Saturday, May 10, 2014

POSTCARD FROM JERUSALEM April 30 - May 9, 2014


New Waldorf Astoria at Last! 
As my late mother used to say, “One never knows what goes on behind closed doors.”  Perhaps it had a different meaning when she said it but it was my first thought when I saw the renovation of the recently opened Waldorf Astoria adjacent to our “pieton.”
The structure was completely gutted, with the detailed outer walls preserved as the facade. Originally constructed in 1928-29 by order of Jerusalem’s Supreme Muslim Council, the hotel was completed in 11 months, by over 500 Arab workers, supervised by one Jewish engineer.  The current renovation took seven years and disrupted the entire neighborhood!
When it originally opened it was the most luxurious hotel in the Middle East, with elevators, a central heating system and even private bathrooms – practically unheard-of at the time. The British Mandate went on to use the building as military and administrative offices, and the Ministry of Trade moved in after the state was born in 1948. Then, some years ago, the building was abandoned, and it was filled by the community of addicts, homeless folk and squatters featured in well known Israeli author David Grossman’s “Someone to Run With”.

Roof opens in nice weather to create a street like feeling.
It is now equally as luxurious as the original Ottoman style hotel and may or may not surpass its luxury predecessors—the Mamilla, David Citadel and King David hotels. It has 226 rooms and with the addition that we see from our house, 10 floors. The latter is not at all attractive and resembles a prison or hospital with small balconies!

Renovated original central staircase in prior entrance
I am including several photos of the interior that is quite spectacular. As a man standing next to me said when I was taking photos,  “It’s a beautiful addition to an already beautiful city. “
New entry lobby

On the Other Hand/Side

When we look out to the left from our bedroom balcony the view is pretty horrific! The area on top and adjacent to the lovely home next door is filled with an overbearing, taller than permitted grey building. It will probably be finished, if it is ever finished, with Jerusalem stone but...That will not help the size, totally unacceptable for the neighborhood. The green in the lower right is the top of our very large olive tree. Beyond our lovely stone wall in the front is another horrific mess, apparently their staging area. When will it ever end?!!

In the Beginning
Straight from the airport and our Tuesday late afternoon arrival, we visited the four Friedman grandchildren who still live at home and delivered belated birthday/Channukah gifts. Our first breakfast as usual was shakshuka  at Tmol Shilshom (the bookstore café). After we slept for the better part of our second day (Marc woke us up at 2:10 pm), we went to the train station development that has grown into a real destination since we were last there. Herbie kept asking me where the day had gone!

There are several restaurants, ice cream and coffee shops, a market hall with bakery, candy shop, fresh fruit and vegetables, etc. and many carts with various vendors selling everything from jewelry to clothing to food.  Live music started in the early evening creating a very festive environment for all ages. Many of the restaurants are Kosher and the non Kosher eateries are open on Shabbat. The whole place is definitely a joyful addition to the more somber Jerusalem atmosphere. There is something for everyone!

 Shalom Simcha 6, Talia, 13,  Chana Tsipora 10, Ashira 19
Erev Shabbat we dined with five of our grandchildren in Marc’s apartment. He has done a great job renovating and decorating and has turned into a wonderful cook in his spare time! Seventeen-year-old Alexander who lives in the Old City near his Yeshiva, walked back with us pointing out the incredible art installations on the City Hall plaza. The creativity of both is amazing.  I will return to take photos at a later time.

Shabbat Marc, the kids minus Alexander, and us had lunch at Marc’s friends near the house where Batya and the kids still live. The American couple made aliyah some years ago from Maine after Henry retired as a rabbi. He just turned 80 but wife Rosie graduated from Washington High School in SF a year before Herbie. We had a delightful time laughing and eating more good food.

The kids walked us quite a distance to visit our great granddaughters. Frustrating to be there without a camera but will return with camera in hand asap! Zalman interrupted his Torah learning to say hello as we were leaving. He and Rivi have produced two adorable girls—Yael turned two in March and Batsheva is five months. 

Yael taken by a professional photographer friend of Rivi
Sam and Chana Tsipora
 We returned to Marc’s apartment where our Philly niece Jill’s son Sam and his friend Manny joined us. They met on the five month Ramah high school program here. Sam is lucky to be able to spend much of his free time with family. He is getting to know everyone and they are getting to know him. He and Channa Tsipora (or Chansy as she is called) entertained us. We ate the requisite third meal or Seudah Shlishit—usually a light meal eaten before Shabbat is out on Saturday night—and performed the concluding service ending in the singing of Shavuah Tov or  “a good week”.


Yom Hazikeron/Israel Remembrance Day Flows into Yom Ha'atzmaut
The siren sounds at 11am and traffic and pedestrians come to a standstill. The day commemorates all who died since 1948, be it in wars or acts of terrorism. We left that afternoon by bus to spend the week at the Langs in Raanana. It is so interesting that the saddest day becomes the happiest as Israelis all over the country have BBQs and attend various celebrations for Israel’s 66th birthday. 

After a wonderful picnic dinner at friends both families walked to town where the celebration was on the main street. Last year we were here at the same time and it was in the big city park. There were probably several thousand people, mostly young families. meandering, eating, singing and dancing with bands, dance programs, fireworks, food and other vendors lining the street. 

