Archive for the ‘Rachael's blog’ Category

And finally…

Posted By rachael

Date: June 13th, 2009

Category: Rachael's blog

A few more interesting adventures to report before we return to the states on June 30:

We found an amazing tourist trap…. er, I mean, religious pilgrimage site… just south of the Kineret (Galilee) on the shores of the Jordan river.  It is the place where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus.  Pilgrims from all over the world come to be baptized.  Here is a photo of a priest baptizing somebody.

baptism on Jordan River

baptism on Jordan River

The people changed into white robes before they walked into the water.  It was very cool.  The gift shop was full of things like vials of “water from the holy land” and other knick-knacks that you couldn’t dream up.

Lag Ba’Omer is a Jewish holiday that happens in early May.  We don’t make a big deal of it at home but here in Israel it is a huge party.  The custom is to throw a bonfire.  Larry and our friend Becca drove from Haifa to Tel Aviv that evening and said there were so many bonfires along the Mediterranean shore that the smoke filled the sky.  Imagine the U.S. government allowing something like that!   Here we are at a bonfire on the beach.

Several friends told us about a festival at an old orchard (called a “bustan”) to raise funds to restore it.  The bustan is nestled into the base of the Carmel Mountain not far from the sea.  A wealthy Arab family built ornate pools and channels in the late 19th century but they are now in disrepair.  We went with our friends Rachel and Yuval Nov-Kolodni and their kids.  We saw pomegranate and apricot trees, lots of hippies and a circus performer.  It was fun!

kids in hut

kids in hut at bustan

bustan

bustan

And finally, on our last trip to Jerusalem we visited the Israel Museum — the official national museum.  There was an astonishing exhibit called “Bizarre Perfection.”  We saw an installation of a kitchen made entirely of beads.  Literally everything in the photo, from the cereal boxes to the dirty dishes in the sink, is made of beads.  It was bizarre.

bizarre kitchen

bizarre kitchen

We took the requisite trip to the old city, visited with cousins and friends, saw the Biblical Zoo and had dinner with our cousin Esty Shohami in a beautiful artist’s colony called Ein Kerem.  We also were in Jerusalem during the week that the military was conducting an emergency preparedness drill.  We had the privilege (if you can call it that) of descending with our friend Ed Kaplan into a bunker underneath a shopping mall for 2 minutes.  It was comfortable, air conditioned, they offered us free coffee… not at all what I expected.

I should add that one of the nicest surprises of this leg of the trip was my sister’s engagement!  Spencer proposed to her while they were visiting with us.  The wedding will be in San Fransisco in the fall.

We will try to post one more time before we leave.  If we don’t manage to write again, we’re looking forward to catching up with you when we return to Boston.

daily life

Posted By rachael

Date: April 24th, 2009

Category: Rachael's blog

Here’s a little more about daily life in Israel:

The daily diet includes lots of yogurt, cucumbers and tomatoes. The Israeli cucumbers are much smaller and sweeter than US varieties. Even the McDonalds restaurants here offer a “chopped’ salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions with mint and a lemon vinaigrette dressing. It’s delicious! Israelis also love mint (”nana” in Hebrew). We drink nana tea, which is just mint leaves and hot water. Or we put mint leaves in regular tea. We also eat hummus with just about every meal.

[Larry inserts: Cherry tomatoes are the real treat here. I've never tasted any as good. By the way, the chopped salad mentioned above used to be called "Israeli salad". But the name has changed; now it's "Arab salad" as often as not. I wonder why.]

Israelis also LOVE candy, pastries and other sweet things. They never refuse an opportunity to eat cake and croissants and sugar. There are “canditoriot” which sell…. well, not quite candy but pastries and other sweet things. It’s hard to keep your weight down here with so many sweets.

Cows are a big deal here. Every kibbutz or moshav has a herd of cows. We visited a dairy farm in a small town called Beit Lechem HaGlilit where children get to tour the entire plant from raising the cows to milking them and making cream and butter. You’ll see we got a chance to feed a calf, too.

Here also is a photo of our favorite ice cream spot.

