Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Rosh HaShana Surprise


The Rosh HaShana tradition of giving sweet gifts took a sweet turn this year.

I was sitting at one of the cafes I often frequent, sipping my coffee, when someone set before me an exquisite plate of a honeyed sweet potato slice covered with glistening rimon (pomegranate) seeds, all swimming in some delectable sauce.

Delighted, I asked who/what/why was it coming to me. The server waved towards the kitchen, where Kareem, the main chef was waving and smiling - a Rosh HaShana gift to me.

Kareem is an Arab Muslim, and a wonderful chef, who has become my friend over the months I have been coming to the cafe. The fact that he, a Muslim, was sending me a Jew, a Rosh haShana gift brought tears to my eyes, even as I waved back with a thumbs up toda rabah.

What made it even more remarkable to me is that this man observes Ramadan, fasting during the day, all the while preparing food and surrounded by the sight and smells of his cooking. That must take nerves of steel and a strong faith to do such a thing.

So, if you've ever wondered if co-existence is possible and if anyone truly gets along in this neck of the woods, think of Kareem and his Rosh haShana blessing.


L'Shana Tova







Sunday, September 13, 2009

Asaf Ramon, son of Ilan Ramon, killed in flight accident

It is with great sadness I give the news that Asaf Ramon, 21 year old son of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, died in an IAF training flight accident today - over the southern Hevron Hills of Israel. Asaf was the oldest son of Ilan Ramon, who perished in the space shuttle Columbia when it exploded upon re-entry to the earth's atmosphere.

See the full story here and here.

We mourn the loss of yet another Ramon family member due to such tragic circumstances. Our deeply felt condolences go to Rona (wife of Ilan, mother of Asaf) and the rest of the family.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sweet Little Country, Israel

What a sweet little country I live in. I received a phone call this morning from an unlisted number and after the boker tov (good morning) greetings we exchanged, some woman launched into a very lengthy and urgent message. Since my Hebrew is..aaah...very poor...I said to her "rak rega" (just a minute or wait a minute) "ani lo me'daberit ivrit" (I don't speak Hebrew)... (well I do, but katsat - a little)

Fortunately, she spoke English and told me she was from the customs department and needed to discuss a shipment coming to me from Germany. ???? (not ME, sorry). After the usual confirming or not confirming the phone number (she did have my number) and the other formalities, she said the following silliest thing, in the typical innocence that is pure charming Israeli.

"Do you know anyone by the name of Avraham?"

I mean...this is Israel. EVERYONE knows someone by the name of Avraham!!

I started to laugh and said just that. I could hear her smiling and she said, yes, now that she thought about it, her brother was named Avraham. But she meant........

Of course she meant in conjunction with whatever this shipment was, or whatever business it seemed to be connected with...which wasn't me or mine.

But it was just sweet. In this tiny country of ours, it felt like a family conversation, and like now I was introduced to her and her brother Avraham, adding to the list of Avrahams I already know.

I also wondered if it was more than a little coincidence since I am about to go the customs department myself, to inquire about a business opportunity.......maybe it was a "sign" or a nudge from heaven..to proceed.

Ya' never know here.....where nudges from heaven are just part of the air we breathe.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ze'ev

(Ze'ev - the ongoing saga (previous posts) of my friendship with a man whom some would call "homeless" - and he is...but to me Ze'ev is a man with a tragic story - and a friend from whom I learn about life)

Ze'ev is gone.

The last time I wrote about him was in March. We hadn't seen each other for quite a long time then and it was a sweet reunion. We were really glad to see one another...the day was warm after a long cold winter and Ze'ev and I were both glad for the warmth. I ran to buy him cigarettes, we talked of many things that day.

It was one of the last times I saw him. One day, Ze'ev just wasn't there anymore. He no longer sat in front of the super where I saw him on Friday's, or downtown, where I saw him during the week. I no longer ran into him on the streets of Jerusalem, backpack as large as himself - a tall but solitary figure.

At times I saw the raw emotions that accompany a man of the street; sometimes he shared them. Ze'ev wasn't well physically and such a life was taking it's toll.

At first I didn't worry. Perhaps he was sick and in the hospital. Perhaps the volatile life in the shelters had left him victimized or his own anger had led him into fights and he was in jail. But too much time began to go by...he just wasn't here any longer.

I don't know where Ze'ev went. Did he move to another city? I doubt it - he thought Tel Aviv was sooo hot in the summer. (and it is). Did he go back to the country from which he came? (Probably not) Did he win the lottery?

Did he die.....?

I miss him.

But...something strange has happened. Twice now, near the super where I saw Ze'ev on Fridays, a man has walked down the street, passing me in the opposite direction. He is a tall man, healthier looking than Ze'ev, but....he looks eerily just like him. I wouldn't think much about it except that both times this man looked at me in recognition, a twinkle in his eye and a smile as if he had a secret.

Perhaps I've been in the Jerusalem sun too long....or just in Jerusalem too long, but somehow I'd like to think that Ze'ev won the lottery and he no longer needs to beg on the street, that he is living life like a normal human being.

Perhaps, if I see this man again, I'll stop and ask him if he is Ze'ev. The funny thing is, when saw him this week and I turned around to take another look..... he wasn't there.....he had disappeared....

.....just like Ze'ev.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

ISRAELI PROFILES: SHOSH CAFE

When I asked Shosh owner Nir Efrati if I could write a story about the cafe, he smiled and said "you don't have to ask my permission, this is your home, and you can write anything you want about your home."

That, in a nutshell, describes this very special coffee shop in Jerusalem's Old Katamon neighborhood. It is like home to it's customers and to it's staff because Efrati, with the assistance of his father-in-law Fiko, look upon everyone who enters as family. What better place to come just to sit and visit and have a coffee or a meal together.

In fact, this is how one of the customers (Daniella) described it..."Shosh is a neighborhood place where you can walk through the streets, hand in hand with your husband, and find a nice place to sit and visit for an hour. There is something special about this new location - it's a naim sort of place.. I asked Daniella to explain......"it's like when you get into a warm pool of water and you feel comfortable and pleasant."

Nir has been the owner of Shosh Cafe for over three years, beginning with the original location on Rh. HaPalmach. In May 2007 he renovated a corner building at Rh. Haserut 20 (which once housed a bicycle shop, now moved next door) and relocated to the current spot. This quiet and cozy neighborhood location is indeed one of the contributing factors to it's success.

