Andrew's Israel Journals 2000-2001

[IMAGE of Jerusalem]

2000-1

1986 1990 1993 1995 1997 1998 2000-1 2000-2 2001 2003 2004 2005

Sat 18-March-2000 6PM Mom's Apt Jeru
I flew from Boston to Tel Aviv last Tues and Wed. I flew on Continental, through Newark. The long hop was on a 777, 10 seats across, with LCD TV's in each seat back. Besides the normal dozen music channels, there were also a dozen video programs, games like tetris, reversi, and poker, and shopping, routes, current position of the plane, and other fun stuff. Enough to keep you busy if you're awake. The plane was full, no place to stretch out. Quite a few kids yelling and kicking seat backs. It got quiet eventually, but I didn't get much sleep. We landed at around 11am, about half an hour late, baggage claim and customs were quick, and Mom and Harry were there to pick me up.

I'm trying this time to shorten my battle with jet lag - after not getting much sleep on the plane, I stayed up until around midnight on Wed. I went dancing at Avner Naim's bet hanoar session, typically unfriendly, fairly crowded, the program wasn't too interesting. I went again on Thursday, to Chaim Tzemach's session, I like his programming a little better, people even hold hands in circles on occasion, but not very much. Some of the other dance leaders were at these sessions, Purim is next week, so they were promoting their Purim parties. Boaz Cohen, who I like, was there on Thursday, he said hi, I'll see him next week.

On Friday, Mom and I took a little walk through the Old City - in past the Tower of David, through the Arab shuk, out the Damascus Gate, over to buy some yummy date juice from the shop between the Bank Discount and the Rockefeller Museum, uphill to the New Gate, in through the Christian Quarter, through a sea of monks in brown tunics, and back to the car.

I brought my mom a new laptop PC. I've got it on the net and mostly set up, I moved her mail setup over, but that's not quite right yet, she can receive but not send. Almost done.

I went to visit Erela, who lives up on haPalmach, about two blocks from my mom. I spent a couple of hours with her on Wednesday, I was very tired from lack of sleep. She came over for Shabbat dinner, Mom broiled a big buri fish for the four of us.

Today, Mom and I went over to Charlotte and Charlie's and I did a little more computer work on her old Mac.

At this moment, I'm waiting for Uriel to pick me up for dinner, and later I'm going to go see Shlomo Bar, who is playing at the Pargod.

Pargod 9pm
Just went to dinner with Uriel, he's driving now - he claimed to be a terror on the road, but didn't seem too dangerous when actually behind the wheel. We went to a restaurant called Linguini, they sold decent fresh pasta. It's in Emek Refaim about a block from Boaz Cohen's dance at the ICCY. Uriel seems to be doing nicely, he's about halfway through his 3-year military service. He's doing some Windows NT hacking and some systems administration. He says that they treat him like a guru, and they ask him to lecture all the time to teach people about things, but he'd rather hack. He works from 7:30 until 4:45, he usually has to wake up around 5:30 in the morning. He's been taking a pottery class, the only thing that keeps him sane, so to speak. There are about 25 people in his class, one other man, all at least as old as his parents, but he likes it quite a bit.

So I'm sitting in the Pargod, about 15 rows by 10 seats wide, sitting right in the middle. There's a guy smoking even though it's a tiny poorly ventilated place with no smoking signs all around. I'm sure he already saw the signs and he's just waiting for someone to put it out. The crowd is at least 1/2 Anglo, but there are lots of Israelis too, people are trickling in. The concert should be starting soon. 9:30PM

Intermission-
The band is 5 pieces tonight - no Americans. No bass - Shlomo Bar playing the usual leather head doumbek tof, with a set of bells on his right ankle, red velvet with a bunch of small brass bells, maybe 50, like a Morris dancer. The fiddler, Samson, is frail, as always, fiddling and playing whistle too - wearing white pants and a parchment colored tunic, like the Indians wear at the Kalavati series at Harvard. Also a young guy playing a steel-stringed Spanish sort of guitar, a second guy playing tof, and a hammered dulcimer. The room is 2/3 or 3/4 full, not terribly crowded, but they're putting on a good show nonetheless.

Hmm. Still intermission. They were having some sound problems with one of the speakers at the beginning of the show, but those were resolved. It looks like water is dripping from the ceiling onto the stage, near where the fiddler would be playing. I hope they don't have much trouble with it, or this could turn into a really long intermission.

Wednesday 22 March 1PM

The Shlomo Bar concert ended up fine, the ceiling continued to drip, but people ignored it, no big deal since everything is waterproof stone, not wood and wallboard. The second set was fun, and I caught a cab home, the walk home would have been a bit chilly and Mom lives up a big hill.

On Monday, Mom and I went to the Tower of David Museum to see the Chihuly glass exhibit. There were several large structures, like trees and towers up to about 50 feet high, and lots of smaller pieces set up in the courtyard. It was all interesting and pretty in the sunlight but Mom says that it's even better at night, glowing in the lights.

I went to visit Erela for a while yesterday, we hung out and chatted. I only stayed a short while, I had a 4pm appointment with David Cavenor from Virtual Jerusalem, but he was stuck in Tel Aviv because the road back to Jerusalem was closed for the Pope.

Thurs 3:40pm
I've got an appointment to meet David Cavenor at Virtual Jerusalem at 4pm - I just walked around the Canion Mall for a few minutes, it's across the street from the technical park. The mall has most of the stuff you'll find in an American mall, probably not quite as abundant, but it's full of stuff. Of course, you can't find sahlab cham in an American mall, but you can here.

Mom and I went to the AACI this morning - they were having trouble sorting the mailing list labels. I think they just didn't understand the sorting options in their database setup. I gave them some suggestions, I hope it helps. Beats sorting 2500 labels by hand. I guess I should go meet David now.

7:15 PM Thursday Van Leer Inst
I'm at the AACI annual meeting, waiting for it to begin. They are giving my mom an award for her volunteer work, especially for running their blood drives, which she does about four times a year. This is pretty much the reason I came to visit at this particular time, I was intending to come sometime this spring, but I didn't know when, then Mom told me this was happening, and it seemed like an opportune time.

