Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dead Sea Area... From Oasis to Healing



This post will be about the South of Israel.  The next adventures we had on our trip were in the Dead Sea area.  Our destination that night was the Isotel Dead Sea, and it was to be a wonderful relaxing healing time.  I had not expected such a sumptuous resort with a fantastic spa.  We arrived travel weary and ready for some pampering and rest.

But first the Journey down, we snaked our way down from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea area.  Our first stop was at Ein Geti.  Ein Geti is a  nature preseve on the way south.  It is an oasis in the middle or harsh desert mountains.  You can tell you were there because it is actually an area of green that is not a kibbutz field growing dates trees.   

The entire drive down south was beautiful desert  interspersed with little communities with fields of fruit orchards or hoop houses for crop production.  The hoop houses were mostly empty in the summer months where it was just too hot to grow most crops.  However, in the winter those same hoop houses would be full and overflowing with growth.  As an avid gardener this was such a miracle to see in the harsh desert. 

Ein Geti, a fresh water spring that comes out of the mountain high above the oasis, is a beauty to behold.  The brave climb up and up to higher falls, given the time and the capacity to do it.  Even though this area is a oasis, you could not fool yourselves, this little green belt was still  the desert and the temperatures were up in the high 90's. We changed into swim clothing, and started along the path to the first water fall. We all took turns enjoying the shower of spring water that pored over the cliff above.   

It was great to see tourists, Israeli families, Religious Jews and Arabs a like all enjoying this wonderful location.   With my injured knee I could only go this far and could not lay down in the water as I wished to.  However I did enjoy the wonderful water and even had a chance for some private time at the oasis when the constant flow of people died down.   The adventurous in our group kept going along the path to the upper falls enjoying more beauty and wonder.

As I am one to meditate at such wonderful moments, I sat and concentrated on calm and clarity.  I asked my usual questions of what is next and how to do I get through the challenges I and my family face in our lives.   The answers I received, while rather private, summed up to the realization that I needed to take time to keep the Sabbath.

When I first left Israel in 1995 I was determined to have Shabbat Dinner every Friday night in my home.  I kept this up for years, inviting friends and family to join us for this chill and fun evening.   Somewhere along the way we lost this tradition and this evening and subsequent day became like all others. It became another time of work, ordinary and empty.  

My life had become beyond busy over the last year, working ridiculous hours as I started two businesses and at times worked four jobs.  I knew there was no way I could keep this up and the answer of how to go on was to try to go back to enjoying the shabbath and give myself this time to rest and heal each week.  The answer was not to allow this time to be sucked up into the frenzy of work and expectations.

Next we moved on to Masada.  Unfortunately it was about 3 in the afternoon by then and the heat was getting unbelievable.  Last time I went up Masada in 1994, it was around 5 in the morning and the sun was just coming up.  Conversly three in the afternoon was a bit on the hot side and we took the cable car up.   We did a quick tour of the top as we all melted in the heat.  It was one of the moments that we were all thinking "yup, saw it... lets go.".   My mother turned a shade of red in the heat that I had not ever seen before.   

Masada was amazing because the view was great and you got a great idea of the brutality of the history.  The story was compelling and showed the determination of both a small group of zealot and the army that eventually took the mountain top fortress. 


Next, we went to the Dead Sea Resort and checked into our sumptuous rooms for a two day stay.  We said goodbye to our wonderful tour guide and driver, Ruben and Arron.  They really enriched the trip and gave us a smooth experience.  

We hit the pools and relaxed into the healing waters.   The hotel had a private pool in the spa area, for adults, to go into the Dead Sea waters without having to walk across the road and go directly into the actual sea.  We still went to the sea of course at times,  It was so wonderful to see the kids reaction to going into this high salt concentration sea.

Science Moment: The Dead Sea has such high concentrations of salt that you automatically float in the water.  Regular sea water has about 3% salt where the Dead Sea has about 30% salt content.

The Dead Sea was great and healing for everyone.  The water is also very healing and was a wonderful help for my knee.  Several in our group suffer with various skin conditions such as psoriasis and were looking forward to seeing how the waters would help and heal.   