But not all by any means. Efrati feels the restaurant is popular because of the family atmosphere provided, and because the food is very good. It is fixed fresh "on the spot", that is, as the customer orders. Nothing is pre-made, waiting to be ordered - the pasta is cooked, the vegetables are cut, the shakshuka is made only upon the customer order. Nir's wife Oshrat bakes the amazing cookies offered (the tahini & chocolate Irish cream cookies are omg good) and the chefs turn out fresh entrees with pride.

Efrati brings a sense of family business to the plate as he worked for many years in the Efrati owned company that held the Pazgas distributorship for Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh. His father-in-law Fiko was Vice President of Customer Service with Bezek and their combined experience makes for a winning team at Shosh.

Nir and Fiko are often seen in the kitchen with the chefs and workers or behind the bar with the baristas, or helping serve the customer during busy times. The support and interaction between this business owner and the entire staff is clearly one of the reasons the interaction between the staff and the customer is also excellent, and why it is a warm welcoming place to be.

In fact, it is the staff - the servers, the baristas and Nir & Fiko that draw me to return time after time, to a place "where everybody knows my name." I've gotten to know the staff and they are now like my family. On a bad day, if I sit down and burst into tears, or a good day, when I celebrate some event or share good news, it is the genuine caring of this circle of friends that makes me feel so at home.

Most of the servers and bartenders are also students, or working other part time jobs between studies. Each individual's story is so interesting and would take an entire article of it's own for each one, but because this Israeli Profiles column is meant to introduce you to the people of Israel, even more than the places, a snapshot picture of each person deserves mention.

Amongst the baristas, for example, Eliran, (whom i wrote about in the first Israeli Profile regarding his dream to own a motorcycle) began his career at Shosh a couple of years ago. He is now about to begin his engineering studies in Sderot and will squeeze in a trip to the British Isles, but says he will definitely stay connected and be back to "nosh". Yarden (creator of the featured coffee artistry) has also been a bartender at Shosh for the last 2 years. Yarden tried other coffee shops but never stayed more than a few months because of the working environments. He attributes his longevity at Shosh to owner Nir Efrati, whom he says is so understanding and desiring to help the staff to do their best and to succeed. Being a Shosh barista is only one of Yarden's accomplishments. He is currently involved in some serious musical competition (piano, jazz) and just completed a year's training to be an assistant veterinarian. Yaara, now living in Jerusalem but originally from Tekoa in the Gush (Gush Etzion - a bloc of towns in Judea) is fairly new at Shosh, but not new to the world of coffee, having worked in other coffee shops prior to Shosh. Yaara is studying naturopathic medicine at the Jerusalem branch of well known Reidman-International College of Complementary Medicine. About Shosh, Yaara states that it is a place of unique character, something not often found, a place of good avirah (atmosphere).



Another "Shosher" studying at Reidman-International is Clil, one of the servers. She is in her first year of a five year program at Reidman, studying alternative psychotherapy. Part of Clil's interesting story is that for 3 summers she served as a shluchah (emissary) in Australia, and served in the IDF as a commander for Zionist Identification for potential converts.

Sarah and Moran are both finishing their second year in Social Work Studies at Hebrew University. Sarah's background in working with the disabled and Moran's background as a youth guide on Kibbutz Shefayim (near Netanya) are factors that propelled them towards social work. As to Shosh, Moran states that it feels like "home" here, and Sarah again mentions that word good avirah (atmostphere, ambiance). Sarah specifically looked for a place that was smaller and family run, and she is delighted to have found it at Shosh, where she very much likes the other people she works with and finds Nir to be a great boss.

Pnina, who recently returned from an extensive tour of Central America(Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama) and Mexico, is settling back down in Jerusalem and at Shosh, getting ready to continue her studies in Jewish Philosophy and History of Art. Lilac, another server, continues her studies in Science and the Environment, planning on focusing her second degree specifically in Environmental studies. Her dream, Lilac states, is to invent something in science. Pnina (who has been a server at Shosh probably the longest, 1-1/4 years) and Lilac both cite the atmosphere, and interaction betwen the customers and the staff as drawing points for Shosh. Lilac even goes so far as to say ".....people are calm here, no one ever shouts at me.!"

Taly, one of the new servers at Shosh, brings with her, like the others,
a rich and interesting background. Taly recently completed her 1st degree in International Relations, with emphasis on East Asian studies and the Chinese language. This fall she will begin studying for her 2nd degree (MA) in International Relations, along with beginning the application process for acceptance into the Foreign Ministry Program of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Rounding out the brief personal stories of my friends at Shosh, there is Shiran, who, in addition to her job at Shosh, is a dental hygienist at a dental clinic and who will begin her studies in criminology in the fall. Shiran finds everything about Shosh - including the customers and the neighborhood - to be really nice.

Of course, like any coffee shop, sometimes people have to move on. Naama, fairly new as a server, has just left for a 3 week trip to the US and Jamaica, but in the fall will move to Be'ersheva where she will begin studies at the medical school there. Whether she will be able to squeeze in a few weeks at Shosh before heading for the south remains to be seen. In fact others to whom I felt attached are traveling right now or have moved. Rachel, for example, is now treking through Nepal and India, and Or has moved to Tel Aviv. But because the staff become close friends with one another, I am sure one day I will walk in and see them there, visiting and hanging out.

The comraderie, the ambiance, the good food all make this a special place not only to visit, but, as is evident, at which to work. One of the challenges Nir faces, he feels, is to continually, day after day, make sure all these important ingredients come together, to make it so good that the staff is happy and the customer leaves with a smile.

Judging by the reaction and comments by both staff and customer, and simply by observing the interactions in the place, I would say he has succeeded.

Owning a restaurant has been a dream of Nir Efrati's since he was young. It's nice that the rest of us can participate in the fulfillment of that dream and enjoy fruits of his labors to make Shosh a special place of avira yerushalaymi (Jerusalem ambiance).

Shosh...a place where everybody knows your name.


Friday, July 17, 2009

When The Heart Cries......

As Israeli Warships enter the Suez Canal, preparing for war against an ancient enemy, the Israeli public is pensive and the always present pain in our heart is starting to awaken. The street, though looking normal, is expressing despair...not just about this situation, but also in lives and hopes and dreams delayed.

Today I am feeling the loneliness that is Israel. And as we face the weeks and months ahead, charting a course in war, we will pull together as a people, insulating ourselves against those who try to destroy us.

I wonder if the collective soul of our people is instinctively mourning without even knowing it, as we have entered into the Days approaching Tisha b'Av, with the specific Nine days beginning midweek.

