Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Spent a quiet Shabbat with the kids, teen sitting; their parents arrived home late Saturday night from their two day vacation. We left Sunday after paying a shiva/condolence call in Tel Aviv. Our Aunt Bruria’s niece sadly died at 44 from cancer.

On to the port in North Tel Aviv. Jennifer was attending a yoga class at the studio where she sometimes teaches. We meandered around enjoying all the new additions since our visit a year ago.  It is an incredibly lively area, getting more and more built up with stores and restaurants and some wonderful wall art. So clever!

After an hour bus trip to Jerusalem we decided to walk from the terminal 10 minutes to the shuk. Quite a sight with Herbie dragging a full size duffle on wheels and me a carry on size wheelie. We had to purchase bags to carry all the fruit and other goodies. We were the true definition of shleppers!  We ended up having dinner and watching many of the stands close for the night, a first for us and very fun. Late in the day the sellers call out their specials before closing and make quite a ruckus!

Marc takes the four kids Monday afternoons thru dinner. Ashira is studying for her bagrut (as is Daniella beginning in her junior year), a series of difficult tests required for high school graduation and acceptance into college. Ashira is already out of high school but they were not given at her religious school. The tests go on for a very long time and starting next year will be revamped. The pressure on the kids is all encompassing and for weeks at a time they barely come up for air.

Thus only the three youngest were available Monday. The 6 of us
squeezed into Marc’s very tiny car and visited the Bloomfield Science Museum. Even 6-year-old Shalom Simca was totally entranced by all the computers and other buttons and balls and wheels and the various scientific exhibits. This is a fabulous place for all ages including the grandparents. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out some of it without embarrassing ourselves!.

Is the 6-year-old kid on the left or right?
Most interesting to us was the section on Alan Turing, the Brit who invented the computer. It took awhile to realize why the name was familiar until one paragraph about feelings and the computer. I remembered either hearing his name or reading it in reference to the film “Her”. He was gay and back then in Briton it was shameful and not tolerated. He was medicated to try to change him and he ended up committing suicide. Following is a fascinating piece I copied from the internet regarding the soon to be released film “The Imitation Game” based on the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma”.

The pioneer of modern-day computing, Alan Turing is credited with cracking the German Enigma code and the film is a “nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team at Britain’s top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.” Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British Establishment, but his work and legacy live on.

 The special exhibition Light and Shadow was fascinating! Not sure who enjoyed it more the kids or adults. This photos is one of my favorites as it is so clever.

 Our two hours at the museum was topped off by dinner at everyone’s favorite restaurant, The Pear and the Apple in the City Hall complex. Yummy Italian food with the best thin crust pizza and salads.  Ashira and Alexander joined us. The kids loved the public art projects that we had already seen, lying on the concrete pillows and peddling the bikes.
"Touch me"

"Full Gas in Neutral"

As Shimon Peres said about the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team winning the world championship, “Israel is not so good at small things but good at impossible things. Two other examples follow:

Is there a better way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Jerusalem Conservatory Hassadna than the Wind Instruments section winning first place in the Wind Band Festival at Carnegie Hall competing against orchestras from around the world? We were fortunate enough to get tickets to their concert at the Jerusalem Theatre. There was a smile on my face the minute the concert started and it did not stop until the last musical note was played.

On right: 18 year old commuter

Not only did we hear the winning pieces from the 50 Wind Instruments but we were treated to solos and small groups by the best students studying various instruments at the conservatory. They included a teenage Ethiopian violinist who wowed us with his playing of Manuel De Falla/Fritz Kreisler’s Spanish Dance; a female violinist, 18, who commutes 3 hours each way to attend the school and is as beautiful as her playing; a Mozart and Bartok played by the Chamber Orchestra and others.

