You are so nice to keep looking for me. I am fine; better than I’ve been all year. I’ve just been lazy about writing. Spent much of the last eight months doing leg exercises to counteract my arthritis. I have also lost 27 pounds and am working on losing 10 or 20 more. I am no longer in pain, I can walk normally, and haven’t opened the Tylenol bottle for the last couple of months. I had a wonderful birthday celebration last month. Instead of giving me gifts, I asked my guests to make a donation to the Israeli volunteer organization, Road to Recovery, that helps West Bank Arab children get to hospitals in Israel. Here is a video that tells all about it.
You can learn more about them at http://www.roadtorecovery.org.il/
I’ll tell more about my celebration in my next post, which I promise will be soon. I have to get pictures from Robin and she’s out of town this weekend.
Yona is grandma on Wednesday. She put me on the train to TA and went to her brood. I went, first to Museum Haaretz, museum of the land, where I saw two excellent exhibits. Israelis are amazing in their support of the arts and there is a thriving contemporary art scene here, especially considering the country is the size of New Jersey with about the same population. The first exhibit was unusual things made of paper: creased, folded, rolled, cut, shaped, made into books and made out of books. Very inventive.
The second exhibit was fiber art, again unusual creations all made by Israeli artists. The variety almost equaled Fiber Arts International in Pittsburgh, which draws entries from all over the world.
I had lunch in the museum cafe, tuna Nicoise, a nice change from all the hummus and other salads. From there I went to the Tel Aviv Art Museum, which was not as interesting to me but I was getting very tired. There is some contemporary photo and video shows, lots of 18th and 19th C. painting, and a display of miniature rooms. I have to find out more about them as a 19th C. interest. The knee finally got me. It bothers me less, but is still stiff and painful at times.
I got back on the train then took a taxi to Yona’s son’s home and got to see all three kids along with the brown and white dog who shed all over my black jacket. We then had a light supper in a Japanese restaurant.
My last day here is perhaps the most interesting. I’ll write when I get home. I leave at midnight tonight.
I remained in Jerusalem on Sunday night so I could meet with another old friend, Janette, on Monday morning. The weekend had been rainy and cold but Monday was lovely again. We spent time walking and talking, catching up on the several years since we were together. I saw her new apartment in a senior living place, we went to lunch and finally to an informal Hebrew conversation class she holds for three American women. It did not improve my Hebrew.
Temporarily swearing off taxis I took a bus to the central bus station, another bus to Tel Aviv, then the train to Netanya, where Yona met me at the station. It felt like coming home.
This morning, Tuesday, we went to Haifa to see the exhibit I couldn’t find last week. The exhibit was in Carmel Center, halfway up the mountain. Not being sure of the way up Yona stopped a couple of people for directions. The second man said he was going there, so he got in the car and directed her. Very Israeli.
After another Israeli-Arab salad lunch we went on an unusual excursion. Yona is a volunteer driver helping sick Palestinians, particularly children, cross the border to reach Israeli hospitals for treatment. This service is provided at no cost. At the hospital in Haifa, we picked up a mother and baby and another mother with a very sick teenage boy who could barely get into the car, although he was the one who directed Yona about where to drive. The women said nothing. We took them to the checkpoint nearest their homes where we entered easily by giving the boy’s name and they were met by their families. Yona also gave a donated computer to the boy. You can read more about the volunteer group at http://www.roadtorecovery.org.il
Breakfast in this hotel has been wonderful. There is fresh squeezed joice, cold cereal, fruit, salad items, good coffee, expresso or cappuchino, sweet pastries, yesterday an assortment of pizzas, today a salmon fillet, and a cheese board. I don’t eat most of it but it was fun to look. Coffee is wonderful here and I’ve been drinking too much of it. One cup only, tomorrow.
Today I went to Moshav Yishii, near Bet Shemesh, to visit the cousin whose grandchild’s picture, playing in the sun, inspired me to come here. I had not seen Davida for 30 years. We had a great time reminiscing and looking at old pictures and new ones of her children and grandchildren who were not at home. Davida keeps animals: horses, dogs, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, pheasants and a camel and a peacock. School groups come here to learn about the animals and play with some of them in her petting zoo.
Monday morning I will see my friend Janette then return to Yona in Hofit.
Pampering myself, I took a taxi from Hofit to Jerusalem: expensive but easy and comfortable, and I had enough buses for awhile. I am staying, for 3 nights at the St. Andrews Scottish Church guest house–inexpensive but comfortable and nicely located. My knee is much better, the warmer weather having had a miraculous effect, and I was able to take a long walk through the German Colony with its many wonderful old buildings, shops and coffee houses. The weather began to change, with rain and cold predicted for the weekend. I bought a banana, a persimmon, an orange and some cashews for a light lunch and returned to the hotel.