In the silence of Erev Shabbat we utter this prayer. It was written by Yossi Gispan and Arlet Tzfadia after the brutal murder of two of our soldiers in Ramallah in 2000, and the singer is popular Israeli artist Sarit Hadad. The video maker states that Sarit sang this song after the death of her father. Whether she did or not, Israel stands alone in her battles against ancient enemies. Whether in personal loneliness or collective, as we face the weeks and months ahead of us, only God hears the cry of our heart.



Thursday, June 25, 2009

FREE GILAD

TODAY, JUNE 25, MARKS THE 3 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF GILAD SHALIT'S KIDNAPPING. AN ISRAELI SOLDIER CAPTURED ON ISRAELI SOIL BY HAMAS TERRORISTS. HE HAS BEEN HELD PRISONER SINCE THEN.

PLEASE REMEMBER HIM AND PRAY FOR A SUCCESSFUL MILITARY RESCUE

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Still a Man of Destiny

This is a time of testing for our nation. Particularly it is a time of testing for the national camp. The Elections were one test, this 2nd test is much more serious.

photo: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=-3&id=1478280165

The Prime Minister of Israel is someone who probably has more pressure on him than anyone else in the world. Because we have allowed it in the past in order to have friends, we have let these "friends" simply tell us what to do, as if we were their personal possession. And we have acquiesced to many of their demands...or given lip service to agreement.

But today we have elected a man who holds Zionist values, who has the capacity to stand strong in the face of this pressure. And, last night, in his first speech before the nation and the world, in my opinion, he did just that.

But Bibi, no matter what he does or doesn't do, is lambasted by both the left and the right. He is the classic example of damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. The left can do what they want, but I still associate myself with the right and I am appalled at the cat calls to bring down this government.

What are these people thinking? Thank God the calls have died down given a day or two... yet there are still plenty of negative words like betrayal, buckling to America, etc.

As I have said before, if the train is off course and careening at breakneck speed down the side of the hill, the FIRST THING you have to do is STOP THE TRAIN. After that you can figure out how to get it back on the track.

All those who are feeling that Bibi's mere mention of a Palestinian state gives credibility to it and are ready to throw in the towel are not thinking clearly. Like a Palestinian state has never been mentioned by our government before? With whom would they replace Bibi? Tzipi Livni?? who not only wants the PA State to take all of Judea and Samaria but also all of east Jerusalem and the Golan??

Bibi outlined a Palestinian state that cannot exist - one that recognizes us as a Jewish state, one that is demilitarized, one that cannot have Jerusalem, etc. He knows and we all know that that will never happen. So, basically Bibi was saying, in the most clever of ways, "in your dreams, baby."

The PA got it. Not in a thousand years, they said. The Peace Process is dead. Why can't we get it?

Of all the times in our national camp history, we need to support this prime minister.

Obama was embarrassingly put in a corner. He couldn't say Bibi didn't recognize the option of two states...yet he, of course, knows as well it's not gonna work like that. To save face he went right back to "no settlements", but now there's no power in his words, his words have lost their punch.

What Bibi did was give us a platform to restate and affirm our sovereign position. No past agreements have ever worked, and he, better than anybody, can eloquently point that out. He can then say the obvious: "Here's the PA state we would accept. No deal? OK, no deal. End of story. We will annex the entire Judea and Samaria and finally put this subject to rest. It's time to move on."

That of course could be my own dream. But it's possible, and I am a firm believer in the impossible, so certainly I can put my stock in the possible.

America can and most likely will, turn it's corporate back on Israel. They will tighten the screws and in the end, will probably abandon our friendship. America then will truly be a divided nation as the people, for the most part, are with us. But God will not tolerate the turning stance against Israel. I'm afraid for America on many levels.

We, on the other hand, will stand alone in the nations, but with the power of the Almighty as our wings and strength. It's not easy, it will get even harder, but it's the only solution.

I still believe that Bibi Netanyahu is a man of destiny - no matter the pundits cackles and calls, and no matter the well-meaning, but short-sightedness of the leaders of the various Zionist movements.

I don't know about you but I'm checking for my seat belts, and grateful the miklat is now cleared of furniture. But then I'm offering a prayer to heaven to see us through.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Long Hot Summer

Things are beginning to simmer a bit...and we may be facing a long hot summer here in Israel. The temperature , both literally and figuratively, rose considerably after Barak Obama's Cairo speech a week ago Thursday. Now, we are waiting with bated breath for Bibi' policy speech tomorrow night, hoping and praying he will respond with conviction and strength.

Obama delivered a one/two punch against Israel...some very offensive and inaccurate assessments, juxtaposed with both overt and subtle messages of oneness with Islam and Muslims worldwide, especially in it's stance against Israel and Jewish right to the Land of Israel. Obama applied words and phrases which were understood by Muslims, but which the Western mindset will have missed altogether.(See TodayinIsrael for commentary)

Throw Ahmadinejad's victory party into the mix, along with our own domestic and economic issues and you have the makings for a volatile, heated up summer.

I must say that Obama's speech stirred the country. Rarely have we had such a direct verbal attack and total lack of understanding of the situation, expressed by a sitting US President. It was stunning, quite honestly. As a result, people who never speak out, people on the left, as well as the national camp, are calling the Prime Ministers office and writing to Bibi Netanyahu, urging him to stand strong and not give into Obama's demands.

I guess there's a positive side to almost any news.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Turning Point 3

Today was Day 3 of a nation wide readiness drill - called "Turning Point 3" - designed to prepare army and citizens in the event of a missile attack. Soldiers were called up to miluim (reserve duty), the appropriate security and police personnel were geared to "practice" whatever it is they are taught to do. Individual citizens were to take shelter wherever they found themselves, either in a miklat (bomb shelter), or a safe room, or wherever was safest around them.

Photo Iranian missile test: SEPAH NEWS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

I was at a local sidewalk canion (shopping mall) when the sirens went off. They were barely audible, certainly softer than the Yom haZicharon and Yom haShoah sirens. There was a simultaneous announcement on the radio and television, but quite frankly, if the hour of the drill had not been publicized, very few people would have known it even happened.

Such a stark difference between the drill this morning and our response to it, and our responses to the sirens on our Memorial days. Perhaps we are simply better at mourning our dead than preparing for our future.

