Though Hanukah started Tuesday evening, December 20, 2011, this entry starts two days earlier on Sunday the 18thwith the arrival of Aimee’s brother Daniel and wife Leslie from Atlanta. What followed were two weeks of family visits, vacation from school and other responsibilities, and travel – by foot, car, and camel.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Daniel and Leslie arrived late in the day, tired from their travels, but happy to be here. Aimee had rented them a charming apartment three minutes walk from our place located between us and Emek Rephaim. That night we had tickets to see the famous Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) singer Yazmin Levy perform at the nearby Jerusalem Theatre, a five minute walk up a steep hill. Though we had 4 tickets, Leslie opted to sleep instead. A wise choice since I ended up asleep at the concert, though no doubt not as soundly or comfortably as Leslie. Fortunately, we were able to sell Leslie’s ticket to the sold-out concert to a very happy gentleman who was about give up and head home. He was doubly thrilled to learn that the ticket was perfectly located about 8 rows from the stage in the
Though Yazmin is recognized as the premier female Ladino singer in the world, I was a little disappointed – at least for the parts I was awake for. Yazmin has the persona of a larger-than-life opera virtuoso who strides/glides across the stage and sings in a big yet quavering voice. Very distinctive, and obviously much appreciated by the audience, though I prefer a more natural voice and persona. Still, it’s always fun to see an icon perform up close in Jerusalem’s premier venue.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011, Aimee, Daniel, Leslie and I walked to the Israel Museum. On the way we traversed one of the large vacant fields in our neighbourhood. Until recently the fields were covered with wild stubbly straw-coloured grass that appeared unrevivably dead. Now, the fields are carpeted in long lush vibrantly green grass. These undeveloped fields, which don’t exist elsewhere in the city, are just one more reason that we love our ‘hood.
At the museum we went through the usual security. I dumped my two cameras, phone, keys, wallet and money in
the tray. At this point the guard asked me “Ha’im attah Chamush?” (are your armed?) I said “lo” (no) and told Daniel that he was asking if were were armed. At which point the guard said to me that he knew that Daniel was unarmed, but was only asking me because I was from here. I don’t know why he concluded that I, with my two cameras, was local, but it nevertheless made me feel good … that I belonged.
Aimee and I gave Daniel and Leslie a tour of the archeology section, based on two guided tours we had previously taken through the section. We then walked across Gan (Park) Sacker to the neigbourhood of Nachla’ot where we had falafel at “Shalom Falafel” on Betzalel Street which, along with “Merkaz HaFalafel HaTaymanie” (the Yemenite Falafel Centre) is the best Falafel in Jerusalem. Which is not an opinion. It is a fact. Yesterday even Ezra’s guitar teacher and Jerusalem native (and Nachla’ot resident), Gilad, recommended the two as serving the best falafel in town. Shalom Falafel - being on a busy thoroughfare that gets zero tourist traffic - is frequented exclusively by local
people in the know - much like Falafel Taymanie, which is on the other side of downtown. Leaving Aimee, Daniel, and Leslie munching falafel on the roadside, I quickly downed my falafel while walking home so I could be at home when the boys arrived from school.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 – 1st Candle
Tuesday, December 20, 2011, began with great anticipation and trepidation. Adin was scheduled to do his first solo violin performance, live in front of Kita Beth Ehad (Grade 2, class 1). This was the last day of school before the Hanukah break and Adin had worked hard for a few weeks to prepare the Hanukah classic “Maoz Tzur.” Adin’s violin teacher, Michael, had encouraged Adin to learn the piece my memory, which added an extra level of difficulty and stress. In rehearsals Adin would sometimes nail the song, while at other times falter and forget key sections. Waking up early for a final practice, Adin’s performance was uneven. Adin said he was scared, but our promise of two packs of Supergol cards as a prize for his performance was enough to persuade him to carry through
with the concert. … Or so we thought. Walking to school Adin repeated that he was scared. And really looked it.
