is furnished as the barracks were them and contains some original carvings made by the ma’apilim into the wood of the barrack wall. They also showed us a movie about the Palmach liberation of ma’apilim who were in the camp (I think in 1946), and who were about to be deported. The Palmach snuck in several of their members as Hebrew teachers; their job was to prep the inmates. Under cover of darkness two Palmach units cut the fence, and the members inside woke the ma’apilim. In about 15 minutes they got all 210 ma’apilim out, and began a walk over Mount Carmel to kibbutz Beit Oren. They walked through the night, but were discovered by a British jeep. The British came to collect the ma’apilim at kibbutz Beit Oren. But when the British arrived, they found that hundreds of residents of Haifa had come down to the kibbutz and surrounded it, so that the British could not get to the ma’apilim -- they in effect formed a human protective barrier. An incredible story, and of course I cried. The guide also showed us a sample of the database that is being compiled of the stories and history of the ma’apilim. It was a very moving experience – we all were touched by the trials and the strength of the ma’apilim who made it to Eretz Israel.

Next on the agenda was a walk through a Roman aqueduct outside of Binyamina. The aqueduct was constructed about 2000 years ago to bring water from the natural springs in the Alon area to the important port of Caesarea. The aqueduct was originally 23 kilometers long and ran both below and above ground. The part below ground, where we were, was originally constructed using access holes dug about every 50 meters to the required depth of the aqueduct. Then a narrow, arched tunnel was dug through the rock from hole to hole. The tour takes you on a walk down about 150 meters of the aqueduct tunnel. The depth of water ranged from just a few centimeters to waist high on an adult. Apparently during the winter, the water level can be several feet higher, basically filling the channel. As we walked, we could see original chisel marks and little alcoves where the diggers put candles to provide light for them to work. There is even a spot where the Romans started to curve the aqueduct (the cut out is there) but the rock was too hard, so they continued digging in the original direction, and made the curve about 5 meters later. At the end we were wet and happy, and ready for glida. Line of the day: as the water first rose to waist high, Naomi yells out “this is the time to go to the bathroom!”

Now we are back at the apartment for a brief rest, and tonight we are gong back to our favorite restaurant, Merrakesh, and then to the kikar to enjoy the bouncing things, bungee ropes, and arts and crafts.

The kids have been fantastic – they are living history lessons and really appreciating their experiences. They loved Atlit and were more attentive and involved than many of the adulates on the tour. And they are applying and remembering their experiences. In the aqueduct the guide pointed out a place where water was seeping through, and they asked if the rock was limestone as they have learned that limestone is porous. They have learned how to follow trail markers on a hike, and they know which direction they are headed by the order of the colored stripes (thanks, Donna). They are thinking and putting pieces together, it is really rewarding. Though today especially, they missed their dad and his encyclopedic knowledge of history. They know that they could have soaked up even more if he had been with us!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Monday, July 2 – Yokenam!!

We were out the door by 7:30 am to meet Orit from Etgarim by the side of the road just outside Zichron Yaakov. We followed her to Yokneam, which is in a beautiful green, hilly area. We drove through what I believe are the outskirts of Yokeam, passing through some neighborhoods of mid sized homes with land (yards are hard to find in many cities here) interspersed with animal sheds and crumbling buildings. Eventually we reached a JNF park area. On the dirt road into the park, we hit a construction delay (always construction!) but made it to the park well before the gan was scheduled to arrive. We met the madrichim from Etgarim, Gilad and Pasha, and their supervisor Sharon. Noah and Eitan tried out the zip line, which went up about 25 feet and all seemed to be in working order. The gan arrived, ten kids with three teachers, and we all did the program together. These kids had been working with Etgarim every two weeks for the school year. This was their end of the year activity; most of the time the ropes are set up on trees near their gan. The kids were ages 3-7. Pasha had been the madrich of the kids all year and the were so excited to see him and so affectionate, and he was just as happy to see them. They clearly have a special bond. The other regular madrich had started a summer course and could not be there but Gilad and Sharon were immediately enthusiastic and involved, as were the gan’s teachers. Together, kids and adults, they were a team.

So the program was like this. We did an intro activity all together, and then we divided into two groups – one for the zip line and one for the ropes course. Ilana, Eitan, and Naomi did all the activities with the kids. Even Ilana did the zip line! Noah helped to spot the kids on the ropes course. Then we all made pita together (much like at Eretz Bereshit), and we went on a te’ul down a wooded path, past a few caves and a spring. The kids all took turns playing and splashing in the water, and running around and listening to their echos in the under the large rock overhangs. It was work to keep the kids all on course, but their joy was infectious. Donna was especially engaged with the kids in the gan, she has a natural talent with children (proof—she can manage mine). Gilad showed the Oberlander kids some other fun things along the way, such as a tunnel that ran parallel to the path but was covered by arches of what looked like hay, a log on which to walk across the spring, various small caves and cutouts in the rock, and after the gan kids had left a spring pool that was under a rock overhang and had a cave in the back. Naomi, Eitan, and Ilana all explored that area thoroughly with Pasha and were soaked and happy. The Oberlander kids had fun, and are still talking about how cute the kids were.