My nephew Jonny had never floated before as he just had no extra fat on his body at all.  He was so excited to actually float in the water.  The one hard thing was that any cuts or sores anyone had immediately started to burn in pain in the high salt water. My sister got some Vaseline to help cover obvious sores and irritated areas.  

We enjoyed our time in this area relaxing after so many days of touring one thing after another. Here we got to just chillax, as Joel calls it.   We hardly left the resort, enjoying the end of time together as a family.  We all knew this great tour was coming to an end and that many of us would be leaving shortly to return home.

The air was also healing in the Dead Sea area.  The minerals in the water are also diffused into the air. We all bought lots of Dead Sea stuff in the Ahava Store and stocked up for great stuff.  By the time we left the area we were all feeling strong and wonderful.   

I want to take this moment to thank my Dad for making this trip happen and all my family that took their time, energy and funds to come and join us on this adventure.  I feel it was formative for our family and I enjoyed all the wonderful moments together. This trip really was fantastic and I miss you all every day.  

Israel From my Mothers Heart

My next post will include some reflections posted by my mother on Facebook. She generally posted bits and pieces as comments on my posts etc...  I will edit them a bit but left most intact to share how she felt to be there.  

Many people long to go to Israel for various good reasons. The cost is always substantial but the rewards are immeasurable. She has only been there twice, once in 1977 for my Brothers Bar Mitzvah and once this summer to celebrate the Bar Mitzvahs of my son and nephew. Yet as a survivor of the horrors of Europe in WWII, she held the dream of Israel in front of her like a light in the worst of the worst. 

So here it goes...


There is an energy, an "aliveness", within Israel, that goes to the soul. People walk everywhere from dawn till all hours of the night; with cafes and stores and music and spontaneous dancing, and lots and lots of food everywhere.  

The people here come in all shapes and sizes, all colors, all nations, all religions, and all sexual orientations.  And everyone has an opinion and their attitudes seem sometimes hard; but if you are in any apparent need, the hoard immediately parts the waters and individuals insist on helping you and making everyone listen and help.

There is JEWISH security everywhere, Israeli flags flying proud everywhere, most signs in three languages (Hebrew, Arabic and English) and sometimes in Russian and French, etc. 

I miss the Israeli flags. And the energy of Israel and of Jerusalem at night. And the walks at night in Netanya. The boys were transformed, at the Kotel especially. This was certainly a life-affirming and connecting place, God-given. A miracle unfolding. 

When Jordan spontaneously sang in the rotunda of the Chagall Windows, it was like the sound of angels; and then he sang the Shem in various octaves. Our children are the heritage of this new and old land; of a future. 

The young people are beautiful, and confident. And of course, the history of the buildings, the sites, thousands upon thousands of years of Jewish history protected and preserved by the Jewish soldiers, made available to ALL. 

When you touch the heritage site stones,  there is an instant energy - My hands got red and hot by just touching the container of David's Tomb. 

We went to a huge waterpark, seemed like billions of people, all running about in joy; Jew and Arab alike, many languages, and of course, food; AND one family, came over to us in sympathy and insisted we have watermelon slices, and bottles of water - they were French. 

Innovations and advancements are everywhere, pink and yellow flowers EVERYWHERE,  the land green with trees and cultivation and protected by watchtowers - across all the borders - turning from lush green land to brown desolation deserts of the surrounding enemy. 

This is a  tiny nation of innovators and people who love life to its fullest. And these words cannot but "touch" the miracle of this tiny land of and for Israel, brought back to life by the Jews who never left Israel; and the rag tag remnants of European horrors; and the  Refusniks from Russia; and the million escapees from the Arab lands; now reaffirmed by those who are cognizant enough to leave Europe before it is too late; and the American and Canadian Jews who are leaving here now also. 

I miss the energy of Israel. The Kibbutz,Yad Mordichaim that began the reclamation of Israel soil, and that fought the first fight in '48, I have the book and this lives with me. 