There's about 100 people in the auditorium, about 1/3 full. Lots of my mom's friends are here, Charlotte and Charlie, the Blacks, and, of course, all the AACI people. Max Weiner is running the meeting, he's about to begin - maybe I'll see him dancing later.

2PM Monday 27-Mar-2000
Outside Mom's Apt, waiting for the 22 into town

Hmmm. The AACI meeting was pretty interesting, sort of. The meeting mechanics were dull, but their guest speaker, Steve Cohen, was interesting. He talked about the relationship between Israel and American Jews, noting that the connection has become pretty weak now that Israel stands independently as a country. He said that if American Jews are going to be interested in Israel, it will be because they came to visit and enjoyed themselves and met Israelis who lived here. Toward the end of the meeting, Mom and Charlotte Gogek were recognized as the AACI Volunteers of the Year, for their many years of work running the Magen David Adom blood drives. They got certificates and gifts, it was nice, and I was proud of my mom, as usual.

One day, last week, Friday, I think, Mom and I went to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Tower of David Museum. He's a great glass artist from Seattle, and his exhibit is pretty popular, he filled the museum court with glass balls, glass plants, trees, flowers, a moon, and other pretty glass things. It is supposed to be more dramatic lit up at night, but it was nice and interesting in the light of day too. (Here's the bus...)

At the bottom of Ben Yehuda
Had a felafel at Moshiko's. They hacked up the midrechov since I was here last. There are cafe tables and chairs running down lots of the center of it. Gives people more places to sit, I guess it makes sense, maybe.

The weather has been very cool, damp and gray for most of my stay, but it's sunny, warm, and clear now. I expect the weather will be nice for the rest of my time here. Rain is pretty unusual.

One wacky note. Bus drivers tend to barrel through the streets at high speed when it gets to be late at night. This is usually bad enough, but the newest busses are painted all dark green, and they're impossible to see at night. Insane, people are pretty pissed off about it.

Motzei shabbat I went out to a popular little coffeehouse called Babette's Feast, with Uriel, David, and two other friends, Steve from LA and Adiv from Australia (or the other way around, I think). We had Belgian waffles and choco-cham (Steve and Adiv had Belgian beer). The seating was tight, I banged into Uriel and we send cocoa flying all over the place. Fuyeh. After that, Adiv and Steve went to see "Music of the Heart," I went home early since I was tired - washed the chocolate out of my clothes and went to sleep so Mom and I could go visiting early the next morning.

So Sunday morning, Mom and I went to Rechovot, to visit Uncle Benny and Etti, and to see Tante Tsirl. Not too much new, I guess, Uncle Benny moved from Cholon to Rechovot, Etti fed us too much food though we were in a rush to get going (yummy though, as always). Tante Tsirl is doing ok. Everyone asked when I was getting married. Some things never change.

The Pope finally flew home yesterday, after being here for 5 days. The whole city has yellow and white Pope banners hanging all over. I'm sure the Pope had a good time going to all the Jesus places, but I don't really think it meant anything to most Jews. I'm not saying that the Pope isn't a good guy, I think he is, but his visit doesn't really mean anything to Jews or Israelis.

330pm Mon
Walking east on Jaffa Road, Shlomzion Hamalka splits off to the south and in the middle off the fork is the Assicurazioni Generali building, dated 1881, and it has a large winged lion on top. Kinda bizarre.

Tues eve 10pm Boaz during the line dances. Short break for me. Aime is here, that's a surprise, he's doing ok. Max is here too. Funny to watch 100 Israelis doing a line dance to Riverdance music. Not quite like Boston.

Went to the shuk today. All the fruits and vegetables seem to be 3-4 shekels per kilo (75 cents or a dollar). For avocados, artichokes, strawberries, lots of stuff. Kind of crazy. Some things are expensive here, some cheap. Pitot (small) were 10 for 3 shekels.

There were 3 sets of couple dances. Didn't get any experienced partner for the first set, various lazy bones beginners who all punked out quickly. Learned a dance with a sylphlike black woman, maybe Ethiopian, maybe French. Did the middle set of couple dances with Orli, who dressed as Cinderella last week. Very friendly, and sweet. A long set of couple dances, hardly any of which I knew. Unfortunately, Boaz plays lots of dances I know in his third set, but there were no partners left for me to dance with for that set this week! Oh well.

April 2 Sun 6pm Eucalyptus Restaurant Jaffa Rd
Been pretty busy. Over the past week, I saw the Yemenite exhibit at the Israel Museum, the memorial site on Ammunition Hill, took a walk through Emek Refaim with Erela, went down to Ein Kerem with Uriel, and walked around the Old City with Erela. We're out for dinner tonight, and after this we'll be going to a concert with Erela, who isn't here because she'll be teaching students until 7.

April 3 5pm Naamat / Yiddish Chug Jeru
Waiting for a lecture about Chagall. anyway, Last week, Mom and I went to the Israel Museum to see an exhibit on Yemenite culture. Much of the outside of the museum was under construction, but the inside was fine. The Yemenite exhibit itself was interesting, with clothes, artifacts, photos, and movies from Yemen.

Akiva Fishbein is about to start his Chagall lecture, in Yiddish. The room is filled with old folks, and they don't have a full handle on the sound system. Here they go...

April 4 10AM Ben Gurion Airport
Through security. Ride from Jerusalem was speedy. Kissed Mom and Harry goodbye. I was on line at baggage control for about 15 minutes, it looked like they were grilling people pretty thoroughly, picking through their baggage, opening their books, riffling through their clothes in the suitcases. I guess most people I was watching were going to places like Germany or Thailand, when I tell them that I was in Israel to visit my mom, they wave me through pretty quickly.

Hmm... Last night's Chagall lecture was pretty good, though I didn't get more than about 20% of the Yiddish. The speaker had a slide presentation of Chagall paintings and drawings, so it was not too hard to follow, he was mostly pointing out details.

Hmmm, where was I? The Yemenite exhibit... It was mostly artifacts and photos, but there were a few interesting short films, one was taken by an Italian ["le mura di San'a," Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1973] around 1965, and he was very wary of how the city of San'a, which was still idyllic and ancient, was about to be destroyed by modernization. At that time, there were no cars, no advertising signs, no modern construction. If I recall correctly, they had demolished the walls around the city, which was a nasty start, and it seemed like they were going to tear down all the cool old stuff to "modernize" it. It would have been interesting to see a film on San'a today, but they didn't have that.

