Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sunday July 17, 2011 - Last day

I let the kids sleep in the morning to try to get them started back towards home time, and then we got all packed up. Somehow, we cannot fit into the suitcases we came in and we have had to make a few adjustments. We will be leaving with lots of carry-ons...
When we finally got our act together, we headed out for one last sivuv of some of our favorite shopping spots -- Ben Yehuda, Machane Yehuda, Yoel Solomon Street. We got excellent falafel/schwarma from Moshiko on Ben Yehuda, and as Ilana was eating she looked up at me with a bloody mouth and said "did I lose my tooth?" And she finally did lose it, it has been loose since we arrived, and as it was no where to be found it is either on the street, or more likely, in her belly with her delicious schwarma! We had the great pleasure of bumping into Tova on Jaffa street, so we sat down to chat and have a cool drink with her before we set off for HaSofer, the tallis and tefillin shop, for Noah to do a little shopping. He needed a new tallis/tefillin bag, and he also wanted tefidanit, a more protective case for his tefillin. The store didn't carry them, but a young man standing at the counter said, I have them right here and I want to get rid of them, do you want them? And he sold them to Noah for 50 nis, quite a bargain. Only in Israel! After all of our last minute shopping was done, we took a bus back to the apartment, showered and cleaned up, and went to dinner in Emek Refaim. The kids then went back to the apartment to watch some TV, and I took one last walk over to Yemin Moshe, now one of my favorite places in Jerusalem. I savored every moment of my stroll in the cool evening air, with gorgeous flowers and greenery, picturesque streets, and an amazing view of the city.
The sense of belonging that we feel here that is manifest in so many ways. The kids refused to play the what I will miss and what I will not miss game, but here is my list for us all.

What we will not miss:
Tiny washing machines
Uncomfortable beds
Traffic and crazy drivers
Walking in the heat of the day
Litter
Not understanding understand the language
Museums, hikes, and historical sites
Bad tasting water
The family bickering (but will that stop anywhere???)

What we will miss:
Our friends and "family"
Touring wineries and being able to drink the wine
The eating
iced Aroma
Mamilla at night
Chance encounters with our friends from near and far
Not driving
Experiencing Israeli life in so many different communities
The beauty and diversity of the land
Museums, hikes, and historical sites
The freedom and independence that the kids have here
The magic of the entire country shifting for Shabbat, especially in Jerusalem

We have had an incredible gift for the last five weeks; we are so grateful. Our hope is that we can keep the feelings and memories from this trip strong in our minds and in our hearts until, god willing, the next time.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Shabbat July 16, 2011

Our shabbat dinner last night at the Messers was wonderful. They have a beautiful home in the German Colony, just a 5 minute walk from our apartment. We ate Shabbat dinner outside on the gorgeous patio, surrounding by flowers, and the weather was perfect. I understand why that spot is one Sara and Hyim's favorite. Despite the fact that only half the Messer family is in town (Barbara and her two daughter's), there were quite a few guest, a bit of an eclectic group. The conversation was interesting and the food was delicious, the boys and I stayed til past midnight. The girls never left. Naomi hit it off with Naomi (age 11), and Ilana hung out with Danielle (age 9 I think), and they both wound of spending the night. Sara, you did well with this match!
In the morning, the boys and I went to the Pinsker shul and then I walked over the get the girls. But they didn't leave. I would up bringing them bathing suits and they went with the Messers to the King David Hotel pool. The boys and I had lunch in the apartment after visiting with Efrat's family at the kiddush. Her grandfather lives in the building and they were celebrating his 90th birthday. We met her brothers, sister-in-law, nephew, aunts, uncles, the whole shebang. After reading and playing games for a few hours we went to pick up the girls at the pool.
The King David is beautiful, as I mentioned a few days ago, and the pool area is amazing. Right smack in the middle of the city, it is huge and lush and green. There are chairs in the pool to lounge, a restaurant, and a huge grassy area with a small playground. As we walked into the pool area we walked right into Stanley Raskas! He looks great, it was nice to catch up, here is here with his wife visiting a couple of his kids. And of course, it turned out that Barbara knows Stanley as well. It is such a small world... So we chatted and bit and then said our goodbyes. The girls had a great time, Naomi and Naomi found a lot of common ground, and we so appreciated the Messer's hospitality.
So then we went from one pool to the next. We took a short stroll over to the Dan Panorama to hang out and swim with the Perlmans, and were with them at the hotel, or at our apartment, until it was almost the end of Shabbat. We all walked over to the kotel for maariv and havdalah. We were wondering how havdalah would work, how all the necessary item would get here. Well, there was b'samim (mint) stuck in bunches in the mechitza and in the back fence, and women peered over the mechitza/fence to be able to see/hear men doing havdalah. No idea where the candles and wine came from. I thought there might be more singing, dancing, festivities but there just were not. We then walked home among falling apart kids, hoping to get them together enough to go over to a Babette's waffles near Ben Yehuda at the recommendation of Sara. And we did it! We made it to the Ben Yehuda area which was bustling with families and lots and lots of teens and young adults. it was defintely a younger crowd. The waffle place is a tiny tiny store, packed with people. The waffles are huge and can be ordered with a variety of toppings including standard fare like chocolate, butterscotch, whipped cream, but also the more unexpected like sour cream or halva. Have I said that I am going to miss eating out? The waffles were delicious but the kids were pooped. So we said our sad goodbyes to the Perlman's and trudged back to the apartment, by now it was well after midnight, but we did make the most of our last night in Jerusalem.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday July 15, 2011

The kids are fatigued and want no more museums, historical sites, or walking in the heat. They wouldn't even play the what I'm going to miss about Israel is... game. I think its about time to go home. Two quick things worth mentioning, one mundane and one anything but. First - the boys and I went to pick up Shabbat take-out at a place called Marvad Hamaksimim. They have a few locations, but we went to the not as authentic one in Emek Refaim. This place is known for plentiful, good, and cheap Israeli food. We got lots and lots of chicken nuggets, some beef, some kebab, stuffed artichokes, peppers, and onions for lunch tomorrow, all for 150 shekels. Probably our cheapest meal yet, that barely covers a burger and fries at Black 'n Burger! Maybe the kids won't play the game, but boy I will really miss that about Israel. Second worth note -- we finally went to the tent across from the Prime Minister's House where Gilad Shalit's family is camped out. All over the street in our area of Jerusalem, their are stickers that say "Gilad is alive!" They are on lampposts, fountains, signs, everywhere you look. we have walked by the street where his family is many times, but a felt a bit awkward about going, not sure what to say. This has been a particularly difficult month as Gilad just passed his five year mark in captivity. So we walked over to the area, which is filled with signs, banners, and ribbons attached to the fence on the sidewalk. There is a table outside the tent (it is not really a tent, it looks more like a pre-fab sukkah with hard sides). Volunteers man the table nad collect donation, sell t-shirts, and give out yellow ribbons. When we first got there, the Shalit family was not there so the kids signed the poster, and took some ribbons. Then we went inside the tent, which is set up with chairs around the perimeter and stocked with water and snacks provided by volunteers. Shortly, Gilad's father came back and we did speak to him briefly, we told him that we are thinking on Gilad in St. Louis and shared with him some of things that B'nai Akiva and Epstein have done to recognize and remember Gilad. In the end, we were all glad that we went to visit and show our support.
The girls and I met the Perlman's in town for a bit; they are staying at the Dan Panorama for shabbat and we will hand out with them on Shabbat afternoon. Tonight we are going to Sara and Hyim's friends David and Barbara Messer for dinner. We have not met them, but Sara hooked us up with them and they so kindly invited us sight unseen!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday July 14, 2011

News alert -- Burgers Bar has been usurped! The new standard for burgers is Black Bar 'n Burger, a place that Noah was introduced to by his Petach Tikvah friends when he dined on a 450 g burger with them. Noah has been raving so much we all had to check it out and we all were happy as it turns out they have a mean veggie burger too. I had the popeye burger -- beef with spinach and pine nuts, topped with mushrooms. Noah had amazing chicken wings, Eitan had a giant hot pastrami sandwich, and Ilana had chicken fingers "to die for". But enough about dinner.
This morning I went on a major shopping excursion. Some of the loot was for us, but most was gifts to bring back. I started in Mea Sha'arim, where I browsed for quite a while in a big bookshop and some other small gift stores. The prices there are much better then the rip off prices on Ben Yehuda. Then I walked over to Yoel Solomon street which I remembered from last trip but up til today had been unable to find. Because of construction on both ends of this very short street, it does not really look like a street til you walk past the rubble to find the cute shops, restaurants and art galleries. I spent a good chunk of time in a game store called Gaya. It is an Israeli company that makes wooden games and puzzles, and they are addicting (more on this later). I also visited the 36,000$ Havdalah set that Mike and I love -- yes it's still there, and the store clerk seemed disappointed that I still wasn't buying it. I then had to hustle back to the apartment to drop off the loot and pick up the kids for our afternoon activities. I thought it would be best not to drag them along in the morning, so I left them a morning note with things on the list like shower, take your medicine, get lunch, clean up the garbage from the floor, take out the garbage and recycling, get your water bottles ready and be ready to go at 1:15! (much like home). When I got back to the apartment, I found garbage everywhere, a half eaten pizza they had ordered in still sitting out on the table, dirty dishes sitting out, no water ready (much like home). We got out the door, but later than I had hoped and we were late to our tour at the Davidson Center, which is an archeological site near the Dung Gate. When we got to the window 10 minutes late the woman told us that we missed the tour and couldn't go. I asked if we could catch up, and she refused to let me but tickets but told me to go ask the guide. So we walked over to the entrance, the security guard let us in and told us to catch up, and we made it! The archeological park is a huge area just outside the walls of the old city, starting at the corner by the Dung Gate and going south from there. Our guide took us to the Southwest corner of the Temple Mount, and described the Herodian masonry, showed us where Robinson's arch (or its remains) is, showed us the Roman street at the base of the wall -- it is excavated here, you can see remains of stores lining the marketplace, and you can even see large stones that were knocked out of the wall when the Romans destroyed the beit hamigdash. The guide then took us inside (thankfully, it was hot!) and to a three 3 computer recreation of the Temple Mount in the second temple period. The kids called it "Sims -- the Beit Hamigdash version". It was really cool. The guide can zoom in and out and go through doorways, move around structures so you can see them from every angle, and add features that show the locations during different times (like how the walls of the old city have moved). He could bring up photos from as things are today and put them right next to the 3-d representation in the beit hamigdash computer animation. He showed us the Roman marketplace/road, the stairs and entrances to the Temple Mount from the south side, and some of the structures on the Temple Mount including where the trumpetor stood. All of the information is based on archeological excavations, so there is not information on the inside of the beit hamigdash itself as it is not permitted by the Muslim's for us to dig in that site. The presentation was fascinating, and even got the attention of my archeology weary kids. After the presentation we walked around outside in the park, looking at some of the features that we had seen in the animation.
Next we walked back up the steps from the kotel and into the old city for a cold drink, before heading back down to the kotel for a "generations tour". This tour is right next to the site of the tunnel tours, and is mostly a walk through glass art that has names etched into it. Each room has different works of art, which represent the Jewish people at various times in our history. The tour was low on content, but the last part which was a story told by one of the soldier's who liberated Jerusalem in 1967 was interesting. After this tour we all davened at the kotel and our timing was great as the girls and I could stand right next to the wall without being pushed and jostled. It was Ilana's first time davening at the kotel (and she used her new purple siddur) and it was very special. We then headed up the stairs and just at the top, near all the falafel stands, there was Sara! Her group of campers had just arrived this afternoon, and was on a bathroom break before heading down to the kotel. With her were Bradely Goldmeier, and Lisa Ast who is also a madricha! They all looked happy and ready to have a blast. What fun to see them.
Now we left the Old City and had our Black 'n Burger dinner, and then I took the kids back to the game store from this morning. I could not get them out. They were in there for over an hour playing various games. And I left with even a few more games... Then back to the apartment, it was already past 10. I love walking in this city, but I have to say that after today, my feet are killing me. I could really use a foot massage... Mike?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday July 13, 2011

