Saturday, August 6, 2011

What a crazy week! Visa Adventures and finally, Hadassah!

So, with two weeks left, we are trying to squeeze in lots of things.  But first we had a big adventure with our visas.

Mark's brother Barry came to visit us right after the TBA Congregational Trip left.  He spent some time in Eilat then joined us in Jerusalem, staying at the Little House in the Colony which is about 4 blocks from us.  After a couple of nights there, Mark and Barry took a little trip to the North to do some wine tasting.  In order to travel up north, Mark rented a car.  When he went to the car rental place, they told him that his visa was expired.  You see, a automatic visitor visa is only for three months but we are staying here a total of four months and three days.  As soon as we found out, we got some advice from friends and Mark made an appointment at the Misrad HaPnim, Ministry of the Interior.  Our appointment was for Tuesday, August 2nd at 12 noon.

We arrived a bit early and luckily another customer told us that we would need to fill out some forms.  So I went up to the "Israeli" floor and picked up four visa extension forms and brought them back down to the "Immigrants" floor to fill them out.  Surprisingly, once we got called for our appointment, only about 10 or 15 minutes late, it just took about a half hour for Miri in window 9 to complete our visa extension at a cost of just 170 shekels (about $50) per person.  The interesting part about this was when she asked me my parents' names, and my mother's parents' names.  It ended up being a really easy process.  It seems if you want to visit here, you have a salary currently coming in, you don't want to work here, and you've rented an apartment already, it's easy to get a visa extension.  :-)

Another very special event this week was our trip to Hadassah Ein Kerem.  This was so exciting for me.  And probably our only adventure centered around only me for our whole sabbatical.  We were very lucky to be introduced to Barbara Goldstein, past Hadassah National President and current Executive Director of Hadassah in Israel.  We met her when were were traveling with TBA and our tour guide, Yishai, knows her and introduced us when we were at The Valley of the Communities at Yad Vashem.  I was so excited to meet her!  She gave me her card and told us to call her so we could have a private tour of the hospital.

I called her after the TBA tour ended but she was traveling in the United States for three weeks so I had to wait until the end of July to call her to schedule our visit.  Finally we connected and set up our tour for Thursday, August 4th.

We waiting for the boys to get home from camp before setting out for Ein Kerem, one of the Western suburbs of Jerusalem.  Unfortunately, they DID NOT want to go.  They both whined and fussed but especially Micah.  He threw a huge tantrum.  It was really awful.  Jonah recovered pretty quickly but Micah took a lot longer.  We finally got them calmed down and ventured out to find a taxi to take us to Ein Kerem.  We arrived at the Hospital complex after about a 20 minute drive, and the driver dropped us off at the entrance to the mall where we were to meet BG as she calls herself at the Aroma Cafe.  There she was sitting waiting for us drinking her coffee.  :-)

Our first walk was through the mall, then through the newest main entrance of the hospital, the entrance to both the Davidson Tower and the current main hospital.  Later in the tour, we got to see the construction in action at the Davidson Tower with cranes moving things around high above our heads!  It was so cool!

Because 30 - 35,000 people, plus 5,000 staff, walk through the complex each day, the mall is a convenience for both consumers and store owners.  Bet you didn't know that Hadassah was in the business real estate business!

Our first stop was at the Chagall windows inside the gorgeous chapel that he helped design.  The windows depict the 12 sons of Jacob and include lots of symbolism both Jewish and Chagall.  Since Barbara had met Marc Chagall many times and heard directly from him what each window included and meant, we got to hear from her exactly what he had told her.  Some important features to notice are: (1) a white spot in the middle of some purple to remember when some of the windows were blasted out during the 1967 war, (2) Marc Chagall's house in one of the windows just because, (3) the bimah is lower than the seats instead of higher, one of a handful of synagogues with this placement, because "out of the depths I call to you," (4) no use of human forms in any of the panels - the hands that are shown are all imperfect, missing thumbs or fingers.  Chagall and his assistants created the technique for these windows just for this project. He had never made any stained glass product before this.  When he was approached and asked to do these for Hadassah, his reply was that he was waiting for someone to ask him to serve the Jewish community. (!!!)  Amazing.

They are so gorgeous I will show you some photos Mark took to let the windows speak for themselves.

This week, ulpan continues to go well.  I've definitely learned a lot and hope to continue learning more and more Hebrew after I return home.  Micah and Jonah continue to love All Star Sports Camp and next week will get to have even more fun doing "extended day" schedule.  Our days this coming week are just jammed packed with friends, last visits to places, eating out, hosting, etc.  It's all great fun now, and I am very sad about it coming to an end.  As much as I look forward to coming home, it's going to be a very big adjustment.

Also this Friday we took a family trip to Bet Shemesh.  We all took the bus together in Jerusalem for the first time (for Jonah and me it was our second time) and then we took a sherut from Jerusalem to Bet Shemesh and from Bet Shemesh back to Jerusalem.  It was great to see Mark's friend Ze'ev and to meet his wife Monica and their two children, and to enjoy a delicious brunch that they prepared for us, and to spend time with Mark's friend's Brenda and Steve Ganot who took us to see the caves. Very fun and full day.  You can read more about it here on Mark's blog.

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