On Thursday night, I went to visit Erela at her apartment, and we took a long walk through Emek Refaim, where we stopped for good sahlab and baklava, then we walked toward the Cinemateque, past the King David Hotel and the YMCA, and back up Derech Aza. "Topsy Turvy" was playing at the Cinemateque, and they had some cool posters hanging, Hebrew posters advertising American films from 1933. They were all from the same period, someone must have had a stash of them.

On Friday night, I went with Uriel to Ein Kerem, had some tea in a cafe, and we walked around and talked. Ein Kerem is rather pretty and idyllic, with nice views, houses built into the steep hillside. Uriel told me some about his life as a soldier. He said that all things considered, it's been pretty good. Basic training was not bad, he went through with an interesting bunch of guys, and it didn't go on too long, because he isn't doing heavy fighting. He doesn't have to carry a gun, and he works with computers all day. He'd rather be out working at some startup, but for being in the army, he's doing ok.

On Saturday evening, I saw Erela again. She had to translate an article for a friend of hers, and type it into a computer. She was waiting all day for her sister to get into town so that she could borrow a computer. I offered to lend her my mom's old laptop and help her type it up. So that's what we decided to do. We played with the computer at her house for a little while then we went out to run around the city. We parked near Jaffa Gate and walked through the Arab shuk, out through the Shaar Shechem (Damascus Gate). It was pretty warm out, they sahlab guy wasn't there, but there were one or two guys probably selling tamarind juice. We went over to the tamarind and almond juice shop that Mom goes to, and we had some of each. Erela was pretty uncomfortable in that part of town, but I decided that we should walk out to the right, past the Rockefeller Museum, around the Moslem Quarter and in the Lion's Gate. I didn't really have a plan, but it worked out fine. The Lion's Gate leads to the Via Dolorosa, a place where I don't think I ever went. Erela said there was a good view from the top of some church tower in the Christian Quarter, so we went looking for it, though somewhat haphazardly. We stopped at the photo studio of a nice Armenian guy named Varouj Ishkhanian, he had lots of prints of photos of Jerusalem and other places around Israel, many from around 1900, some later. I bought a handful of them, I'll give some away as presents. After flipping through the photos and chatting with Mr. Ishkhanian, we walked around a bit in the Christian Quarter. We found the church with the tower, but it was too late in the day to go up. So we trekked back to Jaffa Gate and sat around until it got dark. Then we went over to the Ben Yehuda midrechov and had some felafels - we weren't very hungry.

The weather was nice, Ben Yehuda was getting pretty crowded, but Erela needed to type in her translation, so we headed back to her apt at around 8. She dictated and I typed and edited along the way. It was a fairly long article from Yediot Achronot in 1993, about a real estate guy named Natan Shapira, and his family, and some land that he bought in Latrun 60 years ago, and a dispute that he had over it with the Trappist monastery there, and the Neve Shalom settlement too. The article was about 15 handwritten pages, it took us about 4 hours to type it in. If Erela was doing it herself, it surely would have taken her at least 20 hours to type in - she was very happy to have finished it, since it would have probably taken her several days to do without my help.

On Sunday, Mom and I went to Ammunition Hill, lots of historical info about the 6 Day War, and you can walk around the trenches and bunkers. It illustrated how much work the Israeli army put into the war, and how brave they were. It was a big effort. (Now on the plane on the ground). That night, we went out to dinner at the Eucalyptus restaurant on Jaffa Road. It was quite nice. The food was tasty, chicken and lamb. My stomach was a bit upset, but it might have been all the street food I'd been eating lately. We picked up Erela after dinner and went to the Mormon Center, which is really called something like the Brigham Young Center for Mid-Eastern Studies. No mention of Mormon or Christian. The Mormon Center was built under heavy protest from various factions, and they are very careful to be good and friendly neighbors. The Mormons spared no expense building a very beautiful complex, and it's sort of out of context in the rest of Jerusalem, which is pretty impoverished and run down. Jerusalem is a very beautiful city, but some of that is more spiritual and transcendental, and less to do with how well it's maintained, which is sometimes spotty. Anyway, the concert was the Jerusalem Chamber Orchestra, mostly students in their 20's. Erela used to play in it. It was a fairly short program, 3 pieces. Haydn, a Vivaldi with solo oboe, and a Beethoven. The oboist won the right to solo in their annual solo competition. She was a tiny little girl, she played nicely. The conductor was a clarinetist who used to be one of Erela's teachers.

On my last day here, I took it pretty easy most of the day. I decided I wanted to go to the supermarket to buy some groceries to bring home, you just can't get good canned cholent in Brookline. After that, Mom made chicken schnitzel for dinner, then I went out with Uriel again. We met his friend Allan at the waffle place. We first had waffles covered with chocolate and cream cheese, then the woman who runs the place put up a sign with the daily special, pear sauce, cream cheese, and roasted almonds. I decided that the waffle of the day should be called the waf yomi. Allan laughed, I had to explain it to the very chiloni Uriel. After that, we went to Allan's house to install Windows with Hebrew support on Allan's already partitioned PC. It already had a Linux on it, and we goofed around some getting it to see its CDROM, we weren't all done, but we got it started and we went home, since Uriel had to be up at 5:30 for work, and I had to get to the airport this morning.

I didn't get too much sleep last night, maybe 4-5 hours. Woke up, showered, had a bagel and Mom and Harry took me to the airport. It's 10 past 12, we're just pulling back. The plane, another 777, is about 3/4 full. I'm in the very last row. The guy in the seat next to me moved up, so I have the seat empty on my right, and an aisle on my left. Good deal! We're just about off. They've been playing the sentimental Israeli music - al kol eileh, shir hashalom, etc. Even on Continental, taking off from Tel Aviv is a sentimental experience. 777's have the TV's in each seatback, so I'll be entertained if I want to stay awake, and since this is a new month, I'll have new stuff to watch on the flight back, though I know they have different movies in both directions anyway. They're doing the safety show now, time to go.

