Sunday, February 26, 2012


Inspired by the Academy Awards, these first sections are entitled "THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY!" We finally found the best flight from SFO to Ben Gurion/TA. Continental to Newark and a few hours later the best plane we have ever flown on, Newark to TA. We paid for 2 business class tix (during a special) and we ended up in first class as there were only two classes. If I were a passenger paying for first class and found that out, I would not be a happy camper! Flat beds plus really good food and service! And on time arrivals on both flights!

The bad and the ugly follow!

view from our balcony
Lest anyone thinks I exaggerate!
How naive can one be to have thought that what started last August would be over by the time we returned some 6 months later to our once peaceful home (a very long time ago) with a lovely view of Jerusalem stone and full grown trees! The jack hammering begins at 7:20 in the morning, a bit later on Fridays, and does not end until the work day is over. There is not a straight item on our interior walls or shelves; ceramic and glass pieces fell off upper ledges in the living room and thankfully landed on the sofa. Instead of slowing down, there continues to be new construction everywhere. We do not think there is much more that can be done to our immediate neighborhood after this monster is built adjacent to us but, we know in our heart of hearts, someone will find a way! The really crazy thing is most of these luxury apartments and condos remain empty while regular lower and middle class Jerusalemites have no place to live.

The hotel as seen from the back
The Waldorf Astoria is really moving along and it should be nearly finished by the time we return later in the year.  It is quite attractive even in its current unfinished state  Aside from the hotel there is a condo/apartment building and as with other luxury condos and apartments will probably not  be completely sold or rented. It will be the third luxury hotel on 3 of 4 corners on Agron and King David! The best part for us is they plan to fix up our little pieton so life is not all bad in this department!

Purim costumes
It never ceases to amaze me how the Friedman kids, all of them, grow out of their shoes or demolish them right before we arrive! I probably say this every time but...So I took Ashira, Talia, Chana Tsipora and Shalom Simcha (dressed in his purim costume covered by his jacket with a knitted hat and red payis or religious dreadlocks attached, created for the whole class by his gan morah/nursery school teacher.  Purim, as it appears in the Book of Esther, tells the story of Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus who planned to kill the Jews, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and Queen Esther. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing (where the purim cookie Hamantaschen got its name). What amazes me is how it has become like the very non Jewish holiday of Halloween with costumes, even witches hats, sold on the streets as well as in the stores everywhere in town.

...we are at last enrolled in an Ulpan or intensive Hebrew learning class. We go Sundays thru Thursdays from 9:15 - 12:15 and learn one on one. I am in Kita Aleph (beginning) and Herbie is in Kita Bet or intermediate. He had a background growing up that I did not have!  Ulpan Or  has a subtitle of Learning Hebrew at the Speed of Light, very clever since the word "or" means light! Within the 3 hours, we learn for about 30 minutes and then we study in the study hall listening to the lessons on our own iphones or using one of their ipod type devices and then we repeat. We signed up for 2 weeks and may extend for a third. Let me tell you, learning something relatively new and intense at our age is no picnic and we are totally exhausted at the end of the day! We stay for awhile after class studying more, eat lunch in one of the numerous cafes on Emek Refaim, return to the study hall and walk home about 25 minutes (incl stopping on the way for the newspapers).  Each week on Wednesday, there is a 2 hour neighborhood tiule or trip with an instructor who only does these weekly trips. It too is one on one so tomorrow will be the first for us. Then on Thursday there is some form  of graduation.  Saray Batya suggested we learn at this particular ulpan as she finally can slowly speak with her daughter in law after a few weekly sessions. If we lived here we would attend the follow up which I believe takes place in a cafe and is purely discussion to keep up with the Hebrew. This time we must sign up for some kind of class or tutoring at home in order not to lose what we learned in between trips.

Over 20 years ago, when Jennifer and Philippe lived in Haifa, she became friends with Amy from the east coast and later her then boyfriend, now husband, Viktor, from Russia. In conversation it came out that Viktor had gone to Columbia and they discovered that he and Marc had been friends there thru the fencing team! How is that for a small world story?! We have met Amy and Viktor thru the years and since we were going to be here they invited us to their son's bar mitzvah in Modiim, a 30 minute drive from our home. The egalitarian (both men and women can read from the torah) modern orthodox synagogue uses an elementary school gym with a curtain dividing the men from the women. When a man is reading the curtain is closed on the men's side and same for a woman. It turned out that because Viktor had never had a bar mitzvah in the Ukraine, he did the haftorah, a very exciting and moving addition to the festivities. There was a very nice casual lunch outside but the real party was Sunday night.

Shortly before leaving our house on Sunday, I realized the only directions I could find on the invite and on the internet were in Hebrew even on Google. My first booboo was taking a wrong turn as we drove out of Jerusalem and not for the first time landing in Ramallah, an Arab city where Israelis do not go especially at night! I turned around and after awhile of having no idea where we were, pulled alongside a police car and asked where 443 was. The female of the team called out, "follow us!" and we did and they pulled over at the entrance to the highway, not even taking the road themselves.

The party was at a pub (can you imagine a bunch of 13-year-olds in a pub in the US?) in an outlying district. We got off the highway where Jennifer told us and found ourselves nowhere! We spoke with Jennifer, Philippe, Marc and Viktor and no one was able to help us as no one could figure out where we were. We finally found civilization and stopped a man on the street. He tried to explain where this place was, gave up, told us to wait across the street and got his car and guided us, some 15 or 20 minutes away. Thus we arrived very unfashionably late some 90 minutes after we left home. Needless to say, I was ready to turn around and go home to bed! Thus the title of this section The Kindness of Strangers. And yes we arrived home some 30 minutes after we left the party!

Israeli architects Spector-Amisar-Shauer
In order to escape the noise on our first full day here, we did all kinds of errands and ended up at the Begin Center. We had been told it was a must and it was indeed fascinating. One needs a reservation and must go in a group with a guide. We lucked out as an English speaking tour had just begun. It is a series of warrens with still photos, video and furnishings from his home. Coincidentally there was a ceremony on Monday marking the 20th anniversary of Begin's death. The current PM is quoted in the paper as saying that Begin's most significant historic achievement was heading the Irgun  (the central underground movement during the War of Independence) and his part in convincing the British to leave the country, thereby paving the way for the establishment of the State of Israel. We all tend to forget most politicians and their accomplishments.

Benjamin & Charleigh
The computer maven & the beit din judge to be!

Mother to be with bicyclist spouse!


 Like in China, before their weddings brides and grooms have their photos taken in the most photogenic spots in the city. One of the most popular is with the old city in the background. Another is the wonderful stone buildings in Yemin Moshe (below). They bring one or two professional photographers and someone to assist with the placement of their clothing. When he was through, this photographer invited a class of schoolgirls who had been having a lesson nearby to have their picture taken with the bride. All of a sudden two of them handed me their cameras and in my haste to get good shots for them, I never got one of my own! Such excitement and giggling!

The bride below brought her flower girls, probably nieces and they were so cute posing for me too! The bouquet was unusually pretty.

Until next time! M

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