Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Snapshot of Daily Life

So, here's a look at a typical day for me right now:
Around 6 a.m. I wake up.  It's very bright and noisy here in the mornings and once I am awakened I have to get out of bed to "use the facilities." I don't want to wake Mark up, and I probably couldn't fall back to sleep anyway so I catch up on computer stuff - email and Facebook.  By 7 a.m. Mark and the boys are up, so I take a shower, and we all eat breakfast and get ready to go.  At 7:45, Jonah, Micah, and I start the walk to their ulpan.  By 8 a.m. we are usually there.  Micah likes to walk ahead of us so he gets their even earlier.  Jonah and I walk together to the Rakevet, and then he goes the last two or three blocks on his own.  Their school starts at 8:15 and ends at 12:45 for Jonah and sometimes 12:45, sometimes 1:30 for Micah.  Micah goes on Sundays but Jonah doesn't.  Most Sundays he comes with me to my ulpan instead.  Two of those weeks he had private lessons with Ami, and this week he stayed with Adam on Rusty Mike Radio (Rusty Mike) the whole time.  He got to record two mini commercials "You're listening to Adam in the Morning on Rusty Mike Radio" and "You're listening to ulpan teacher Ami on Rusty Mike Radio" which they play often.  He doesn't like it when we use this word but it is very cute.
Today was my last day of ulpan at Ulpan L'Inyan (Ulpan) which made me feel sad.  But no, Jonah, I didn't really cry. I'm sad because I really like my classmates Robyn from Cherry Hill, Chuck from Philadelphia, Lenny and Rodin from Arizona, and Ashira from England and other places, and I don't know that I'll see them again.  I also adore my teacher Caren.  She's such  a good teacher - very patient and friendly she lets us ask questions and explains things very clearly.  I'm not sure I could have a better ulpan teacher.  The Ulpan L'Inyan system is similar to the Pimsleur whose CDs I was listening to in preparation for our trip.  I learned a lot with this one-hour-per-day ulpan, and have promised Lisa Fernandez I would try to talk to her in Hebrew when we get back  I also want to create a Hebrew chug for friends who want to get together and practice our Hebrew when I get home.  I know that Lea and Jan are interested, and I hope Stacy and Sandy and Adi will come too.  But good luck finding a time when we can all get together!  Ha ha.
So, after ulpan I sometimes go about three blocks from AACI Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel) which houses Ulpan L'Inyan to the gym (Body and Soul Gym) for a class - I've enjoyed several different ones like Dynamic Sculpting which is step aerobics with hand weights, Health Fitness which was Pilates, CORE which is not aerobic but lots of different and interesting core strength exercises, Yoga (self explanatory), Strength and Stretch which was a lot like a combination of Core Flow and Daily Method, and Zumba which was a very fun way to do aerobics.  The Zumba teacher is an amazing dancer and he really gets our blood pumping.  I was able to join this gym for about $14 for the month due to a great GroopBuy GroopBuy) coupon.  Very cool!  I've definitely gotten my money's worth!  My gym membership expires next week which is ok since I won't be going that direction for ulpan anymore.
Some days after ulpan I do some shopping. I have several favorite stores that sell housewares and are cheap like outlets.  I also walk around the two malls that are right there in Talpiot.  I had to buy some new sneakers for example so I tried on shoes at at least four different stores in the two malls and bought the best ones for a reasonable price.  I really like to shop for hats here.  They make the kind that I really like and they are not very expensive. My favorite hat that Mark got me from Israel before was an Imaga hat and the Imaga factory and showroom is on the second floor of same building where AACI and ulpan are.  Some days I just get a chai tea or another treat.  Lots of days I go to the grocery store across the street (Supersol Deal) and get things we need for home.
Imaga Sign