Still taxiing around Ben Gurion which is always interesting. Just passed about a dozen old looking fighter jets, now there are big prop cargo planes, all painted in camouflage colors. On the flight in, I saw a small jet with USA markings, looked like a mini version of Air Force One, probably Dennis Ross or someone. Also an Air Kazakhstan, and one that said Балкан (Balkan in Cyrillic) or something. Not the kind of boring planes you see in Boston.

We're off. The takeoff path is right over Tel Aviv and over the water, so you get to see Israel for only a minute. Tel Aviv by air is a pretty big sprawl. The solar collectors reflect the sun like twinkling mirrors in the light of day. We're already out over the Mediterranean and there won't be much of a view for the next 12 hours.

2000-1

1986 1990 1993 1995 1997 1998 2000-1 2000-2 2001 2003 2004 2005

Sun 13 Aug 2000 on the plane, Newark
Caught the 1:40 shuttle down from Boston. I checked the film I bought for Mom with the rest of my stuff, it might be ruined by x-rays, so I got more, at airport prices. The gate area was the typical mob scene of an Israel flight. I got on, and as I'm sitting down, a guy asks me to trade with him so that he can sit with his family, I say sure, and move further back. One minute later, a flight attendant asks me if I'm Mister Tannenbaum, and tells me my seat has been switched. OK, I say, and she hands me a first class seat. Yow, first row, fat seat, leg room me'od, next to an old lady who has her bags in my seat. Po? She asks. Ken, I say, she picks up her stuff. Her cane is hanging over the front of my seat back, but I have plenty of room. Moments after I sit down, another flight attendant gives me a dinner menu, a toiletries kit, and asks me if I'd like something to drink. I'm totally not used to the 1st class drill. A mom to my right is taking pictures of her daughter. There's a young couple to my left, the guy is asking for blankets, they're freezing. I froze my ass off last time, I knew to wear layers.

The flight attendant comes by to take our food orders. She addresses us by name. Next to me is G'veret Feldman. I'm having salmon. The guy comes by with the newspaper cart, whoa - a Sunday Times. I'm betting they don't offer that in coach. I take one, and a JPost too. G'veret Feldman wants a Russian paper, no such luck. It's 20 to 6, I think the scheduled time was 5:25. Pilot announced that the flight time would be 9 hours 40 minutes, which would be very fast. Hmm, they're buckling everything up, time to go!

Hmmm, we're finally lining up to take off, we spent an extra half hour on the ground, they were fixing the lights or something. I've got plenty to read, and the seat is very comfy, no problem. I should practice the torah reading.

Tuesday night, around 11, Boaz ICCY
Hmm, fun dance. Did the first couple session with a cute French girl named Veronique, she didn't know most of the dances, but she followed well enough and had good fun. That's how you could tell she wasn't from around here. ;-) Good crowd, tomorrow is tu be'av, sort of like Valentine's Day, or Sadie Hawkins Day, but there are probably so many more women than men that not much is made of it here. They're doing the set of line dances that comes before the couple dances, mostly to American music, cute but kind of corny for the most part. People are having fun doing them. Veronique just left and thanked me for the dances.

Hmmm, where was I? The flight was about an hour late off the ground, but at least my seat was fat and roomy. Of course, Mom and Harry were waiting at the airport. She said she had a scare, she called the automatic voice mail info thing, and she pushed 84 instead of 084, and the flight info didn't pop out, and she was worried. Once the offices opened at 9, she was OK.

Yesterday after I arrived, I played with Mom's computer for a while, and Charlotte's, the usual drill. I brought a bunch of mp3's on a CD, along with various software to install on another. I also brought the complete set of MAD magazine on 7 cdroms. I really brought it for Dylan, but I told him he could play with it here, he could leave it with Mom and I'd get him another so he didn't have to carry the box home. The MAD CD's are great fun, Dylan likes them, and it will give Mom something else to do with her PC other than playing solitaire.

Second set - last set of couple dances. Did most of them with an Ethiopian girl - I struggled with many ones I didn't know, usually this last set is more familiar. My partner finally bolted to go home, she probably hadn't planned on staying at all, as it's probably 12:30 AM on a school night. I asked at least half a dozen other apparently able-bodied partners to dance and they all said, no, this is a tough crowd, as usual. Perhaps somewhat friendlier than a typical Israeli crowd, but also younger, which might make them wary or just averse to dancing with an older and strange person. Oh well, lots of the couples are breaking up as the hour grows later.

Thurs 9pm beit hanoar
He's teaching a couple dance, just got here, there are no women waiting. Visited Uncle Benny and Tante Tsirl today, also, an ill-fated run to the Safari Park near Bar Ilan, which was closed when we got there, after bucking sweltering traffic. Visiting the relatives was cool, they're old and frail but still lots of fun. Uncle Benny is losing weight. He says, when the Alte Zachn man comes calling, he hides! Alte Zachn means "old things" in Yiddish. A junk man drives his truck up and down the street with a loudspeaker, calling Alte Zachn! - he's collecting, not selling. This used to be the job of poor Jews, now it's poor Arabs, but they still call Alte Zachn. Surveys have been done in Israeli universities, and most students think that "Alte Zachn" is an Arabic phrase. So Uncle Benny hiding from the Alte Zachn man is pretty funny.

On the other hand, Uncle Benny probably isn't feeling too well, he's looking quite thin. His wife, Etti, looks OK and I can figure out what she's saying although she doesn't speak English.

They're doing the dance just taught, a Harmonika kind of dance, probably 30 years old, at least. A couple of women have come in, but they are refusing to dance with people they already know, so I'll be hard pressed for the time being, hmmm.

Yesterday wasn't too exciting, went to the shuk with Mom, slept for a lot of the afternoon. My jetlag isn't too bad, but I'm sleeping in a small room with Dylan, and he's very restless and he talks in his sleep and is noisy. Not continuously, but often enough to keep me up. Ear plugs will help that.

Sat night 9:15pm Safra Square
Waiting to dance... Thursday night I ran into Dorit Oved, who danced in Boston 10 years ago. She's a good dancer and we had lots of fun doing the couple dances together. She invited me to come to a dance on Monday night in Har Herzl. She says it's a nice crowd, should be fun. Dorit lives in East Talpiyot, near the Tayelet.

