Having been in Jerusalem for almost a week, I wanted to jot down some of my impressions of this pulsing, vibrant city, probably one of the most unique cities in the entire world where modern life strives against ancient history and often crumbling infrastructure. Now in 2022, there is construction visible everywhere in Jerusalem, big cranes, workmen on scaffolding, hammering, trucks passing with building materials. My son in law, Andy, told me about some of the current big projects like extending and expanding the current light rail, and adding new light rail lines. It feels like one big construction project everywhere you look. Thousands of apartments are being added as there is a major housing shortage they are addressing. Some are new buildings, others are projects adding floors to existing buildings. My family and their neighbors are holding out that they can keep their building as is, but all around them there are pending projects and developers would like to take their building and remodel it.
We arrived here before Purim, a fun holiday of wearing costumes, sending gifts of food to friends and neighbors (think Halloween times twenty), hearing the Purim story in synagogues and many parties with lots of drinking (part of the Purim tradition!) The country really lets loose on this holiday. Jeff and I had a ball going to the shuk, the open air market in Mahane Yehudah on Purim. You could see costumes worn by children and adults, and we wore the costumes we brought in our suitcases which were playing cards, the King and Queen of Hearts. For some reason, these costumes are a huge hit in Israel (we wore them previously here), and we were surrounded by photographers taking our picture (our fifteen minutes of fame!!) We were stopped along the street where people wanted to pose with us and take our picture, and it was so much fun. I had to buy my favorite halvah in the shuk, and as usual bought way too much. When they cut a wedge for you, you don’t realize that it is huge. The good news is that it lasts forever so I ration out a little piece every day.
Two other unexpected events happened. First when we arrived we found out our middle, sweet granddaughter had just tested positive for Covid. OY….that was news we did not expect to hear at the airport when our son in law picked us up. The good news is that she has been virtually symptom free, and we were fortunate we had booked a close by Air B and B so we were not in their place. That was really crucial, as as hard as it was, we had to keep our distance. She is doing better and testing negative in time for us to go to Eilat together tomorrow.
The other unusual event is that the weather has been unusually COLD, in the thirties and forties. We had been following the weather before we came and threw in warm jackets which we really needed and hats, gloves and scarves. This has been a once in a hundred year cold spell. (Just our luck!!) Even when we go to Eilat tomorrow, it will be warmer, but not the usual very warm weather we were hoping for. We have come to realize that we have to go with the flow and can’t control Covid or the weather.
The place we have been renting has been comfortable and convenient. There are always a few glitches to understand the Israeli systems for heat, hot water, getting the TV to work, etc. However, we would definitely stay here again.
We have been able to see old friends, Joel and Ruthi Ackerman, Bill Taeusch, and Marilyn Neril. We saw my cousins Nat and Rachel who have created a dynasty here, with seven sons now all married and have THIRTY grandchildren and recently three great grandchildren. Could your remember the names of thirty grandchildren?? That would be a test for me not to mention keeping track of birthdays.
I have spent some precious time with my adorable niece Julie and her beautiful family. Julie and Rusty were going to be here for a year, and now they are going on year three. Their four kids are thriving and have adapted to Israeli life like troopers despite all the turmoil with the pandemic. The best part of their time here is that Julie and Rusty had a baby, their fifth, Miri, who is a little doll. Julie and I spent a wonderful morning having brunch while Miri slept like an angel.
We have been to the Kotel, (the Wailing Wall) which is always an emotional experience. It was crowded with tourists. We had a great tour at the Shalva building which provides care for children and adults with disabilities. It is an amazing place, so colorful with two swimming pools, a gym, art studios, a café where disabled adults work. One of the special features is that children who go there after their regular school programs participate in a weekly overnight at the facility. This teaches the children independence and they learn life skills. It provides a much needed respite for the parents as well. We are proud to be supporters of this wonderful organization and appreciated the tour we received.
We are looking forward to catching up more with our grandchildren in Eilat. Israel is so great for children. They learn to be independent, have more freedom, wonderful opportunities, youth groups and great programs, can take a bus at night to go somewhere (yes, that is hard to believe). This is a country dedicated to their children. Our oldest granddaughter is in a boarding school in Jerusalem, takes college classes in high school, volunteers in a special organization which helps disabled kids, rides an ambulance. That’s just for starters. She is very busy. Eliana, our middle granddaughter, will go away to school for high school also boarding, but her school will away from Jerusalem. She will take a bus to her school (an hour and a half out of Jerusalem) spend four nights a week there and three at home. Our youngest grandson really likes his youth group as well and starts a new school next year (fortunately close by.)
Jerusalem is amazing as always, unique, stressful; all of the above. We are very comfortable here enjoying the hospitality of our kids despite the unplanned Covid stuff. We are now pros at using the light rail which is very convenient to where we are staying. Sometimes it is frustrating to locate an ATM machine. Spending shekels is still like funny money to me. You can buy everything you need, and there are many yummy bakeries including French bakeries.
Next stop Eilat… looking for a little sun for the next few days!!