Imaga Factory

Imaga Showroom

On the days that Micah has school until 1:30, Mark and I go out to lunch somewhere on Emek Refaim. We've almost completed our mission of trying every restaurant that interests us there.  All we have left are La Boca and Taiku.  Yesterday we went to Ryu and we have also been to Magic Carpet (Marvad Haksamim), Olive, Joy, Baba, Luciana, Caffit, Cafe Cafe, Falafel Adir which is currently under renovations, etc.  Micah and I went to Sushi Rehavia by ourselves and Mark went to Buffalo Steakhouse by himself.  We tried all the pizza places when Pesach ended - Pizza Sababa, Big Apple Pizza, and Pizza Italia.  We've had juices at Rebar, gelato at Aldo, and snacks at McDonald's. We've had chai and coffee at other Aroma Cafes so haven't been to the one on Emek Refaim.  Oh, wait, I think Mark went there with a friend or colleague.  So there are very few places on Emek Refaim that we have not tried. I've even gotten my haircut at two of them: David's and Yaniv Malka's.  We also frequent the Post Office and some places just off Emek like Marzipan and Falafel Doron.
So, after lunch we pick up Micah and Jonah from school. Sometime they have playdates with Benjamin and Alon, Chaim and Bat El, and one Saturday Micah had a playdate with Shemer and Adir.  Sometimes they come to our house and Alon and Benjamin have each slept over at our place as well.  In the afternoons, there is ulpan homework, math workbook time, reading time, going to the library, and once in a while going to a museum or other outing.  On Fridays there is no school so we usually go to the shuk and grocery store all together.  Or Mark goes alone and the boys and I stay home a veg out.
Usually dinner is at out own house - some kind of meat, some kind of vegetable and fruit for dessert.  In the evenings, Mark and I have gone out a couple of times leaving Micah and Jonah home alone.  We went to the Ballet as part of the Jerusalem Festival, we went out to dinner for our anniversary, etc.  Sometimes in the evening I go back to the gym for a class or go to Israeli dancing with Boaz Cohen.
Twice a week Mark was doing laundry at our friends' house but now he is taking it to a laundromat once a week.  We tried to go to a movie last week. It was such a hot day.  But the movie was only in Hebrew so we got ice cream and came home instead.  Big bummer!
As I think of more things, I may come add to this post.  But basically, this is what it is like for us living here.

Shavuot and Another Trip

Though Shavuot gets overlooked quite a bit at home in the U.S., here it is a very big deal.  We enjoyed being hosted by a family with four sons from Boston.  Their cousin Michal, fresh from the army, was another guest we enjoyed talking to.  Another family from Philadelphia was there as well and we all ate a yummy dairy dinner, featuring cheesecake for dessert of course, outside after evening services at Yedidya, starting the dinner at 8:30 p.m.  That night, all around Jerusalem, there were many places a person could go to participate in all night study.  Mark chose Pardes and really enjoyed it. I went home with Micah and Jonah and we all got a good night's sleep.  In the morning thousands of people walk from wherever they are studying to the Western Wall and pray there.  Mark did this and then came home and went to bed.
After Shavuot, we went on another family tiyul.  We rented a car again, but were unable to rent a GPS this time because the store did not have any that worked.  So we used our printed directions from google and followed our maps which would have been fine except for some major construction just north of Haifa.  There was a bridge closed and we crawled along on Route 2 for literally 3 extra hours.  It was very very frustrating and tiring.  The result of the delay was that we did not get to go to the winery we had planned to visit.  Luckily we found a different one near Tiberias and went the next day to that one.
Finally, we got to Rosh Hanikra at the very northwest tip of Israel.  It is a such a beautiful place where the ocean meets cliffs and we saw a movie about some of the stories that happened there.
Beautiful Rosh Hanikra caves
After Rosh Hanikra, we drove to Tiberias where we checked into an old hotel called the Berger.  It was really quite nice, with a double bed for us and two separate single beds for the kids, a large refrigerator and a table with four chairs.  We did a ton of walking around Tiberias.  The first day, Thursday, we went to dinner at Avi's restaurant which gave us a large amount of very delicious food and then enjoyed a sound and light show called Tiberium right on the lake.  On Friday morning we ventured out of town to the Tabor winery where we enjoyed a delicious tasting and purchased a bottle as well.  We then came back to Tiberias and found a place to swim in the Kinneret which was delightful.  It was such a hot day and the water felt so cool.  I remembered that the water felt like silk on my skin when I swam there in 1994, and it felt just as nice in 2011.  Pure delight.  The "beaches" are just rocky inlets, but the view is stunning wherever we go in Tiberias. I really love it there.
Tiberias, city on the Kinneret
For Kabbalat Shabbat, we drove to Tzfat, another city on a hill.  The trip there was easy but the roads in the city are very twisty and confusing.  We had a difficult time locating the synagogues Mark wanted to see but we did run into the Bratslav synagogue which was like a palace and finally found the Beirav synagogue where we wanted to and did attend services.  The place was very crowded in both the men's and women's sections and in the men's sections, there was so much dancing and singing and clapping and joy.  In the women's section, we sang and one or two of us clapped and one or two of us tried to dance but we just didn't have the spirit that the men did.  I tried, believe me, but noone would join me.  After the service, we returned to Tiberias.
For Saturday morning services, we looked into (literally) two different shuls before going to Chabad which was well air-conditioned, thank goodness, but very lacking in ruach.  We left after the Torah service.  We returned to the hotel and rested quite a bit before beginning our trek back to Jerusalem.
Oh, while in Tiberias we visited some famous graves, those of Maimonides and Rabbi Akiva.  Unfortunately, I wasn't dressed for Orthodox synagogue so I felt very uncomfortable at them.  At Rambam's grave, a very big woman was speaking to me in Hebrew, giving me a gift from the Rabbanit Leah Kook who it seems is currently ailing and staying in the Eden Hotel in Tiberias.  It took many many sentences and repetition for me to figure out that I was supposed to say healing prayers for her in exchange for this gift.  At first she gave me a bouncy ball with a toy inside but I said "ani lo tz'rica" so she took it away and gave me a Tehillim keychain which is now holding my keys.  I saw these keychains at a store today for 2 shekels, about 60 cents.
I enjoyed our trip immensely.  Tiberias is a wonderful place to visit.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nearing Shavuot