Safra Square is a big outdoor plaza, about 75 by 50 yards. There is a raised stone platform stage on one end. About 50 people milling around waiting for dancing to start. The plaza is lit in a strange way, with very bright lights shining vertically, sort of like they have at a stadium, but at eye level, from on the stage. Dancing is finally beginning - Hachayalim.

Later...
Just finished the first set of couples with a French woman, good dancer - you could tell she was French, she had one of those shirts with lots of horizontal stripes. There's quite a mob here, probably 1000 people, I guess good free dancing on a public square in the center of Jerusalem will draw people. Lots of regular family sorts of folks. Moms dancing with their daughters, people of all ages, lots of talking on the sides and just a big churning throng in the middle. Quite a scene.

After midnight, on the 22 back from Safra Sq:
Quite a scene, lots of people, good fun. Ran into Alisa, who used to live in Boston, we just said hi. Saw a sweet girl who I danced with last trip at Boaz's dance, I think her name was Orli. She didn't recognize me, maybe I'll catch her at another dance.

Hmm, what else is new? We visited Rabbi Jay Karzen to prepare for Dylan's bar mitzvah. Dylan has been practicing, so he knows basically what he has to do, but he mumbles and fumbles. All he really needs is some solid practice to sharpen up. I think he'll be ready on Thursday, with a little honing.

I'm almost ready too, I ran through the Torah reading with the Rabbi, I was a bit cold, since I was jetlagged and sleepy and I didn't look it over first. I did OK, but stumbled a bit. I'll do fine on Thursday too.

I guess we visited the Rabbi on Tuesday. Later that day, we went to an exhibit called the Jerusalem Time Machine. or something. It's a shaky seat ride with a 3-screen video movie.

Tuesday night - Boaz ICCY ~11
Line dancing starting, not my cup of tea. Went to the Jerusalem Zoo yesterday and to the Safari Park in Ramat Gan today. Dylan had lots of fun. Both of them were pretty nice, lots of African animals - the Safari Park is where you drive through and ostriches and lions lick your car.

Went dancing with Dorit last night, in Har Herzl, at a gym. I forget what it's called. Dudu Zilcah's dance. It was fun, mostly women, like maybe 60-75%. Because of this, he does circle dances until 11, and then one long stretch of couples. Of course, I danced with Dorit, which was fun. Dorit apparently has a regular partner who is away on vacation, so I guess I was her understudy (they're still doing the usual line dances - "Mine All Mine," "I Will Survive," etc.) Last night's dance was a pretty "regular folks" sort of crowd. It was fun. A little girl, around 10, knew all the dances and helped Dudu teach, his daughter, I presume.

Oh, I accepted the job that Igo offered, and...

Friday taking Dylan to the airport
Just driving up hill past the Har El mall. So I accepted the job from Igo Krebs, working on robot software to help people recover from strokes. Should be interesting work, but I'll be doing most of the software stuff all alone. I'll only be working four days a week, which will be nice. I'll start a week after I get back, after I go to the Brattleboro Dawn Dance and have a chance to recuperate.

So yesterday was the Big Day, Dylan's bar mitzvah. It started at 8am at the Kotel, so we were up bright and early. We got all dressed up, well, Israeli style - I wore a Polo shirt and cotton pants. We left the house around 7, picked up Thelma, Mom's friend, and headed off to the old city. Mom drove in the Jaffa Gate and we actually drove through the old city to the Kotel, something I'd never done before. At that hour of the morning, everything was nice and peaceful. We parked in a lot right near the wall, and walked down the stairs to the Kotel plaza and met Rabbi Karzen and then soon all the guests. A good handful of Mom's friends were there. Cousin Eric made it too, he had to wake up at 5:30 to catch a bus from Tel Aviv, it was great to see him. Daniel Halfon and his family were there too, they're nice, and his kids are adorable. Most of Mom's friends were there, Charlotte, Shalva, Max, Stephanie, Harry's cousins, about 30 people in all.

Motzei Shabbat, before 9, Kikar Safra
waiting for the big free dance

Anyway, back to the bar mitzvah. We all gathered at Rabbi Karzen's "kotel korner" at the mechitza, furthest back from the wall, an ideal spot to daven if you want to have everyone together, women and men, women can stand behind the men as well as beside, since we were in a corner. The Rabbi did a nice job of making the service clear and interesting to people who may not have been accustomed to it. I was somewhat nervous, since I was going to read from the Torah, but there was so much activity that I couldn't take even a moment to run through the reading one last time for security's sake. We said a few brachos, then we went into the little cavern at the corner of the kotel that had the aron kodesh with the Torahs in it and Dylan got to carry the Torah all the way across the Kotel Plaza. Quite a few people ran up to kiss the Torah as Dylan carried it, I found it to be a pretty moving experience, I imagine that Dylan was too disoriented to have been so moved. Of course, we carried the Torah to our reading table, we had our three aliyahs, - Harry Cohn, Harry Berkowitz, and Dylan. I read the Torah, I did OK, I was kind of nervous and shaky, just a bit, so I fumbled a teeny bit, but I did well enough so that no one noticed, since most people can't follow the trop anyway.

(The music is just starting. They always seems to start this dance with "hachayalim.") Time to dance.

Time to stop dancing. After 11, the dance isn't over yet, but I've had enough. I took a break to call Uriel, he isn't answering, I suspect he's fast asleep. He probably isn't getting much sleep during the weekends spending all his time with Advah.

mmm, Back to the bar mitzvah, so I managed to read the Torah OK, though I wasn't particularly relaxed while I was doing it. Dylan did his piece fine, read the brachos for his aliyah and a little "thank you, today I am a man" speech. The service was over soon, and off we went to a restaurant adjacent to the Kotel (Tony's) and had brunch. Sort of Italian, lots of salads, pizza, lasagna, and such. Plenty for everyone to eat. We got home by noon and sort of lolled around the rest of the day, Mom was exhausted but too worked up to sleep - everything went really nicely, so we were pretty happy.