I KNOW this to be true; that all the efforts by all the nations,,. by friend and foe alike; to give away Israeli holy soil will NOT be allowed; there is now a Force, that will reconstitute Israel. A destiny arrived. Love


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jerusalem of Gold



Jerusalem will always hold a very special place I my heart. There is no city on this earth that had warmed my heart the same way. If I forget you oh Jerusalem... We left them north and travels south with Jerusalem as our goal. 

We traveled south through the archeological site of Bet shemesh. Again we saw ancient ruins and heard stories of the groups that had occupied the lands.  Jordan sang in the amphitheater and we all melted in the heat. 

We continued on to the Amrony museum, we saw the evolution of the Israeli tank divisions through the various wars over time. The kids climbed in and out of the big gray monsters. The most recent tank was on display. Joel noticed a mother cat carrying her babies into one of the tanks. 

I have not mentioned Joel's catometer. Joel counted cats throughout the entire time in Israel. His grand total by the time we were done was 157. Cats are everywhere in Israel. 

So we eventually made our way to the Dan Panorama hotel in Jerusalem. This was a long way from the filthy hostels I used to stay in.  The city had grown and changed so much since my last visit. There was big buildings, light rail systems, more of everything. Yet, many things never changed. 

We settled in and had a swim. Then we met a friend of Diane's, a rabbi that went to school with her in Toronto back in the day. He lived in a small settlement outside Jerusalem. Together we went to Zion square which to me, was where I used to stay in the underground hostel and dance till dawn. Now it was a large pedestrians area with lots of caf├ęs and fun things going on. We went there each night to have great falaphel and watch the life around us. 

In Jerusalem we spent time in the old city, the Israel museum, Yaf Va Shem, and the yeudah market, among other stops.  We were ushered from place to place by our trusty tour guides during the day and made our own way out at night. 

One of the highlights was the light show at the town of David. This to me was amazing. It followed the history of the area from group to group through moving light projections all over the inside walls of the structure. I had never seen anything like it. All the history our guide had tried to show us came together in this 30 minute magnificent show. 


Another great stop was the yeudah market. There you can get spices, halvah, fish, vegetables, sweets, cheeses, olives and just about anything you want to eat. Back in the day I used to get my groceries there and tie them to my backpack as I traveled around. This time I bough some food and joel and I had a lovely pick it. Jordan and Eli stuffed their faces with fresh mangos and discovered the joy of havlah. 

Jerusalem is magic. There are so many people with so much knowledge to share and secrets to be discovered. Underground tunnel tours to philosophy discussions to the Dead Sea scrolls. It is all there. Joel even spent an afternoon at an interactive science museum. 

After the tour, later in the trip we drove back to Jerusalem for one more day.  We saw the Chagall Windows, had one more walk through the Arab markets, and one more stop at the kotel to send our prayers and hopes heavenward. 

Years ago I spent about three months in Jerusalem. I love the very smell of the place, the sounds of the call to prayer and the feel of the Jerusalem stones undermine feet. There is no other. My heart will always be with that city. It is loved by many religions and has an undeniable energy all it is own. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Returning Home to the list of characters



The first thing I said when we landed in Israel was "look kids, we are home".   Joel looked at me and said, "We are not home."  I looked at him and said.  "Yes we are dear."  Israel will always be a home for me.   It is a home for the Jewish People.  It is a home for my soul.  I traveled here in the early 90's during my backpacking years.  I spent a good year in Israel and never had a dull moment.  My family is here and many friends too.

We were excited about seeing our Israeli family and also our Toronto Family that was meeting us in Israel for the next stage of this trip.  We arrived in the Dan Panorama hotel in Tel Aviv to find our very jet lagged Canadian contingent exhausted but excited to be here.  

The North American Family consists of the following characters:

Sabba, Cyril, Chaim.  My Father is in his late 70's and is the main driver behind this trip.  Without him we would not be doing this trip at all. He was born in Scotland and grew up in Israel.  He saw the beginning of the State of Israel living here until his family moved to Canada.

For my father this trip has been an opportunity to see his family together in a Jewish World.  Two days ago, in Jerusalem, he had the opportunity to bless his grand children in front of the Western Wall.  As he put a hand on each child's head he wished for them the best of life,   Sabba has always been a very proud and loving man. He loves his family as an anchor in his life.  He has pushed himself to his limits in many ways on this trip and we all love him to the ends of time.

