6pm sat 9 aug 2003 logan
On board the plane to Milan, waiting to take off. Katie came to visit after the VFW dance (Domino played) and we had fun goofing off yesterday. She came with me to the airport. The line to check my bag was empty but the security check was ridiculously oppressively long. They call for boarding 1 hour before the flight, but even so, the check-in person waved me and a couple of others to the front of the line, as our flight time approached.
That was fine, but she unknowingly waved us to the "slow line" where they send suspicious people who get the full once-over. It took about 1/2 hour to get through that (after being waved to the front). I'm finally on the plane, the flight crew greets all comers with a hearty "buona sera." Lots of Italians, 767, pretty big plane, 2 aisles. Now that I'm on, I hope it takes off on time. Considering the mess in security check, I have my doubts, we shall see.
I plugged headphones into the armrest, nice opera. Flight crew guy (or was he a fashion model?) just came by with the newspapers, grabbed the International Herald Tribune. The plane is making "I want to take off" noises. I don't know how soon.
Through passport control waiting at baggage claim. We took off on time and arrived about half an hour early. The flight was full and uneventful. The weather is not yet sweltering. I'll get my bag, make my way into the city, and find Hughie. If it's too hot at midday, maybe I'll take a nap. Right now, I'm awake enough, see how long that lasts...
9am on a train
I'm on a train, waiting at the airport. It's a very nice train, and rather empty. I think it's going to Milan/Cadorna, where I think I want to go, but I'm not sure, there are no train employees to be seen yet, just a family that seems to be from Quebec. I am only carrying my PC and a change of clothes, because Alitalia has misplaced my bag. If they find my bag soon, it won't be too bad, saves me some schlepping around. If they actually lose it permanently, it's a bit worse, since it's full of random stuff I'd rather not lose. We shall see. The train is moving. Nice and quiet, 40 minutes to Milan.
sun 10 aug noon on the Milan-Malpensa Express train
I got a call this morning, they found my bag. I had to call around a bunch to have it delivered to the hotel I'll sleep at tonight.
I arrived at the hotel in Milan around 10:30, Hughie had gotten there a few minutes before. We stopped at a caffe - Bar Cin Cin, and had a bite before they let us check in. The hotel room was quite comfy, mainly because it was air-conditioned, and the temperature in Milan is around 100 degrees, as a record-setting heat wave is sweeping all of Europe. We napped for a couple of hours to avoid the hottest part of the day, then set out to tour a bit of Milan.
Milan is mostly deserted between the heatwave, August, and it being Sunday. A few of the main places to see were the Duomo, la Scala, and the Castello Sforzesco.
Milan's Duomo is the third largest church in the world, it was built between 1386-1813. Its roof is a forest of beautiful spires. The façade is being renovated and is swathed in scaffolding and plain gray canvas. They should have painted something interesting on the canvas, but they didn't. In front of the Duomo is a large piazza and an elaborate old glass-ceilinged shopping arcade.
The Castello Sforzesco is a massive red brick fortress in the center of Milan where the people would retreat to protect themselves from invaders. We didn't stay long, but it has various museums, in one is the Rondanini Pieta, which Michelangelo was working on (literally) when he died at age 89. While cruising through the Castello (it was hot!) I read a stone inscribed in Latin, from the 4th century. The letter carving was beautiful. Several words were wrapped across two lines, and there were some interesting ligatures - AE, VM, and in several cases, a following letter was inserted in the center of a D or O. The inscription discussed Milan, which was called Mediolanum in Latin.
After the Castello, we walked through the nice large Parco Sempione...
Tues 9am Malpensa
I am sitting waiting for the plane to Tel Aviv to board. The exact location of my bag was not clear until this morning when I found it here at the airport baggage claim. It looks like a cat (a large cat) has been dragging it around for the past two days, but the contents are apparently intact. Fortunately, my camera was still in the bag and still functioning. Unfortunately, my camera was still in the bag and not with me for our adventures in the Italian north. These illustrations will have to suffice.
Ah, we were wandering across the park outside the Castello. The park was large and pleasant and attractive. Mostly, people were moving fairly slowly in the 100 degree heat, but there were a couple of full court basketball games going on, and the sun didn't seem to slow them down. After our amble around the Duomo, we headed back to our cool hotel room on the very warm but otherwise ok metro.
Hughie called some friends from Milan in London to help us find a good place to eat dinner. Between it being Sunday and August, most restaurants were closed. We finally found a good prospect and headed out on foot. Woops. We thought our walk would take only 15 minutes in the evening, now more pleasantly cool somewhat. Unfortunately, the streets were a bit confusing and our destination was on the other side of a large train station that confused our navigation. We found the restaurant after about an hour, but it had closed. Chiuso. A word we will not soon forget, after all the times we have seen it repeated.
It was around 10pm and our prospects were few, and we were rather famished. Lo and behold, we run across Guangzhou Pizzeria and Osteria. One Italian family of 8 was inside, eating and apparently happy. We sat down and a pleasant Chinese woman waited on us. We ordered a pizza, a plate of pasta, some grilled squid, and a salad. The food was good, filling, cheap, and had no unpleasant after-effects. We were too stuffed for dessert, but the waitress brought us a full plate of cubed watermelon anyway. We found room. We headed back to our room, three short stops on the metro. We watched some TV, then I got half a night of jetlagged sleep. (The plane is now boarding, though I don't quite understand the drill yet.)
The next morning we checked out and headed north by train, back to a hotel near the airport in Malpensa, and then up toward the foothills of the Alps on the Swiss border, to see Lake Como and Bellagio.
Lake Como is very beautiful, narrow and about 30 miles long. It is surrounded by steep hills a couple of thousand feet high, sprinkled with many picturesque villages. We walked around the town of Como, picturesque harbor, tourist shops, hotels, and restaurants. Yes, they have a Como Duomo. Ché uomo.
Hmmm, it looks like the plane is now actually boarding, 30 minutes late. ... Now seated, on a crowded A321 on the aisle in the back. Boarding was late but pretty smooth, most of the mob was heading to Miami at the next gate.
Anyway we bought tickets for a hydrofoil boat to Bellagio, which took about an hour. Lake Como is shaped like an inverted Y, and Bellagio is set at the apex of the intersecting legs. Bellagio is set on a steep slope, unlike Como, which is relatively flat. Bellagio is very pretty, with red roofs, gardens, with tall steep hills along the lake, and taller Alps in the distance. We walked around, up and down and eventually decided to head back to Como which would have more dinner choices. The restaurant we chose didn't open until 7:30, and we had a pleasant dinner, the food ranged from ok to quite good.
When we were done, we walked toward the train station for our ride back to Malpensa. Too bad we missed the last train from this station - the schedule said there was one more but there was not. We checked at a bigger train station, and checked the buses too, no luck. We ended up taking an expensive 45-minute cab ride with a nice cabbie, in his 60's. We chatted all the way and were back in our room by midnight.
Milan and Como were interesting and picturesque. Of course, it was novel and interesting to be swimming in Italian culture. Boston to Milan to Israel will be all that much more radical a change.
The plane is still on the ground, 45 minutes after its scheduled time. The
pilot says the baggage is very big and heavy. Nu? Surprise.
Mon 18 Aug Mom's apt 9:30pm
I've been in Israel for six days. The flight from Milan...
Hmmm, leaky pen. They leak when I check them in my suitcase, I guess. The cabin is pressurized but not the luggage. This is the same kind of pen, and it did not leak. Science. My fingers will be blue for a while.
I've been dancing about every other night. There were no tourists or visiting students at Boaz's dance or Chaim Tzemach's dance. Made it impossible to find a couples dance partner. Aside from that, those dances are ok. The HUC dance was pretty good, and I was able to find couples partners there among all the Anglos.
Wednesday night was Tu b'Av, which is Jewish Valentine's Day, sort of. There was a street fair on Ben Yehuda, pretty crowded and festive. I bought some t-shirts and a mezuzah and cover. The t-shirt guy was nice, the mezuzah guy was a creep.
Earlier that night, we had dinner at the Black Steer in Moza. Mom and Harry had steak, I had ostrich, which was good, like steak, though a bit tough. My piece was about an inch thick, I think it would have been better cut thinner. But the dinner was quite good all around.
On Friday, I went to see Danny in the morning. He was going to Argentina that Sunday, so it was his last day at work. They seem to be doing ok, they have a new building being designed. Danny is working on designing a big computer controlled security system to handle the door locks and keep track of who's going in and out, sounds like a fun project.
Amnon was in Reno at a conference. I'm not sure when he's coming back, but I hope I get a chance to see him before I leave.
Uriel came to meet me at Hebrew U when I was done visiting Danny. I drove my car home, and Uriel and I went out to lunch in his new car, a Mazda that looks like a Jerusalem police car. We had fish at Ahavat Yam downtown, some kind of Red Sea fish grilled, I forget which kind. Good. Then we went to a bookstore cafe, which we'd been to before. Uriel is keeping busy at work, and living with his girlfriend in Haifa, sounds like he's doing fine.
Mom and I also went to visit Tanta Tsirl, the visit went about as usual. She's hanging in there, told mom what was new, speaking mostly in Yiddish. She fed us a bunch of food, we stayed for a few hours and headed home.
The days have been pretty hot, no surprise for August. Mom took the car in to have the coolant recharged in the air conditioner, this was very helpful. We also went shopping at Rami Levy's, which is a new cut rate supermarket, and Mega, which is bigger, fancier, and more expensive.
One of the amusing bits about coming to visit is seeing what's up on
TV. The first time I came to visit, there was only broadcast TV, two
or three Israeli stations and maybe one from Jordan or Egypt.
Eventually, Israel got cable and there were more stations. This time
Mom has a digital cable box and there's a hundred stations to choose
from. News from BBC, CNN, Fox, and Sky, programming in Hebrew,
English, Russian, French, Spanish, Polish, Hindi, German, Turkish,
Arabic, and so on. Right now, I'm watching Iron Chef. Originally in
Japanese, dubbed in English, subtitled in Hebrew and Russian.
Tonight's theme ingredient: bamboo shoots. One nice thing about
watching syndicated TV shows in Israel, often they run them straight
through without commercials.
Wed 1245am Mom's apt
I got back from dancing tonight at about 11:15 and Mom told me about the big bus bombing downtown. It was on Haneviim between the Old City and Meah Shearim, so the bus was full of haredim, at least 20 were killed. Love the Arabs or hate the Arabs, one can hardly disagree that Jews must be able to protect themselves from the Arabs. And yet Jews are criticized, discouraged, and prevented from doing so at every turn. A pragmatist says, "you gotta do what you gotta do." Or, "you do the math," which is particularly unpleasant when it comes to counting bodies and body parts of innocent people who were murdered by a bomber on a bus, and by other bombers on buses and at discos, bars, cafes, pizza parlors, school cafeterias, ad nauseam. At some point, after the retarded kid has burned his hand on the hot stove enough times maybe you learn that it's best if he stays out of the kitchen.
Mom and I went to the Israel Museum today, we only stayed for a couple of hours. We caught some of a tour that went through Israeli antiquities from 2000-3000 years ago, and also some stuff from Jewish communities from the past 500 years. All very interesting. We also went through a few exhibits afterward, including a photography exhibit on an American news photographer named Weegee. Interesting film noire sorts of photos from the 40's.
Then we came home and had chicken schnitzel for dinner, and I went off to Boaz's dance. It seems that there were a lot more international folks this week, about 3 Japanese, and various others. I'm not sure whether last week was just a quiet week, or whether people are already arriving for the new school year, but it was more lively. I even found a partner, I danced with an older woman - it was still hard to find a partner - lots of refusals before one said yes, but, in the end, it seemed that I might have had luck with one or two other women too. I didn't have to find out.
I did receive a call from work today, the mail service machine at work
is broken. I spent about an hour on the phone with them. No
resolution yet. Fortunately, Rob's nephew (cousin?) Michael is looking
at the problem, and he'll be able to figure it out about as easily as
I could. Still an annoying problem, tough for me to resolve from
2:15, time for bed.
wed 11:30pm mom's apt
Mom and I drove down the Jordan River Valley to the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, and Masada. I hadn't spent much time with my camera before today, so I decided to take some desert pictures, which I did. We spent most of our time at Masada, I took the funicular cable car up. I didn't want to climb in the midday sun, I'd climbed once or twice in the past. I looked around on top for a while, and took a bunch of pics on top and especially over the sides, east over the Dead Sea and Jordan and west toward Arad and the Roman ramp.
The air is a bit hazy but the land is stark and beautiful. Rocky wilderness, craggy and filled with caves, usually barren, but there are patches of green blooming down toward the Jordan, at an oasis like Ein Gedi or where kibbutzim have irrigated to grow dates and other vegetation.
Driving down to the Dead Sea is always interesting, from the heights of Jerusalem, down through sea level and to the lowest spot on Earth, more than 200 meters further down. I didn't jump in this time, but there were people swimming in the Dead Sea, or rather, on it, their bodies hardly sinking below the surface, people lying on their backs with heads, arms, knees, and shins in the air. The Dead Sea water level has dropped considerably over recent years, although it has made a bit of a comeback during this past winter, which was quite wet. Indeed, Israel looks a bit greener in general than I'm used to seeing it at this time of year. Not that it's England or New England, but at least it's not totally brown or burning.
