Hard to believe when I opened my eyes it was July 29. I was certain when I went to bed that it was June 23 – the night before our flight to Israel.
Time is really funny – it seems like we just arrived yesterday, but when I look at pictures from Herzliyah, where we spent our first days, that seems like 100 years ago.
I knew it was time to return to California when I checked my email last night, our house sitters sent me an email telling me that the fish tank needs to be cleaned!
The morning was spent trying to move the packing further along. It is amazing how much stuff we came with and how much more we have acquired in the past month!
Looking at everything as it goes back into the suitcase, it appears that we packed quite well – not too much and not too little. Though, sadly, it was waste that Jennifer and I each brought exercise close and shoes. Other than a whole lot of walking, there has been no exercise this month.
After packing this morning, we headed into the Old City to say our goodbyes to the Kotel. Also, we spent part of Shabbat explaining “collections” to Shayna and Nadiv and they were both anxious to buy postcards of all the places we had been.
It was emotional at the Wall. It is such a symbolic place, for me, of the Modern State of Israel. I watched as Jennifer, Shayna and Maital kissed the wall, and then brought Nadiv up to the Wall for some prayers, songs and kisses. Everybody had prepared a tichel, little prayer-note, to place in the Wall, and it was an electric moment to hold up Nadiv as he placed his “very very high.” I also don’t think I have ever seen anybody try to hug the Wall until Nadiv did!
We then walked through the Jewish Quarter, bought postcards and other knickknacks. I bought a copy of Perek Shira, an amazing poem that is becoming part of my daily ritual. It is a poem to which we will return together.
We also bought the kids one of the super-sized, elliptical, bageleh, and taught them how to dip and enjoy with Zatar. One month later and they are looking more and more Israeli – well, at least they are eating more and more Israeli!
We justify the Old City and headed up to the center of town to buy more postcards and to get our final Shwarma lunch. I was shocked but happy that Shayna and Nadiv chose Shwarma over Burger King! Like I said, mamesh Israeli!
As we were sitting, sweating in the sun, eating our Shwarma, some bearded fellow from a few tables over, who was sitting with his wife and three kids, stood up and started walking towards us.
It only took a few steps to recognize my long-time friend Rabbi Mordecai Freidfertig. Mordecai and I started together as friends at Hebrew University in 1990. I haven’t seen him since I spent a Shabbos with him in Brooklyn in the early nineties, but we have spoken by phone pretty much once of twice a year.
Mordecai, his wife Orly and their three kids just made aliyah about 3 weeks ago and our trying to get their lives organized here. He justify a job as the Rabbi of an Orthodox shul in Buffalo and just received a job doing English speaking outreach for a yeshiva in the Old City.
It was outstanding to see him. He and I were very close. In fact, I was hiding at the Kotel in 1991 spying on him as he proposed to Orly over the mechitsah – a day I remember very well.
We hung out, in the blazing heat, for over an hour, catching up, introducing our wives and children to each other.
Jerusalem is a magical place that connects people.
I could have sat there for hours, but my children were starting to melt. So Mordecai and I exchanged information and hopefully we will be able to connect on future trips to Israel.
As we were walking away, I cracked to Jen: “I wonder who we will bump into next.” Not five minutes later, that turned out to be Rabbi Don Goor and Cantor Evan Kent from Los Angeles. Don is the Senior Rabbi at Temple Judea, a very large congregation in the San Fernando Valley in LA, and Evan is the Cantor at a large congregation in West LA.
Don was in the previous three year cycle of the Rabbinic Leadership Institute at Hartman, and even though his program was only two weeks this year, he and Evan have made it their tradition to be in Israel for a month every summer. For those who can make it work, that is certainly an amazing tradition.
In fact, Jennifer and I have been talking about how we can maximize our family time in Israel, even beyond my three year obligation at Hartman.
I see it as such an important and wonderful thing for me, for us and for our children. Please God we will find a way to make it work for many years to come!
After enjoying a bottle of cold water with Don and Evan, we walked back to our apartment and finished packing.
I walked over to the neighborhood pizza place while Shayna bathed the kids, fed them dinner, and when Robin showed up, we headed into town. (Did I mention that Robin also walked by as we were sitting eating Shwarma with the Freidfertigs?)
We didn’t quite make it all the way to town. At the edge of Ramban Street, sort of across the street from the Conservative Center is an asian place we have been wanting to try all month – Sheyan. Tonight seemed like the perfect time to try it.
Sheyan was wonderful, tasty, elegant and great service. Unequivocally the nicest ambience, most attentive service of anyplace we have eaten. In some respects, the most American of restaurants.
After dinner we decided rather than either walking straight home or walking into downtown, we would compromise and walk a more circuitous route home – passing us by the Great Synagogue.
Lo and behold, there was a big wedding in the courtyard of the Great Synagogue. We stood and watched the last 5-10 minutes of the wedding. Watched is a bit of an overstatement, there was such a pack around the chuppah, including many Rabbis, a photographer, 2 videographers and a whole bunch of other people that we barely caught glimpses of the bride.
It is always a mechayeh to view a chuppah while standing next to Jen, plus we were wearing our new rings, plus it seemed appropriate since our visit basically began with a wedding that it should end with one as well.
We finally made it home, paid the babysitter and said, “See you next summer.”
And now it is about 10:00 PM, the website is caught up (or it will be in about two more paragraphs) and the cab is not due here for another four hours.
Other than a shower, I am not sure to do with all this free time?
B'ezrat Hashem, the next time I write will be from my in-laws house in Los Angeles. Please let tomorrow pass quickly, without any surprises or great excitement, and as little screaming as possible!