Published: November 5th 2011November 3rd 2011
Thursday October 27, 2011, 6:00 a.m. Adin woke up with wide eyes, bushy tail, and a huge smile. It was the morning of his 8th birthday. Every other day, it takes Aimee and I the better part of a half hour to get Adin up and dressed. But on this day, Adin was the family alarm clock. We had lots of ground to cover and, thanks to Adin, got an early start. All the boys knew about the upcoming day was that they did not have to go to school, we were going on a trip to some special places, and that everything else was a closely guarded secret. After a series of birthday calls over breakfast, we hit the road. Our first stop was almost two hours to the north and thankfully, after such an early wake-up, Adin slept most of the way, while Ezra sat quietly reading Harry Potter II.
First Birthday Stop – Sachne – also called Gan HaShlosha (Garden of the Three) National Park. The “3” in the name refers to three interconnected semi-natural ponds, on three different levels, which are ideal for swimming, both for humans and for fish. The water flows from pool to
pool over a series of waterfalls. Fed by a spring, the pools maintain a year-round temperature of 78 degrees F. Perfect for swimming. In olden times the spring emptied into a river that powered a flour mill that is still largely intact. Today, the river reforms at the end of the lowest pool. Aimee and I took turns doing laps while the one not swimming hung and swam with the boys. The longest pool is 200 meters, so it was pretty much perfect for longer distance swimming.
Second Birthday Stop – lunch in the nearby town of Afula. Afula is nationally famous as one of the largest hubs for bus transportation, and the home of reputedly the best falafel and roasted seeds and nuts in the country. Since so many more people have private cars now, Afula may have slightly receded in the national consciousness, but it’s still a hopping place around the bus station and nearby downtown core. As always, the iconoclast, Adin opted for pizza, while Aimee and I had falafel at “Falafel Nasi” (Falafel of the President), and Ezra, the carnivore, devoured Shwarma in a baguette. We originally went to Falafel Golani, but a local there
said Nasi was better (even though he was eating at Golani to keep a friend company). Having sampled falafel balls at both places I could not tell them apart. Both excellent. Perhaps only an Afula palate could appreciate the nuances in flavour that apparently distinguished the two.
Third Birthday Stop – The Grend (Grand) Kenyon (Canyon) Mall in Haifa – home of Toys R Us, Happening (toy store) and the Park Sha’a’shu,ah (Amusement) Grend Kenyon. This was a time for some intense birthday shopping. Adin was a man on a mission - Webkins stuffed animals, which are promoted on a website by the same name which Adin is addicted to. Toys R Us did not carry Webkins. Adin did not even bother looking for alternative presents. Webkins or bust. So we headed up two floors to Happening (a national toy store chain) where Adin found what he was after and bought a Webkins tiger and Webkins panda, paid for by his Bubie. (A few days later Adin picked up another Webkins as well as a Renaldo soccer outfit and new soccer ball as presents from Grandparents Promislow, Kaplan, and Growe at the Malcha Mall back in Jerusalem)
the Happening store we headed down the escalator to the indoor Park Sha’ashu’ah for 2 hours of PNE-style fun. The biggest “hit” were the bumper cars, which we rode on five or six times, and the roller coaster which we rode three or four times. Being a school day, the place was practically empty, so we never had to wait in line. Not exactly Disneyland, but for us it was perfect. Lots of rides in close proximity, with just enough of the fear factor to make them exciting, but not enough to make them scary.
Third and Fourth Birthday Stops – After a birthday Orange Fanta when got back into the car and retraced our steps back to the Afula area. We had pre-arranged to pick up cousin Raphy at his kibbutz “Ein Dor” which is 15 minutes drive from Afula. En route the boys figured out who the mystery birthday guest was, but were no less pleased to know that Raphy would be sharing the back seat with them. We then returned to Rimini Pizza in Afula where we consumed two whole pizzas – one full size and the second medium. Ice cream cones were a happy substitute
for birthday cake.
By now it was around 9:00 p.m. and the boys slept all the way back to Jerusalem while Aimee engaged Raphy in conversation to stay alert while driving. I tried to sleep in anticipation of starting the graveyard shift at the bakery that night. We had to wait for an hour at the security check at the eastern entrance to Jerusalem when the army discovered a “Chafetz Chashood” (suspicious object) in one of the cars. When we finally arrived home minutes before midnight I jumped into my work clothes and headed off to work.
Friday afternoon, while Aimee worked hard to get Shabbat supper together, I took the boys – Raphy, Adin and Ezra – on a quick field trip to Lifta. Located near the main (western) entrance to Jerusalem, Lifta is an abandoned and crumbling Arab village. It is also the site of a spring and mikva (Jewish ritual pool/bath) still frequented by very religious Jewish men. The boys and I explored in a couple of the old houses, checked out the Mikvah, then raced the setting sun back home. Lifta is definitely worth a return visit (or more). But since Raphy’s time in
Jerusalem was limited I figured a short visit was better than no visit at all.
We managed to get to shul (synagogue) both on Friday evening and Saturday morning which, no doubt, constituted Raphy’s most religious two days thus far in his year-long stay in Israel. Hopefully, it was not too painful.
Saturday afternoon Raphy joined the boys in a pick-up roller hockey game against two boys and their dad who play organized roller hockey with Adin every Sunday. Though the Tischler boys prevailed In the end, those Israelis gave us a run for our money. When Raphy arrived in Jerusalem Thursday night I’m guessing that playing hockey was about the farthest thing from his mind. Though I substituted once for Raphy, Ezra and Adin made it clear that they felt the Tischlers were much stronger with Raphy leading the attack. We were all sad to see Raphy go, but hope he’ll join us in Jerusalem again before long.
