Israel im Yeled Gadol

March 11th, 2015 § Comments Off on Israel im Yeled Gadol § permalink

My father gets up and dressed before I’m out of bed. I look at him. Blue and white checked button-up shirt, buttoned all the way to the neck, a black t-shirt peeking out. Long pants. He’s ready for a day at the office. 

Only today we’re hiking in the desert. 

I made him at least put a light color t-shirt on underneath (“But my gray t-shirt is dirty.” “So? We’re hiking in the desert!”)

And then:   

Peter: Don’t let me forget! I need to take my hearing aids out at the Dead Sea.

 Me: Okay. (Pause) You do know of course you absolutely, very importantly don’t get your head wet?!

Peter: You don’t? 

Me: No! Of course not!

Peter: It’s a sea. You don’t just go swimming and get your head wet? 

Me: No! It’s too dangerous. Did you read up on this trip at all? 

Peter: Yeah, but it’s a sea. What’s to read? You swim. 

 Me: Don’t swallow the water, either.

Peter: Okay, okay. (Two minutes later) So what’s Ein Gedi?

Sigh. I gave Peter my guide book. 

Israel sans Yeledim

March 9th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

We’ve reached that point in the trip where I’m not hungry for breakfast, but how can you not eat breakfast here? It’s. Just. So. Good. 

Peter and I spent hours at the Museum of the Jewish people (not a single “I’m bored” from either of us), visited the Palmach Museum (no one got scared), and walked all over (neither of us uttered, “Are we there yet?”). 

You know what’s in my purse? My wallet. A camera. Notebook. You know what’s not in my purse? Kindles. Half a melted chocolate bar. A Bamba wrapper. That rock that just looks so cool and some leaves that will be perfect for an art project back home. My bag is light and not sticky and easy to carry. 

Sigh. I miss my babies.

We are off momentarily to explore (on foot) Rothschild Boulevard, the Haganah Museum, and the Carmel shuk. Maybe at the shuk, I’ll buy a chocolate bar and let it partially melt in my purse. You know. Just because. 


Skidding to Israel

March 6th, 2015 § Comments Off on Skidding to Israel § permalink

Some people like to thank God when they get to Israel. I need to thank my husband. Not for rearranging his schedule to deal with child care (I was gone approximately four hours when Adam had to leave work to pick the boy up from school because he had a fever). But because I literally (yes, literally) wouldn’t have been here without his expert travel advice (he should work for a travel company!).

My plan was to take a 12:20 p.m. JetBlue flight to JFK, where I’d meet up with my dad (whom I shall once again call “Peter,” as his name is Peter; unlike my sister, the Tweedle Twirp, Peter has nothing to hide). We’d have plenty of time before our 6:45 p.m. El Al flight to Tel Aviv. Except the night before New York was getting some major storm warnings. So I did the only reasonable thing: I started to panic.

I spent most of the Purim Megillah reading frantically refreshing to see if the forecast had changed. I didn’t like its forecast so I surfed to other weather sites to see if I liked their forecasts any better. I didn’t. Either 2 to 4 or 3 to 5 inches of snow predicted, but with ice and wind.

The next morning, the forecast changed to 4 to 7 inches. Panic increased. But when I checked the JetBlue site, flights were fine. “It looks okay,” I said to Adam.

“There’s a 10:40 flight. Get to the airport early and see if you can get on it,” Adam said.

That set my panic off again. “But I don’t have time! Do you think I need to? What do I do if I don’t make it?”

Adam checked Amtrak for me. “All the Acelas have been cancelled. But you can still take a regional if you miss your flight.” Which would be cutting it pretty close. “You could rent a car at Logan and drive to JFK.” The flaw in that plan is that if the weather was too bad for airplanes, it would be too bad for me. Remember, I don’t drive in the white stuff.

I ate breakfast as fast as I could, hoped I didn’t forget anything (I did; my bathing suit), and I flew out the door two hours early. I was at the airport by 9:30 a.m. The 10:40 plane ended up being full, but as I was second on the standby list, I got a seat (and even one of those “roomier seats” you’re supposed to pay extra to have).