During the first part of the program, more and more people started showing up: Arkady the partnership 2000 Yokneam coordinator, the regional director of Etgarim, a representative from Yokneam’s education department, the Israeli JFed of St. Louis oversight person, and a couple of women I think from the Jewish Agency. To me (and to Noah) it seemed to be getting a bit ridiculous. Orit was insistent that this was a big deal for Etgarim; if I understood correctly they had not been matched before through Partnership 2000 tzedakah projects. They do most of their fundraising in Israel. Also, they were very touched by what the boys had done – starting an organization was to them something very special. We had some time to chat with all of these folks. We learned that Yokenam has 48 total gans, 4 of them serve kids with specials needs, and the gan that we were with today serves the most severely affected children. Lily, one of the teachers, also told us because of the challenges that these particular kid face, they do not get to experience outdoor activities such as these very often. She spoke passionately about how important these activities are to the kids’ development. From the Yokneam rep, we learned that the population of Yokneam has quadrupled in the recent years, and 80% of its population is 40 years old or younger. I had always pictured it as a development town down on its luck, but that it clearly not the case anymore. From Arkady we learned that we were not the only St. Louisans to visit Yokneam in the last week: the Green Family was there, the Serota family was there just a couple of days ago working on another tzedakah project, and five teens just arrived as shlichim for the summer camps. Apparently a couple of those kids knew us (maybe from Ladue) and wanted to come today but could not miss camp. We also had some good conversations with the other JFed and Jewish Agency folks. The reps did their jobs – we left feeling very connected to Yokneam and its residents, and feeling very good about the Yokneam community. Etgarim presented Noah, David, and Atian a packet and certificate, Yokneam education department gave them each a Bar Mitvah present of a tallis/tefillin case, and somebody (I’ve lost track of who) gave our family a couple of books about Yokneam and about Israel and some T-shirts for Naomi, Eitan, and Ilana. We will be packing an extra bag to bring all of it home. And it was very nice to have Donna with us for all of it; it was more of a community event.

After leaving Yokenam, we stopped in Zichron Yaakov for lunch. We were hoping to get to the First Aliyah museum, but by the time we finished lunch it was too late. So we walked around a bit and then headed out. On our way our of town we drove into Kibbutz Maayan Tzvi which shares the same hill with Zichron, and where Sima stayed for five months in 1988. It is still has the same breathtakingly beautiful view that it had then, but a few other things have changed. The dorm and all of the other buildings in the area where Sima lived have been knocked down, and they are in the midst of all kids of construction. It looks like they are building single family homes –an area of private housing on the kibbutz land. The views are incredible, the location fantastic, and the houses look very nice. Mike, are you interested?

Naomi’s highlight of the day – she found a license plate by the side of the road in the park in Yokneam. She loves it and has washed it off and is taking it home with her. Wait until Daniel Fredman sees this one!

Only in Israel story of the day: While we were in Yokneam, El Dan the rental car company called and told me that though they know I have rented the car until the 9th, I have to bring in the car today and exchange it for another. OK. I don’t ask any questions and I tell them that I can do it in Netanya between 3 and 4 pm. Then they call back and say that I have to go to Petach Tikvah to make the exchange. I tell them no. They say OK. When they call a third time I am beginning to get curious about what is actually wrong with this car that I am driving and why they need it so badly. They assure me that it is safe, and the best I can figure out from them is that the registration expires tomorrow. So I take the car to the office in Netanya, and they tell me that because the gas tank is only half full I am going to get charged extra. I told them that I was doing them a favor and I was not going to pay any extra to fill up the car. So they called the boss, and he agreed that they would fill it up at gas station price, and made a note of it on my contract. Then I went home and parallel parked the car with only inches to spare on both sides. I took a picture. I felt very Israeli. And by the way, El Al has still not found our car seat.

Back in Netanya, we met Elisa and the kids. We strolled along the promenade, played in the parks, and had dinner in the kikar. The girls did various dancing and gymnastics moves everywhere we went – they were so fun to watch. The time flew by, we said goodnight. Now everyone is clean and well-fed, and hopefully going to bed. Goodnight!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sunday, July 1

Today was a day of caves. First we drove to a stalagtite cave on a big hill overlooking Beit Shemesh. We were driving on our own, without Donna, as we were meeting Sami and the kids and Donna there. We made it no problem through Tel Aviv and Beit Shemesh (Noah was excited to drive through Beist Shemesh, now he has been to the home city of every IBL team) and made it to the sign that directed us from the last highway to the cave, which according to the directions was supposed to be a turn “into the driveway.” After twisting our way up a mountain for several miles, I pulled over to call Sami and make sure we were on the right track. No cell signal. I looked at the map, and saw that the road we were taking was leading us to within a couple of km of the territories. So I decided to turn around and head down the mountain and get a cell signal. Once down, I got in touch with Sami and Donna and realized I had been about 500m from the entrance to the park where the cave is. So back up the mountain we went. And then back down the mountain we went, down about 200 steps to get to the cave entrance. Before entering the cave, we were shown a movie that unintentionally made us laugh by using lots of scientific terms and explaining the rules of the cave, including the rule that photography is forbidden every day except Fridays. The cave was amazing – we learned about all kinds of cave formations and how they are formed, and on our tour of the cave they showed us formations that looked like Moses on Mt. Sinai, smurfs and their mushroom smurf house, a wizard, a crocodile, little mermaid, snow white and the seven dwarves, a giant’s feet and finger, broccoli, a princess in a castle and much more. Then we headed back up the hundreds of steps to the car, Ilana whining for ice cream the entire way.

