Thursday, July 3, 2014



On our way to the airport in Tel Aviv last night I spoke with Benjamin and he told me to listen to the news. I could tell by his voice that the news was “lo tov” or not good. Let’s face it did anyone expect to hear good news?

Although it makes me very uneasy when I hear Marc counsel his children to be afraid of the Arabs and it saddens me that 19 year-old Ashira must somehow make sure a taxi driver is not an Arab before getting in, I have come to better understand what drives these feelings. It saddens me more, however, to read how the mother of one of the suspects whose other son was justly killed by Israelis vows to raise her grandchildren to be jihadists like their fathers. How can a mother not understand the anguish she is wishing on another mother? But I can tell you after being in Israel for 2 months, the last 17 days of which were taken up by the news of the kidnapping, life does go on tho our thoughts never strayed. Fear, anger, sadness, a little or a lot of all combine to create an atmosphere of living life to the fullest and coming together as a people even when the pallor of a tragedy hangs over all.

I am writing this from the UA lounge in Newark on our way home. I have now read the full article with all the gory details of howthe boys were executed and can only say how I feel for the families. No one should ever have to go through what they have been through. How and when will it ever end?

Bret Stephens, the former editor of the Jerusalem Post and currently on the staff of the Wall Street Journal has a piece in today’s paper I would like to quote. Please realize I wrote the above before I read his opinion in Global View. The title is “Where are the   Palestinian Mothers?”

“As for the Palestinians and their inveterate sympathizers in the West, perhaps they should note that a culture that too often openly celebrates martyrdom and murder is not fit for statehood, and that making excuses for that culture only makes it more unfit. Postwar Germany put itself through a process of moral rehabilitation that began with a recognition of what it had done. Palestinians who want a state should do the same, starting with the mothers.”

Following are some of the amazing events we recently attended, again in no particular order. As you will read, we spent a lot of time enjoying contemporary dance performances. There is no language impediment in dance!

Gal, the daughter of our youngest Hadera nephew, attends the Jerusalem Academy of Music and
Gal on left front
Dance, located on the campus of Hebrew University’s Givat Ram’s campus. She interrupted her studies to serve in the army and is now completing two years of study in one. Ashira, Talia, Gal’s parents and grandmother attended the end of year performance and we were blown away by the creativity of the students. I was surprised to see only one male amongst the dozen or so female dancers in her class. Gal spends a week or so with her mother, Yael, also a dancer and dance instructor, traveling to study dance in other countries.

Inspired by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the Israeli Ballet and the Mayumana Group presented a mind-blowing program at Sultan’s Pool, a very large stadium like venue between Yemin Moshe and the Old City Walls. Calling this a unique experience is putting it mildly!

Twenty-seven artists from both companies created a performance integrating the Israeli Ballet’s classic ballet techniques with the media and rhythm world of the Mayumana group. The outcome of the collaboration was some dancers on point in ballet shoes and some in black boots stomping to incredible rhythms, mostly at the same time. It also incorporated very strange as well as some recognizable musical instruments including a steel rope on one side of the stage that sounded like a gong when struck by a wild eyed, pony tailed male dancer swinging a bat like item! A picture is worth a thousand words so below are two photos. The entire performance was like nothing we had ever seen and defies further description. Remember the name Mayumana and if the group comes to one of your venues, GO!

On a Friday afternoon we took Ashira and Chana Tsipora to see this delightful play written by Broadway and off Broadway playwrights Bernie Kukoff, Lucile Lichtblau and Alan Gelb; music, lyrics and musical direction by Danny Paller, directed by Bernie Kukoff.

The name Lucile Lichtblau rang a bell and sure enough after finding her email in my contact list and contacting her, we finally figured out we are third cousins on our mother’s side. We had been in contact some years ago thru another cousin but had never finalized the answer till now. We will be getting together next March in New York after only meeting once as children in the 1940s.

The story line of Ah, Jerusalem concerns the Axelrod family consisting of parents and a teen-age
The dream!
daughter. During the night before a planned trip to Cancun, a religious relative appears to the father in a dream. He tells him he has two days to retrieve an important document and that the family must go to Israel. This singing, dancing play is a pure delight for all ages. The three main characters stay the same but the supporting cast of four does an amazing job of portraying important characters throughout Jewish history. And interacting with the family.

Sitting in chairs set up outside amongst the ancient stones of the Tower of David is a treat in itself as can be seen in the photos. The performance will continue thru August at 4pm on Friday afternoons. Highly recommend!

The sign outside the Y
Yale University in New Haven, CT, is known for its a cappella chorus. Two dozen men take a year off school between their junior and senior year to travel the world giving about 200 concerts. The Whiffs, as they are known, started as a quartet in 1909 at Mory's Bar. Many of you are familiar with this well known song that they always include in their concerts.
To the tables down at Mory's, to the place where Louis dwells
to the dear old Temple Bar we love so well
sing the Whiffenpoofs assembled, with their glasses raised on high
and the magic of their singing casts its spell

The current chorus holds tryouts and chooses the group for the following year. What made this particular concert at the YMCA special is a past member leads the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus. It is composed of both Jewish and Palestinian teens who enjoy their time together so much that some of them have created their own quartets within the larger group. They sang along with the Whiffenpoofs and it was a joy to behold. Notice that the men are in tuxes and the kids are in normal teen clothing!

The men remained in the lobby both before, during intermission and after to talk with people. What incredible singers and shmoozers! Both groups give one hope for the future of young people today.

