There and Back Again – Part 3 – “Israel/LA”

I arrived back in Israel on the Thursday, with plans to meet up with my sister Mira and some friends in Tel Aviv that evening.

The city was holding a “White Night”, meaning that everything would be open all night long, with a number of shows happening on various streets around the city.  We met up at a little restaurant on Ibn Gvirol, but wound up lingering for ages as people slowly arrived.  Finally, we headed out and somehow managed to arrive places right after the last show was over.  Even so, it was fun to just wander the city at night, even if we didn’t find any live music (save for some very odd Klesmer band at the very end that felt like we’d walked into a David Lynch movie.)  To top the night off Mira and I went to the Israel Museum at 4am to see an exhibit of a famous Israeli cartoonist.  There was something quite eerie about the museum in the middle of the night, although we weren’t quite the only people with the bright idea of checking out the exhibits that late.  Still, I was happy to get home and sleep.  After all, I had come all the way from Istanbul that morning.

A couple of days later I went up north with friends Nicky and Eli.  We started out by visiting Bet She’arim in the lower Galilee, where we got to explore a necropolis from the 5th century.  I had never been in a necropolis before and this was quite a place, with amazingly carved stone sarcophagi.  It’s also the final resting place of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, who wrote the Mishna.  From there we went hiking in the Galilean Bethlehem (distinguished from the other Bethlehem by the simple fact that it’s in the Galilee.)  What was promised to us in the guidebook as a great hike up to a hill strewn with “magical blooms” was actually just a hike in the heat through a bunch of thorns.  I guess we should have come in the spring, not the thick of a hot Israeli summer.

From there we decided to go swimming in Sachne, an amazing natural pool at he foot of the Gilboa Mountains.  However, by the time we got there it was closed, so we went up the mountains instead.  Naturally, I found the highest point to climb, which turned out to be an old guard tower.  Climbing up it was more than a challenge that you would think, as the wind was blowing through the thing with immense force, and making me feel just a little shaky on my feet.  The climb was well worth it, sporting a 360 degree view from Jordan in the east Samaria to the south, and the Upper Galilee and the Golan to the north.

Days blend together, a mixture of good food, good conversation, plenty rest, and a fair bit of gardening, which is something I always enjoy in my parents back yard.  Pruning avocado trees, weeding the rose bed, and whatever task might be needed at the moment (like stringing up the hammock).

Eli and Miri invited me to join them at a concert given by relative Israeli newcomer Aya Corem.  She only has the one album and it was interesting to watch someone who has quite a nice voice, several memorable songs (I’ve been hearing them over the internet on Israeli radio these last few months), but still hasn’t figured out her whole “performance” shtick.  The creative process is as interesting to me as the final product, and here was someone whose process was still very much in the works.

That last week I also went to the theatre at the behest of my friend Haim.  It was an experimental piece of theatre at the Simta Theatre in Jaffa.  It might very loosely be described as being about the history of the city, but that wouldn’t be doing it justice.  The play was great in all the ways that Israeli really know how to do justice to the more experimental end of the theatrical spectrum, incorporating very powerful visuals (a huge pendulum that descended from the ceiling and was thereupon ridden by the main actress wearing a costume that looked very much like a burial shroud), and a great sense of humour.

I also took my parents to the cinema to see the Israeli film, “Jellyfish” which just won a big award at Cannes.  My father was quite moved by the film, which is all about alienation and abandonment.  Personally, I found it somewhat derivative and obvious, and very much of its time (3 seemingly disparate stories intertwine to create greater meaning).

My last day in Israel I picked Mira up after she finished one of many exams (she’s getting her Masters in Psychology) and we hung out in Tel Aviv.  After a great lunch at a very fancy restaurant, we wandered about (the best way to explore the city), making our way down to Shenkin, Nahalat Binyamin, and Shuk HaCarmel.  Tel Aviv was bustling as always, a typical Friday afternoon.

That night, my last, we had dinner outside as usual, and toasted my parent’s 42nd anniversary.  The champagne flowed freely, distracting me from the fact that I was going to be heading back to the US in a matter of hours.  I could have used another week, but alas, I had to get back to work.  It’s not so bad, as I’m going back to Israel in September for Mira and Idan’s wedding, which promises to be a lot of fun.

I wound up staying up all night, given that I had to be at the airport at 2:30am.  From there, it was back to Amsterdam for a couple of hours in the airport, and then 10 more hours to LA.  Fortunately, I had an exit row seat and the flight wasn’t too obnoxious.  The only real fly in the ointment is that I developed a cold my last day in Israel and the pressure in my ears made for some very exciting ear-ache on takeoff and landing.  Ouch.

So that’s pretty much it.  I’m still feeling groggy, and will probably crash in a couple of hours.  I’ve got a little bit of prep work for school tomorrow, but that’s all.

All said and done, I’m letting that “holiday feeling” last as long as possible.

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