Aside for the Bar-Mitzvah and eating, we managed to do lots of little odds and ends in our 9 day stay. Most of it included shopping and seeing long lost friends: and it’s meeting up with friends you haven’t seen in years that really is the greatest treat. Naturally we also did a small amount of travelling and touring to some common tourist hot spots.
We were based in Raanana, a city rather North-ish, which is where I used to live as a kid. We managed to visit the metropolitan city of Tel Aviv and checked out those markets I was so super excited about. I took a whole bunch of money, and naturally hardly spent a thing. I met up with a friend currently on her gap year and we also met up with Greg’s friend from his gap year. The last time we were in Israel Greg actually landed up going to their wedding, so for me it was really great to meet Simon. Truth is, it was a lot of walking and crazy humidity. We also didn’t have a cellphone (well, sim card or wireless) which made it difficult to split from my family. It was also our first day, and managing public transport was a bit of a frustration. So we had a great time in Tel Aviv, but I was glad to go home back to our air-conditioned apartment.
A note about the heat and humidity: you wake up in the morning hot and sticky and go take a shower. You come back in the afternoon from whatever you’ve done – hot – and take a shower. And for good measure, you know to take another shower before bed just to cool off again. Cape Town summer heat is a treat in comparison!
The next couple of days we spent in Jerusalem (actually, we stayed there for half of our trip at a very good friend of ours. The last time I saw her was at our wedding, which she flew out for.) and we met up with plenty of people over that time. You see, various Jewish organisations send Israeli’s to different parts of the world every year so over the years we have made a fortune of friends who have come and gone from Cape Town. On top of that, there have also been so many of our friends who have “made Aliyah”, which means they’ve moved there.
I met my close friend from High School that I’d only seen once since graduating, Greg met with a friend/ex-colleague. We met up with my brother in the Shuk (market) and went out for supper the three of us, which was such a chilled, relaxed and different atmosphere than going with your entire family. Just siblings. My brother is currently in the Israeli army, doing a commanders course. It’s tough, but he loved it. And doesn’t he look great in uniform? 😉 I met up with a friend from my gap year – he’s originally from South Africa, moved to New Zealand as a kid, recently moved to Australia and was currently on a semester abroad in The States – where he was going on a tour to Israel. Our tradition on our gap year (among many) was to go for ice-cream on Ben Yehuda, so naturally that’s where we met up. Also met up with my friend Lisa who’s getting married in 5 short weeks.
We had an incredible Shabbat spent with past shlichim (those guys who come to Cape Town for a year). We hadn’t seem some of them in 3 years, and they’d gone from having 1.5 children to 3. It was crazy to see how their youngest had grown. It was so natural being with them, and so sad saying goodbye (as it was with every old friend we saw) because at one point in your life, they were with you all the time for a full year. It was always so natural to say “cheers, see you tomorrow!” and again it just had to be “cheers, see you next time.” With Israel, there’s always almost a “next time”, except now I tell people it’ll be when my brother gets married one day.
We did plenty of shopping while we were in Jerusalem (aside for eating and buying food stuffs of course). We literally took a bus into town in the morning, and back to where we were staying later that night. So it would usually be about 9+ hrs of walking the streets in the heat. At least it wasn’t humid like Tel Aviv! Anyway, my main shopping mission was to buy new headscarves and a couple of accessories I wanted to keep an eye out for, as you can’t get most of what’s available in Israel, here in SA. Greg was looking for a Shofar, which is a ram’s horn that gets blown in shul services during the High Holy Days (practically the whole of September this year).
We spent a lot of time walking up and down Mea Shearim, a really religious area (I mean, if you think I’m religious by reading this blog – that’s nothing in comparison to these guys) looking for this Shofar and trying to decide if Greg oculd afford it (very pricey). As an example of how frum (that’s Jew speak for “religious”) these Chariedim are (the Ultra-Orthodox who live in Mea Shearim) let me tell you a little story. We’d gone to Shofar man’s shop 3 times (including the time Greg had to run all the way back because he’d left his wallet, iPod & debit card just lying in his shop). Anyway, in trying to convince Greg to buy said animal horn, the man said to him “Your wife, her sleeves are a bit short (I was wearing a tshirt). Now, it doesn’t offend me, but you don’t want her to come again in case some people throw things at her. Like tomatoes.” See, so considerate? I did a lot of observing of the Ultra Orthodox as we took a lot of bus lines running through their areas, it’s interesting how it’s just such a different world (and if it’s a different world to me, I can only imagine how foreign it is to you.)
Anyway, I am happy to say that I was very successful on my hunt for new scarves. I’ve come back with a great new collection and it’s really made my day-to-day dressing up a lot more fun 🙂
We did go on one epic day trip with our friend Liat. She took us all the way up north to the ruins of Caesarea. This port town was built by King Herod and later destroyed (as it is with ancient ruins). I think what was so beautiful about these particular ones, is that is right by the sea. We watched a short clip about the history, we walked the old ruins and took many, many photos! I mean, could an ancient city even be in a more beautiful location. We popped to a beach nearby which showed the ancient aqueducts which brought water into the city. We also went to Zichron Ya’akov, a beautiful little town known for it’s wineries (where of course we stopped and bought a bottle to bring home with us).
The only last bit of touring we did was go back to Tel Aviv to see the old city of Yafo. As far as my memory serves me (from grade 10 Jewish History – because that was a class we took at school) it was the first port city in Israel. It’s really old and beautiful. Kind of like the Old City in Jerusalem, but less charming I guess.
It was a great trip with all the important elements: family and special times, friends, food, shopping and some sight seeing along the way. As much as I’m dying to travel to other places in the world (yet if I struggle being in a country with a language I understand, I don’t know how cope with a language completely foreign to me) there’s something so comforting and familiar about being in Israel. You almost always bump into people you know on the streets. It’s kinda great.
And just like that it was home time. A trip we had waited and looked forward to for a whole year, 9 days just passed by so quickly. I guess that’s the thing with travelling, you plan and prepare and save and wait, and then it goes by so fast. The great thing of course, is that the memories always last. You seem to be able to make so many morewhen time is short, and the memories are mostly what you bring back. Don’t you agree