Thursday, November 15, 2012


Baby Yael: Zalman & Rivi; Outfit: McCaulous

This second and final blog will be filled with musings and tidbits as there were so many facets and so many highlights in our four weeks here. Of course seeing our gorgeous great granddaughter Yael whose birth we celebrated on our prior trip was the premier highlight and it would be difficult to compare any other events to being in her presence!

We knew it was time to leave Israel when the 7:30 wake up call from the construction noise next door reached a new crescendo. It seemed as if the worst was over until this morning when once again the house shook and we couldn't hear ourselves think let alone talk! The Waldorf Astoria is on its way to completion and tho the backside, the one we see, is rather mundane the front and entrance are shaping up to be quite wonderful. I was so into taking photos of other things, I neglected to take any of the hotel.

Most unfortunately, we also knew it was time to leave with the arrival of much needed rain and cold weather and trouble escalating on both borders. Things are not good and are escalating at a frightening rate. US elections  dominated the news for much of our time there. But the most interesting news is post election. Some pundits seem to think our president is out to get Netanyahu for his perceived support of Romney. To think that a US President would even have something like that on his mind is utterly ridiculous! Several more intelligent columnists actually came out with the thought that the President has many more pressing problems to spend his time on at home!

My favorite campaign subject, however is Sheldon Adelson. and his squandered millions! The latest in Monday's paper is that since he owns one of the Israeli newspapers which he uses to get support for his right wing views, he was putting pressure on Netanyahu to support Romney. This kind of news is exhausting when there is so much more pressing news surrounding this small country. The columnist concluded by saying Adelson " put his money on the wrong candidate here too, to perpetuate the Israel of today: an occupying, belligerent and racist country. It's too bad that the American Jews who had hoped for an Israel of tomorrow—a democratic, upright and  secure country—are giving up on us." This news will possibly disappear pretty quickly now that Israel's enemies are at it again.

"Married Hasidic women cover their hair completely since the seductive power of a woman's hair is likened in the sources to that of nudity."
"A World Apart Next Door—Glimpses into the Life of Hasidic Jews" is drawing crowds from all walks of life and all levels of religiosity. No one can help but come away with a certain amount of awe and fascination at all the different customs. Much of the exhibition is photos with explanations of what seems to most of us to be very bizarre practices. Normally these people do not want to be photographed but several professional photographers gained access and I think it's a brilliant way to get people to understand a little more about this group.

We visited Machane Yehuda several times during our stay and on our last visit encountered a platoon of young soldiers on a tiule or trip as they entered the shuk. They divided into small groups to interview Israelis in order to learn more about them. We were not able to understand the interviews but the young men were more than happy to explain their mission. Their fresh, youthful faces were smiling at everyone and I now wonder if they are participating in what is going on in Gaza and elsewhere.

Unable to devote the time as we did on our prior trip, we couldn't sign up for classes but attended two Cafe Ulpan's each. An instructor would take one of us at a time to a local cafe for coffee or lunch and have us read the menu and speak as much Hebrew as possible. Both times Sarah spread my flash cards on the table and tested me. Considering I had not looked at them since March, I did OK!

The Shattuck Cinema of Jerusalem is located off Emek Refaim, a 20 minute walk away. This trip we were able to see 3 movies: American, Danish and Israeli. The latter, "Fill the Void" is a must see and was a perfect accompaniment to the Hasidic exhibit at the museum. Hopefully it will make the final cut of 5 for Best Foreign Film. It already went to Venice and NY film festivals and won all the Israeli awards equivalent to our Oscars. The writer director, Rama Burshtein, is fascinating and worth googeling. Both English language newspapers had her on the cover of their weekly magazines.

 Jennifer and family are nicely settled in. Daniella and Simone seem to be enjoying school and participate in various extracurricular activities. The smallish pool they are building is slowly taking shape but when the Arab workers are constantly taking off for holidays (seems like they have even more than the Jews!) everything takes much longer to complete. Jennifer is very busy working with a decorator and for the first time that I am aware of is actually enjoying it! Her wrist is healing slowly and she has to spend many hours in painful therapy. It will take a year before she can put weight on it to do all the yoga moves but she can still do numerous positions without using her wrist.