Then comes my Mom, Safta Lily.  My mother's Journey to Israel has totally different implications.  She is a survivor of the holocaust.  The dream of Israel has a different significance to her.  The thought of living in Israel is what kept her going through situations that frankly no child should have ever experienced.  The thought of moving to Israel to create a Jewish nation was sustaining in horrible times.

Coming to Israel with her family around her has allowed her to see the future of brightness for her family and her dreams.  As we have traveled through Israel she has been able to face some of her past.  She told us that at Yad Va Shem she allowed herself to cry a little, for the first time, about that horrible chapter in her life.

My sister is an amazing and complex person.  She is an incredibly talented actor, and writer.  She grew up going to Jewish Day School. Her relationship with Judaism has been complex.  Many of her plays have had Jewish content or connection.  She questions deeply the faith and all it's moving pieces.  She has had more then her fair share of hardship and has been infuriated by the idiom that god gives you what you can handle.  She is one of the strongest and biggest bad-asses I have ever known yet her strength has been tested and continues to be tested.

The last time Diane was in Israel there was no options for families to go to go to the Western Wall and pray together, men and women.  That has changed and represents some real changes in sensibilities.  This for Diane, our crusader for rights and progress has been an important advancement.

My Brother is a quiet individual that is the other half of my Gemini.  He is 5 years and 3 days older than me.   He is here with his exceedingly supportive wife Kelly.  Daniel is not someone who dives in after changes in his environment and yet he has done really well with our constant moving about.

Daniel and Kelly get the benefit of riding this ride, getting to see their nephews enjoy this trip but also be able to enjoy couple time.   They are very loving to each other and it has warmed my heart to see my Brother so happy and with someone that totally gets him.  Daniel loves his nephews very much and he has a special relationship with Jonny.  It has been great to see the two gentle souls hang together and the obvious love they share.

Kelly has been fun to watch. She is originally from Jersey and grew up around religious Jews.  For her this trip is an eclectic mix.  She has gotten  to see holy places from the faith she grew up in and get an interesting look at a different kind of Jewish culture.

One of her comfort zones was blown away by the fact that Israelis don't do lineups.  In fact they move more like a herd of some sort including going into venues, buses, elevators or even crossing the road.  She had her first falaphel and has stood up to quite the test by fire frankly. None of the other spouses has the chutzpah to come along.  Salute to you Kelly.

The kids include my two sons Jordan and Joel as well as my Sister's two sons, Eli and Jonny.  Thankfully the boys pair up with two 13 year old's, that each had their bar mitzvah within the last month, and two 9 year old that are bouncing around and wiggling about.   For me to see my son's and my nephews transformed by this experience is unbelievable.

The bigger boys have been given a little freedom in safe spaces where they can stretch their wings and build common memories about this time.  The younger ones have also bonded, but often over their relaxation time in the room, when they just have had enough and needed the familiar.

Jordan has jumped right in and has really got it.  He has acquired a the love for travel and the love for Israel. I have said it before and I will say it again, you can't go to this country and not be changed.  It has an effect on your soul and on your outlook on the world.   Jordan has changed daily.  He has seen the beauty and strength of Israel.  From hanging with his Israeli cousin, who is doing his army service, to talking with rabbi's and complete strangers about Judaism and philosophy till three am, his mind has being blown wide open.

To add to this we have had our tour guide and driver for the 6 days of travel around Israel.  Ruven has been the guild and continued to supply us with more info on the history and geography of Israel then we could digest.  Aaron was a driver and greeted us each morning with smiles and songs of Judaism.  You have to watch this video,  It is all true,



So now you know the folks that have gone on this Journey through Israel with us.  I promise the next blog will be about our amazing activity full days and the great realizations we have had.   I want to take a minute to thank my family for going on this Journey.  It has taken vacation time, money and lots of effort and I appreciate this time with everyone. LOVE



From Ruins to Strength

I
We started traveling through the north of Israel checking out the usual spots.  We saw ruins from the biblical period and before.  We saw spots like the Bahia Temple in Haifa and even went to the city of Acco which was one of the first places named in the Torah.   Some of the places we went I had been before while others I had not.  Yet, this time around we had a guide with us that knew all the answers.