You know what’s fun about JetBlue? Those in-seat airplanes. Where you can watch CNN. As you fly to JFK. In a snow storm. As they air live coverage of a plane at LaGuardia that skidded off the runway.

And they tell you interesting facts. Like: do you know how they determine whether a runway is safe for landing? First, they go out and look at it. Second, they send trucks out on it to see if the skid. Very reassuring. 

 But I made it to JFK with serious hours to spare. I had lunch at an airport diner. Answered e-mail. Enjoyed a beer. Started a new book. And the El Al flight left about an hour late at 7:45 p.m. 

 And that 12:20 p.m. JetBlue flight I was going to take from Boston? Well it left Logan at 8:57 p.m. and arrived at 11:01 p.m., about when I was over Nova Scotia, enjoying a glass of Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon. 

 All hail my travel guru. Onwards to Israeli adventures.

Ess, Bubelah, Ess!

February 11th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink


The way I see it, as a tourist, the biggest problem with Israel is that there are only three meals in a day. I know when most people think of food, they think Italy or France. But out of all the countries to which we’ve been, hands down Israel is my favorite eating, and it has the food I most often try to replicate at home. The fruits and veggies are so fresh (and they are only available in season here); the breads are scrumptious; the sauces are tantalizing.

On our first night here, we met up with cousins. The kids, despite the language barrier, hit it off immediately. Ignoring age, the kids paired up by gender: 8-year-old Pie with her 11-year-old cousin and 10-year-old Doodles with his 8-year-old cousin. Apparently there is one thing that can cross all age and language barriers and Pie and Girl Cousin found it: Rainbow Loom (although in all fairness, Girl Cousin’s English is quite good). Doodles and Boy Cousin played chess and ran and discovered they both know all the words to “What Does the Fox Say?” (joy for the rest of us). Fast bonding for the two of them, and both kids are eager to see their newfound Israeli cousins tomorrow.


Giggling cousins


Rainbow loom: maker of friends

That first night with the cousins, we went for pizza in their neighborhood. Pizza, right? It was amazing. The mom was disappointed that Boy Cousin wanted such a boring pizza, but we were fascinated. We’d never eaten pizza with corn on it, but it was delicious. Turns out it’s a super common topping here, probably like mushrooms for us. They also put sauces on their pizza when they get them, either a hot sauce of a tomato sauce.


Pizza with corn

At almost every hotel in Israel, breakfast is included. The spread of Israeli breakfasts are fabulous, and I have to remind myself that there will be two other meals in the day. Israeli salad, vegetables, fruit, fish, bread, eggs, cheese, so much food (but never, mind you, meats, because all the hotels are kosher and you cannot mix milk and meat at a meal). Even my food adverse son is able to eat, as yogurt and, yes, puddings, are always available for breakfast.

What I eat:


Bread, fruit, Greek salad, fish, avocado egg salad

What the boy eats:


Egg, bread, chocolate and vanilla pudding

And then just on the streets and in the markets, where the piles of fresh food and pastries tempt you at every stall.


Spices in the Carmel Shuk


Pastries in the Carmel Shuk


A bread and egg concoction that both children ate while seeing Old Jaffa


Pomegranates in the Port Shuk

On about every third corner is a fresh juice stand, where they have just about every kind of fruit and veggie possible. I swear, before I leave, I’m going to have a kohlrabi juice. The woman at the stand said it’s quite good.


A just-moment’s-ago squeezed grapefruit juice

And finally, tonight, the kids weren’t hungry for dinner, so I took the opportunity to indulge in my beloved eggplant, which no one else likes. I had heard of a dish called Sabich, and I was determined to try it. The stall was about a mile from the hotel (ha, Duchess! Even in my quest for food, I’m wracking up the steps!), and it was worth every step. I. Love. This. Food. The pita is incredibly soft. And inside it is fried eggplant, potato, hardboiled egg, hummus, tahini, veggies, and spicy mango sauce. The guy who made it was super friendly, and made sure to make it spicy for me.



I’m already plotting how to ditch the family again and go back for another sabich before we leave Tel Aviv. Now I’m full and exhausted. I’m going to go to bed and dream of sabich.