We rented a car and drove to Tel Aviv, not something we do very often. The streets are confusing and the traffic is horrific but somehow, with me driving, we managed to get ourselves to the ShukHaPishpashim. I remember this old market from the days when my mother in law was alive and loved walking through this crowded ancient shuk. In those days and up until a couple of years ago, it was an old, dirty, junk with antiques mixed in, area to stroll. Now nearly every block has at least one new and very 21st century designer boutique, jewelry store, ceramics gallery or restaurant. We spent several hours eating lunch and just browsing. Then on to Neve Zedek where we try to go every trip for a very short stop for Herbie to purchase a certain shaving cosmetic he has learned to enjoy while in Israel. 

We arrived late afternoon for a visit to the Tel Aviv Museum. Several good shows including a small but choice Bruegel show. Who knew there were  several generations of painters in the family?! After walking thru a couple of other small exhibits we stopped at contemporary works from India. Quite an eye opener! On to the plaza where Jennifer, Philippe and Simone met us for dinner al fresco and a dance concert at the Opera House.  Bad Boys of Dance New York, Rock the Ballet, is a group that prides itself, at least to our collective eyes, in showing more gymnastic prowess than dance as we know it. It was very enjoyable tho not the greatest!
Helping Daniella make Shabbat lunch

After the performance we drove to Raanana and spent a long weekend. Friday Jennifer and I spent mother/daughter time going to a jewelry show at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv and to a moshav (village) window shopping for light fixtures.

I am so indebted to our daughter as she was able to get her father to help in the kitchen and iron during the time I was in Ethiopia! He did his own ironing when we returned to Jerusalem after our long weekend there. On Saturday morning we visited our Hadera family and found them to be their usual warm, welcoming selves. Jennifer had two families over to lunch and we had the occasion to meet more of their very fun British, South African, Australian friends. It seems that nearly everyone in Raanana is from an English speaking country plus the French! They all talk "muy rapidimente" and we have trouble keeping up with the conversation! Subtitles would have been very useful!

On the way/out of the way back to Jerusalem we met Marv and Suzy Cohen Locke for dinner at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. Quite a beautiful campus!

Marc and Batya graciously open their home to share Shabbat with visitors, especially those from the US. Danny Robinow, son of Joey, grandson of Norm and Carole, joined us for Friday night dinner and I am sure it was a once only experience! Since Danny starts NYU when he returns, Marc gave him the benefit of his having gone to Columbia and told him the ins and outs of living in Manhattan. In Israel Danny is in a 4.5 month program called Ardvark, an offshoot of Young Judea. It is a combo of study and sightseeing. On Shabbat the kids and I played all my favorite games and things became quite competitive. It's such fun to see each kid down the pike learn the various games by playing with one of us and the next time able to play alone. Even 8 year old Chana Tsipora can play some so only newly 5 year old Shalom Simcha is left!


Some years ago when I first went to my Israeli acupuncturist in Oakland, a young Ethiopian woman, Tigest, worked for him. We struck up a friendship and she even house sat for us but somehow we never spoke of how and when she left Ethiopia and how her father ended up working for the Jewish Agency in Israel. All I really know is her father, Gebeyehu, lives outside of Jerusalem and helps to find jobs for Ethiopians. Over the years I have brought mostly medicines for him and each time Lauren has to be the go between. Because she can no longer understand him on the phone due to his speaking so quietly, she brought a young Ethiopian friend to our home to make the phone call and arrange a meeting. He was very appreciative of the bottle of pills I gave him but seemed confused as to who I was although he met me a few years ago and has phoned Lauren every now and then to ask about me. I think he is some years younger than I am but I found him moving very slowly and seeming frailer than the last visit. In lieu of my recent experience in Ethiopia, I inquired and found out he and his family arrived in Israel during Operation Solomon, the 36 hour 1991aliyah that brought 14,000 Ethiopians to Israel. I plan to ask Tigest who now works for Trader Joe's for more information.

Yamluck, the young Ethiopian whom Lauren brought to make the phone call appointment, met Lauren when they both volunteered in the tent outside the Prime Minister's office to protest various Ethiopian issues. I laughed when he told me how his computer science  teacher in school would address him as that kid with the Japanese name! Yamluck is a lawyer by training and a security guard by profession He has been unable to find a job as a lawyer and finds a very prejudiced Israeli populace. After he told me how his parents and many thousands of others live in squalor and how the police pick up people just because of the color of their skin, he suggested I ask others for a more balanced view. I didn't have to go far. Our South African friend Lorna as well as son Marc, immediately concurred that the Israeli citizens as well as the Israeli police are very prejudiced. Both volunteered the information without my even asking. Yamluck wishes to get a business degree in the US and return to help his people but is lacking funds. I sent a letter to Micah Feldmann to see if he knows of some funds available but as yet have not received a reply.