Tomorrow night is Shavuot.  Our time here seems to be flying by.  After Shavuot, we have one "normal" week which encompasses mine and Mark's last day of ulpan.  The following week will be Micah and Jonah's last day of ulpan and the next day, the TBA congregational trip to Israel arrives.

These first two months have had so many special moments and lots of life.  Looking back, I see that it didn't really take that long to get used to walking everywhere, to get the know our neighborhood and the neighborhoods of our ulpans, to meet some new people, and to learn how to navigate the purchase and consumption of food and other items.

So, let me highlight two very special moments that I have not yet written about, our trip to the Negev and Tel Aviv, and our morning at Women at the Wall, and then recall a bit of the day to day.

We took a very interesting trip to Mamshit, Kibbutz Magal, and Tel Aviv.  Mark did a wonderful job as always of arranging all of the details, from rental car to rented GPS to accommodations to museum reservations.  I so appreciate being the assistant in this department and not having to worry about planning.

On the first morning of the trip, while I attended my ulpan class, Mark went to the rental car place and picked up our car and GPS.  It came with a carrying case that looked like a blue lunch box which we had to take with us at every stop.  It is not permitted to leave it in the car because they are so easy and popular to steal.  When I got home from ulpan, we left for Mamshit, the home of the camel ranch next to Dimona in the Negev.  On our way out of Jerusalem, we stopped at Latrun which houses a museum for the Armored Corps.  We had a hard time finding the movie that we thought would tell the history of the spot, but we finally found it but it ended up telling the story of the museum instead.  However, Micah and Jonah had a lot of fun climbing on the many tanks that they have there.  We also got to see some new recruits practicing for a ceremony of some kind.  The most powerful display there was the tower of tears which is a tall square room made of tank metal featuring some gunshot holes, and water drips down the sides and pools at the bottom, under the glass floor that you stand on.  It's very moving.

On the way from Latrun to Mamshit, we stopped in Beersheva simply because Mark had never been there before.  We drove around what looked like the main parts of the city and stopped for a yummy falafel and schwarma. 

At the Mamshit Camel Ranch, we were welcomed on our arrival and treated to some yummy sweet tea.  The boys got some ice cream instead.  :-)  In the afternoon, Mark and the boys went on a one hour camel ride while I stayed in the cabin and rested and read.  That was so relaxing.  After they returned, we had our shepherd's dinner featuring a stew of veggies, bread cooked on pebbles (pronounced peebles by our host), rice and lentils.  Everything was very fresh and yummy.  The desert air was great, and we got to enjoy a real Israeli medura or bonfire in the evening.  But then we tried to go to bed and the bugs were just AWFUL.  We didn't know we needed to bring our bug spray so we were basically up all night suffering.  Jonah got some sleep but Micah and Mark and I had a really tough time.  It was not fun.  Fortunately, the sun rose in the morning and we all enjoyed the shepherd's breakfast which had yogurt, pudding, eggs, more fresh veggies, and of course more tea.  I'd recommend others visit for the day but not overnight, but if you do go overnight, don't forget your insect repellent!

Next we left the ranch and visited the Aroma cafe in Dimona.  I enjoyed a delicious chai tea.  Then we drove from the south to the north along route 6 which hugs the border between the Palestinian territories and Israel.  For some of the drive, we were riding right along the security fence.  Very striking.  On our way north we stopped at Petach Tikvah to take a look around.  We ended up having lunch at a Cafe Cafe there but they did not have an English menu so it was very hard on Mark to have the burden of ordering everything for us.  Then we drove up to Kibbutz Magal which is where Adi Schacker grew up.  Her parents David and Bahira Yaron were so incredibly warm and welcoming.  It was like visiting paradise.  There is a two bedroom apartment upstairs that we got to stay in that included a full kitchen with a fully loaded and stocked refrigerator and pantry.  There were veggies, fruits, treats (chocolates, Bamba), cereals, bread, pita, cheese, yogurt, milk, etc. etc. etc.  Incredible!

