Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shabbat in Jerusalem - AKA It is Raining Batz and Dogs!


I feel as if it has been forever since we have spoken and I'm ready to rock this blog after such a Shabbat!

Let's slow it down first... It is, after all slightly after 2am and I am wound up. Okay. Breathing.

Yesterday (Friday) was an interesting day. It rained. Was VERY cold, and rained some more. The high temperature made it all the way to 48f and it kept me inside until Shabbat.

Actually, I was kept inside until after Shabbat began by a terribly upsetting conversation that I had with a friend (?). I finally signed off and went to Shul. I should have been there on time, but I let this person get to me and instead of following my own rules on this trip, I let it beat me up. Once I heard the Cantor's voice for Kabbalat Shabbat; His voice and kavannah, the meaning in his voice, made it all go away, and let Shabbat come into my week. I needed that.

Speaking of Shabbat and Kavannah, I have got to say that the Prayer Leader this morning, Ahuva Batz was without a doubt, the single most inspiring Baalat Tzibur I have ever prayed with. During the Torah Service, the first word of her שמע, was both loud, strong and LONG. One word. SHEMA................ Yisrael, etc... HEAR..................... O' Israel. Goosebumps. Period.

כל הכבוד אהובה. ממש. If you are reading this, you were amazing.

Let's talk about new friends and the meaning of Shabbat. The wonderful couple that celebrated 64 years of wedded bliss on Thursday invited me to lunch at their apartment. Homemade soup, roast, potatoes, veggies... What a feast! Thank you, Harry and Annie!

More Amazing------- After the afternoon and evening prayers this evening, I enjoyed a night of dinner and conversation with two Rabbinical students and a Cantorial student studying at the Conservative Yeshiva. Oh what a night! Jason, Gella and Frani, you guys are the best! I told you that we'd be forever friends. I meant it. And we will be.

Jerusalem is truly an enchanting city. It is, as we all know, home to three major religions and we are all able to live in peace and harmony. She will take a hold of you, if you let her, and is capable of filling your soul with much needed spiritual nourishment, as only Jerusalem is capable of providing. The warmth of her residents is but a small part of the attraction. It is indeed very easy to feel that
G-d is here. Everywhere.

Tomorrow will be a day to visit mountains. Scopus, Olives and my favorite, Mt. Herzl, where I will pay tribute to our fallen soldiers and old friends.

לילה טוב ושבוע טוב מהמושבה הגרמנית, ירושלים
Good night and a good week from The German Colony, Jerusalem.

Ahavah uVrachot..
Love and Blessings...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It was evening.... and It was Morning.... Day One

After a quick trip to the Super-Sol (Hebrew for Super Basket Grocery Store) last night, filling the apartment's small bar-fridge with Salami, Pastrami, Turkey Breast, "Real" Hellman's and a loaf of bread; Bag of chips and FANTA (c) ORANGE, I made my way back to the little apartment on Hanania, took in a breathing treatment and got a really good night of sleep.

At 6:15 this morning, Dylan, my son the superstar performer, called to tell me something about Penelope (my car, which he has named). Something about taking "her" somewhere. Honestly, I was just thrilled to hear his voice, and would have been no matter what he had to say.

By 7:15, I was at Moreshet and in Rabbi Shlomo's morning Minyan. After meeting a few people there, all of which speak better English than I do, and all of whom have lived here for many years, I headed next door to the Conservative Yeshiva and a Talmud class with the well known and very dynamic Rabbi Pesach Schindler.

Rabbi Schindler is a smallish man with a somewhat heavy New York (Long Island, as opposed to Brooklyn) accent and incredibly blue eyes, who not only teaches, but asks his students to teach him. Afterwards, he invited all who had studied with him, roughly twenty of us, to join in a Kiddush in honour of a couple who was celebrating their 64th wedding anniversary. Their names are Harry and Annie Allen, formerly of Lincoln, Nebraska. I wish them happiness until 120!

Ben Yehudah Street has changed tremendously.

It is now a walking mall, with shops and eateries on both sides of the steep up and down block, and English (READ: American) speakers EVERYWHERE. I'm not sure that I may have heard five or seven words of Hebrew. I did, however, hear a lot of Russian, French and Brooklyn.

Burger King is Kosher; So is McDonalds. But, THE place to be and be seen is Aroma. Akin to Coffee Bean or Starbucks, Aroma has wireless internet and it is from here that I am now blogging at 1:40 in the afternoon.

Aroma is a relatively large place for Jerusalem; meaning that one could fit 22 of them inside one Coffee Plantation in Phoenix. There are three or four round three top tables with umbrellas outside and 9 small rounders inside, all with bright orange chairs. At one table sits a Chassid and a younger (obviously non-religious) man; while at another a businessman and in the far (10 feet from me) corner, a seemingly attractive woman of maybe 35, eyes hidden behind sunglasses eats a large salad and keeps to herself as a group of ten or so soldiers walk by on the sidewalk outside laughing as they go.

Eviyatar and Anir just came in to Aroma. I saw Anir first, so, I must first tell you about her. She has huge round beautiful eyes and brown hair. She is wearing a pink jumper and she owns a magnificent smile. She is a couple weeks older than Eviyatar, and it is rumored that there is a match already made by their respective families. Eviyatar is all man. A solid twelve or so pounds of muscle and a wisp of blonde hair that can barely be seen under his hoodie. If you haven't yet caught on, Eviyatar and Anir are three months old. And, they are our future. May G-d bless them and keep them safe, healthy and in his close thoughts. They are Jerusalem. They are our hopes and our prayers.