Pie B’Israel

February 20th, 2009 § Comments Off on Pie B’Israel § permalink

And Pie? What about Pie on this trip? Let me tell you what we’ve learned about Pie:

–Her legs break easily. But they heal quickly when ice cream is involved.
–She (along with her brother) have discovered that, yes, chocolate pudding does actually qualify as a breakfast food in Israel, and have availed herself of one daily.
–She can fall asleep anytime, anyplace, as long as it’s not in a bed and it will cause physical pain and general inconvenience to those around her. Otherwise, she’s wide awake and she wants to eat. Now. No right now. NOW!
–If you give her 20 shekels to Pie and 20 shekels to Doodles for ice cream to spend while they’re off with the other kids and the counselors, Doodles will come immediately back and hand you 11 shekels in change. Pie on the other hand will come back with a wad of chewing gum in her mouth (which the youth counselor said she bought and announced, “I’m going to share it with my family,” but when this family member requested a piece, she shook her head vehemently and chewed harder) and ice cream on her face, and yet, when you ask for the change back, she’ll stick her hand in her pocket, rattle around a couple of coins, and say, “I can’t find it.” When you stick your hand in your pocket and retrieve the coins, she says, “Oh, there it is,” and giggles.
–She thinks the Kotel is “cool.”
–The girl can find a phone. Anywhere. No, seriously. Anywhere.
–No, she doesn’t need the potty. Yes, she’s sure. Don’t you get it? She doesn’t need the potty!! Until five minutes later. When she needs the potty right now because she has to go really badly!
–She likes teenagers. Oh, does she like teenagers. Especially the girl kind who fawn over her and do her hair.

Reality is going to be a bitch for this little one. We’re about to hit a “no pudding, no shekels, no ice cream twice a day” zone. It’s going to be a rough re-entry folks. Hold on tight.

Does Your T-Rex Wear a Kippah?

February 20th, 2009 § Comments Off on Does Your T-Rex Wear a Kippah? § permalink

We ended up one of our days in a mall in Tel Aviv for lunch, primarily, I believe, because it’s one of the few locations in Israel with a kosher McDonald’s, which is apparently a big deal if you keep kosher, which we clearly do not. My son, the adventurous eater that he is, decided on Sbarro’s pizza. In Israel, Sbarro’s pizza comes with a kid’s prize. Doodles chose dinosaur eggs that will hatch in water, which caused much discussion.

Adam: When the eggs hatch, what kind of dinosaur do you think it’ll be?
Doodles: I hope it’s a plant eater because if it’s a meat eater I’d have to kill something to feed it meat, and I don’t know how to do that because I’m not a solider.

He then posed the same question to his youth counselor. His young, sweet Israeli youth counselor. His young, sweet, Israeli, do I need to add Orthodox? youth counselor.
Counselor: It might be a plant eater or it could eat both plants and meat so if it can’t find any meat, it could eat plants. What kind of meat would you feed it?
Doodles: Well, bacon is meat. I can feed it bacon.

To which she had no response.

That boy of mine. Always knows just the right thing to say.

Be Careful What You Pray For…

February 20th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

We have made it to Jerusalem. The final leg of our trip. And we are doing all the things one would expect to do in Jerusalem and a few you wouldn’t. Placed notes in the Kotel. Explored the City of David. Shopped. Sifted dirt in search of antiquities at an archaeological site. Visited Yad Vashem (for the adults; the kids went to the Museum of Science). Visited a family of Ethiopian Jews in their home. And we went on a tour of the tunnels of the Kotel.

And, this, my friends, is where we get into trouble. Because in the Kotel tunnels, the kids who are awake (note: this means Pie was not in that group, as she was fast asleep in Adam’s, then my, then Adam’s, then my arms–hey, she’s dead weight when she’s asleep. It’s hard to hold her for very long) went with the youth counselors while we grown-ups explored. Which was all fine and dandy until Doodles got to the place closest to the Holy of Holies. As the name implies, it’s the holiest spot in Judaism, but it’s somewhere under where the Dome of the Rock is, so Jews have no access to it today. The spot in the tunnels is the closest you can get to it and many people come to this spot to pray.

