Category Archives: Israel

Blogging again

My partner, David is in the process of converting to Judaism, and part of that process for him, is writing a blog. It can be found at myjourneytojewish.blogspot.com if you are interested in reading about him.

David in Monte Carlo getting ready to do his best Evita impersonation

Anyway, since he is so diligent about blogging, I figured I should too, and reconnect with my blog, since I had such high hopes of updating it regularly.

So David goes to conversion class every Thursday evening, and I go with him – I teach the advanced Hebrew section, which is the first half hour of the class, and then stay for the Rabbi lesson. It is hit or miss as to how interesting or useful it is, depending on the topic of the wee, and the Rabbi teaching it, but it is rarely a “how to” lesson, and more of an academic look at Judaism.

As we go through this process together, I came to the realization that while I am very Jewish (not religious) in my public life, the outward expressions of Judaism in the home are minimal. We decided to change that, and live as Jews (again, more cultural and spiritual, versus more religious), and so we are avoiding bringing blatantly non kosher foods into the house, and this week we also lit Shabbat candles for the first time in forever.  As I sit here typing we are listening to Hanukkah music instead of to one of the bazillion Christmas CDs that David has amassed over the years.

I am finding that I like this new found togetherness in spirituality, and it is happening at a time that is right for the both of us. I would never ask anyone to convert for me, as I would never appreciate anyone asking me to convert for them, but this came from David, and at a time that I am getting more and more ready to return to Israel and work as a tour guide/educator there. (Again, the move was prompted by David’s desire to make Aliyah).

All the pieces are falling into place, and it is a very exciting time in our lives. The timing of everything seems to be leading us to our future.

As we approach Hanukkah, a celebration of miracles, I am constantly reminded that miracles happen around us each and every day, and even if they are mundane things that can easily explained by science, the fact that their timeing is so perfect makes those small things indeed miraculous!

Wishing you all a season, no, a life of miracles!

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Back on line!

Ok, seminar is over, and I will have a stable internet connection for most of the rest of my trip, so I will be able to catch you up on my journey.

I also had to deal with a little Verizon issue – about a week into the trip I got a panicked email from David letting me know that I got  charged $1070 for data roaming charges on my phone. So you know, I didn’t use my phone at all, but did have it on a bit to find phone numbers and emails from my contact  list.

Also important to mention, we went to the Verizon store a few days before I left to see if I could get some international plan so I could have a phone while I am here. The answer was that I could not use my phone as a phone while I was here, and that it would basically turn into a tablet and connect to WiFi, but that I couldn’t use it as a phone.

Wrong info – when I got here my aps started trying to update, and so while I was oblivious to all this, through passive use I was bouncing offers all over the place and getting charged  over $20 per kilobyte or something like that – crazy, right?

So David contacted verizon international who would only verify that the charges were  legit, and at the verizon store, since the bill was closed for the month, there was nothing they could do.

I contacted the store that I went to, and got a message that indeed I got information that was not complete, and that they should have told me how to shut off roaming capabilities, but that I needed to contact customer service.

I finally managed to talk to someone who was extremely understanding and helpful yesterday, and she said that I should not be held responsible for getting incorrect and/or incomplete information, and is going to credit us the WHOLE amount as soon as they get word from the store that I visited, which should be no problem, since I also emailed her the message that I go from the store.

I am happy to say that Verizon does indeed have customer service, that the person I spoke to was knowledgeable, helpful and spoke perfect English, and that she actually did everything she could to help make things simple for me.

Thank you Verizon for putting me before a $1070 profit, and for treating me as a valued customer!

I think I’ll celebrate with a beer when I get to Tel Aviv tonight!

In the mean time here are a few pictures from my trip

The first picture is of what was left of the first dinner on the trip – TOO MUCH SHAWARMA!

The second is of some of the people on the trip with me, in the Cardo in the Jewish Quarter of the old City of Jerusalem

The third is an arch over the street in the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem.


Israel Day 2 – Tel Aviv June 20th

After sleeping well, we woke up and had a great Israeli breakfast of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese and pita bread.

Eva's first breakfast in Israel, Jordan's apartment

We started the day by realxing and strolling through the shuk again. Forn Eva, this time was less overwhelming, and she got a chance to actually take in the smells and the sights (not to mention the noise).

Next we walked to the Azrieli Mall, and wondered around, not buying much, but enjoying the air conditioning and the many Israeli stores. Eva even found a dreidel that she liked, but the price was $400ish which put it a little out of her budget.

We enjoyed a yummy shawarma lunch at the food court at Azrieli, and then went to the offices of the ministry of interior, so that I could renew my Israeli passport – it would expire only a few days later, so I needed to get that done. Filled out the paperwork, paid 265 NIS, and was told to return Sunday to pick up the new passport… easy quick, and less then a US Passport. (265 shekel is about $75)
We then walked through Sarona, a former German Templer colony, built in the Bauhaus style. The neighborhood was abandned and fallen into disrepair, so the municipality of Tel Aviv took it upon itself to fix it up, and preserve the buildings. The process is still going on, but its cool to see:

Sarona, the former German, Templar colony, Tel Aviv


We returned to Jordan’s place to rest, and pack, since we had to be in Jerusalem at 8:30 the next morning, which meant leaving Tel Aviv no later than 7, which meant a very early wake up. We rested a bit, and then since it is National Book Month, and there was a week long book fair at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, we decided to go look for books.
Eva found one, I didn’t buy anything but we enjoyed the crowd, and the celebration of literacy:

Tel Aviv book fair


We returned to Jordan’s place, had a light dinner, and then my sister and her family, my brother, and Yinon came for coffee and fruit/cookies. It was a fun evening, and when they left, we went to bed, since the 5:30 alarm wasn’t going to wait for us. Tomorrow, Jerusalem!