Still, there was an air of excited nonchalance (NOT an oxymoron) as the "hour" approached. The "drill" was the talk of the day as we sat, drank coffee and waited. Jokes, light banter, and the familiar camaraderie that exists between us unfolded, but behind that banter I also heard and saw the "something else" that exists between us. It's an unspoken collective awareness of the possible scenarios that might lie ahead, precisely because of the collective memory of what we have already experienced, and what we live day to day. It's our reality.

Approximately 10 minutes before the "event", people started talking a bit louder, an expectation of something about to happen rising in the air. People moved a little closer together, as if together, we would be safer. Actually, that is part of our reality, we are at our best as a People when we are in crisis.

This wasn't a crisis, of course, it was just a drill. But it was a drill that reminded us that we've been through many drills - real ones. The residents of Sderot, and towns along the southern borders, as well as those in the north, have already had many and constant real life exercises to practice. I have had my own runs for shelter when in some of those towns. Sometimes a safe room was available, sometimes we stood under a doorway...like in an earthquake. You do your best.

Today, no one moved. We just continued on with whatever we were doing. There is a miklat there but most of the people in the canion didn't know that. I knew because I have been in it, and like most miklatot, it is full of other things being stored there. And it is tiny. Even if it were completely empty, there would be room for just a very few people, and the rest...would be standing outside I guess.

Most citizens did check on their safe rooms, locate the miklatot in their neighborhoods and at least have given some thoughts to actions and reactions. I finally located mine, but we can't get into it as someone in the building has jammed it full of papers and things.

It's not that we are really nonchalant or lackadaisical....it's just...well, alright already, we know the big one is coming...nuke, earthquake, bolts from heaven.... It's Israel - our minds are already stretched as far as they can go in the survival mode. We do the best we can, that's it, and the rest is up to G-d.

I told my friend Shay that I wanted to write about today, but it was so uneventful there wasn't much to say. He told me that if I was going to write about sirens and shelters I should write about this drill, because, he said, if I wait to write about the next time there was a siren....there was a long pause.... we looked at each other and understood...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ISRAELI PROFILE: ELIRAN SASSON

Meet Eliran Sasson, a young Israeli who recently fulfilled a dream he has had since he was a little boy – owning a motorcycle and biking.

At 23, Eliran is an excellent “master barista” at a fabulous neighborhood coffee shop in Jerusalem. (Shosh Café, Rh. Haserut 20). He is a bass guitarist, having played in several bands, and an aspiring engineer (soon to begin his studies program), but his heart, at the moment, is with his first motorcycle – a very cool “naked road bike.”

I have to admit, when I first heard the term “naked bike” I thought it must be some cute Israeli term, but it turns out that it is a universal word for a bike without metal covering over the various engine & exhaust parts – in other words a bike stripped down to the basics for performance and efficiency.

This long time dream to own a motorbike came to fruition a few months ago, when Eliran secretly began to take lessons towards getting his motorcycle license. (Mothers sometimes don’t want their sons to be bikers!) But soon Eliran’s secret was out in the open, and things quickly progressed from just wanting the license to actually searching for and purchasing that first bike.

Hoping to take mechanics courses designed for motorbike function and repair, Eliran is serious about this new/old love in his life.

I asked him what it was about biking that he loved and his answer was that when he rides the motorcycle, he feels one with the bike, like they are together a unit. He can see everything and feel the wind…it’s a bit like riding a horse, he said. He also likes it that there are fewer traffic and parking problems than when driving a car. Eliran would like to form a group of riders to ride together and tour the country.

Like all Israelis, Eliran served in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces – army). He was in the artillery corps. And, like most Israelis, after army duty he traveled for a while outside the country. He and some friends went to London where they lived and worked with other Israelis - not at the kiosks selling Dead Sea products, a very popular occupation for traveling Israelis - but for an Israeli entrepreneur who owns a network of food and coffee shops in various London neighborhoods. Orly, the name of the entrepreneur and also the name of her coffee shop, bakery and other places, offers a popular stopover for Israelis in London, and Eliran plied his skill at coffee making there.

I asked Eliran why he chose London when a lot of Israelis travel to India and Thailand and other eastern destinations. He said that his friend had been there a few times, and in Eliran’s words, “had a crush on the place”. Encouraging him to join with him and travel there, Eliran agreed and also "fell in love with the place" – the culture, the architecture, the people.

When he isn’t making coffee and riding his bike, Eliran stays tuned into his music…playing progressive rock with friends, doing a few gigs, and trying to put together a new band.

Some things will change as Eliran begins his studies this summer, but his devotion to biking is a lifetime love affair.

What are his dreams for the future? Eliran pondered my question and then said this: “The long time future is far away…I am concentrating on the immediate future for now… and then I will go wherever life takes me.”

The future in Israel is sometimes uncertain, and life can bring many things. Her young men and women understand this, responding like Eliran did, with wisdom and assurance.

It’s a privilege to know Eliran, and to know that he represents others like him, young men and women who are the future of Israel. Israel is in good hands.

And…I’m waiting until he gets an extra helmet, because I want to take a ride on this bike and feel the wind.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Tree and the Sea

The Tree
This is one of the beautiful trees that escaped the tree-hacking terrorists from the Iryia (Preoccupied, March 5 posting). The tree shown escaped being cut down last winter because it was on private property...AND - lucky me - is right outside my window!!!

The Sea
I had to go to Tel Aviv today. I hadn't been since last fall and oh my gosh, did I need it!!
(well, I DID have a meeting)


Here's where I spent my day today. (after the meeting!) Swimming prohibited for some reason...early season, no life guards, pollution??

Still ..the breeze, the sun....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sunny Afternoons & Spring Flowers -


Wandering through my neighborhood this afternoon, I came upon cascades of yellow flowers and intoxicating fragrances filling the air.

The truth is....we feel a little like we are waiting for the other shoe to drop...so, when there is even a small thing to divert our attention...... why not enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

From Mourning to Morning

We just completed the observing of Yom HaZicharon, Israel's Memorial Day and the celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut, our Independence Day.

The first day is the day we remember our loved ones who gave their lives for the survival of this nation, and the day we stand with the families who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this Land. Yom HaZicharon is a day of deep sadness, a day when we are permitted to remember and to mourn.

For us, a Land so small and a People so connected, there is not one person or family untouched by the loss of someone in war or in terror attacks. Our history as a People is ancient, but our history in restoring this Land is within our collective lifetime, and the losses are fresh - some just a short 61 years ago, some yesterday. For us, it is ongoing and the sorrow is personal and intense.

