Sunday, May 31, 2009

all for now

The last few pictures are good bye to Tel Aviv and hello to Eilat. Eilat is surounded on 3 sides by mountains with the Gulf of Aquaba on the south. There is a coral reef just off shore that I hope to see tomorrow.
P.S. Hello to my followers. Also I am picking up my e-mail every few days so if anybody wants to send me a message I'd be glad to hear from home. Kimberly, I know you are taking excellent care of my puddy cats and they are fine. But, if you get a chance to drop me a line, feel free.
People here take their dogs everywhere, even into restaurants. Last night there was a stray cat wandering around while we ate dinner, getting plenty of scraps of fish.

some more

Eilat is a definite resort town. Because the borders to Jordan and Egypt are so close, security is serious business. I don't mind guards at the hotels, by the ATM's or even going through metal detectors to get into the shopping malls. They are all polite and have been nice about giving me directions. The Americana Hotel is a short walk to the beach, there are also lagoons here and lots of boats. Even the footbridge opens like a drawbridge to let the boats with masts go through. The boardwalk along the beach is loaded with tacky crap shops, bars and restaurants. I got in the hotel pool today to cool off and will get in the Red Sea tomorrow.

more pictures

I have to break up the pictures as the blog will only accept upload of 8 megapixels at a time. So, after icecream, Sally, Hilla and I went back to the hotel. Joe and Laura went on to visit with Joe's friends who had come to Tel Aviv for the wedding. The automatic sliding door was blocked and we entered through a side door that was propped open. Hilla explained that being the Sabbath, the orthodox jews could not use a door that required electricity. Joe said later that at Brandeis, his friends in the dorm would occasionally come over and say "we are sitting in the dark". They had forgotten to turn lights on before sundown, but couldn't ask directly for someone to do it for them. Also the T.P. in the bathrooms had to be taken out of the dispensers. It was okay to take it off a cardboard roll from a shelf but not to use it from some sort of mechanical device. Speaking of T.P., I am making a cultural study of all the different types of toilets I encounter. I especially like the ones here that have choices for a small or big flush, so you don't waste water if it's only #1. Plus, the T.P. goes in a garbage can, not down the john.
Anyhow, this morning I saw the kids long enough for goodbye pictures and took off for the airport. The Sde Dov airport north of town is very small, just for domestic flights. The security check was very serious. I got asked a lot of questions about where I'd been, etc. My passport is newly renewed, I was traveling alone on a one way ticket and already had a Jordanian visa. The security guard was very polite and I finally answered her questions satisfactorily. When I went to check in I found out the travel agent had booked my flight from Eilat to Tel Aviv. Luckily, there are constant flights and I was able to get on a flight, no problem. After I got here it turned out the hotel had 2 reservations for me, that took a few minutes to straighten out, but no big deal.

Sunday in Eilat

Saturday is the Sabbath so Sunday is the start of the work week in Isreal. Yesterday I walked with Uncle Aaron to Rothschild Blvd. A sort of tony area with some cool architecture. The shops were closed but we stopped at a cafe for a cold drink then strolled back to the hotel. Aaron has lived many places and done many things, that and his knowledge of history makes him a prety interesting guy. After the kids got back we went to dinner at a seafood place. First they brought out 8 little dishes of different salads with some yummy hot rolls. Then brought everybody's dinner, I had the best shrimp in coconut milk. After dinner we went to the Iceberg for the best ice cream in Tel Aviv-per Hilla a notorious ice cream connissour.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday in Tel Aviv

Yesterday's trip to Jerusalem was wonderful. Lea and Yonni chartered a bus for 40 of their closest friends (no joke) and off we went. Our first stop was at a Memorial for the foreign nationals who came and fought in the war of independence. Yonni's father and uncle were among them. His father helped found the Airforce and his brother help establish the Navy. His father died just a few months ago, but had a chance to meet Joe when the kids were here in Dec. They had a long talk and the general feeling is that the grandpa approved of our Joe. The uncle, Aaron, went back to the States to work after the war but has retired here and was at the wedding along with Hilla's grandmother Rose.

One of Lea's "Princeton" friends brought her 86 year old mother along and she walked all over Jerusalem with us yesterday. Truely an inspiration. As we came into the city we saw the newer parts, of course. Most still made of stone, this started when the British occupied Palestine and decreed that buildings would be stone, and continues today. Everywhere there were flowering plants. On balconies, rooftops, terraced gardens. Yesterday was a holiday in addition to being Shabat, a celebration of 7 weeks after Passover. A lot of things were closed in the new city, including the municipal parking garages so people were parked everywhere including in a line down the middle of the opposing lanes of traffic.

