Perhaps the most unusual day of our trip so far. Harry really wants us to go the wall and pray on Shabbat, and I am certainly in favor of that. We get a little late start, because I did not want to wake Harry. We get a call from Harry’s friend Ari Friedman. They knew each other from Fort Worth. I am coming to believe Harry knows everyone in Israel. One big happy family. Ari asks if he can join us and take us to the Kotel. He is from Jerusalem originally, so this is a special treat. We hear of how the war was fought and the city retaken from the Arabs. We get to the wall, Ari finds me a book with the English and the Hebrew and we have Shabbat service. There are many people reading torah, so I go and stand by one of them. It is the first reading of the year, so I know that beginning (this is a joke for those of you that know even as little torah as I do). The feeling is so special. It is like you are that much closer to G-d. Not sure if it is what I am suppose to feel because everyone told me that was what was going to happen or I just do. It is very solemn. You have time to speak. No one is rushing you or slowing you down.
There are lots of non-Jewish tourist here today. I am surprised at how some of the women are dressed. It is apparent that they have not spoken to their mothers about it. Marvin, you would OK this as proper bima attire. HA.
Ari, takes us about Jerusalem a bit more and then we are back to the hotel and meet up with Jane. We go and have a small slice of Pizza and then off to Jane’s sons house to meet their family. Besides not being able to spell, I am terrible at names, so I won’t even try here. But Jane’s daughter meets us there with her family. She has 3 children and one on the way. Jane’s son has 3 children as well and all of them play very well together. Jane is really blessed. To have so many grandchildren and all of them so bright and close. Now I don’t want you to think a theme is developing again, but it is once again time to eat. Jane’s daughter in law made a spectacular brunch. The table was over flowing with food and I was forced (I am sure there was a gun in the house somewhere) to try everything. Terri, I am still trying to come back slimmer than when I left, but I am losing the battle I think.
Harry is just beaming. He has known this family for more than 30 years. Jane used to run the community center in Fort Worth. Harry has held and healed these children (now adults) since they were infants, and not seem them since. But it is like old home week. The future of Israel after seeing the dark past yesterday at Yad Vashem. The joy in Harry’s eyes was priceless. Never said, but I am sure he would have much rather had Doris here with him instead of me, but as Harry would say, you cannot change that. What a great family.. Uav (I think the spelling is correct) is an attorney but also a reservist. He fought in both Lebanon as well as the recent Gaza conflict. This is a brave man and just like our greatest generation, he is now about the task of raising his family, learning about his new job and enjoying soccer. What a great example he is for his children and all of the rest of us. He knows that if he did not fight for his country there would be no country.
I took a picture of the family and Harry which I will post when I get back and figure out all of this high tech stuff, but it was really good. Now back to the hotel and a good night sleep. Harry and Jane have a drink in the bar and I leave them to catch up. I am so fortunate to see Israel in this way. While I might be missing some of the “things” to see in Israel, I am seeing the soul of the country, and I can tell you this soul is alive and growing. These people have a purpose, and with a purpose there is always a future. They know they must build their country, build their infrastructure and build their strength, because by doing so their will leave their children a better place than they found.
Sunday is a work day in Israel. Harry and I have decided to take the train from Jerusalem to Haifa today. We take a cab to Modi im and then get on the train. We ask to insure we are on the right train just like Terri and I did in Paris when we went to see Mandy. Since my French is better than my Hebrew, which should tell you lots about my Hebrew, we ask a soldier, and he, in perfect English, helps us out. We get settled in for a very nice hour and a half ride. Now I have got to tell you that what happened next happened in the US there would be people ducking for cover, but here it was just routine.
In about two stops a good looking soldier got on the train (mandy, there are lots of nice looking Jewish guys over here, all fit and trim) and just as you please, laid his machine gun on his lap. And, as Harry said, he was sure it was loaded. Nothing out of the ordinary. No one thought anything of it, but there it was. A few stops later another soldier did the same thing. You have got to feel safe with all of these guns around. Did I tell you the security at all of the hotels, train stations and tourist attractions also have these same guns. They must be getting them wholesale. I guess if Davey Crocket had had all of these at the Alamo, Santana would never had stood a chance, and afterall, that is the impression that is suppose to be felt by any bad guys here.