But the most amazing was a jazz group with a 10-year-old sax player whom we happened to meet outside after the performance.  Lauren asked him for his autograph and he didn’t have a clue what to do. His mother spoke/understood
10 year old sax whiz giving autograph to Lauren
enough English to explain so he signed her program and ours with DB in a circle. What a kid! He’s only been playing since he was 8 and he plays a mean sax! The rest of the group is in their late teens and they give him high fives and obviously enjoy playing with him.

Several days later we were walking through the Mamilla Mall and there was Avraham Terifa (remember that name!), the young Ethiopian violinist trying to earn money to stay in the
Avraham at the Mamilla Mall
school. He had his open violin case at his feet and was playing beautiful music. We stood there entranced until he took a break. Many passersby dropped coins and bills to show their appreciation of this talented young man. We saw him again, a week later, same place, same time! We encouraged people to listen and donate by telling them who he is and where he studies.

GREAT in Uniform
The following was a surprise to us and I am sure will be to most of you. I thank my friend Judith Palarz in LA for forwarding this amazing youtube.  You might want to have Kleenex nearby. Another example of what Israel can do that is REALLY good! If you can’t watch, from here, copy and paste into browser. Well worth your time!

Today I decided was the day to start exercising at the nearby YMCA. Enough of all this fun with walking the hills of Jerusalem being our only exercise besides eating. We decided to try BOOT CAMP at 9 am but unfortunately I had not noticed the symbol for women only on the calendar. A few classes are for men only and some are mixed. But women only classes are to accommodate the religious women who do not want men to see them in their exercise clothes and uncovered heads. So I went to the class and Herbie worked out at the gym.

What ensued was 60 minutes of non stop aerobics including pushups, sit-ups on the ball, TSX pullies with one arm and both arms, racing, jogging, walking, lunges with and without weights and I’m sure I missed something. The instructor told me she has people in their 50s who cannot do what I am able to do. I was soaking wet but felt really good and very impressed with myself! Obviously this reflects favorably on my trainers both current and past!

I went again the next week plus have taken several other classes. Not enjoying them as much as my private workouts at home due to the LOUD music and SHOUTING trainers! Even when they speak in English it’s painful! So now we are both going to Sculpt and Roll twice a week and loving it.

As I think I have probably mentioned in prior blogs, we have known Joyce since Marc was12. She was his teacher in religious school and attended his bar mitzvah. She moved to New York, Marc attended Columbia; she made aliyah (to Israel) and he made aliyah so we have been in contact for some 40 years. We try to get together on our visits here to learn about her amazing projects.

Some of you in the Bay Area are familiar with her as a playwright and educator. She is currently translating books and reports from Hebrew to English for individuals and companies. She finds it rewarding and interesting. Sometimes she works with another woman and they trade translating and proof reading. Joyce will be working in LA in September and for the first time in the 32 years she has been in Israel, she will spend Rosh Hashana away from her home. For those of you Joyce fans in the Bay Area, she does expect to spend time there as well.

In Marc's neighborhood Arzei Habira
Lag Ba'Omer is a minor Jewish holiday that falls between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot 
pouring oil or kerosene
(see below). "Lag" is a combination of two Hebrew letters: lamed and gimmel. According to Hebrew numerology, lamed stands for the number thirty and gimmel stands for the number three. Lag Ba'Omer is celebrated on the 33rd day of Counting the Omer. I assume most of us know what Passover celebrates
but few of us know about LagBa’omer.

Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say no one is quite sure
what it celebrates. I have heard several different stories and the only really interesting story is what goes on in religious neighborhoods. For days and sometimes weeks before, children gather wood from all over and make a large pile. The holiday is celebrated at night with bonfires. We attended several with Marc and on our way home stumbled into one in Mea Shearim, the most religious area.  They were building a fire by pouring either oil or kerosene on a structure built of wire and something flammable

We stayed for about an hour fascinated with all the planning and work that went into this bonfire. Very religious men gave talks that we of course didn’t understand. It was amazing to be amongst all these black hatted and dressed yeshiva bochers as well as older men and some women. These are the people who do not allow anyone to take photographs and here I was clicking away, right in their faces. Not a one protested! Maybe LagBa’omer really means “it’s OK to take my picture!”