Noah and Eitan woke up at 3am to watch the all star game, so I let the kids sleep in a bit thins morning. We left around 10:30 to go to the Underground Prisoners Museum, which is in the Russian Compound. On the way, we stopped at the King David Hotel. There was a limo with tinted windows outside, and when we got into the lobby there was some kind of army official (not Israeli) dressed in a fancy uniform with lots of metals and ribbons on it. No idea who he was. Haven't read a newspaper in weeks. We were looking for a display about the Irgun's bombing of the hotel in 1946 but instead found fancy shops and beautiful lounges and photos of lots of dignitaries and celebrities taken at the hotel, and a small display of historical photos of the hotel, including one from just after the bombing. From there we continued on to the Underground Prisoners Museum, an actual prison where the British held members of Irgun and other Israeli freedom fighters, as well as criminals and some mapillim (illegal Jewish immigrants). The prison was originally a hostel for Russian women making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, so it is not built like a prison and is not as creepy as the prison in Akko. We met Faye, Earl, Yedidya, and Noam at the gates, and pushed the button as directed to get into the gated compound. After the gate automatically and slowly creaked open and we walked in we were accosted by a security guy dressed all in black who asked to see our passports. Kind of strange as that had not been our experience at other museums. And it may not have been such a serious request as none of us had passports with us and he let us all go in on my driver's license. The museum starts with a movie that describes the experience of the prisoners there, and then leads you on a self guided tour through the prison compound. Most of the the rooms are set up as they were when it was a prison -- cells, workshops, the kitchen, a shul, solitary confinement cells, and a death row gallows that was never used. They had a scavenger hunt and activities with lots of interesting info and though Ilana was the only taker, I really enjoyed it too. We saw the spot where the prisoners dug out of their cell and through to the courtyard. 12 of them then climbed through the tunnel and then dressed like maintainance workers and walked out of the prison. We also saw the cell where Moshe Barazani and Meir Feinstein killed themselves with explosive smuggled in inside an orange rather than be executed by the British.
After the museum we all headed to Mea Sha'arim to find a shofar for Eitan among other things, with the exception of Noah, who walked back to the apartment to sleep. We found ourselves so in the heart of it that we could not find a atore with shofrot, the streets were tiny alleys, and they were filled with people dressed in garb from the shtetl -- we clearly stuck out as tourists. After we found a way to the main street we looked back at the alley where we had come from and their was a big sign hanging over it that said something like, "This is our neight borhood, where we live. It is not for tourists. Please do not enter if you are not dressed in accordance with modesty." One we found the more touristy area with lots and lots of Judaica stores, Earl and Eitan blew many many shofrot looking for the perfect combination of quality and price. Earl was a diligent and patient shofar buying guide. Our search and walk in the heat made the kids very hungry, but it took us a while to find a main drag with food. we finally found a pizza store that had -- I'm not kidding -- separate lines for men and for women, and a men's only eating room (but there were two young women sitting in there with all the men so I have no idea what the story was.) After lunch, Faye and her boys took a cab back home, and Earl and the remaining Oberlanders finally made their purchases. Earl headed home, and we walked over to Ben Yehuda to get some frozen yogurt. One of the kids didn't like it as it tasted too much like yogurt. If you want to know how Eitan's shofar sounds, just ask anyone who was walking on Ben Yehuda this afternoon as he practiced his skills and startled passersby. Chen was in the area and came by to say hi, she looks great and sounds great and is a rosh bus on mach hach, which starts tomorrow. We were so glad to see her! After lots of hugs, Chen headed back to her office and we took a bus back to the apartment (the kids rebelled and refused to walk).
Then another real treat -- Sarah and Carl Ashkenazi and Yacov and Noa came to meet us for dinner! They seem to be so well adjusted to life here; it is hard to believe they came less than a year ago. Carl is working from home, Sarah is working 5 days a week to get her Israeli medical certification, they are loving life on the yishuv. Yacov is speaking Hebrew fluently, and we can't believe how big Noa is! We really enjoyed seeing them and catching up, though our time was much too short as we had to leave for a previously scheduled tunnel tour at 8pm. Dinner was great -- we ate at a sushi place in Emek -- it was incredible. Ilana ate all of her sushi and most of mine!
Naomi was not feeling great -- totally exhausted -- so she skipped dinner and Noah stayed home with her. After dinner we switched and dropped off Ilana and picked up Noah, and the boys and I went to the tunnel tours at the kotel. We were running super late so we decided to take a cab. Riding a cab through the old city, winding our way to the kotel, gave me another perspective on the city. I'm glad that we got something out of it as the ride sure wasn't cheap. I don't really understand how cab fares work here -- one cab we rode in had a meter, but most don't and it seems that the driver just makes up a price and then you are supposed to argue over it until it is all resolved. Too stressful for me, I'd rather walk.
The tunnel tour was definitely worth doing again (we did it 4 years ago). First because it is just plain old cool to be in the depths of the Western Wall, and second because they have added to the tour -- a very cool model of the time of the second temple that can or remove the current structures that are built again the outside of the wall, and add or remove the Roman promenade that ran next to the wall. Also they have excavated a huge mikvah that may have been used by the Cohanim, and a large reservoir at the end of the tour after the walk through the aquaducts. The entire area was bustling even though it was 9:00 on a Wednesday night --It is emboldening that so many of us make an effort to be there and experience. After the boys davened maariv at the kotel, we walked home. Though it is sometimes a challenge with the bickering kids, I am trying to savor every moment. We have so few left...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday July 12, 2011

With Noah away for the day, we decided to some things that the younger three might enjoy and to take cabs instead of the bus as we are only 4 people and can all fit into one cab. So, we left the house by 8:45 (a record early start for us) so that we could arrive at the Biblical Zoo when it opened at 9:00. I had wanted to go there with the kids when we were at Ein Yael last week as we were there anyway at the bus stop, but they refused. After Hili gave the zoo a rave review I overrode the kid vote, and I am glad I did. When we got there it was still cool (relatively) and shady, and the animals were active. The zoo is spread out on a lush campus, and the animal habitats blend in with the surroundings. We were immediately drawn to the Siamang monkeys who live on an island in a large pond that stretches through much of the zoo. They have ropes to climb out on over the water, and can come fairly close to the pedestrian bridge that overlooks them. The zoo is different in a several ways for our famous St. Louis zoo. Often several animals are together in one enclosure, for example the rhinos, hippos, zebras, ostriches, and giraffes are all in one large enclosure with trees and other shaded areas, and with a large pond. Most the animals on display are indigenous to the region, and quotes from Tenach about the animals are on their display signs. The kids favorite animals were the meerkats and prairie dogs as the kids could go through tunnels under the exhibit and pop up into a plastic bubble in the middle and get very close to the animals. Eitan loved the rhinosaurus, and Naomi was very fond of the hippo who at first looked like a rock with a bird on it, but then surfaced to take a breath. And we all loved the naked mole rats. At about noon the zoo started to get hot and crowded with loud and pushy day campers, so we departed with our friendly cab driver, who we called to pick us up, and headed for the Bloomfield Science Museum.
We visited the science museum when we were here four years ago, and the kids loved it this time as much as the last. We spent several hours investigating simple machines, electricity, and basic physics among other concepts. It was also a pleasure to be able to eat at the museum snack bar! As our museum exploration wound down, we decided to take the bus back to the center of town to run a couple of errands before heading home. But I remembered from our last visit that we had a hard time finding the bus stop as there is no bus service directly to the museum, you have to catch it at the University Campus across the street. I still have memories of trudging up a giant hill in the heat, searching for a path to a bus stop. Well, it turns out that elusive bus stop is quite simple to find with good directions -- it is an easy 5 minute walk down the street from the museum. So we hopped on the bus (after a wait, of course) and got off at the center of town. We picked up Naomi's beautiful new siddur and a few other gifts, and then used our transfers to take the bus back to the apartment. After an hour or so of rest, Hili and Maayan and Adin met us at the apartment. We had planned to have dinner together and then go to the Migdal David "Night Spectacular" light show. As we began our walk towards dinner and the Old City, Maayan started to not feel so well, and let's just say be careful where you walk on the sidewalk near the King David hotel. But after leaving her deposit, Maayan did feel much better so she was a real trooper and continued on. We made it to Mamilla and had an extremely rushed dinner at Cafe Cafe, during which both Noah and Sara joined us. More on Noah's adventure later. Hili got some Tylenol for Maayan, who was still hanging in there, and we all hustled off to Migdal David.
The Night Spectacular truly was spectacular. As you walk in through the courtyard, there are various scenes projected on to the walls, showing representatives of the peoples who have lived in Jerusalem through the ages. Eventually our winding walk ended in the main area of the courtyard where seats were set up, and after everyone was seated the lights dimmed and the real show began. It is hard to describe, but basically the show told the story of Jerusalem and its people from the time of creation up through the 1900's, with virtually no words. The story is projected onto the walls and towers and corners and crevices of Midgal David. A huge section of the building itself is the movie screen, and the show uses the shape of the walls to help tell the story. The scenes flowed from creation, to King David building Jerusalem, to the building and burning and building and burning of the Beit Hamigdash, to the Crusaders, Byzantines, and on. It was an amazing show (though hard for the younger kids to follow); Noah, Sara, Hili and I LOVED it.
After the show Hili took a cab back to Pinsker and her car with her very tired kids. We have really enjoyed hanging out with the Zimbalists here, so fortunate that we could be here at the same time enjoy our vacations together, and we are glad that we will see them in St. Louis in another month or so. The Oberlanders and Sara stopped for some Aroma and hung out in Mamilla until Sara had to leave to catch her bus. It was not so easy to say good-bye as we will not see her again this trip. Sara has really taken care of us and made us feel so good and so welcome and so much a part of her world. We are so lucky to have had this time together but so sad it has to end...
I will respect Noah's teenage privacy and not report too many details about his trip except to say that he was very independent and confident, and had a lot of fun. And he ate a 450g burger for lunch. My favorite moments -- Dvir (the kid he was staying with) called Noah while he was on the bus on his way there and said give the phone to the guy sitting behind you. Noah gave the phone to this complete stranger and Dvir told the guy, hey, help my friend get off at the right stop. And of course he complied. Second favorite detail -- Noah and one of the other guys he was in Tel Aviv with today went for walk at the outdoor mall that was part of the beach where they were hanging out. But they did not bring shoes, and the cement was really hot. So instead of getting their shoes, they sprinted across 50 meters of pavement, burned their feet, asked a waitress somewhere for water but then were to embarrassed to not drink it so they put it in their mouths and then spit on their feet. Complete teenagers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday July 11, 2011