Some more new beginnings the week as well. Aimee started Ulpan (an intense Hebrew course) on Sundays and Wednesday mornings. I’ll be walking with Aimee Wednesday mornings since I also just started a course on the Jewish Communities
of the Islamic World (now living in Israel for the most part) every Wednesday morning at a learning center called “Yad Ben Tzvi” located near the Ulpan. Then every Tuesday evening I’ll be doing another term at the Ulpan as well.
Misrad Ha’Pnim – Monday October 31, 2011
As you may recall from my last visit to the Misrad Ha’Pnim a month ago, Miri the clerk had scolded me for having provided scanned copies of my civil marriage certificate and the letter from my Vancouver Rabbi, Ilan Acoca, rather than Mekori (original) versions – even though no one had ever said anything about Mekori versions on my previous visits. Miri had also scolded me for being an imbecile for not having asked Aimee how to say the place of her mother’s birth, Lithuania, in Hebrew. Remember “Leetta”? In addition, Miri insisted that Aimee accompany me on my next visit.
Thanks to Rabbi Acoca, who UPSd me the original of his letter, and our amazing Vancouver Tenants from Heaven (really), the Albums, who tracked down our civil marriage certificate in an unmarked cardboard box in our attic (truly a needle in our over-stacked attic), I felt completely “chamush”
(“armed”). And thanks to Aimee, who gave up attendance at a class on Jerusalem she’s really excited about, I now approached the Misrad Ha’Pnim with everything they had ever asked me for. And to be extra cautious, I also brought along extra passport photos of everybody and our birth certificates – which you’ll recall were insisted upon my Hani two visits back, but never looked at by Miri at my previous visit.
Though I felt reasonably confident that this would be the day, I wondered what new “meechsholim” (obstacles) the Misrad Ha’Pnim could throw in front of us. I even brought along my camera in the hopes of taking a victory photo of our, hopefully, freshly minted visas. On the way through security the guard – dressed in black from head to toe (even his hair was black) - warned me not to take photos inside the building. I replied that was “chaval” (too bad) since it was such a beautiful place. One doesn’t often get a smile out of Israeli security personnel, but he seemed to appreciate some humour in my reply. We made it up to the second floor visa office at precisely10:00 a.m. – the time
of our appointment with Alona at delpak (counter) three.
Hani, the “farbinsseneh” (sourpuss) clerk from two appointments back, hovered menacingly behind Alona. Within minutes the public address system called out my name and directed me to delpak three. We approached. Having learned from experience to be deferential, I asked Alona if we could sit down. Alona said “no”, but did so with a pleasant smile. I layed out the mekori wedding certificate and rabbi’s letter on the delpak, along with our passports, birth certificates and extra photos. Alona disappeared for a few seconds and then reappeared holding the stack of documents I’d left at previous visits. “Well,” she said, “you’ve certainly proved that you’re Jewish” – at which point I understood we’d get our new visas and my work permit since being Jewish was the central criteria to be met. “It’s not such an easy thing to prove,” I replied. “Ata tsodeck,” (you’re right) Alona nodded. Alona then lined up the mekori documents besides the copies I had left at my previous visit, visually compared the two sets, then stamped the copies and returned the originals to me. Finally, Alona pulled out four fresh visas sized to fit precisely
onto two pages of an open passport, pealed off the backing of the first, slowly stuck it into the matching passport so the visa would not overhand the pages, then meticulously repeated the procedure with each of our passports. ….. Done. Alona explained that our visas, including my working visa, could be automatically renewed after one year without any further checks into our bone fides. Hey, now there’s an idea …..
One final question for Alona. Is the proper form for the verb “to celabrate” “lachgog” or “lechageg”? “Lachgog,” she said. “Good,” I replied, “Now we can “chogegim” the fact that we finally received our visas. “Be’chatslacha” (“good luck” – literally “be successful”) said Alona as we stood to leave. Wow! Pleasantness at the Misrad Ha’Pnim. Who knew?
We walked down the stairs, passed security, and out onto the sidewalk. I pulled out my camera to have Aimee take a photo of me with the family’s new visas. One of the black-clad security guards – this one in large black shades – warned me not to take any photos. Filled with the confidence that my new work visa gave me, I said, “what’s the problem, we’re not in
the building?” Black shades: “You can’t take any pictures of a government office.” So we walked a few steps down the sidewalk, and took our photo. We then walked back to Emek Rephaim and “chagagnu” over lattes and croisanttes at Tachanat Café (the coffee grinder) where the kind waiter helped us with our Ulpan homework.
In Israel, however, there’s no such thing as exclusively good news. Later in the afternoon I stopped in at Thrifty Car Rental. When we rented our car earlier in our stay Aimee found a bargain basement price, but the low price would only last as long as our three month visas were in effect, and which were set to expire on November 4th, exactly three months after our arrival – hence all my efforts at the Misrad HaPnim. Lesson repeatedly learned in Israel: never expect the routine to be, well, routine. Naively, I assumed that all I had to do was show our visas to Thrifty and the low price would be maintained. Which was true for Aimee, how simply got an extension on her simple tourist visa. I, on the other hand, the genius that I am, wanted a working visa so I
could legally earn a pittance at the bakery, am now no longer eligible for the discounted car rental rate. I won’t specify how much the rental went up, but suffice it to say I’ll have to substantially increase my challah production to pay off my shiny new work visa.
There are more photos below