From the internet: Shavuot is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jews. The Talmud tells us that God gave the Ten
Commandments to the Jews on the sixth night of the Hebrew month of Sivan. Shavuot always falls 50 days after the second night of Passover. The 49 days in between are known as the Omer.
(see below for more photos)

Randomly walking on unfamiliar streets can sometimes reap nice surprises. We were admiring a large building from its front courtyard, a spectacular example of early Israeli architecture. It houses the Ratisbonne Monastery of the Salesian Community, the second largest Catholic Order in the world. From their website:” As a Salesian Priest our brothers are specifically trained to 'tune in' to the needs and interests of the young and they pay attention to their particular craving for understanding, love and guidance. Always young at heart, he becomes their friend!”  

We heard music coming from the back and a Filipina invited us to join the festivities in the yard. She treated us like dignitaries, not only bringing us chairs, food and drink, but various members of the Philippine community and a few priests and men studying for the priesthood in the seminary.

This annual celebration, Santa Cruzan, is observed in May by Filipinos all over the world. What was unusual about this group of celebrants, however, is that they are all caregivers, the only Filipinos allowed to remain in Israel. The immigration laws are pretty poor (like the US). As long as they are employed as caregivers they can stay but if they have a baby they must hide the baby until it is 5 years old or the child will be deported. If an adult returns to the Philippines, he or she will not be allowed to re-enter Israel. Our new friend has not seen her family in many years.

There were a couple of hundred attendees, the smallest in many years, including many young children. We stayed for the performances and just people watched. The outfits were incredible and most were brought from the Philippines. Some were purchased in the Christian Quarter of the Old City as there are many other Catholic holidays that call for these ruffled, very fancy dresses and mens and boys embroidered shirts. A small minority was dressed in everyday clothing.

We met two men studying for the priesthood one who had taught at Salesian High School in Richmond and the other in San Francisco. We met a (GP) doctor who has become enamored with this particular branch of Catholicism. And we met a couple of priests, one from Haiti via NY. All such warm and welcoming people!

As people started to leave we felt we could leave as well without being rude. Turned out we were there for over two hours! And here we were with two large shopping bags on our way to the shuk!

Chana Tsipora, nearly 10, wanted a sleepover with her grandparents. She came at dinner- time Thursday night with her father’s sleeping bag from when he was a kid.  She uses it at home too. We took her to a yummy Italian place in the Mamilla Mall—Luciana. It’s pretty amazing but of the numerous restaurants in the mall only a couple are not Kosher Mehadrin, the higher level of kashrut. They may be plain Kosher which is not Kosher enough for the Friedmans nor apparently for many other people in Jerusalem. I have noticed this trend all over the city.

On the way home we popped into the new Eden Gallery around the corner from our home.
Everything is very colorful and fun which is why we went in. Chansy proceeded to look at the various pieces and discuss with the art history student on the night shift why she thought certain art was by Israeli artists. He was floored as were we! She also noted what resembled a Picasso that she recognized because of the book I once gave the kids “When Pigcasso Met Mootisse. “

Chansy and Zayda enjoying a Nick Cage video.
Friday we took her to the Israel Museum to see “Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe.” She took numerous pictures! From the museum website: “From India to Tunis, New York to Baghdad: dresses, suits, wedding outfits, undergarments, and children’s clothing. A spectacular range of 19th to 20th century Jewish garments from around the world, offering a multi-cultural view of dress, its significance, and its influences on the styles of today.”

Beautifully presented and can be appreciated by men as well.

Chansy led us through the museum, stopping to look at certain things and not at others.  Through the eyes of a child is a very fun way to see a museum.. We will return to see the other shows at a later date. 