It's past midnight, and I'm watching a TV show on Israel's channel 3, it's a black and white show, probably from the early 1960's or so, with young folk singers in a studio singing along with piano, flute, and some other accompanists. Probably famous ones, but I don't know who they are. They are singing in a distinctive Israeli style from that time, ardent, clean-cut, nationalistic, idealistic, innocent, sincere. Pretty much in diametric opposition to today's young Israeli, who is likely to be either a haredi or a techno club-kid, neither one at all close to the Zionist idealist of the 50's and 60's. The strain did, unfortunately, die out, but they left some sweet music. Hmmm, looking at a TV guide, it seems that the show is on every weeknight, I'll have to check. It seems to be called "Song Walking" in English, I'll see. The pianist seems to be referring often to David Zahavi, and sometimes to Hannah Senesh. Hmmm, the show ended and the credits ran, the only name I recognized was Gidi Gov, who became an Israeli singing star and now has a popular food TV show.
Hmmm, the next show is practically the same, this time in color,
harder to pin down the time. Alternating readings of poetry with
songs. The content seems similar, but the feel is entirely different.
This is clearly after 1973, when Israel ate from the tree of
knowledge. The Zionism is still there, but there is no innocence, no
idealism, no youthful hope. Maybe this is overly simple, maybe not.
Still, nice music, but sad, especially when contrasted with the
1230 am Sat Mom's Apt
Watching that TV show with the old music again, "Song Walking." Tonight it's young Shoshana Damari, probably 60's again. She sang a bunch, finishing with kalaniyot. Hosted, I think by Ehud Manor, channel 3 (33 on the cable box).
I did some chores today, I fixed an oscillation fan that I sort of broke, and I made some plaster of Paris spackle to patch a few spots around a tris shutter and a sliding window handle. That all seems to have worked out all right.
Tonight we all went to visit Bert and Arlene for Shabbat dinner. We had a good dinner and a good time, they're nice folks and Bert is a rascal.
Whoa. I'm watching more of that Israeli music show (bo shir ivri) and they have very old footage of Shlomo Bar, who is my favorite. I think he first started recording in the mid-1970's - this looks like about 1975 - Shlomo Bar looks like he's in his 20's, must be around 30, he's close to 60 now. This show looks like a gold mine in general, whenever I come to Israel and listen to the radio (and now TV), I wish more of this old music was available today. Naomi Shemer just sang a song with various people backing her up, including Shlomo Bar drumming. Now Shlomo Bar is singing Eli Eli and playing flute. They're all so young. Shlomo Bar's violinist, Samson Kehamkar, is bald, but not yet gray. probably 45 or so. The show seems to be recorded in a big coffeehouse, I wonder where it was. The credits on this one listed many famous musicians, including Gali Atari and Hannah Senesh, I'm not sure whether they were there or their music was played. It's 1:30 am, I should get to sleep.
Aug 25 mon 1am
Hmmm, I don't think I mentioned that we went to dinner with Bayla a couple of nights ago, Thursday, I think. Yes. We went to Chaverim shel Sergio, an Italian kosher restaurant right behind the Pa'amon clock tower on King George Road near Jaffa Road. We had a nice plate of veggie antipasti and a fairly ordinary plate of spaghetti with a combo of tomato and pesto sauce. I guess most Italian food that's interesting probably isn't kosher. It's always nice to see Bayla though. She's kosher and interesting. Her husband, Gad (who wasn't with us), is kosher, interesting and Italian, and could, no doubt, tell me all about interesting kosher Italian food. But I didn't find it at that restaurant last week.
Yesterday, Saturday night, Mom had her friend, Regina, over for dinner, which was nice. After that, we went to the Bible Lands Museum, a pale comparison to the Israel Museum which is across the street. Though it's not a great museum, they do have a nice auditorium, and they put on a nice music series. Tonight's musicians were a Ukrainian Israeli flutist and a pianist visiting from Poland, and a bass player. The program was called "Mozart Blues," and they played an amalgam of classical pieces, jazz, and improvisation, all mixed together. They were quite talented, but they sounded like classical players improvising, not like jazz players improvising. It's sort of like watching boxers who are afraid of hitting each other. Their technique was all brilliant, what you'd expect from professional classical musicians, and that was quite enough to make it entertaining and satisfying. But there is something visceral missing from their improvisation. There's no edge. Like when Itsik Perlman plays klezmer music. Oy. I'll take someone with less technique who is putting their neck on the line. Give me Matt Glaser, Andy Statman, or Yo Yo Ma playing klezmer. Give me Rushad Eggleston, he's insane, he's out of bounds more than he's in bounds. Anyway, it was a good concert, but not great, and not really for lack of talent, rather for lack of guts, ingenuity, or something. I think these guys should trade their tuxedos in for some blue jeans, and throw down.
Today was Sunday, pretty quiet. This afternoon I went out for a me-urav Yerushalmi sandwich, which is the local "mixed grill" on a pita. I guess a combo of all the stuff that comes in the bag inside the chicken. It's all grilled up and it seemed to have a gravy with some curry flavor in it. Pretty good. I thought of getting it downtown, but that's a traffic and parking headache, so instead I drove down to tzomet Pat, near the Y where I sometimes dance on Thursdays. There are a few shops there, some felafel joints and a bakery, among others. Mom wanted some pitot too, they were 10 fresh hot pitot for NIS 5.00, which is about $1.20 or 12 cents a pita, which is nuts. Hard to starve in Israel.
We planned to take the Western Wall tunnel tour, which we did. We went to the wall an hour or so early, and I davened mincha and also prayed for my friends and family. I did not write it all out on paper and stuff it in the wall, though there were piles of such requests where I prayed. I did pray fairly carefully though, I probably took ten minutes or so focusing on everyone. I'm usually not one to petition God for anything, but that is the place and custom and so I did. I hope it all comes true. In Rabbi Jay Karzen's book, he discusses whether God answers prayers - he says, "God answers your prayers, sometimes He says 'yes,' and sometimes He says, 'no.'"
After praying, I took some photos and watched the kotel plaza fill up with folks there to pray for the evening. The tunnel tour started at 7:30. It was quite interesting. The theme, in essence, was that the walls of the old city were the outer boundaries of Jerusalem until the 13th century or so. At that time, some Muslim folks built buildings adjacent to the western wall of the temple. But these buildings are on top of the rubble of previous generations, and on top of water tunnels and other stuff. The street level of the second temple is about 50 feet below the current street level, and they were able to dig down there and uncover the entire length of the base of the western wall, which extends over 500 yards, although only about 65 yards is showing at the kotel plaza. The tour took about an hour, we walked all along the wall in the tunnel, and it was quite interesting. After that, Mom dropped me off at HUC for dancing, which was fun. Mom drove home, so I took a cab ride home, which was 15 NIS ($3.25). Again, in Boston, this ride would have been $15.
Hmmm, I haven't mentioned some distinctive things about this trip. The city is sprinkled with plaster lions, probably 100 of them all over, approximately life size and painted in creative ways by various artists. I think they're eventually going to be sold to Jewish communities around the world, a clever idea, I think.
The lions are temporary. Rather more permanent seem to be a rash of traffic circles popping up all over town. The municipal gov't went traffic circle crazy. I have nothing against them, it's just odd to see them everywhere.
Mmm, two days left here. We might go to "Mini Israel" tomorrow, which is a photogenic display near Latrun. We shall see. I should sleep, it's late. 1:45am
Tues 7:30pm Mom's apt
Just got back from dinner at the Black Steer. I'll go dance at Boaz, then wait a couple of hours and take a sherut to the airport for my 5:30am plane. We did go to Mini Israel last night. It's about 15 acres of models of places in Israel, mostly 1/25 scale. There are at least 100 exhibits or so, and a few of them have cute animated people. The kotel has people shuckling. Teddy Stadium has a soccer team scoring a goal and the fans doing the wave. Mount Hermon has people skiing down it. There are planes, trains, cars, trucks, and boats zipping around here and there. It's a pretty crowded and popular park, lots of families, not many foreign tourists. I was disappointed (slightly) that there was not a mini Mini Israel model at Mini Israel, but maybe I'm just twisted.
I took it pretty easy today, just drove around the city a lot and did some grocery shopping and walking around. My mom lives on a fairly busy street that runs down hill and continues across the city, running by Sacher Park and the Monastery of the Cross. I think the story goes that the Monastery of the Cross is built on the site where the tree grew that they cut down to make the cross they used to crucify Jesus. I think it's a Greek Orthodox monastery. Next to that is Sacher Park, which has been quite busy lately with families out at night partying and barbecuing, especially lots of religious families. I guess its their last chance to enjoy the summer nights before the school year and the Jewish holiday season starts. Soon I'll be off to dance. 7:55pm
2am on the sherut to Ben Gurion
Driving around Jerusalem. It's a minibus, I was first, there are about 6 on now. The 2nd was a mother and son who live in Oregon, her folks live about 50 yards away from Mom, they run the makolet on the corner. The radio is playing tzel etz tamar, then kolot shel piraeous. Another reason I love Yerushalayim, they have the best music on the public transportation. The sherut ride is a real tour of Jerusalem if you get on first, I should be paying more careful attention. We are now entering an apartment complex with a gate that would be suitable for a prison in the states. Here it's just security. We're up to 8, plus the driver. I ate the seat next to me, if we get two more, I'll have to squeeze over. I'm not usually piggy about seats, but if I move over, it will be a tight squeeze. Lights out, I guess we're full.
Just through first security check, took less than 1/2 hour to get through the crowds to check my bag. The walls behind the airport personnel have many copies of two posters. One is a 55th Independence Day poster, the other says: "bachu"l, hamedina zeh atah." - "outside of Israel, the nation is you." and goes on to tell people to act honorably, that they are all goodwill ambassadors. Interesting. I'm going to head upstairs through more security to the gate.
Sitting at the gate, should board in 5 minutes. Bought a tall stack of CD-im at the music shop. It's much better than the CD stores in Jerusalem, which seem to have too much Radiohead and not enough Teapacks, Ethnix, and Chaverim shel Natasha. One of the sales kids was suggesting CD's for me to buy after looking at my stack and I took his suggestions, he tried a bit to convince me that he wasn't just being a pushy salesman, but he wasn't, I could tell he was trying to be helpful, and was making useful suggestions. 17 disks for $120, some of them in sets, especially an 8-pack of haParvarim for $32. I thought I got a good deal, and I'll have lots to listen to once I get home, no CD player packed. Where was I?
9:15am (central europe time) Malpensa
The flight is supposed to take off at 9:35 but slipped to 10:20 at least. I suppose this gives my baggage some slight chance of accompanying me to Boston. ALITALIA - Always Late In Taking off, Always Late In Arriving. The flight from Tel Aviv was ok, more or less. It didn't take off until after dawn, this I know. I didn't check the time. I might have gotten an hour or two of sleep, but having stayed up until 6am first, I am rather exhausted. I hope to be sleeping on the Boston plane soon, though the seats are not terribly comfy. One hour until takeoff, we'll see when the plane boards. Most of the waiting passengers seem to have transferred from other flights, it's quite a tired looking bunch.
11am (Boston time) on plane
I think we have about 2 hours left on the plane. The flight isn't the most relaxing, the guy next to me is kind of big and restless and he has been cramping my space somewhat. There are a couple of Italian moms with a handful of bouncy little kids - cute enough, but there is lots of chatter and activity. I tried listening to one of the minidiscs I recorded but soon a flight attendant came by and told me that using CD players isn't allowed. Any way you slice it, it's a long day, about 18 hours door to door, 10 hours in the air from Milan to Boston. Maybe a bit longer as the bouncy children are becoming grouchy children at about this point. I guess it's just their way of asking for snacks.
Monday 20 Sep 2004 1040pm Mom's apt Jerusalem
I arrived here in Jerusalem yesterday, for two weeks vacation. I was pretty tired when I arrived yesterday. After my mom drove me home from the airport, she had some errands to run, and her car wouldn't start. She told me the car had been acting strangely lately - the car would start but the battery light would stay on, and the ignition cutoff thingy sometimes wasn't working. I told her that when my alternator fried, the electrical stuff all started acting strangely. When she took the car to the dealer this morning, she told the mechanic that her car wouldn't start, that it was probably the alternator. When she went to pick it up this afternoon she said the mechanic was shocked that she knew it was the alternator. She asked him, "don't Israeli women know anything about cars?" He said, "no!"
My mom asked me to bring various things to Israel, not fancy things, just stuff that's hard to find here. Plain decaf tea, some vitamins, a couple of books. One thing she wanted was a rack of lamb, Harry likes it, and it would probably cost $30-40 a pound here. I brought some and we ate some of it for dinner tonight, yum. I made an Israeli salad, tomato, cucumber, scallion, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Mom made steamed veggies and mashed potatoes too, all good.
I plugged in my laptop today and looked around for open wifi hotspots from my mom's apartment. I found two signals, but they were both locked down. So I called my mom's old ISP, Netvision, and her account is still active, a buck a day while I use it, not bad. I talked with Uriel today about getting together while I'm here. We'll get together Sunday or Monday. I told him I tried to find an open wifi access point from my mom's apartment. He laughed. He told me that no private person in Israel has an open access point, if they did, hackers would be all over it in an hour. Oh well, maybe I can find out if any of my mom's friendly neighbors have one, else the dialup will suffice.
It's around midnight and I should go to sleep, but I also want to write a while longer. I'm watching the music show that I like on channel 33. The English listing says "Song Walking," in Hebrew I think it's called "re'ach menta" (fragrance of mint), unless that's the name of a band. The 1st musician tonight is Shlomi Shabbat, who sings "ken ken ken."
Before that came on, I was watching the movie, "Tokyo Dream." I'd seen some of it at home before, and I only caught the tail end here. It is a documentary about the funky topic of foreign girls who go to Tokyo to act as escorts to Japanese men. Drama, comedy, and tragedy, each in large measure. In the part I saw, one of the girls was from French Canada (or France) and the other from Israel. It's not often that you see a movie in Japanese, French, Hebrew, and English (with Hebrew subtitles).
After dinner tonight, I had an urge to go out, I wanted to go with my mom, but she was very tired, so I took the car down to Ben Yehuda, the main drag for people-watching at night. I go there at around 9 pm. It wasn't particularly crowded, which is somewhat sad, because Rosh Hashanah on Ben Yehuda is sort of a Jewish version of Christmas week at Disneyland. The streets did have a combination of orthodox Jewish tourists, with their distinctive dress and ways, greasy Israeli punks with their cell phones and their cigarettes and their rough-housing, and a few drunken guys, mostly Russian, hobbling around or engaging each other in conversation in Hebrew, Russian, and English.
People were closing up their shops and sanitation men, mostly in their early 20's, were sweeping the streets. Oddly, these street sweepers were in possession of an object of my affection. Most of them are wearing really cool t-shirts that say "yerushalayim - be-rosh hanaki." (Jerusalem - tops in cleanliness.) Set aside the fact that Jerusalem is often rather strewn with litter. I think the shirt is cool, and it's especially cool that the garbage guys wear them. I'll try to find one in a store, but I think the shop keepers will think I'm crazy - why would I want a garbage man shirt? If I can't find one, I might resort to trying to buy one or trade one from a street sweeper. I don't know if I'd have the guts to wear it here though. I guess I would, but I also be I'd get some very strange looks. I think Israelis are very class conscious and it would be very strange for me to be wearing one of those shirts. Maybe I'm just magnifying the idea beyond its actual scope.
So I spent an hour or so sitting at the base off Ben Yehuda at Jaffa Road. A couple of years ago, I took a picture of a storefront of a clothing boutique called XBOY. It had a cool neon sign and it was next to a big old stone rendition of the Bank Leumi logo, about 6 feet high. XBOY is still there, but the big cool stone logo is replaced by another generic plate glass storefront. Progress, fooey.
The Sbarro on the corner of King George and Jaffa Road, scene of a bad terrorist bombing a couple of years ago, is now a bakery. The Moment Cafe on Derech Aza (where it was before it got bombed on Emek Refaim), is under construction now, hmmm.
I enjoyed sitting there in the square, there's a 6-sided stone platform about 30 feet across, with two levels for sitting. I heard a sermon this past week for Rosh Hashanah, about how Jews focus intently on praying - on talking to God. We do not spend so much time on listening to God. There on Jaffa Road, a few minutes walk from the Jaffa gate of the ancient holy walled city, I sat and listened. 1 am Tues
Today was Yom Kippur, it's still 3:30pm at home, so people will be fasting for another 4 hours or so. There's only 6 hours of time zone now between Boston and Israel because they set the clocks back here last Wednesday night - probably so there would be more hours after the end of Yom Kippur, or fewer hours before. Mom and I spent Yom Kippur at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. That was a spectacle, I'll get to that soon.
Let's see, early in the week, Mom and I did various shopping, we bought groceries and we went to the mall because I remembered that I didn't have a decent pair of light-colored pants for Yom Kippur, so I bought one here.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mom and I went to the annual memorial service for Americans and Canadians killed in terrorist attacks. It was held at a memorial park about 10 miles outside of Jerusalem. A few hundred people came, very solemn and sad, as you might imagine. Of course, in such a small country, everyone has lost either relatives or friends. Oy.
This week's tragic terror attack killed three border guards in Jerusalem French Hill. Border guards, that means kids 20 years old or so. One of then was an Ethiopian immigrant, the other two native Israelis. Not to mention the number injured. Not to mention the dozens of attacks that are foiled for every one you hear about. Why do the Palestinians do it? Maybe because they are hateful desperate losers? Call me a bigot, go ahead. You go live next to them, have fun. Palestinians murder Israelis. Iraqis kidnap and behead all kinds of people and huge majorities of Muslims approve of this behavior in polls. Gotta love 'em.
Umm, what did I do on Wednesday and Thursday? Oh ya, Wednesday I was probably mostly in a jetlagged stupor. Thursday I went to visit Danny Braniss at Hebrew U for most of the afternoon. He's fine as always, we went to lunch at the restaurant at the botanical garden at the back side of Hebrew U. Italian/Greek, pretty good. The campus was very quiet because students are all home for the holidays. Amnon is in Canada, so I missed him. I told Danny what was up with my work and he told me about his battles taming the latest technology.
Yesterday, Friday, was the eve of Yom Kippur, which started at 5:15, so we had to eat dinner at 3:30 so we could get to shul on time. Mom made a nice Shabbat dinner, chicken, soup, all that. We got duded up in our dress whites and headed off to the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. Yom Kippur there is quite a spectacle. Pretty big room, octagonal, more or less. Room for about 1000 men of the floor, maybe 500 women in the gallery. Torah reading platform in the middle, aron kodesh/bimah/stage in front. As I sat down and waited for Kol Nidre to start, there were about a dozen guys holding torahs in the middle and another 25 guys sitting around on the front platform. Turns out they were the choir - really cool, actually my first experience with an orthodox choir (not including the movie version of the Dybbuk). The choir mostly just acted as a human pipe organ behind the cantor, but they did a superb job. Pretty amazing, considering that they went for about 3 hours on Friday night and 10 more hours on Saturday.
I was moved practically to tears at the beginning of the service, I suppose I became more accustomed to it after I settled in. We got there 10-15 minutes early and there was plenty of room, but soon it was standing room only. The sanctuary itself is handsome, not really gaudy. White marble floors, Jerusalem stone walls (Mom insists that it's more marble, too shiny for Jerusalem stone). Modern lighting and cooling, some nice stained glass, but again, not gaudy at all. Pretty elegant, I think.
The worshippers seemed to be there to pray. Not showy, not arrogant, pretty straight ahead, which I like.
Aside from the choir, some interesting bits: Not surprisingly, there are practically no cars on the streets on Yom Kippur in Jerusalem. Surprisingly, they turn off all the traffic lights (!). Pretty much the only vehicle Mom and I saw on the morning walk to shul was a commuter van for one of the hospitals. Maybe one or two other cars on our 25 minute walk down a main street. So on Yom Kippur, everyone walks in the street. There's also lots of secular people just hanging around in the street, and lots of kids in the street, running around and on bikes, skates, skateboards, and scooters.
My mom always told me that the street outside her apt was a central meeting place one night a year, on Yom Kippur. Sort of like Israeli Brigadoon. Sure enough, around 11 pm, a few hundred kids start to congregate in the street outside Mom's window. Kids chatting, strolling, skateboarding (loud), calling to each other. No idea how or why they choose my mom's intersection that one night a year.
Hmmm, back to Yom Kippur. This morning, the courtyard of the shul was all covered with left wing graffiti. Not just a little, but probably 100 feet of text, 18 inches tall. I didn't get all the Hebrew, but it had Sharon, Palestinians, killers, etc. Disgusting thing to do to a shul courtyard, and I'm sure people thought so, whether they agree with the sentiments or not. But it seemed that people took absolutely no notice. I surmised that murders are a too common tragedy. Graffiti, though crass, is quite reversible. [later... there was coverage in the Jerusalem Post, saying the grafitti read: "The intifada will win - Sharon is a murderer," "for the sin that you sinned before the Palestinians in occupation - murder," and the "State is a terror organization."]
Of course, there were guards at the single open door of the shul, searching everyone, including pat-downs. Entirely understandable, of course. Odd irony is that sitting next to me for today's service was a soldier kid, praying very diligently. Galil machine gun on the floor, with ammo clip strapped to the barrel. During Yizkor, he went out to the lobby with his gun, and did a bit of freelance guard duty while he waited. He came back in and prayed until about an hour before the end of the morning service (1:30). He picked up his gun and his knapsack and headed out. You can be sure he had army duty, no other conceivable reason that he would leave. The kids (strangers) sitting near him all wished him behatzlacha - good luck. He nodded, they nodded. Very, very, heavy.
Difference between neilah at home and in Jerusalem. At home, it goes the way it says in the machzor - avinu malkenu, leshana haba'a biyerushalayim, hallel. In Jerusalem (at least at the Great Synagogue), it was avinu malkenu, leshana haba'a yerushalayim habenuya, im eshkachech yerushalayim, hatikva, then maariv. I really don't know how everyone keeps from bursting out in tears en masse.
Yom Kippur is always a deep experience for me, since it's a time to focus on introspection, repentance, and renewal. The juxtaposition of the extremes of sacred and profane layered on top of all that made for a very provocative experience. 11:50 pm sat
Mom's apt Tues 12:40 am
Spent the evening with my new internet chess friend, Hillel. But first... Yesterday, Sunday, Mom and I spent the morning visiting tante Tsirl in Rechovot. She's well into her 80's, I think, and slowing down a bit, but she's still fun to visit, even if I don't catch all the Yiddish. She still lives in a neighborhood with her blond-haired Kretchinever Hungarian chassidim - they don't look like typical Israelis - of course Israelis come in the full spectrum of colors, from blond Russians to African Ethiopians - Israel is far more diverse than Boston is.
After coming home from tante Tsirl's, I got in touch with Robin, a woman I knew from the #israel IRC chat room long ago. Now she lives with her family, a short ride from my mom's house. She told me she had visited Israel on and off over the years but made aliya a couple of years ago. She and I and her little daughters hung out for a while, and Robin told me some about her adventures looking for work. Olim have always had a difficult time settling here, and with today's political and economic climate, it must be tougher than ever. Robin seems to be taking the challenge with reasonably good spirit and humor.
Last night, Mom and I went to Mifgash Esh - a steakiya near the city gate, that I went to with Uriel years ago. It's an interesting place, with many pictures of Israeli politicians on the walls. They serve various grilled meats. If you're in the mood for testicles, you have a choice of bull or turkey. Mmm, testicles. They also had udder, pancreas, and other assorted parts. I had lamb chops, Mom had rib eye steak. Mom didn't like the steak much, it was quite soft, probably tenderized. She likes to chew on her steak. Her dad was a butcher, she knows meat. There was a big portrait of Yitzchak Rabin on the wall, Mom said she didn't like his politics. While I wouldn't call her a hard line right winger, I'd say she likes both her steak and her prime minister a little less soft. There were pics of Bibi (Mom said "ick") and Sharon, who is ok with Mom.
This evening, I took the 405 bus to Tel Aviv to meet Hillel for dinner. Hillel is doing software work to fulfill his military service. He's a strong chess player, he brought his board, we went down to the beach and sat at the Ben & Jerry's and played a few games, he wiped me out, which is what I would expect, but I had been luckier in the few games we played on the net. After that, we walked down the beach and found a fish restaurant, I had a great buri (mullet), Hillel had some pasta and veggies and we had a bunch of salatim. After dinner, we walked along the beach for a while and finally back to the big central bus station in Tel Aviv. We talked about life in Israel and America, and how in some ways they're so different and how some ways the same. Some people think that Israel is almost a US territory. And in some ways, it's another planet. So I had a great visit to Tel Aviv.
The bus has a reputation for being explosion prone, but frankly, the bus was probably much safer than driving to Tel Aviv. I was frisked (patted down and scanned with a metal detector and wand and had my passport checked) both entering the bus station and the bus in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (6 checks in all). Also going into the restaurant. Quite reasonable, I think. Since Hillel was a soldier in uniform, he just flashed his ID, and I don't think they bothered giving him the once over with the magic wand. But being a foreigner, I'm more strange to the typical security officer. Especially since they probably don't see many American tourists these days. One guard looked at the visas on my passport for like a minute. I've been to Israel 8 times on this passport (well, 10, including re-entry visas from Turkey and Jordan) and I have some strange stamps in there, who knows what he was looking at. He finally waved me in. One interesting thing on the bus from Tel Aviv, the lights inside go on for a minute before and after every time the bus stops for passengers. I suppose that's normal so that folks can grab their stuff, but I have to think that everyone checks out every new passenger for suspicious behavior. So anyway, the bus rides were uneventful and convenient even, (especially) at rush hour. It's late, while writing, I've been watching the late night pop music concert on channel 33. I've seen most of these earlier this week, so I'm enjoying them again. 2am (Chaim Moshe, Gali Atari, and many others).
Pretty tired. Some quick notes, will write more later. Went to see Josh Faudem's movie at the Jeru Cinematech last night. Whoa, very heavy. After that, went dancing a Boaz, danced from about 10:30 to 1 am, in general, a bunch of people were quite friendly. I don't quite understand it, if maybe the folks who stay the latest are the friendliest? Nah, I've stayed late before. Anyway, movie was stunning and dancing was fun.
Tonight (weds) is 1st night of sukkot, Uriel is in town, we went out after dinner. We chilled out and talked about lots of stuff, I'll write about it later.
