Thursday, Aug 9, 615PM
Waiting for Eli and Batsheva to come over. We've been here for two months and no one from the family has been here, invitations notwithstanding. So we'll have a cup of tea and a piece of cake and say goodbye.
I made sure this final week was a busy one - too busy to focus on the fact that we are leaving tomorrow.
On Saturday night we went to Birman's. It's a somewhat sleazy bar on a side street off Ben Yehuda. We used to go regularly the first few winters we spent here, and then somehow it fell off the radar. Jenny and Dave went when they were here and had a really good time. There's live jazz on Saturday nights. It's still sleazy and our waiter was on another planet, but the music was better than average.
On Sunday I went on a tiyul (excursion) to Hebron. One of Judaism's four holy cities, it is the burial place of Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebecca, Jacob & Leah. It's in Genesis; look it up. But why did Abraham buy this particular burial cave? Because according to tradition this is where Adam & Eve are buried.
There's been a Jewish presence in Hebron since Abraham's time. It took a decree by Hajj Amin el Husseini, the leader of the Wakf (Muslim religious council) in Jerusalem during the British occupation, to put an end to a 3000 year old community. In 1929 Hajj Amin issued a fatwa (religious decree) for a pogrom against the communities in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias, the four holy cities. In Hebron alone 67 men, women and children were murdered on Shabbat morning, many others were injured, while the Brits stood idly by. They have a shameful record in this regard, as they had prior knowledge of this and other massacres that occurred on their watch. This was the beginning of the end of the Jewish presence in Hebron, as the Brits ultimately decided to forcibly evacuate, rather than defend them. There were some diehards who insisted on staying, but when the Jordanians conquered the city in 1948, even those few had to leave, thus ending the three millenia history of the Jews of Hebron.
Fast forward to 1967. After 19 years, Hebron was liberated from Jordanian occupation, and many of the residents who had to leave returned. They weren't exactly welcomed with open arms, and today, 51 years later, there isn't a lot of camaraderie. 30,000 Arabs and 900 Jews live in the city, and regrettably the IDF has to maintain a sizable presence in order to keep them from being slaughtered. Surprisingly, the Jews who live there are very happy, and when the cameras aren't rolling they get along decently with their neighbors. And there's a waiting list of people who want to move into the Jewish neighborhood. New residential construction is restricted (one of the more stupid conditions Israel agreed to) which means space is tight. In order to prioritize the waiting list you have to be a legacy. There are another 5 Jewish suburbs around Hebron which have a population of about 8,000.
We visited the Abraham Synagogue and the Hebron Museum, which is small and fascinating, and then went to the Machpela Cave to visit the graves. Today it's anything but a cave; in fact the exact location of the original burial cave isn't known, but most archaeologists agree that it's somewhere under the current building. Even during Biblical times there was some kind of structure over the cave. Then along came Herod who loved building grandiose edifices, and put up a grandiose edifice. A few centuries later, Christians turned it into a church. And a few centuries after that, Muslims turned it into a Mosque. The agreement today (the one that restricts residential building) is that Jews have exclusive use of the area that has Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca's graves, the Muslims have control of the rest of the building.
|The Torah scrolls, still used today, are over 200 years old.|
|Beit Hadassah (Hadassah House) used to be a hospital. It's now an apartment building in the center of Jewish Hebron.|
|Beit Hadassah after the Jordanians destroyed it in 1948|
|One of the memorial walls with photos of the 67 men, women and children who were massacred in 1929.|
|Our docent at the museum, who lives at Beit Hadassah. |
She also lives the history of Hebron; her own father was murdered in their home when she was 2 years old.
She's one of the returning residents.
|Machpela Cave; typical Herodian architecture with the added minaret.|
|The grave of Leah|
|The 3 graces (L to R) Peggy, Racheli and Batsheva|
|Usually tourists want to be photographed with soldiers. |
These guys, part of the detachment that protects the Machpela, wanted to be photographed with me.
We went to the Dead Sea on Monday. Who wouldn't want to be somewhere where it's 105 degrees? Actually it was only 100, but a dry heat. We always have a good time there, no matter what the temperature is. Nir and Hannah happened to be there at the same time but at a different hotel. We met in the shopping center for a few minutes, more to say goodbye than anything else.
|The thing that looks like a tennis ball is actually a salt ball|
|View from our room at sunrise|
We got back to Jerusalem in time to go to the Melanie Phillips book launch. She is a brilliant analyst and one of our favorite columnists. She wrote a novel, Legacy, which is a novelty for her.