Remarkably however, in the fading hours of HaZicharon, a torch is lit, and the Day of Remembering is immediately handed off to a Day of Rejoicing.... rejoicing in our rebirth as a modern nation, rejoicing and celebrating this miracle of our return to the Land of our destiny.

The juxtaposition of the two days is purposeful, because it is recognized that without the sacrifice of those who died, we would not have had the miracle of rebirth. One of the realities of Judaism is expression of the balance between two opposites - things like mourning and joy, mercy and justice - for it is recognized that without the one, the other cannot exist.

So it is with these holidays. The two holidays are linked together, not just on our calendars, but knit together in our collective soul. As a country, we move from somber services and tears to fireworks and BBQ's in an immediate turnaround.

It is not easy. In some ways it seems it is asking a lot of us as a people. I struggle with it. Many struggle with it. Many are unable to make the quick transition.

I am very close to a family who has had many many losses, not all of them war losses, but all connected to this two day period. The sadness of their family at this time of year penetrates my soul, and I find it difficult at first to move forward. Part of me shouts, stop! wait! we need to linger here a little longer.

But the day marches on, the torch has been lit, and slowly, all together as a people, we move out of our mourning into the morning of a different day. I think it would be impossible alone.

You see this is one of the things that defines us as a People and what makes Am Yisrael unique...we do what we do, together, as one. For it would be too much to ask those who have suffered such tragedy to just turn around and change course. But as a People our losses and our joys are shared, and what one cannot do alone can be accomplished together as a unit.

There is yet another secret to Am Yisrael. One might think that it is on the shoulders of those whose loss is less personal, that the families and individuals for whom the loss was deeper are carried. But I think not. It was really the words of my friend in the hours of transition that helped me to move ahead. You see, most of the time it is the strength of those who have lost the most who carry the rest of us. Yet, it comes full circle, as they strengthen us we can strengthen them....the lines are indistinguishable.

It's who we are as a People.

And so, reluctant as I was to move forward just 24 hours ago, by the end of the day today, spending time with many friends, watching fireworks and tekesim (ceremonies), enjoying the wonderful food off the BBQ and seeing them smoking all around the country, I felt, at last, some semblance of peace.

Finally I realize the wisdom of the juxtaposition of the Two Days. Without the collective move into celebration, however slowly and hesitantly we go there, we might be tempted to stay in the mourning. We have other very well prescribed ways to give us the needed times of individual mourning. But as a People, it is necessary for us first to suffer together the sorrow, and then to lift one another up so that we can face tomorrow; it is necessary for us to go forward as One People, Am Yisrael.

Because we are also inseparable from this Land we celebrate, I think it is only here in Eretz Yisrael that the fullness of what I am saying can be fully realized and understood. We are married to this Land - Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, we are one.

Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reflection on Yom HaShoah

Please go to TodayinIsrael for some thoughts on this Day of Remembrance.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chasing the Elusive Moufleta

Now that Pesach is over, the first order of the day (right after sundown last night) was to eat bread with chametz!!
Photo Jewish Agency

The Moroccan community celebrates the occasion with a beautiful festival called Mimouna. In Israel it is a time when Moroccan families open their doors to everyone, inviting others in to join in the celebration. Mimouna not only celebrates the first leavened bread after Pesach with a delicious crepe called a moufleta, but finds this an opportunity to express hope for good fortune and prosperity ahead. Fine linens, dishes, and traditional dress, plus lots of delicious Moroccan delicacies make this a very special and colorful festival.

I have always wanted to participate in the Mimouna, but somehow over the years I have missed it for various reasons. Not being Moroccan, I needed personal invitations to join in. This year I thought it would finally work out, as a Moroccan friend was making arrangements for me. Unfortunately, illness prevented the family from hosting the dinner, and no other arrangements were made.

The main Israeli celebration this year was in Sderot, but other Moroccan communities were of course, hosting their own events. I had hoped to attend the evening activities, when the main events were taking place, but it didn't look too promising. Not to be discouraged, I was assured by others that the public gathering in Jerusalem's Gan Sacher (Park) on Thursday would draw thousands, and though a public event, was still well worth the while..

Especially I was in search of the moufleta....the special crepe drenched in honey and butter.

Unfortunately, my search for the elusive moufleta did not produce results, but my encounters along the way...well, they still make a good story.

Gan Sacher Park is nearly a mile long, extending from the Knesset to the Botanical Gardens near Givat Mordechai and I began my trek at the southern most end, near the Botanical Gardens. Normally the Gan Sacher event is filled with individual families barbequeing, stages set up for entertainment, and tents with food. I said normally...or at least in the past. Did I mention that it was raining today...and cold?

Empty. The Park was empty. The sun had come out and I didn't really expect the families to be there until the rain stopped and it dried off. But the tents? and the stages? Surely they were set up long ago. As I walked northward I expected to round each bend and see the public stagings of the Mimouna. So did the many police, the soldiers, the television camermen. Hmm.

The Park was empty. No one, nada, zip....except of course, for the soldiers, police, cameramen and me. All looking for celebrators of Mimouna ... all looking for moufleta. We talked and laughed amongst ourselves, the police, the soldiers and I. Since they couldn't find any Moroccan families, or expressions of Mimouna, Channel One decided to interview me, a writer with a website, looking for Mimouna and Moufleta. (Thank G-d, I think my stellar performance didn't make it off the cutting room floor and wasn't aired this evening as far as I know.)

Disappointed but not ready to give up, I headed for Ima's Restaurant, a popular Kurdish establishment with a few Moroccan offerings. I hoped they might be open and serving... just for the fun of it..... moufleta. They were open, but to the question of Mimouna food and moufletot, the answer was "no, no, no."

I decided that now I needed to make plan "C" (plans A & B already not working). So I ordered some traditional Kurdish kube Nablusia (meat filled fried crushed wheat pillows served with delicious tehina) and a beer. Well, it wasn't Moroccan, and it wasn't moufleta, but it was fabulous.

Heartened and rested, I decided to head for the Machne Yehuda market, JUST in case some Moroccan restaurant was open. I doubted it, since it was the holiday, but.....one can never assume anything in Israel.

The most famous Moroccan restaurant in the shuk is Azura, and walking down the main road of the market I saw the name Azura on a juice stand and I wondered if they were connected. No, no, no... same name but not connected the owner told me, but yes, definitely Azura the restaurant, which was just around the corner, was open.