I did ask Uriel about the late night show - Nedudei Shira, which the TV Guide translates as "Song Wandering." Uriel explained that it's a pun - Nedudei Shena means "insomnia" - literally "wandering of sleep." Maybe, "insongnia." Shena and shira differ in Hebrew by one letter, so it is a cute pun name for an all night music TV show. I'm tired! 1am Thu
3:30pm Fri Mom's apt
In the daytime, we went up the street to Daniella's house. She's the daughter of my mom's friend, Doris. We had a nice lunch in their sukkah, with them and Daniella's twin teenagers, Natanel and Asafa.
After dark, I got together again with Uriel. We headed into town, it was a lot more crowded than it was the previous night. We ate some sushi, it was ok, not bad, bot not very good by American standards, no surprise. Interesting to see. After that, we headed to Emek Refaim for dessert. It was pretty much mobbed, mostly with religious Americans. We strolled down the street, we stopped in for gelato at a place I'd been before. I had a cone with chocolate and some seedy kind of red berry. Pretty good, tasty. Not overly rich. Pretty generous amount. There was a bin in Hebrew that said: tut-bazilicum. I tried a taste, it was indeed strawberry-basil. That is what it tasted like. Not bad, but I wasn't ready for basil and chocolate. After that, we walked some more and stopped at a cafe for some tea. I wasn't ready for caffeine, so I had a lemonade and a fruit smoothie.
We talked about all kinds of stuff, work, computers, social life, politics, life in Israel and the US. Uriel bemoaned the fact that Jerusalem was pretty much dead for secular young people, and that all his childhood friends had moved away, as he had. He emphasized that the Israeli government is only focused on developing the area around Tel Aviv, and the rest of the country suffers.
Uriel told me he had been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, especially history and cultural anthropology. He's also listening to a fair amount of classic Israeli folk/pop, and some American blues. I had a handful of CDs with me, I played some La Bottine Souriante, for him, he liked it, so I gave him one. They are a good combo of Quebecois folks singing and jazzy brass on top in their later work.
I didn't do much today - Friday. The sun was pretty hot, and we're going to the Faudem's for dinner. Tomorrow is my last day. I'll have sukkot lunch with Daniel. Dancing with Boaz after shabbat, then off to the airport and home. 5pm Fri
3:25 am Ben Gurion waiting @ the gate. Had shabbat eve dinner with Bert and Arlene, they are fun folks. Thought their son, Josh, might be there, but he's off at a kibbutz taking a breather, I saw his movie the other night, between living through a nasty suicide bombing and making a movie that turned out to be about it, I'd say he deserves a rest.
It being 3:30am, I'm somewhat tired. There are also lots of little bits to write about. The sherut ride was a van with about 8 passengers, mostly religious except for me. I got on first, next was a black hat couple, then a young religious girl sat behind me. A couple of her girlfriends wished her off, shouting mazel tov, which is an odd way to wish someone off. But I soon learned, from listening to her continuous cell phone conversations, that she (her name was Feigie) and her boyfriend just became engaged at the beginning of sukkos, and since her family and friends are all in New York, shabbos had just ended (1:30am here, 7:30pm there), and she had been engaged for three days and hadn't been able to tell any of her family or friends. I didn't really want to snoop, but I hadn't much choice, and it was somewhat entertaining, or at least sweet. Suffice it to say, she was pretty excited. Or, as she said to her friends, plotzing.
Since it's sukkos, all the guys who are travelling are walking around with their lulavs in bags that make them all look like they are carrying two-piece custom pool cues.
I didn't see it that much tonight, but as I rode several times between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I noticed an awful lot of cotton fields this time. I know they rotate the crops, I guess it's cotton season. Give you that good old down on the plantation feeling.
The departure gates are all busy, but it doesn't seem crazy. The jury is still out of course, the plane is scheduled to board imminently.
The weather here was rather hot (mid 90's) for most of my stay, except for Yom Kippur. Now it's cooling off. Oh well. I'm sure autumn has already arrived in Boston. I'll bet the leaves are turned and falling.
Oh, after dinner with Bert and Arlene last night, mom and I had a shabbos lunch with Daniel and Valerie and their four kids. Mordechai is the oldest, very interested in science. The other three are girls, Yael and Naomi are in the middle and were very sweet. Esther is the youngest and is just getting her teeth, so she wasn't feeling too well, but they are all totally cute. Daniel has been working on his Dutch Portuguese chazzanut recordings again, which is good news. People are starting to line up at my gate, I think I'll join them, who knows, the flight might take off on time - that would be curious. 3:55am
Logan Saturday 18 June 2005 3:40 pm
I had lunch with Norman, and he had an early appt to get a haircut, so I got here to the airport a bit early. The security check was very fast, probably five minutes, which is to say that there is no excuse for the times when it takes an hour to get through. It just shouldn't take more than five minutes to remove you shoes and belt, stick your carry-on on a conveyor, and walk through a metal detector. So I have almost two hours until the plane takes off. Once the plane is flying, it will be about 7 hours to Milan, then 2-3 hours wait, then another hour to Pisa - getting me in there at about noon, which is to say, 12 hours of travel, Hmmm. 3:50pm
I am sitting on the modest steps of the modest chiesa del crucifisso in the modest town of Pontedera, a suburb about 14 miles from Pisa. The hotel is modest. OK, it has a shower with hot water, a ventilation system that keeps it somewhat habitable. No internet. TV works, gets CNN and Italian. 8x10 room, no view, nothing much out there anyway. I just decided to take a walk and found a main drag, a local maximum as we say here in Rome. So I'm walking past the lackluster bars and gelaterias, and I come across a crowd in a small square in front of this church. A wedding. Ilaria and Stefano, as the laser printer posters declare. About 200 friends and neighbors milling around. The happy couple has juts been whisked away in a convertible white vw bug (the good old kind) as the church bells pealed. I'm sitting in thrown rice on the church steps, and the neighborhood teenage girl gymnastic squad has unrolled a carpet to perform on. They've got hoops and pins and balls and leotards and they're sticking their feet up over their heads and looking alternately bored and giggly. I had suspected that this town was entirely devoid of charm, but it seems that I was not quite correct.
The girls seem to be in four or five different classes, with different outfits. Teeny little eight year olds in sea blue skating dresses. The slightly bigger ones in magenta leotards. Then navy skating dresses. The oldest ones, maybe 15 or 16, have black t-shirts with great big shiny gold dollar signs, front and back. So it seems the yankee dollar is not soft in Pontedera. I'm guessing that this is a recital at the end of the school year, a man is introducing all the groups from the gruppo sportivo, and generic beaty dance music is pumping out of the PA system. Here we go. The first solo girl is doing a routine with pins, she is nervous in front of the crowd, dropping as many as she catches. Cute though. The crowd applauds, of course. Next up, the navy blue girls with hoops and pins and jump ropes and balls. More nerves, more bobbles. The evening breeze isn't helping. Still cute.
Monday night, in Pisa, about 10:15 My host, Stefano, is talking on the phone with his family after a long day of work. I worked about 12 hours today, sleeping on Ambien, and staying awake on yummy café Italiano. .Work went well, the robot is working except for one indicator lamp that we need to replace. We're waiting for dinner in a nice little café. Though the town is not too exciting, things are going well so far and everyone is friendly. I'll get a meal soon, then a shower and a bed soon after.
Mon 23:50 in Hotel la Rotonda in Pontedera
Just got back and showered, fresh for bed. I should sleep, but a few lines first. Dinner with Stefano was extremely yummy and pleasant. Place is called Pasquale. There was a guy behind the counter wearing a skullcap - probably Pasquale. We dined al fresco, as they say in Rome. I had yummy farfalle con salmone bowties with salmon and cream sauce. Unfortunately, no wine, cuz I'm on Ambien to sleep. Stupid cautious me. Ambien to sleep, coffee to wake. At least while I need to function during the day. I'm sort of bouncing off the walls, from drugs or adrenaline or cuz I'm just that kinda guy.
Stefano and I had a nice chat during dinner, about robotics and home and this and that. Among my charming conversation topics was the Italian emigration to NYC, and our historic great mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia. I told Stefano he was beloved. Stefano asked why, and I told him how during the depression, there was a big newspaper strike in NYC, and LaGuardia read the comics every day on the radio for all the kids (and everyone else). I totally forgot about Rudy Guilliani. Hmmm.
I should get to sleep soon. One more thing, let's see. There are 2 or 3 tv channels. CNN and the US Armed Forces Network - that being a smorgasbord of programming with mostly jingoistic ads and khaki fyi. It's just past midnight, and Letterman is on, I think I saw this one just before I left, which makes it one or two days late. Eh, I would write about a dozen things, but it's important that I sleep and so I shall. Oh, one more thing. Just took a shower, I used one towel and am sleeping on the other to keep the pillow dry. Both towels are clean, but one smells like detergent, and one smells like vinegar! Ciao Italia! Buona notte. 12:15am
Before 9:30am, sitting on the stoop outside Polo Santa Anna Valdera, waiting for Stefano, feeling pretty clean and relaxed, having had a decent sleep, a shower, a good dinner and breakfast. My heart was thumping somewhat in my chest last night, from the coffee or the adrenaline or something. I feel better now, maybe I'll try less coffee. Stefano just drove by, he's off to park, so he arrived promptly - pronto, I guess. Time for work, a few hours of finishing and neatening, and then the more practical part of using the robot for training and software design. 9:30
Letterman just came on, he follows Leno on Armed Forces Network, which pays no heed to which network is which. This was the second day working, both days I worked from 9 AM to 10 PM. Long days, but I'm doing ok. I was really wired yesterday from 2 cups of coffee, I thought. Today I had no coffee at all and I was pretty much just as wired. Adrenaline, I guess. I'm feeling ok, but probably deliriously exhausted
Did a bunch of demoing today, all in the afternoon. Did some teaching late in the day, I was only teaching one grad student, a woman named Irene (pronounced to rhyme with Elena). Irene is sharp and understands software and English quite well, and I led her through various nerdly parts of my software system.
A brush with embarrassing stupidity for me - I have met about a dozen people and I only remember some of their names. Of course, people just say their names, they don't spell them out for me. Stefano was pretty easy and familiar. Franco, Jacopo, likewise. Irene was a problem, because my ear only registered Elena, because that's the sound of it to my American ear. Plus, I'm quite fatigued. I think I called her Elena by accident once or twice. The last time she got mad - a bit. I could only blush and apologize. When my ear heard those vowel sounds, it only registered Elena. But I was embarrassed enough that I don't think I'll forget next time. Shame is a great motivator.
It looks like I'm not going to see much of Italy this week. Still, having fun working, and I should get to sleep. Lord knows it's been a long week and I'm just through Tuesday. 12:20 AM Weds
6/23/05 4:45 PM Galileo Galilei Airport Pisa
I'm waiting for the runway bus to ride from the gate to the plane to Milan. I'm in sort of a daze (i.e., I am in a daze). I was very busy on this trip, the first three days I worked from 9am until after 10pm. Today I arrived at the lab with my luggage a bit past 8, a 10-minute walk from the hotel. I delivered a very new version of my software to run on a different model of computer than we had before, and this robot is the first one we have delivered in Europe, which has different power from our American systems (220v vs. 110v). I usually spend about 20 hours at a customer site to do installation and training. Here in Italy, I spent over 40 hours, and I think I got about the same amount done, because of all the juggling I had to do with the new hardware, new software, jet lag, time zone differences that caused communication delays in getting questions answered from folks in Boston, language differences, and so on. The folks all understand English, but still, it's hard enough to explain the robot engineering to native English speakers, it a fair bit harder to explain to folks who do not think primarily in English, I guess because I am always paying careful attention to make sure I'm making myself clear.
I ran on espresso for one day, and now on adrenaline for another two days and a half - well, it's 5pm now, so you can count that as three (now on board). While I was working, I was in good spirits and pretty much feeling no pain. I've been here at the airport for about a hour, my feet and legs are sore, stomach muscles, back, tailbone, sore. Very weary but not yet sleepy. At least the food has been yummy, if not fancy, and I've been drinking lots of aqua frizzante, which has probably been helpful. But oy, I'm feeling my age, or something. I hope the aches and pains aren't persistent, and I especially hope that I don't catch some airplane disease - I need to keep my hands away from my face, which for me, is a tall order. I guess I'm exhausted. On one hand, I feel like a shmatte, on the other hand, I don't feel all that bad - but one of those just might be the delirium talking.
Stefano drove me to the airport in his small Alfa Romeo, sort of halfway between sporty and hatchback.
We just took off, I'm looking out the window at the farms and forests surrounding Pisa.
I am realizing that I do not even remember the hop from Milan to Pisa last Sunday. I had taken an Ambien to sleep on the flight from Boston to Milan - pill must have worked and wiped out my memory beside - I think that's a side effect. (I hope so!)
Sky is hazy - I thought I was just looking at haze but I saw one sail down there so we must be off the west coast. Ah, there's a couple of wakes, it's water. This plane has 4 seats across, 2+2, 18 rows. Leather seats, comfy. ATR-72, Italian, I guess. Flight is tagged Alitalia and also KLM. Guy behind me is sneezing, if I catch cold, I know who to blame (whether I'm right or not).
Oh, back to Stefano driving me to the airport...
In a sec. Flight attendant guy just handed me a "fazzoletto rinfrescante - with compliments of Alitalia. I can say with all confidence that I have never been more pleased to be I receipt of a "refreshing towelette" - I'm talking wash-n-dry, not washcloth.
