I had decided before I left that I would keep a journal of the trip, as an aide memoir, but also because I knew there would be a lot to write.
It actually started before I even left home. The synagogue in London started a Jewish Film Society last year, and I was sent details on the off chance that I might like to go. As they supported us, I felt we should support them. I went once, and have continued to do so because I enjoy the movies and love the dinner beforehand, the food is wonderful. I sometimes go with Cathy and also take the husband now and again. There are around four films a year, and I have enjoyed seeing them, ( bar one, which was a drama based on the second world war but I don't think it would be called enjoyable but we can't shut our eyes to what happened).
So, there I was, just before I was due to go away at the dinner prior to the screening of "Above and Beyond", which was a documentary on the birth of the Israeli Airforce, an absolute cracker of a movie and I thoroughly enjoyed that, especially as I had other experiences on my trip that tied in to it.
Anyway, I digress. We, the husband and I, shared a table with the Rabbi and her husband, and I was telling them that I was off to Israel in ten days time, so then the discussion started around the table as to where to go in Jerusalem for the best Hummus, what I should see and where I should go. I was getting more excited and I think they were all a little envious. Food formed a major topic of conversation, and a discussion started on certain cookbooks, and one of the ladies said she had this lovely book, Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, ooh!! says I, its one of my favourite books and I love cooking from it! They looked at me. Really? You must be an amazing cook then as I just like to look at the pictures................ but honestly, it's not that difficult. ( I have recently taken delivery of yet another wonderful cookbook, The book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur, and that one is even more delicious!!! Time for the synagogue to start cooking lessons using these books, I will be suggesting it).
I'm off topic again so back to it. The meal was delicious, the company fun, and then it was time to go in and see the movie. Just before I went in, the Rabbi stopped me. " You will have a wonderful time in Israel, but you need to pay it forward so I want you to do a mitzvah as that will bring you even more luck". And with that, she pressed a toonie,( $2), into my hand with strict instructions that I had to pass it on to someone who needed it. (You will have to continue reading to see if I completed the task).
If your wondering what a mitzvah is, the definition of it is a precept or commandment, but it is usually used to signify a good deed done to help another.
So, that was the first entry in my journal, actually, it was the second, as I had been sent an interesting poem by Yehuda Amichai, which I had written into the first page of my journal.
The flight was long, and I was beginning to get a little bored, but, calmed myself down, slept, watched a movie and ate a little. Eventually, the day got brighter and it wasn't too long before it was announced that we needed to sit as we were now in Israeli air space and could not move around the aircraft, and we were beginning our descent into Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. I had the middle seat so could just see out of the window and saw the Mediterranean sparkling in the sunshine below. It wasn't too long before we were on the ground and disembarking the aircraft. I was surprised to notice that the airport is not terribly big and one does not have to walk miles to get to passport control. I think we were the only flight in at that time as my passage was quick and didn't have to wait long for my luggage. It was 10.30am at this point on a Thursday morning, so I had left Toronto at 6pm the previous evening. I walked into the arrivals hall to be met by Shoshi and Eti. It was such a lovely welcome and I was so happy to see them again. I was going to be staying with Eti for a couple of nights, so we let Shoshi go back to work, she is not far from the airport, and Eti put me into her car and drove me to her home in Ramat HaSharon. I enjoyed the journey and, although I was tired, looked about me with new eyes. The trees were different, the cars were different and the road signs are in three languages, Hebrew, Arabic and English. I think it would be pretty hard to get lost in Israel as the roads are signposted so well.
We arrived at Eti and Yair's house and I was shown my room and had a shower and it was lovely to wash the dirt of travelling off. Eti explained that she had invited some quilting friends over later that afternoon, I felt a bit like a celebrity, but was honoured to think they would be interested in meeting me. So we had lunch and then it was suggested that I go and rest a little.
About two and a half hours later I woke with a start as it was getting dark outside. Oh no! I must have missed everyone! I got up and found Eti sitting in the living room, how was I? Feeling good thank you! Good, because everyone will be arriving soon. It's perhaps at this point that I should explain that, to me, Israeli time is very flexible. To a north American, afternoon can be between 2-4pm, here it always started a little later. Not that I'm complaining.
It wasn't long before the doorbell rang and the first of the visitors arrived. I was greeted by Niza with hugs and welcomes, Neri was with her and blew in like a dynamo, ( I later found out her age and I hope I am like that when I get there), then Rachel came in and then Ruth. All lovely charming ladies who made me very welcome and chatted away in English as well as Hebrew, I will have to take lessons. ( I mentioned to Shoshi at one point that If I could work out the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, it shouldn't be that difficult. She looked at me as if I'd taken leave of my senses, shook her head and said it wasn't that simple. It is quite a complex language I have found). So, we sat and drank coffee, my favourite is Turkish coffee if you want to know, and I drank as much of it as I could, ate fresh dates and dried fruits and chatted on. I had made some fabric postcards, so asked them to accept one as a small gift for making me so welcome. We would all meet again at various times over the next three weeks.
After they left, we had a quick meal, ( lunch is the main meal of the day in Israel), and then we went to visit some friends of Eti and Yair's in the next street. Yair was retired form the airforce and is a fascinating person to talk to, I learnt a lot from him and enjoyed my chats. He is also a wonderful watercolorist in the style of the 19th Century artists, and I found his attention to detail wonderful, so detailed and accurate. I was hoping that maybe I would have time to paint and had bought a small watercolour set with me, nothing would have pleased me more than to have had Yair as a teacher, but I will keep that for the next trip. The friends we visited were also ex airforce and interesting to listen to, some of the stories would make your hair curl.
I also met Ilana Yahav who is also a wonderful artist in a totally different medium as she uses sand to create her work. She is internationally known, and exhibits all over the world I include her website www.sandfantasy.com as it really has to be seen to be believed, she is amazing and I was honoured to meet her.She was actually flying out to do a show the following morning in Sardinia I think it was.
By this time, tiredness was overtaking me, and I was taken home to sleep as I had a really exciting day ahead of me.................... you'll just have to keep reading....