I'm going to use the terms "Passover" (or "Pesach) and "Passover break" loosely in this entry, mostly because my Passover break included a full week before the actual break ever began. My mom and our family friend Vicki decided to come see Israel for the first time and spend a few weeks with me, and since they arrived a week before my break from school, I spent a total of almost three weeks on some sort of vacation/break!
After a VERY grueling plane ride, Mom and Vicki arrived at the airport in Tel Aviv in the middle of the night... I was there to greet them because one of my professor's wives was on that very same flight, my professor found out I was waiting for my mom, and offered to take me to the airport and pick up the whole crew!! After sleeping a few hours of the morning away in the hotel room, the three of us got Mom and Vicki's very first Israeli falafel and then set off to explore the Old City! We trekked through the Armenian quarter and it's Aladdin-esque shuk, and then said a Shecheyanu (prayer for reaching a special moment in your life) for their first time at the Kotel (Western Wall). We also explored the Cardo, an ancient road that runs through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, but which is now mainly upscale Judaica shopping.
Day two was also spent in Jerusalem, exploring the shuk for the first time! After another lunch of falafel/shwarma, we took a cab to Hadassah Hospital to see the famous Marc Chagall stained glass windows. That evening, after mom and I had dinner with Joel and Ari, we had a little "meet my mom" party at the apartment!
The ladies' first Shabbat in Israel was spent in Eilat. We lounged on the beach, took a few dips in the Red Sea, relaxed by the pool, did some unsuccessful bathing suit shopping, walked on the promenade, lit Shabbat candles in our hotel, and even had corn on a stick! The wonderful trip was topped off by an extremely ridiculous bus trip back to Jerusalem and an even more ridiculous evening in the hotel (so ridiculous I can't even go into it). Even so, we had a great relaxing weekend in the sun!
The first half of the next week was back in Jerusalem, as I needed to go to a few days of school before my break started. On Sunday, the ladies explored Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, and the Israel Museum (home of the Dead Sea Scrolls) while I went to class. Mom spent Monday exploring various parts (some safer than others...) of the outside walls of the Old City, and then I showed Mom the glorious place that is my grocery store- SuperSol (or Super Slow, as we like to call it). We bought a few things for Seder, and then had dinner and dessert in the German Colony with Ari. On Tuesday, my first day off, Mom and Vicki went on an organized tour of Masada and the Dead Sea, so I slept in, did some paper research, and pulled myself back together after a busy week of playing tour guide!
Tuesday night and Wednesday were mostly spent preparing for the Seder, though we did take some time to hang out with Joel and his mom Ruth who had just arrived for a visit! The guys and I took the moms to our favorite dessert place, Babette's, for waffles, on Tuesday night, and Wednesday morning was spent with Mom, Vicki, Joel, and Ruth in the Old City. We got to see a bunch of Orthodox guys burning their chametz (bread items, NOT kosher for Passover) outside the Old City walls, went back to the Kotel, and did a little more shopping and falafel eating.
Wednesday night was our Seder. Awhile back, Joel, Jaclyn, and I realized that we would all have parents in town during Passover, so we decided to have a "family" seder! Our group included me, Mom, and Vicki, Jaclyn and her mom and dad, Joel and Ruth, and then Ari, Lisa, Jimmy, and Lisa's friend Micah. Each of us "kids" was responsible for several pieces of the service, and we put together our own haggadah to read through! It was a really fun, creative, engaging seder, and we all had a great time leading and learning from each other. With LOTS of help from our awesome parents, we also made an incredibly delicious seder meal!
