8 Kislev 5759

(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


7 Kislev 5759

(Wednesday night, November 25, 1998) – Ein Gedi kibbutz

Cactus garden at Ein Gedi

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

6 Kislev 5759

Gardens at Ein Gedi kibbutz

(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

5 Kislev 5759

(Monday night, November 23, 1998) – Jerusalem to the Dead SeaOne last look from the hotel balcony (towards the Old City)

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

4 Kislev 5759

Geraniums in the Tower of David (Citadel)

(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

3 Kislev 5759

(Saturday night, November 21, 1998) – Jerusalem

In case I’d ever wondered, after last night I have no doubt that fundamentalism isn’t my cup of tea. I went to the Kabbalat Shabbat service at the Great Synagogue across the street from the Sheraton. It seemed logical to observe all forms of Israeli Judaism.

Now I knew that in the Great Synagogue (an Orthodox congregation), women would be required to sit separate from the men. But I did not know that women are not permitted to pray or sing aloud. I would not last long in that environment. (I nearly came undone with giggles when I envisioned my Philadelphia friend Johanna being told she had to daven silently.) Continue reading

1 Kislev 5759

Planting trees in American Independence Park, Jerusalem.

(November 20, 1998) – Jerusalem

At 1 o’clock in the morning, I am still wide awake and wired. Thursday was JNF Day! My thoughts are racing. – By the way, I like Gold Star better than Maccabbee. Taste test complete, no blindfolds.

Since I had not met Cynthia before this morning, I didn’t know what she looked like. She found me first. “You must be Dan Markind’s friend. JNF fanny pack!”

Cynthia apologized that she could not give me a private tour, and hoped I wouldn’t mind joining an excursion that had been in the works for months. JNF (Jewish National Fund) was honoring Daniel D. Cantor and his family for their extraordinary contributions to JNF works. They had an extra spot in the van, if it would be all the same to me. Otherwise, she could show me around another day. Continue reading

30 Cheshvan 5759

(November 19, 1998) – Jerusalem

The overwhelming, destructive feeling of aloneness made the first part of the morning unbearable. It was all I could do to go down to breakfast.

Mood worsened by Reception’s calling frantically at 7:30 a.m. saying, “Your VISA card still isn’t being accepted.” I could see myself being unceremoniously ejected from the hotel with no place to go (the hotels are booked solid).

I decided that if that happened, I would check out and head north to Z’fat. My desperation became so great that I did not stop to consider how I would pay for a hotel in Z’fat if VISA would not honor the card anywhere in Israel. But I did not have to do anything that drastic. Continue reading