In 1991, the Dearly Beloved took me to Israel for the first time.
He wanted to show me all of the tourist sites that he remembered from his visits in the '80s. But I already had the seeds of aliyah sprouting in my soul; and I told him I wanted to spend our time experiencing the life of the residents. He's an understanding fellow; so, instead of showing me Masada, he let me drag him to the makolet. Instead of visiting the banks of the Yarden, we were sent from teller to teller in the banks of Yerushalayim. We visited families, and listened to them talk about what real life in Israel was like. It was just as beaurocratically ridiculous as everyone said. It seemed like an interesting challenge. When we got back to the States, I told my husband that I would take the time to be a tourist when I lived in Israel.
Over Shabbat last week, the Dearly Beloved informed me that it was time to make good on my 17-year-old promise. And that Sundays would be "tiyul day" for the two of us. After all, the kids get to go on tiyulim through their schools. It's not our fault we're too long in the tooth for yeshiva. And now we have these special bus passes for olim, that allow us to travel anywhere in the country (except Eilat) for a very reasonable price. Why not use them?
The first stop was a visit to one of our favorite bakeries, very near the tachana. The pastry is as good as is pastry everywhere in Israel. What makes this bakery special is Amir, who makes a great cup of cafe shachor, and treats everyone like a mentch. (Throughout my marriage to the Dearly Beloved, the guy who gets our money isn't always the cheapest. He is good at what he does, and treats us the way he would like to be treated.)
In 2005, I sat at my computer and watched, day after day, as the soap opera that would become the nightmare of Gush Katif unfolded. It was a surrealistic time; and the only people with whom I could relate on the subject lived in Cyberspace. More accurately, they lived all over the world; but we shared the need to "live" the Gush Katif drama at a depth most people around us couldn't seem to fathom. So we became an internet support group, holding virtual hands throughout the trauma. The Gush Katif Museum is tucked into Agrippas Street. We discovered it quite by accident. It is a stop we would recommend for every tourist. We expected a small museum, filled with facts and photos. There were those. The time line makes it painfully obvious that Israel has built herself, only to tear herself down at the world's insistence, many, many times. My favorite photos were of children. One was holding orange ribbons in each hand, stretched out to invisible hands outside the left and right frames of the photo. Another shows rows and rows of young soldiers. In the foreground, his back to us, is a tiny boy, offering a few cookies to the tenderly smiling soldiers in his chubby hand. We did not expect the poignant paintings, full of the intensity of the youth who stood their ground. Nor did we expect to spend an hour sitting together and crying. Whichever side of the argument you fell out on, you will find that the film is a fair representation of the good and bad on both sides of the struggle, and of some of the pain each side endured. I don't usually suggest that people take time to be sad... but there is a time for everything, as the wise king said. And there are, unfortunately, more events in Jewish life to which the expression "never again" must be appended, and repeated to ourselves, in full video sound and fury.
Well, after that, a little fun was certainly called for. We stopped into Emek Refaim at one of our favorite restaurants.
Look. My main job in this climate is to get a lot of water into each member of my family every day. You can see, by the empty water bottle at his right, that I was very successful.
Next week: Tel Aviv, and the quest for the wily Dancing Camel pub. Stay tuned.