Well howdy howdy!
It's been a really fun, busy-in-a-great-way almost 2 weeks or so. Lots of stuff going on - Yom HaZikaron, Yom Ha'atzmaut, Lag b'Omer, Rachel's parents visiting, some concerts, some basketball, and a Shabbat in the Gush!
Rachel's parents! The only word I can think of is lovely. Best couple of Rabbis I've ever met. They did a lot of fun things (Botanical Gardens at Hebrew U. in Givat Ram, Beit Ticho, ate at T'anim, what I'm told is an amazing vegetarian restaurant in Yemin Moshe, among many other adventures.)
Where to even begin? A bit late here on the events of the Yoms, but worth describing however briefly. Sunday night, Rachel, Rachel's parents and I headed over to the Kotel for the national memorial ceremony for soldiers. Very solemn, very quiet. It started with a siren, and then they lit the memorial flame. We heard President Shimon Peres and Ramatkal (hmm. what's the American equivalent? chairman of the joint chiefs? someone help me out) Gabi Ashkenazi both give speeches. On the way home, we caught some singing at Shira Chadasha.
The next day, I hurried over to Har Herzl for the 11AM siren, and made it just in time. The military cemetery was unbelievably crowded, and I ended up in a section for soldiers killed in the 1990s, with active-duty soldiers and families at nearly every grave. Netanyahu spoke, and it was strange to hear so many people muttering "Amen" and "Brichu" as the Kaddish was said. It was also extremely hot, and a lot of people passed out. I managed to grab some water from kids here on YJ Year Course and explored a bit, waiting for Rachel and the Rabbis Marder for a tour being given by David Bernstein, who I think is the dean of Pardes. Very informative. We learned about people who were killed defending Gush Etzion, among others.
As we were standing in the area for soldiers killed in the Second Lebanon War, we spotted David Grossman standing at the grave of his son, Uri. It was odd, and perhaps more symbolic, to see him standing there only hours after Netanyahu had stood at the grave of his brother, Yoni, who was killed at Entebbe. Outside of politics, here were two people who have both suffered loss for the same cause, the State of Israel.
Then it was time for...Yom Ha'atzmaut! Talk about switching gears. Rachel and the Rabbis caught some Hallel and singing at Shira Chadasha (and then some fireworks) while I spent the evening with some lovely Pardes pals. We went over to Ben Yehuda and saw reggae violinist Michael Greilsammer playing a concert (more on that later!). Then it was off to folk dancing at Kikar Safra, where Rachel met up with us. Then another party at Machane Yehuda, and then the savory scent of BBQ at 3AM, wafting into our cab as we passed Gan Sacher. Our first Yom Ha'atzmaut in Israel, and it was a fantastic experience. I just wish I could remember more.
I almost forgot! Rachel's friend Micaela, currently working with the JDC in Rwanda, came for a visit! Here she is with the incomparable Sarah Lauing. We spent a lovely afternoon gossiping about Palo Alto (even I recognized a few names) and then ate fancy food at a fancy place.
Let's fast forward a little. I headed north for a little family time and saw Mt. Meron in the process, while Rachel spent a lovely weekend at Kibbutz Lotan. A busy week ensued, and suddenly it was the weekend again. I ate my fill of uncooked food at a "Raw Shabbat" at the office/Edoe's apartment. It was...invigorating. Rachel spent a peaceful Shabbat at her teacher's house in Efrat. I'm told the food was phenomenal and a good time was had. We reconvened Saturday night at the Yellow Submarine in J-ru for...Michael Greilsammer! I interviewed him (great guy) and then we saw him play, and my oh my was it enjoyable. The man is a genius with the violin. Check out his Myspace: www.myspace.com/mgsunshine
It was also Erev Lag b'Omer, and on the walk home we happened upon many bonfires of varying intensity. The city smelled like burning wood, plastic and sofa beds. And who knows what else.
Sunday night we went to a HaPoel Jerusalem basketball game.
Now listen. Rachel is a former child basketball star and I went to a state school with two really good basketball teams, but never in our lives had we witnessed the scene at Malcha Stadium. We were nearly courtside sitting with "the local color," aka lots of kids and teens screaming like crazy. Banging big drums like crazy. Blowing air horns like crazy. Whistling like crazy. It was CRAZY, okay?? But amazing. We thought we were in between two warring clans. I think a full-on, bow and arrow-filled battle was only minutes away. And we won! Rachel got a t-shirt, myself a scarf. We're officially Jerusalem fans. (Sorry Mom.)
I'm back in TA, hard at work making Israeli art accessible to all you out of country fans. Tomorrow, Rachel and I are seeing some old friends speak at the International Writer's Festival. And by old friends I mean Jonathan Safran Foer, Etgar Keret and A.B. Yehoshua. Then Saturday, a Yeshiva music festival featuring my actual friends, the guys from Shtar, whose album just came out, and whose interview I should be working on right now.
Is that everything? It might be. Oh, Rachel made her favorite kugel. It was delicious. There better be some left for dinner tomorrow.