Guest blogger:
Today we went to the pool. We walked to the pool but at first we couldn't find it and we asked this couple and they told it where it was. It looked like a restaurant when you walked in but then there were these two doors that would lead you to the pool. The pool was really crowded. It had 2 pools outside and one pool under this roof thing. And there was this really boring water slide that you had to push yourself down. The boys went out to get us New Deli for lunch. Then we went home and we ordered Burgers Bar to be delivered. Noah went to Shoham on a bus to go his friend's party. Pools are so much different here because people they kick you and then they don't care. Also the girls had to wear a swimming cap or put their hair in a pony tail.

Editor's note:
We relaxed in the morning and headed to the Jerusalem pool which is in nearby Emek Refaim, and stayed there for 5 hours. A great way to beat the heat. We got back to the apartment and the 3 younger kids relaxed while Noah planned his trip to meet up with the robotics boys from Petach Tikvah. The plans changed about 4 times, but eventually Noah headed to the bus stop. With phone guidance from Sara about which platform to go to, he took a bus to the Central Bus Station and then picked up a bus to Shoham where one of the boy's mom picked him up. He is going to someone's birthday party there tonight, sleeping over, and then going to the beach with the boys tomorrow. A great adventure for him, and he could definitely use some teenager time.

The 3 younger kids had Burger's Bar delivered to the apartment for dinner (can't beat that) and after they were fed, Hili Zimbalist came into town to meet me for a grown up dinner! We went to an amazing Asian/Israeli fusion restaurant called Ryu on Emek Refaim. The food was great, the atmosphere was fun, and the spiked lemonana was delicious. A calm day without suffering in the hear was very pleasant. I am forcing the kids to go to bed early tonight so we can get an early start tomorrow. Though Eitan is planning to wake up at 2:00am to watch the home-run derby...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday July 10, 2011

It was another scorcher, so I decided that we would spend the heat of the day indoors. The Israel Museum has been recently remodeled, and is huge, so that seemed like a good choice. The website advertised that the new youth wing had lots of activities for kids, but when we got there, of course there was "nothing special" going on there except day camps. But, there is plenty to see in the museum. There are 4 synagogue that have been restored and moved from their original locations to the museum -- one from Germany, one from India, one from South America, and one from Italy. They are all really amazing, the kids favorite part was that the one from Suriname is constructed to look like it is Dutch with the exception of a sand floor. We also saw menorah's from all over the world, different dress and jewelry, and some elaborate sephardic sifrei torah. There was an interesting movie about the ideological development of Israeli artists, which we watched and then tried to sort out which works of art on display were from which era. We also visited the Dead Sea scrolls, and the giant model of Jeruslame in the 2nd temple period which used to be at the Holylands hotel but was moved, little piece by little piece, to the Israel Museum. We saw Sam and Shuli's across the street neighbors, the Goldbergs (we stayed at their house for Levi's bris), in the lobby! We then walked around a long corner to the Knesset for a tour, at the request of a couple of kids. All of this would have been much more pleasant if the four children were not verbally, physically, and emotionally attacking each other incessantly.
The mood improved dramatically as we then took a bus to the center of town and met the Gastfrainds! We ate with them at a restaurant called Sima's near machane yehuda. It was very good (no bias). The new banot sherut, Yaara and Efrat, came to meet us there as well. The Gastfrainds left to go meet some friends, and we stayed with the girls and got to know them a bit. They are really terrific, St. Louis is in luck yet again! Both Yaara and Efrat grew up in the Old City and have been friends since they were in 3rd grade, but Yaara's family moved to Kiryat Shmona about 4 years ago. Both of them have good English; Yaara's family was on shlichot in Maryland when she was in first and second grade and Efrat has been working on it on her own. After we finished dinner, Efrat offered to take us back to her house and we jumped on the opportunity. She lives on Chabad Street, just off of the shuk area as you walk in through the Jaffa Gate. You get to Efrat's house by passing through a gate that leads into a lovely courtyard surrounded by 14 houses. This is the only courtyard in the Jewish Quarter. Efrat's mother greeted us warmly with a spread of fruit, cakes, and ice cream -- I have no idea how she threw it together so quickly. We visited for quite a while, and then they took us on a tour around the courtyard area. It was truly beautiful and such a special place, and also very quiet and private. Efrat's mom told us that after Efrat was born (she is the 4th of 5) they needed a larger house and started to look but could not find a location that they liked as much as their current one. So they did some exploration and found that the walls of all of the rooms in their house were 6 feet thick. So they excavated out the walls, and by making them thinner and added steel reinforcements they were able to add 3 bedrooms, and expand their living space! So they "added on" without changing the footprint! Then they took us just a few feet down the street to where Yaara's old house was. Her house is right next to the spot that is the exact middle of the 4 quarters of the Old City. Yaara told us part of the reason that her family moved is that tourist always go to the spot and take pictures, and they were tired of people taking pictures of them through their windows while they were eating dinner! Then walked us back to the Jaffa Gate, and we said our goodbyes. Ilana is quite upset that they will not be living with us and told them so several times. i realized she probably does not really remember NOT having girls live with us. This will definitely be a transition, but we hope to be close to them even if we are not their "immediate family."
On the way home we stopped for iced aromas, Eitan got a lemonana, which was a little sour for his liking. Oh, and it turns out that Efrat's granparents live in the building where we are staying, and they are sponsoring kiddush this Shabbat im honor of her grandfather's 90 th birthday. Efrat will be back in Yaffo finishing her sheruet leumi, but we will see her parents at shul on Shabbat!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Shabbat July 9, 2011

We split up for Shabbat morning services. The boys went to the Pinsker shul (downstairs), and the girls serviced their need to sleep and stayed home. I went around the corner to Shira Hadasha, an orthodox, feminist congregation. The shul is set up with men and one side and women on the other, and a sheer curtain mechitza separating the two sides. The mechitza is divided into sections, and the sections can be pulled open (like during the d’var torah, which was given by a woman, the mechitzah was pulled open in the front sections so everyone could see.) I arrived during shachrit, which was my first clue that the davening would be slow. It was really slow. Lots of beautiful singing but really slow. So slow I had to leave before mussaf to get to lunch on time. But it was a really different and interesting experience to participate in a service in which a woman led the torah service, and both women and men had aliyot and layned.
After I left the shul, I picked up the kids and we walked over to Faye and Earl Newman’s apartment for lunch with the Newmans, with Rachel and Michael and their kids, and with Michael’s parents. It was very hot. But lunch was really fun. The ruckus of the kids was considerable, but we enjoyed being together. Though Eitan did not enjoy that the entire meal was fish, some of them whole sardines, he kept averting his eyes and saying, “mom, there are 4 whole fish on the table!”. But he survived. After lunch the kids played cards, and then the boys went to the park and the girls played in Rachel and Michael’s apartment next door, and then the kids all came back and it was so loud that Faye and I went to the park to get some quiet and sit in the shade. At the park we saw Tehilla and Ori Teperberg, who had taken the bus and come into town to spend Shabbat with Uriah’s dad, Dani, and his wife Dorit! So we brought them back to the Newman’s apartment, where Ori and Ilana reunited and Mira joined the gang, and Noah and Tehilla had a chance to chat and get Tehilla caught up on all her Epstein classmates. Faye and Earl had been invited to the Teperberg’s for seudah shlishit, and the Oberlanders and Mira tagged along. Dani and Dorit were so welcoming and warm, as was Uriah’s brother and grandmother. The kids had a blast outside (it had started to cool off) and the teens and adults enjoyed chatting. Shabbat was over so quickly, it was a wonderful day, full of friends old and new…

Friday, July 8 2011

Friday was a shopping day. I started off early by leaving the kids and going down to Emek Refaim where they have as market of local artists and goods on Friday mornings. I browsed for a bit and then came back to get the kids moving. The weather has shifted and it has gotten quite hot, so we decided to take a bus to Machane Yehuda instead of walking the 35 minutes or so to get there. But we should have known that Machane Yehuda on a Friday morning was not a good idea for the Oberlanders. Too much sensory overload, and other issues to be described shortly. The bus let us off right in front of a bakery with delicious smells wafting out, so we went in to pick up a few treats for breakfast. While selecting rugella, burrekas, and delicious pitas in this tiny store, Naomi started to get claustrophobic and went out to wait on the sidewalk. Within 3 minutes she was back inside, totally disgusted by something she saw out there. Reader, if you are weak of stomach, please skip ahead to the next paragraph. Naomi saw an older woman who was walking toward her reach back into her pants. Naomi thought maybe she was taking care of a wedgie. But in fact it was so much more, as Naomi saw her pull some poops out of her pants and throw it on the sidewalk. I saw the evidence. Needless to say, Naomi could not eat her bakery treats and now has an extreme aversion to Machane Yehuda.