I had seen Daniel Halfon and his family, who all came to the bar mitzvah. I also bumped into him the next day at the supermarket and he invited me to Shabbat dinner. So I went and hung out at his apartment, right upstairs from my mom's, for the evening. His wife Valerie cooked up a big Shabbat dinner, fish cakes, chicken, lots of salads. The kids went to bed after dinner, they are both totally adorable. Mordechai is a precocious little dude who speaks excellent English with a British accent with a bit of French and Israeli flavor (he also speaks French and Hebrew). He's going into 1st grade. Yael is younger, a bit more shy (but not much) and also cute as a button. We talked and played some games before dinner, but the kids soon went to bed and Daniel and Valerie and I talked for a while, then Valerie took her leave and Daniel and I got down to talking about nerd stuff and Jewish music, topics we both enjoy. He is working on a recording of Dutch/Portuguese music for Beth Hatefutsoth, which sounds like it will be interesting when it's done.

Sunday, at the 24 stop outside Mom's apt.
Going to visit Danny at HUJI. Oddly enough, Amnon is in Boston for pretty much exactly the same time that I'm in Jerusalem. I might go to Meah Shearim today to troll for books and music, or maybe around Ben Yehuda, we'll see. Danny first said he might be busy today because lots of the staff is away, but he said to come on over, should be fun. I'm waiting for a 24, but a 22 is just coming by.

I never caught up with Uriel last night, no doubt he's totally busy, between the army and his girlfriend. I do imagine he'll squeeze me in before I leave though.

Considering the season, the weather has been pretty good. Pretty hot during the day, but not oppressive. 90 or so, and not bad in my mom's non-air-conditioned apt. Cool and comfy for sleeping at night. I'm sure it's 10-15 degrees warmer down in the south, yikes.

The political mood on the streets is relatively calm these days, maybe because everyone is on vacation. Barak's 3-month old government is falling apart, there will be new elections soon, it seems that Bibi has lots of support, oddly enough. It looks like the religious are giving Barak the heave-ho, and so he is proposing a (new) Israeli constitution which strips the religious community of much of its influence. Is he doing it out of spite or out of a concern for democracy and fair government? Or to distract the nation from his imminent demise? Or all 3?

Tuesday night, around 11, ICCY line dances. My last evening here. I met Joel from Boston here, he's been here since around Purim, and will probably stay until October. He's been in ulpan most of this time, and it sounds like he's having a typically difficult time breaking into Israeli culture, though he's also having a good time. Talking about meeting people dancing, he mentioned "love/hate" - don't I know.

I've been taking it pretty easy. Had a good time with Danny at HUJI on Sunday afternoon, even helped him find some info about a few things - Internet Security Certificate Authority, label printers that support UPC's, other exciting stuff. He seems to be doing fine. Amnon was in Boston at the same time that I was here, so I missed him this time.

On Monday, I went into town and bought some books and CD's. I was going to go to Meah Shearim, but I ran out of steam. Mom and I had Thai food at Rungsit. Expensive and mediocre, maybe good for Jerusalem, but wouldn't cut it in Boston. Food is 2x too expensive and not as good. Then again, we don't have kosher Thai.

Home after the dance 12:40am
I did the second set of couples with Katalina, whom I'd also danced with last week. She seems like sort of a loner, though she talks to a couple of the women, she certainly isn't part of the cliquish cabal, most of those women won't dance with strangers. Max said goodbye before he left, and Boaz remembered that this was my last dance before going home also, and wished me well.

Wed 10:20 on the road to Tel Aviv
There are huge banners saying things (in Hebrew) like: "if I forget thee Jerusalem, may my right hand wither" and other bible quotes, alluding to the fact that people are concerned about the government's devil-may-care attitude about the peace process. Aside from those, the Breslov slogan - na nach nachm nachma nachman me'uman is very popular on banners and bumper stickers - I don't know exactly what it means, but it alludes to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who is buried in Uman, in the Ukraine. And of course, Ha'am Im Hagolan is a perpetual favorite.

The season has been quite dry as always, and Israel hasn't had a wet winter recently so they're very short on water, but no one seems to do anything about it. Fortunately, there haven't been many brush fires here this year, unlike the American southwest, which is taking a beating.

Halfway to the airport, irrigated fields on both sides. To the right, a banner reads "shabechi yerushalayim et adonai..." To the left, way back in the field is a very large Chanukah menorah in the distinctive Lubavitch style, maybe 50 or 100 feet tall.

Tues Noon Ben Gurion Airport
Another hour before my flight boards. A woman came up to me and gave me a survey from the Ministry of Tourism. On a scale of 1-5, what did I think of the airport, tourist sites, transportation, and so forth. She skipped the question about what I thought of the accommodations, since I stayed with Mom. I'm not usually fond of taking surveys, but I have nothing to do while I wait here. Listening to the radio, reading, but nothing more important or interesting than taking a survey. I suppose the comings and goings here might be more interesting than sitting on most places, but the 777's have tv's for each seat, so if I'm inclined toward diversion, there will be movies and stuff on the plane.

Looking out the window in the waiting room, not much action. An Air Kazakhstan plane just took off, guess it's going to Kazakhstan. And a funny looking plane landed, looks like a big gray lozenge shaped capsule with a straight flat wing tacked on top, with vertical stabilizers on it. Must be some odd military thing. Clunky looking. It's getting pretty crowded here, we'll be boarding soon.

2001

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Fri 17 August 2001 Logan 5:10pm
I left home about 3 hours before my departure time - it took me 4 - 5 calls to find a cab, the trip to the airport was slow, and check-in was pretty slow. The flight will be boarding in about 40 mins, so I allotted my time about right. I guess lots of people take off from airports on Fridays, and lots of people take off from work at airports on Fridays. Makes for slow going.

The intifada has been pretty active lately - suicide bombers are in season. When I tell my friends that I'm going to Israel, they all wish me well and express their concern in a variety of ways. Some asked me whether I had considered postponing my trip because of the political situation. Not really. The suicide bombing murders disgust me as much as they do the next person. On the other hand, the odds of actually being a direct victim of the terrorist lottery is pretty small. With this in mind, I'm pretty intent on not being pushed around by terrorist attacks, so I go to Israel to defy them, as well as for my usual reasons. Also, it would be pretty silly to encourage my mom to stay if I was afraid of visiting her.