Passover is a huge deal here, much like Christmas break in the states. The entire country takes the 7-day holiday off. We did many fun things during Passover but one particular excursion was notable: We visited Oasis of Peace, a small village near Jerusalem where Arabs and Jews coexist and promote peace. The village was inspiring but what was really interesting was the group of people with whom we happened to take the tour. They were a group from an Episcopalian church in San Francisco on a peace mission during the Easter season. The tour guide was talking about how peace requires understanding and compromise and willingness to hear both sides. The minister’s wife befriended me and launched into a vitriolic attack against Israel for ruining the Arabs’ lives here. I tried to find the middle ground with her but her hostility would not be so easily silenced. I marveled at just how hot a topic peace in Israel must be if a minister’s wife from San Francisco could so easily find hatred in a village dedicated to peace.

Love to all — Rachael

impressions

Posted By rachael

Date: March 25th, 2009

Category: Rachael's blog

I want to write a little about my impressions of Israel.

Israel strikes me as a land of extremes. It is a country of indescribable beauty but also of terrible and ugly hatreds. There is no room for a middle ground, it seems: If you’re Jewish you are either orthodox and politically to the right or you are a left-leaning atheist who doesn’t know the simplest blessings, like the blessing over the challah on shabbat. The secular Jews have trouble tolerating the orthodox and vice versa. In Haifa the Jews and the Arabs coexist peacefully and yet there was a terrible bomb-scare from a muslim group (as yet to be determined) in a shopping-mall in the north of the city this week. Jerusalem is a very tense place these days. I keep seeking answers that can explain the tension and the hatred but the truth is elusive.

Israelis here in Haifa will scream at you terribly in traffic but happily let you keep your cup of coffee at the bakery if you forget to bring your wallet (which happened to me this morning). It is like a huge extended Jewish family — a kibbutz writ large, or perhaps a shtetl transplanted and stretched out to farther corners. The love here is passionate and raw and intense. Old ladies on the street yell at you if you’re not dressed warmly enough. You really have to have thick skin!

I am in love with the Hebrew language. I could continue to study at ulpan for years, truly. Israeli literature and film (and even, to some degree, some of the television) feel like a continuation of the kind of art that emerged from Vienna at the turn of the century — deeply introspective, self-questioning, probing down into dark places. Perhaps that’s just the logical evolution from Herzl and Freud! I feel very at home with the academic and literary cultures here.

The medical system here is first rate. We have had more visits to doctors than we would have liked but we have been very impressed with the high quality of care.

That is it for now. It is time to pick up Ayla from gan. More later!

The January Adventure

Posted By rachael

Date: February 2nd, 2009

Category: Rachael's blog

Lots of great things happened in January:  We moved into our beautiful house.  Larry’s parents were here and his sister and her twins arrived.  We had visits with the Kirby family from Boston and several long-lost cousins.  Ayla celebrated her 4th birthday with three birthday parties.  And Ayla and I saw our favorite Israeli children’s performer, Saba Tuvia, live in concert.

We did have one big mishap, however, that makes for our best January story:  Our trip to Jerusalem for a family bar mitzvah.

We had decided to drive caravan-style to Jerusalem.  Larry and his parents were in the first car and the kids and I were behind them.  I didn’t have the map or the directions but we had our cell phones and we figured we’d keep in touch.  A big white van wedged between us in Tel Aviv just as we were changing highways for Jerusalem.  When the van changed lanes, Larry was nowhere to be found.  And I discovered my cell-phone service had cut out.  I assumed this meant that Larry had lost service too.  It was getting dark.

I had no map, no phone, no directions, no address for our rental apartment, not even the name of the bar mitzvah family who we were visiting.  I had never driven to Jerusalem before.  It was dark outside.  And we were barreling down the highway during a war.  We were passing signs for Ashdod and Ashkelon in the south, where people had been evacuated because of the war in Gaza.  Uh-oh.  I suspected Larry and his parents were in a panic too.

Ayla and I decided we would just keep following signs for Jerusalem.  When we reached the city we followed  signs towards the center of town, since the bar mitzvah was going to be at the Western Wall.  We looked for the biggest international hotel we could find and asked the concierge to phone our friend Hank Shrier, who had arranged our rental apartment.  Fortunately Hank’s phone number was in my wallet.

We had blindly found our way to a hotel called the King David.  The amazing thing is that the King David was only two blocks away from our rental apartment.  And Larry and his parents had just phoned Hank themselves.  Larry’s phone was OK but they had gotten lost too.  Hank directed them back to the safety of the King David and we had a very happy family reunion.  We all celebrated by taking Hank to dinner at the Inbar Hotel.

The big lesson here is that we should have put all the vital info in my car too.