I walked Adin up to his classroom. It was 8:00 a.m. He was scheduled to perform immediately after Davening (morning prayers) at 8:20 a.m. I waited outside the classroom with his violin and bow. The instrument was in tune. The bow freshly rosined. I could hear Kitah Beth Ehud Davening through the doorway. Aimee arrived with Uncle Daniel and Auntie Leslie. Morah (teacher) Tal poked her head out the door and said it was time. We entered the classroom. I handed the violin and bow off to Adin. Though Adin was smiling, I could feel that he was barely holding onto the instrument, his arm hanging down limply by his side. Adin took his position at the front of the class almost directly in front of his friend David Fefer. I sensed this was a bad thing. Adin locked his gaze on David and giggled nervously. Tal introduced Adin and the song he was about to perform.
face. Around three minutes went by with Tal encouraging Adin to start. Impressively, the class encouraged Adin to play, and otherwise remained respectfully silent. Though clearly petrified, Adin maintained the presence of mind to bargain his two packs of Supergol up to 8. At first, Adin played two bars then stopped abruptly. Later he confided that he did this because he was so scared he thought he would drop his violin if he continued. Yet after a few more seconds, Adin started again, and played Maoz Tzur all the way through. Not perfect. But excellent under the circumstances. At Tal’s request Adin even played the song a second time with the class singing along. Adin, of course, always the entrepreneur, managed to milk another couple of Supergol packs out of us for the encore.
If you didn't have a chance to see Adin perform, here is the youtube link:
Later in the day Joey and Carly arrived in time to join us for lighting the first Hanukah candle, which included Adin reprising Maoz Tzur on his violin, and Ezra playing a second Chanukah classic, “Banu Choshech,” on his
electric guitar. This was followed by pizza delivered up by Pizza May, and a game of dreidle on the floor. Carly’s life-long undefeated string was broken. I guess playing dreidle while texting is not a winning combination.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011, 2nd Candle
Wednesday, December 21st took us all to the Old City. I joined the group after my Wednesday morning course – the day’s lecture was on the Jews of Morocco. Aimee called to say that they were eating at “Abu Shukri” Restaurant in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Aimee explained she was calling from outside the restaurant because there was no cell phone reception inside. Consequently, we’d be out of contact until I arrived. Which I did in 10 minutes … to find no sign of them in the restaurant. The owner said there had been no group fitting their description in the restaurant. I walked through the restaurant again, waited outside for about 20 minutes under the very large “Abu Shukri” sign, then walked to the Western Wall where we had booked a tour at the Western Wall tunnels commencing at
Turns out that Aimee and company ended up at a restaurant near Abu Shukri - that did not have any sign identifying the restaurant by name - and asked the proprietor if his restaurant was Abu Shukri. Being a good businessman, he said yes, and the seven of them sat down for lunch. Once out of the restaurant Aimee called to ask where I was, having waited for me for the past 15 or 20 minutes. They arrived precisely at the start time of the tour.
Sadly, our guide “Batya” was, well, a disaster. Based on how she presented the tour I suspect she was a retired kindergarten teacher. Batya addressed us as if she were speaking to developmentally delayed four year olds visiting a chocolate factory, rather than individuals of normal intelligence visiting one of the most important and impressive archeological and religious sites in the world. I sent a letter of complaint two weeks ago, a follow-up letter a week ago, and have yet to receive a response. I am no longer holding my breath.
Next, something completely different – supper at the Maganda Restaurant on Rabbi Meir Street in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter, and an “evening” concert of Adin’s violin teacher Michael Greilsammer at the T’muna Theatre. As none of us were at all familiar with Tel Aviv streets, Aimee and her trusty iphone-GPS guided us through some of the seediest neighbourhoods I’ve seen this side of East New York, complete with transvestites in large fake breasts cruising the alleyways. In the end, after circling the neighborhood a few times through streets little wider than our car, we miraculously happened upon two spots side by side a few minutes walk from the restaurant. What we learned, however, is that, “ud b’vee’at haMoshiach” (until the coming of the Messiah) there are no miracles. At the end of the evening we returned to find a parking ticket on our windshield. Residents’ parking only. With a sign, as usual, so far down the block that nobody could possibly notice it. (to compound matters, we’ve misplaced/lost the ticket and are, no doubt, going to pay extra). Fortunately, the spot that Daniel took was not residents’ parking only.