(For those who don’t know what that is, without going into too much religious history here, once upon a time, there were was a temple in the heart of Jerusalem (twice: first Solomon’s Temple and then the Second Temple. If you’ve seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know that in the heart of the first temple was the Ark of the Covenant. It is the most sacred spot and by going through the tunnels, you pass the place it would have been).

When the grown-ups reached the spot, we all took a moment to close our eyes and make a personal prayer. But not the kids. As was reported to me by more than one person with the children, when they reached the spots, the youth counselors asked the kids what they’d like to pray for. They were reminded that they should think of greater things than “lots of ice cream” or “a new toy.” Apparently, my son immediately said, “Oh, I know what to ask for!”

“What?” the youth counselor asked.

“I want my mommy to have another baby. I want my mommy to have a new baby every day!”

And my friends, this will be the ultimate test of religion and modern science: God versus Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Care to place any bets?

The Scariest Thing I’ve Ever Done…

February 15th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Did you know that on Israeli Blogger, the username and password go from left to right? And they’re in Hebrew. But I digress. This post is clearly about the scariest thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve done a lot of stupid things. But the clear winner here is…

I let my 5 year old rappel down a cliff. Yes, that’s right. The materials were very clear: “Children age 9 and older and adults may rappel.” But this is Israel. And the rules don’t matter. And the guide said, “If he’s not afraid, he can go! I took down a 3 year old once.” And the boy was not afraid (thankfully, the girl was, because I couldn’t have handled that one).

“Rappel! Rappel! Rappel! Rappel!” he chanted all the way there (he’s the one in the red shirt on the right below). Halfway down, Adam had to give him a little hand because he didn’t want to let go of the rope, but he made it down, and while he thought it was a bit scary, he doesn’t seem to be harmed.

We’ve also: hiked in Mahktesh Ramon, eaten in a Bedouin tent, rode a llama (Pie), saw ibexes in the middle of the street on a run (Jenny), visited and lunched at the home of a Moroccan Jew, floated in the Dead Sea, had spa treatments (Adam and Jenny), saw camels, watched Strawberry Shortcake in Hebrew (Pie and Doodles), not slept much, ate way too much, and have generally had a very good time. Yes, there’s more to tell. But the Internet connection is costly and I’m on a borrowed computer. So tomorrow, off to Massada and Ein Gedi and then Sfat. Lilah tov!

Yom Ha’tzmaut

May 7th, 2008 § 2 comments § permalink

Warning: This is one of those long self-indulgent posts probably most interesting (or not!) to family.

So today is the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence, which isn’t normally a topic I’d blog about (as I, last post excepted, do tend to shy away from anything political int his blog), however…

Our synagogue had a big shindig tonight (and guess–out of the hundreds of people there tonight–who was the absolute first on the dance floor? Can you say Dancing Pie and her buddy Dancing Jasmine?) and I submitted some photos for the slide show that are just way too embarrassing to not share with you guys. Actually, this first trip was in a good phase. One of the few. That’s me and my cousin Oliver in Sfat. That trip was–gasp!–thirty years ago, and it’s easy to remember because we were there for Israel’s 30th independence day (and for those doing the math, I was not quite ten at the time). Oliver and I traveled with my grandparents on a UJA (United Jewish Appeal) trip that was done in a first-class kind of style. I can’t be sure, but I do seem to recall staying at the King David hotel, which was pretty fancy shmancy. Before the trip, my grandmother deemed that my fashion sensibility was lacking, so she insisted that we go to Jordan Marsh for a complete new wardrobe. Even then I wasn’t a fan of shopping and I didn’t completely get why my clothes all had “G”s on them (my grandmother apparently was a fan of Givenchy at the time). Things I remember most about the trip: taking turns with my cousin wearing my grandfather’s gold necklace; being terrified on a camel ride, which my grandfather found humorous; a man on the street in Sfat making a tin picture of a deer for me and my grandfather tipping him and telling me, “Nothing’s for free in this world”; getting a plastic hammer that made noise when you bonked people on the head with it during the independence celebrations, but I was too short and I hit someone–hard–with the plastic part; dancing the hora in the streets with my grandmother; and the way my grandmother would smile coyly and say, “Oh no! I’m not their mother. I’m their grandmother,” as if she didn’t know people would be confused by the fact that we called her Ema, which is Hebrew for Mom.