Outside in the sculpture garden, we came upon a very familiar site: 'Big Bambu'  by the Starn twins.
We had seen it on the roof of the Met in NYC in 2010 and were able to climb to the top. However, here it is still a work in progress and we could only marvel at it from afar. 

The artists have named the Jerusalem site "5000 Arms to Hold You".  Stats follow: 17 meters high, 10,000 bamboo poles, 80,000 meters of climbing rope, 25 rock climbers, 7 weeks, 350 hours and not a single architectural sketch. This is the fifth location and in each, "a unique creation draws inspiration from and is profoundly influenced by its surroundings and context."

Had a pretty full house at Batya’s; the 4 kids who live there and Zalman, Rivi 2-year-old Yael and
5-month-old Batsheva (translates to Daughter of Seven as she was born on Shabbat, the seventh day) plus very delightful American neighbors, He is a retired professor who was at Cal for a time and she is an expert on the Sociology of Law. She travels all over the world participating on panels and giving lectures. The babies are non-stop entertainment! Alexander joined us for lunch Saturday and he beat me 2 to 1 in 10 Days in Africa! Very fun and challenging game. Recommend as something to do with older grandchildren or even with other adults.

 “This Day in Jewish History May 22, 1930” —The Jerusalem Post
Harvey Milk, U.S.’s first openly gay elected official, is born

Do I need to tell you what a shocker this was to open up the English language edition and see this? We learned more from the article than from U.S. news!

Burning Man
Members of  Ein Vered moshav are creating their own Burning Man, Israel style. Called Midburn it is taking place in the desert near Mispe Ramon over the Shavuot holiday next week. There are about 300 people working nonstop on the festival. It involves building a temporary city. Fifteen trucks and two shipping containers full of equipment will be brought down to the desert, along with installations and artworks created by 40 different groups. Midburn has a foundation supporting its artwork, which has granted 150,000 shekels or over $550,000 to the artists. They have already sold 2000 tickets.

To read more, Google Burning Man in Israel and read Haaretz, Monday, May 26.

The Green Prince
One of the most fascinating documentaries we have ever seen. Based on the memoir “Son of Hamas,” it won the Audience Award for world films at Sundance. It is in accented English and hopefully the facts presented early in the film are translated into English for U.S. audiences! It was bought at Sundance and twill be released later this year.

Not only does the hero now live in California, he is studying to become a Yoga teacher. When asked by a reporter in Israel (he actually returned for the premiere) what he wished for, he replied, “A wish that I think I won’t regret is to see outside thousands of people in this region every morning practicing yoga.

And I think this will definitely bring a huge difference not only to the Middle East, but to humanity, to the world.” What a guy!

To read more, Google The Green Prince The Jerusalem Post, Sunday, May 25.

 Not exactly a tidbit but…The motorcade came up and down Agron, the entrance to our pieton, twice today and neither time did I get a photo! However, our journalist friend Stephanie who used to live across the alley traveled with the Pope for Le Monde. She and Lauren came for coffee this morning and fortunately she had taken photos at the Wall with her iphone!  (seems more personal than on TV or in newspapers!)

Teddy Park and Fountain
 Thanks to a tip from niece Jill in Philly, we visited Teddy Park tonight to watch the well-lit fountain opened in May, 2013. Built by the Jerusalem Foundation, Mayor Teddy Kollek’s (Jerusalem Mayor 1963-97) pet project, the fountain is open during the day and is known as the Beach in Jerusalem, Jerusalem being a landlocked city! At night between 8 and 9 there is a wonderful fountain show with music, nothing like Barcelona however! But then the backdrop is the wall of the Old City and you can’t beat that!

Kollek was called "The greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod."

Almost better than arriving there was walking once again on roads never travelled! This longer stay is allowing us to take our time and explore places we have never been, admittedly a better way to see a and get to really know a city!

And from Jill's mother, Auntie Mona, we have     

Two of the men in MeaShearim we would have been unable to photograph at any other time!

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