Musical Interlude-School concerts and Israeli music

I got a little behind on blogging, so I finally finished this post from May.  Happy Listening!

Last month was busy with the girls’ school concerts–they both played in an end of year “Superhero” concert , and then Dalit performed in a chorus concert.  Here is the link to the band concert (the fifth grade band performs first, with Dalit on clarinet, the junior middle school band is second, with Talia on trumpet)  Final Band Concert 2017 – Superhero’s.

You can see Dalit in the front row, smack in the middle, for the chorus concert. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82oGlPe1E8s

Inspired by all this music, I decided to do a post about some Israeli songs that have caught my attention during our time here. Even if you can’t understand the words, hopefully you can enjoy the melodies and voices.   In no particular order, here they are:

Yuval Dayan, “Leilotai”  (“My nights”)  https://youtu.be/t-PhGnkn_hU

Yuval Dayan appeared on the Israeli version of “The Voice” when she was 17 and became an overnight sensation following her audition.  During the semi-finals, when she was widely expected to win, she dropped out of the competition during the live show.   I love her voice, and this is also one of Dalit’s favorite Israeli songs.

Idan Amedi, “Helek mehazman” (“Part of the Time”). https://youtu.be/iUMQ1NjHsqY

This song was frequently on the radio when we first arrived in Israel and immediately struck a chord with me–they rarely identify the names and artists of songs playing on the radio, so it took me awhile to find out who the song was by and its name.

Idan Raichel Project “Sheeriyot shel Hahayim”  https://youtu.be/xYYYctLmnt4?list=RDr6OJaznoZEI.  This is an older song by one of Israel’s most popular singers who also frequently performs internationally and collaborates with many other musicians from around the world.  He is known for his fusion of Hebrew texts with Arab and Ethiopian music.

Omer Adam  “Ahri kol Hashanim”  (“After all the years”)  https://youtu.be/m5HXWKvKN5Y.  Omer Adam is know for fusing Middle Eastern and Western pop.  This is a sentimental love song.

Jane Bordeaux “Aich Efshar Shelo”  (“How is it possible not”)  https://youtu.be/-BR3ziVDazM  This is an Israeli folk-pop trio singing a love song “how can I not be in love with you, but please, I’ve already been hurt, try not to break my heart”.  I like the sound of the singer’s voice and the guitar/cello combination.

Shlomo Artzi–“VeHaemet”  (“And the Truth”)  Shlomo Artzi was one of my favorite singers when I spent my junior year in Israel at Hebrew University.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was still going strong at age 67, with a new album that came out last year.  I was also lucky enough to see him live in concert where he put on an awesome show that included his son in his band.  This song is kind of interesting, as Artzi is what Israelis call “secular” but the song is a duet with a “dati” (religious singer) Ishai Rivo, which you don’t see too often here.  https://youtu.be/ZUPP10SvO3g?list=PLBYezdzRb1AY-VZP9a9TTaCDjDaClbmrD

Cafe Shahor Hazak (Strong Black Coffee) “Yihye Beseder” (It will be fine/ok).  This is a song by an Ethiopian born Israeli hip hop duo which I kept hearing around town.  The song is about the hardships Ethiopian Jews have faced, with the chorus an affirmation of persistence and faith in the future “I know everything will be fine.”  https://youtu.be/PQp2a_yunmM

Static and Ben Al Tavori  “Kvish HaHof” (Coastal Highway)  This is a pure fun pop song by an Israeli duo about heading to the beach on the coastal road (also known as the “2”).  This road is less than a kilometer from our house, the girls take it to school every day, and the video shows a bit of what it looks like around here.  The lyrics also mention Herzliya, where we live,  several times.  https://youtu.be/t2fakms1QWo

 

 

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Jerusalem water tunnels, train station and falafel

When I lived in Jerusalem many years ago as a student, I remember hearing about various tunnels in and around the Old City.  Some were just being excavated and were not open to the public.  I always wanted to explore these tunnels, and when Talia went on a school field trip to Hezekiah’s tunnel last fall and told me about the “wet” tunnel and “dry” tunnel tours, I put it on my (long) Jerusalem “to do” list.  Getting wet seemed like the more fun option, and so we waited for hot weather to plan an excursion.