When I last traveled through these lands I was a young lady sewing my oats and learning about who I was.  I was between 23 and 25 years old and was traveling on very little money.  Most attractions that had a entrance fee were beyond my reach. Don't worry, I had the best time and don't regret seeing the underbelly of society instead of the tourist attractions.

This time I was with family and most importantly kids.  This changed everything.  I not only was trying to experience this myself I was also making sure my kids were OK, experienced all they could. and were safe.  While I may have been willing to sacrifice my comforts I needed them to have their needs covered, especially WiFi in the hotels. Without that we would all have lost our sanity.

Before the trip started I was able to convince my father that he should rent a scooter for the tour portion of our trip.  This would give him increased mobility and most importantly make it so he could do more and see more.   I would have hated for him to have had to skip off days and locations due to the physical challenge or pain that would result.   He used this scooter for 4 out of 6 days.  This was fantastic.  Lets face it, in some places, like Jerusalem and Acco he had no choice but to walk.

Anyway, I digressed.   Back to the Trip.

So we started with Caesarea which was a great introduction to ancient times, It was really hot and we were all feeling it and yet we were so excited to get to our first real stop. This ancient city, like much of this regions, was occupied over the years by many different cultures and they had all left their marks. This could be seen from the different mosaics to the bath houses to the different pillars used by different groups.  I watched as the kids, especially the older boys, sort of did the math as they started to see how old these ruins really were.

They lived in a world where each McDonalds was knocked own every so many years to put up another instant building. They had no frame of reference for this kind of age.  We are talking about 4 to 5 thousand years of civilization. One got dizzy just thinking about the A.D vs B.C dates.

At one point we were walking along the sea wall and Joel and Jonny decided to let the waves that were crashing against the sea wall soak them.  They had such a good time. With each wave of water their little boy hearts raised up to the heavens. Jordan and Eli decided to race along the ancient path of the chariot feeling their youth and ancestral power pumping in their veins.   Jordan sang a Beatles song in the Colosseum to test out the accosting and got a nice round of applause from other tourists.

Next we moved on to the Bahia Temple in Haifa and had a lovely light lunch.  The city of Haifa is built into the hills surrounding the deep water harbor.  We learned one prominent leader of the Bahai faith did time in the Acco jail and could only see the sides of the hills in Haifa from his window.  This spot is where the Bahia temple and gardens stands today.  After his release he was able to secure this location and the funds to build their temple.

It was interesting too to see the city that is known for it's Technion, which is one of the best universities in the world for technology.  The city was also know for it's unfortunate pre-state role in housing the Jews who escaped Europe only to be picked up by the British and incarcerated until they could be shipped back to certain death.  Now it was a city of three cultures; Jews, Arabs and Bahai all lived together in relative peace.

Next we went to Acco or Acre as it is called in English.  Acco is an ancient Arab town on the Mediterranean.  I had stayed there years before in a hostel inside the old city.  Lets just say it had cleaned up a lot.  It was Ramadan so it was a little more subdued then usual because of that, I am sure.  We did a tour of the city that was found under current day Acco.   This took us through the Roman period.

The guide told us how this all was found.  Quite a cool story.  Part of the city was a Jail in recent times.  The resistance prisoners were kept there during the pre Israeli State days.  In attempts to escape they dug into the limestone floors and found chambers below.  The chambers were full with rubble and did not aid their escape. However the rumors of what might be under there brought on an archaeology dig that found an incredible city below grounds,  Last time I was there that entire excavation had not been done.

We ended this first day by driving through the north of Israel to our hotel which was a kibbutz Nof Ginosar Guest House.  It was great to stay on a kibbutz with its big pool, lots of kids programs and laid back attitude.  We had a bonding sessions where we all sat around and told rude stories about bodily functions till early in the morning.  Yes this session did include some alcoholic drinks for the adults.  Lets face it, fart stories are always funny.