We enjoyed a quiet Friday night Shabbat dinner with the Yarons and David took us for a walk around the kibbutz and gave us a tour of the factory there which manufactures irrigation pipeline.  Kibbutz Magal was the first to create drip irrigation for crops.  It was SO interesting to go inside a working factory and see the people and machines working together.

After the service and oneg, we went back to the kibbutz and enjoyed a large family lunch with the entire Yaron family.  There was an endless supply of food of many types again - soup, fish, chicken, noodles, various veggies, salads, etc.  Plus desserts and fruit.  It just kept coming and coming.  And all very yummy.

We rested in the afternoon then it was Lag B'Omer.  There was a humungous medura with a potluck dinner and activities for the kids.  Micah and Jonah made bows and arrows out of sticks and string.  Such a wonderful and Israeli experience.  It was tons of fun.  Jonah also got play some pickup soccer with some of the kibbutz boys.

The next morning we left early for Tel Aviv.  We had two museums to visit.  First in the morning we went to the IDF museum which showcased many tanks, guns, and military history.  Very interesting.

We took a walk from the IDF museum to the old town of Yafo (Jaffa).  It was really unique walking along the beach and ending up at an old fashioned town with shops and restaurants.  There was a large shuk area and we purchased some souvenirs.  We also had some yummy inexpensive falafel there.  Our desserts (a fancy chocolate cake, chocolates, gelato, ice cream) probably cost more than our lunch!  We walked back to our car and drove to our next stop, the Yitzchak Rabin Center where we went to the museum.

It was the most powerful stop of our trip.  The museum is very well designed with an inner circle tracing Rabin's life history and outer circles following Israel's history.  There are over a hundred movies and since you are wearing a device around your neck, the soundtrack begins when you step close to the display.  I learned a lot and cried a lot of tears here.  Micah and Jonah comforted me which was very sweet.

Our final stop in Tel Aviv was Dizengoff Avenue where we had dinner at Haronson while Jonah got some pizza across the street.  My salad with chicken was very yummy there.  Unfortunately, when we got back to the car, we had gotten a ticket.  That was not a fun way to end our trip.  But it was an excellent experience overall and isn't stopping us from taking another trip this Shabbat.

Immediately after Shavuot we are going to Sfat, Rosh Hanikra, and HaKinneret, and I will describe it all in another blog post.

Friday Mark and I attended a 7 a.m. service of Women of the Wall for Rosh Hodesh at the Western Wall or Wailing Wall.  The Old City is about a half hour walk from our apartment.  The main reason that this is such an interesting experience is because the Wall currently operates as an Orthodox synagogue and the Women would like to pray in a manner that is decidedly non-Orthodox.  This has resulted in quite a conflict that includes court involvement.  Suffice it to say that I feel torn between two feelings.  While I would NEVER go into an Orthodox synagogue and demand to read Torah, I feel the Wall should not be only for the Orthodox.  The Wall belongs to all of us.  And that is why I supported the Women by praying with them.  So, the Women begin their service at the back of the women's section of the Wall, protected by armed guards.  Then when it is time for the Torah service, we all march from the Wall to a nearby area called Robinson's Arch.  You see a different section of the Wall here, and there are fences and construction items around, but the second half of the service is very beautiful with Torah reading, aliyot, celebrating simchas, and men and women praying together. (Gasp!)  At this point, we didn't need guards anymore.  The most interesting moment for me happened when the guard approached one of the women who were praying with the group at the Wall and asked her to change how she was wearing her tallit.  He explained that the court decided that they could wear the tallit if it was worn like a scarf or shawl, but not with the flipped over shoulders that only are worn with tallits.  I'll show you with photos:
Tallit as permitted, draped like a scarf over the shoulders.

Tallit as not permitted, worn around the shoulders and then flipped up and over each shoulder.

Anyway, she pretended not to hear him at first, then she moved into the middle of all the women instead of changing how she was wearing her tallit.  So very interesting.

Mark and I were at the front of the group for the march from the Wall to Robinson's Arch so you can see our picture on the Women of the Wall website.  You can also find more information there if you want to know more about the women and their monthly services.

I have decided to end this long post now and will talk about our day to day life more in another post.  Thanks for reading!