FIRST AND FOREMOST: To all of you in NJ and NY- we send our loving concern and hopes for a return to normal life as soon as possible! A major shout-out to our friend Cindy who took in my parents to share in the bounty of her generator-powered home all this week and who knows for how much longer. She is a blessing and a godsend.
While NJ was being pounded by Sandy and her aftermath, Chuck and I were on a tiyul (a trip) around Israel for a week and thus had no blog posts. We had a wonderful, interesting, delightful time and I will be posting a few entries in the next few days to share beautiful pictures and stories.
In the Bible, it says, “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, I will forget my right arm.” I have no desire to lose my right arm, but we sort of forgot Jerusalem. For Chuck and me, Jerusalem has always been our home in Israel and we were Jerusalem snobs in a way. But, for this long visit, we decided to make Tel Aviv our home base. Tel Aviv is the happening place in Israel, sometimes called the Jewish Barcelona, and Jerusalem, as spiritual and historical as it is, is somewhat a sleepy town. Its population has become ultra-religious and that isn’t always comfortable for those of us who are not. Both of us thought we should try living in Tel Aviv.
As you know, we’ve been very happy in Tel Aviv. But this past week was our traveling week with a rented car. We spent a lovely Shabbat in Haifa with my cousin Zilla, her father, brother, sister’s family, and her children and grandchildren (there were 25 of us for Shabbat dinner including 12 children under age 12). Here’s the view of the Haifa harbor and the whole northern coast of Israel from her apartment.
During the day, we went to a nature preserve and saw lots of egrets (and learned the word for egret in Hebrew- Anafah) and young human families with children. Here are Zilla and me in an ancient olive tree and on the path over the water.
We came to Jerusalem on Saturday night, October 27th. Even at night, it was magical, mystical and mysterious. Going to Jerusalem is called going up-both literally and figuratively. For us, it is full of memories and meaning, both ancient and personal, and Jerusalem evokes deep emotion in us. Here’s one of Chuck’s shots of the Old City with the Muslim Dome of the Rock and the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Our friends Lee and Mira, whom I’ve known since I was 11 years old and they were newlyweds working at Camp Ramah, hosted us and we have stayed at their home on French Hill so many times over the years, it feels like our home in Jerusalem. Sunday morning, Chuck and I just wandered around Jerusalem and bathed in its beauty and familiarity. We took the new light rail from Lee and Mira’s house to downtown Jerusalem and it was fast, clean and fascinating. Watching the people get on and off the train was an opportunity to see the full spectrum of Israelis- Arab families, Hasidic Jewish families, soldiers with their machine guns, secular Israelis- all kind of head-coverings and dress-all together on the train. Here are some pictures Chuck took on the train.
Later as we walked around, Chuck and I admitted to each other how glad we were to be in Jerusalem and how much we had missed it, without even knowing it. Every building is covered in Jerusalem stone and at different times of day, the stone takes on pink, gold and sand colors. This visit we were happy to see so many Arab families in the parks and shops of West Jerusalem- that is as it should be, but we had never seen it before. Part of it was because the Muslim Arabs were celebrating an Id holiday and not working or going to school, but to see Arabs comfortable in West Jerusalem (the newer, Jewish part of the city) was lovely.
In the afternoon, we had a very special experience, going to an archeological site near Bethlehem called Herodion that was King Herod’s summer palace. Lee, a historian-archeologist, had arranged a private tour with the Chief Archeologist on the site. He gave us wonderful historical and archeological perspectives and we learned a lot. It’s been a long time since we visited a dig and it was full of surprises and interesting finds. There is strong evidence that they found Herod’s tomb here. Here are some pictures at the site. The second one is of Herod’s palace.
We were able to go into part of the site that is closed to the public- to the former Royal Chambers behind the amphitheater, where there are still frescos and stucco molding intact. It was beautiful as you can see.
The view from the top where Herod’s palace stood was stunning, including the Dead Sea, the Judean Hills, and Bethlehem.
On Monday we picked up our South Orange friend Jay, who was in Israel for work and we went to the Israel Museum, which has been totally renovated since we were last there. It was a clear, warm but not hot day and due to the altitude and dry air, the Jerusalem sky was an intense blue color. We spent some time outside in the sculpture garden as you’ll see here,
and inside at a fascinating photo, video, clothing, and ritual objects exhibit on Hasidic Jewish life. It was surreal that we were enjoying a perfect, sunny day in Jerusalem while Cindy, Jay’s wife, was home in a hurricane with my parents! Two days in Jerusalem was too short, but it was onward to the Negev for our next adventure.