It was not. They would open, I was told by a pleasant kitchen worker, at shemoneh v'hetze, half past 8:00 o'clock, when Mimouna was over. I smiled, took the restaurant card, and went back to Azura, the juice and coffee stand....which by the way, wasn't really open either.

By this time I had half of Machne Yehuda market looking for moufleta for me. It was really very sweet. But they knew, and I knew, there was none to be found. It was a charming interchange of Middle Eastern manners...they needed to show their desire to go all out to help me and I needed to let them, even though we already understood there was no mimouna or moufleta in the shuk.

We finally formally admitted it was a search in vain, and as I left, we all agreed that next year, I would be more prosperous, and I would be successful in finding the moufleta.

Gan Sacher was still my best route home, and on my way I passed another famous Machne Yehuda restaurant - a middle eastern restaurant called Sima (now also in Tel Aviv). There was a line down the sidewalk, and only a few at a time were being let in. Of course, it only seats a few...and I knew the food would be fabulous, but I had already had my kube. Another time for Simas.

Sauntering through Gan Sacher I came upon a few families now barbequeing various foods. I searched each table or blanket that I passed.. alas, pitot, but no moufletot. I even stopped and talked with a few families...one large gathering I was sure would be Moroccan were instead from the Caucaus. There actually was one Moroccan family, but no they were not celebrating Mimouna today, only last night, and laughed at my search for Moufletot.

So, I arrived home, a bit disappointed, a little tired, but realized that in spite of the fact that I didn't find my Mimouna celebration and most of all my moufleta, I had made a lot of new friends, been treated very specially by a lot of very sweet people, discovered new places in the shuk, even had an interview on national television.

Even without the moufleta, it was a special day...a special way to celebrate Mimouna.

(Besides, I may not have found the moufleta at the Mimouna, but I found the afikomen at the seder...so, you can't win them all. I know , I know.....but the youngest...he's in the army, and he hid the afikomen. !!)

Next year at Mimouna!!

Post Pesach Matza Video

Hat tip to Jameel at Muqata for this funny video

Fortunately (or UNfortunately) I ate all my matzot, so I didn't have this dilemma. But, enjoy.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chag Pesach Sameach 5769 / 2009

As we move tonight into the week- long Pesach observances, the City of Jerusalem and all of Israel is palpably excited and happy. This is a profound chag (holiday) on many levels - one enjoyed by everyone - at every level of tradition or observance.

For many it is a week long trip after the seder, camping, visting the beaches, a relaxing week off with many activities available around the country. Most restaurants close because kashering them for Pesach is quite overwhelming, so weary cafe and restaurant owners welcome the wonderful respite from their year long hard and constant labor in serving us the public with coffee and goodies.

There are a few who do stay open, switching their menus (after careful cleaning and kashering) to non-chametz, including or not including the kitniyot (rice, beans and legumes enjoyed by sephardim during Pesach). You could tell which cafes would be closing, as the owners and workers were practically dancing through the day on Tuesday, anticipating the weeks vacation. For the others, who will remain open, it was a "business as usual".

Around the neighborhood one could smell the fresh clean smells as apartment dwellers scrubbed up and polished up. Items not needed or wanted for Pesach or beyond were removed as we did a deeper "spring cleaning" and the results were piled on the walls, near the trash bins, waiting for the homeless to find clothes, shoes and many useful items, often in excellent condition.

Stores were in process of hiding, covering or removing all chametz related articles at the same time as customers pressed in to get Pesach supplies and foods. All this making for a real, but fun, balygan (mess)

In addition, starting Tuesday some very visible signs of Pesach began to appear on the streets in the neighborhoods. Kashering stands were set up around town for the purpose of making existing kitchenware and stove parts kosher ready for Pesach.

Kashering on HaPalmach








Flower stands took on a new look with large and
beautiful spring bouquets
made especially for Pesach.




Shuki on Shay Agnon



By Wednesday, yom Erev Pesach, the homes were free of chametz and spots for burning any left over breads or other chametz were seen and smelled all around town, as the last of the chametz disappeared.










Wishing all who celebrate our "freedom", a blessed and wonderful Pesach.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More about Boaz

Earlier this week I posted the beautiful song Ke'ilo Kan (As if Here - also known as Fire in Your Eyes) sung by the equally beautiful Boaz Mauda. I say that (about Mauda) not because he is incredibly gorgeous, which he is, but simply because he is a beautiful person.

He is only a couple of years on the music scene, but clearly has captured the hearts of Israelis. The passion with which he sings, the deep desire to bring his Yemenite traditions forward, giving expression to some of the most beautiful and haunting melodies and words, and his gentle openness are only a part of what we see in Boaz.

He is also an expession of the tender strength in our young men, something I wrote about at the outset of this blog, and something which Israelis know about our people; it is something we deeply cherish.

Boaz had never sung on stage before a good friend secretly entered him into the competition for the 5th Israeli Kokhav Nolad (A Star is Born) contest - akin to the American Idol show. In fact, Mauda was then a soldier, a goat herder on his kibbutz, and had only sung publically the prayers in the synagogue. Now of course he has represented Israel in the 2008 Eurovision competition and travels world wide singing.

This video gives you a glimpse into his story, and our story, because each one of us is all of us. It is filmed at the 2007 Kokhav Nolad where he was "crowned the "Star". He dedicated his winning song, Menagen Veshar to his mother -the beautiful woman in the wheel chair in the video. Ofra Mauda had muscluar dystrophy prior to Boaz's birth, yet she defied doctors to have this child. Due to complications of the delivery, she sustained physical injury and has been confined to a wheelchair in recent years. Mauda says that both his parents (Shlomo & Ofra), but especially his mother, are the ones who taught him everything, and are his inspiration for determination and willpower. Anything he has achieved, Boaz says, is because of them.

Be sure to watch through to the very end of the video. There is sometimes a pause (a glitch) and then it continues to a beautiful ending. Enjoy.


Ad the winner is...BOAZ MAUDA !!
video by Daily Motion.com

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Boaz Mauda


Boaz Mauda, Yemenite Israeli from Kibbutz Elyakim. He, this song, is Israel ...this is who we are.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Politics, Queues and Balygans

Our Waiting Game for the new government hopefully is drawing to a close soon, the winners to be announced by the end of the week. (Not to hold our collective breath, however.) Personally, I find that I am pleasantly surprised at my lack of impatience and frustration through the whole process, taking the whole thing in stride and feeling calm about it all.

Learning patience has been part of my Israeli training, an awareness of which I have had - or at least suspected - for some time.