We got off the bus and were met by a very knowledgable guide who lead us all around the old city. He gave us so much informationon, history as well as the current affairs. Old Jerusalem is divided into quarters. Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armernian. Of course, all feel they have a claim as the original people and it takes lots of negotiation for even day to day stuff. We climbed to the roof of a couple different buildings where our guide pointed out all the different land marks. The cemetary on Mt Olive is huge as it's considered a final mitzvah to be buried there. Many people who have never been in Israel before come for their final resting place. We had coffee and strudel in a Catholic Hostel, and hummus and falafel in the old market. We saw several of the stations of the cross and saw parades of pilgrims following the route, singing and praying.

We went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre (?) which is really several churches of different denominations sharing the ground where it is said that Jesus was crucified and buried. There was some sort of service going on and the monks or priests were singing so beautifully. The mosaics were amazing and so may icons and lamps, etc.

The market stalls had all sorts of things from household goods to religious items and of course tourist trinkets. We had fresh squeezed orange juice and boy was it good. Our last stop was the Western Wall. Holy Moses, I never saw so many people in my life. Because it was Shabat and an important holiday there were throngs of men, women and children gathered to pray. Trying to make one's way to the wall meant pushing through a wall of people standing and sitting and since men and women have different sides we had to dodge the strollers as well. I got to within about 4 or 5 feet and decided I did not want to further risk being crushed. But is was an experience not to be forgotten. It is so interesting to see people from all along the spectrum of Judaism. The reformed people look like us heathens, the super orthodox men wear their sideburns long and curled with the long black coats and we saw some with big round fur hats. The orthodox women cover their hair and seem to have lots of kids.

The gang went off to Masada today but I stayed behind. I was not ready to get up at 4 AM and travel 2 1/2 hours by bus as I'm moving on to Eilat tomorrow and was exhausted after Jerusalem. So far it's been a lazy day, I'm going to stroll a while but many things are closed as it is the Sabbath.

Hope all is well at home. XOXOX Jax

PS Sally has my camera today, her battery died so, I will post pictures later.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The best day ever

The wedding was so beautiful and emotional. The ceremony was held in a courtyard with plants and flowers everywhere. The Chupa was set up in a sort of greenhouse, a glass roof with open sides. Hilla looked stunning and she and Joe were so happy. The Rabbi (Betsy) lives in Waltham, met Hilla's mother on a kibutz here when they were 15 years old and has been a friend ever since. Joe and Hilla have eaten Friday night Shabbat dinner with her many times in the last year and a half so the ceremony was very personal. It is customary for 7 blessings to be offered for the couple. Since there was a mix of English and Hebrew speakers, 7 blessings were offered in each language by family and friends. I gave the first one, crying all the while. I was doing okay until they played Something in the Way She Moves when Hilla came down the aisle. That pushed me over the edge and I cried pretty much the whole way thru. The kids signed a traditional marriage contract in the presence of their parents, Betsy read it as part of the ceremony and the wording of what they promised each other was very touching. They drank wine from a cup that one of Lea's (Hilla's mother) friends had given Hilla the day she was born. When the time came for stepping on the glass, Joe broke it on the first try. Later he told us they had substituted a light bulb in foil for a glass in cloth to ensure it would break.

From the courtyard we walked one block to the resturant, the Bellini. Hilla's sister worked there for many years and it is still a favorite place for the Shimshoni's. They had taken Joe there on several occasions. It is a small older building with great character inside. There were tables inside and out, rose petals and candles every where. True to their name they served the best bellini's ever. They started with a frozen slush of peach and mango and added the bubbly to that. YUM. But nothing compared to the food. We ate gnochi with truffle sauce, mushroom rissoto, sea bass, chicken cordon blu, fabulous stuff. For dessert there was tiramisu, flan, and of course, ice cream (Hilla's favorite). Hilla's Dad spoke, Sally had prepared a slide show of the history of the Farbeann/Pickard family. She found the most hilarious pictures for illustration. It was a surprise to me and I laughed myself silly. Or maybe I was silly to start with.....who knows??? Then Hilla's family showed a short film they had made. They used Sonny and Cher's I got You Babe as the background with clips of the kids, bits of old Sonny and Cher shows and shots of themselves with Lea and Yonni dressed as Sonny and Cher with Hilla's sisters and grandmother as the back up band. It was fantastic. Then the dancing started. Joe had met with the DJ and picked the music so we rocked. I danced and jumped around like I was 16. Today everything aches and I feel like I'm 96. But everyone had a wonderful time. The kids were so happy and really seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were about 150 people all together which made a very lively crowd. Joe and Hilla got hugged and kissed all night.

I took pictures and will post them later, no time today as we are off to Jerusalem. Lea is the uber organizer and has a bus trip planned so I'm sure we are going to have a great tour.

