This is our beautiful, historic building and after a little over two weeks, it feels like home. In these two weeks, we’ve come to know our neighborhood including the ins and outs of Carmel Market (Shuk Hacarmel), we’ve been to five museums, visited with multiple relatives and friends in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, wandered many streets and alleys, watched (and mostly understood) a number of TV shows (including the Israeli version of Got Talent), spent a fascinating day at Weizmann Institute with our friends Cindy and Jay, ate amazing fresh hummus and felafel on the street, biked hundreds of miles (one of us that is…), found a place in the shuk to get my hair blown out for 40 shekels or $11, had company for a delicious Shabbat dinner of kosher takeout food, walked over 45 miles–(both of us), and I could go on and on. My point is our life here is full in every sense of the word and yet we never feel rushed, tense, or pressured. I know it’s not real life, but it’s so lovely! I can only wish such an experience for you all.
A few highlights of the past few days. We went to Museum Eretz Yisrael (museum of the land of Israel) and saw two touching exhibits. One, called Leaving, Never to Return is the story of the immigration of almost 1,000,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries including Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon, Algeria, and Turkey. Almost 700,000 came to Israel in waves from 1948-1979. Some of these communities, including the one in Iraq where our beloved daughter-in-law Nova’s family is from, were established over 2,500 years ago, many centuries before the beginning of Islam. Through the centuries, these communities experienced some periods of prosperity, but many periods of extreme persecution and discrimination. Most were forced to emigrate (never to return) leaving behind their homes, businesses, and almost all of their belongings. This is a little known part of the history of Jews in Israel. Mizrahi Jews, as they are called, now make up over half of the population in Israel.
The exhibit includes photos, timelines, ritual objects, oral histories, film, and clothing and home items from each of these communities. It was very moving and personal for us. We know the story of Nova’s family exodus first from Iraq in 1948 and then from Iran in 1979, each time closing the door of their homes and leaving everything behind to start over in a new country. Nova’s beloved grandmother of blessed memory, Mama Dorice, who we were fortunate to know and love, gave birth to children in Iraq, Israel and Iran and she spoke five languages- Arabic, Hebrew, French, Farsi, and English. Most Americans think of all Jews as coming from Eastern Europe (Ashkenazi Jews) but that is only part of the story. Here’s a beautiful silver Torah case from Iraq, very different from the cloth covers Ashkenazi synagogues use.
As I wrote, we are beginning to master Shuk Hacarmel. At first, it was overwhelming, but after many trips through it, it’s become a comfortable and happy place for us. Here are some photos from the shuk this morning, and of the outdoor hummus joint where we were had lunch in the adjacent Yemenite Quarter.
I think my next post will be about speaking Hebrew, an ongoing process for Chuck and me that brings us joy, comfort, and frustration on a daily basis!