worried we are going to end up spending too much money for a disappointing meal in a restaurant full of tourists. Thankfully the Maganda Restaurant turned out to be our kind of place; outstanding Middle Eastern salads and grilled meat, “Hamish” (warm and friendly) atmosphere, family run, and an attentive head waiter who was happy to speak to us in Hebrew even though he spoke excellent English. They even lit the second night’s Hanukah candles and sang Hanukah songs during the meal. Part way through the evening I realized that I’d eaten at the restaurant – once - all the way back in 1988. First I recognized the distinctive-looking owner (or manager) in the long beard and pony-tail, which triggered the memory, then I looked around at the décor (which hadn’t changed) and back at the menu, felt the ambiance, and knew I’d been there. Funny how long-term memory works.
Not wanting to lose our, apparently, ideal parking spots we walked to the theatre with Daniel proficiently navigating us through a maze of Tel Aviv streets with Aimee’s GPS, arriving just in time for the 10:00 p.m. “scheduled” staring time. That’s not a
misprint. 10:00 p.m. start time. I figured it was holiday time with no one having to get up the next morning for school. We now know a little more about scheduled starting times, especially in Tel Aviv, which doesn’t seem to ever sleep. What 10:00 p.m. really meant was that the warm up band would start to set up at around 10:15 p.m. and that Michael would not come on until after 11:00 p.m. When Michael finally leaped onto the stage he gave Adin a discreet little wave and big smile. Adin, stood front and centre with Aimee from start to finish – which was around 1:00 a.m. – and absolutely refused to sit down, though he was falling asleep on his feet. As expected, Michael gave an electric and athletic performance, jumping high enough to slam-dunk basketballs as he played. Before long, only half the hairs on the bow remained unbroken, the rest whipping through the air like iridescent threads in the stage lights, while Michael rocketed his bow across the violin’s strings. By the end, we had to virtually carry the half-asleep boys out of the theatre. We cabbed back to our cars and then drove silently back
up to Jerusalem with me, only, and thankfully, still awake.
Thursday, December 22, 2011- 3rd Candle
Thursday, December 22, 2011, was our opportunity to make up for the previous day’s Kotel Tunnel disappointment by walking through Hezikiah’s Water Tunnel under the oldest part of Jerusalem - the “City of David” which King David vanquished and turned into his capitol city almost exactly 3000 years ago. The Torah tells us that David’s army conquered the walled city by finding an access point to the secret underground water system and entering through the very tunnels and shafts that we visited. … After the previous day’s Kotel experience our guests were less than enthusiastic about venturing into another old tunnel. Happily, however, we had no tour guide with us. I gave a brief introduction. Then, dressed in shorts, sandals, crocs or flip-flops, and equipped with flash-lights and head lamps, we plunged into the spring waters that flowed through the tunnel.
The initial step down into hip-deep frigid roaring water shocks the system. Leslie, to her great credit, overcame her claustrophobia, and pushed forward. We
had no choice since Adin had already taken off in the lead, kicking water into the air as he rushed forward and disappeared into the darkness. Within minutes the water level dropped to knee height, our bodies adjusted to the water temperature, and the roar at the start - where the water emerges from the Gichon Spring - faded to silence as we moved forward along the 533 meter long tunnel. I think Adin laughed for the entire 533 meters as he splashed through the waters up ahead. Adin also did a little “swimming” along the way, by laying down in the water. The tallest among has had to stoop slightly through the midsection of the tunnel. Hezikiah’s Tunnel is always an exhilarating experience for me – combining ancient Jewish history with the rush of sensory stimulation. And Leslie is now able to proudly recount how she overcame her fears to emerge at the end of the tunnel with a big smile (of relief?), and a new sense of empowerment (I’m taking a little poetic license with this one).
