Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Today's events

Good evening. It's 9:15 pm in Israel as I write. I'm sitting in C's apartment, watching the last flickers of the shamash of her hanukkiyah flicker out. All of the candles in my hanukkiyah have already gone out. (A hanukkiyah is a Hanukkah menorah - a candelabra in which we light candles for each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah. We light one for each night + a "leader" candle, or shamash that lights the rest. If you want more info about Hanukkah, go to http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Hanukkah.htm).

In the background, I am watching Sky News (a British channel) and getting their view of the world. (C has cable, broadband internet and is an awesome and very very generous host! Lucky me!)

Today I visited a family I know who live in Ashdod, Israel. To see where that is on the map of Israel, look on the Mediterranean coast south of Tel Aviv. They were very kind and sweet to me (as are many Israelis - hospitality is part of the culture here). As an aside, I know that some of you have heard that Israelis are abrupt, tough and sometimes rude by American standards. True, but Israelis are like the sabra fruit (a cactus), tough and prickly on the exterior but soft and sweet on the inside. So, back to the family in Ashdod. They picked me up at the bus station there (It is pretty safe to ride the buses between cities - much safer than buses in the cities - there is as much security to get into the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem as there was when I got on my flight in Midwesternville to fly to New York and connect to Tel Aviv.) and then we went to their home in a neighborhood called Gan Yavneh which is about a 5-8 minute drive outside of Ashdod. They have a lovely home with front and back yard where they have a lemon tree, a pomegranate tree and some other trees. The grandma in the family and I chatted and then the kids came and said hello (14-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl) and the girl put on some music and danced for us. Very cute. The mom and the son prepared a sumptuous lunch of two salads (carrot & cabbage and also Israeli salad which is cucumber and tomato) (the veges here are so amazing - much more flavorable than any in the states unless you grown your own), cheese bourekas and mushroom bourekas (a savory pastry that are yummy), onion blinzes/crepes, avocado, fresh bread and salmon. Are you stuffed just reading? Salivating yet? It was topped of with a delicious fruit tea and cake and fresh dates. Yummy yummy. Wow. We then watched a CD of pictures of the family over the years. Nice.

Then, we went to walk by the Mediterranean Sea. The sea shone with the sun's reflection - bouncing the radiant blue sky polka-dotted with a few clouds. Before us lay a carpet of rich blues hemmed by white foam along the tan beach and a ribbon of ships along the horizon. From the corner of our eyes, we sensed movement and saw three men stripping to their boxers, preparing to swim (mind you the air temp was about 50 and the water about 60) - brrr. After gazing at the swells and the ships we walked along a park path and saw a memorial to the Sturma (read the story of the Sturma here) along with a number of beautiful statues, trees and flowers.

She then took me to the Ashdod Central Bus Station where I went through security and then purchased a ticket and waited with my two hostesses (the kids were by then doing their own things) for the bus. Here is an interesting tidbit about buses in Israel - you can pay the driver and get change back. Can you imagine a US bus/subway/train person making change for you as you board? Didn't think so. I rode the bus back to Jerusalem - a gorgeous drive through the farm-rich coastal plain up through the foothills and into Jerusalem.

Upon arriving again at the Central Bus Station and going through security to get from the bus back into the station, I spoke with a pharrmacist at an Israeli chain called "Super Pharm" to get some cold remedies and then I helped out the Israeli economy a bit with some purchases. The mall within the Bus Station was having a big party for Hanukkah with activities for kids, tarot readings, book tables, and costumed performers some of whom were distributing sufganiot (a filled donut that is one of the traditional foods for Hanukkah). It was so fun to see that atmosphere for Hanukkah and not Christmas (no offense to you who celebrate Christmas, I just don't see people in the states (especially the Midwest) do it for Hanukkah, mostly done for Christmas. It was fun.

I then walked back to the apartment, stopping along the way for some errands. Upon returning here, I talked with C, lit candles and made dinner. Now I'm talking with you.

Tomorrow promises to be a full and interesting day - more office volunteer work for Rabbis for Human Rights (http://rhr.israel.net/overview.shtml), a tallis-making workshop with one of my favorite creative Jewish ritual writers and a demonstration against the economic policy of the State of Israel (which is taking money out of the mouths of children to put it in the pockets of the rich - sound familiar?).

Well, this is long enough already and I need to do some other stuff, so I'll sign off for now.

Your sister survivor,

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