Larry’s parents were then up all night with either food poisoning or the stomach flu.  They were confined to bed for several days.  My father-in-law never left the apartment for our entire stay in Jerusalem.  The bar mitzvah, which the rest of us attended, was lovely!

Becca, Ayla, Eli and Rachael at Luna Grand amusement park

The weather is slightly warmer now.  We are so thrilled that Debbie and her twins Becca and Lev are here.  Ayla and Becca are playing together all the time.

Here are some photos from our January adventures.  Love to all — Rachael

Eli and Rachael at Luna Grand

Eli and Rachael at Luna Grand

Ayla leads the train at her birthday party

Ayla leads the train at her birthday party

Eunie and Eli on our patio.

Eunie and Eli on our patio

Becca, Larry, Ayla at science museum in Haifa

Becca, Larry, Ayla at science museum in Haifa

.

.

Pamploma… right here in Israel

Posted By rachael

Date: December 27th, 2008

Category: Rachael's blog

The running of the bulls doesn’t hold a candle to the chaos inside Israel’s only IKEA store on motzei Shabbat (the evening after the close of shabbat).  The line into the store extended into the parking lot.  Secular and religious Jews (and even non-Jews) scrambled over each other to get to the next sales bin, around the next corner.  We guarded our children’s lives from the stampede of Haredi Jews (I am not kidding) running through the store.  We had to scream at each other just to plot our next move.  You might think I am exaggerating but this really happened.

I went to a concert of orthodox cantors (with orchestra — it was cool) in the big auditorium in Mercaz HaCarmel.  Most of the audience was orthodox Jews.  The same thing happened!  It was a stampede at the box office.  I’ve never been in such close proximity with orthodox Jewish men — they usually avoid close contact (and certainly physical contact) with women.  I didn’t fear for my life… but there was such tension and anxiety about getting tickets that I feared a fight would break out.

Our ulpan is called Aba Hushi and is it named after the first mayor of Haifa.  Below are a few photos.

courtyard, Aba Hushi Ulpan in Haifa

courtyard, Aba Hushi Ulpan, Haifa

courtyard, Aba Hushi Ulpan, Haifa

courtyard, Aba Hushi Ulpan, Haifa

The building is in decay and the ministry of education is threatening to close the ulpan entirely.  It would be a great loss for the community if the ulpan (and the dormitories where some of the new immigrants live) were closed.  It is one of only two government-sponsored ulpanim in Haifa.  New immigrants from all over the world converge there, and since our only common language is Hebrew we end up practicing our Hebrew just to communicate with our classmates.  The quality of the teaching is exceptional.  It is a very special place.  A friend of our family works for the ministry of education and she has encouraged us to begin a letter-writing campaign.

Last Saturday Larry attended a wonderful festival called Chag HaChagim (the Holiday of Holidays) that runs every weekend in December.

Chag haChagim Festival, Haifa

Chag haChagim Festival, Haifa

It is a celebration during the Hannukah and Christmas season of the peaceful co-existence of Jews, Christians and Muslims in Haifa. There are concerts all over the city from different religious groups. Larry watched demonstrations of metal working, saw vast displays of sweets and bulk foods and listened to Guatemalan street music!

Chag haChagim Festival, Haifa

Chag haChagim Festival, Haifa

Starting in January our family starts flocking to Israel.  Larry’s parents and his sister Debbie (and her two children Becca and Lev) arrive in January, followed by my mother, my sister Devorah, her boyfriend Spencer in late February.  Debbie and my sister will be staying through April!  Ayla and Eli will thrive with all of the attention from family.  We are delighted.

Eli and I have the flu.  Winter isn’t easy, even in Israel.  But we are glad not to be in the cold and snow of New England.  We wish all of you a happy and healthy holiday season and new year.

making orange juice
making orange juice
Eli and his beloved teacher Carole, Hannukah

Eli and his beloved teacher Carole, Hannukah

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Who knew it would be so cold?

Posted By rachael

Date: December 4th, 2008

Category: Rachael's blog

Winter in Haifa is cold!  60 degrees here feels almost frigid.  You can tell who the tourists are because they are the ones in shorts and sandals.  The natives are in boots, parkas, scarves and hats.  I had to buy a winter coat yesterday.  Larry says he’s happy if it never gets any warmer than this.

We moved apartments on Monday.  Below are photos from our old apartment.  Our new apartment is next door to Dick and Sue Rosenberg (close friends of the Rosner clan from Michigan City)!  Yes, we live at 42 Leon Blum on the 15th Floor right next to them.  We will be here until January 1 when we take the house on Yeshurun St.