We arrive at the train station in Haifa and get a cab. As we are driving up you see the Ba’ Hai’ gardens. I can’t tell you how magnificent it is, but think of a straightened out Lombard street in San Francisco, with steps all of the way up three times as big. I don’t know how many gardeners they have or how they cut the grass, but it is all worth the effort. I tell myself I am going to climb the steps in the morning, but who am I kidding, I am yet to be stuffed again (you remember they keep a gun to my head when food comes out) they might roll me down the steps instead.
The hotel is at the top of the mountain in Haifa and the view is magnificent. Harry wants to go to McDonalds, honestly it was his idea, and so we walked up to McDonald's. I had a Falafal Burger and it was fine. Harry has been to a McDonald's in every country he has visited except Russia, so we had to keep his streak in tack.
that evening we went to another friend of Harry's house at the top of Haifa. Noach used to live in Fort Worth more than 30 years ago. Harry has kept in touch with Noach and Naomi ever since. When i tell you one meal is larger than the next, i must tell you that this was the largest. And there was no turning down food at their house. From their balcony you could see forever. The warmth and kindness that these people showed us was heart warming. I think I will never eat again, but then there was the next day.
Jareeve picked us up at 9:30. Harry has a serious sore throat and we go looking for a doctor. Unable to find one we go to a drug store and Harry get Harry some things to suck one. Eventually he is feeling better. Jareeve takes us to a Druse village. These are not Arabs and are fully integrated into Israeli society. They are in the Army, they vote, and they work. It appears that they are thriving like the rest of productive Israel. From there we go to the monastery of Elijua. Walking up to the building i could not figure out why we were stopping here, but oh well. Once we got onto the top of the building you could see forever. While the day was a bit hazy, the view was still spectacular. Right in front of us were tremendous agricultural fields and...an F16 base. If only they had been taking off.
Our next stop was a Kibbutz. Now less than 3% of all of Israel lives on a Kibbutz, but they still have land. So to make the land work for them some of the Kibbutz have been selling off parcels of the land to either developers or to senior citizens homes.
From there we were onto Jareez's home. His wife is an architect and she designed their home. They have three wonderful sons. One is in the army and doing well. The other two are still in school. Once again we had to eat and once again it was wonderful. How do you tell a Jewish mother no. Then Jareez and his wife drove us to Tel Aviv. I must admit that i fell asleep in the car, but did wake up to hear about shopping on Diezendorf street in Tel Aviv. But, that would be for the next day. We check into the hotel. And called it a night. We are in the Renaissance here in Tel Aviv, it is so nice to be back in a Marriott property. No, Sid, I have not figured out how to get them to give me more points, but they only serve diet Coke. In the lounge it is free, cold and plentiful. In the breakfast the next morning i find out how much it cost if you have to pay...$5 US.
I got up and ran the boardwalk for about a mile and a half. You have got to give the Israeli army a lot of credit. You can't imagine how fit and trim all of the people here are. I think it is how you can tell a tourist from a local. Really, and all of them are out exercising this morning. I had a great run and really enjoyed all of the moving scenery as well. Marvin, you might have hurt your neck wipping back and forth to insure all were worth of your approval.
We get up and have breakfast this morning. It is the most amazing spread you have ever seen. I don't know why hotels don't do this in the US. There must be 15 different types of fish, more fruit than I knew existed, pasteries (yes, they think chocolate is a breakfast food), eggs of all types and coffee, all included in the price of the room.
After breakfast we get in a cab and go over to the Carmel market. This is great. I could live here. Meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, bread, pastries, and stuff. Since we were full, and since we cannot take food back with us (i just love customs) we focus on the stuff. I bought a couple of things and so did Harry. Had a lot of fun negotiating with the vendor. We are talking about small change, but it was fun.
When we were finished we made our way back to the hotel and took off for Diezendorff street. This was a bit disappointing as it used to be the street to shop and sit at cafe's. Not so much anymore. But we had a luncheon date with Jane and her daughter and son in law, so off we went.
In Tel Aviv they have taken a dock area and made it into a really outstanding night life area. They have restaurants and shopping. We met Jane, Emmy and her husband Tal, who is a big celebrity in Tel Avia. He has the morning drive time show. We had a great lunch and i mad the decision not to eat the rest of the day. Harry still has to go out to dinner tonight with a relative of Doris, so i have begged off.
More on the trip home later.