When I first moved to Israel I found myself enormously impatient in the queues and crowds as I waited to be checked out or be served for some service. "How can the others stand this... they all look so calm...just waiting and waiting, and I feel like exploding!!"

I am not sure why it affected me so much. It isn't as if I never waited in lines or had to take numbers for service in America. Of course I did, but there is a huge cultural difference.

You see, here in Israel, the banker, the checkout clerk, the postal clerk, the government workers have many other more important things to do at the same time as waiting on the customer. For instance, talking on the phone. Now I don't mean answering the ringing phone at the desk. I mean calling the family or the friend for a chat, especially right after you have asked a question. What better time to plan an outing? Heaven forbid that the customers should complain, can't we see that the clerk is busy now? Oh, and yes, the 3 people who simply walk up to the desk and engage the clerk while you are discussing your problem...don't they have rights for heaven's sake?

Then there are the one armed clerks in the supers (markets) The supermarket clerks use only one arm with which to ring the register and move the items being rung up...not moving items across with one hand and tapping the register with the other. Yes, it does take her/him twice as long to ring up the purchase.

Supermarket clerks also have other business to conduct at the same time as checking out customers. One incredible incident is forever etched in my mind. A young girl was the check out clerk at a supermarket in the Center of Town. Her jeans were cute and very tight...I mean very tight...so tight that she couldn't comfortably sit in the chair. For 10 minutes (I timed it) she tried different positions, shifting the belt area, trying to slide the material around so she could sit down. She unbuttoned and re-buttoned the jeans, and just could NOT get comfortable. I was close to the front in line. I stared at her, at the people ahead and behind me, expecting her to be hugely embarrassed and the customers to be irritated and start yelling. No one said a word. Everyone simply waited while this young girl, who didn't look the slightest bit embarrassed at holding up the line so she could sit down in her tight jeans, wiggled and maneuvered around. It wasn't even that people thought it was cute that she went through so much to sit...they just ignored her and talked among themselves about the daily issues until she was ready to start ringing. Finally, I guess she felt comfortable, and life moved on.

Of course, customer themselves contribute to the frustration. There is a little game that is played, mostly in the supermarkets, but elsewhere too, like post offices and banks. It's called "tapping the shoulder of the person in front of you and telling them that you are next after them"...then going off for 20-30 minutes, maybe even to have a coffee, and coming back to "reclaim" their spot in line "just in time". Imagine my irritation when this phenomenon first presented itself to my brand new immigrant and totally naive self. Arriving in line, waiting my turn, I would suddenly find 3 different people - just as it is my turn to be next at the counter - suddenly show up and claim that they are next in line before me. Huh??? Slicha?? (Excuse Me!!) I have been here 20 minutes and YOU just arrived. NOT so, it turns out, (confirmed loudly by the man or woman just leaving the counter)...they had been there once, but decided to leave and enjoy the scenery instead of standing in the line. I was the one in error I was told...didn't I know they had "saved" their spot in line???

The only exception, and it is a large exception, are the bus queues...an oxymoron for sure. There IS no such thing as a bus queue - there is a bus MOB whose job it is to try and kill you as you get on the bus. People appear out of nowhere, physically shoving you out of the way so they can climb on the bus first. Of course one is a friar (sucker) if he/she steps back to allow it. The name of the game is to start shoving and pushing as well.

All this to say, waiting for Israeli politics to take shape is a bit like life in Israel itself. Nothing about it makes logical sense, on the surface it looks like a complete balygan (mess)...but, for pete's sake, this is why we love this country.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Just One Purim Picture


Shushan Purim is now over with but I couldn't resist taking a picture of this Purim "angel" as I walked down my sidewalk this morning... maybe he's one of the ones who guard my block

Friday, March 6, 2009

I Saw Ze'ev Today

(Ze'ev - the ongoing saga (previous posts) of my friendship with a man whom some would call "homeless" - and he is...but to me Ze'ev is a man with a tragic story - and a friend from whom I learn about life)

I saw Ze'ev today. He saw me coming about 1/2 block away, and we threw out our arms in the Israeli greeting that says "I haven't seen you for soooo long"! In fact, we both shouted those words at the same time. It was so good to see him. People turned to stare...I wanted to tell them to get a life.

He looked really good, and although he said he wasn't well, we were both thankful to G-d for the warmth of the sun. After I ran next door to buy him a cigarette, I came back and we talked for almost 45 minutes.

I learned alot about Ze'ev today. A well read man, who knows a lot about many countries, he is an interesting person and fun to talk to. His self-taught English was impressive, as was his desire to learn and speak it correctly..and not only English, but he was hungry for information about how people live and what's good and what's bad about other countries. Searching......

Like so many he fell through the cracks in the bureacracy of Israeli institutions. I understood so well, as I don't fit the parameters either, falling through the cracks as well......there's a brick wall to try to change it or affect a different outcome, - many people just give up. In fact, very few fit into the mold that the government has created.

And like so many, his experiences have left him bitter and angry at this country. I wanted to tell him it was the government but not the people, but when I started to say it, I choked on my words, as I already knew that his experience of living on the street and in shelters had not produced any such nicities among his acquaintances. Pompous words coming from my mouth; though I am closer than most, still I have not walked in his shoes.

Ze'ev was truly perplexed at my love for this country...truly. He looked at me, bewildered. How could that be, he asked. Yet in his wisdom, he said he realized that every country has good and bad things about it, so he knew America wasn't paradise.. But Israel, in his experience with it, has yet to be understood as a good place to be.

I could expand a lot on Ze'ev's story, but somehow, sharing too much seems an invasion of his privacy...and privacy is something Ze'ev has very little of...

So, I am glad for the warmth of this Shabbat for you Ze'ev, and for me too. It's been a long cold winter.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Preoccupied

I didn't get going on my posting as quickly as I thought I would. I have been preoccupied this week....
  • Preoccupied with the fact that we still don't know what the government will look like, and the varying news reports about it are seldom more than gossip.
  • Preoccupied with the cold and the continuing rain..until today that is, when the sun came out for a few hours, and predictably the temperature climbed into warmth.
  • Preoccupied with emerging spring flowers and trees decorating our sidewalks and alleyways.
  • Preoccupied with the Iryiah (city hall) "nature terrorists" doing their extreme spring pruning, felling flowering trees and shrubs right and left, unconcerned with the stark gaping holes left behind.
  • Preoccupied with REAL terrorists who read the Koran in the cabs of bulldozers, then wield their front loaders as the weapon of choice in a rampage to try to destroy a busload of young Jewish girls on their way to Hadassah Hospital to cheer up the patients with a little Purim fun.