We did venture into Machane Yehuda but between Naomi’s trauma, Eitan’s visceral reaction and disgust at all fish stalls, and Noah’s impatience with wandering we were there only long enough to grab some gummi candies and then we got the heck out of there. We walked from Machane Yehuda down Jaffa Street, where we stopped at New Deli for lunch. New Deli may have surpassed Burger’s Bar as the ultimate eating experience for the kids, but I have not sampled it as I have been able to eat meat since our week of 7 days of meat in a row. We also found a great vegetarian restaurant on Jaffa Street that has tofu – actual protein for Naomi to eat! We then continued on toward Ben Yehuda where the girls got some skirts, the boys visited the kippa man, we ordered Naomi a siddur, and Eitan realized that the shofar he liked was not actually kosher. Noah bought what he thought was a Washington Captials kippa, but on closer inspection the Israeli girl who knitted it misplaced the hockey stick in the logo and the kippa read" CapiLals." Gives it even more character. By now it was mid afternoon, and the kids were complaining bitterly about walking home in the heat. So, I gave them the cartissiya and the apartment key and told them to take the bus. I got to walk home browsing through more markets on the way and though I was sweltering it was nice to have some quiet time. And when I got home I found all 4 of them safe and sound.

Back home, everyone showered and got ready for Shabbat. We enjoyed speaking to Papa and wishing him a happy birthday! We were invited to dinner at Tova and Yishai’s apartment, and as it is about a 35 minute walk we planned to take the bus there. Tova told us which bus to take to get there and she was going to meet us at the bus stop. So I took the bus pass, no money or cell phone, and we headed to the stop (about a 7 minute walk). As we got closer and saw no one at any of the bus stops, and no buses on the street, we realized that bus routes must stop a little earlier than we had thought on a Friday afternoon... So we walked back to the apartment to call Tova and tell her we were taking a cab and to get some money, and we headed off again. As we were trying to find a cab, a car pulled over and offered us a ride -- he saw Noah’s siddur and figured we needed a ride to shul. It was really nice, but we were not going in his direction. We did get a cab at the Dan Panorama and headed to Tova’s neighborhood, Beit Yisrael, which is right next to Mea Shaarim and like Mea Shaarim is a haredi neighborhood. Our cab driver found their street, but could not find the house. He stopped to ask many people, most of them with long peyes and wearing a strimmel, where the house number was and we kept being directed up and down the same street but no house 31 was to be found. He tried to leave us there, saying it is around here somewhere, but I said no way, if you can’t find it how can we? Eventually he went a little farther down the street and stopped to ask someone on the front porch, and that someone was Yishai! Yipee!
We felt very honored to be at Tova’s and Yishai’s house – we were their first Shabbat guests! They live on the first floor of a 3 story apartment building, and the apartment is brand new and very nice. They look settled in for having been married only two weeks. Noah and Eitan went with Yishai to a nearby Moroccan shul, and the girls and I stayed home with Tova and looked at the gorgeous photos from their wedding. It was a great dinner, the food was delicious and we enjoyed visiting with Tova and getting to know Yishai. His mother is American and speaks English to him, so we spoke to him mostly in English and he spoke to us mostly in Hebrew. Yishai is very friendly and warm, he has friends all over the neighborhood, and Yishai and Tova are very cute and happy. It was a very fun meal, and after cleaning up the soup nuts the kids had somehow scattered all over their apartment Tova and Yishai walked us back towards our apartment. On the walk, the boys asked Yishai what he did in the army (he is in Hesder, he was released from army service a few months ago and is now learning in a yeshiva in Tel Aviv). He told them that he was a big gunner, he shot machine guns with bullets several inches long. And those bullets were much bigger than the 9mm ones that are in the gun in that he then whipped out of the back of his pants to show them. And he showed them the bullets. Yishai’s coolness factor went sky high. And then he told them how he gets to test all the newest weaponry, and how the bullets that he has explode upon impact… so the boys talked guns all the way home, and heard stories about Yishai’s experiences in the field during Cast Lead (when they asked his if he was afraid when he had to go into combat, he told them no, it was no big deal, he was too tired to be scared), and could not stop talking about it even after Yishai and Tova got us onto familiar ground and turned around for home. And all the gun talk aside, to be in Jerusalem on Shabbat, passing by the walls of the old city on the way home from dinner, is really special. The streets are quiet -- either completely closed or with much less traffic than normal -- the restaurants and shops are closed, the constant hustle and bustle come to a stop. It truly feels like Shabbat, in our holy city.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Answer for Tuesday’s guest blogger: Naomi Oberlander
Answer for Yesterday’s guest blogger: Noah Oberlander

Today’s Guest blogger: ???

Today we left the house at about 10:30 to take a true Israeli bus and transfer to get to the Biblical Zoo. We didn’t go into the Biblical Zoo, but we walked across a bridge over railroad tracks and through a desert canyon and through a horse stable to get to Ein Yael, a place where they practice ancient arts. Eitan made it by the horses no problem! [editor’s note: The bus ride and transfer were uneventful, but Sima did learn that the bus driver could drive the bus down a busy street with no hands while printing, putting together and stapling 5 transfers. The directions on Ein Yael’s website were to take a bus to the zoo, cross over the railroad tracks on a bridge, and then take a short 5 minute walk up the road to the entrance. In actuality, we had to go up a steep metal staircase to cross over the tracks and then back down. This left us in the middle of a desolate and sandy valley with no road but some kind of track that looked to be used by the heavy machinery we saw along the way. On the other side of the valley is a road near a horse stable. We could see the Ein Yael site but not the way to get there. So we cut through the stables shielding Eitan and pretended to be stupid Americans when interrogated by the stable people (not a stretch). When we got there and asked how to get back down without cutting through the stable they said take a cab.] We made flutes by cutting bamboo into different sizes. The girls both stabbed their feet with bamboo, and Eitan cut his finger a little bit with a knife. We needed some tissues to soak up the blood. Then we put the bamboo together to make flutes. Then we went to the mosaic area. We got to crush pottery with hammers. Eitan and Noah really enjoyed that. [no injuries here]. Then Mom and Eitan went on a tour while the rest of us finished our mosaics. Eitan and Mom told us they learned about the Roman villa, and how the maayan was channeled. [editor’s note: Ein Yael is billed as an outdoor museum that teaches about ancient crafts such as paper making, weaving, pottery, mosaic, basket making, pita making, wine making, and fresco. But in reality most of the advertised areas were closed, and the site is home to a day camp filled with screaming kids. There were only a couple of other families there, one of whom was Eva Ozarowski’s son Joseph with his son and daughter-in-law and their children! He is from Skokie and also knows Sam and Shuli. The site was originally an archeological excavation. A Roman villa sat at the top of the hill, and the ruins that have been excavated include a giant mosaic floor in the living room that at one time had a fountain in the middle. There are also ruins of bath houses that were fed by the maayan. The maayan, which is also toward the top of the hill, was captured in a channel, and sent to two pools – the first allowed sediment to settle, and the second was a reservoir that stored the water used for irrigation. The land beneath is terraced, and the arts and crafts areas were spread out on the different terrace levels.] Eitan and Ilana walked through the channel. We had a snack at pita making, then we went to clay making. It was a lot of fun.
Next we walked backed across the canyon and kept on waiting for a bus that went past us so then next we took a cab to the Malka mall, which everyone said was big but was small compared to American malls. We had great Chinese food at the food court. [editor’s note: Amazing to eat in a huge food court where everything is kosher, and to pass a Beit Knesset while walking through the mall.] While we were eating they made an all call to the mall that mincha was starting. The whole family found that humorous. After shopping for a long time, Eitan bought an Omri Casspi jersey and some Manchester United socks. Ilana had shoes and a shirt, Eitan and Noah both got the world’s smallest kipas, and Naomi got nothing. Then a singer named Miki was entertaining little kids. Then we took a bus back to the apartment. Noah and Eitan went to get iced Aromas – best coffee ever. Then we watched TV and relaxed and ate a McDonald’s Happy Meal which we bought in the food court to give the box and toy and containers to Miriam our cousin who’s obsessed with McDonald’s. It was such a fun day.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday, July 6 2011

Yesterday’s guest author= ??? no guesses, no answers…
Today’s guest author:

Today we woke up at around 9:30 and got ready for the busy day. Mom said it was supposed to be very hot so we brought a lot of water, except the water is not good enough for Noah so he had to buy purified water. We walked to the Old City and were already very sweaty by 11:20. The first event of our agenda was going on a tour of the Hurva Synagogue. We met in the lobby of the Synagogue and the first thing we saw was this 13 meter high Ahron Kodesh, it was so beautiful. We started our tour thinking it would be 20 minutes long but ended up being an hour, but we were not disappointed. The Synagogue has so much history it was burnt to the ground twice; once by the Romans and once By the Jordanians in the Independence Day War, yet they continue to rebuild it. [editor’s note: though there were earlier synagogues on this site, the Hurva Synagogue was first built by about 500 Ashkenazi Jews who came back to Israel in the early 1700’s – these were the first Jewish immigrants to return to Jerusalem in 100’s of years. The synagogue was burned by the Ottomans, and was rebuilt in grand fashion by followers of the Vilna Goan in the mid 1800’s. The synagogue was designed and constructed by the sultan’s chief architect, and was the first grand and proud Jewish synagogue permitted to be built in the old city in 100’s of years as there was a Turkish law again the construction of any new Jewish house of worship – this was only circumvented with the help of Rothchild and Montefiore. This glorious structure was destroyed by Jordanians in 1948. In 1977, ten years after Israel united Jerusalem, a single arch from the synagogue was reconstructed from its back wall. This was a symbol of the Jewish rebirth of Jerusalem. Now that arch is incorporated into the back wall of the synagogue, which is prominent in the Jewish Quarter]. It was rebuilt a year and a half ago and they spent 10 million dollars on it. First on the tour we went to the basement a saw a ruins that they excavated, one of the ruins was a wall of what they think was the wall to the Rambam’s Shul. That was very cool for me to think about this great Rabbi who lived hundreds of years ago davened here. [editor's note: We also went up on the roof and climbed up to the dome, and walked around both inside and out]. The tour ended and we made our way to the Burnt House, but on the way one of the kids saw a place were she really wanted a ring so we all had to stop and wait for this person to chose the ring she liked. Then we joined another tour group and the Burnt House and watched presentation on what they found there and then watched a movie about what could have happened at this house based on the facts that we know during the Churban Beit Hamekdash Sheni. We all enjoyed learning about History in the comfort of sitting down and air conditioning. After we were all getting pretty antsy but our Mom dragged us on to another archeological site called The Herodian Quarter. I can’t tell you much about this place except there were a lot of stones and some tiles because I was completely spacing out. But I know my Mom really enjoyed it. [editor's note: This site is underneath Yeshivat Hakotel, and consists of the ruins of 6 large homes from the time of the second biet hamigdash. Mosaics, mikvah’s murals, ad may other artifacts are on display here.] It was already 2:00 and we had not eaten yet so we walked back to Mamilla mall and ate at CafĂ© Rimone. All Ilana ate at Dairy reasraunts was ravioli, but this time my mom decided to use her veto power and made Ilana have something else. After filling our bellies we walked back to the Old City and met the Pearlmans at Ir David. Instead of just meeting the Pearlmans we saw a lot of unexpected guests, we saw Noah’s friend from school and an Aish group for women from St. Louis. The tour started with us getting lost (not unusual) but we found our way back to the right tour guide. [First our guide showed us the boundaries of the orignal city of David, in David's time. Ir David sites on a hill adjascent to the Old City. It is not within the walls of the current Old City. It sits between two valleys, and is surrounded by hills. One of the valleys, the Kidron valley, has a spring that is the source of water for the city. More on that later.] Our tour guide took us on an adventure back in time. Our first stop was where some historians think that David Hamelech’s Palace once stood. Then The Tour Guide showed us two places where letter seals made out of mud were found. The First was that of a minister 3 hundred years after David’s time. The second found 15 feet away was another minister of the same time period. [editor's note: He read to us the possuk in Jeremiah in which these two ministers are mentioned – in the same sentence in the Tenakh, and found only 15 feet away from each other in the City of David, right next to what may have been David's palace!] They survived because when the Temple was destroyed and burned the mud seals hardened and survived. Next we learned about how important the water was during the Jebusite period, and how they had to fortify the water supply. In order to have access to the water and protect it from being poisoned, they fortified the spring, which lay in the valley outside the walls of the city. They dug an underground tunnels leading down to the fortified spring, the citizens would walk down many steps and take water from the spring back up to the city. [We walked through this tunnel, and I would not want to be the one who had to carry the water back up – hard job!] When David Hamelech captured the city he used the tunnels as his point of entrance into the fortified city. [editor's note: We then re-enacted David anointing Shlomo at the actual site of the Gihon spring. Our tour guide was amazing – he had the kids role play throughout the entire tour so one was the king of the Jebusites, one was King David, one Shlomo, etc.. The guide also read to us from the Tenakh the passukim that described the city, or the battle, or the ministers, in the place where they actually were, that was so powerful and just plain cool. The Tenakh came to life. About 400 years after David and Shlomo, a king called Hezekiah had expanded the city to the west, and now one of the border valleys became incorporated into the city. So Hezekiah had the spring, that was still outside the city, channeled through rock, underneath the city to this valley within the city’s borders. The engineering is truly mind blowing – the tunnel is about 1/3 of a mile long, but has a decline of only one foot! And they built it from both sides and met in the middle! Axe to axe is how the sources describe it. Truly an amazing feat!] Then we actually walked in the tunnel for 20 minutes in the water, it was so much and refreshing. [editor's note: At the end of the tour, our guide read of Jermeiah;s prophesy that Jerusalem will be rebuilt and within its walls we wil again hear the sounds of joy, and reminded us that is what we did today -- very powerful]. That concluded our visit to Ir David. We then went out to dinner with the Pearlmans because it was Ella’s Birthday. We all had either falafel or pizza or both. It was a jam-packed day full of excitement. [We ate in the Old City and walked back through Mamilla, which is beautifully lit at night, the air was cool, the breeze refreshing -- i wish that the walk was longer so that could prolong our enjoyment of the night!]

Sima’s note: This was a day of chance meetings. We saw Ezra and Shoshana Hurwitz on our way to Hurva, Noah’s lacrosse teammate from Ladue and many friends on the Aish tour (Michelle Brooks, Lisa Binowtiz, Marianne Chervitz, and Keri Simon to name a few) at Ir David, then on the way home in Mamilla Noah saw a kid from Petach Tikvah that he met on the robotics weekend, and we topped off the night by running into Joe and Orit Strauss at our building – Joe’s dad lives in the apartment next door to the one we are renting. We also had phone calls from Elianna, Faye and Earl, and we are invited our for both Shabbat lunch and dinner this week… That connected feeling that you get here is hard to describe, but we really do feel like we belong and this is where we should be.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday, July 5 2011

Today: Guest Author

We started the day off with me being the slacker. I woke up late, took 30 minutes to shower, and found 2 pieces of hair in my egg salad sandwich. Enough about me, let’s move on to the family activities though I feel that I am way more interesting. Noah ditched the family and went to hang out with Alek Zimbalist. The rest of the gang went on a search through Mamilla Mall for kids Naots for Ilana. Then, we went to the time elevator. That was pretty cool. It was a 4-D movie (or as Eitan would say, “No it’s not.” And explain 4-D in some math words that most people don’t understand). The movie was basically like a roller coaster through time in Jerusalem, Naomi was pretty scared to go on it after she realized we need seat belts. Of course she ended up loving it. After, we went on a self- guided tour. My mom gave Ilana these pictures to find along the “tour”. You’re probably asking yourself, why did I use quotation marks around the word TOUR. Well, I did it because we could only find about 4 of the landmarks along the tour, so we ended up just giving up and buying ice cream. We walked up and down Jaffa and Ben-Yehuda streets on yet another search for Naots. We didn’t find any. Then the family went home to pick up Noah and head off to the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. It was all different movies about his life. It was very interesting. We ate at this restaurant called Cup a Joe. It looked very good but unfortunately we all had stomachaches, so we didn’t really get to eat the good food. We came home and now my mom is at the
Emak Refaim looking at some art and a present for Ella Perlman, she’s turning 4. So here I am now finishing up the blog.

Guess who?
(tune in next time to find out)

Sima’s addendum:
While the kids were sleeping and slacking this morning, I was doing research and making phone calls to set up our activities over the next week and a half. One of the places that I really wanted to visit is the Begin Museum, but they were not answering the phone and you must have reservations in advance. As Google maps showed the museum to be a nine minute walk, I thought I’d take a pilot trip to find the museum and make reservations. Well, Google was right that it is nine minutes away, but it was a different nine minute walk than the one shown on the map… So after 25 minutes and a ramble through the Yemin Moshe neighborhood I eventually sought directional hope, found the huge impossible to miss building, and made reservations. The rest of the day is as described above until after the Begin Museum. After enjoying the beautiful view form the patio of the museum we did a short walk around the area, stopping first at the Lions Fountain which was a gift from Germany to Israel and has several spitting lions. The girls enjoyed wetting their hair in the lion spit and frolicking in the fountain. Then we walked over to Montefiore’s Windmill, and for a family stroll around the Yemin Moshe neighborhood. This was one of the first neighborhoods built outside the Old City walls in the 1850’s. When East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, this neighborhood was in the line of fire from snipers. Now it is beautiful, upscale neighborhood with quaint narrow little streets, gorgeous flowers blossoming throughout, and houses overlooking the Old City walls with flat screen TV’s inside (we peeked in the windows). I did later get an hour to myself to go to the grocery store and browse in a shop called Dahlia, but the best gift of all was that I came home to four quiet, happy, peaceful children!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Saying good-bye to Mike last night was sad for us all. We will miss his enthusiasm, sense of adventure, encyclopedic recount of facts, and the company of another adult. This morning Noah was feeling a bit better than yesterday, his fever seemed to be gone, but he was still not well. So Noah stayed in the apartment to rest and recuperate and the rest of us walked to the kotel for the bar mitzvah of Noam Ganz, Faye and Earl Newman's grandson. We met at the entrance to the Tunnel Tours, and it was great to see Faye and Earl, Rachel and Michael and their kids, and Sara and Tova! And Naomi finally got her burning question answered -- does Tova wear a shetel or a shmata? I would hardly call it a shmata, but Tova does look adorable in a scarf. Boaz and Heftzi Ganut were there as well. After greetings and a bit of visiting, the men went into the shul that is inside the men's side of the kotel, and the women were brought in through the corridor that is at the beginning part of the tunnel tours, to a balcony that overlooks the shul. There were 4 bar mitzvahs going on at once, but we could see Noam through the one way glass, and hear them using the headphones that were tuned to the channel of the microphone that the men were using below, so it was just like being there... It was quite a sight to see four groups of men, some Sphardic and some Ashkenazi, each with a sefer Torah, some celebrating quietly, and some celebrating quite boisterously. After the service we departed for Beit Ticho for a bar mitzvah luncheon. The kids, Sara, Tova and I went by bus. This was our first bus ride in Israel on this trip, and it was definitely the way to go. Sara led us to the bus stop, got us onto the right bus, bought us our 10 ride cartissyea, got us off at the right stop after calling her uncle to figure out exactly where the restaurant was, and guided us right to the door. It is wonderful to be taken care of by our girls! Beit Ticho is a beautiful and calm oasis in the middle of the bustling city. The house is set off the street and surrounding by a lush garden. We ate outside in the garden, under giant umbrellas in the shade and enjoying the cool breeze. We were treated to dish after dish of amazing food, a sheet Noam had prepared from his learning about the menorah (including a scientific experiment about the direction of the flames, love it!) and lots of Earl's gemmatria. But now Ilana started to not feel so well, so it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes, and Sara came with us as we headed out. But next door to Beit Ticho is Rabbi Kook's house from when he was the Chief Rabbi of Israel. At Eitan's insistence we had to stop and take a quick tour. Rav Kook was the first Chief Rabbi of Israel and he lived in this house in the 1920's. This facility also houses the yeshiva that he founded, Mercaz HaRav. Our guide told us many interesting stories and anticdotes that exemplified Rav Kook's amazing middot, and also told us that if you look into every single photo of Rav Kook in the house,as you move Rav Kook's eyes follow you. We tested this hypothesis and it seemed to be true.
By now Ilana was not such a happy girl, so we walked back to the apartment (via Ben Yehuda street for some quick window shopping) where we had a little quiet time with Sara and let Ilana rest. Sara had to be at work in the B'nai Akiva building by 6, so Eitan and I walked back that way with her and then went on to Ben Yehuda, where Eitan had previously spied a few kippot that he was interested in. We did get him a fresh copy of his fish kippa, and a variation on that theme to be revealed later. After Eitan and I got back, we spoke to Mike who had safely arrived home and was dealing with piles and piles of mail. After some horrible fighting between siblings we all set off to Emek Refaim to get dinner as I could not leave any combination of the 4 home together without fear of someone getting seriously hurt. I am thinking that we need a little more structure to our days so tomorrow morning I plan on making lots of phone calls to schedule various activities around the city.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Friday - Sunday, July 1 - 3, 2011

This will be a short blog as I (Mike) am at Ben Gurion waiting to take off to come home and the keyboard on my iPad case has decided to not let me use any keys on the top row.