Love and shalom to all, Jackie

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wedding Day

It's Thursday morning, hard to believe how quickly time has flown here. Tel Aviv is a wonderful city, most the signs are in English and Hebrew and nearly everyone speaks some English. The hotel is great, near the beach and several other people in town for the wedding are staying there. The spread for breakfast is unbelivable, I'm especially fond of the chocolate croissants and the egg salad. Last night we went to the Shimshoni's for a "rehearsal" dinner. There's really nothing to rehearse so it was more a get aquainted party with all the out of towners. Hilla's sister's boyfriend made all the food, fanstastic appetizer type things, with wine and champagne. The parent's apartment is on the top two floors of their building and the rooftop has patios on 2 sides of a small room. A fantastic view of the city and a very friendly crowd. The city is very easy to get around in, it's small in area so you can walk most places and with a map it's easy to find your way around. The traffic is crazy, motorbikes everywhere that run up on the sidewalk to get around traffic or to park.Lots of outdoor cafes. People take their dogs everywhere but the number of stray cats is sad. Most everyone we have met is friendly. Currently the exchange is about 4 sheckels to a dollar and the money is very easy to understand. I have felt comfortable here from the minute I arrived and with the temperate climate think this would be a great place to live. The wedding festivities will start in a few hours, just enough time for a swim in the Mediterranean and a nap. Tomorrow we'll tour Jerusalem and see the religious side of the country. More later, Jax


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday in Tel Aviv

It was a long plane ride but Sally, Laura and I made it without any problems. The City Hotel is 2 blocks from the beach, modest and run by friends of Hilla's family. We are very comfortable here. Tomorrow is Laura's 25th birthday, Tel Aviv is quite cosmopolitan and we are looking forward to a day of cruising the city followed by the rehearsal dinner at the Shimshoni's. I'm pooped, so that's all for now folks.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Just for me


Well friends, it's almost here. Sally leaves today for DC to get Laura and I leave tomorrow (Monday). Joe and Hilla have been in Tel Aviv a couple days already.

In the midst of trying to get ready, my phones quit working and I had a major computer blow out. My hard drive got wiped CLEAN, I have nothing. No e-mail addresses, no pictures, no favorites, no games. So if you don't already have an external hard drive back up, GET ONE!!! The phones are back up and thanks to Lance (aka Mr Wizard) I have a new hard drive and can start clean when I get home. If you want to be added back to my e-mail address book, send me a bullshit e-mail and when I reply, Outlook will put you in my new address book.

Many thanks to my dear friends at AS/DS for the wonderful send off on Friday. As most of you know it was my last day of work for Max. I made so many friends and learned so much in my 3 years there. I will think of you fondly and miss you. Thanks for all the great food and nice gifts. The roses are still beautiful. Little Mommie, the retirement kit with the instruction book is one of the most clever, thoughtful gifts I have ever received. You are very special to me. I am so glad to have met and worked with so many talented people, each one of you has left their mark on me.

My big adventure is about to start, so glad you will be able to share it with me this way. Special thanks to Wes, without whom there would be no blog.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I was looking at hotels in Petra and some were already full for the dates I planned to be there. So I went ahead and reserved rooms there and Eilat. May 31st and June 1st I will be at the Americana in Eilat for sun, snorkeling and maybe a dive. June 2nd and 3rd I will be at the Edom in Petra, it got mixed reviews but is close to the entrance to the site and thanks to Pru I will have a bed bag to sleep in if the room isn't quite up to par. From there I hope to arrange a night out in the Wadi Rum, probably with Mohammed Sabah Al-Zulabeh at Sunset Camp.

One week til liftoff

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My itinerary

This is mostly for family, hope my folks can get to the blog, see the pictures and follow my travels. I leave Columbus Monday May 25th, connect thru New York and arrive in Tel Aviv on Tues the 26th. Sally, Laura and I will stay at the City Hotel. Wednesday night, Hilla's parents are hosting a dinner on the rooftop of their new apartment building. Thursday evening is the wedding. Friday the Shimshoni's have planned a trip to Jerusalem, Saturday we will visit Masada and float in the Dead Sea. Sunday Sally and Laura head for Cairo for a quick trip to the pyramids and then home. I will head to the Gulf of Aquaba for a day or two of snorkeling/diving. Then to Jordan. I want to go into the Wadi Rum desert and spend the night out with the Bedouins. Next is Petra, hopefully for 2 days. I plan to go to Amman next and do some day trips from there rather than moving every day or 2. Mt Nebo is on my list along with various other sites. If there are lots of things I want to do from Amman I may go from there directly to Istanbul. If a day or 2 in Amman is enough I may visit Cyprus on the way. Either way I plan for a week in Istanbul to see all that is there. I leave Istanbul June 13th for home.