Aside from that of Syria trying to draw Turkey and Israel into its civil war, the news on page 7 in Haaretz, the more liberal of the English language papers, was very disturbing. "Report: every third Israeli woman becomes a victim of sexual assault." I remember my late mother in law justifying her frequent stays in her beloved Israel by telling everyone she could walk down the streets day or night and feel safe, unlike in the  US. The article went on to say that the statistics compiled by the Public Security Ministry are only the tip of the iceberg because only 20% of these incidents are reported. Violence against single women rose twenty-fold since 2003 and the age group most frequently victimized by murders was women aged 18-24, two in 100,000. There are numerous statistics quoted in the article but one in particular stood out: women's aid centers receive some 40,000 calls a year and 30% are from women complaining they were sexually assaulted before they were 12 but only decided to complain many years later. Half the calls are from women saying they were raped or gang raped.

The editorial entitled Women at Risk sums up the statistics as follows: minors comprise about half the victims of sexual violence. Since 2008 there has been a rise of divorced women who are murdered and that the rate of Ethiopian women murdered is 15 times that of their proportion of the population.
It concludes by saying that reducing these statistics "requires the full mobilization of government ministries, first and foremost the public security, social affairs and education ministries."

I try to make my reports upbeat and behind the headlines as the online newsletter Israel 21c, but sometimes the unpleasant news just jumps out at me!

Our friend Gloria Kramer realized after we left last March that she had wanted us to meet an artist friend who specializes in textile art and lives in what must be one of the most architecturally and artistically beautiful homes in Jerusalem. We are forever indebted to her for making this shiduk (match) as it was love at first visit for both Herbie and me!

Jewish answer suicide vest
Ultra Orthodox silencing women
Andi Arnovitz, originally from Kansas City who moved from Atlanta with her husband and five children for a two year sabbatical that turned int a permanent arrangement, is not only an artist but has a brilliant mind. Her use of Jewish texts mixed into her textiles and her dedication to women's issues in particular is nothing short of amazing. We feel privileged to have purchased a set of Russian nesting dolls that she created from molds purchased from Russia. She covers each mold with many layers of paper mache and a photo of the generations of the female members of her family. Of course I would have loved it to be my family but Andi explained how it is difficult to get generational photos that work and too many hours are involved in the creating. Her Jewish response to a Palestinian terrorist vest is indescribable (see photo). Each of her works contain a multitude of ideas and her most recent is works on paper of her reaction to the ultra orthodox in Beit Shemish whose wives wear burkas.

Gloria and I had both admired an Afghani child's dress hanging on the wall of her studio. It is decorated with tassels, silver amulets, buttons, etc. and is a piece of art worthy of hanging on any artist or art collector's wall. The morning after our visit I received an email from Andi telling me to phone her cell right away as she was at her friend's store in the Old City and he had one more dress! She said it was actually more highly decorated than hers and a great deal! Thus I am carrying it home ad looking forward to hanging it alongside our more contemporary pieces. The really nice thing about all this is Herbie never batted an eye or made a comment other than being totally wowed by Andi and her work and taste. We all feel like we have formed a wonderful friendship and hopefully my connection to the Magnes Museum for Art & Life at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley will get her a show there.

Our last two evenings before returning home were spent saying goodbye. We took a sherut (the 10 passenger vehicle) from Jerusalem to the Central Bus station in Tel Aviv and then a 10 minute cab ride downtown to meet 19 year old Benjamin for dinner. He took the bus from his base and met us at Liliyot, owned by a group of entrepreneurs from the business sector with a social vision. The group operates in cooperation with "Elem", an NPO for the benefit of youth at risk. "The Liliyot group  believes that only by providing the means which allow people to earn their living honorably, and at the same time providing life skills, will it be possible to create real change in Israeli society. "  Sounds much like ORT. We took the bus back to Jerusalem and the light rail from the bus station. And walked home in the rain.  My first public bus ride in Israel EVER!

Adding up the bill!
Our last night we dined in Jerusalem with Batya who had just flown in from visiting her ill father in Santa Barbara and the entire Friedman family. Only the Langs were missing! At 8 months, Yael is teething but is the best behaved baby (most likely due to the fact that her young aunts and uncles do not leave her alone for a moment!). When Herbie and I saw the amount of food delivered to our table we were sure that it would serve our group of 11 a second meal. Much to our surprise these growing kids and their parents ate it all!

I am ending with a lovely photo of a rainbow, the biggest and most colorful I think I have ever seen anywhere. 

It till April, 2013!

Quite a sight after a light rain!

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