Friday started with saying goodbye to Netanya. Leaving the apartment was easy, except the four kids all sitting in the middle row. Fortunately, the ride to Ra'anana was quick and the kids were happy to see the Hartsteins. Noah left us for a few hours to hang out with Matan Rich - you will have to ask him what they did. We went to Park Ra'anana where Dalia was selling the candy mugs the kids made at her bat mitzvah. She was helping to raise money to fight pulmonary hypertension. Their babysitter from years ago (who also happened to be good friends with Libby Adler) died suddenly and many groups got together to memorialize her. After selling out, we all headed to Appolonia, on the coast north of Herziliyah - a ruin we had not yet explored. The kids played with the water fountains, and had a great time with each other even if it was hot. The adults loved having some time to really talk. The breeze off the sea almost made it tolerable to be out in the heat. I loved exploring the crusader castle. Then to Rehovot to spend Shabbat with the Fass family. They were concerned that with all of the restaurant reviews we have provided that they would not stack up - nothing could be farther from the truth - dinner was excellent and equaled by lunch - bourekas, chicken soup, chicken, schnitzel, etc. The kids stayed in the kids room and Sima and I stayed at Hester's parents house a few minutes away. The teenagers slept most of the day, the kids played risk and other games, we talked and read and I even learned a bit with Ephraim and a friend. At times it was just easier for them to speak Hebrew and I wasn't totally lost.

Oh, I forgot something, and that is a theme. We forgot to get a prescription from Mo for Noah's sinus infection, so we called a friend of his in Rehovot and he very kindly gave us a scrip for an antibiotic. We then drove into Jerusalem as this landlord was being very nice and letting us check in early. He was very late and one of us (me) really needed to use something in the apartment - good thing the Inbal Hotel is just down the street. After settling and checking out the view of the Old City from the mirpeset (balcony), the boys headed to Burgers Bar. My stomach was not going to get in the way of a greasy burger at 1:30 am. Later this morning Sima and I got gas and returned the car. Two miles of driving in Jerusalem and there was more swearing than the rest of the trip combined. Everyone must just know that to return a car to Avis that you drive to the gas station down the block and enter a gated area to head underground to return the car. I will never understand some things. We then walked back go the apartment - ten minutes - to find the kids enjoying American TV. We headed to the Old City, via the Mamila Mall - amazing new things in this very old city. Noah had been in contact with Aleck Zimbalist and he and a friend were going in meet him there, so we stopped for lunch. We were surprised that Hili and Meital joined them and we all had a very nice lunch (Cafe Cafe was so-so, but the company was great). We bought Naomi a bat mitzvah present at Michal Negrin and filled Noah's prescription. But, not fast enough as he was really not feeling well. He toughed it out and we entered the Old City by the Jaffa Gate, headed down the shuk and entered the Jewish Quarter at the Cardo and went to the rebuilt Hurva synagogue. Noah spiked a fever so he, Sima and the girls went home and Eitan and I went to the Kotel. Those reflections will wait. I finally grabbed a falafel, and headed to the airport. Sima will add/subtract (I didn't blog about how the 5 other members of the family all took advantage of the very clean bathrooms at the Mamila Mall) and blog alone for the rest of their trip.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

It is late, and we are tired as we had to pack up tonight. It turns out that our landlord (or his son) has changed his mind and instead of letting us keep the apartment until Sunday now wants to charge us to stay past Friday. Who needs to pay him to store our luggage? So we will shlep all of our stuff to Rechovot for Shabbat and then to Jerusalem. So - in typical Israeli fashion - we took a "pilot trip" today. We brought down our empty suitcases to see if they will fit in the car. We think they will (or might), if we squeeze all 4 kids in the middle seat and fold the rear seats down. Wish us luck. The Arab spring has spread to the Oberlander summer - the kids' revolt has continued. But, no (or very little) violence. So, instead of our planned hike near Yokneam the kids stayed in the apartment all morning staring at various screens of different sizes. We walked down the tayelet along the beach and then to the ATM that has English and we know takes our card. We gathered up the kids and then went to Yokneam to meet up with Judy Yuda, who works for the Jewish Agency and is the Regional Manager for the partnership between St. Louis and Yokneam. Again, in typical Israeli manner, we met her on the side of a street. We followed her to a wonderful restaurant, but Sima is really getting tired of eating so much meat. So, she had fish. And, Naomi had stir fry, but no chicken. Everything was arranged ahead of time - we sat down and appetizers and drinks were brought to us. No paying, no signing, no nothing. Thank you St. Louis (and Atlanta) for a wonderful lunch. During lunch the kids got a lesson on the work of the Jewish Agency, and the partnership between St. Louis/Atlanta and Yokneam/Megiddo. The kids asked really good questions and we hope will retain some of what they learned. We then went with Judy to Beit Cham (Warm House) to see one of the programs in action. At Beit Cham, 30 students (1st to 6th grade) from disadvantaged families come after school to work on homework, get a bit of tutoring, spend time with friends, eat a hot meal, etc. Today was their last day of school, so we did an art project with them. None of them spoke English, and so we tried our best to communicate as we cut out felt flowers and sewed beads onto them. Mike is really glad that he doesn't have to sew on many buttons. After a very rewarding couple of hours at Beit Cham, we decided to make a short stop in Zichron Yaakov (which was on the way) so we could have on more chance to look for property (no, not really, spend a few minutes in the shops, and enjoy the atmosphere and the amazing views. We then drove (and got a bit confused) to - again in typical Israeli fashion - a junction to meet up with Chaim and Shifra Weiss, Yaara's wonderful parents. They guided us to a Moshav called Kfar Haroeh and we went to Yaara's favorite restaurant, and now one of ours. Not sure it has a real name - just the cafe in Haroeh, we believe. We will check with Yaara. We ordered all of Yaara's favorites, salads, ravioli, quiche. And, of course milk shakes for the kids. We really do think the dairy restaurants are better than the meat restaurants. We then packed up most of our stuff and told the girls that if they cooperated that we would walk with them to the kikar to look for earrings. They did (sort of) so we did. Ilana got a cute pair of dangly butterflies and Naomi realized that she has expensive taste. After only like the silver and gold jewelry, she finally settled on a cute anklet. Mike couldn't get his falafel as the stand was closed, but we did give tzedakah to the Na Nach Nachman Meuman guys (3 times) and got 2 bracelets and a sticker. The best souvenirs so far!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We had a wonderful day on the Golan Heights with the Teperbergs. We were said to say goodbye to them, but most of us will see them in Jerusalem. We must admit, however, that were not too unhappy to say goodbye to Hispin and the youth hostel. Hispin is wonderful because of the Teperbergs, but it is not a "beautiful" place. Dusty, dirty. No real view. Not much to do right there; there are much prettier places in the Golan.

We let the kids sleep a bit later. Breakfast was not as good. We really must have been the only family there and they forgot we were there. It seems that families get a better breakfast (fried eggs, cheese, etc.) as well as place mats instead of plastic table cloths. So, the staff quickly made us room at a bigger table and promised us fried eggs. By the time we got them, however, we were mostly done. Guess what some of us had for lunch? Fried egg sandwiches. We went to the Teperbergs, and after waiting the typical amount of time for Camp Teperberg, we headed off on a drive up the eastern most road of the Golan. We learned about some of the preparations the Israeli army is taking in case of another tank war. Our first stop was Tel Saki, an Israeli army position that was overrun at the beginning of the Yom Kippur war. We saw an old jeep, an old tank and some artillery. We explored the trenches and saw the bunker and could even take up position with the fixed machine guns (no firing pins, but Uria says they are operational). Uria told us the story of how the few soldiers there took the first fire of the war, received reinforcements, were overrun and how one injured solider convinced the Syrians that all of the others were killed, saving the 27 others who were hiding in the bunker. At the end of the war, that soldier returned to Israel as part of a prisoner exchange. We even had our own casualty at Tel Saki. Eitan was bravely exploring the trenches when he fell backward (about 6 feet). Visions of broken bones or worse were quickly replaced with some bad scrapes on his side and leg. He was a real trooper and kept going.

Our next stop was about 4/5 up Mt. Peres, which has a military base at the top (like many mountains in the Golan). This point presented us with a view all the way to Haifa. We also saw a cool spider that many of us believed to be poisonous. The drive to had us path through a lot of rock strewn fields, but also some beautiful vineyards and orchards. And, many "unofficial" memorials, including one to a unit that included the name Yoel Shalit, Gilad Shalit's uncle. Then on to Mt. Hozek - almost in the middle of the eastern border of the Golan, with a great view of Syria. We were about 1 mile from a Syrian town and could see Syrian traffic. We also saw Israeli troops keeping on an eye on Syria and clearing some brush from no-man's land. Next stop will not be on any maps. Even the Teperbergs had to pull to the side of the road and call a friend to make sure that we were in the right place. We parked the cars and walked about 100 meters down a dirt road that had barbed wire fences on both sides warning of mine fields. At the end of the "road" we found 3 soldiers putting up a shade covering and some tables and flags for a ceremony later in the day. We took advantage of the shade. Also at the end of the road was a Syrian made "pool" - it was circular, about 5-7 meters in diameter (none of us figured out how deep), and the source of the water was the matter of some debate. Vardit thinks it is spring fed and Uria things it is like a cistern and catches rain water. Regardless, Noah was the first to jump in. It was quite cold, but we all jumped and swam, except for Sima and Vardit and Noa. We even coaxed Ori and Shlomo into the water. The soldiers looked on jealously. Vardit was in charge of the pita/bread sandwiches with hummus, hatzilim and agvanyot (tomato). The kids had a great time, even the ones who freaked out about trying to find some privacy in which to change clothes. Then, off to De Karena chocolate factory in Ein Zivan. The tour was a bit of a disappointment in that it was all in Hebrew, the tour guide spoke really fast and she wouldn't even pause to let the Teperbergs translate. But, we did get to taste some chocolate on the way out. After our sad parting, we headed to Rosh Pina because Uria told us it was beautfiul. Not sure what we were supposed to see, but we parked near the "historical sight" sign, left the kids in the car (better than fighting with them) and we went exploring and found cobblestone streets that looked like the streets from the early days of the settlement. We were following a group of 20 to 30 middle-aged to older Israeli men on an outing. They came across a bride and groom taking pictures and broke into song and encircled the newleds and danced for them - only in Israel would you see that. Back to the car and off to Tiberias for dinner at Deck's. We have heard so much about this place that even the great meal could not live up to the hype. But, the view was tremendous (and the steak not bad). Home in Netanya and the kids all collapsed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We think we've found our kids limit. The Teperbergs were busy with an all-day school trip today, so we said a quick hi to Vardit (and picked up forgotten items from last night) and headed out on our own. But, before that, we enjoyed our first "official Israeli breakfast" at the hotel/youth hostel in Hispin. Why "youth hostel"? Because it seems that we are the only family staying here this week - the rest of the guests are Israeli youth groups and Taglit/Birthright trips (and French and British teen groups). There was a lot of noise last night, but it seemed to quiet down around 12:30 p.m. Breakfast consisted of salads, peppers, bourekas, cereal, fried eggs, cheese. But, no cottage cheese as the hotel is showing solidarity with the cottage cheese rebellion. And, Sima snuck some bread and cheese for lunch sandwiches and Mike saw some "take away" bags by baguettes, so we don't think we actually needed to sneak them away.

