Live always at the edge of poetic possibilty, even in the face of severe prose. - Walter Bruggemann

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Border Crossing to Remember (wasn't there a movie by a similar title???)

Angels come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I know because I have encountered some here in Israel. I’m not crazy and I don’t have Jerusalem syndrome but I do know when there has been some divine intervention in my life.

I went to the Sinai and the unexpected happened. I woke up on the day that my friends Donna and Dale and I were to leave for Jerusalem… and wouldn’t you know it, I went into Atrial Fibrillation….again. I blogged about my hospital experience with the first episode of A Fib a while back. This one is even more dramatic (and humorous) because we were scheduled to get a cab to the Taba border and cross back from Egypt into Israel.

I woke up early to get my suitcase packed, should’ve done it the night before but we were living it up at the resort watching a superb belly dance performance from which we just couldn’t tear ourselves away. I felt the telltale sign of my heart beginning to fast forward into A Fib. I couldn’t stand up without feeling faint and I had only one hour to pack my bags and meet my friends for breakfast. Yikes!

I called my friend’s room but they had left for breakfast. So I figured they would know that something was up when I was a no-show for the fabulous, all inclusive breakfast buffet. I lay on the floor and packed my bags, had I been watching myself on closed circuit television I would have laughed my rear off. Quite funny really, a grown woman scooting from the bathroom to the bed; by this time everything was on the floor so that I could pack my bags laying down and, get myself dressed.

Sure enough, Donna called and I told her I needed assistance. She came right to my room on the third floor to which there was no elevator. The stairs were on the outside of the building in the sweltering heat of the Sinai. Of course, nothing is ever easy is it? My bags were packed and we began the descent to the ground level.

Finally after about ten minutes and stopping so that I wouldn’t pass out we get to the bottom, Donna calls Dale. I decided to lay down right there on the concrete path in the shade. They asked two grounds people to help us and grab a wheelchair. I’m sitting on the concrete half dazed but awake enough to know that the guy goes to get a wheelchair from the maintenance room but he didn’t have the key. We wait. Finally he gets the key and then……………….I don’t remember because I fainted.

Now I’ve never fainted before in my life. And, I supposed the Sinai is quite a glamorous place to pass out if you’re going to pass out. Better than in your basement doing laundry or some such mundane and stupid activity. I hear that I was not out for long but when I woke up four faces were in my face. Two I recognized slightly and the other two faces, Egyptian faces, I didn’t. They kept asking if I needed a doctor. I heard them but I couldn’t figure out what they were actually saying to me. Then I came to. They helped me into the very sandy wheelchair and we were off to the reception area. The ride was rather bumpy over the stone pathways and I had to tell the ‘driver’ to pull me backwards rather than to push me at times, sure made my ride and his work easier all the way around.

Now I’m feeling quite awful and my heart was really going fast. The man at the reception desk calls the hotel doctor. OH, was that doctor HANDSOME. Tall and dark, anyway. He took my pulse and listened to my heart. Really, I’m surprised it didn’t go off of the charts when he held my wrist. He wanted to see me in his clinic – too bad I was ill. But the clinic was in Sharm El Sheikh the opposite direction from where we were headed.

I declined thinking I DO NOT WANT TO GO TO AN EGYPTIAN HOSPITAL, I DO NOT WANT TO GO TO AN EGYPTIAN HOSPITAL. I knew that’s where I would wind up eventually had I gone to Sharm El Sheikh. Practically inaudible I said “No I’ll be fine” denial works wonders sometimes. “Just let me get to into Israel again and then I’ll go if I need to” I said. “OK, but drink some water and be sure to take your pills” he said and then called a cab for us. We knew at this point that we were going to miss the first bus back to Jerusalem.

I laid in the backseat of the Range Rover cab and let the hot, sandy wind blow over my body. I dozed until we got to Taba, the border crossing between Egypt and Israel. Donna asked for a wheelchair and when it arrived she helped me into it. I slumped down to rest my head on the back of the chair. I felt really bad because they had to carry my luggage all the way to the crossing and no one bothered to help until Dale asked for assistance. Sheesh. An Egyptian crossing guard began to push me to the customs office all the while the border police, dressed in black, looked at me suspiciously, a weird sight I’m sure.

We went through customs pretty quickly, I don’t think they knew what to do; they just wanted me out of Egypt so that I could be some other country’s problem. After getting through customs we were off to the border. Me, in the wheelchair and Donna and Dale behind with the luggage.
As I’m being rolled the crossing guard began to ask me for a tip! Hey, here I am parched and dry into about three hours of an A Fib attack and he keeps bugging me for a tip. I muster up the strength to say, quite loudly, “You’ll get your damn tip, just keep wheeling me.”

We come to the border and he stops abruptly. Rules are rules ya know? Especially here in the Middle East. After Donna gives him a tip he practically DUMPS me out of the Egyptian wheelchair into Israel. Donna yelled, ‘wait, she needs another wheelchair’, which I did, I still couldn’t stand without feeling faint. After a few minutes an Israeli crossing guard comes with a wheelchair and hands it over. I was transferred from one chair to the other without incident. But, the Israeli guards wouldn’t lift a finger to help us. Perhaps they thought I had explosives hidden on me, I don’t know, I guess I looked pretty suspect on one hand…but this sweet and sun tanned face??? Come on, really!

We go through the security line and Donna wheeled me to the customs booth. Donna explains to them that I needed a three month visa – the visa issue is another story. I was granted the visa and we were off once again in a cab to the bus station in Eilat. I had decided that I really wanted to get back to Jerusalem to deal with all of this. But this is not the end of the story.

We get to the bus station and I had to try and walk into the terminal. We had a wait before the next bus arrived. I only made it about 15 feet when I decided that I had to lay down right there on the pavement. No matter that people were passing by and some men were at a table drinking coffee. When you gotta lay down, well, you gotta lay down. I laid down right next to them and curled up. Every now and then I’d try to sit up but not for long. That’s when Ilana appeared.

I have no dignity left at this point. In a very gentle voice, Ilana says to me, “Lay on your back” and then she took my legs and rested them on her shoulders. Could it get any worse? Here I am in the glamorous, bikini clad women, resort town of Eilat, at the bus station, in full view of every passerby, with my legs on some woman’s shoulders. You know what? I didn’t care.
She began to rub my ankles and it felt good, I began to relax. Her face was gentle as she closed her eyes a slight smile on her face appeared. Donna, very discretely said to Ilana, “Are you a doctor?” Ilana smiles a little more and still with her eyes closed shakes her head no. Tears began to come to my eyes; I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Then, Ilana releases one of my ankles and snaps three times above her head as if she was snapping away the A Fib demon. She told me that it was ok to cry to let out the toxins in my body. Then, I remember she told me as a woman that I should clean. Clean the floors if I remember correctly so that I could release the bad body energy. I thanked her and promised to get busy cleaning when I got home, if I ever did get home.

She gently puts my legs down. She was a healer and, at this point, I was up for anything. Then just like that, she vanished. I did feel better and after a while sat up. But the A Fib had not subsided. I finally gave in and asked Donna to take me to the hospital for an EKG and heart monitor. Dale was taking care of the transportation arrangements and watching our bags.
The hospital emergency room was hopping. Donna was able to convince the receptionist that I needed an EKG, that it was my heart! But first, insurance, cash or credit? Credit since my insurance won’t cover this pre existing condition. I had been down this road before with the money situation and the treatment.

At this point I just wanted to be home. The Doctor gave me the choice, and 18 hour drip or a cardio conversion and within ten minutes I’d be fine. Is there a choice really? I opted for the conversion. He knocked me out, took the paddles, and shocked my heart into sinus rhythm and within 20 minutes I was off to get the bus back to Jerusalem. My conversion story complete.
I’ve learned that when you need help God always provides. It may not be in the way that you want it but I guess God does the best with what’s available at the time. In my case, God’s work was extraordinary, angels come in all shapes and sizes and my ticker is back to normal. Amen

Friday, May 23, 2008

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

The sky was crystal clear blue, not one white cloud floated across its expanse. It was hot but the flora in the Holy Land is in full bloom. It was the perfect day to pay a visit to the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens. My neighbor and I hiked to the Gardens and after arriving we were looking at the Water lily pond when a 80ish something man approached us. He was riding in a mini golf cart. "Say, do you want a tour?" he asked. Carole and I looked at one another and said, "Sure!"

"My name is Michael, I'm a retired tour guide but now I volunteer my time at the Botanical Gardens. Follow me" he said. He sped up in his cart over to a shade tree where we sat and chatted. We told he that we wanted to see any Biblical plants and orchids. There seems to be an affinity for orchids in Israel. Off we were. Michael said that the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens were not built necessarily for their beauty but for educational purposes. In our eyes it was very beautiful.
"You have a beautiful welcome" Michael said. The Magnolia trees were still, just barely, in bloom. They lined either side of the pathway as we walked on to the Biblical plants.
Lots of pistachio trees. This is an unusual variety with red nuts, and they aren't dyed! Michael was a great tour guide. Just perfect for us, not too much information but just enough. Often he couldn't remember the exact name of the plant but he had lively stories about several of the trees. He was hearing impaired so sometimes a question or two was left unanswered. And when Michael wanted to get to another plant in a hurry he would speed up in his cart leaving us in the dust!

We tried to give him a tip when we were through. Of course he refused but then gave in to our insistence. He asked our permission to give the money as a donation to the programs at the Botanical Gardens for the classes for autistic children. A perfect ending to a beautiful morning.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Around Town

I want to share some random photos with you. They were not taken on the same day but they were snapped on one of my many walks in Jerusalem. This is the veranda right outside of St. John's Chapel of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City. It is here that we have coffee hour and greet tourist who worshipped with us.
On Ben Yehuda Street - you'll always find someone selling items. This man was out selling tefillin to a passerby. Tefillin are little black boxes that have small scrolls inside inscribed with scripture passages. Jews are to wear them at morning prayers.

A woman asking for 'donations' at the Kotel or Western Wall
Nuns walking back from the Sunday morning worship service at the Dormition Abbey.
Boys will be boys. After school one day I saw these boys climbing a Palm tree outside of the walls of the Old City.
One of the shops at the marketplace in the Old City.
Either his parents forgot to tell him that the 60's were over or he has a case of Jerusalem Syndrome. He was playing his guitar at the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre plaza.

Friday, May 16, 2008

There's a Sermon in Here Somewhere

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth….

....Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Cleopus and the other disciple weren’t quite sure with whom they were talking when they were travelling on the road to Emmaus. All they know is that a stranger joined them who had no idea or clue what had just happened in Jerusalem…that is Jesus’ tomb was found empty! It got late, they arrived finally at Emmaus. They were hungry so the invited Jesus to join them. Still they didn’t who this person was who was walking with them. Then, Jesus broke bread in the same way that he had done before. It was then that the disciples realized who it was that was with them. But by then, Jesus vanished.

This story appears in Luke 24 and is the second appearance of Jesus after his resurrection. It’s a favorite story among Christians relating to the breaking of the bread and knowing at that point that they are in communion with the risen Christ.

On the road again, and again, and again to Emmaus.

Some friends and I thought it would be great to go to Emmaus. How difficult could that be? After all, the Bible says that it was only seven miles outside of Jerusalem. Geez, we could practically walk it….just like the disciples..yeah right!

The tourist guidebooks not only tell you about one Emmaus, but four sites where the Emmaus “event” could possibly have happened. Now what to do? We rented a car since this appeared to be more difficult than we had thought. We got out a touring map, put on our sunscreen and then headed out Route 1 the main road from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. It wasn’t until the fourth century CE that these sites were suggested: Abu Ghosh, Latrun, el-Qubeibeh and Qalunieh.

