Weeks in Israel are always great, with a lot of diversity and many ways to amuse yourself. This week there were lots of highlights in many realms of interest.
Politics: On Tuesday, municipal elections happened all over Israel. The last time there were municipal elections, we were on Sabbatical in Jerusalem and really followed the battles there. Indeed, the 2008 election was very entertaining; remembering back to then one of the mayoral candidates was wanted for Arms Smuggling into Angola, another who was to represent the religious faction fell out of favor with the other faction and finally, Nir Barakat won the election in Jerusalem. Since then he has done a credible job, completing the light rail in the city center and bringing festivals and even F-1 to Jerusalem (your need special tires for the cobblestones of the Old City!) This year the main opponent for Mr. Barakat has a local Montreal connection; Moshe Lion is the brother of our Consul General, Joel Lion. It was a very close race, but the incumbent won by almost 6%. In Netanya, where we have had the same Mayor for 15 years, Miriam Fierberg won once again. She has really improved the city; just take a look at the bright, new city center with huge screens, fountains and even an ice skating rink! One more mayoral connection: the Novosellers purchased the home of the current mayor of Efrat, Oded Revivi.
Entertainment: Last night, we went to a movie at the Globus Max (not Gluteus Max) theater in Netanya. If you are waiting for a movie review, forget it! The movie (Prisoners) was fine, but the entertainment was the goings on in movie theaters in Israel! First, Israeli theaters give out tickets with assigned seats. This is a great thing, as it means you don’t have to rush in to make sure you have a good seat. Of course, the polite Canadians came on time for the movie; we and 2 other couples who obviously did not know better. Seeing an empty theater, the others took better seats than they were assigned. However, AFTER the commercials, the previews and the other annoying stuff, the theatre filled up quickly, and of course there was a lot of “Excuse me, you’re in my seat….!” Also right in the middle of a crucial part of the 2 hour movie was…Intermission! Why? Because!
Diversity: It is hard to walk around the larger cities in Israel and not be struck by the sheer diversity of population. The Old City of Jerusalem of course has 4 sections, the Jewish, Muslim, Armenian and Christian Quarters. However, even a medium sized city like Netanya is extremely heterogeneous. Walking through the streets you see a tremendous variety of religious and secular Jews, Muslims and Christians. We shop in the same shops, frequent restaurants and the kids play the same parks. Looking at the array of kipot, hijabs, other head coverings and crosses makes one think that this enriches a society, rather than diminishes it. Maybe we should invite Mme Marois for Shabbat?
Ikea and Co: What would a trip to Israel be without some shopping at Ikea? It is really a magnet for most of Central Israel, to browse, shop, play and eat. One thing that is really striking is that people follow the paths and signs and stand in orderly lines to look at items, get their merchandise, go to the restaurant, etc. If Israeli’s can be so orderly in Ikea, why can’t they apply this to the roads and bus stops?
Visiting Friends: After our first week of catching up with the time zones, we decided to catch up with friends. As mentioned last week, we picked up Gila and Ariel and were off to Jerusalem on Friday morning, and had brunch with Bilha and Orly Fruchter at Café Rimon. From there, we went to the Gush Etzyon area south of Jerusalem to Nevei Daniel, where Gila’s parents Geula and Itzhak Twersky live and visited with them (and the Ami-Kodesh’s Pirate Ship!) From there, we crossed the highway and went to Efrat to the home of Carol and David Novoseller who have lived there for just over 2 years. Avi and Yael Miller and 2 of their children were there as well, as they are moving to Israel next summer. Carol and David are doing really well, as are all their girls. Saturday night we returned to Jerusalem for tea with Ann and Jonathan Homa, ex-Montrealers who arrived in Israel 2 months ago after living in New Jersey. They are living in a great apartment and it looks like they are well settled in.
Tuesday, we were joined by Nomi’s parents Karen and Robert Goldberger and went to Ramat HaNadiv near Zichron Yaakov. This is where Baron Edmond Rothschild is buried; it was his concept to build an experimental agricultural area there to determine what plants would grow best in hot, arid Israel. It is now has beautiful gardens, including roses, palms and fragrant plants, huge parkland for hiking and a nature sanctuary with indigenous animals in the wild. Thanks to Daniella for the great tip to go there.
Wednesday we met Ariel and Gila for lunch near Bar Ilan and then visited the Shomron Community of Ma-alei Shomron, where Michal and Rav Ronen Sela have moved. They have built an amazing home there plus married off two daughters Moria and Meytal in the past 6 months. Many may remember the Selas from their two years in Montreal at Hebrew Academy. Thursday PM we picked up Ariel and Gila as well as our niece Jenna (the birthday girl) from Givat Shmuel and then met the Homas at one of our favorite restaurants in Netanya (Gehalim). In between we assembled some Ikea furniture, bought a sofa and otherwise tried to be both on holiday and domesticated at the same time!
So, for this Shabbat we are having Gila, Ariel, and Jenna in Netanya; it should be a lot of fun. Next week we wind down this trip and will be anticipating the return to chilly Montreal. We’ll try to get in a couple more walks in the sunshine to fortify ourselves!
We wish everyone a very joyous Shabbat Shalom!
Happy Birthday to our daughter in law Daniella!
Happy Birthday to Jenna!
A belated Happy Birthday to Haim Fruchter (last Shabbat)!
May all our friends and indeed all who are currently suffering from illness have a Refuah Shelema, a very speedy and complete recovery.