We headed to our first hike - Nahal El Al. No, it is not just an airline. The El Al is the southernmost river in the Golan and runs from the northeast to the southwest and into the Kinneret. The hike started at second yishuv down the road - called Avnei Eitan (so, Eitan was happy). This hike was pretty official, with a parking lot (gravel) and bathrooms and even a snack bar (that was closed). The hike took us down a pretty steep incline to the river bed and then through dense and beautiful vegetation (lots of flowers of all colors, so some thorns - it was almost like being in a jungle) and then around to a beautiful waterfall. We only saw one group on the way down - a group of guys in their late teens/early 20's. They decided to head off the marked path and we asked where they were going. They said they were going to find another waterfall, but suggested we stay on the marked path. Good suggestion. We got to the pool/waterfall by climbing down a steep incline and only made it with the assistance of metal handholds knocked into the rock wall. The water was sure cold, and Mike was the first to dunk himself, but all the kids soon followed. Only one of us needed to make a deposit way off the beaten bath, and Sima had to help, and it seems that others needed to do the same thing at some other time. Glad we brought handy wipes with us. As we were getting ready to leave (and Noah finding a secluded spot to change his clothes) a man in black pants and white shirt walked on us and asked us in Hebrew when we were leaving. We told him 5 or 10 minutes, but he kept pestering us. Sima knew that he was the scout for a larger group and very soon we were inundated with 40 or 50 screaming kids who all began stripping even before we were out - we just didn't need to see 10 year olds swimming in their tighty whiteys. The climb back up was much easier than the climb down. We came across the same group of 20-somethings they asked us the way to the waterfall. We asked them what they found on their detour, they said "it was a secret" - code for they were lost, glad we didn't follow them. The kids were already tired and kvetching and it wasn't even lunch time. We went back to the rooms to change out of our wet swimming clothes and into normal hiking/walking clothes. The kids revolted and demanded that we not go to another hike. So, we headed to Aniam - up the road - that has an artists colony. We each had an ice coffee and bought them all fruit shakes (prishake) to go with our purloined sandwiches. We browsed in the shops and then headed to Katzrin. Katrzin is the only city on the Golan and we went to a strip mall to watch a movie at Kesem Golan. The movie was in 4D (fans blew on us and we were shpritzed with water a few times) and showed great views of the Golan. It was essentially a great commercial for the Golan. Only problem - we were already here! Then we went upstairs to a really interesting 3D topographical map and there was a multi-media presentation that talked about the geological and political (and military) history of the Golan. One of us was sure freaked out to find out that there was a war right where we were standing only 38 years ago. The only assurances that worked were that this is where the Possicks are moving (we think), would they come anywhere that is unsafe? Of course, Katzrin didn't exist during the war anyway, it was founded in 1977. After the official show was over, we spent a long time looking at the map and finding all the spots we had visited on this trip (including finding what the boys are adamant was the Teperberg house) and last trip. The relief sure puts everything into perspective - why the Golan is strategically important, not only because of the high ground but also because of the control of the water feeding the Kinneret and the Jordan River. After the movie, and a short stop at a memorial that included 5 old tanks, we headed to Gamla. The park was closing in 90 minutes, so we were not allowed to hike to the city of Gamla that was destroyed by the Romans in the first century. Instead, we hiked the other way to get to an overlook for a wonderful view of the Gamla Falls - the tallest falls in all of Israel. Noah ran ahead to get in shape for lacrosse and Mike and Eitan walked fast. The girls fell behind and didn't quite make it the whole way. The boys decided to catch up with girls and were jogging, which was fine until Noah turned back to make sure that Mike had not had a heart attack and tripped and fell over a rock. Glad we had more handy wipes. We then walked a paved path to see the vultures and an overlook of ancient Gamla. The views were great, but watching the soaring vultures was truly amazing. We took some pictures and even some video - hope they come out. Then, the kids were hungry and crabby (did we say that they were in full revolt yet?). So, back to Katzrin to the food court - pizza for the girls and Burger Ranch (yuck) for the boys. (Folding the case to hold the Burger Ranch meal for 2 took the clerks 5 minutes.) We brought the kids back to the room and they ate, watched a movie and we (the adults) went back to Aniam for a nice dinner at Suzanna's. The highlight was that Sima got a Poykepot! Yup - cholent on a Tuesday night. We bought the boys and Ilana steak burgers to go as a peace offering (and Naomi a salad). Didn't work, so we are outside in the wind, with Sima drinking a beer and Mike drinking a 375 ml bottle of Gamla wine. And, watching (and listening to) more teenagers. How many times do we need to say that we don't have an aish (a light) for these idiots who shouldn't be smoking.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Teperbergs! We could stop right there and that would be the highlight of the day.

We woke the kids up and packed up for the trip up north. We have no idea how we will get the luggage in the Mazda 5 for the trip to Jerusalem next Sunday as we had to put part of the back seat down just to fit in a few backpacks. We are glad we brought the bungee cords and just hope that we don't lose our luggage on the road up to Jerusalem. We have been listening to the seventh Harry Potter book on CD in the car and the kids were so engrossed that they didn't want to stop the car. Our first stop (after stopping for gas for the umpteenth time) was Har Tavor, or Mt. Tabor. Christians believe that the mountain is the sight of Jesus' transfiguration. According to the summary on wikipedia, that is the story where Jesus transfigured into rays of light and spoke to Moses and Elijah. Har Tavor is mentioned in Tanach in Yehoshua as the point where 3 of the tribes' areas met as well as in Shoftim as to the place where Devorah and Barak fought battles. It was also the sight of battles in Roman times (where in this country is that not the case?) and there are the remnants of a wall that Josephus Flavius built. In order to get to the top of the mountain, we drove through a very interesting Druze town and up a very steep and windy street. At the top are a Franciscan monastery and a Greek Orthodox church. Only Eitan and Mike went to visit the Franciscan church, saw a monk dressed in monk's garb and watched as pilgrims took communion as part of a Mass. (When we used the bathroom on the way out, there was a box that asked for 1 shekel for using the WC - we paid.) The hike essentially circled the top of the mountain. The absolute hardest part of the hike was finding where the path started (or ended). We started and stopped several times and even drove the car to look for the trail markings. We found 3 girls who were hiking from Tel Dan (way up north in the Golan) all the way to Jerusalem. The pointed out the path they took up and down the mountain, but we found the black trail that circled the mountain and off we went. The hike was not terribly strenuous, pretty short (an hour in total) and afforded beautiful views in all directions.

After the hike, we went to Kfar Tavor at the base of the mountain to visit a fascinating museum - the Museum of Marzipan. That's right, a whole museum dedicated to almond paste and sugar. We saw amazing sculptures made out of marzipan, watched a short video on the history of marzipan and how to make it, and then Naomi, Eitan and Ilana went to the marzipan workshop to make their own works of art (pizza, flowers, a hot dog and corn on the cob). We each had a taste, and none of us like marzipan. That didn't stop the girls from buying marzipan in the shape of a dog and a chick. It was 2:30 and we still had not had lunch, so off to SuperSol to buy bourekas - pizza, onion, mushroom, cheese and potato - we all snarfed it down in the car and then headed out. The drive took us to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and then along the border with Jordan and up to the Golan Heights. Just as windy and steep a drive, but a lot longer and more trucks coming down. Once on top of the Heights, it was a quick drive to Hispin (or Chispin or Haspin), where the Teperbergs live. After a wonderful greeting by Uria and some of the kids, we settled in like it had not been 3 years since they left St. Louis. All of the kids felt so comfortable with each other (even Noa, who was not yet born when they left) - we did miss Tehilla as she is on a school trip). Noah joined us as Uria took us on a tour of his school. He is the head of school of a high school called Bnai Golan in Ramat Magshimim, the town just next to Hispin. Uria seems to be doing an amazing job helping 70 at risk teenagers become productive members of society. For many of these kids, if not for Uria's school they would be in prison. The school is actually a small village, with dorms, a shul, different buildings for classrooms, administrative offices, a music room in the old air raid bunker, etc. Several of the buildings were built by the Syrians when they controlled the Heights, including Uria's office and part of the shul. If only the Syrian army knew what is going in on in the buildings formerly used by their officers. After the tour of the school, we got a quick tour of Hispin (that is all it takes is a quick tour). Let's put it this way, there are no street names - you just count the number of streets over (there are only 3 or 4). We saw the plot of land where the Teperbergs will be building their house soon. Uria the barbecued for us (on the grill they brought from the US) - the meat was straight from the butcher on the Golan, and was probably the freshsest meat we have ever had.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