Oh dear lord, there it is!! Yes, I did dress like this as a sixteen year old (that’s me on the left). The scary thing is, even dressed like this, I never had a problem dating. Or maybe it’s because I dressed like this I never had a problem dating? Who knows? [Side note: I recently had reason to go through my high school yearbook. Dear God, we were a John Hughes movie come to life!] Anyhoo, when I was sixteen, I convinced my grandparents to send me to High School in Israel (not that it was all that hard–my parents are well known for their Jewish apathy and my grandparents were desperate to get to us grandkids any way they could. I distinctly remember my grandfather saying to me at Oliver’s bar mitzvah, “You know, if you had a bat mitzvah, you could get all these presents, too! You’d get a lot of money if you had one”). I have extremely mixed feelings in retrospect about the High School in Israel program: there was a more than fair amount of brainwashing involved, however, it was one of the first school programs to truly engage me. I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to hear that I was not a stellar student as a youth (my best buddy in high school, Eric, who I should say went to Princeton and is now a cardiologist, wrote in my yearbook [as I just rediscovered] “Sometimes your frivolity annoys me and sometimes your irrational moodiness drives me crazy, but I love you anyway,” but I digress), and High School in Israel was the first time I realized that studying could actually be interesting. Some of what I remember about the trip is: the eggs. The damn hardboiled eggs. I was a vegetarian, and those stupid eggs were pretty much all I could eat. I remember Shlomo who sold falafels from a cart out back, but they weren’t always in the budget. I remember not quite grasping my budget because at the time the Israeli currency was spiraling out of control and something that was 100 shekels at the beginning of the summer was 500 shekels at the end. I remember the cute Israeli soldiers who lived on campus who seemed so old to me; thinking that the hike up Masada was incredibly long and hard; going out with my twentysomething cousin to a bunch of bars and parties (no drinking age in Israel) and while we were on our way to the umpteenth party at about 3 or 4 a.m., telling him I just couldn’t take it and I had to go to sleep, and his surprise and disappointment at having to go home early; sitting in the desert and having a teacher tell me, “This is where Abraham buried his foreskin”; and the Zionist zeal that I was indoctrinated with, to the point where I returned home and told my parents that I was going to grow up to become an economist and save the Israeli economy.

Shall we flash forward twelve years? I’m not an economist. I didn’t save Israel. I do have an MFA in creative writing, a boyfriend who thinks we should become engaged, and no real prospects for an actual paying job. So what’s a girl to do? Run off and join a kibbutz! Well, not exactly join, but volunteer at for four weeks. Hmmm, make that six weeks. As long as I’m here, let’s just make that two, no four, okay six and a half months. That trip was a whirlwind and not something easy to summarize here. It’s been the fodder for plenty of writing (one of my favorite essays on it appeared here). I picked kiwis, managed (almost) irrigation lines, decided that the boyfriend was not for me (aren’t you happy I went on that trip, Adam!), drank lots of beer, realized just what babies those Israeli soldiers are, gave up being a vegetarian, traveled, wrote, figured out my life, and generally had the Israel experience I was looking for.

And now? Now even that trip is eleven years past. Now I’ve shed the glasses (yea, Lasik!), lost the hummus-olive-oil-labanah pounds (yea, Weight Watchers!), married, procreated, and am planning my fourth (but never final!) trip to Israel, this time with family in tow. And who knows? Maybe for Israel’s 90th independence day, Pie will be posting on her blog: “And this is from my first trip to Israel, when I was three. I was in a good phase then, still with the curly hair and chubby cheeks…”

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    I read, I write, I occasionally look to make sure my kids aren't playing with matches.

    My novel, MODERN GIRLS will be coming out from NAL in the spring of 2016.

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