12:45am Sunday mom's apt
I got to Israel at 3pm, and I've been quite busy for the past 10 hours. Usually, I have severe jet lag which can last more than two weeks. I got a couple or few hours of sleep on the plane, not a lot, but it was ok, I've been up since about 6am Israel time. Anyway, Mom and Harry picked me up and drove me home. I unpacked my luggage, which was about half various booty for my mom, stuff like peanut butter, vitamins, and kitchen cleaning stuff - my mom is a cheap date! Also brought her some music, including the Wilbur de Paris / Jimmy Witherspoon CD reissue of the LP that spent a majority of the time on the phonograph during my entire childhood. I brought my laptop and digital camera, and showed them a bunch of photos.

I called Uriel, who now lives in Tel Aviv and works at CheckPoint - a high flying software company founded by some of Amnon's students. Anyway, Uriel was here in Jerusalem (3 minutes away) visiting his folks, and he came over and we spent an hour chatting before I came home to Mom's for chicken dinner. Uriel is doing just great - out of the army, great job at CheckPoint, living on his own, really grown a lot in the past few years I've known him. Much more self assured and less frenetic. Really great to see him.

After dinner, Mom's friend Bayla came over. I'd never met her, she seems real cool - has a big poodle named ba-boosh-KA (not ba-BOOSH-ka). Bayla gives a weekly torah shiur (class). I'm sure we'll talk more soon. This was around 9pm, and the free motzaei shabbat dance in Kikar Safra was about to get rolling. I was kind of delirious due to lack of sleep, plus a coke and a latte - caffeine to which I am totally unaccustomed. I decided to dance because I figured physical exhaustion would help my sleep.

Safra Square was not quite as mobbed as last year, not 1000, maybe 500, still a lot. What it lacked in volume of numbers, it made up for in PA system speaker volume and general raw enthusiasm. I was just so happy to see Israelis coming out to a public square and having a hell of a good time, flipping off terrorism in grand style. Kikar Safra is about 5 blocks down Jaffa Road from the recent nasty bombing of the Sbarro pizza place, which I drove right by on the way. Besides just having a good time, people seemed to be there expressing the sentiment - look, you can murder my brothers and sisters but your pitiful desperate cowardly acts aren't going to ruin my life or break my spirit - at least that's how I feel.

The evening rose to a crescendo of line dances which were particularly nuts, a much more cheerful sort of insanity than the terrorist kind. Even had some nice partners for the couple dances, though it's always slim pickings in Israel when you don't know folks. Anyway, I feel so, so glad to be here, I'm high as a kite (and I hope I can sleep). 120am

Mon 11pm Mom's Apt
Yesterday, I went to visit Danny Braniss at HUJI, always good to see him. Amnon was busy, I didn't catch him.

I also went to Boaz's dance at Matnas Philip Leon. It was outdoors, which was nice, except there was some broken glass on the basketball court we danced on, which made for rough going since I wasn't prepared for that. I danced in sandals and kept my eyes peeled. The dancing was ok, all circles, cuz it was almost all women. Not as exciting as the Kikar Safra dance.

One image from that Sat night dance, a small middle aged woman, in the center of swarming rings of dancers, no one holding hands, of course. This woman, talking on a cell phone in one hand, lit cigarette in the other hand, dancing merrily away - of course she can't hold hands, they're in use.

I went out with my mom, she needed some blood work done. She had a list of tests she needed, she expected the technician to draw half a dozen different samples. I looked at her funny and said that they'd just take one draw and split it later. Sure enough, it was that way. My mom is funny, she runs blood drives, she worked one yesterday. If they can draw 500 ml at once, they should be able to draw a half ounce and split it later, instead of sticking your arm six times!

So after that adventure, I decided to get my hair cut, I went to a barber up on Hapalmach in front of Erela's apt. A guy named Yoni cut my hair pretty short, did a fine job. He was a real hairdresser, looked like a young Rod Stewart. I told him I was going to cut my beard off soon, he would have done it, but my mom would have wanted to watch and she was back at the apt. So Harry and I went back and I decided to shave my beard right then, which I did, with Mom snapping pictures all the way. Turns out, my face looks ok! Pleasant surprise. I put a before/after up on a web page and sent out an email all points bulletin to my address book. I got back a good handful of replies, ranging from pleasantly surprised to very surprised.

Still jet lagged, crashed hard for 4 hours during mid-day super-siesta. See how much sleep I get tonight.
midnight

Mon 26 Aug 1:30am Mom's apt
I've been here for over a week, haven't written much, been snapping a lot of photos instead. Right now, I'm listening to a late-night slichot service on 107.1FM, at least I'm pretty sure that's what it is.

Tuesday I went to Machane Yehuda with Mom and took a bunch of pix. Machane Yehuda is a favorite spot for Palestinians to blow up innocent shoppers, so it's not too crowded these days, and of course, the shopkeepers, who sell their produce in small stalls, suffer economically. The Machane Yehuda shuk also suffers from competition with supermarkets, especially the Mega supermarket, that's as big as the large supermarkets in the US. Spacious parking garage, long wide aisles, lots of variety, good prices. Just like home.

On Thursday I went to Rechovot with Mom to visit Tante Tsirl. That's always fun, it was nice to see her, she seems to be holding together pretty well. I brought her some skin cream from Boston, and we forgot to take it, so Mom will give it to her sometime soon. We didn't have a chance to stop at Uncle Benny's, I think he was sleeping.

Oh, on Tuesday, I went over to Bayla's house in Rechavia to make sure that her husband's PC wasn't infested with viruses. It was in pretty good shape, running modern McAfee Antivirus, but not with the latest database updates. I downloaded those and scanned his disk thoroughly. He had a few viruses in email attachments but he never opens them. I copied one or two to the desktop and the McAfee code caught them immediately. Bayla's husband's name is Gad Sarfatti, he's a cool old Italian guy, a writer and scholar emeritus at Bar Ilan. Bayla and Gad are very cool.

