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.