Friday, December 29, 2006

Monday - Leaving on a Jet Plane

On Monday morning the cab came at 7 AM to take me to the airport. That's what happens when you use a shared taxi - I was the first pick up. It gave me lots of time to reflect on leaving Yerushalayim. As we got on the highway and started towards the airport, I really felt like I was leaving a part of my heart in Yerushalayim. Libi B'Mizrach...

The check in counter wasn't even open by the time I got to the airport, but once it did open check in was smooth. I had lots of time until we boarded - went to both Michal Negrin stores (before and after security) and all the other duty free shops. This was the first time I took a daytime flight - not recommended. No one really sleeps and there is a lot of noise. Next time, night flights both ways. Shira & Eli VERY graciously brought my car to the airport so that I could go straight home.

Hard to believe I'm back. Trip was absolutely amazing.

Sunday - my last day

Sunday morning - woke up early as this was my last day of my trip. Kotel was much less crowded than it had been all during Chanukah. Everyone was back at work. There were large groups of chayalim (Israeli soldiers) at the Kotel, though. I think there were induction ceremonies, maybe?

After davening I went to Ben Yehuda for some shopping. Found this great store that had beautiful Michal Negrin knock offs for much less $! Back to Chanie's for lunch, then back to the Kotel for mincha. Finally bumped into Larry & Sandy K as they were about to leave, as well as Mrs. B-N. Chanie & I went out for dinner to Village Green (highly recommended!) where we saw Dina B (Baltimoreans manage to find each other wherever we go :)) We then had great fun dressing up the baby in the dress I bought her.

Friday & Shabbat

On Friday morning I woke up pretty early to go to the Kotel and get a start on the short day. It was Rosh Chodesh again so it was fairly crowded, even at 7:30 AM. Then went to Geulah for some shopping. Geulah was not the typical hustle and bustle when I got there, I guess it was still early for that, which was fine with me. I experienced all of that and many previous trips to Israel, especially my year in seminary. Picked up gifts for Chanie's kids and some things for Shabbat, including a candy arrangement for my friend Rochel (M) F's baby's Shalom Zachor. It worked out so nicely that she had her baby while I was in Israel so I was able to be there. After Geulah, I took a bus up to Machane Yehuda. There is nothing like the Shuk on Friday. One of my favorite places. Also not too crowded, as it was maybe only 10 AM or so. Wandered around, picked up a nice pomelo and some other produce and then walked all the way to the back to Marzipan for some famous rugelach. I also picked up a whole wheat challah there which was very good. Back to Chanie's to help her get the kids ready.

Shabbat in Yerushalayim is like nothing else in the world. After lighting all 8 candles (Zot Chanukah) and welcoming Shabbat, we took the kids to Rochel's so they could say shema with the baby before his bris. After dinner, we went back for the Shalom Zachor. It was great to be there for Rochel's simcha. On the way home it started pouring! First rain since I got to Israel and very late in the season. Shabbat morning it was still raining so I did not go to the bris, but it cleared up in the afternoon so I went to visit good friends Abish & Esti R and baby Shevi. Before I knew it, it was time for Seudat Shlishit and Havdalah. Chanie took me over to meet her friend Elana (W) R, who, it turned out, knows my roommate and other friends. What a small world!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday - Rosh Chodesh

Woke up early on Thursday to daven Shacharit at the Kotel - looong Chanukah/Rosh Chodesh davening, but special because I was at the Kotel. (Bumped into Genendal K on the bus on the way there--was so nice to catch up with her!) Then my favorite thing to do - wander around the Old City. Made my purchases at the Ahava store (very essential!) and found some cute things for my nieces and nephews, and as always, stumbled upon some very cool and funky art and jewelry shops. Bumped into Alyssa S (Elana's roommate). Then headed back for lunch with Chanie at Nina's in Ramat Eshkol. Did a little shopping there and treated the kids to hot cocoa and mochachinos for us. Later that day went to visit Abish & Esti R and baby Shevi, then Julia S, and then off to Efrat for a lovely dinner with the very gracious David (Treppenwitz) & Zahava B and Ariella & Gilad. We had a really nice time, especially playing Jewish Geography. So sorry have missed Yonah but I really look forward to spending more time on my next visit to Israel. Special thanks for the ride to & from, Dave! Then helped Chanie cook for Shabbas and off to bed - finally.

Wednesday - Visiting the forefathers

Adina & I met up in Yerushalayim and took a bus to Chevron (Hebron) and Ma'arat Hamachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs). I really wanted to go to Chevron so I was very happy that it worked out. Bumped into Donna & Sam W and boys on a tour. Was so nice to see them. Other passengers on our bus were Chana Ita K and her husband and baby, visiting for the week, as well. We got back to Yerushalayim a little before sunset so we ran up to Uri's Pizza for caramel sufganiyot. Now my trip was complete! :) After menorah lighting at Chanie's I went to Avi & Miriam H where the rest of the H family were gathered for a Chanukah party (with more sufganiyot!). Was wonderful to see all of them. Then Chanie & I went over to newlywed Nechamah R. She looks terrific and her apartment is adorable. Had a really nice visit there.
One observation I had on the looong bus ride to & from Chevron: All the Jewish cities in Israel are maintained so beautifully, there are flowers on the medians on the roads and things like that. When we passed the Arab towns, there was nothing like that. The neighborhoods look so bare and ugly. Hmmm...

