Monday, September 2, 2013


We are once again very unexpectedly in Israel.  Never told anyone but our kids that we were  coming. A last minute business trip for less than two weeks, I timed it to attend the wedding of
Deborah and Michael Sosebee's daughter, Hannah. I have known Deborah's mother Ann Borenstein for nearly 50 years and Deborah since car pooling to religious school at Beth Abraham with the Goulds when, back in the early 70s, we were three of a very few Jewish families living in Piedmont. Marc, Deborah and Janice Gould also went through Piedmont schools together and all three families are now members of Beth Jacob.

Hannah and Netzach met at the SF Jewish Community High School six years ago. The Shlomo Carlbach style wedding took place in Jerusalem at the lovely wooded Ein Yael near the Biblical Zoo. There was music throughout with guitar and singing. The guitarist had actually played with Carlbach.  At the same time it was an orthodox ceremony including a bedecking. That is when the groom approaches the bride to make sure she is the correct bride and then pulls her veil over her face. All the young men, most dressed in black pants and white shirts, linked arms and kept breaking into song during this time as well as during the ceremony itself.
Bride's father giving it his all!

Unlike many orthodox weddings, the men and women ate together. The dancing, however, was separate. As is custom, friends and relatives entertain the newlyweds and this was no exception. Hannah's father put on quite a performance as evidenced by her reaction!

It was so nice having Marc, Jennifer and Philippe with us (Batya still mourning her father). Marc commented he had never been to a wedding like it. The groom is from Berkeley where the family are followers of the late Rabbi Carlbach, a hippie musician and composer, known as The Singing Rabbi. There was quite a contingent from Beth Jacob including our Rabbi Dardik. Tho he did not perform the ceremony, he did participate by speaking to the couple and in the ketubah signing, the signers using his back for a table! Akiva Tor, our former Consul General attended with his family from nearby Beit Shemesh.  Except for the balmy weather, I felt like we were back in the Bay Area!

Groom about to sign Ketubah w/ Rabbi Dardik
Old friends, Marc & Deborah

Herbie, Akiva Tor, Alan Engel

The second wedding in a moshav just outside of Hadera was totally unexpected. Our Aunt Bruria
and late Uncle Yitz built their home on a large plot of land in this collective community with their youngest son, Ilan, and his best friend growing up, Gillie.  Gillie and Elisheva's daughter was married in the large yard and field below that the two families share. When the bride's family heard we were in Israel, they insisted we attend. And what a wedding it was!

Gillie, a contractor, built the original compound many years ago when they all decided to leave the city. For the wedding, he, Ilan and four Arab workers created an entire environment. We could see the searchlights from the road, like a Hollywood opening! A DJ provided non stop deafening but danceable music and dance everyone did! There were some 300 attendees with drinks, food and cappuccinos in abundance. Ilan's mother in law decorated the yard
with colored paper lanterns and white wood furniture with bright green pillows. I assume that all subsequent weddings from both families will be there as well and I hope we will be able to attend many of them.

Those darn professional photographers, always in the way!
Getting there and back took a bit of doing! We walked 15-20 minutes from our house thru downtown Jerusalem to the sherut pickup, boarded the 10 passenger van to the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv where our cousin Donnie picked us up and drove us an hour to the moshav. We reversed this on the return and arrived in Jerusalem around 2 am to find the streets filled with young people.  Thursday nights in Israel are like Saturday nights elsewhere only more so! Israelis don't seem to require as much sleep as the rest of us do as also evidenced at the wedding reception that was still going strong when we left.

Hopefully these photos from both weddings will give you an idea of the settings and happy events. What a treat to share in these two simchas!

We really went to Israel to do some business Marc could not do for us. It took the three of us nearly three hours in a bank at what could have been a miserable experience on a very hot day. However, the English speaking functionary was hilarious! He regaled us with some of his life story and we never stopped laughing even when we were signing our names several dozen times.