All of my friends, except Yona, live in Jerusalem, so I am visiting one family each day. Shabat dinner (Friday night), was a boisterous family event with Elliot, Yaffa, two daughters, sils, three grandchildren and lots of good food. I can’t remember when I’ve been with so many small children. Elliot is Steve’s cousin. He and I did some business together back in New Jersey and I hadn’t seen him for several years. It was fun to see everyone but much of the conversation was in Hebrew and was impossible for me. I am not happy in an English-speaking crowd, let alone one where I know only about a fifth of the words and can’t always understand the accents. I suspect one of the sils doesn’t know much English and that was the problem. I spent the time watching the kids.
Saturday morning I met Shalmit and Noya, her nine month old daughter, at the Israel museum. Shalmit was in Pittsburgh studying Japanese art history when she became part of my family, so Noya is like my great grandchild. We didn’t look at much art but spent the day talking while I played with Noya. Great fun; she’s a lovely baby. And even though it has become quite cold here I was able to walk the whole day without much pain.
I must admit I didn’t prepare for this trip the way I do for Japan. But I made up my mind to go about 10 days before and it took me three days to decide on a flight. So, relying on Yona, the fact that I’ve been here before and that I can read Hebrew, albeit slowly and painfully, I came without doing any planning. Not good.
Robin asked me to go to an exhibit in Haifa and Yona was busy with a grandchild so, complete with detailed instructions from her, I got on the bus and went to Haifa. I have spent a lot of time in Haifa but most of it was 45 or 50 years ago. I had just faint twinges of memory. And I neglected to carefully examine the notice, in Hebrew, about the exhibit.
Two buses and I was exactly at the place I needed to be. No one knew anything about it–not in English and not in Hebrew. No exhibit. Later we found out it won’t open until Sunday; maybe I’ll go back on Monday.
Plan B was a museum of Japanese Art–the only one in the Middle East and more or less walking distance. Of course that was on my list. The main exhibit was snow prints, which I could thoroughly enjoy in this land of sunshine. And they had Chushingura pictures by an artist I never heard of. I suspect this is just a spelling difference but I haven’t had a chance to look him up. If I could afford to collect Japanese prints, these are what I would get. This exhibit made me very happy.
Finally, tired and hungry, I stood in a bus stop and a taxi read my mind and pulled up. We had a good discussion about lunch places and he took me down to the port and I had lunch overlooking the Mediterranean.
Lunch is the big meal here; generally much more than I want to eat. It began with 15 small dishes, almost like salads: hummus, tahina, carrots with cumin, beets, pickled cabbage, egg salad, macaroni salad, some yummy but unidentified veggies and pita with butter and garlic. I never ordered an entree, and to hell with the diet.
Then I got on the wrong bus and had an unexpected tour of Haifa, finally getting back to Yona’s after the flaming red ball of the sun sank into the sea.
After my 79th birthday last May I started to think about becoming 80 and what it might mean. First, let me say I know a number of people in their 80’s, and older, who are doing just fine. But, in the past, I knew many who weren’t fine, or were already dead, and the prevailing stereotype is 80 is old old. Should I stop traveling? Should I stop driving? What does it mean to be 80?
Added to that my knees have been bothering me for months and the pain makes me feel very old. I had cortisone shots in July that helped enormously–no pain for months. But while I was walking around in the bitter cold in New York City something happened to my right knee and I’m suffering again. I have been going for physical therapy and doing exercises religiously. I joined Weight Watchers just before Christmas and lost 11 pounds, so far. Still suffering. Finally I decided that 80 was just the day after 79 and my real problem was the terrible cold weather and snow and ice in Pittsburgh.
I am writing this from Israel where it is warm and sunny and I’m feeling better–not great, but better. And my friends, Yona and Arik, are treating me like a queen, so this my not count as traveling alone.
I’ve been to Israel many times in the distant past, but this is the first time in, probably 30 years. I am amazed at how the country has grown and changed. The roads and highways are wonderful and there are cities replacing the sand, shrubs and a few shanties from before.
Yona picked me up at the airport on Monday and I saw only the view from the road, but that was amazing enough. I postponed my collapse from jet lag long enough to play with Yona’s three grandchildren. The youngest seemed to be fascinated with me until I told her, in Hebrew, that I spoke only English. That was the end of our relationship. Actually, I am amazed at how much of my very scant Hebrew has come back to me.
Today we went to Ceaserea where there has been extensive excavation of the port city built by Herod during Roman times and a large, newly constructed, modern city.
From there, we went to Atlit to see the prison camp built by the British to incarcerate the Jewish refugees who had survived the Holocaust and were trying to enter what was then Palestine. These people, who had no place to go and were welcomed nowhere, went from Nazi concentration camps to remarkably similar British concentration camps. Imagine the terror. Once the state of Israel was proclaimed by the UN, all of the Jewish refugees from Europe were welcomed along with a huge number of Jews from Arab countries who were forced to leave their homes.
We had a late, excellent lunch in a restaurant in the Arab village of Ein Hud and that was the end of my day. Wiped out and jetlagged.
I am taking pictures but I don’t think I will be able to post them until I get home. I replaced the cursed Asus with an iPad mini and I haven’t figured out how to get the photos onto the mini. Nothing like new technology.