I am sitting here in a luxurious hotel room with the balcony door wide open, thoroughly enjoying the sounds of the Mediterranean and the fresh breeze. Yesterday I shopped all over the place for a birthday present for myself, and found nothing I wanted that could properly commemorate this adventure. But tonight, as I stood on that balcony and watched the last of the sun kiss the turquoise waves, I knew that this was God’s birthday present to me. All of it, not a silly souvenir, but the whole of it, every drop of these eighteen days.
Once again, “my” day did not go at all as planned, but was more exquisite than I could have imagined. Continue reading
(Monday morning, November 30, 1998 – my birthday!) – Kfar Blum
The rest of Shabbat was pretty hard. During Shabbat lunch, the wait-staff completely ignored me. I felt isolated, terribly alone. I wrote Dubi (the General Manager of Kfar Blum) a note about my experience.
Sunday night when I returned from my daily adventure, I found a bottle of wine and an apology from Dubi. He wrote that he realized they needed to be more attentive to people traveling alone. My bad experience will be worth it if it translates into genuine concern for women like me in the future.
I spent most of Shabbat wandering the kibbutz grounds. It is a fascinating place, Kfar Blum. Bordered on one side by the Jordan River, life is simple here. Children play in nice but un-fancy spaces, wide open, inviting, low-tech. They have a swimming pool, not Olympic size, but big enough. Continue reading
(Saturday morning, November 28, 1998) – Kfar Blum
I fully expected to be sitting in the Kfar Blum shul at this time. I ate breakfast – a little late, but it felt good to sleep in – and walked over to the synagogue. I’d known Kfar Blum was a fairly secular kibbutz, not unusual, and I had already seen how small the synagogue was. I had wondered what they do on High Holy Days. Is it that secular? Maybe it has stayed “truer” to the roots of the kibbutzim than most.
But I did not go in. The door is behind the bima, so you enter facing the congregation. Maybe if I could speak Hebrew, I would be a bit bolder. I stood outside for a while, and when I heard only male voices, I turned around. Even in this secular place, the religious are apparently Orthodox. Continue reading
(Thursday night, November 26, 1998) – Ein Gedi to Kfar Blum
Happy Thanksgiving! It seems odd saying that in a place where it doesn’t even feel like Thursday. But, it was another day with a unique fingerprint.
Once again, I slept badly on the hard, narrow beds at Ein Gedi. The bed is so narrow, it forces you to sleep flat on your back, not curled up on one side. I cannot fall asleep that way, so it makes for a miserable night. [2012 note – this is likely the reason Ein Gedi has discontinued that inexpensive, spartan room!]
When I started the drive through the West Bank, I was extremely nervous. Continue reading
(Wednesday night, November 25, 1998) – Ein Gedi kibbutz
As tours and rush-rush vacations go, this day would have been a wash. No energy – I woke up with a headache and a little sick to my stomach. I did not sleep well at all last night; the hard, narrow bed kept me tossing and turning. Someone told me that the Ein Gedi kibbutz preserved a bit of the spartan nature that the early kibbutzniks endured (although I have to believe that they would have deemed my hard, narrow bed luxurious), as a reminder of how this land was settled.
A group of Moroccans is staying here, and they sang and danced outside until the wee morning hours. At first, I loved hearing them, their drums punctuating the night air with hard rhythm. But by 2 or 3 o’clock this morning, their celebration wasn’t quite as enjoyable. Continue reading
(Tuesday night, November 24, 1998) – Ein Gedi kibbutz
Every day is a new fingerprint on my life, unique and unmistakable.
There have been so many things “scheduled” over the last week that I woke up this morning thinking I needed to hurry. When I realized that nothing, but nothing, was urgent, I went back to sleep and didn’t eat breakfast until a little before 9. Continue reading
It was so hard leaving Jerusalem. I stood at my window in Room 11-Chai and drank in the Old City one last time, memorizing stone on stone as best I could. Even as I write these words, I think the scene in my mind, again.
I felt like I was leaving home when I drove away from the hotel today. I had gotten to know two of the shopkeepers fairly well, plus Odeh the Chief Cashier, and Orit of reception. Since the hotel was nearly empty today (El Al would be ferrying all those UJA people back to the States), I even got to see them with their hair down, playing and horsing around. Fun!
Everything took longer than planned, and the noon departure turned into 1 p.m., finally 2 o’clock when I left. Continue reading
(Sunday night, November 22, 1998) – Jerusalem
I have this strange sensation, almost as if I will be leaving home when I check out tomorrow. I still haven’t packed. Once I start putting things in my suitcase, the inevitability of “leaving” will sink in. So I will procrastinate.
This morning, I had nearly finished with breakfast when Marcia (part of the Cantor’s entourage) came in. We talked for almost twenty minutes, then the Cantors arrived. So once again, a thirty minute meal lasted two hours.
I hugged Miriam and teased her before she could tease me. Which jump-started a whole new round of witty repartee, with every last person getting in a good-natured jab, or two, or three. How good would it be if every day could begin with such laughter!
Melvin Cantor turns out to have a decent sense of humor, one that is not immediately obvious. It’s beyond wry, and he makes me laugh. And I have learned that Marcia (the Orthodox member of the gang) has a huge and merciful heart. Erhla impresses me with her depth – I can feel her embrace and welcoming spirit without her uttering a single word. Continue reading