ba’aretz at last

Will try not to be too dull and travelogue-y here, but the jetlag-fog and family-meeting-stress are combining to stifle my wit and brevity. Sorry. I’m sitting in Yael and Yoram Mahanymi’s living room in Haifa, enjoying the gentle air conditioning. The beautiful view outside (clean-lined apartment buildings and the azure sea below) is matched by the view inside, where Yael is cooking up a storm: date-filled coffee cookies, mango sorbet, home-dried pineapple, sweet baby eggplant preserves, lunch. The fridge and counters are full of amazing Israeli fruit. ND promised I would be well-fed. As if there was some possibility otherwise.

Getting here was quite a drama. We nearly missed both the SEPTA and NJT trains to Newark from Philadelphia, and then volunteered (excitedly) to be bumped from our flight for a later plane and a free Continental voucher. As it turned out, they didn’t need the extra seats, so we (and all the other thrilled freebie-seekers) were disappointed. Too bad; we had a fun hour of speculating as to where we should go: Rome! Warsaw! St. Croix!

Airport security was moving well, even with the recent liquid-explosives plot. The new restrictions seem like far more hassle than they are worth. Banning water bottles isn’t going to stop any terrorists. If you want to carry liquids, just strap them to your leg or something. We saw a woman with two wheezy red-eyed little girls, trying to get the TSA honchos to let her take children’s cough syrup, with safety seals intact, and CVS receipts in hand. It didn’t look good. She begged that they were traveling to Moscow and it would be 24 hours before she could get more medicine. Oy, pobrecitas!

The flight to Israel, as I had forgotten, is a wacky microcosm of the country’s population. From the frumpy-preppy Orthodox, trailing gaggles of children, to the suntanned Eurotrash Tel Aviv set, Continental flight 84 was a perfect minisociety. Modern technology creates these stunning moments of disconnect—as when the head steward requested, via intercom, that the gangs of black-hats “please refrain from davvening (praying) in the aisles during the meal service, and we will notify you of the appropriate time and space for davvening.” How do you calculate sundown when you’re flying straight into it at 1000 kilometers per hour? Meanwhile the expensively coiffed secular folks are eating soggy airline shrimp salad, and watching Mission: Impossible III.

(Yes, I did watch it, and Philip Seymour Hoffman was wasted on that piece of junk. Tom Cruise’s very young beautiful helpless wife had nothing to do but smile, cry, and shoot a couple faceless goons. They could have had Katie Holmes play herself. The anti-Bush Doctrine denouement was great but totally underplayed, especially because Billy Crudup is a terrible villain. Plus, ‘the rabbit’s foot’ is a stupid name for a macguffin. They could just call it ‘the red herring.’)

Right, so we landed at 10am, and I smiled my way through Ben-Gurion’s cool marble hallways, enjoying the familiar-airport glow, then had a baggage-claim moment of panic. Went directly into shy mode for the rest of the day. That turned out to be fine. All the Mahanymis are really lovely people, and were very welcoming to me despite my lack of energy and of Hebrew. We went from the airport to (younger sister) Sarit’s airy, calming apartment outside Jerusalem, where we snacked, yakked, and showered. ND and his parents took Sarit to a meeting in the city while I collapsed into bed.

When they came back, we all drove out to a empty hilltop park and clambered down a wild rocky slope to an underground swimming hole. Against the dusty hot air outside, the water was pleasingly frigid and the air cool and wet. The swimming hole was quite gynecological. We reached the water via a narrow channel in the rock, with ridged steps, down into a dark elliptical chamber of about 10m across and 4m tall. ND said it felt like a spot for secret pledges and initiations. On the way home we scouted for fig trees along the road, stopping to jump out and strip off the ripe fruits in the favorite (much-reminisced: family foraging) Mahanymi activity. The sweetest, juiciest figs I’ve ever had.

The evening was a long blur of sleepy travel for me. Y&Y went off to Haifa in their car, and ND&I dropped Sarit with her fiancé Tomer and drove off in her car. We meant to visit N’s friend Dror on his kibbutz, but when we got close he wasn’t answering his phone and so we continued on to Haifa. Arrived at the apartment building to find no one home, and of course ND has no key, so we visited the downstairs neighbor for bathroom, snacks, and Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer on TV. I was a smiling zombie by this point. Finally Y&Y returned and with amazing fortitude I managed not to dissolve onto the floor for another hour.

Sleep! From midnight until 11am. Glorious. Now we’ve lunched (on delicious roasted veg and lentils and salad and spiced beets and more, yum) and massaged the trip into shape. Typical, that we would come for three weeks with only a vague schedule. Now that we’ve eaten and planned everything seems clearer.

To wit:
This week, til Thursday, Haifa.
Friday (8/25) thru Sunday, Jerusalem.
Next week, Tel Aviv and visiting around with friends in the area.
Thursday (8/31) thru Saturday, Neve Ur (older sister Irit’s kibbutz).
Following week, Jerusalem: Sarit’s wedding on Thursday (9/7).
Last Shabbat, Rosh Pina, near Tzfat.
Fly home 9/10 from TLV!
It will speed by, I’m sure … off to the beach for now.

No comments: