I started walking around on Friday (that's Hebrew for Sunday). With Maddie still setting up and planning on a hardware store run to buy more bits and ends (or odds and pieces, I forget) I decided to walk to the Kotel. The Kotel is Hebrew for center of the spiritual universe. When I stand there in silent and very personal meditation, I truly can feel God's presence. The sun beat down but I pressed my head against the stones, closed my eyes and felt like I could place myself very clearly in the continuum of Judaism. As I whispered a quiet prayer in a sincere and spiritual mood, a spiritual bird spiritually pooped on my spiritual arm. True story.
I washed up and returned to the wall, and chose my spot more carefully and reconnected with the divine. On a Friday, one is accosted by more than the normal number of people asking for charity and contributions and I was easy pickings in my spiritual mood. I started giving a little bit of money to each of them t including the guy who just wanted to know what time it was. Now I'm broke but I believe that local etiquette allows me to walk up to strangers with my hand outstretched and they have to give me money.
I was standing at the wall and next to me a morning minyan (that's Hebrew for minion) was wrapping up (note the tefillin joke for the advanced users out there) and I heard one man ask the guy who led the prayer service, "Is this a Sephardic minyan?" The man answered, "This is the Kotel -- it is an everyone minyan!" It was a nice moment.
Next, I went in to the prayer plaza (the little tunnel area on the left side of the Kotel. I have never gone in there and it was great and I'm not just talking about the air conditioner. But that was awesome, too.
As I stood around, I overheard two men arguing. The guy in charge of the parasols was not allowing a man to take a parasol to a woman who was standing in the heat. There was much angry shouting -- very Israeli. Then, suddenly, one of the men apparently crossed a line of propriety. When he saw that the other man was really hurt, he immediately stopped arguing and repeatedly and sincerely, begged forgiveness. He kept saying "We are brothers!" Brothers fight but always have limits and ultimately want to reconcile. Another nice moment.
I walked back to the shuk (that's Hebrew for madhouse) area up Yafo Road, so I could meet up with nephew Rafi as he and his camp hiked through towards the old city. I was to transfer a bag of chocolate biscotti (that's Hebrew for brownie) to him. I ran into a group of college kids from campuses which lack a Jewish community. Some guy organizes these trips to help otherwise unconnected students have a chance to be part of the nation of Israel. Another nice moment.
I walked, dodging people and motorized bicycles. That's a thing here. In Jeruslaem, there are so many hills that it is more feasible to get around with a small motor attached to your bicycle. In Tel Aviv, it is so flat that the same conclusion holds. Motorized bicycles everywhere and drivers (from the 12 year old Arab boy to the elderly Chareidi woman) are fearless, zigging and sometimes zagging, and often, not in that order. In a country where people don't jaywalk, it is interesting to see the disregard for safety exhibited by these bikers. Vespas and motorcycles also abound -- easier to park than cars and they make shopping more convenient.
I handed off the biscotti to Rafi, walked through the shuk on a Friday (think Times Square, but with more cumin). Back to Maddie's apartment and then immediately back out to another store to buy a hot water urn and a microwave (she will save the hot plate for another day). Then back to Nomi and David for some pre-shabbos relaxing and calls to family.
By the way, Maddie was confirmed as disqualified for jury duty based on the bank statements I got printed in English (hapless dad and all that) and, according to phone calls, I will be getting the Ikea money credited and the car rental money returned within 10 business days. More updates on that as events warrant.
Then Shabbat (shabbos, sabbath, Saturday...whatever). We had a great dinner with baTASHevA and Zevi and Emmy, plus Micha and his friend Avrumi. Chicken, quinoa with butternut squash, zucchini, potatoes. Yum. Throw in 2 bottles of wine and you have a party. Afterwards David and I played Scrabble and chatted, then sleep. I davened at Kol Rina in a bomb shelter (it is much nicer inside than you'd think). Then lunch back with Nomi and David (and some great garlic/oregano smothered potatoes, plus more chicken and vegetables). I walked Maddie and friend to another friend's house and, to atone for all the potatoes, walked down to the Kotel. Nomi and David took 3 kids to the Hametz house in the old city (where Eli was eating lunch) and I came along. I went past the house as I was asked by a man from Flatbush if I could escort him to the Kotel. He felt safer walking with me. I don't know why, but he did. I didn't, but whatever. I certainly wasn't going to turn down a chance to go to the Kotel.
Then back up to the Hametz house for an afternoon of conversation about education, Judaism, children and security protocols at the airport. Lolly the kelev (that's Hebrew for bear) demanded I rub her belly so I complied because she is, after all, a bear. Then I walked back to Maddie's to play backgammon (that's Hebrew for shesh besh...look it up) and Chamesh Avanim (Hebrew for Kugelach) until I made havdalah.
For dinner we walked to Cinema City to eat at Moses, a hip and thigh Burger bar. We were joined by the Aarons (take a bow, Aarons). They made aliyah 14 years ago (I think) and are finally comfortable being seen in public with me. The drinks were overpriced, Maddie fell asleep at the table and the fried burger was more of a bit of showmanship than a culinary advantage. But I ate it anyway because it was fried. The onion strings were delicious and then the Aarons drove us home. How about a hand for he Aarons [ http://healthcareisrael.com/medical-care-for-gap-year-yeshiva-study-israel-programs/ ].
This morning I have begun to pack. Maddie has to make a couple of phone calls and I have to go buy chocolate. I expect my next entry will be from New Jersey, summing this all up. I anticipate tears and long hugs, but eventually we will have to let go and Maddie will have to accept that the chocolate is not for her.