My parents and grandmother were in town from last Wednesday until this Tuesday, and we really enjoyed their company. For my Nana, it was a delight to be back in Jerusalem and you could see that she was glowing. She also got to visit her cousins in Ramat Hasharon–cousins that I myself need to be better about contacting!
Nana is such an amazing woman. She’s in her 80’s and even though she walks slowly, she still manages to get around. She’s lived in the same apartment in NY since the 70’s, goes to the health club several times a week and sings in the Dorot choir. Her mind is as sharp as a tack, and she definitely keeps up with what’s going on in the world. (I think my mother was telling me that she knew the name of a current football quarterback as the answer to a crossword puzzle question). I think she’s a much more interesting person to talk to than many people my age.
My parents were happy just to see me, but they also got to see some of Jerusalem too. They walked around the center of town and the Old City with my grandmother and also took her to Mount Herzl. For one night they stayed at a zimmer in Ein Hod, an artist colony located near Haifa. We recommended the place, and I think they had a good time there and they were able to find some good gifts to take back home.
When we weren’t in class we took my parents to the Wohl Archaeological Musem, where you can see the remains of several Jewish houses from Herodian times. These houses were all destroyed and burnded down once the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE and you can still see some traces of the fire. The museum is actually located underneath a Yeshiva. After the ’67 war, they decided to excavate the area before building on top of it, and they found a treasure trove–geometrically patterned mosaic floors, faded frescoes, glassware, stone objects, ceramics and Jewish ritual baths. These were definitely not the homes of the commoners.
We also took my parents to the Western Wall and they were impressed by the Jerusalem Archaelogical Park – Davidson Center, which didn’t exist when they last came here. The park is located around the southern and southwestern part of the Wall that surrounds the Temple Mount and contains remains of the ancient Jewish market, a beautifully landscaped courtyard containing remains of an Umayyad Palace from the 6th & 7th century, as well as the now-blocked Hulda gates, one of the entrances to the Temple Mount (Note that any archaeological excavations under and around the Temple Mount are extremely controversial these days. See this link for example: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?c=JPArticle&cid=1195127525875&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull) .
The Davidson center is located in a recently excavated and restored underground storage complex belonging to a seventh century CE Umayyad Palace. One of the highlights is a cheesy movie about what it would have been like going to the Temple during Herodian times.
In addition to touring around, we ate massive amounts of food with my family. Their last night here, we took them to Darna (a great place for parent’s to treat their children), a glatt kosher Morrocan restaurant. There was just too much food, but it was all so good! I’m still recovering from the food overload. My mother also went a little crazy with the dairy and sweets, and I’ve inherited some of the food that they couldn’t finish off.
I’m really glad my parents and my grandmother got to Israel. Not only did they get to see how much the place has changed and see some places they may not have seen on a tour, but they also got to spend some time with us and see that we are doing well.
Tomorrow night starts Channukah! Did you know that people don’t use wax candles here? Instead, they get these small jars of olive oil and put them in a hannukiah–or do without the hannukiah altogether. Yes, the wick in olive oil is considered halachically sound, and it is actually more attuned to what people used to do (I studied all about it in Talmud. Perhaps I can tell you about it sometime if I’m not writing about something else!). Meanwhile, I’ve seen donuts galore in the bakeries and even a Jerusalem Chabad poster for a lego channukiah event for kids.
What else is happening here? The YMCA is sponsoring a multicultural festival featuring some really interesting theater and music. ICCI is one of the cosponsors of the event and I get to go to opening night! At about the same time the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival kicks off. I’ll report back next week about these happenings and other goings on in my life.