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!