The ladies and I set out for Tel Aviv early the next morning. We spent lots of time walking along the beautiful beach of the Mediterranean Sea, Mom and I explored Old Yafo, and we met my friend Mollie for lunch overlooking the water. Lunch was pretty interesting, as a dog ran into the restaurant from the street not once but TWO different times and ate my lamb kabobs off my plate- no fair! After an afternoon exploring Neve Tzedek (the first neighborhood in Tel Aviv) with Mollie, Mom, Vicki and I checked into our hotel and took a walk to Rabin Square (the place where PM Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally in 1995). We then took a VERY long walk along the beach to the Namal (pier) for dinner- even though the restaurant wasn't kosher, they offered us matzah with our salads... VERY cool to be in Israel for Passover!
Friday morning was spent exploring and buying at the Nachalat Binyamin art fair in Tel Aviv, and then on a train to Ramle and a taxi to Kibbutz Gezer! We had delicious omelettes for lunch with my friends Rabbi Miri and her husband David, as well as some guests of theirs. David took us on a tour of Pinat Shorashim (the educational park where I intern), and then I led the music for Shabbat services at Miri's congregation (where I also intern) Birkat Shalom. We had a wonderful Shabat dinner at their house with their family and some guests, and went back to Jerusalem that night.
We spent the rest of our Shabbat the way I always do: having Shabbat lunch and playing cards with Joel and Ari. This time, the moms joined in, and Mom even beat us all at cards! That night, we packed all of Mom and Vicki's stuff and even two suitcases for me, because the next day we were headed on a two day tour of the North and then straight to the airport!
We took a GREAT two day tour of the North with our tour guide, Michal, who was COMPLETELY and TOTALLY out of her mind- seriously, a real nutcase. Good news was, she was a great guide, knew shortcuts, and interesting places, and information about everything! I couldn't possibly describe every place we went, so I'll just give a list:
Jordan Valley, see Jericho, Beit She’an, Kibbutz Gesher, Drive on military road to see Jordan River, Lunch at Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov, See border of Israel, Jordan, Syria at Hama Gader, Kibbutz Degania, Kinneret, Drive through Tiberias, Hula Valley: lookout from Golan to Syria, Jaba Al Sheik/ Valley of Tears, Druze villages,Gorge of Sa’ar (waterfall), Drive by Banias, Dinner and Overnight: Tel Hai Guest House, Metulla, “Good Fence”/ see Lebanon, HaShomer Cemetary at Tel Hai, Kiriat Shmona, Rosh Pina, Tzfat, Rosh Pina for lunch, Drive Akko-Tzfat highway, Haifa: Bahai’i Gardens, ice cream, Stella Maris Church, Zichron Yaakov... WHEW!!
the snow-capped Mt. Hermon
waterfall at Gorge of Sa'ar
Stella Maris church
Our "hotel" was certainly not the greatest, and neither was our tour guide, but we had a really good time and saw more of the North than I could ever have hoped to show them on my own. Unfortunately, the end of our North trip meant the end of Mom and Vicki's vacation in Israel. I was really sad to see them go, and I know I was SO lucky to have my mom spend time with me here, see my life in Israel, and meet my friends. And of course, I'm really happy that they got to visit Israel for the firs time. We got dropped off at the airport after the tour, and they checked in and headed home to the States, while I jumped onto a Sherut and went back to Jerusalem.
Of course, just because I was on my own didn't mean that I was going to take it easy! The next day I took a bus to Netanya, a city near Tel Aviv, to have a 7th night festival meal with my Israeli friend Moran and her whole family. I last saw her family five years ago, when they hosted me during my very first trip to Israel. It was surreal but really great to see them all again, and to get to join them for a meal. I even spoke mostly in Hebrew to the family (but mostly English to Moran- it's hard to catch up in Hebrew)!
On Thursday I jumped back on the bus and met Joel and Ruth in Ramle for lunch at my favorite Israeli restaurant, Samir's, where I go with Miri and David every time I volunteer at Kibbutz Gezer!
I spent most of the weekend resting, hanging out, and writing my liturgy paper, and before I knew it, it was back to school!
Next up... the "Israeli" holidays (Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, Yom Ha'atzmaut) and the third P... PACKING!!