The next day we took off early for Sfat which is an amazing ancient town in the North of Israel.  We only had a short while to be there and spent the entire time going from artist shop to artist shop.  When I was there years ago I spent days hiking the hills and learning at the Ascent, This was a very quick stop where most of us did end up buying some art.

We then went much farther north into the Golan Heights.  I had never been up to the Golan heights before.  This was a great thing to see.  Here we saw an area that while disputed over the years is a very strategic location. When I was here years ago there was a big campaign going to support the Golan.  There were bumper stickers and all sorts of signs that said "We are with the Golan".  We sent up Mt Hermon and to the Syrian boarder.  The reason this area is so important is that it is the highest place in the country.  From there Syria had in the past and would again be able to bomb down on the entire north of Israel.

The kids loved going in an old defunct Israel army bunker.  It was pitch dark inside and they ran in and out and around like monkeys.   The spot was no longer a working base.  The UN observers had a base there were they could see into Syria.  One of the cool things that you can see in this place is that on the Israel side there are towns and green agriculture as far a the eye can see.  On the Syrian side there is nothing green at all. Israel has carved life out of this place and continues to do so using the land and technology to it's full potential,

A really creepy thing happened when we were up there.  The tour guide pointed out a plume of smoke on the horizon.  As the smoke grew he explained that it was a bomb that had been dropped by a plane in the fighting going on in Syria.  This really brought home the reality of the situation going on and how important the Golan to keep that fighting out of Israel.

The trip to the North was our first section of the trip.  The next day we were on to Jerusalem.  See you in the next post.

Returning Home to the list of characters



The first thing I said when we landed in Israel was "look kids, we are home".   Joel looked at me and said, "We are not home."  I looked at him and said.  "Yes we are dear."  Israel will always be a home for me.   It is a home for the Jewish People.  It is a home for my soul.  I traveled here in the early 90's during my backpacking years.  I spent a good year in Israel and never had a dull moment.  My family is here and many friends too.

We were excited about seeing our Israeli family and also our Toronto Family that was meeting us in Israel for the next stage of this trip.  We arrived in the Dan Panorama hotel in Tel Aviv to find our very jet lagged Canadian contingent exhausted but excited to be here.  

The North American Family consists of the following characters:

Sabba, Cyril, Chaim.  My Father is in his late 70's and is the main driver behind this trip.  Without him we would not be doing this trip at all. He was born in Scotland and grew up in Israel.  He saw the beginning of the State of Israel living here until his family moved to Canada.

For my father this trip has been an opportunity to see his family together in a Jewish World.  Two days ago, in Jerusalem, he had the opportunity to bless his grand children in front of the Western Wall.  As he put a hand on each child's head he wished for them the best of life,   Sabba has always been a very proud and loving man. He loves his family as an anchor in his life.  He has pushed himself to his limits in many ways on this trip and we all love him to the ends of time.

Then comes my Mom, Safta Lily.  My mother's Journey to Israel has totally different implications.  She is a survivor of the holocaust.  The dream of Israel has a different significance to her.  The thought of living in Israel is what kept her going through situations that frankly no child should have ever experienced.  The thought of moving to Israel to create a Jewish nation was sustaining in horrible times.

Coming to Israel with her family around her has allowed her to see the future of brightness for her family and her dreams.  As we have traveled through Israel she has been able to face some of her past.  She told us that at Yad Va Shem she allowed herself to cry a little, for the first time, about that horrible chapter in her life.

My sister is an amazing and complex person.  She is an incredibly talented actor, and writer.  She grew up going to Jewish Day School. Her relationship with Judaism has been complex.  Many of her plays have had Jewish content or connection.  She questions deeply the faith and all it's moving pieces.  She has had more then her fair share of hardship and has been infuriated by the idiom that god gives you what you can handle.  She is one of the strongest and biggest bad-asses I have ever known yet her strength has been tested and continues to be tested.

The last time Diane was in Israel there was no options for families to go to go to the Western Wall and pray together, men and women.  That has changed and represents some real changes in sensibilities.  This for Diane, our crusader for rights and progress has been an important advancement.