Day of Yom Hamatzmaot Batya and the kids came over to swim and join us for a BBQ. Everyone enjoyed the pool including Batya. Observant women must be covered at all times when out of the home thus note the elegant well designed outfit by Mar-Sea, an Anglo woman named Marci! There are even snaps so that the wearer can dive in without worrying about her swim suit/dress flying up! We celebrated Batya's belated 50th with a yummy home baked cake.

Meanwhile, Philippe and Daniella helped set up the computer we bought at Best Buy for Talia and Ashira. Too bad they can't use the Geek Squad! There are rules dictated by the religious schools on what they may and may not use on the computer but they can do homework and email.  

Herbie and I took Chansy and Shlumsky (Shalom Simcha) to the nearby park where every other moment as they ran from one piece of equipment to the next we heard, "Take my picture!" They were and are delightful at 10 and 6. 

Eretz Israel Museum
Taking the bus to the Tel Aviv University stop we visit one of our favorite museums. The small temporary exhibition The Valero Bank: The First Hebrew Bank, 1848-1915 was fascinating. Founded by Jakob Valero, the bank provided services for the Ottoman government and carried out financial transactions with numerous banks in Palestine and throughout the world, among them banks that belonged to the Rothschild family.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year from London’s Natural History Museum and the BBC Worldwide was opening in two days. Not letting that small fact deter me, I talked our way in by seeming old and innocent and saying we had seen it last year and it was our only day. When I found a mistake in the installation the curator was most thankful she did let us in! It is, once again, a spectacular show. I was most impressed by the 11-14 year-old who won two awards for his age category including best in show. What a Kodak moment—a mother fish eating crock with a dozen or so babies on top of her head and surrounding. Now here’s a kid in India with talent who was given a pair of binoculars and became a naturalist and was given a Canon 550, not even a professional camera, and became a photographer!

For the second year, the Eretz Israel Museum organized its own competition of Local Nature Photography.   The best work of experienced and well-known Israeli nature photographers are exhibited as well. 

Well worth a visit to anyone here!


We spent so much time in the photography exhibits, we nearly missed what we went for: Contemporary Textile Art in Israel.  To quote the museum handout, “Textile is one of the main elements in our lives; it covers, protects and ornaments our body." The exhibition  offers contemporary textile work in Israel, which has been flourishing in recent years. "Fifty-nine creators are participating in this exhibit, which deals with the dimensions of time and space, the social, political and cultural aspects…”  It was fun to watch a class of students, especially boys, taking photos with their smart phones while at the same time most paying attention to their guide. Whatever works to get kids into museums! Our favorite pieces are pictured here.

Tel Aviv on Foot
Jennifer dropped us at the Carmel Market on her way to teach yoga. It was showering after an unseasonal rain with thunder and lightening the night before. Because there were only intermittent showers we decided to walk the various areas we heard about including a couple we had been to before.  I must admit it is very enjoyable to just meander with no definitive destination, a great way to get to know a city. 

Tel Aviv appears to be preserving many of its buildings, mostly those with landmark status, many belonging to famous people in the country's early years.  (see photos below)

We returned to Raanana by bus to find that Philippe and Jennifer had decided to cut their planned days away due to weather so were going to a movie.  They left this morning for a vegetarian vacation in the north.

Zayda with Benjamin, 21 this year
Niece Jill’s son Sam is with us again for this Shabbat as is Benjamin—the latter for dinner only as he has his own apartment not far away from his army base. 

Daniella and Simone

Chefs extraordinaire 17 year old Daniella
and 15 year old Simone are cooking and baking for Shabbat and future meals. They are pretty incredible in the kitchen. I think the French side won out with those two!

The Art(s) of Writing: An Exploration of Writing and Its Relationship to 
Drawing and Photography
Tammy took this of me
Today I attended a workshop given at the home of the writing teacher, Judy Labensohn, I took classes from a year ago in Jerusalem (and will again this trip). From 9-3 at the instructor's home in Beit Zayet between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a guest Art Therapist, Tamar Einstein, taught us how the three arts intersect. 

Taken thru green netting
We began with a warm up outside with balloons and large pieces of colored netting. We instantly became acquainted laughing and photographing each other. 

Having us first work our fingers on the balloons reminded me of warming up in Pilates. 

With the large colored nets over our heads, we took photos of our surroundings and of each other from all angles including the ground.

Using numerous art mediums including collaging we created and wrote, wrote and created, all the while sharing our writing and projects.

Lorna shows her creation
There were 11 women and one man, the latter from Raanana who drove me. It was very informative and enjoyable as well as a chance to interact with interesting people. All were English speakers, many olim from the states as well as our dear friend Lorna from South Africa.

Meanwhile Benjamin and Simone played tennis with their Zayda and took him to lunch. Kudos to Jennifer who made sure he was well cared for so that I might enjoy the workshop without worrying while they were away.


Fun pics of Tel Aviv: Carmel shuk, Sheinkin and Bialik streets

And don't forget the "crown" jewels!

Note what you can buy here!

Original TA City Hall 1925

Who's driving?

All dressed up and no place to go!

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