I didn’t want to tell them that this was the first time that I had driven since last September. But, I couldn’t hide my joy at being behind the wheel again. Bliss. Ecstasy. And best of all, I remembered how to do it. Except that my left leg kept flying up in the air to depress the clutch like I was stomping grapes.

The first stop was Abu Ghosh a small Arab village north of Jerusalem. Aside from being a possible contender for Emmaus Abu Ghosh is known all over the country for their hummus, it’s the best. We stopped at one of the restaurants. We broke pita, ate hummus but our eyes were not opened. Neither were anyone else’s eyes in the restaurant opened for that matter.

We set out on our way and after circling the city several times we finally found a Crusader Church, the Church of Notre Dame de l’Arche de l’Alliance. We walked up to the gate, and of course, just our luck, it was closed. Sunday! Of course, what were we thinking? Even churches need a day of rest. We did sneak through an open gate and walk around the grounds, no one seemed to mind. There were only workers retiling the roof and climbing on the scaffolding that surrounded a very large Mary. Our eyes still were not opened.

Al Qubeibeh, which is closely located to Abu Ghosh also is a suggested sight. Both of these places are dated rather late during the Crusader Period. Again we took a very circuitous route trying to find Al Qubeibeh. Finally we found the road and we coming close to the area we ran up against a big, yellow, iron gate. We could no further. What we didn’t see on the map was that Al Qubeibeh is in the West Bank. In order to get there we would have had to drive about 45 minutes to the checkpoint where we could get in. We decided not to take our chances and figured our eyes wouldn’t be opened there either.

The next possible sight was in the area of Latrun Monastery. The identification of this area is fairly early and is mentioned in Eusebius’ Onomasticon around 330 CE. Pay dirt we thought! But no. The Trappist Monks are the caretakers of the Monastery and are known for their wine. Damn. The shop was closed…because it was Sunday. So was the church for that matter, but we were able to walk a short distance in their very beautiful gardens. Eyes – still shut.

Close by the Monastery in Latrun is a place where a church complex was excavated dated to the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE. The complex is called Churches of Emmaus – Nicopolis. Emmaus was granted the status of a city back in the day (218-222 CE) by Emperor Elagabalus and was subsequently known as Nicopolis. The Crusaders settled in the area in the 12th century CE and built a small church within the other complex. Even though this is called the Churches of Emmaus – Nicopolis it was not thought by the Crusaders as the gospel tradition of Emmaus. Of course it was closed.

Now what? Our energy was depleted. We hadn’t really seen anything nor could we confirm that we had had an eye opening experience in our search for Emmaus. We did have fun and enjoyed exploring the countryside on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We figured out that you don’t really need to be certain where Emmaus was in order to have your eyes opened to the redemptive power of Christ.

At least I have photos of all of the Church signs.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Pee Wee Moment

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is a story filled with ‘Pee Wee Herman’ moments, actually the entire movie is a Pee Wee moment for that fact. No matter what befalls him, no matter where he winds up, or who he is with there is always a time in which his frantic little life is slowed down, a nanosecond, and he engages in a compassionate act, of sorts. In the movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, his Road Master bicycle is stolen. On the advice of a whacked out, money hungry fortune teller he heads off to Texas in search of his bike. The Alamo, more specifically. In the basement of the Alamo is where the fortune teller tells him he’ll find his bike.

Pee Wee is a feverish little wisp of a man-boy. His house is filled with contraptions and toys. He is determined to find his bike. The music reflects his frenetic activity; you sort of get caught up in it. But he stops to pet animals, rescue snakes, comfort a lovelorn waitress and then without missing a beat, continues the search for his bike.

I had a Pee Wee moment last Wednesday. I was practically galloping up Agrippas Street to get to a lunch date for which I was already late. I was heading into the Makane Yehuda area, one of the, if not the most chaotic markets in Jerusalem. But I was stopped at the crosswalk by the little red man walker light. Which, in Israel, is a very long stop. If there is one thing that Israeli’s do, it is to stop at the pedestrian lights. No matter where you get the red walkers light they stop. A busy intersection, they stop. An empty intersection, they stop and wait. Even on Shabbat where there are three cars in all of Jerusalem on the road, they pleasantly wait. Their patience is overwhelming and practically unbelievable considering the pushy behavior that they sometimes display.

I was waiting with everyone else when I turned around and saw an elderly woman standing behind me. She was a little humped over, slightly overweight and when the green man walker light appeared she asked me something and put out her hand.

For the briefest moment I thought, O GEEZ, I need to bolt across Agrippas in Pee Wee style and get to the restaurant. But, I took her hand instead. Slowly and gently we began to walk across to the first island in the street. She talked to me in Hebrew even though I told her that I spoke mostly, almost exclusively English. We walked to the second medium island, it’s an odd intersection, and then continued to the other side. We were at the market. She released my hand but I grabbed it again because the sidewalk was crowded and we needed to walk in the street for a short distance. When we parted she said over and over, “Todah Rabah, Todah Rabah,” which means thank you. I sped up once again, in Pee Wee style, to get to the restaurant. It wasn’t until late in the evening that I thought about the woman in the middle of my big rush.

I lost my mother many years ago; sometimes it’s hard to envision what our lives and relationship would be like today. Mom probably would be about the same age as this woman. Maybe she would have even held out her hand for me to hold. At least I hope so. I’m going to interpret my “Pee Wee” moment with this stranger as a visit from mom. It was a split second of grace in a world of uncertainty and rushed living. This woman’s eagerness to depend on a me, a stranger, caught me and touched me in a most Godly way.

I’m not sure who was guiding whom; we both needed one another at the moment.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Yesterday in Rehavia

Yesterday was Yom Ha'atsmaut in Israel. A day set aside to celebrate her independence after the UN voted to establish the State of Israel in 1948. This year was the 60th anniversary which was marked in a very grand fashion. As Yom Zikaron - Remembrance/Memorial Day -ended at sunset on Wednesday, Yom Ha'atsmaut began in the same breath. Fireworks began about 11:00 pm and there were parties and singing that went on into the wee hours of the night. In the morning at Gan Sacher, a park near me, the bar-b-ques were already beginning. At noon an air show flew right over my apartment building.
I've talked about my neighborhood, Rehavia, in previous blogs. It's a great place with narrow, tree lined streets and geraniums, roses, honeysuckle in full bloom. Rehavia is an older neighborhood where Hebrew Gymnasia, the first school to educate boys and girls together was established in 1929. The neighborhood has quite a history. The home of the second and longest running president of Israel, Yitzhak ben Tzvi is preserved a few blocks away from me.

Each Yom Ha'atsmaut Rehavia closes off its streets and treats the residents from all over Jerusalem to a street fair. At different intersections men and women were dressed in period costume and dancing, singing and telling the stories of Israel and of the neighborhood. There was music, street vendors, antiques dealers, cotton candy, candy apples and lots of good fun. The day was stunning and people were joyful. The Israeli flag was flying almost everywhere you looked.
An antique Egged bus!
The day ended with a spectacular sunset. Happy Anniversary Israel.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Yom HaZikaron, Day of Remembrance

Yom HaZikaron, Day of RemembranceToday in Israel the memory of her fallen soldiers is being observed. It is quite a mournful day as Israel remembers the men and women of the Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli Security Services and victims of terrorist action who have lost their lives. It is Memorial Day here. At 11:00 am a siren sounded for two minutes throughout the country. Traffic stops no matter where you are in remembrance of the fallen. It is not like Memorial Day in the United States filled with parades and bar-b-ques, it is filled with prayer and reflection.

I attended a ceremony at the local high school in Rehavia which is not far from my house. Although in Hebrew, parts of the service I could understand. We stood when the siren wailed the two minute salute and then recited Kaddish Yatom - a special prayer that praises God. Kaddish is said during a time of mourning for people who have lost loved ones. A torch was lit and the ceremony began.

The high school has been functioning for 99 years and during that time 137 individuals, students and teachers have lost their lives. Their names were read individually according to the period in which they lost their lives. The students read poetry and sang songs. It was quite moving. The service ended with Hatikva, the Israeli National Anthem. Hatikva means 'the hope', the hope of Jewish people to return to their homeland.

I am not an advocate for war but I do believe that we should honor those whose lives have been lost in defense of his or her country. As the names were being read I heard my last name among them. My name is not a common one here and so when I heard it, it jarred me. I thought of my own children and it reminded me that the fallen soldiers were so young with so much potential and hope for a nation.
In Israel every young person, after high school does military service for three years. Everyone. I'm sure that families are prepared in the corners of their minds for the very real possibility of losing their loved one. The reality is, they could..and many do.
Let us remember all of the people who have died, no matter what country that they are defending, for in their death they have given a nation and life to us.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One Last Photo from Darajat

One of the most exciting, unplanned activities or, eh hum, learning experiences happened on the last night that we were in Darajat. We were sitting around the dinner table outside the home in which we lodged. The sun had gone down and the hamseen had broken so the wind was nice and cool after so many days of hot and sandy wind and dry air. A mixture of Hebrew and Arabic jokes were whirling around the table. A few, that were suitable for my ears, were translated into English.

A few of the children were still awake and sitting on the steps next to us. They began squealing and then yelling. A man ran to them, took off his sandal and whacked it on the ground a few times. We didn't know what was happening except that it was rather intense compared to the levity at the dinner table. Their squealing stopped and they gathered around the one sandaled man to see the catch of the day.

The catch...a scorpion.

I blogged about this traumatic event in an earlier blog but my friend and 'roomie' had a photo of the booger. Just want to show you that I WAS NOT KIDDING about the scorpion!! She gave me permission to post the photo. Nice, scorpion huh?

You can check out Dina's blog at for another view of life in Jerusalem.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Geesh, it seems like ages ago that I actually sat down to write about life here. It’s easy to get caught up in posting photographs with little commentary. I know that pictures speak a thousand words but sometimes they can’t really give you the interesting, sordid, mundane or exciting details of life in Israel.

It’s been a busy month here. Pesach (Passover) was almost two weeks ago now. There was a lot of excitement leading up to it. On the lampposts and street side billboards notices began to appear, the homemade kind with the tear off phone number at the bottom. People were advertising their services as housecleaners for Pesach. I was so tempted. Either to rip off one of the phone numbers or to put up my own up to make a few extra shekels, any way I figured I would benefit. But then I realized this was so not about me moreover, I didn’t know how to properly clean for Pesach. Nor did I care if my apartment was dirty really. Granted it’s a special kind of cleaning but it couldn’t hurt, right?

Getting ready for Pesach is a pretty detailed here. I suppose in a Jewish community anywhere it’s the same but the preparations are quite visible here. Getting back to the cleaning, Torah says that there should be no chametz in the house. Chametz is any food may of grain and water that is allowed to ferment or to leaven. So people clean and get it out of the house.

On the Friday morning before Pesach, I woke up to a burning smell. Quite a strong smell, which seemed so odd and out of place here. I thought perhaps a house was on fire until I remembered that my friend told me that there a very few house fires here because the houses and apartment buildings are made from stone and concrete. When I finally went out to the flower shop at the end of my street I found the source of the smell. The yeshiva on the corner was having a bonfire on the sidewalk. Everyone in the neighborhood was bringing their chametz and other various, and not to mention curious, items to pile on the heap. All day long the burning went on and sometimes it was accompanied with singing. So needless to say Rehov Ramban was pretty lively.

On the way home from the florist I stopped in our local little food market. As I walked in a group of young people were standing outside asking for food donations items like rice, canned goods, or baby food so that less fortunate families could enjoy a Pesach Seder meal. As I put the extra bag of groceries which I had bought for the collection I remembered the Seder’s that people had invited me to past few years. How wonderful and joyous they were and how blessed I was to be invited.