We spent the better part of the day in Ramat Hanadiv, a nature preserve/gardens at the southern end of the Carmel, between Zichron Yaakov and Binyamina. (It is a 2 minute drive from the Tishbi winery.) We thought it would be just a short visit and we would then venture onto Zichron Yaakov for lunch and a visit to the Nili museum (a museum to the resistance against the British). But, we were pleasantly surprised with how much there was to do at Ramat Hanadiv (we tried to go there the last time we went to Zichron and Tishbi, but arrived when it was closing). The highlight (for most visitors) are the beautiful gardens surrounding the burial place of Baran Edmond de Rothschild and his wife, the Baroness Adelaide. True, the terraced gardens, the rose gardens and the other botanical beauties were amazing. But, we were there to hike in the nature preserve. There are three marked trails - the helpful woman at the information center suggested we take the blue-marked Spring trail, which is recommended for families and the map (that cost us 2 shekels) says should take an hour to cover the 2.5 Km. We decided to take the red-marked Manor trail instead. It is 4 Km long an is supposed to take 2 hours. Well, being us we would have finished the trail in an hour or so, but we took a bit of a detour and our path was more like 6+ Kms. Why? Well, we would like to think that we planned it that way all along but the answer is much simpler, and one word. Cows. Lots and lots of cows. But, more on that later. So we started out on a dirt path, realized we were on a service road and not the trail and double backed. On the hike(s) (more on that later too), we only saw 2 other hikers, and extremely little litter. We were very happy to only have to dodge the cowpies that marked the trail (that should have given us a clue, but we are a bit clueless sometimes). We came to the first signpost (marked with a #1) and dutifully looked at our map for an explanation. But, the map we bought didn't tell us anything (we found out later that the Hebrew map includes explanations - sheesh, talk about discrimination). That was when we came across the first hiker - a woman who was documenting the number and types of butterflies she saw. She told us that we were standing by a ancient quarry and we headed on down the path. The boys were trailblazing ahead, Sima and Naomi were in the middle and Mike was trailing back with Ilana who seemed to be in her own little (happy) world most of the morning. That was when Noah and Eitan sprinted back to Sima yelling "turn around, turn around!!" Naomi asked in a panic "Why, wild pigs?" as were told at the information center that pigs do live in the park but hide during the day and come out at night. The boys screamed, "No worse, cows and horses!" Recall, ever since the unfortunate horse bite incident Eitan is terrified of horses. So, Mike took the lead, Sima took charge of the girls and Noah was charged with throwing himself between any wild, vicious horses and his brother. As we moved forward in our defensive positions we came across the first of the wild horses - with engorged utters and looking an awful lot like a cow. (Noah said later that he was the boy that cried "Horse".) Then another cow, and another, and a few more. They were just chomping away at the grass and showed little interest in us, but the path was blocked, and not only by cows but by a yellow rope that seemed to be directing us off the path. So, we dutifully followed the rope naively thinking it would take us back to the red path. But, alas, we found ourselves off the path and on some unmarked dirt roads. We aimed ourselves for the cliff overlooking the coastal plain (the red path eventually turned at the cliff and has several amazing overlooks) so we figured the worst thing we would do would cut to the north or south of the path and rejoin it. Well, we ended up going further south than we thought and found ourselves in a Tumuli field. What is a tumulus - good question. A tumulus is a Caananite grave site, marked by a pile of rocks,and quite cool. We were several Kms south of were we should have been but we found ourselves on the Israel National Trail and took that north until it met up with the red trail, at a very cool excavation of a Byzantine farm house. The house was 2 stories tall, and the foundation is well preserved. That farm was built on the same spot where there was a Second Temple Era agricultural site. We saw wine presses from both eras, a mikveh and an olive press. The red path took us down into a wadi (valley created by a stream) and then back up to the trailhead. A very cool hike that we (meaning Sima and Mike) would definitely do again. But not cool in the sense that we were drenched with sweat and thirsty as much of the water in our camelbacks was still frozen.

But at the visitors center, like an oasis beckoning to us, was a lovely little cafe (called Kerem Zayit - vineyard of olives?). We must say, that it is now our favorite restaurant. The views are amazing, the food was delicious, and we adore the little tiny cheese graters for the parmesean. Even the boys, who are huge meat lovers, agree that our three favorite restaurants are all dairy restaurants - Aresto in Caesaria, the Tishbi Winery restaurant and now the restaurant at Ramat Hanadiv. The boys split penne and a pizza, the adults each had salads (Nicoise and a salad with fried goat cheese), Naomi had lasagna and Ilana had here favorite, ravioli (this time spinach with tomato sauce). The highlights were the focaccia served with the salads (that all enjoyed), the ice mint that Sima and Noah had (think ice cafe with lemonade and mint - crushed ice infused with mint and lemon), and the individual serving of parmesean cheese with a mini grater for the pasta - Mike used up every bit of Ilana's on her ravioli.

After the wonderful lunch, we did the Spring trail, which was supposed to take an hour. The kids all made guesses, and everyone overshot - it took us less than 30 minutes. But the short trail took us be a Roman tunnel and aquaduct (a little one) that feeds a pool/bathouse. A sign said that this was the best preserved aquaduct in Israel and the only one that continuously fed water from its source to its destination since ancient time. We then saw other ruins, but don't know what they were (darn helpless map). Since there was no complaining on that short hike, the girls got ice cream and the boys chose sodas. After the hike, back at the information center, we found out the cows are in the park to graze the greenery and get rid of the vegetation that could feed a fire. Though we only saw their poops, the park also has a herd of goats that serve the same function. As we turned away from the attendant at the visitor center and looked back over at our kids, who were waiting outside, we saw them surrounded by a group of 20 or so Nigerian men taking turns posing with them and taking photos. We went to investigate and found that this group is visiting Israel for 3 months and learning about agricultural techniques. Apparently one of the guys had approached the kids and asked them where they were from, they said St. Louis, in America, and that was the hook. Each of them wanted a photo with the kids, which they obliged until it just got too tedious and we had to move on.
We then watched a short movie (thank you air conditioning) about Ramat Hanadiv ant the Baron de Rothschild. Unsurprisingly, the movie did not share any of the negative perspectives on Rothschild or his overseers that we heard at the First Aliyah Museum. But, we learned that his father was from Frankurt and was renowned for his honest business dealings. The father asked his 5 sons to spread out across Europe and deal with each other honestly - they did, to London, Paris, Vienna, Florence and .... 1 other city. The youngest, Edmond, went to Paris. It was there that he joined the French, Jewish aristocracy and became interested in the fledgling Jewish communities in Palestine. He was a patron of towns from Rosh Pina to Gedera, including Zichron Yaakov. He died in 1934 and his will asked that he be buried in Israel, but did not indicate where. His wife died the next year, and in 1954 their bodies were brought from France aboard an Israeli naval frigate and they were reinterred at Ramat Hanadiv. (Rothschild was known as Hanadiv Hayadua - the Known Benefecator - because of the humble way that he gave of his fortune.) We then walked the gardens and visited the Rothschild crypt.
Afterwards, we returned to Netanya, the girls and Eitan swam a little and we all got cleaned up to go to Modiin, to have dinner with Nava and her family. Although we were afraid of getting horribly lost in Modiin, we only made one wrong turn and found the Brief's house easily enough. We had a wonderful home cooked BBQ with Nava, her parents and siblings, a cousin (and her friend) who just finished a Birthright trip and, of course, Yehoshua. The conversation was lively and interesting, and the Brief children were wonderful hosts to our kids; we even had the opportunity to watch all of the kids gang up on Nava and try to wrestle away her bat mitzvah album. Any of the Brief kids (or Yehoshua) who post pictures from Nava's bat mitzvah up on Facebook will get special prize from St. Louis. We then sadly said our goodbyes as Nava is leaving for camp up north and we will not be seeing her again this trip, and made our way back to Netanya. The kids are, again, exhausted. They already complained about getting up early tomorrow, but tomorrow is a big day - we head up north to the Golan and to the Teperbergs!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday/Saturday - June 24 and 25, 2011

Friday was another "vacation" day for us. We stayed in Netanya and went to the beach/kikar/pool. The beach was beautiful, and as it was Friday it was a bit more crowded. At one point we had a very Israeli beach experience. To the left of us was what looked to be a Russian couple on lounge chairs. He was wearing a speedo type suit and she was tatooed and wearing a thong and usually not her bikini top (but lying on her stomach). To the right, we saw an elderly couple walking down the beach towards us - probably in their 70's. He was wearing a black suit with his pants rolled up to his knees, still wearing his black hat, and she was completely covered. The juxtaposition was just amazing. The kids came up to the apartment for lunch, and the adults went to get more cash out of the ATM. We just had to stop for a smoothie (for Sima) and a shwarma (for Mike). We then picked up some more food for the apartment and Mike took the girls and Eitan swimming. This time, we were asked for the cartis (the card that shows that our landlord paid the dues for the pool). Well, it turns out that he hasn't yet. So, Noah will just have to call him to talk about that too. (And, that someone else keeps parking in the spot that we were told is for our use.) Still can't beat the location and views from the apartment.

We then showered and got ready for Shabbat and started our trek into the Shomron (Samaria - part of the "West Bank") to spend Shabbat with the Kampler family. Sara lived with us 2009-10. We have a very "liberal" GPS; no matter how hard we tried, it just would not give us directions to Karnei Shomron. We tried "bypassing Area C Override" and it still would not work. So, we called the Kamplers and they gave us easy directions. The GPS wanted us to take a route that would take 4 hours and it took us less than an hour. We encountered the first checkpoint of the trip, and they waived us right through. Driving through the Shomron, we saw Arab towns and Jewish towns. And, for the first time in almost 2 weeks, we saw a bit of a military presence. On either side of the road was a fence and a military road and the road was not so busy -- it was very different from the driving we have been doing through the central corridor. We passed through the gate in Karnei Shomron, found our way to Ginot Shomron, and found Sara there waiting outside her house for us. It was so great to see Sara and to meet her family. All of her siblings were home for the weekend, except for Shlomzi, her sister who just graduated from high school, who was at a shabbaton for her class. Sara's parents, Fruma and Mark, and her siblings Noam, Beneyahu, Shivi, and Adi made us feel so welcome. While Sara's dad worked on the Shabbat cooking, Sara and her mom took us on a short driving tour of the area. They took us through the Ginot Shomron hill and the Karnei Shormron hill. They also took us up to a caravan settlement on a nearby hill called Ramot Gilad. The views were amazing; you can see Hadera, Netanya, and Tel Aviv. And we got to meet Shlomzi as we passed her and classmates driving decorated cars in a "graduation Parade" around the yishuv. After the tour we met Sara's next door neighbor, Sara, who housed Mike, Sima, and the girls. We went to shul, and enjoyed a delicious meal with lively conversation. After dinner Noah went out to walk the streets and find the teen social scene with Beneyahu, and Merav's mom Rutie stopped by to say hello and we chatted for a while. She is so amazing, we will miss her visits to St. Louis when the Possicks return home.

On Shabbat morning we all went to shul/synagogue/beit knesset, which is much faster and more efficient than at home. The girls and Sara and Sima sat with Ruthie and made it in time for mussaf. We were back at the Kamplers by 10:30 to visit a bit before lunch. Mike and he boys went to a minyan that started at 9 a.m. and was over by 10:30. Sara's grandfather Jay Shapira stopped by to say hello; we had met him when he visited St. Louis a year and a half ago. Again, lunch was delicious. The kids all really hit it off and hung out together all afternoon. The adults napped, and then Sara took us for a walk around the yishuv, she showed us the wadi next to their hill, which is the nachal that separated the land of the tribe of Menashe from the tribe of Ephraim. The kids went to b'nai akiva, and the adults had a much less chaotic seudah shlishit, and before we knew it Shabbat was over. After saying our goodbyes, we got back in the car with our uncooperative GPS. The trip was easy, except for our delay at the checkpoint traveling back across the green line. We did not know which line to get into so of course we got into the slowest one, and the border patrol soldiers checked our passports and the back of our car, and then let us pass through and on to Netanya. So, now we are watching Israeli tv and blogging.