Binyamin HaMalach Moalem told me in a heavy Tunisian accent that he is 60 years old. And then he laughed. My money would place him at least twenty years older, but what is age anyway?

As I was walking toward the Kotel (The Western Wall), I was greeted by Binyamin who asked me if I would like some company while walking to the Wall. We walked, and he talked and told me that this exercise is how he stays fit at his age. We walked through the Market, which has not changed and as we walked, and as we talked, it occurred to me that I had not stepped foot inside this place in nearly 25 years. And, in twenty five years, each and every shop seems to be exactly as I remembered.

The only difference that was noticeable to me about the area around the Wall is the presence of metal detectors.

You ask about my experience at the Wall today? All I can say, truly, is that I was and remain so overwhelmed by emotion, that my thoughts will have to wait until I visit there again. Tomorrow.

Many poets have written about this City of Gold. Many singers have sang her praises. Tonight I am feeling just so blessed to be here at all, that sometimes, less is more.

לילה טוב מירושלום
Good night from Jerusalem.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Going (Coming) Home – Night One - Arrivals

This has been, if you haven’t figured it out yet an extremely crazy time. Not just the trip, but everything leading up to the trip, including, but not limited to turning down not just one sub assignment (Hebrew High, with my rock-star students, all of whom are either friends of my sons’, or my sons, themselves), but to have to turn down my KDS day school kids hurt worse.. Of course, I had a good excuse. I had a plane to catch.

After almost two years without airports; After almost two glorious years without , former rocket scientists and former burger flippers who now are employed by you and me and wear the blue shirts of the TSA; And, after almost 25 years of being away, I am finally on my way. On my way home.

Not to the home I grew up in; not to the town where I was raised; yet, home. The only home that we as Jews have, and will always have – The land of our forefathers; of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I suppose that for once I can choose the high road and be politically correct and save a few dirty looks my way if I am bold enough to add in the names of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. There! For all you doubters who said that I would never recite those names after the names of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I just did!

Although I really do hate doing this, I must regress, if for only a one minute groaner: Have I ever told you about the one evening at Hebrew High when only four or five students had come to class on time? Two fresh women (I AM being politically correct) bounced in almost twenty minutes into my class and announced that they were Rachel and Rebecca. Immediately, and without missing a beat, I asked…. So? Where are Sarah and Leah?

I have dreamt for years about the next time that I would board an airplane in New York and awake to see the Isle of Cypress beneath me – Meaning of course, that Tel Aviv was only an hour away, or less. I was initially disappointed to find that my seat was 2-B, on the aisle, for only one reason: I would not see the shore as quickly if I were on the aisle. When the lead flight attendant saw my portable oxygen apparatus, however, I was moved forthwith to seat 2-A and the window is now mine.

We have been in the air now for two hours and twenty-eight minutes, and in New York it is 1:26am. In Jerusalem, where I hope to find what it is I seek, it is now 8:26am. We are scheduled to land at 4:20pm. Less than eight hours to go…

We did land at 4:20, and as I had predicted, the sight of the coastline hit be like a brick.
The new terminal at David Ben Gurion International Airport is quite impressive. The truth though, is that after this many years, it is all impressing me, and exciting me at the same time.

The apartment is cozy and comfortable. For the next week, it is home.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

This Week in Jerusalem! Could it really BE?

Here we are. It has come to this. 42 hours and counting. Tick-Tock. Tick- Tock.

Every year, around the Pesach Seder table, the last thing that we say together is "Next Year in Jerusalem". Do we really ever believe it when we say it? Doubtful.

For several months now; almost since the time that I really knew that I was going to make it and survive, I have had a feeling of some loss. Not a bad loss, mind you, but a loss nevertheless.

Maybe not so much as loss, as a yearning. An unfulfilled want; a desire so strong that mere words alone cannot begin to describe the emptiness of having left something of oneself somewhere so many miles away, that the simple thought of going to look for it after over twenty years deems it impossible. Or does it?

The loss of which I am speaking; The yearing; The burning desire and absolute necessity to go to now find what I have misplaced well over twenty years ago is so apparent, and has seemed so very unattainable, that I felt unable to ever be able to locate it, let alone, grasp it, hold it and return it to its rightful place; Within me.

The object of which I speak is simply, a piece of my soul. A part of my Neshama. Part of my very essence and being; Some of G-d's light that was bestowed onto me from HaShem himself forty-seven plus years ago.

In 1984, I left it somewhere safe. I left it in walls that speak to us in sing and prayer. I left it in the City of David. ירושלים של זבה. Jerusalem of Gold.

As I prepare now for my final night in my own bed for a few weeks, I will finish making final "i" dotting and "t" crossing, before walking onto a jet tomorrow headed east, and from there, and after a day long respite in my favorite City in the world, I will board a silver and gold eagle that will take me home. Home to Jerusalem. To reclaim that piece of my soul that was left there so many years ago.

I look forward to sharing each and every step with you over the next few weeks, and welcome your thoughts and comments.

B'Shalom, uB'Ahava... With Peace and Love...