I walked down the aisles looking to pick up some last minute items because Shabbat was about to begin and when that happens all of the stores and businesses are closed for 24 hours. But when I went in, huge areas of shelves had white plastic taped over them. Oy, not kosher for Passover! I have to say, there were slim pickin’s but really, none of us starved. Thankfully Bamba was made kosher for Passover. Bamba, although not high up there on my snack food list, is a peanut butter flavored puffed corn item. Bamba was especially marked kosher so all of the little children could be happy and keep up their Bamba addiction.

As Shabbat came to an end and the sun was setting, Pesach began. The full moon layered Jerusalem with a gentle light. It illumined the streets and stone walkways. Little girls were dressed in their finest and men and women so too, dressed in their most excellent attire, were on their way to family and friend’s Seders.

I was invited to a Seder with friends from the States. It was an enjoyable evening with friends. Good food was abundant and lots of ritual, which I love. We lit candles and read from the Haggadah. Jews are commanded to tell their children about the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom. The Haggadah tells the story. We remembered the plagues, cleansed our hands, and sang.

The matriarch of the family retired for the night. I went over to say good night and thank her for having me in her home. Her memory is dim but not her purpose or her kindness. When I held her hand and said good night she said to me, “oh, you’re the new girl”. I softly said, “yes, I’m the new girl.” Then she told me that “God is good.” Indeed.

Holidays are a unique time for us. Whether it is a Jewish holiday, or a Christian holiday, or even a Muslim holy day, it brings people together and binds them with shared memories that are not created intentionally but are created through the interaction with others and in the sharing of life’s crags and valleys.

It is tradition that the Seder ends with the words, ‘next year in Jerusalem’. I don’t know where I’ll be next year but this Seder, in Jerusalem, will always remain in my heart.

L’shana ha’ba-ah b’Yerushalayim

Friday, May 2, 2008

Darajat Information

Tomer Cahana, a tour guide in the Negev, had a vision for the village of Darajat. They have done extraordinary things in the life of he village and he would like for Darajat and it's people to become a place where people, tourists, will visit. Several of the villagers have gone on to become tour guides themselves and bring tourists to the village. Tomer's hope is that through this program and others in Darajat that it will become a economically thriving village.

The 'summer school' which I attended was only the second time that such a program was held. Our experience was written about in Haaretz both in the English and Hebrew edition.

Sunrise over Darajat

Mah salaameh, Mah salaameh

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bread Baking in Darajat

Unc, this one's for you! Several times a day the women of Darajat would bake a bread called hoobus in an oven called a taboon. The taboons were inside of these little huts and were placed throughout the village. The bread is a traditional Bedouin bread that is served with every meal. It's large and flat, sort of like pita but not really. You use the bread to scoop up just about everything that is served, tahina, hummus, salata, roz w'bendora (rice with vegetables), labane with zahtar. Really yummy.

The dough was prepared in their kitchens and then taken down to the taboon. Several days ago I posted a photo of a woman walking down to the taboon with the dough on top of her head.
The cone with lid is where the dough is put to bake. She lifts the top off of the cone and places one loaf inside of the cone. The loaves take only 5 minutes...maybe to bake.
Here she is taking the dough balls and placing one of them into extra flour. She's getting ready to prepare the dough for baking. You can see the freshly baked hoobus on the tray. Hoobus is good.....but hoobus directly from the taboon, next best thing to heaven.
She takes the dough and stretches it 'pizza style' until it's ready to go into the taboon for baking.
My 'roomie' getting a close up shot of the dough going into the taboon to bake. It layed over some sort of mold inside. The top was placed on and minutes later, hot hoobus.
I liked the crispy parts. The loaves are about 12 inches in diameter.

Our class taking our lunch break. Hot soup for a hot day, salads and hoobus. Bon Appetite!