Wednesday was my follow up appointment at the hair dresser. No photos. This is a new one and I think he's a keeper.
Thursday, Aug 9. Our last day. I did some last minute shopping and met Yafit for coffee in the shuk. It was the first time we were able to get together, just us girls.
Then home to finish packing. Eli, Batsheva and Yafit came over around 730. We gave them what was left in the fridge and said bye for now.
Friday, Aug 10
We're on the last leg of our trip home - the flight from Philadelphia to O'Hare. Only delayed 2 hours, but that's not the worst of it. American Airlines did us the courtesy of losing our luggage. The day started very early. We were picked up at 3AM for our 7AM flight to Prague. Almost as soon as we started out there were problems. The next pick up for our airport shuttle was the Leonardo Hotel. When we arrived the doorman said the 3 people who had ordered the shuttle cancelled. Some kind of misunderstanding with the front desk. The guests wanted a taxi, and the hotel reserved the shuttle. The driver was understandably upset and called the office to let them know what happened. Then he got into an argument with the taxi driver who was waiting for the passengers. This seemed pretty pointless, since it wasn't the taxi driver's fault, and it cost us about 10 minutes. The next pick up was at the corner of King George and Ben Yehuda. The driver kept calling the passenger's cell phone but it was turned off. So again he called the office, and they said she should be on the corner. There's really no place to pull over but at 315AM there's not much traffic to block. Finally she showed up. The next two pick ups went smoothly. The last one was a problem because apparently the driver had the wrong address. By the time we got on our way to the airport it was 335, and we needed to check in at 4. The driver raced to the airport and we got there at 405AM, plus 10 more minutes to get over to Terminal 1. It wasn't nearly as crowded as Terminal 3 and the check in process went quickly. I was worried about being able to check our bags all the way thru to Chicago, and I also worried about our luggage allowance. But the guy who took care of us verified the 2 bag per person allowance and checked us thru to O'Hare.
I didn't sleep a wink Thursday night. By the time we boarded I was ready to pass out. I fell asleep as soon as I fastened my seatbelt and slept an hour an a half.
We had an hour plus layover in Prague, and they actually had a nice business class lounge. To show you just how classy the lounge is, it's the only airport rest room I've ever seen that has a bidet.
Then it was time to head over to the gate. Well ... we haven't been thru security like this in years. The security agent wanted to chat, which is a technique that's used in screening passengers and I understand it. But this agent wanted to chat. When we said we originated in Tel Aviv she had to know all about Israel. Meanwhile, over the loudspeaker, they kept announcing "final boarding call for the flight to Philadelphia" even tho we went to board at the time it said on our boarding passes. I mentioned that this was our flight and she said yes, I know. Great. I had visions of missing the plane because she wanted to know what we did in Israel for 2 months. But she was just the warm up. The main event was going thru the X-ray part of security. Everything had to come out of our carry-on bags - liquids which had to be put into a plastic bag, laptops AND tablets AND kindles AND cell phones. The only thing we didn't have to do was take off our shoes. All this to the chorus of "final boarding call for the flight to Philadelphia". We finally got thru this procedure, which was way worse than in Tel Aviv where you don't have to undress or take anything out of your hand luggage, and they only ask the rudimentary questions. Fortunately the gate was next to security, and we collapsed into our seats.
So we headed to the Admiral's Club... and struck up a conversation with a couple of very fascinating guys - brothers - who were returning to Amsterdam after visiting family in the States. It turns out than one of them is a singer who's been performing for about 60 years all over the world. Ronnie Tober. We had a great time talking to them until it was finally time to board our flight. I'm writing this at 39,000 feet and with so much turbulence that even the flight attendants had to sit down. But we're about to land and it's time to shut down this electronic device.
Well, it's Sunday, Aug 12. I've been up since 3AM.
They found our luggage and it will be delivered this afternoon. I won't end this post until I know if anything was confiscated.
The bags were finally delivered at 645PM. All three. In Israel they had been opened for a security check. How do I know this? No TSA or USCBP notes inside. The important thing was that nothing was confiscated - the cheese, nuts and dried fruit arrived safe and sound.
Until the next trip ...
Peggy and Sid