After hot showers and naps, we were ready for another evening out, this time
back at the outdoor market of Machaneh Yehuda and the adjacent neighbourhood of Nachla’ot. Though we lit the third Hanukah candle before heading out into the night, we encountered a Chabad (Hasidic) group lighting a giant Hanukiya (Menorah) in the middle of Machaneh Yehuda and stopped for the service. From there it was a few short steps to Steakiat Chatsot restaurant for another salad and grilled meat extravaganza. I decided to go local and order the house specialty of Jerusalem Mixed Grill, complete with chicken hearts and spleen. As a result of which I learned an important lesson: I really don’t like animal organs. Next time, I’ll just stick with plain old fashioned chicken breast. We then went back out into the colder night and wandered the laneways of Nachla’ot looking at that many Hanukiyot mounted on the outside walls of the neighbourhood’s houses. I learned another lesson: it’s hard to enjoy anything when the cold penetrates your winter cloths, all the more so when it penetrates the winter cloths of your kids who were never really interested in experiencing the spiritual high of Chanukah in the streets of Jerusalem to begin with.
Friday, December 23, 2011, I slept through the morning after my night at the bakery, while Daniel and family spent the better part of the day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Memorial. Daniel, Leslie and Joey joined us for candle lighting – candle number four - and Shabbat services at Shira Hadashah congregation while Carly napped in an effort to get over her jet lag. Joey, ever the good sport, seemed always to be in the moment, eyes wide open to everything around him, soaking it all up – from getting a spontaneous buzz cut in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, eating heart and spleen at Steakiat Hatsot, playing dreidle with the boys on the floor, and joining in the harmonies of Kabalat Shabbat at Shira Hadashah. Joey gives the expression “being totally wired and connected” a refreshing new meaning.
Saturday, December 24, 2011 – 5th Candle
Saturday, December 24, 2011, was a chance to re-charge batteries, then light the fifth Hanukah candle, and get to bed early before embarking on a five-day road trip to the south. We planned
to set out at around 4:30 a.m. for the desert mountain fortress of Masada and walk up the “Snake Path” to watch the sun rise over the Dead Sea. Sadly (or happily, depending upon your point of view) the weather reports forecast clouds and rain for Sunday morning. Clearly there was not going to be a sunrise visible from the top of Masada. So while everyone had been game to climb a mountain in the dark to watch the sun rise at 6:00 a.m. while freezing on a wind-swept plateau, my guess is that no one was too disappointed by having to stay curled up in bed for a couple more hours.
Sunday, December 25, 2011 – 6th candle – Mitspeh Ramon
While driving south to Masada along the western bank of the Dead Sea we got a call from Daniel’s car that Carly and Joey wanted to “dip their toes” in the Dead Sea. Looking off to the left I saw something I’d never seen in the Dead Sea – cresting waves. Normally the Dead Sea is glassy smooth. At the oasis of Ein Gedi we pulled over and walked down
to the water’s edge. No one offered to join Carly and Joey in the water and, while a few other travelers walked along the shore, Carly and Joey, alone, went in. Joey even went in deep enough to “float” though the waves quickly knocked him off balance and prevented him from attempting to actually lay on his back.
With our later start and our Dead Sea detour we arrived at Masada hours after our original ETA. Our intrepid group climbed the Snake Path without complaint, rising 1300 feet in vertical elevation from the valley. The top of Masada was swarming with boisterous groups of high school students. We criss-crossed the mountain top, making our last stop in the ancient synagogue. While in the “shul” I asked Ezra what he thought about doing his Bar Mitzvah here. Sitting on the 2000 year old stone benches, he seemed to have a hard time imagining a Bar Mitzvah here. I think it could be a powerful experience. A February 2015 Bar Mitzvah at Masada would probably be a bit chilly, but we would avoid the holiday crowds we endured during our Hanukah visit, and would ensure
We took the gondola down from Masada; saving time was our excuse, as the day was quickly going by, but no one seemed too disappointed to miss out on a second walk along the Snake Path.
Next stop - the Negev Camel Ranch for an afternoon camel trek before pushing onto Mitspeh Ramon for the night. However, having not printed out a Google map or precise directions, we missed the Camel Ranch turn off. We pressed ahead, opting to explore the possibility of a camel trek elsewhere later on our road trip. We were traversing the Machtesh Ha’Gadol (the Big Crater), where suddenly the landscape looked distantly familiar to me. In the crater’s centre there were a number of cars pulled over with people kneeling on the ground nearby collecting sand. Suddenly it came clear. I had been here as a 16 year old 38 years earlier gathering sand to fill a Coke bottle with layers of different colored sand. The boys were instantly re-energized and took off into the desert, running up and down hills seeking out hidden caches of coloured
sand. We gathered sand in paper containers created from brochures that Leslie folded into cups, and in plastic cups that we had been using for picnics. Later at the hotel we poured the different coloured sand into Coke bottles to produce the same multi-layered bottles that I remembered from my teens. …. For me the highlight from our sand gathering detour was the silence of the desert. Once we had descended from one of the hills into a nearby valley we could hear nothing but our own voices, footsteps, and the wind.
We arrived at the iBike Hotel in Mitspeh well after dark. After settling in, I lay down to sleep off the day (I was not feeling 100%), while everyone else went to the Chavit (barrel) Restaurant for supper. The restaurant, which served giant portions that no-one could finish, gets it’s name from the giant collection of beers available on tap. While I slept, Aimee and the boys quietly lit the 6th candle in our room.
Monday, December 26, 2011 – 7th candle – Mitspeh Ramon
an early morning run or walk at a nearby army base. Us non-walking/running slackers enjoyed a tasty and nutritious iBike breakfast highlighted by pancakes with maple syrup for the boys, and salads, cheeses, yogurts, an assortment of breads, and any-style eggs for everyone else.
After breakfast we all drove down into the machtesh (crater) to a hiking trail recommended by the iBike owners. We turned off onto a single lane cratered dirt road which wound off into the distance. After traveling into the desert valley for 20 minutes along this road, and encountering only a couple other cars coming and going along the track, I had visions of silence and seclusion. As these visions danced in my head, we came around a hill and the final turn before the trail-head … to see a parking lot chock full of buses and cars swarming with a mob of vacationing families and high-school students. Perhaps they had followed us from Masada. Though other hikers and walkers peppered the landscape in every direction we still enjoyed the desert walk. Silence and seclusion will have to await our return during the non-holiday season. Daniel provided much scientific
information about the natural phenomenon around us, including the many desert plants eking out an existence in this harsh environment.
Back at iBike we lit Hanukah candle number seven, then Aimee and I hit the computers looking for an alternative camel experience for the next day, while everyone else went to the local falafel joint for supper. After much internet surfing – there were a number of expensive, touristy, and kitschy options near the major international tourist hub of Eilat - Aimee and I happened upon what looked like a promising looking camel riding “ranch” at the end of a desert road. A couple of quick calls to “Shacharut” and the camel riding arrangements were made for the next day at 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011 – 8th candle at Kibbutz Lotan
Tuesday, December 27, 2011, started for me with an early morning run. Only once before, in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, had I taken a camera on a run. For no particular reason this time I did so as well. Then, within minutes, I
encountered a number of grazing ibex along the edge of the crater, apparently so used to people that they seem unaffected by my presence meters away. Naturally, I started snapping photos. I then returned to our room and rousted Aimee and the boys from their sleep and drove back to the crater’s edge where I had seen the ibex. Alas, they had moved on. I squinted into the distance and could see some movement several hundred meters further along the crater’s edge. Sure enough it was the same group of ibex. Slowly we advanced on them. Ezra, who is always leery of wild animals, even if they’re safely behind glass or other impassable barriers, urged us to return to the hotel lest we be attacked. He did have a point; some of these ibex had serious horns curving close to a meter in length. Adin, by contrast, happily and fearlessly, crept towards the smallest and cutest of the lot, blissfully unconcerned about mother ibex nearby. It quickly became clear that the ibex were content to continue grazing while keeping their ever watchful eyes on us, provided we did not make any sudden movements. After dozens more photos we drove back
to iBike where we met up with Daniel, Leslie, and kids for breakfast.
After checking out, we drove across the machtesh and turned south, Shacharut bound. Up ahead we saw dust clouds rising in the sky. As we continued south we saw tens of miles of Israeli tanks and soldiers stretching off into the distance training in the desert, kicking up dust as they moved. Once we turned off the main north-south highway heading towards Shacharut, the road quickly narrowed and the cracked asphalt quickly became more crack than asphalt, until it turn entirely to crack just before it ended at the dot on the map called Shachurut – a “town” about 100 meters in diameter, and the home of about 100 people including about 30 kids, and a family of camels. We had come to the end of the world, or at least the end of the road in Israel’s southern desert. My kind of place. No tourists. No parking lots with buses hidden behind hills. No hotels, restaurants, gift shops. Just our guide Yaniv in his black knit ski hat and tattered kafiya (checkered Arab scarf) wrapped around his neck, the deep
blue sky, the cold desert wind, seven camels, and us. Even before we mounted the camels, this was my Hanukah highlight.