He went to the US to study engineering. He and another student became very close friends and he talked this non Jewish girl into marrying him so he could get a green-card. Just like Gerard Depardeau in "Green Card!" Unlike the film, however, it was a breeze because both the girl and the man interviewing them had red hair in common to talk about rather than the business at hand! He was totally distracted and they departed with the green-card. He had the wedding annulled a short time later for non consummation, worked as an engineer in Manhattan and returned to Israel about ten years later. He is in his 50s, happily married to an Israeli and has two grown kids. I told him partway through he was in the wrong business as with his shtick he could make it as a standup comic!

Jennifer put me on to this class taught by her friend every Sunday morn in English at Tmol Shilshom, the bookstore cafe we frequent. It was totally different from the class I recently took at Piedmont Adult School. There we brought in writing to be critiqued but here the teacher gave us exercises to write on the spot. Those of us who wished could read aloud any of our short beginnings. I read something that caused another participant to approach me after class to ask if I had a minute to talk. Over an hour later, after a shared lunch and intimate conversation, we finally parted company. It is such a small world! Her deceased husband was Rabbi Tutnauer, in San Fran, LA and elsewhere. They made aliyah in the early 70s, have 2 grown sons and a daughter in law who is a silversmith on Agron around the corner from our house. We pass her studio many times daily and when we finally went in to introduce ourselves, she had already heard about us.

Margie and I have emailed and will keep in touch. We are the same age and have many things in common. She is definitely on my list of people to call on future visits. I also intend to continue the drop in writing classes to further hone my skills.

Lauren, our upstairs tenant and dear friend, returned from visiting her father in SF shortly after we
arrived. We invited her and our Belgian neighbors across the alley for wine and hors d'oeuvres and ended up with a delightful dinner together also at Tmol Shilshom. Olivier who is a political consultant at the Belgian Embassy, had the most amazing surgery we have ever heard or read about. He was diagnosed with advanced bladder cancer after we left in May.  A month ago he had his bladder removed and rebuilt with a portion of his intestine. I am going into detail here to illustrate how advanced Israeli doctors are. He explained that in the U.S. and elsewhere this surgery would have consisted of an opening and a tube inserted with a bag to use forever. Performed at Hadassah Hospital, the surgery took nine hours. This non Jewish Belgian could not stop raving about the care he received from his Jewish doctors and staff.  And his surgeon continues to talk about his patient's rapid progress. Olivier is expected to  fully recover.

At dinner , Olivier encouraged me to try to take off Natasha's bracelet that I had been admiring. After several tries, I gave up and he asked the waitress to bring a bowl of ice and water. Natasha put her hand in it and voila, the bracelet totally unraveled like a stretched out slinky!  Then she put it back on her wrist and it began to form into its original shape again. She asked me to wrap my hand around it to make it go faster and voila, again, a few minutes later it was back to normal. This bracelet was invented by a well known Belgian jewelry designer who works with a physics or engineering professor at the University in Brussels. It was quite amazing to watch!

Because he is not directly part of the Belgian Embassy staff, Olivier's employment is open ended. After numerous other postings, he and his wife have fallen in love with Israel and have no
plans to leave. Natasha is a decorator and frequently visits her aging parents as well as clients in Brussels. Her daughter Victoria is a senior at the International School in Jerusalem and plans to attend college in Europe or the US. Victoria's friends are from all over the map and she too is enjoying her experience. Such a lovely family!


We took the bus to the Raanana bus station, a 60-90 minute ride. Jennifer and Simone picked us up and we drove to the museum in Ramat Aviv? Tho we went to see the annual ceramic show which was quite innovative, we also saw The Wildlife Photographer of the Year photos from the Natural History Museum of London. The subject was nature, some scenery but mostly animals. There we're various age brackets with winners and runners up from under 10, 11-17 and adult. Incredible photos. My favorite however, even tho the big award winner was penguins, had a tiny squirrel on the front bumper of an old car that looked more like a painting than a photo.

It so amazes me how talented Daniella and Simone are in the kitchen. One specializes in baking, the other in food. They obviously have their father's genes! We stayed overnight and the girls started school the next day.

The three of us drove about a half hour north, then east, to an orchid park Jennifer had heard about. Quite nice but the amount of orchids was a disappointment. Some were unusual, some more common, all beautiful, just not in the abundance we expected. There is also an aviary with some very exotic birds plus a couple of ostriches and spotted dear. Nice place to take young children.

