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
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
(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
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
(November 15, 1998) – Jerusalem
Went to the Masorti shul this morning. Wow! I knew the songs! The chazzan looked like the movie version of Moses and had an incredible vocal range – from a Blackwood Brothers bass to a Mandy Patinkin tenor. Very dramatic in leading the service, lots of gestures and “choreographed” movement. Yet, it wasn’t distracting or overly theatrical, only beautiful.
I actually stayed for Kiddush. Enjoyed watching all the General Assembly Americans schmoozing. But I stood to the side, observing. And Moses introduced himself. His name is Arye, Continue reading
Grueling 45 minute security check in Munich. Five of the seven agents concentrated on me, for a number of reasons. First, US Air checked my bags through to El Al, a no-no, as it must be hand-carried. Then, I was traveling alone and knew no one here. Continue reading