Tuesday - Jam Packed Day

On Tuesday morning we headed to a bris, Chanie & Chaim's nephew Avromi married to Baltimorean Esti W. Was so nice to see Esti's mom, Chavi, and her cousin Dina. Then I headed to the Kotel for Shacharit. Saying Hallel there felt so good. Definitely a lot to be thankful for. Then met up with Uncle Aaron, Tanta Ronda & kids (and also their guest Ronit) for a tour of a new exhibit near the Kotel Tunnels. It is called The Chain of Generations Center. It was really beautiful and very emotional. Definitely recommended.

Spent some time in the Old City and then back to Chanie's. Bumped into friend Ruchama (S) F at the makolet (grocery store) and Chaviva (S) N on the walk back. Then headed to Ramat Beit Shemesh (the bus ride took forever!) to see Adina's nieces and nephews, and oh yeah, their parents too. Went out to dinner with Adina & Michal - wasn't too crazy about the place (sorry, Adina, I know it's your favorite) but we had a really nice time. Finally got back to Yerushalayim just as Angel's Bakery was closing, thank goodness ;). The bus let me off on Rechov Shmuel Hanavi so it was just a short walk to Chanie's. Luckily, the weather was beautiful for my entire trip (although I was adding the special tefillah for rain--Israel really needs it now) and walking through the streets at night was so beautiful and peaceful. Chanukiyot were still lit and many people light outside, on the curbside, so it was just nice to pass them all as I walked. There is nothing like Yerushalayim at night.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Monday--To Yerushalayim!

On Monday morning Ronda, Batsheva & I headed to Yerushalayim to meet up with cousin Malka and baby Yosef. Went out for lunch together and did some shopping in Meah Shearim. Bumped into Baltimoreans Adina F (aka Diana's Adina) and Essie G and also Malki B. (This is going to become a recurring theme, stay tuned) Ronda had to go pick up someone from the airport (the Modiin Motel never closes!) so I walked back to Chanie's and then took a cab to the Kotel to catch mincha (afternoon prayer services). Met Nechama & Zev S and also Rabbi & Mrs. R who were visiting. Adina had been there most of the afternoon so we stayed for Menorah Lighting. What an incredible experience. I could not stop the tears as I watched the menorah being lit at the holiest site in the world. (I took these videos)

After all the singing and dancing, Adina & I headed to a cafe that overlooks the Kotel to have some hot drinks since it had gotten very chilly. Then we parted ways and I went back to Chanie's for dinner.

Sunday at the Beach

On Sunday morning, Adina & I took a taxi to Ashkelon, to go to the beach. The weather was beautiful!

We had a great time there, then took a bus back to Modiin and Ramat Beit Shemesh, respectively, in time for candle lighting.

Later that evening, Ronda & I went to see Happy Feet. It was a really cute movie (and the Hebrew subtitles were funny).

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Arrival & Shabbat

After an uneventful flight on Wednesday night (shoutout to Shoshana who very graciously took me to the airport), I arrived in Israel (last visit was 5 years ago!) on the Thursday night before Chanukah. Adina P was a great travel buddy, eating my dinner and sleeping the entire time. :D She had the window seat, I had the aisle, and an Israeli guy named Ziv sat between us. Fun for him, right? ;) We were a little giddy at the start of the trip and I think he was a little nervous, but in the end there wasn't much conversation between us, being that Adina was unconscious for about 9 (out of the 10) hours.

Once we arrived, Adina headed to Ramat Beit Shemesh and my Tanta Ronda picked me up and we headed to Modiin.

It was wonderful to be back in Israel; I felt like I never left. Modiin has really grown since the last time I was there. It was very cool to be at the exact site of the Chanukah miracle on the actual holiday itself. As Airtime said, some things just go together. It was so wonderful to leave behind all the holiday zaniness in NY and be in Israel, where you can feel Chanukah in the air.

Ronda & Aaron's apartment (also home to the Chocolate Dreams Company) is really lovely. Since they made aliyah 6 years ago I have really missed the family gatherings at their home and it was really terrific to be there, especially for a chag. Finally met the newest family member, Shoko, the dog (my newest best friend ;)).

So sorry to have missed cousin G (he came home the following Shabbat) but hope to catch him when he is in the states. Cousins B & M have gotten so tall, I hardly recognized them! Ronda & I did some produce shopping that evening; the size of the fruit and vegetables is amazing! We bought sweet potatoes that were about 10 inches long! The owner of the store suggested we buy a fruit (can't remember the name of it--I think it's called Anana) that I was able to make a Shehecheyanu on.

Uncle Aaron had to go into Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) that evening so I went along for the ride and popped in to see Chanie N and meet baby Gitty. It was a really nice, impromptu visit. After about 1/2 an hour, Uncle A came back to pick me up and we headed back home.

On Friday I davened (prayed) on the mirpeset (porch) with the view of Harei Yehudah (Judean Hills), and then helped Ronda get ready for Shabbat, cooking all the yummy food, and shmoozing and catching up.

Former Baltimorean and current neighbor in Modiin, Elliot C stopped by with his daughter for an order of chocolate covered pretzels. Went out for a run and got see some more of the city and then lit the chanukiya and welcomed Shabbat.

Went to shul on Shabbat and met some of Ronda & Aaron's lovely friends and neighbors. Shabbat day was quite short and we had a nice little Chanukah party on Motzei Shabbat, with yummy levivot (latkes) and hot chocolate. Watched Yona & Tzvi's wedding DVD and was so sorry to have missed that special simcha last year. You could smell the oil from the menorahs and latkes wherever you went, it was really fun.

Beautifully Done Slideshow - Chanukah in Israel

I just saw this really nice slideshow with music, depicting Chanukah in Israel. It really gave me the chills; I still can't believe I was just there. Enjoy this preview of my trip!

Yes, I started a blog

For now, it will be to recount my amazing trip to Israel that I just returned from and who knows, maybe I'll continue it.