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.