Playground near 8 Caspari

Playground near 8 Caspari

The walkway to our apartment at 8 Caspari

The walkway to our apartment at 8 Caspari

Ayla’s Hebrew is astonishingly good.  She sings songs from gan with a native accent.  She speaks full sentences.  She has made a special friend named Ofri and she talks a lot about dancing and hugging each other and falling on the ground in laughter.  These are photos of Ayla with her beloved Dikla at a “m’sibah” (party) at her gan.

Ayla with Dikla behind her

Ayla with Dikla behind her

Ayla at Gan Pinuki party

Ayla at Gan Pinuki party

Eli is walking!  He also is speaking but ONLY in Hebrew.  He says “todah” (thank you) when we offer him food.  He asks for “nana” (banana is cognate in Hebrew, so perhaps that’s one English word).  But his teachers at gan say he understands everything and is responding back in Hebrew.

Eli bubbles at 8 Caspari

Eli bubbles at 8 Caspari

Eli and mommy at swimming lesson

Eli and mommy at swimming lesson

We visited with Yoni and Ryma (for the Tarler relatives:  Yoni is Ahuva’s younger son) a few weeks ago, and we went to a beautiful wedding last night of the son of Hank Shrier’s girlfriend Malka.  It was on a kibbutz on the beach north of Tel Aviv.

Yoni, Ryma, Larry, Eli and Ayla

Yoni, Ryma, Larry, Eli and Ayla

For Saturday:  A visit with Pat Sinervo in Rechovot followed by a trip to IKEA!  More from Larry soon — R.

Here we are in Israel . . . finally!

Posted By rachael

Date: November 15th, 2008

Category: Rachael's blog

Hello dear friends and family,

Finally we have a blog!  We hit the ground running when we arrived here:  Two brief hospitalizations for the kids (nasty stomach virus) and a series of fevers and colds.  Thankfully, Israeli medical care is first rate and comparable to what we have in the U.S.  We also spent the first two weeks looking for a “gan” (daycare) for the kids.  Gans are more like “play rooms” than daycares in the US.  The teachers don’t educate as much as just let the kids play a lot — I’m guessing it’s something like what you would find in a kibbutz.  They also dole out cookies and junk food liberally.  Guess who loves that?  Ayla has an English-speaking teacher named Dikla who is helping smooth her transition to Hebrew.  Eli is happily in love with his teacher, Carole.

Larry and I are studying in “ulpan” (government-sponsored Hebrew immersion for new immigrants).  Our class is 4 1/2 hours a day, 5 days a week.  Most of the class is people from Russia and America but there are also people from France, Colombia, Ethiopia, Romania and Canada.  We don’t go every day, but we are learning Hebrew very quickly and we are really enjoying it.  The best part is that you learn phrases and situations in class and then you step out the door and find yourselves using them immediately.

We live in the Carmel region of Haifa, a northern port city.  Haifa is beautiful beyond description.  The beaches are glorious, of course, but the views of the Mediterranean from the Carmel mountain, where we live, are not to be believed.  Up on the Carmel the weather is cool and the scent of pine trees is everywhere.  It’s interesting to see palm trees next to pine trees!  There is a small cable car called the rakbal that you can take from the top of the Carmel directly to the beach.  We have a beautiful but strenuous walk up and down hills from our apartment to the center of the Carmel, where all the restaurants and shops are.  There are wild cats everywhere! I have seen a mother cat and her babies lounging on a friend’s front steps and Eli and I have a game where we look for cats while we’re outside walking.  He squeals “da! da!” whenever he sees one.

The German influence is very strong here.  Germans settled the city before the war of independence in 1948 and there are streets named after Henrich Heine, Sigmund Freud, Theodore Herzl (of course).  It is very cool to drive down Rehov Freud on a regular basis!  Our local library has a big collection of German literature and the house where we will be living as of January 1 is of that vintage, too.

We haven’t started touring the country yet, but we did have a visit with Pat and Pekka Sinervo in Netanya and we visited an artist’s colony called Zikron Yaakov just a little south of Haifa with an old friend of Larry’s from Omaha.  We also have become fast friends with Dick and Sue Rosenberg (of Michigan City).  They are helping make the city feel a little more like home!

Larry has taken Ayla and Eli this morning for a quiet shabbat outing.  Stay tuned for more!