Israel 1 – Tel Aviv

We arrived in Israel on Sunday, June 19th at 9:30 in the morning. Getting through border control, luggage and customs was a breeze, and we were on the 10:50 train to Tel Aviv.

We got to Tel Aviv, and took a cab to Kerem HaTeimanim, where my brother’s apartment is. He left the keys with Julie, a proprietor of a fantastic Egyptian-Jewish restaurant, so of course we had to have lunch. I had a stuffed , and spicy fish balls (insert giggles here) with rice, beans and salad. Eva, the teacher who came here for the seminar with me couldn’t finish her food, much to Julie’s chagrin, but I made a happy plate. Got the keys, but my sister forgot to leave me the cell phone, no biggie, I had skype. Walked around the corner to my brothers apartment, and settled in for a bit, only to discover that his WiFi was disconnected. Guess that I didn’t have skype after all, and that I would be completely off the grid for a few days. After a bit of panicking, I got over it, and got ready to move on with my trip.

So, we went to the market, and then to the beach – see for yourselves!

At the beach, looking at Tel AvivAt the beach, don't you wish you were here?After the beach we went to Dizengoff Center - the first Mall in Tel Aviv, and I bought some Israeli music, and Ice cream from Vagnilia. Halva and passion fruit ice cream - YUM! Then a visit to Gan Meir Park, and back to the market to buy some produce for breakfast - 2 tomatoes, and 2 cucumbers for less than $1 (combined), some feta cheese, pita bread, delicious olives and yogurt.Fallafel for dinner, and then back to Jordan's place. Jordan came to visit (He moved in with his partner and is giving up the apartment at the end of July), and we went walking down Rothschild boulevard. (these are pictures from my last visit, but they will give you an idea of how cool the boulevard is) The pride of Rothschild Blvd

The koi pond
The pond on Rothschild

I got to visit Jordan’s new place, decorated by his partner. Yinon (the partner) loves minimalism and clean lines – the place is so white, the KKK could use it as their HQ, but hey, to each his own!

Was back at the apartment at 10ish, and went to bed, to get ready for the next day, and all that Tel Aviv has to offer.
 

Back on line

Ok, I am finally back on line, so I can update my blog… When I got here I found out that my Brother’s apartment was no longer hooked up to WiFi, so I had no internet connection. 2 days later, both my brother and brother in law tried to connect me to broadband and did something to mess up my computer, so that when I got to the Hotel in Jerusalem I could connect to the LAN, but not get out to the internet. That is fixed, and here I am back, and ready to blog.

Its been a great 5 days in Israel, after a long and boring flight – as soon as we took off the lights and entertainment system crashed, which meant no individual lights, so as soon as the cabin lights went out, we were in the dark, and couldn’t read. Worse than that, no movies, games or music. Not fun at all!

The seminar has been hectic, and we got a lot done already, with very little down time, but tomorrow is a light day, and so is Saturday, so I will be giving a play by play, day by day account of the trip then. In the mean time, here are few teaser pictures for your enjoyment:

My Feet in the Mediterranean

The water was great!

 
Too… Much… Shawarma!

Delish!

Jerusalem is truly a wonderful and beautiful city

This is a rooftop view of the old city of Jerusalem, looking at the Church of the Holy Seplachur

 
Thats all for now, I promise lots more pictures, and a much more detailed account of what we have been up to, needless to say I am having an amazing time!
 

Today is Tuesday (you call that news?)

Yup, the title says it all – nothing exciting happened today.

Got up, worked out with my Wii Active 2, talked our Israeli counselor off a metaphorical ledge (at least for now), did some cardio at the gym, and now I’m just chilling out at home. David is already in bed – that 4:30 am wakeup is a bitch, and I am watching The Voice for the first time since the Auditions show.

I did have to spend quite a bit of time with the airlines today – they are so good at nickeling and diming you to death. I fly Continental to Israel and back, and it has been easy as pie. David on the other hand is flying to Israel on Delta, and then to Rome, and back to Chicago on Alitalia, finally from Chicago to KC he flies American. That in and of it self is why using a travel agent maybe isn’t the best idea…

Here is where things get strange and pricey – Delta’s inflight entertainment is not free – you have to us a pay per view option – movies are $6 and TV shows are $2 each. How lame is that? Even stranger is Alitalia’s baggage policy – different flights have different rules. From Tel Aviv to Rome is 2 bags free, but Rome to Chicago only 1 bag is Free and the other is $55, and even though the flight is booked as one reservation/confirmation number, because we have a stop in Rome (as opposed to a layover), they are going to charge him for the 2nd bag. I guess we should be happy that they are only charging him for one leg of the journey.

I also had to call American, and they will not charge David for the bags, so my marathon of phone calls to the travel agent and the Airlines ended on a good note.

I dunno,  would have to say that for the price of the ticket, on a transatlantic flight, you should be allowed to have 2 suitcases and free movies, but I’m just a consumer, so what do I know? (I do know that if I possibly can, I will only be flying USAIR and Continental for international travel, and Southwest in the USA. Just saying.

Ok, that was more of a rant then I was expecting, and I didn’t even get into the Anthony Wiener issue. I’ll save that for another day that nothing happens.

Thanks for reading, and comments are always welcome!