Saturday, October 27, 2012

Jaffa Tour Brings Back Lost Memories

Last week Dan took us on a guided tour to Jaffa. He told us many stories, showed us interesting places, one of them being the American-German colony, a tiny neighborhood I never knew existed, although I have heard about the Lutheran Emmanuel Church that hosts organ concerts.

The church brought back a long forgotten memory from 1976. Imagine Israel in 1976. Imagine Peter, then 22, coming to visit his aunt and uncle in Beer Sheba from communist Romania. There was no telephone connection and he could not tell his family when exactly he will be landing. He had no money and did not speak the language.

Next to him on the plane sat a Romanian speaking man originally from Braila.  He asked Peter whether anyone was waiting for him at the airport and found out about Peter's problem. The man's name was Baal Izidor and he was an employee of Emmanuel Church in Jaffa. He took Peter home from the airport, to 10 Hadoar street, Jaffa, where he lived with his wife and son, gave him dinner and a place to sleep. Next morning, after breakfast, he took Peter to the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, bought him a ticket to Beer Sheba, put him on the bus and told him to go to the watch shop in the Beer Sheba bus station, where the Romanian speaking shopkeeper (a friend of his) will further guide him to a local bus in Beer Sheba.

We could not find this man ever since to thank him for what he did. All we can do is tell this amazing story of divine providence sending a guardian angel in the form of a total stranger. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

NYC Vacation Aftermath

After several years of outdoors-style vacations, getting used to Manhattan's hustle and bustle took me some time. About 20 minutes. My jet lag wore off in a week.

Manhattan is both constant and changing (construction sites are only outnumbered by eateries), providing a different aesthetic experience every time I visit. My queen of style and aesthetics and hubby's cousin, Marion, and her family, made our stay especially enjoyable as we were able to spend quality time with them both in the city and at their lovely house in the Hamptons. Thanks to them, we stayed in a stylish Manhattan apartment, above their Tribeca business. Describing their kindness, lovingness and style is way beyond my writing talents, so I'll stop right here.

Since we already saw the city's major attractions, our program highlights this time were the High Line, the LongHouse Reserve (in East Hampton), 3 guided walking tours (highly recommended!), different markets, a Broadway musical, the NY Public Library and Bryant Park, a [too short] walk in Central Park, the South street sea port, the Frick Collection (a top aesthetic experience), and a bit of shopping. Left plenty of interesting sites for future visits. 

The most interesting part of any vacation abroad is human connection. Regular tourists usually only talk to hotel receptionists and waiters, very few talk to locals. We were lucky enough to dine with friends of our relatives and even visit one couple in their special East Hampton house. A sweet elderly lady sat next to me on a bench in Washington park and we talked. She recommended me a book I intend to order and read. Not surprisingly, she is Jewish and has relatives in Israel. Not surprisingly, because 3 million Jews live in NYC. One can live a peaceful Jewish life there at any observance level (was interesting to see a minyan in a corner of Grand Central), work less than in Israel, earn more, and not serve in the army for 3 years (with all the implied meaning). So why do Jews live in Israel and not in the USA?

One possible explanation is that Israelis are a bunch of masochists. Possible, but I think not.

If I'd be in my righteous mood, I'd say because we need to keep up (and continuously perfect) this country for any Jew who wants to come either because of persecution or antisemitism (now it's happening in France, but it can happen anywhere) or because of economical or Zionist reasons. True, but today I don't feel righteous.

There is this nationwide homeyness before and during Sabbath and holidays, even if you are secular like me. You don't feel different observing a holiday and don't have to explain to others what that is. You literally walk in the footsteps of our biblical ancestors. You get goosebumps when the guide prays in the Western Wall Tunnel at the place closest to the the Holy of Holies. All true, but not the entire story.

In Israel there is more to your life than the usual ingredients of personal happiness (family, work, friends, vacations...). Contributing to the unparalleled re-building of the Jewish homeland after 2000 years fills your life with true purpose and meaning. It's not always easy, even scary at times, but an experience unmatched by any amount of fund raising, donation or expression of solidarity (all very important). It's the real thing.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Criticizing Again

Although I promised in a previous post to leave politics to politicians and leave politics out of this blog, after much self-struggle I decided to learn about politics from the inside, and ultimately improve life in my country. As a modest beginning, I started volunteering for a new party of non-politicians, that seems trustworthy in their pursuit of a better life for the dwindling working, taxpaying, country-serving middle class. So now I am part of their local branch of volunteers, performing simple, administrative and field tasks. I enjoy being involved, although I started seeing 'signs' followed by the dilemma of whether to blog about them or not: criticizing the party in public could be counter-productive on the one hand, but an opportunity for improvement on the other.

The head of volunteering at the party's HQ came to our last branch meeting. He said what he wanted us to hear and left, without hearing what we have to say. He told us his rank in the IDF and asked about the military past of the younger men in the room (why on Earth is this related and why does this remind me of other parties?). He said that our branch is a challenge for the party because the lack of our political experience (isn't this what the party is about?) while at the end of the day this is the only thing that matters for achieving results. And the one and only result we have to achieve is X number of votes on election day. Nothing else counts. So we have to bust our asses for the 'competitive' people at HQ to land a job via the party or am I being too cynical here?

Let me tell you something, Mr. know-it-all: when you give orders in the army, the soldiers execute them, but this works 'a bit' differently with volunteers. I know from experience.