    I even wonder ... could the cadre of "nature terrorists" be in training??

    Jerusalem...City of Intensity.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I went in search of wild cyclamen, and either they are finished blooming or shyly hiding behind the rocks, because I could find none this week. I did find the trees that have had berries all winter now taking on a new spring look against the summer-hinting blue of the sky - even though they are the same old berries on the tree, and non edible ones at that!

One less such tree on my block, thanks to the iryiah workers.


I found bushes in shades of purple, shrubs dressed in buttercup garments, and Israeli style dandelions lining the walkways.

Just the beginning as spring emerges from the long cold winter.



A Surprise

...but just as I was about to put away my camera, I stumbled upon the treasures I had been looking for.... right behind my building on the terrace slopes to the streets below.

There I discovered countless clumps of wild cyclamen...and in the midst of them were bright yellow and pale yellow butterflies

cavorting in the sun. Alas, my camera decided to relinquish it's battery charge just as I was shooting the butterflies.


Most amazingly, while I know nothing about butterfly mating, it appeared to me to be a courtship dance between a bright yellow and pale yellow butterfly. It was very sweet. I'll be back to photograph more, but the courtship may in fact be over. :)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Election Weary, Rain Happy

We are a little election weary in our little country, but I'm not sure the present system is as terrible as is often bemoaned.

At any rate, the coalition discussions continue and will intensify this next week as Bibi turns to his natural partners for ongoing talks. We all desire that he will be able to create a strong and stable government. Except, of course, for Tzipi Livni. Today Livni rejected the idea of a unity government, saying that tomorrow she will begin working to bring down the Netanyahu government. Not a word about the seriousness of the hour and a willingness to compromise in a way to work together for our survival. All about Tzipi.

Again, I direct you to the parallel site, Today in Israel, where there is more detail on the coalition predicaments and discussions.

The rains continue this weekend, the cyclamen are still blooming, and B'H, it's Shabbat. We'll get through it all somehow. After taking a week off of posting, I should be up and running again next week.

In the meantime,

Shabbat Shalom

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Following the Rain

It has rained hard and steady, including enough hail to pile up on the window sills and the ground, since Friday night, shortly after it was announced that Bibi Netanyahu would form the government. Mega lightning and enormous thunder claps made the ongoing event even more dramatic.

The reports are that it will continue to rain through Monday - two more days. Much snow accumulated on Mount Hermon, snow that will melt into the Kinneret in the spring.

How much rain fell directly into the Kinneret has yet to be reported, but more rain is forecast for next weekend.

Do you think these prolonged soaking rains could have anything to do with electing a government that finally means business about protecting this Land?
If you have followed my blog, you already know that I think in the affirmative on this issue.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Election Progress

I know, they drag out forever, these Israeli elections. If you are following the Today in Israel blog, and/or of course, the news! you know that today marked the parade of parties going to Beit HaNassi (the President's house) to give their recommendations for the person best suited to form the next government.

Bibi received the overwhelming mandate of 65 seats to Livni's 28, yet it's not over yet. Peres still has to formally request of Netanyahu to form the government, and since they are not the best of friends, who knows what might still happen. At this hour at least, Peres is insistent on asking BOTH Netanyahu and Livni tomorrow to Beit HaNassi to try to force them to work together in a unity government - even though Livni is firm (today at least) about sitting in opposition.

Then of course, there's the budget... We could know who will be prime minister by summer. It's enough to drive one to drink!! Yet, Israeli's are pretty patient about it all. After all, what can we do? Nothing. So...we shrug our shoulders and drink coffee and wait....and then, we drink some more coffee and wait some more.

It's Israel. (And I really love coffee.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Shabbat and haShkediya

As we transition to Shabbat, a few close ups of the blossoms of hashkediya (the almond trees) on my street . The bees are happy too.






Photos mkfremont

Shabbat Shalom

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Follow me...

...at TodayinIsrael for running election coverage

Monday, February 9, 2009

Some things Are Eternal

I hadn't been to my places in the hills for some time; every time I thought about going I felt a hestitation and no drawing to go like I normally did. I felt it might have to do with the fact that one of the last times I was there, later at night, walking and gazing out over the night time hills as I have so many times, a security guard (too unprofessional for shin bet) followed me in a car, stalking and harassing me a bit. It was during the war and I could see they were looking for something/someone below on the hill. Still, for G-d's sake, I don't look like a terrorist, and it was unnerving. I felt like "my space" had been invaded and it was no longer "private".

Today, however, I decided to go to one of the spots. A place where I sit next to an enormous fragrant thyme bush and look out, with trees and flowers and rocks on the hillside in the other direction.

Even before I arrived at the long walkway to the stairs, my heart sank, but only briefly. Surrounding the entire area was a construction wall. Cranes and caterpillars peeked over the top and could be heard chewing up trees and crushing rocks. I knew of course, the wild display of cyclamen gracing the hills and hiding beneath the rocks were being pulverized as well.

Ah, this is probably why I haven't come. I would have been furious at the sight of the fence going up, and the machinery moving in to my tranquil and wild hillside. But, this is Yerushalayim. We want it to grow in people. Where are they going to build except on an empty hillside?

Nevertheless, as I walked alongside the construction barrier, I mulled over the idea of joining the "green" party - because though we do need building, we still need our green space to be beautiful and healthy.

As I turned the corner to climb the 100 steps or so to my bench, I could see that my view would be totally blocked. What about the butterflies who inhabit the thyme bush? Would they move on now that there would only be one bush from which to dine? Already some had moved on when a wild and uncaring Iryia (city hall) worker went crazy in his pruning of both the thyme and the gorgeous canopy of leaves and flowers that cascaded over my bench - the canopy that had provided me cool shelter on steamy days, and was like a special covering while I thought and dreamed.

I thought of Jerusalem and her history...when there was no bench, nor concrete stairs nor buildings of any kind, and I wondered how many scenes this little tract of Land had witnessed over the centuries.

That's when G-d whispered in my ear - that Jerusalem, though eternal, will always be changing before us - only He and the Am are constant.

Only G-d and the People Israel are constant. It gave me peace. Jerusalem is eternal, but her face is ever changing (though not her spirit); G-d and His People will never change. The same G-d, the same People - Am Yisrael - through the ages.

Comforting thoughts on election eve.