Well, it looks like I have some time to write today, since I took the day off. That's what happens when you take a half gainer onto a cement floor. No, no broken bones, no stitches, no concussion. I walked out from behind my desk yesterday just before quitting time and somehow managed to catch my foot on the edge of a box we use to put mail in. On my way down, my other foot got tangled in the cord from a floor fan that wasn't anywhere near my body. Hah! Nobody believes me when I say inanimate objects like tables and corners of walls and chairs jump out at me. Well, here's proof! And I had two witnesses who can vouch for me (or at least I tell myself that rather than face the humiliation of being klutzy in front of two co-workers). Anyway, last night my right knee kept swelling to the point that I could barely walk on it so I made an appointment to see a doctor this morning. When I woke up, however, the swelling seemed to be mostly gone and I could walk almost normally (bending my knees for Shemoneh Esrei, however, was a whole different ballgame), so I canceled the appointment. There are about 40 steep steps leading up to my office and I had already called my boss last night about not coming in today, so it seemed that staying home was the right thing to do on this beautiful Monday morning. Spike and Emma haven't let me out of their sight all morning, so it seems they're pretty happy to have my company.
Isn't strange how many things need to be done around the home when one doesn't leave it? Dishes, laundry, cleaning - I know I should be keeping this leg elevated, but stuff just needs to be done. Beside, if by some miracle I can get a mahj game together this afternoon, I wouldn't want to be embarrassed by the state of my apartment.
So, enough about mundane topics. Let's get on to the real stuff of living in Eretz Yisrael!
Let me take you back exactly one week. Last Monday David had his last ulpan class and wanted to celebrate. He had asked me to meet him on Emek Refaim, which is a street that you might find in Clayton, for you St. Louis readers. It's a long road filled with restaurants, funky stores, and lots of people roaming the streets. I took the #4 bus there after work - it's been so long since I've taken buses anywhere in Yerushalayim! When the bus got just to the beginning of Emek Refaim, it stopped. I realized we were in the middle of a terrific traffic jam; I could see lots of flashing lights and loud music ahead of us. To our right was Liberty Bell Park, so I assumed there was some kind of a fair going on and I debated whether to get off at the next bus stop to check it out, since I was a little early to meet David.
When we started moving again, I realized that we were passing a van decorated four feet high with all kinds of flashing lights and the music was coming from the back. The van was moving very slowly down the street, followed by a whole parade of people singing and dancing. In their midst was a chupah help by four poles that people were carrying, and it was then that I saw a beautiful, new sefer Torah under the chupah. I got off at the second bus stop which was completely hashgacha pratis (Divine providence), because the bus then turned at the next corner and I still needed to walk to the end of the street. While waiting for David, I ducked into Jungle, a pet store chain. The guy who worked there took a parrot I had been admiring out of its cage and was telling me about it (only 2500 NIS!), when I heard the music coming closer and closer. I ran outside and there was the Hachnosas Sefer Torah procession approaching with a much larger crowd. I followed the procession for about half a block, when it turned into a side street and stopped. Two really tall guys dressed in white, with white turbans, started blowing into the longest shofars I'd ever seen. It was so beautiful! The music was playing, the shofars were blowing, people were holding babies up, clapping and dancing and it felt so special to be a part of it! It was funny to see all the people holding their cell phones up to take pictures. After a few minutes, the procession started up again, and I went to find David.
We strolled all the way down one side of Emek Refaim, and back up the other side, enjoying the cool breeze (finally!) and looking in all the windows. It was hard to decide where to have dinner. I had decided beforehand that this night would be for David; whatever he wanted to do and wherever he wanted to eat would be fine with me. We ended up at an Israeli restaurant that was sort of open to the street, where we had shishlik (meat grilled on skewers). The nights we go out are few and far between, so it was SO nice to have such a relaxing evening. I hardly even thought about the dogs who had been home alone all day and who were probably sitting with their little noses pressed to the window looking down longingly at the parking lot waiting for us to alight from a car...