A minute later, same guy hands out these mini frozen ice cream cone thingies. They say Extreme Gold Nestles on them. They're like two inches long, except of course, they're 5 or 6 cm long. Filled with a bit of vanilla ice cream, somewhat soft. A bit of caramel on top. Instead of a wafer cone, a thin chocolate shell. Yum! And now drinks. The first one I saw was Arance Rosso - blood orange. Yummy again. Oh look, the other container says "ACE" - Arancia Carote e Limone. That sounds yum too. Galileo, Fermi, Volta, Nicola Tesla, Dante, Michelangelo, Leonardo. The Italians are fucking geniuses. I already feel better. On a stupid puddle jumper from Pisa to Milan. We just crossed the shore line over Genova, and we're descending into Milan Malpensa.
Back to Stefano again. So Stefano and I spent lots of time together this week, mostly working, but some chats during our late night dinners and on this ride to the airport. Short ride, 30 minutes or 45, divided highway, 2 lanes each way. 90 kmh speed limit, light traffic. Stefano describes the hills and towns as we pass. He talks some more about Milan, he starts talking about the rich family that controlled Milan - I interrupt - the Sforzescas! - Yes! He says, the Sforza family. He tells me about them, I told him I high-tailed it through their fortress ("castle," he says) when I spent the weekend in Milan a couple of summers ago in the 40 degree C heat wave in August. I told him I... (we just landed, now taxiing) remembered the Rondanini Pieta, that Michelangelo was carving when he died, and the beautifully carved Latin inscriptions describing Mediolanum, the ancient city of Milan.
8pm Airport Milan (Malpensa)
Ate dinner, the layover is like 4 hours, another 2:45 to go. So Stefano is talking to me about Milan and I don't know if he's impressed that I remember the Sforzas and the Rondanini Pieta, but I was impressed with myself. I guess it helps to write all this stuff down. At least it helped this once.
So the snack on the plane was a pleasant surprise, but the food in the airport here is mediocre at best. I'm sure there's a reason. There are lots of very fancy duty free shops - Bulgari, Ferrari, Mont Blanc, blah, blah, blah. Small shops, probably paying huge rents. It is probably more profitable for them to sell crappy food and turn the people over than to serve good food and have people sitting. But I'm laid over here for four hours, and I would have enjoyed a nice meal. I deserved a nice meal. My company would have been happy to pay for it. Well, at least they would have paid for it. Instead, I had a mediocre meal - mixed grilled meat - like, a burger, a hot dog, and some other chopped meat thingy. 10 euros. Not horrible, but nothing to write home about. That's life at the airport. Airport food isn't superb in American cities, but it's better than in Milan. Which strikes me as strange.
Amusing Stefano story... Stefano speaks very good English with an Italian accent. He has a diverse vocabulary. Now and then he'll swap a long and a short vowel, not often, entirely comprehensible. In our free time conversations, he would ask me fairly subtle questions about English usage - "What do you call this road in English, a motorway?" (This was the divided highway, two lanes each way, no tolls.) I told him, motorway is good English English, but an American would never say motorway, they would just understand but know you were from somewhere else. He said on some roads, you have to pay, but not this one. I explained that in my part of the country, the money ones are toll roads and the free ones are just highways. If there's a fence in the middle, you can say divided highway. I spared him the confusion of freeway (California), turnpike (like a toll road), parkway, interstate, and so on. If I'm not mistaken, the British would call this sort of divided highway a dual carriageway. God help me. We were only in the car for 45 minutes, not enough time to delve the depths of English language road nomenclature.
Stefano also asked me about fine points of English pronunciation. He asked if his English had an Italian accent - I told the truth of course, it did. His English is excellent and quite clear, but no, I don't think he has spent a long time practicing in an English speaking country. When speaking English he always used the Anglicized names of the Italian cities - Rome, Florence, Milan. When we talked about Milan, I would always say mill-ahn or mee-lahn. Stefano, in turn, would always do his best to go for the ugly American diphthong - mill-anne. But it comes out sounding somewhere between mill-anne and mill-lane. English is hell.
Almost 1:45 til scheduled departure. The lady who talks out of the ceiling keeps saying that all flights into and out of Paris are cancelled or postponed due to inclement weather. I haven't checked the forecast, but this being almost July, I suspect the skies over Tel Aviv are not stormy.
At most of our meals, for dessert, Stefano would always suggest a cup of coffee, i.e., espresso. After Monday, I always said I'd love to, but no thanks, I would never be able to sleep. Even without coffee, and with Ambien, it was taking me like 2 hours to get to sleep, after the pill, and I'd sleep for like 6 hours and then get going again. Stefano suggested that on Thursday that maybe I was still awake from Monday's coffee - maybe.
I explained to Stefano that it was important for me to sleep at night because it was important for me to be awake during the day. That it is my responsibility to be awake to work for you, as a customer. Stefano said that he hoped I thought of him as a friend. I said, yes, I do. But... for Stefano my friend, I think it would be ok if I fell asleep during the work day, but for Stefano my customer, it was important that I was awake during the work day. And so I was. And now it's 9:15 PM, and I've been up and running since 7 AM, and I've weary but not yet sleepy. If I'm not sleeping within a hour of getting on the plane to Tel Aviv, I'll take another sleeping pill, or maybe a half a. We'll arrive in Israel at around dawn, and I'll be much better off sleeping on the plane than being awake. And without drugs, I never sleep on planes. So one more pill, if need be, and I think/hope I can adjust to natural sleep at Mom's. At least I'll be adjusting to drug-aided manic works schedule rather than 7 hours of jet lag from Boston. 9:20PM Milan Thu
10 PM Waiting near the gate - as always, the last gate in the row (for security reasons). It was going to be B25, but they just changed it to B26. There was a more extreme gate, had to use it. Various datim, with various dati fashion styles. Long curly payess, short, long beards, scraggly short beards, black velvet kippot (lots of these) modern orthodox with sroogies, neatly trimmed. An old rav with black socks pulled high over his calves, a kid with a white Yankees cap. Borsalinos - this is Milan, nu? Black is the new black. And black was the old black. And was and is and will always be.
There are other folks from other places waiting for my flight and a few others. A couple of little kids playing dominos speaking Spanish. If all goes to plan, soon I'll be seated and strapped in. With a little luck I'll be sleeping soon after. Or with a little help - better living through chemistry. 10:10 PM.
Looks like my flight is pushed back 15 minutes. At B25, the Warsaw flight is pushed back 2 hours. I hope the 15 minutes is because they changed gates, and it doesn't slide forward. It's almost 10:30, should board soon if we are to leave at 11. There are guys davening, it's too late for a minyan, no, wait, it looks like there are 10, yep. Oddly, all the guys are facing one way, and one guy is facing exactly opposite. Hmm, the one guys just turned around to join the rest. I assume they are facing east. Or whatever direction Jerusalem is from here. I am sure they are facing gate B26, which is, of course, the way to Jerusalem. My flight is boarding. The minyan is winding down. Thank you minyan. Baruch hashem. 10:35 PM.
Still on plane, been in the air for about 2 hours, so it's a bit past 2, Israel time. So I slept 2 hours on the pill, better than 1 hour, I guess. The TV displays are showing random features, 5 minutes ago it was the video for Green Day, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I recognized it only because it was labeled - I only saw the video - no audio - if I heard the song, I'd recognize the song, maybe even say Green Day. Now a photo journal travelog, was Kenya, now Austria - for lovers of ebony and ivory to whom it doesn't matter if it's back or white. Now it's Entertainment Tonight with goofy actors getting into cars, and other idiots taking their pictures. Maybe this will put me to sleep. 2:15
Monday night, 10:10 PM, Zion Square, Jeru.
I'm sitting on the hex shaped platform/bench, there is a group of three drummers grooving in a small circle - a yeshiva kid is standing with a young girl, tzitzis waving. He's hamboning and dancing. There's a light crowd,, normal for a school night. Weather is perfect like 65-70. Two soldiers with machine guns right in front of me, 10 feet away. Looking quickly around I saw two more. Wouldn't want any trouble. Their mood, as always, is attentive/casual.
I arrived here on Friday at dawn. Took a sherut shared van from the airport, the usual when I come or go in the middle of the night. Mom wasn't up when I came into her apt, she'd left the door open. I was quiet, but she was up with about 15 minutes. I regaled her with tales of my Italian travels and very soon, she warmed me up a bowl of chicken soup, which was quite what I needed, even at 6 AM, and had its intended healing powers.
On Friday and Saturday, I stayed mostly near Mom's apt. I fount that I could borrow a wifi link if I went out on the front mirpeset and pointed my laptop just so. There are various signals, but only one is open enough and strong enough to connect to. Barely strong enough.
A gray haired fellow with a bag of wooden flutes just joined the drummers and started fifing away. Smiles all around.
So on Friday, I chilled with my mom. We talked, ate, listened to some music and watched some DVDs that I brought along. I brought some contra - Rodney Miller and Moving Violations, and Andy Statman klezmer. I also had some more rhythmic stuff like Ivo Papasov, Horse Flies, and la Bottine Souriante, but Mom and Harry don't like those so much. I brought them for Uriel and Yingele. I called everyone to arrange to get together. Uriel picked up his cell and told me he was in Germany on last minute business and he should be back next weekend, right before I return home. I emailed Danny, and he said he was around. Danny and Amnon and I are on for lunch this Thursday, after I go to an early bar mitzvah at the kotel, for one of the many grandsons of Stan and Ruby. Ruby is a friend of my mom's - from high school - i.e., almost 60 years ago. I went to yeshiva with their boys, we were friendly, but I'm sad that we've been out of touch. Will be great to see them, I'm sure.
Late Friday afternoon, I also called Yingele. I had never met Yingele before, except to read his blog, and then afterward in a short email chat. I'd caught his blog about two months ago, I know exactly how. I was reading Ha'aretz in English on the web. There was an article on the pending disengagement (i.e., expulsion of Jews from their homes) in the West Bank, and there was a picture of a protester holding up a sign that said: "yehudi lo megaresh yehudi" (in Hebrew letters, of course). I know enough Hebrew to know that this means "Jew does not chase Jew," but I didn't know whether this phrase was a common battle cry, or just one thing that one guy wrote on one sign. So, of course, I googled for it - the English spelling of the Hebrew phrase. A fair handful of links came back, so I learned it was a common phrase. Near the top of the list of Google hits was Yingele's blog, some of which I read, and which was cogent and interesting, stunningly so. I dropped him a quick email that said, cool blog. Btw, my mom lives in Jerusalem too, some day when I'm visiting maybe we could get together and say hello. He said sure. A month or two later, work sent me to Italy, I planned to visit Mom after. I sent a note to the Yingele, telling him I'd be in town for a week or so, at the end of June. At that point, he became more interested in swapping email, and we discussed mostly me, after all, he bared some enormous section of his soul in his blog. I told him where I lived, what kind of music I liked, stuff like my work, whether I drove, what kind of car (he's 18...). Anyway, in the emails, I told him I'd call when I was in town.
Fifer left after about half a hour of fine work, drummers still rocking. A rapper has just joined them, freestyling. Can't tell what lang or whether it was scatting. I guess he can't go indefinitely, he just stopped and tapped out a rhythm on the drums, maybe it was a request and he'll start styling again.
Oh - before I get back... When I saw the phrase "Yehudi lo megaresh Yehudi" it immediately called to mind the phrase, "ape does not harm ape," which I saw last year on a T-shirt in Japan, and which, I think, comes from Planet of the Apes. Some connection that is.
Back to Zion Square. There are now two drummers, two rappers - the first one, who was here first, is rapping in English, heavy reggae style, big beefy kid, yellow hoodie, buzz haircut. The other rapper is smaller, black T shirt, long hair, greased way back. The kids are trading back and forth. I don't understand the Hebrew one, the big Yellowman is rapping about the higher power, Babylon, vagina, pointing at the soldier/hippie with the khaki tallis katan over his T shirt and under his Uzi. The black one just high fived the yellow one and split. The yellow one is chatting with the gathered crowd (?), fading in and out of his rap, the groove continues, I'm sitting right behind yellow man, his rap isn't as loud as the drumming, of course.
Oh, back to Yingele. I call him late on Friday right before shabbos. He answers, we chat for a minute. We exchange pleasantries, a bit formally, we've never met each other. We say, let's get together, we'll talk after shabbos, no solid plan, good shabbos.
Friday night Mom makes yummy stewed chicken, She asked me to bring Chinese fermented black beans, which I did. While I was at the Super 88, I also got a nice bag of dried black mushrooms. Mom soaked some mushrooms, they went fine with the chicken, yum. (Tonight she put more mushrooms into the spaghetti sauce, yum again.)
Yellowman just up and left, not before he rapped some, drummed, sang, and beat-boxed. Probably as talented as Matisyahu, without the PR frontman. The drummers are taking a rest - they've stopped.
I just spent the past 20 minutes talking to one of the kids who was hanging out listening to the rappers. He introduced himself to me while I was writing. Named Yonatan. Nice kid, probably early 20's. Out of school, lives in Har Nof. Had two friends, Shalom and David. Yonatan's English sounded pretty much clearly American, but he's not familiar with America - I don't think he's heard of Boston, for instance. For a kid who speaks clear American English, that's a bit unusual. He said he was coming to visit America sometime soon, I assumed that meant NYC, he said yes. I told him it was a 4-hour bus ride to Boston, only costs $15 each way - like 70 shekel. I gave him my email. He said he wasn't working, he said there was some meditation thing he was going to tomorrow in Ramot. I told him it sounded interesting, but I'm not sure of the logistics of getting to Ramot. I gave him my number too, maybe I'll see him again, here or at home. He said that he doesn't currently have email, which makes keeping in touch lots harder.
It looks like lots of the kids hanging around (still Zion Square) are Americans. Mostly teenagers, a bunch of like 20 right in front of me. I haven't written about the orange thing. I'll get to that. There's a kid with a big orange kippa, a girl in what looks like an orange sari, one girl was dressed in tight jeans and blouse with an orange glitter scarf, orange sweatpants, orange knapsacks, hoodie sweatshirts. Armbands. Many just have orange ribbons tied to their clothes, silk, I suppose. Lots of people also have orange ribbons streaming from their car antennas and side view mirrors. Orange ribbons and orange flags. The ribbons look like the plastic safety tape they use to tie off areas they want to isolate but it's hard to tell whether it's cloth or plastic.
The orange people are the "right wing anti-disengagement" people, who are against giving any of the West Bank to the Palestinians. I don't usually go to the West Bank, but looking at the cars, the closer you get to Jerusalem, the more orange you see. Also, the closer you get to the West Bank, no doubt. There are also folks who "favor" the disengagement, which is to say, I suppose, that they think Israel will be better off if they give some of the West Bank to the Palestinians. I don't think any Jew is happy about giving land with Jews living on it to Arabs, but some people, like me, favor the plan, for pragmatic reasons. Those most in favor of disengagement have taken blue as their color. You can tell when they fly ribbons on their cars. You can be pretty much sure that everyone wearing orange is orange. But if you see a person wearing blue, of course, you can't tell. That's what happens when you take the color of blue jeans as the symbol of your political movement. Hmmm...
Haven't even gotten to Yingele yet. The square is mostly empty, the drummers have rotated to the other side of the hex facing Jaffa Road, now that Ben Yehuda is more empty. The drummers are jamming and four American girls are singing with them. A dozen young students (20's) are there too, all guys, chatting, including Yonatan and his pals. I should get home, I'll say goodbye to Yonatan, find Mom's car and head home. 12:40 AM Tue
2PM Mom's Apt
I didn't get to sleep last night until late. I checked my email when I got home and then got to talking with my dad on IM, and some other folks too. I don't think they are fully aware of the 7 hour time difference, so when I said I was ready to stop, they took a bit too much time. I need to be a bit more aware of the time.
Anyway, I woke up late and didn't pursue Yonatan's offer to meditate. On one hand I was curious, on the other hand, I was thinking that it might have been a setup for being proselytized by someone or other, Jewish, Christian, who knows. Mom also said he might be proselytizing when I told her the story. Personally, he didn't seen like he was proselytizing, but... He was kind of vague about what he was inviting me to, if I was wary, that would have been enough for me to say no, thank you. But I tend more toward the curious.
Back to before... I talked with Yingele on Friday afternoon, we said hi, and we'd get back to each other after shabbos. Being the summer solstice, days are at their longest, and shabbos ends late, at around 8:30. I called Yingele at around 8:45, and he answered and said he was not yet done with havdala and ma'ariv, to call about in 45 mins, which I did. We then resolved to meet in Zion Square at 10 PM, which we did. I did not know what to expect, Ying was dressed pretty casually - more kippa sruga than black kippa. Having read his blog, and after speaking to him for a moment, I saw that he was very bright. As we walked up the midrechov pedestrian mall, a couple of different kids came up to him and asked to hang out, he said, not now, he was busy (with me). Seems he's popular. We ducked into a pizzeria and had a couple of slices. We talked about this and that. He asked me about my work and why I didn't have my own company. I explained that science and engineering talent is one component of success, but for business, more important is marketing savvy and an element of luck. We talked about risk taking and he was all for it, I admitted to being somewhat more risk-averse. Once we sat down for pizza, Ying asked me what I thought about Gush Katif (the current focus of the extremely controversial disengagement disagreement). I think we were talking about my mom, and he asked about her opinion. I told him that I thought my mom was right wing, voted for Sharon and Likud, didn't like Bibi. But I wasn't sure of her exact opinion, I'd speak for myself. I admitted that my info came from the Ha'aretz English edition and the New York Times, and I lived 7000 miles away, which makes me a poorly informed observer at best. I said that I didn't think any Jew was simply in favor of expelling other Jews from their homes and giving that land to Arabs. But thinking pragmatically, I had decided that it would be wiser and safer for Israeli Jews to draw a line around the west bank Arabs and declare that they were no longer in Israel. Weighing the bitter alternatives, this one seems no more bitter than not dealing with the Arabs.
Ying explained to me his position. He is 100% orange. The torah teaches, and all (Israeli) rabbis teach that a Jew can't surrender his home to an enemy who attacks, whether it's in Israel or Uganda (proposed home of a Zionist state, 100 years ago), or anywhere. Simple enough.
I said that I thought that Israel and its boundaries are a modern political entity, given by the British and French and the UN, not by the messiah. I said, when the moshiach comes, and I hope it's in 5 minutes, he'll draw the lines around the land of Israel, and that will be resolved. Until then, it's a matter of politics and of living with your neighbors and of taking heed to consequences and world opinion.
Ying noted, we gave away Sinai, we gave away Chevron, now they want Gush Katif. I noted that Hashem gave us the torah at Sinai and then we left. He smiled. In general, he does not wear any orange clothing, but he is orange from head to toe. We held our different opinions with good grace and eventually moved on.
We had talked about work, and working for money as opposed to working for other reasons, and I related how my current work with the robots was pretty gratifying, thought it might not make we wealthy. At some point in the conversation, we talked about different character traits, different kinds of people. Ying related a story that recently, he had brought some flowers for some folks who were having him as a guest, and the flowers were pretty much ignored. Ying expressed the disappointment one would expect in such a situation. Then he described how soon after, he was discussing flowers for shabbos with one of his rabbis, and the rabbi expressed interest but had never had them. Ying told me he went all out, bough fancy white flowers and a vase to hold them, since he knew the rabbi's family had none. He brought them and caused quite a lovely commotion. Everyone was happy, all the kids were climbing up on the dinner table to look closely at the flowers and to smell the flowers. It was a sweet story, after I had told him that some of my work was tedious, but other parts - working with happy customers, and seeing patients whose lives were improved, either through actual improvement in their mobility, or at least from their hope and enthusiasm - our stories shared a common positive thread.
We spoke for about an hour and a half, he had to be home by midnight as Saturday is a school night. I had found him very, very sharp, and interesting and charming. We said goodbye and hoped we would get together again, which I think we will tomorrow (Weds) afternoon. 3:30pm
Around 10pm on Tues, at Boaz's dance on Emek Refaim. Boas isn't here, he's teaching at Machol Czechia this week, which I believe he teaches every summer. His session is still ok, I'm pretty sure that's his wife running it. No dances are being taught, but the repertoire is by and large familiar. I know at least 75% of the dances, which amazingly, is about the same as at home, cuz they do fewer old dances at home. The vacant lot I've been parking at for the past 15 years is turning into the construction site and soon the buildings, where I won't be able to park, oh well. Hmmm, the couple dances are next, I better wake up, else I'll be sitting for a while!
Caught a lovely final couple set with a curly haired Israeli woman named Rutie. I'm sure she stayed longer than she intended, she left after 8 dances or so. There are one or two stray women waiting, either for rides, or maybe for circle dancing after this long couples set. Right now I'm writing, I think I'll go soon, let's see what comes next... It looks like the dance only goes until 10:30, which is another 3 dances or so. Might as well stay...
Next two days will be busy - Yingele, tante Tsirl, and Sarale tomw, the Langers and HUJI on Thurs-
Thursday night 10:15, Mom's apt
Yesterday's festivities were all cancelled. Yingele punted because he was busy all afternoon studying, because he was going to demonstrate against the disengagement in the evening. We cancelled our trip to see Sarale and tante Tsirl, because the traffic was going to be backed up because of protestors.
We went to the bar mitzvah of Kyle Blank, early this morning near the kotel. Ruby and Stand's grandson, Paula's son. Good kid, good time, especially nice to see Ruby, Stan, and Paula, none of whom I'd seen for like 20 years. I'll have to get in touch with Richard. Nice small bar mitzvah, maybe 50 people - they already have parties back in the states. Always interesting to visit the old city, especially to pray.
Got home around 10:30, and went out for lunch to visit Danny and Amnon at HUJI, which is always fun. I hadn't seen Amnon for my past two trips so it was extra fun to see him. We chatted a bit about how's work and how's life, and we had a light lunch on campus. I came home on the bus after around 3 hours.
Mom made fish for dinner, it was good buri, I think. I was thinking of going out after dinner, but I am pretty tired from having awoken at 6am, so I'm staying home tonight.
My opinion of the Gush Katif protestors, after a few days of reading and watching the news - yesterday morning, some protestors spread nails and oil on the highway, endangering the lives of commuters, and severely snarling traffic. I'm not impressed with that behavior. Watching the news, it looks like a lot of young kids are running on to the highway, blocking traffic and endangering themselves. Using kids to fight your battles reminds me of the cowardly acts of Palestinian Arabs. Again, I'm not impressed.
I believe that the anti-disengagement-niks are in the popular minority. I understand that they have strong opinions, to which they are entitled. But they are not entitled to disrupt the lives of people they disagree with, I don't believe they should be endangering their kids, and I don't believe the protestors are carrying out God's will.
Likewise today there was a gay pride parade in Jerusalem. I understand that the religious are offended by homosexuality, though of course their community probably has the same proportion of gays as any other. Today some religious zealot stabbed three gay marchers in Jerusalem. Again, I'm disgusted by their behavior. I am as disgusted by their behavior as they are disgusted by the gays' behavior. You don't see me stabbing anyone. They think they are doing God's will? Stabbing people who are marching in the street?
I'm sure that most of the right wingers are nice folks. Like most Palestinians are probably nice folks. But when either of these groups has their criminal/hoodlum sector, and when they do their dirty deeds and the rest of the community either approves or sits idly by and does not stand against the crooks, I have to call the rightness of their cause into question. 23:15
1:30pm Friday waiting outside Mom's for the 22 into town to meet
Also spoke to Uriel, who is back from Germany. I'll have lunch with him tomorrow. I guess this means that I'll use up the rest of this journal, I'll have what to write about. Mom bought the Friday Ha'Aretz today, for the first time, after reading the JPost consistently for 20 years. She says that the Post has really plummeted in quality in the past year. I used to read the Post on the web, but switched when they started charging and Ha'Aretz English came up on the web.
3:30pm on the bus from Jaffa Road to my Mom's.
Another couple of extremely enlightening and fun hours with the Yingele.
4:25am Ben Gurion Airport
I'm sitting at the gate at Ben Gurion. My previous trip here was last October. They opened the new terminal the following month. I noticed that it was much bigger when I arrived, but you don't get the full flavor of an airport until you depart. I have no problem with honoring the memory of David ben Gurion, but I think they should rename this airport Tel Aviv O'Hare. It has gone from a cute little familiar friendly airport to a monstrously ever-widening gaping maw of an airport. Considering the hour, it's pretty busy, but yeeks, this is like Israel's Big Dig. But probably cheaper and finished quicker. Maybe not much. I think it's nice (for an airport). I've heard older folks complain that it's too much walking.
Hmmm, let's see. Met Yingele again on Friday. I'd say during our first meeting we talked mostly about politics, about Gush Katif and Sharon. Also, I talked about my work. During our second meeting, I didn't want to spend as much time talking about myself as the first time, so I asked Ying about what he was studying, he told me he was studying certain parts of Brachos, some Shulchan Aruch, and so forth. We progressed pretty readily into talk about torah and Jewish belief. Yingele might be struggling with some of growing up in his particular set of circumstances, but in talking with him, it seems apparent that his struggle does not extend to any wavering in his Jewish faith and belief. His outlook seems haredi, straight down the middle. In our discussions, he tried to draw me toward his way of thinking, he was pretty compelling, and we discussed various aspects of faith and essential aspects of creation, and though I don't follow some parts of his chosen path, it was still good and interesting. Ying and I parted as Friday grew late, we had a good conversation and a good time.
On Saturday, Uriel came by. He'd been in Germany working. We had the usual chat about what was up with our work. We were both hungry so we decided to eat in Abu Ghosh, an Arab village near Jerusalem. Uriel wanted to go to a certain fish place, but it was closed. So we went to Abu Shukri's #1 hummus restaurant, which has remarkably good hummus, and other good salads besides. After we were too full, we went across the street and had some kunafeh, an Arab dessert with goat cheese covered with some hair-thin orange-colored pastry. Yum again.
On Saturday after shabbat, I went to Boaz's dance in Emek Refaim. Boaz still wasn't there, but it was fun. Notably, I had a fine set of couple dances with a girl named Tehilla. First she told me that she was more used to dancing the man's part. I told her that was ok, but we quickly resolved that I would dance on the man's side. Turns out she has only been dancing for three months, and considering that, she did splendidly. She was a bit shy about being a beginner. Also, she was very tall, probably 6 inches bigger than me. She made a few good natured comments about other dancers talking about us or getting annoyed if we got in their way or laughing at us, and I said, that's ok, let them get annoyed, let them laugh. Turns out Tehilla is in nursing school. I told her that my sister was too, and that she's 45 years old - Tehilla was interested in hearing about that. We had a nice fun set of dances, and I couldn't help but think that learning the repertoire of Israeli dances has to be much easier than studying to be a nurse.