My Brother is a quiet individual that is the other half of my Gemini.  He is 5 years and 3 days older than me.   He is here with his exceedingly supportive wife Kelly.  Daniel is not someone who dives in after changes in his environment and yet he has done really well with our constant moving about.

Daniel and Kelly get the benefit of riding this ride, getting to see their nephews enjoy this trip but also be able to enjoy couple time.   They are very loving to each other and it has warmed my heart to see my Brother so happy and with someone that totally gets him.  Daniel loves his nephews very much and he has a special relationship with Jonny.  It has been great to see the two gentle souls hang together and the obvious love they share.

Kelly has been fun to watch. She is originally from Jersey and grew up around religious Jews.  For her this trip is an eclectic mix.  She has gotten  to see holy places from the faith she grew up in and get an interesting look at a different kind of Jewish culture.

One of her comfort zones was blown away by the fact that Israelis don't do lineups.  In fact they move more like a herd of some sort including going into venues, buses, elevators or even crossing the road.  She had her first falaphel and has stood up to quite the test by fire frankly. None of the other spouses has the chutzpah to come along.  Salute to you Kelly.

The kids include my two sons Jordan and Joel as well as my Sister's two sons, Eli and Jonny.  Thankfully the boys pair up with two 13 year old's, that each had their bar mitzvah within the last month, and two 9 year old that are bouncing around and wiggling about.   For me to see my son's and my nephews transformed by this experience is unbelievable.

The bigger boys have been given a little freedom in safe spaces where they can stretch their wings and build common memories about this time.  The younger ones have also bonded, but often over their relaxation time in the room, when they just have had enough and needed the familiar.

Jordan has jumped right in and has really got it.  He has acquired a the love for travel and the love for Israel. I have said it before and I will say it again, you can't go to this country and not be changed.  It has an effect on your soul and on your outlook on the world.   Jordan has changed daily.  He has seen the beauty and strength of Israel.  From hanging with his Israeli cousin, who is doing his army service, to talking with rabbi's and complete strangers about Judaism and philosophy till three am, his mind has being blown wide open.

To add to this we have had our tour guide and driver for the 6 days of travel around Israel.  Ruven has been the guild and continued to supply us with more info on the history and geography of Israel then we could digest.  Aaron was a driver and greeted us each morning with smiles and songs of Judaism.  You have to watch this video,  It is all true,



So now you know the folks that have gone on this Journey through Israel with us.  I promise the next blog will be about our amazing activity full days and the great realizations we have had.   I want to take a minute to thank my family for going on this Journey.  It has taken vacation time, money and lots of effort and I appreciate this time with everyone. LOVE



Saturday, July 2, 2016

Discovering Amsterdam with Kids

Good morning everyone.  I wrote this while hanging on the deck of the boat in the boat house, quite the cute little space.  The family who lived here really had a good thing figured out. We are in a residential block just off the Amstel Canal. The city is getting busy with it's morning all around me. Workmen are coming and going with tools and women are biking by with packages and bags.

A lovely couple just biked by. The man was wearing a full beautiful slicker like you would see on a cow boy in the old west, yet European.  There are more electric bikes here then I remember.  Also electric car charging stations are seen about. Across the Gracht, or canal, is a boat with just the most beautiful garden going on.  Wow!  Its Right up there with my gardening heart.

The first full day in Amsterdam we got up and had a lovely breakfast at a place called Bagel and Beans.  Salmon on Bagel for Joel and I, while Jordan went with the yogurt super food vegetarian thing.  We took off from there determined to use our passes on all cool things in our area. First we hit the Zoo which is a very historic zoo and had a nice line up of enclosures.  The butterfly house was out of this world.  Joel loved it and did the "Look Mom..." after every turn.

From there we went to Microbia, which was totally cool.  There are microscopes and interactive exhibits all over the place.  The kids went from thing to thing saying "eeeewwww". They dug the microscopes.  There was even a place with all different types of rotting matter you could smell.