So now let's fast forward a few days to Shabbat. You know, we're really stick-in-the-mud people who go to work every day, come home tired, and veg in front of our computer screens at night. We rarely get invited out for Shabbat, although we love to have guests. This past Shabbat, however, we were invited to stay with a family in Bat Ayin, an agricultural yishuv on a mountaintop about 20 minutes away from Ramat Beit Shemesh. It was so much fun!
The Rebbetzin who invited us runs a midrasha (Jewish institute for women's studies) there, and we had been emailing each other all week. She and her husband and 14 year old son live on a house (a real house!) on the edge of a mountain, with a garden in front, a chicken coop full of chickens on the side, and a gorgeous view of nearby hills (mountains) in the back.
There were 24 of us for Friday night dinner, all women except for David, the Rabbi and his son, and it was a fast-paced evening. These young girls are so curious, and intelligent, and eager to learn everything about Yiddishkeit. Most were from the US, but there were a few Israelis and one from Germany. The discussions were lively as everyone had input on every topic. Shabbat was Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan (beginning of the new month of Cheshvan), a month where there are no other holidays. Each person talked about what they wanted to bring with them from Succot and Yom Kippur, and also, because Cheshvan has something to do with "smells", we all told what smell has meaning for us. Everyone said things like the esrog from Succot, or different spices. I said baby powder which made everyone laugh, especially when I said there's nothing more delicious than a baby's tushy. I was really, really missing my grandchildren, and how I missed out on the time they were babies. (My twin granddaughters are 20 months old already.) David said that the smell of the chicken coop brought back memories for him of visiting relative's farms in Minnesota when he was growing up.
Lunch the next day was just us and the family. David liked the Chabad he attended with the Rabbi. I had gone Friday night (awesome Lecha Dodi when the women spontaneously pushed all the tables aside and started dancing as happily as the men), but it wasn't my nusach (style of prayer) and I couldn't really follow in my siddur (also, I never go on Friday night so I didn't really know the order of the davening). But I totally enjoyed my davening at their home on Shabbat morning at my own pace, and including Hallel and Musaf in a leisurely and meaningful way. After lunch, David and I walked around the yishuv, enjoying the donkey tied in front of one house, the dogs running around, the kids playing in the streets and parks (no cars drive through on Shabbat), and the views of nearby mountains.
In the late afternoon, I went to the Midrasha with the Rebbetzin who was giving a class on Keshet (rainbows). This weeks's parsha (Torah reading) was Noach, so the rainbow was particularly relevant. We actually even had a little rain Friday night (at the exact moment the last guest stepped into the house for dinner), and again Shabbat morning while the sun was still shining. We looked for a rainbow, but there didn't seem to be one. After the talk, I waited for David on the road (there was a bench right in front of the house with the donkey) and then we went to a friend of my son (who is also the son of a friend) for the Third Meal. He and his wife and adorable 2 year old and baby literally live at the edge of a cliff. They rent a huge house (our apartment could probably fit into their salon) where they use two of their bedrooms for their home businesses. He bottles his own root beer (a product surprisingly not found here in Israel) and wine, and some other products. She sews colorful kipot and tzitzit. On the hill behind their house they grow all their own vegetables, and in front of their house are the herbs they planted. We watched the sun set through their window as it dipped behind the mountains far away. It was probably the most incredible sunset I've ever seen. The children were fed goat's milk that was fresh from a goat on the yishuv; the bread was made from wheat flour that they'd bought directly from the guy who grinds it on the yishuv. It would be such a perfect place to live if we had friends who lived there and if we spoke fluent Hebrew. It's a small place and there are many Americans who live there, but they probably all speak Hebrew as well. One day we'll be in that category, or at least, David will!
I'd better make some calls to see if a mahj game is in the cards (tiles?) for today.