It's 5:30am. The sky is pretty much light gray. One early bird chasid is already strapped up and davening. The plane has been pushed back 35 minutes or so. The check-in lady said I would have no problem with the connection, we shall see. 5:35
10:24 Milan Malpensa at the gate
Flight from TA was late, got here about half an hour ago. But the flight to Boston is just now boarding, so that seems ok. People have been standing waiting in line for 20 minutes, I've been sitting. I guess my pen summoned them to board - 10:30
weds oct 25 1:30am
I went dancing tonight, with Boaz, who now leads dances in Jerusalem 3 nights a week (yee ha!). I think he had beginners starting at 6pm, then he had regular dancing from 7:30pm to 12:30am. He works hard for the money. I just did the 5 hours, on the stone floor at ICCY. There were 3 sessions of couple dancing, each 20-30 mins. It's still almost impossible to get partners.
That said, I got partners for 2 of the 3 sessions. (Jackie and Miriam). Jackie is a woman about my age, who, after dancing with me, asked me if I was a teacher (a dance teacher). That's a particularly nice thing to say, because in Israel, you can't just say you're a dance teacher, you have to go through rigorous certification (Israelis are big on that kind of certificate stuff). Anyway, I think she was asking seriously, and I took it as a compliment. She was a good dancer too.
God, I asked like 15 women who turned me down for dances, they typically just don't like dancing with strangers. They still don't hold hands during circle dances. The newer dances are sometimes choreographed with this in mind, but the for older dances, it's about as strange as contra dancing without touching anyone.
So anyway, I had two nice partners so I did 2/3 of the couple dances. was fun. more dancing tomorrow night.
sun 29-oct 5 pm
In my laziness, this time I've decided to write my notes straight to my laptop, rather than first writing them in ink in notebooks. I regret this a bit, pen and ink is nicer than bits, but in the end, my handwriting is more or less illegible, and I transcribe it all to the computer anyway.
Anyway, on Wednesday, I went with Mom to Yad Vashem, which has a fairly new exhibit hall. It's fancy and interesting and depressing, but I find the architecture a bit puzzling. The new building is a long triangular shaped concrete prism, with window light coming in from the apex. Reviews of the building talk about how it represents a piece of a Jewish star, broken off during the holocaust, or whatever. For the life of me, it looks like huge oven, like Jews died in during the holocaust. Like a great big long tandoor with a chimney in the top. I can't imagine how they chose such a design, didn't one person the whole time say, "Hey, that looks like an oven," or is it just me? A quick Google doesn't seem to have anyone noting the similarity of the new building to an oven.
Anyway, Yad Vashem was a bummer as you would expect, but I hadn't been in a while, so it was good to go, for some definition of good.
After dinner, I went dancing at the beit hano'ar on Herzog, which is also a Boaz dance. Dancing was fun, still hard to get partners, Tueday was 5 hours, Wednesday 4 hours. The beit hano'ar has a basketball court gym floor, still pretty hard, maybe sprung, but not that easy on the knees. But I need the exercise, and it's not that painful. Max was there on both Tues and Weds, into his 80's, moving kind of slowly, but plugging away as always.
After dinner on Thurs, I met up with my young yeshiva friend, Yingele. We walked around Ben Yehuda, ran into bunches of his friends, and chatted and ate, and, oddly enough, played pool, at a pool hall in the Klal building on Jaffa Road. There were two rooms, one a nicer one with 4 tables and a bar, and another one with more tables, but apparently not as nice. We played for an hour or two, which was fun. At the other tables were mostly young yeshiva guys, in the usual black and white uniform. Yeshiva kids pool is a bit strange, but what do I know. Googling around I saw a discussion on this subject, apparently pool is somewhat popular among yeshiva kids. A recreation, a bit more skill than bowling, you can go out on a date and play. There may be smoking and drinking, but I think lots of yeshiva kids smoke and drink. Maybe a bit rebellious, but as my friend Norman, or Yingele, would say, nisht geferlech (means "not dangerous," but used as "no problem" or "whatever").
I saw on a poster on the wall of the beit hanoar that Hadag Nachash would be playing at the Jerusalem theater the very next day (Friday). Hadag Nachash is one of the two most popular hiphop acts in Israel, the other being Subliminal. I think Subliminal is a little more street and hard, and Hadag Nachash is a little more fun. Anyway the concert was in the lobby of the theater, which was set up pretty much exactly like a dance club. Standing room in front of the stage, cafe tables behind, a balcony above. There were maybe 500-700 people, mostly kids, and because it was in the afternoon, a bunch of young parents with their little kids rocking out and running around, pretty cute. The show was fun, I didn't understand most of it, but I got the idea, and Yingele had a fine time, I'm sure it was a change of pace from yeshiva life.
On Saturday, we went to visit Stefanie's dad, Norman. He needed help getting his computer hooked up to his broadband. I spent a bunch of time on the phone with Bezeq, but I got it ironed out. Norman's a good guy, but we didn't talk much, I just played with his computer. One interesting bit is that ouside his window is the Arab village of Beit Tzafafa. Oddly, right there, was a pile of rubble, a demolished concrete building, all delineated with black flags. I had no clue. Pirates? I didn't ask, but Norman explained. It was new unauthorized construction in the Arab settlement, that was demolished by the Israeli authorities. One one hand that's messed up. On the other hand, it's the same thing that happens to plenty of unauthorized buildings in Jewish settlements, so it's no more messed up than that.
I got together with my old friend, Uriel, for dinner, and we had a nice time. We chatted about what's new. Uriel is working for RSA/EMC, and has a cool job working with a division CTO, sounds good. We had dinner at a wine bar near Zion Square, Uriel has been getting into wine lately. The food and wine were pretty good, and there was a fine waitress there who Uriel knew from a wine class that he was taking. She came and chatted with us for a while after her shift was over. We got done with dinner fairly early, Uriel went back home to Tel Aviv to party and I went dancing, more Boaz, which on this night was at the YMCA (pronounced yimca) in a basketball gym, across from the King David Hotel. I had danced there before, but probably not in at least 15 years. The dancing was ok, oppressively hard to find a partner for couples. Eventually, Daniella came by for a bit, who is the daughter of Mom's friend Doris, and we danced, and soon realized that we met each other a couple of years ago. I stayed pretty late, until after Daniella went home, and there were no women who wanted to dance the last couples set, so I went home, it was already after midnight.
On Sunday I got together again with Yingele, more of the same fun and games. He wanted to go bowling in Talpiyot, but it was late and I was a bit wary that I would hurt my back or arm or something, since I don't bowl much, so we shot some more pool.
On Monday, Mom and I went to the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, I'd been there before, but only had time to eat at their nice restaurant, this time I took their tour, which was interesting and informative. I already knew Begin was a decent guy, a hero in the Israeli war of independence, and had gigantic clanging brass balls to have the chutzpah to make peace with Sadat and Egypt.
The tour showed things from Begin's perspective of course, but it was informative. Begin did some funky/nasty stuff, like blow up the King David Hotel in 1946, when it was the British headquarters, and also blew up the Altalena, both during the Israeli war for Independence. In short, the Irgun (Etzel) blew up the King David to retaliate for British hostilities against Jews in Palestine, and they only wanted to blow up the building, not kill people, and they made calls to three different groups of people warning them that they were going to blow it up, before they did it. That said, the Irgun blew it up and killed lots of people.
As for the Altalena, it was a ship full of weapons and fighters for the Irgun, who were coming into Israel on the sly, right after the declaration of Israeli independence in 1948. The IDF had just been formed, but there were still different factions of Jewish Israeli paramilitary wings struggling with each other (nu?), and Begin thought that if the Altalena delivered its cargo, breaking a recently signed truce, it would incite a civil war, so he sunk it in the harbor, killing some of its (Jewish Irgun) soldiers.
I guess his most memorable achievement was the peace deal with Sadat and Egypt (and Carter), for which they all won the Nobel Peace Prize and Sadat was assassinated. I'm not all that familiar with the history, but I can see that Begin did lots of heavy stuff in his life, and it seems that he was a good, tough, well-spoken, modest, honest guy.
By coincidence, we ran into Mom's friend Thelma and her daughter, Elaine, at the Begin Center - Mom hadn't seen Thelma for several years. On our 20-person tour, Thelma also ran into some folks from the Boston area who remembered her from Boston from 25 years ago. Small country.
One odd bit. In the exhibits, there was a poster showing some vote tallies from one of Begin's victories. The side column had names of cities and towns, I recognized that. But across the top were abbreviations or acronyms like machal and emet and stuff, and I didn't recognize them. I asked the tour guide, and he explained that they were the symbols of the political parties, emet was labor, machal was likud, and so on. Hmm, I didn't know that, and I'll have to ask someone why they don't just say avodah and halikud.
We went to visit tante Tsirl on Friday morning, the Kretchinever neighborhood in Rechovot. She is having problems with her health, and especially with her memory, which is very sad. Cousin Saraleh was there, she visits Tsirl every week to bring her food and check up on her, which I imagine is a large amount of work. Tante Tsirl was lots of fun her whole life, and I guess we all lose our good health eventually, but oy vey.
some wacky things about driving in Israel:
We took a walk with Norman through the Arab part of the old city, and we stopped for a snack at Abu Shukri at the bottom of the Via Dolorosa. The hummus was really good, I had some with fool. Mom thinks they put egg yolk in the hummus, it seemed to have a slight rich taste of egg yolk. They had good chopped salad and felafel too. good all around.
After we walked around the Muslim quarter, we walked the some of the ramparts through the Christian quarter, from the top of Jaffa gate to the new gate. I've never walked up there, it was pretty interesting, i'll do it again some time.
Wacky/odd story. I went dancing in Emek Refaim on saturday night, but I didn't have the car, because Mom was going elsewhere, so I took a cab. The cab ride there was no problem, and I figured it would be easy to get home since Emek Refaim is a busy area with lots of cafes and lots of cabs.
This was the last time I'd see Max on this trip, he was going to Ein Gedi for a few days with his wife, Ruth. It was Max's birthday, and one of the dancers, Max's friend, Esther Blatman, was nice enough to bake some cookies for him, and Boaz led us in singing happy birthday, and lots of dancers wished Max well. Max seemed pretty happy with the celebration.
I was done dancing a bit after midnight, and it turned out that it was drizzling, and it took a few minutes before I found a cab. I stopped the first one that came by going in the right direction. Slightly oddly, this cab already had two passengers in it - an older couple. the driver was wearing a kippah, I assumed he was a middle eatern sephardi. It was a typical Israeli cab, they all look the same, white sedan, said monit (cab) in Hebrew, had a serial number painted on the outside. The driver asked me where I was going, I told him. He asked me if I knew how to get there, a bit strange. I said yes. He told me to hop in, and I did.
Things soon got a bit more strange. It was a combination of three things. 1) They weren't speaking Hebrew, I didn't quite recognize the language. Maybe Arabic, but pretty weird sounding. 2) There was a meter, but it wasn't running. 3) The cabbie didn't know the city.
I was very wary as we headed toward Mom's house. When he took a left toward Talpiyot (where my mom's house was to the right), I yelled stop, and opened the door, even as the cab was moving. He stopped and let me out, and I guess he understood that I was not comfortable at that point.
My problem was largely that the weird stuff above, and the fact that he was heading off into an area that I was unfamiliar with, and possibly one where I would have trouble finding a cab back to the main drag, or possibly who knows what.
Anyway, the cabbie dropped me off, thereby essentially proving that he wasn't trying to kidnap me. Oddly enough, he dropped off the two folks in his cab and came back to pick me up a short time later. I took his ride, now that the cab was empty and he had already dropped me off when I asked. In Hebrew, he sort of asked me what was wrong, but he must have understood, because he explained that he was from Nahariya, not Jerusalem (so he didn't know the neighborhood), and I think he said he had been speaking Kurdi, which I think, explains the very confusing sound of the language he was talking to the other passengers, who, I imagine, were people he knew. He was just trying to pick up another fare before the long ride home.
So he now took me directly back to my mom's place, following my directions. I directed him in Hebrew, and he responded in English, confusing left and right. That wasn't a problem, I'm not much good at Hebrew, but I've danced long enough to be pretty good at left and right.
I apologized to him for my behavior, but I'm also sure he understood
why I was a bit wary about him not knowing where he was going,
speaking a strange language and going off in a direction I wasn't sure
of, etc. When I shared this story with my mom the next day, she said
that none of the particulars was too unusual, but she could certainly
understand why I would bail out of a cab if I had any suspicion. I
guess the cabbie being lost and the Kurdi language combined with my
being tired after a long day followed by a long evening of dancing,
and the fact that I was caught in the rain, perhaps made me a bit
impatient, enough to not puzzle out exactly what was going on.
Oh well. No harm, no foul.
On Labor Day weekend, I went to the brattleboro dawn dance on Sunday night, danced til about 1, drank some caffeinated green tea, drove back to Boston, got a few hours of sleep, and took a cab to Logan to catch a flight to Jerusalem.