Daniella, 17; Jennifer and Simone, 15
Sometimes it pays to make last minute plans. We wanted to say goodbye to our Hadera family and a few days before our departure called to say we could come but must return the same evening. The best bus route was through Raanana so Jennifer and the girls met us at the bus station for an hour at a nearby café. Cousin Ilan picked us up and we arrived in Hadera before dinner. As always, dinner miraculously appeared. Best of all, Aunt Bruria looked great and even smiled for pictures. Her three sons came and some of their kids. And all this planned that day!

Located in Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, this most unusual museum is the setting for various children’s programs as well as Dialogue in the Dark and Invitation to Silence. The day before we left, Batya drove Ashira, Talia, Chana Tsipora and me to visit the Dialogue in the Dark…Another family of four joined us for this 90 minute tour in the dark led by a 37 year old man who is 95% blind. His shtick was hilarious and especially great for kids of all ages (for ages 9 to 120).

We were offered canes but told they are better for outside and feeling with ones hands is better inside. Ilan walked ahead and told us to follow his voice and on which side we would find a railing or a wall or a seat. We walked through a forest, a fruit and vegetable market where we handled real fruits and vegetables, a city with all the noises of a city.  We felt our way along walls, laid on a carpeted floor for 10 minutes listening to music and noises of all sorts, felt our way to a bench which then became a boat on water with all the attendant motion and noises of being on water. We ended with a visit to a café where we were offered drinks and snacks and had to pay with the coins we were told to bring with us. (All other items, including glasses, were stored in lockers ahead of the tour).

We all sat on a bench with a table and Ilan faced us discussing what it is like to be blind. We were encouraged to ask him questions and found out he became blind in college at the age of 26. It was discovered he had a gene that caused it although it is not a transmittable genetic condition. He completed his masters in English and is a schoolteacher with an incredible upbeat personality. He imparted words of wisdom and answered anything thrown at him.

The girls take turns wearing Grandma's hat!
Of course we had no idea what he looked like until the tour concluded and as you can see by the photo, he looks quite normal. His eyes are clear with some movement. I am sure the kids in his classes love him. Actually he told us that sometimes they don’t move when the bell rings and he has to remind them that class is over.

This too is a highly recommended venue and I look forward to visiting the other programs on future trips.

A few years ago we went with Philippe, Jennifer and the kids to the Deaf - Blind Acting Ensemble show Nalaga’at in Jaffa. It too is highly recommended. The group has performed in N,Y, London and South Korea. It is amazing what people can accomplish by facing and dealing with their infirmities.


Yvan told us that this yearly event is one of the most fun things we could attend. It happens on a Thursday in June as many people have Friday off. We arrived late afternoon to the hotel I found on line. It was the right price in a good location and I loved the name: Diaghalev. Our first reaction when walking in was to say, oh, it’s like the Art Hotel in Tasmania. There was art everywhere and I recognized one of the artists as being a graffiti artist we saw on the graffiti tour. His childlike work was on exhibit in the lobby as well as in our room. Our accommodation was quite delightful with a large living room, comfortable furniture, great light, and bedroom with a comfortable bed. Free wifi too! Next time we hope to be able to stay for a couple of nights to explore more of Tel Aviv.

We walked along Rothschild Boulevard, the main street with the trees and walkway down the middle. There were strollers and bicyclists and music and dancing and crowded restaurants on into the night. The Tel Aviv museum was open till midnight as well.

Although nearly all the entertainment is free on White Night, I purchased tickets to two shows: the first, a dance concert by the Bat Sheva Dance Ensemble, the younger members of the oldest and most well known Israeli company.  Some of the movements were quite similar to Gal’s dance program but rougher—A lot of pushing and shoving and rolling on the floor. Also half the company is male and they interact with each other as do the females and also males and females. I am still trying to figure out the meaning of the photo below. The female stripped and the male painted her body but there was no dancing involved. She did read something poetic to the audience however. And dancers have a way of moving that makes them look like they are walking on air!

Outside the Suzanne Dellal Dance theatre in Neve Zedek, there was a band with a very exotic dancer. We watched women of all ages trying to emulate her, a very humorous sight!

We took a taxi to the other side of the city to attend the Midnight Concert at the Israeli Opera. It started at midnight and ended at 3 am and was glorious! A dozen females in beautiful gowns and several males with only one male accompanist sang famous arias plus popular songs from Broadway shows. Many people left as the hours went on but we didn’t want to miss a minute.
The latest performers at 4 am taking a bow.

We slept from 4 am to 11 am and went to the sister hotel around the corner called The Rothschild for a fabulous breakfast! The décor was also fabulous but very different. The manager explained it is more upscale and more expensive. Again walked on the boulevard to buy our favorite Israeli chocolate and of course ice cream since the weather was definitely conducive to something cold.

We returned to Jerusalem by sherut (the 10 passenger van for 26NIS per person). That night was our last Shabbat. We spent it with the kids at Marc’s. Zalman, Rivi and the girls as well as Alexander joined us for a nice farewell. Yael, 2, and Batsheva, nearly 6 months, provided the entertainment.

photo by Talia
As always we end Shabbat with a Havdalah service. Marc lights the special candle, passes around the cup of wine, we smell the spices, and say the prayer. Talia captured her father as I have never succeeded in doing! The next generation is producing even more /better photographers!
photo by Talia

Our two months went by too quickly. To answer those who asked if I could have stayed longer, the answer is yes. However, it is difficult to leave friends and Cal basketball and Berkeley Rep. The symphony and ballet are replaceable but basketball and theatre are not. For some strange reason most theatre is in the language of the country! Can’t imagine ever being that fluent starting so late in life.


Weekly folk dancing at First Station; several hundred people.

Tel Aviv shuk area
Some signs make me laugh!
Arab owner went to U of A. Store in Old City shuk.
A little bit of heaven 5 min from house. Pedi, mani same time!
Are they kidding?!

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