We then visited a small memorial to the space shuttle Challenger that was right by the park entrance,, and stopped by a section of the Old Burma Road. When Latrune and the Jerusalem/Tel Aviv highway were under Jordanian control from 1948-1967, Jews could not get supplies to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. So they built a secret road, out of the range of Jordanian guns, that they used to get food and water to Jerusalemites. This was the Burma Road, really more of a dirt track. We ate lunch in an area that was supposedly next to a section of it, there really wasn’t a marker or anything. Thank goodness for our quirky guidebook, which points out spots such as this as well as locations and times for Israeli dancing in every city across the country.

From there we went to Sataf. Sataf is a not so long hike down the side of a mountain and to a reconstruction of ancient farming techniques among some ruins. The JNF oversees the area, and they have planted terraces with irrigations trenches and are growing squash, what looked like corn, and a variety of other crops. The entire agricultural area is shaded by trees, many of them fig trees, and there are two old cisterns that contain water from natural springs. Of course, people were swimming in them despite a large swimming prohibited sign. One of the springs can be followed back to its source in a cave that is accessible by a very narrow tunnel with a small trickle of water flowing through it. It was a very dark but short trek into that cave; Mati’s big flashlight guided us well. The trip in was fun and involved lots of good family teamwork balancing lights and footholds, but the cave itself smelled like BO from the 20 yeshiva boys that been crammed in there before us and we did not stay long. Then a hike back up and finally GLIDA! My favorite image – we are sitting eating glida on these comfy chairs and cushions at the snack shop overlook and I look up and see a very messy Eitan chasing a ream of napkins being blown by the wind (he had gotten them to clean up, but dropped them all).

The Oberlanders plus Donna then headed back to Netanya. Donna and I got brave and tried an alternate route to minimize traffic, but we discovered that in Israel at 5:00 there is always traffic. It took two hours to get back to Netanya. The kids and I went to the kikar for dinner and had French pastry for dessert (lots of French here). Donna stayed home as she is not feeling great (don’t worry Dorit, we are taking care of her and she is already feeling much better). It is a beautiful cool night, the weather did finally break, so we were able to walk around and comfortably enjoy the evening. The kikar is like a street fair at night, with little kiosks set up, some selling things, some for paining and other crafts for kids, and they even have a few big inflatable jumpy things and a few other rides. The highlight of the evening – as we were leaving the kikar, having eaten and bounced our fill, we saw the Na Na Nachman van! It has been one of my personal goals for the trip to see the Nachman guys jump out and dance, and we got very excited until we realized that they were not going to dance, they were just blasting music from the van and selling things. Maybe next time....

We are now back at the apartment -- there is more music blasting this time from an outdoor wedding at the hotel across the street with an overly loud DJ. Hope that the kids and Donna can get some rest; Noah and I plan on walking back to the kikar to use the free wireless and post this. We are waking up early tomorrow to go to Yokneam! Lila tov.

Alert from the kikar!! The Nachman guys are dancing now! The crowd is joining in!

Shabbat, June 30

We had kabbalat Shabbat in the apartment, led very nicely by the children, and then ate our take out dinner. After dinner Eitan threw up violently. We called it a night. Shabbat morning the kids did not want to go to the shul in the hotel across the street, so I went by myself at 9:45 thinking I’d catch the last 45 minutes or so of shul. Walking into shul, I decreased the average age of attendees significantly, but shul was basically over. They really know how to daven fast here. I came home to find the kids davening, very loudly and enthusiastically. Their loud enthusiastic behavior continued long after davening was over and I eventually had to send them outside to our little patch of grass to play “World’s Strongest Man” with a six-pack of 1.5 liter water bottles. Thankfully, Sami and the kids showed up in the late afternoon and we all headed down to the beach. The water was unbelievably rough, but the beach was packed with Shabbat beachgoers. While sitting in the sand, we were buzzed by two motorcycles, a jeep, and a horse. The horse and rider (bareback, in a bathing suit) then galloped over to the stairs and gracefully climbed the cliff (next to the stairs, not on them). You never know what you’ll see if you sit on the beach long enough.... We all came back up and ate dinner, and after havdalah, Sami and the kids headed back to Jerusalem. It was a bit strange, to celebrate Shabbat in Israel by ourselves, without a community, but all in all it was a good day.