I was scheduled for a 1:20pm flight, to arrive in Newark at 3pm, in order to connect to a 4pm departure for Tel Aviv. Very tight. I checked my bag at Logan and headed for the gate at around 11:30am, where I saw that the 10:30am flight to Newark was an hour late and hadn't left yet. I figured if this one was going to be an hour late, then the next one was probably going to be late too, and if I took that one, I'd probably be screwed and miss my flight to Tel Aviv.
I talked to the airline folks at the gate, and they got me on to the earlier flight, which was fortunate. I asked them, what about the bag I already checked, and they told me they'd deal with it, and they tapped at their computer keyboard.
So I arrived for my hop in Newark with plenty of time. I got on the Tel Aviv flight, and there were a few empty seats, I'm guessing those were folks who were stuck on late connecting flights.
I sat next to a sneezy guy between Boston and Newark, and between Newark and Tel Aviv, I had little kids in front of me and behind. The one behind only kicked my chair for a few minutes before his parents straightened things out. I took an ambien and was able to get some sleep on the long flight.
I arrived at Ben Gurion on time. My bag did not. After an hour, when all the bags had come out and all the people were gone, I went to baggage claim and they said they knew my bag missed the flight and it would arrive the next day. I guess they didn't have time to get it on my plane, and my original flight didn't arrive in time to get it transfered. So Mom picked me up and took me home without my luggage.
That night I went to Boaz's dance at the iccy, which was pretty good fun. I knew a fair number of the dances. I got some partners for couples, but it wasn't easy. Danced for about 4 hours and got home at about 1am. Esther was there for most of the night, it was good to see her and we had a bit of time to talk.
Next day was mostly wasted waiting for my luggage. My flight came in at 9:30am, and so would the next day's flight, so I knew that's when my bag would come in. I called the bag people at around 11, and they said my bag would come in between 5 and 8. That put a cramp on my evening's plans, but so be it. Mom and I decided we'd go out to eat after the bag was delivered. I got in call in Hebrew at 7:30pm from the delivery guy, saying that he would deliver the bag at (or maybe by) 11:30 pm. I was not pleased. Anyway, we went out for dinner right away, at the Colony restaurant, I'd been there before, it was tasty.
After eating, I drove my mom home and headed off for Yaron's dance at Hebrew University. I heard that this was the biggest hottest dance in Jerusalem these days, so I was curious about it, and this was the only Wednesday I'd be able to check it out, since the following Wedndesday was Rosh Hashana. I went to huji, and sure enough, the dance was hopping. The person selling admissions gave each dancer a cute little bag of assorted chocolates and stuff for Rosh Hashana.
I got there at 10pm, it was hopping, I knew most of the dances. At about 10:45, there was a long couples set, and I found a partner who knew the dances. It was lots of fun, it went about 45 minutes. toward the end of the set, I felt faint and asked my partner to stop. we waited out that energetic dance, and the next one was slower, we did that one, then the couples set was done.
I was feeling pretty dizzy. I never take well to jet lag, my stomach had been feeling not too well, not really unusual. I figured that I was probably dehydrated, so I went out and drank about a liter of water, and drove home. I could dance another day.
I got home and my mom told me that the bag delivery guy brought my bag at about 10 o'clock, so if I hadn't dropped my mom off when I did, I would have gone another day with no bag (and no change of clothes, and so forth). So that was good news.
The bad news is that after I got home from that dance I was feeling not well at all. Assuming I was dehydrated, my mom and I look on the web and tried to figure out what dehydration remedies would be. The web remedies had some contradictory bits, but were mostly sensible. water, juice, honey mint and ginger tea, most of the herbs on the shelf.
At the same time, I got some email from work that there was some problem at a customer's site with a computer that wouldn't boot because of file system problems. I was not pleased to hear from them, and this did not help my condition.
My mom has a blood pressure cuff. I am not usually concerned about my blood pressure, but we figured it was something we can check. My blood pressure was way high, like 160/110, odd, because I had just had a checkup and I'd never had a concern about my blood pressure.
I was feeling awful, and worried that I was really sick, so I decided not to take a sleeping pill to get to sleep. I figured I'd go the natural route, and sleep when I was tired. If I was on my own, I would have just headed to the emergency room to get myself checked out, but my mom's husband, Harry, had died two weeks before, after an illness, and I figured my mom didn't need another trip to the hospital.
So I lied on my back and didn't sleep a wink all night until my mom woke up at 6am, and I didn't feel better or sleepier by then. At that point, I told my mom I thought I need to get checked out, so we went to Terem, which is a chain of clinics, one of which was right near my mom's place. A doctor saw me pretty quickly, and checked me out. She told me that I looked ok except for my blood pressure. I had to got to another branch of their clinic to get a blood drawn and and ekg, which all looked ok. The doctor at the first clinic said to just listen to my body, and rest, and not take any sleeping pills or other drugs. I'd been taking a bit of ibuprofen, because my knees were bothering me from too much dancing. The doctor who did the ekg said it was important for me to sleep, even if if I had to take an ambien to do it. So I headed home and by 11am, I'd been awake for over 24 hours, and I didn't have much trouble sleeping through most of Thursday. By evening, I was feeling a bit better. There was a good dance that night, but I didn't go, trying to take care of myself.
I didn't do much on Friday. Mom wanted to me to go to Cesaria, but I convinced her that it would be better for me to rest.
On Friday afternoon, there was a free open-air dance in liberty bell park. I was feeling a bit better, so I went over and checked it out. Max and Esther were there, which was nice. The dance was interesting as a curiosity more than as an actual dance. 30 year old dances for dancers who were active 30 years ago. So most of the dancers were in their 50s or older. Mostly women, and so there were circles and line dances, no couples. I did enjoy doing the old dances, but I prefer a bit more youthful vigor in a dance, nothing wrong with older dancers, but I'd rather have more variety, and some couple dancing too. Halfway through the dance there was a break for a rosh hashana lechayim toast. Of course that's one of the great things about Israel, to have a Rosh Hashana toast at a free public israeli folk dance in a public park.
I went home before shabbat rolled around. Bert and Arlene came by for shabbat dinner, which was tasty.
After I felt better on Friday, on Saturday, I agreed to go to to Caesaria with my mom, to visit her friend, Toby, and to go to the Recanati/Ralli museum of Sephardic culture.
Toby is a nice woman who grew up in South Africa, and lives in a nice moshav up near Caesaria. We visited her house, which is in a pleasant neighborhood. Apparently it used to be a nice middle class moshav, but being near the sea, and being generally pleasant, lots of yuppies are going in there and buying up places and tearing down houses and building moshav McMansions. I guess that's life on the moshav.
We all went to the museum, it was fancy and interesting. The Recanati family made its money as founders of Bank Discount, both before and after the founding of the state. There was a family rift, apparently because of differences of opinion between the children on how to run the business. Harry Recanati (the museum guy) says that he wanted Bank Discount to serve the Sephardi community. The other children wanted a more international bank, with a more aggressive stance toward profit. So Harry Recanati sold his share in 1970. According Harry Recanati's story, after he was out of the picture, Bank Discount tanked in the 1980's, the Israeli government bailed it out to the tune of two billion dollars, and many Israelis lost their savings. Harry Recanati was upset at all of this and maintains no ties to that part of his family. You can read about it on the web.
The Ralli museum in Caesaria is one of, I think, four Ralli museums. I think Ralli is/was the name of a Recanati company, I forget the details. The other museums are in Spain, Uruguay, and Argentina. The museum we visited had one building full of paintings with Jewish and bible themes. Another building had work by modern South American and Spanish artists, including a bunch of cool sculptures by Salvador Dali.
Harry Recanati is an independent dude. On his web site it says that his museums do not and may not take any contributions from anywhere. No admission fees, no gift shop, no cafeteria. no contributions of art, no fundraising. no donations, no nothing. They're not giving away t-shirts, and I guess I won't be able to buy one. But the museum is interesting, lavish, and free of charge.
By the end of that day, I was feeling poorly again, we came home in the evening, and I had to pass on another really good dance. Unfortunately, my feeling ill has been a constant theme on this trip, that has been no fun.
At some point, I realized that I'd been drinking more than enough water, and my "dehydration" wasn't going away. My theory is that it's some kind of wacky flu that I probably caught on the plane. It's not a flavor of flu that I remember having before, and it's certainly lasting longer than other flus. It could be something else too. It's not gone yet, and it has cramped my style quite a bit. I'm spending lots of time in bed, I'm probably doing about 1/4 or 1/3 of what I'd do if I was running full steam. It's exasperating, of course.
On Sunday afternoon, we went to the airport to pick up Mom's sister, Leah, and Leah's husband, Herb. They were on vacation in eastern Europe, stopping in Israel for a week on the way home. That makes for 4 people sleeping in mom's not-too-big 2-bedroom apartment. It's been working out pretty well, considering the close quarters. After we ate dinner, we took a walk downtown to check out the Ben Yehuda scene. It wasn't quite as busy as I'd anticipated, but there was some activity.
Leah noted that it was much more run-down than the fancy cities they had just seen in eastern Europe. I can imagine some reason for that, like the fact that a tour probably takes you to the nicer parts of towns, and Jerusalem is a busy town and takes a beating from all the traffic. Jerusalem is probably the poorest city in Israel, and Israel has to spend so much money on security it doesn't have as much money for maintenance.
We walked around downtown, and Esther told me that there was an interesting sight in Safra Square, an exhibit of decorated bear statues from all the world's countries, called the United Buddy Bears. Apparently a peace project originating in Germany, similar in scope to the various public art animal statues in various cities. Jerusalem had lions a few years ago. Boston had cows, I think, I've heard of fish and I'm sure lots of cities have their various flavors of public art painted animal statues. There were something like 140 of them, and most of them were cute and clever. They've been travelling around the world since 2002. All UN countries were represented. While all those Arab countries wouldn't have sent bears directly to Israel, they got here after going through a handful of other cities, most recently, Cairo. The bears are displayed in a big ring, situated in alphabetical order. Except Israel chose to place its bear between the bears of Iraq and Iran, as a peaceful goodwill gesture. Crazy as Israel is, it's ever optimistic and peaceful at heart, for all the good that will do.
Sunday night was another dance opportunity that I passed up, in fact, except for the relaxed and not-too-interesting Friday evening dance, I haven't danced since the night I got sick (8 days ago). I haven't danced this little since who knows when. I hope to dance some on Saturday night, I hope I feel up to it by then. My body has been wavering between 20% ok and 80% ok, which as I already said, is no fun.
On Monday I decided to visit my chess friend, Hillel, at Tel Aviv University. I met him a few years ago on the internet chess server, and I visited him once, two or three years ago. He's a nice young guy, and much better than me at chess. We had a nice lunch and played some chess and chatted.
By 4pm or so, I was getting pretty tired, actually fading toward the 20% ok mode. I guess I kept thinking that I was over my flu, but that hasn't happened yet. So I headed from TAU to the Tel Aviv central station on the bus. I was sitting across from a couple of cute little cool 10 year-old spiky haired Tel Aviv boys. One of them pulls out an mp3 player, and sticks one earbud in his ear and gives the other to his pal. Soon his friend asks, "zeh rok? (is this rock?)" "lo, zeh reggi. (no, this is reggae.)" A few seconds later, the first kid sings along softly, "iron, like a lion, in Zion." (A Bob Marley tune.) I was very amused.
By the time I got to the (very big) Tel Aviv central bus station, I was feeling quite weak. I had to ride through the Tel Aviv rush hour, and it took like an hour to go a few short miles. Fortunately, the ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was pretty fast, only another hour or so. I caught a cab home, and I melted into bed for the evening, yet again, no dancing, oh well.
On Tuesday, I went to visit Danny and Amnon at HUJI, I visit them every time I come here, now over 20 years. Great to see them, as always. They are both going to leave the country for the holidays, Danny to Denmark for a conference, then to his native Argentina. Amnon to Texas, for work, I guess. I didn't go to Boaz's dance on Tuesday night, I don't think I've missed one of his Tuesday night dances in 10 years of visiting here, but I wanted to be as rested as possible so that I was able to sit up in shul.
While I was waiting for mincha to begin on the first night of rosh hashana, people are settling into their seats, and little kids are wandering around in their fancy clothes. I'm sitting near an aisle. Two very cute little girls, like 7 years old, come up to me shyly, and one of them asks if I have any sukariyot. Mildly startled, I wonder why she'd be asking me for cigarettes. I realize that can't be it, and I tell her no, sorry. I think, hmmm, not cigarettes (cigaryiot). Violets (sigaliyot)? No. Oh, sukar, sugar. Candy. That's it. I think there are some men who bring candy in their pockets when they come to shul, especially on a holiday, to sweeten the experience for kids. I guess I looked like a likely suspect.
The dvar torah speaker on the first night looked like chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, he had the right hat but no sunglasses, I'm not quite sure though. I was pretty tired by the time I got to shul on the first night of rh, and I was feeling pretty ill by the end of it, even though the service was quite short. I had to walk home pretty slowly.
Fortunately, felt much better for services the next couple of days, the services were much longer, but I went right after I had slept. The services there are pretty early, starting at 7am and going til after 1pm. We arrived at around 9, in time for the torah readings, which is pretty late, but we had to coordinate a bit in the small apartment, with me and Mom and Leah and Herb getting ready and Leah and Herb heading to other services.
Unfortunately, I didn't have much energy to continue writing on this trip. My ills continued for another two months, and after many medical tests and doctor's visits, the cause was unresolved and my symptoms subsided.
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