After Yaniv gave us a quick introduction into camel riding and behavior, we doubled up on camels and trekked off into the desert. Yaniv led us to a viewpoint atop a mountain ridge looking east onto the Arava plain, and the mountains of Jordan. We could see several kibbutzim along the main road, including the largest, Yotvata, directly below us, and our destination for the night, Kibbutz Lotan, to our left. Adin climbed a nearby mountain with Aimee, in accord with a promise Aimee had earlier made to Adin. And Yaniv prepared sugary mint tea over a wood fire which we sipped while eating local dates and imported figs, sitting in a circle around the fire. Yaniv told us about desert life and his childhood on the northern kibbutz of Lochamay Ha’Getta’ot (The Ghetto Fighter’s Kibbutz founded, in part, by survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising) where he grew up in a children’s’ house as a “child of the kibbutz” (as distinct from being a child of his parents). I asked Yaniv
about lengthier camel treks and decided that we’ve got to return in the spring for a several day trek deeper into the desert.
Again, we pulled into our destination – Kibbutz Lotan – after dark. We all immediately liked the feel of the kibbutz with its adobe-style buildings and ecology themed public art. We ate supper in the kibbutz dining hall with Lotan pioneer, and ex-Vancouverite, Dr. Michael Livni, known in his Vancouver Habonim-Camp Miriam days back in the 1950s as Max Langer. Max is a walking-talking-thinking piece of Zionist history and it was a treat and a privilege to have Max regale us with a half century of Jewish-Zionist-Israeli-personal history, which in Max’s case are all one in the same. For me, Aimee and Daniel, the kibbutz dining hall, which still functions as a traditional kibbutz dining hall, brought back warm memories and feelings of living on kibbutz as teenagers and young adults. Though kibbutzim still number in the hundreds, the traditional kibbutz life with the traditional kibbutz dining hall remains in but a small handful of kibbutzim. Interestingly enough, the desert kibbutzim around Lotan are pretty much the last bastion of
traditional kibbutz life. Perhaps the harshness of the environment and the relative isolation of the location promotes the need for collective action and mutual reliance.
Another thing I love about a traditional kibbutz dining hall is traditional kibbutz dining hall food – cut up raw vegetables, the variety of dairy products, hard boiled eggs, simple bread, fruit. Food that makes you feel good, and feel healthy. And I recalled and loved the relaxed feeling that comes with not having to worry about food preparation or cleaning dishes after the meal. Being able to chat over tea or coffee when the meal’s over.
That evening the kibbutz invited us to join in lighting the final Chanukah candles at the 'medura' or camp fire at 8 pm. So at precisely 8 a member of the kibbutz guided us by flashlight to a geodesic dome, one of many on the kibbutz, where the kibbutz teens were preparing a fire. We huddled together trying to ward off the desert cold while the boys roasted marshmellows. The teens attempted to light the menorah, but the wind kept blowing the out candles.
Frustrated, eventually one of the teens held the unlit menorah over the fire and we said the blessings. We then quickly grabbed donuts from a large box, made our way back to our rooms in the darkness, and crawled into bed.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 – 8th day – no candle – Kibbutz Lotan
Having benefited from running with my camera the day before, I again grabbed my camera for an early morning desert run. No wildlife this time, but some beautiful morning light across windswept frozen dunes, which provided surprisingly good footing for running. Boy the desert can be cold during early winter mornings. … Cream of wheat sweetened with chunks of local dates back at the kibbutz dining hall was the perfect way to warm up following the run.
After breakfast we took a tour of the many ecological projects Kibbutz Lotan has undertaken. Impressive for such a small community. Lotan is also one of two kibbutzim founded by, and affiliated with, the Reform Jewish Movement. Yahel, 15 minutes drive north, is the other. As to the sustainability of the religious foundation of the kibbutz,
Mark, our guide during the tour, said that currently one third of the members are very interested in religious observance, one third are somewhat interested from time to time, and one third has no interest at all. I think I can see where that trend is going.