On Friday, Bayla and Gad headed off for a vacation in Italy, which sounds like it will be lovely. Bayla and Mom and I had brunch at the Hillel Cafe, on Hillel. After that, Mom and I walked around ben Yehuda and Jaffa Road, which are photogenic, but unfortunately devoid of tourists.
Mon 1:45am

Mom's Apt 6am Thu 30 Aug
My last day here. Last Saturday, Mom and I went up to the Tayelet so that I could take some pictures. There's a beautiful view from the Tayelet, but since the intifada it's not so popular any more because it abuts an Arab neighborhood and people have been attacked, and the park has been vandalized, which sucks. So I just jumped out of the car, got some pictures, and got back in, I didn't walk on the promenade like I normally would.

In the afternoon, Mom and I went to Tel Aviv to visit cousin Eric. He seems to be doing ok more or less. His mom died this year and he's sort of alone here, and it sounds like work is pretty tough, he's working in an office selling high tech stuff, and this is a slow market these days, so it's a grind. But considering that, he seems fine and in good spirits. We ate lunch at a trendy cafe on his street, then we went down to the water and had dessert at the Yotvata restaurant, which was fun too. The beach was conspicuously un-crowded, as is everything else here.

That night, I went back to Kikar Safra to dance. It started off fine. I had gotten a call from Anat Shiloach and she said she might stop by the dance though she wanted to go to a craft show first. She was in Jerusalem with her boyfriend, Chip, staying at her sister, Mira's house. Anyway, they all showed up at the danced and I danced with Anat for a while, which is always fun. Mira and Chip don't dance, so they watched and wandered around.

Soon after I did a set of couple dances with Anat, there was a call to identify an unclaimed bag, which might have been a bomb. No one claimed it, the dance was halted and the square was cleared while a bomb squad checked it out. The rest of the dance ended up being cancelled after people waited a while to see what was going to happen. Oh well. At least I had fun there the week before.

On Sunday, I went to HUJI to visit Amnon and Danny, and arranged to have Uriel meet Amnon. Uriel is trying to get into HUJI, but he stopped going to school after 9th grade, and Hebrew U is very particular about rules and paperwork, in typical bureaucratic Israeli fashion. I think Amnon liked Uriel and would be happy to have him work in his lab but it will be difficult for Uriel to get accepted at HUJI. We'll see what happens there. After we chatted about nerd stuff for a long time, we had a great lunch at a Lebanese place in Ein Kerem.

On Monday, I walked around the city a bit, did some shopping. I went to Ben Yehuda and Mea Shearim and bought some books and took some pix. That night, we went out with Charlie and Charlotte for meat at a South African place near the entrance to Jerusalem on the road to Tel Aviv.

On Tuesday, we went back to Rechovot, mostly because I got some stuff for Tante Tsirl in the states and forgot to take it last time. We visited her again, and also stopped at Uncle Benny's. He was very frail and bony, I guess he isn't eating much. Not for lack of good food, Etti is a great cook, and she is looking well.

I went to Boaz's dance that night, it was good and fun as usual.

On Wednesday, Mom and I went to the botanical gardens at HUJI Givat Ram. Harry used to work there, it's nice, sort of similar in scope to the Arnold Arboretum. They had an exhibit of African sculpture called Chipungu - it was very nice, I took lots of pics of them, and of the plants too.

In the afternoon, I went to visit Daniel Halfon. He has recently renovated his apartment, it's really nice. He has 3 kids now, they're all cuties, and Valerie is fine too. We talked about music and nerd stuff, as always. I showed him my camera and some stuff on my laptop too, since he's thinking of buying a new one.

I have some software from Mechon Mamre that lets you search Tanach, Gemora, and other holy books. Daniel asked Mordechai what Gemora he was studying and we popped it up on the screen and Mordechai read it very nicely, which is impressive, since I guess he's 7 or 8. Once it got late, I came downstairs for dinner and hung around the rest of the evening.

My trip is almost done. I think I'm going to spend some time with Uriel today. Mom and Harry are going to a wedding tonight, either I'll hang with Uriel or go dancing, I'll take a taxi to Ben Gurion in the middle of the night, for a 5:30 AM flight.

Hmmm, what else is there... I like to listen to the radio when I'm here, there are always some quirky bits that stand out. For some reason, I heard the song "It's Raining Men" quite a few times this trip, what's up with that? Also, there is a silly ad whose tag line is: Hakol b'cider - Cider Hagalil. I'll be humming that for a while.

There have been no large scale successful terrorist acts since I've been here like there were in the weeks before I arrived. But the Palestinians have been shooting into the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, which is about 3 miles from here. For the past few nights, there have been lots of helicopters flying around here, and I heard at least one loud boom, I don't know what it was, but that's par for the course around here these days.

It's been a nice trip, though short. If the Palestinians weren't so uncivilized, it would be a lot nicer around here. They'll settle down eventually, but unfortunately, that will take some time.
7am

Ben Gurion Airport 315am Fri 8/31
Took a Nesher cab here from Jeru. Mom and Harry went to a wedding in Tel Aviv last night, sounds like it wasn't too exciting. Mom usually drives me to the airport, but having just gotten home and having driven thru Thursday night traffic, which is congested since most people don't work Fridays - would have been too much.

As I was walking toward the gate, I got a nice smile from a pretty blond haired woman walking by. I think it's because I'm wearing a Mulate's t-shirt from New Orleans. Or maybe it's the animal magnetism from my new hairdo. I don't think it's my general demeanor, which is slightly sour, to match my stomach, which has been a bit askew for the past few days.

As I was running the security gauntlet here, one of the guys who checked my ticket, said I looked like Danny Sanderson, who is a popular Israeli singer.

I was the last of 8 passengers in the cab from Jeru, so Mom and I waited outside her apt for about half an hour, with Bayla's dog. A cabbie stopped and we assumed that he wanted to pick me up, but no, he just parked his cab and spent five minutes playing with the dog.

I just went into the duty-free music shop, and it has a nice selection of stuff, and it costs about 60% of what it would cost in Brookline. I bought a few re-issues of old records, including a Poogy with Danny Sanderson, and a Berry Sakharov. I'm a bit bleary-eyed, the flight boards in 40 minutes. I hope I sleep well on the way to Zurich, that would help me regain synch.
4am

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