After a lovely al fresco lunch at a moshav on the return, we took the bus back to Jerusalem. It has taken me until our last couple of visits to take the public bus. Not normally skittish, I was freaked over the years by the rash of bus bombings. Jennifer encouraged us to try it and I must admit, it's cheaper and easier than renting a car and fighting the traffic, parking and crazy drivers.

Three of the five Langs have birthdays close together.  On Jennifer's birthday we took the family to the Rooftop Restaurant at the Mamilla Hotel. It was a beautiful night and we dined al fresco in shirt sleeves!  This meat restaurant has something for everyone even vegetarians like Daniella and Simone. And if you want to see an Israeli soldier in heaven, look no further than Benjamin biting into a 2" thick first class hamburger served with chips!

I did not mention Benj before as he now lives in an apartment with three army friends near the base and keeps things pretty close to the chest! As one of our cousins said, he is perfect for Intelligence! He is also good at getting perks. Marc ran into him recently with a group of 20 something Americans on the Birthright program. He signed up as an Israeli and spent a week traveling the country with them. He seemed most excited about riding a camel!

I had told the maitre d about the birthdays and tho we had ordered several desserts to share, the wait staff brought out a sparkler and two yummy chocolate desserts on the house. First class food, view and service! They gave us a card with contact information for Tripadvisor and asked us to please send in comments. I will happily oblige!

This was such a short trip, we spent our one shabbat with Marc, Batya and the kids including guests Benjamin, Zalman, Rivi and 17 month old Yael. She is so adored by her young aunts and uncles that she is always being catered to by one or the other. Her current favorite seems to be nine- year-old Chana Tsipora tho she happily interacts with all.  She rough houses with nearly six-year-old Shalom Simcha and laughingly asks for more when her parents toss her in the air.  A very happy baby, going on toddler!

From left: Talia, Yael, Chana Tsipora, Shalom Simcha
From left: Ashira, Herbie, Yael, Zalman
Following in his brother's footsteps, Alexander, nearly 17, has moved out to live with two friends in the Old City near their yeshiva. And like Zalman, he will probably never live at home again. The boys go from there into an arranged marriage.

Thirteen-year-old Talia is the baker. When she discovers an ingredient is not available, she substitutes. Not sure I would know what to do! Yummy cookies.

Ashira has started college and loves it. It's a religious women's college that primarily caters to married women who need flexible hours but who eventually want to work. It is a short walk from home. The second day, her English class visited a third grade class. She became very animated while telling us and can't wait to teach. As of now, she hopes to teach both English and Art Therapy. The latter is only available in a masters program which she intends to pursue.

Because she is a very good artist, we took her to the color exhibition at the Israel Museum.

We had seen this collector's first major exhibition The Joy of Color in 1998. One of the world's most notable private collections of modern art,  Color Gone Wild: Fauve and Expressionist Masterworks from the Merzbacher Collection, this group of paintings is what he has purchased since that first show. Matisse, Jawlensky, Braque,  Kandinsky are but a few well represented. Very focused, very impressive! Seeing the beautiful smile on Ashira's face was worth returning for our second visit in two days!

The incredible show The Clock returned for an encore. The museum owns a copy jointly with The Tate in London. We watched till the museum closed, wishing we could return for the next day's 24 hour show. If you missed it in Jerusalem, SF or NY, try to find it on your travels!

Our last night we took the family to dinner at the Pear and the Apple at the City Hall bldg. A good Kosher Lemahadrin Italian restaurant we all enjoy. Alexander was able to meet us tho Zalman and family were not.

Short and sweet, family oriented, accomplished goals. Will return after Passover next April.

Because I can't send this till I get home to put on my blogpost and add pix, I will add a good giggle on me!

As most of you know, we no longer have to remove our shoes at security (a benefit of age!). I was about to enter the body scanner in Newark and the female guard noticing my shoes still on, started to ask me to take them off. She then looked up and said, "oh, never mind." I replied, "oh, so you looked at my face and then changed your mind?" And she said, "you don't walk like an older person, you walk with such energy!"

Gee, thanks! Anyone know a good plastic surgeon???

Shana Tova to one and all...


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