The day’s outing took us to the roadside cafeteria-style restaurant at neighbouring Kibbutz Yotvata where we discovered the world’s best schnitzel baguette sandwich, slathered with humous and stuffed with Israeli salad and pickles. From there we traveled south to Timna, the site of ancient copper mines first operated by the Egyptians and later my King Solomon. Today Timna is the site of a large outdoor recreation area filled with hiking trails and rock climbing routes. We arrived late in the afternoon and, as we stopped at a desert crossroads to figure out which direction to go, out of the corner of my eye I noticed an oncoming van stop suddenly. I looked over to see my brother Aron at the wheel with my nephew Ben at his side. They were on their way back to Eilat after a day’s rock climbing. I knew that Aron and
his family were vacationing in nearby Eilat, and that he and Ben had planned to do some climbing at Timna, but we had not made any prior arrangements to meet. Moreover, in Timna there are many hiking routes spread over a large sprawling area. So our chances of crossing paths were slim. Plus, had Aron not noticed us and pulled over, we would have driven right by.
With the remaining hour of daylight Aron and Ben walked us back to the areas where they’d spent two days climbing. Adin and Ezra took advantage of the opportunity to do some climbing, going much higher that even I was comfortable with. But being natural born climbers it was hard to keep them off the rock. As the sun set over the red rock of Timna on the last day of Hanukah we made our way back to our cars before driving north to Kibbutz Lotan for our last night of the road trip.
Thursday, December 29, 2011 – back home
Thursday morning, December 29, 2011, we ate our last kibbutz meal, packed up while Ezra and Adin
played baseball against each other using the end of a palm frond as a bat, then said a teary good-bye to Daniel, Leslie, Carly and Joey, who drove up to Tel Aviv where they spent their final day in Israel.
From Lotan we drove south to the Chai Bar Nature Reserve which breeds endangered indigenous species for reintroduction to the wild, including, quite likely, some of the ibex we saw lounging about along the edge of the crater at Mitspeh Ramon. Again, Adin loved it when the animals approached our car, and Ezra got nervous when they got too close, and became frantic when a couple of ostriches started pounding our windows with their beaks and spitting green goo on the glass. Adin of course laughed uproariously at the ostriches, and marveled how they could pound so hard and spit-up goo simultaneously. From Chai Bar we returned to Yotvata for lunch – one last schnitzel baguette sandwich for me – and then turned north for the drive home.
Once back home in Jerusalem, the boys flopped immediately into bed for some much needed sleep before returning
to school the next morning, while Aimee unpacked and I got ready for a night in the bakery.
Friday, December 30, 2011 – an extended Tischler family Shabbat
Friday, December 30, 2011, landed us back in our routine; the boys were at school, I was sleeping off the night in the bakery, and Aimee was frantically doing Shabbat prep and readying our apartment to host Aron, Neri, Yael, Ben, Raphy and Raphy’s buddy Finn.
The senior Tischlers arrived in Jerusalem from Eilat, after they all participated in the Eilat half marathon race that morning; Aron and Raphy in the full Half Marathon, and Neri, Ben and Yael in the 10 kilometer race. After a quick shower and change Neri, Aron and Ben joined us for Kabalat Shabbat at Shira Hadasha, while Raphy and Finn relaxed back at the apartment. Sampling a variety of single malt scotches, including the Highland Park provided by Aron and Neri, certainly helped put everyone in the Shabbat spirit. Sleeping arrangements were a little tight, but worked well, with Ezra and Adin in our room, Neri and Aron in Ezra’s room,
and the four cousins (including adopted cousin Finn) shoehorned into Adin’s room. Somewhere in that mix Rosie found herself a piece of floor. Everyone pitched in to make it work. Over Shabbat Raphy and Finn kept Ezra and Adin entertained, with card tricks, card games and joining in the weekly pick-up roller hockey game on Saturday afternoon.
Sunday night Aron and Neri hosted us for supper at the Moshava restaurant on Emek Rephaim, and we - after final good-byes, an event filled Hanukah break, all our travels, and many guests - returned to our routine.
Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without...more info