Then we went on to head to NEMO, which is a huge interactive science museum.  The kids loved it.  They went from floor to floor playing with each interactive station over and over again.  I found a place to sit on each floor and chilled out.  By this point my knee was not as happy as I would have liked.  I kept switching between the brace and a tensor bandage while sitting at each floor. The boys where having fun and I got to sit.  Jordan especially liked the floor on hormones.  The boys were both shocked at how open the exhibit was about sexuality.  You have got to love Europe with it's openness and level-headed approach to sex and nudity. Not a bad thing in my book.  Then we went to the navel museum but found out it closed in 15 minutes so decided to punt that till tomorrow.

So we walked to Central Station and got a canal ride around the city.  The boys had ice cream cookies and a view and audio tour. Joel loves boats so this was so great for him.  For me I could elevate my knee on the bench seat and enjoy.   It was nice to hear about the structure and stories of how the city grew to be it's current great self.

We had just enough time to walk over to Ann Franks House for our tour.   This is when one of my favorite things happened of the day.  We were going through the square called the Dam or Damark and over in square was a man feeding the birds.  Joel loves animals and birds are no different. The man gave each boy some food and the birds jumped on them and ate and ate.  They loved it.  It was like the scene in Mary Poppins with feed the birds playing in the background.  The ancient buildings around them and the pure joy of feeding birds was just so magnificent.

After the nice interlude we walked for Anne Franks House.  It was time for some serious reflection.  We did the lecture and then the tour.  It was somber and moving.  I was watching the boys have their first real first hand view into the Holocaust.  Jordan was very moved and read every word of the info.  He had read the diary several times and was well up on the story and particulars. He was quite and somber.  Jordan is often not quite or somber.   Joel was tired and not very patient after a long day.  /It was also very moving for his little mind and a little hard to digest.  We left there tired and ready for dinner and some down time.  It was about 8:30.  We had left the boat at around 10:00 so we were ready for a break.

We took the tram the wrong way for two stops, figured it out and got off and switched sides of the track.  Amsterdam is a big horseshoe so it is really easy to get turned around.  We then took the tram near our place and went in search of dinner.  We found a cute little hamburger joint that also had sushi.  Amazing mix.  Everyone was happy and everyone had exactly what they wanted at a decent price.   We stumbled home and everyone just dived into their own corners.

The second day of touring in Amsterdam we started the day with a trip through the flee market at Waterloopen and then had a lovely breakfast of Ice Cream and waffles.  Yes, I am quite a Mom.  We then went to the Hermitage Museum that has two exhibits.  The first was on Queen Catherine of Russia and then the second was the dutch masters paintings that are usually in the Rijksmuseum but where there on special display.  The museum had audio devices you could click at different stations all over the place.  We learned a lot about the dutch history and all sorts of stuff.  Joel got board about an hour in but did really well all considering.

We then went to botanical garden which was really nice.   It started to rain really hard and we had to hide out in tropical building for an hour or so.  The boys had fun playing around and I sat under a tree on a bench enjoying the nature.  The sky cleared up and we went shopping on the way back to the barge.  Each boy got little things and then we chilled out for the evening eating left-overs and packing for our early departure the next morning.

Jordan had a very interesting ah-ha moment.  Before this trip I had told him and told him that Europeans are more reserved and he would have to behave and not eat like a pig etc.   He did not really believe me until this event happened.  He was having his second Nutella Ice Cream Waffle of the day and he looked around and realized he was the only person with it all over his face, hands, shirt etc.   A dutch family was looking at him with a look that said "See they are uncouth pigs."  He looked at me and I could tell he was having a moment.  After that he started trying to correct Joel's behavior on little things and saying things like "You just can't act that way here... it is embarrassing."  I should have gotten it on video to blackmail him with when he is older.

Anyway our stay in Amsterdam was fantastic.  The city was everything I remember and then some. I did not know this would be such a great place for kids.  We did so much and they had a great time.   I frankly had only been to one of the museums before and I learned a bunch.  I would highly recommend this as a great family stop. Of course Amsterdam can be a very adult place, but it can also be a great family place too.  So long for now Amsterdam, but never goodbye.