Hezekiah’s tunnel is right outside the Old City, in an area known as “City of David” (as it was built by King David).  The 553 meter tunnel was built to provide water to the City of David and prevent the Assyrians from taking over the spring and its water.  As you can see from the pictures, it is quite narrow in places, with the water at times reaching just above my knees.  I managed to hit my head on the ceiling several times when I didn’t notice the low ceiling height. Dalit started to feel claustrophobic but thankfully stayed calm because once you enter there is no exit until you reach the end.  There is also no light other than that provided by our flashlights.

It is pretty amazing to walk/slosh through the tunnel and imagine workers chiseling the tunnel out of stone, using just axes, 3,000 years ago.  We also enjoyed a 3D movie explaining the history of the area.  While we were waiting to enter the theater, two ultra-orthodox men in black hats, long black coats, etc. walked by, and Dalit noticed a lavender colored “fidget spinner” in one of their hands, which she found quite funny (“wow, even the ultra-orthodox have fidget spinners.”)  David snapped a photo of them, though it’s hard to see the spinner.

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While in Jerusalem, we also got to check out the “First Station” complex–another place that didn’t exist when I last lived in Jerusalem.  An old train station was converted into a complex of restaurants, shops, performance spaces, and fun for kids–carousel, games, bungee trampolines, etc. (Talia and Dalit got to enjoy the latter).  I thought they did a great job in designing the space, and it would definitely be a favorite hangout if we lived in Jerusalem.

Finally, we went to downtown Jerusalem as I was curious to see how that area had changed since I last spent time there more than 25 years ago.  We went to the “Midrahov” (pedestrian street) on Ben Yehuda, and it looked almost completely different from what I remembered, though there were still many shops catering to tourists.  I was telling the girls that my favorite falafel place, “Moshiko’s” had been on this street, but I doubted it would still be there.  We kept walking and lo and behold, there it was–the sign looked new, but after ordering a falafel, the taste was just as I remembered it.

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Herzliya Women’s Triathlon 2017

This past Saturday I finally completed my first ever triathlon, albeit a very short “popular” route.  I had been wanting to do a triathlon for many years, but I was always deterred by the running part.  I HATE running.  And I am terrible at it–I am slow, and all I can think of when I’m running is “has it been long enough that I can stop now?”.  And that thought usually occurs within 5 minutes of starting to run!  I have heard about getting in the “zone”, the runner’s high, etc., but I seem to have a runner’s “low” (well, I do usually feel good after doing it, but it always feels like a slog during).   I have many friends who have run marathons, 10ks, etc., and I am always in awe of them, wondering how they can run that far.  As someone who played a lot of sports as a kid (soccer, basketball), I always joke that I only run if it’s after a ball.

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So, even though I though it would be great to do a triathlon as I like swimming and biking, I always thought I could never manage the running.  More than a year ago, I heard about the Herzliya Women’s Triathlon when Susie Dwoskin (z”l) visited Talia and Dalit’s school to talk about the triathlon and encourage girls and moms to sign up.  Susie and her husband had been the driving force behind the triathlon since their daughter Tamar was killed in a bike accident when she was 22 while training for a triathlon.  Susie talked about coming in last in her first triathlon, but feeling great just to make it to the finish line, hence the motto of the triathlon “every woman is a winner.”  When I met her, she had had cancer for 7 years but was still participating in every triathlon, arranging the timing of her treatments to allow for her training to continue.  She talked about and showed us slides of her daughter, and how the triathlon had become a vehicle to honor her memory.

I left the meeting feeling inspired by Susie, her warmth and positivity in the face of tragedy, and committed to do the triathlon.  The fact that there were 3 course lengths including a “popular” route with a short 2.5 k run, 10 k bike and 500 meter swim made it seem doable for me.  After training two months, I ended up tearing my calf muscle less than 2 weeks before last year’s triathlon, so I was not able to participate.

I was looking forward to trying again this year.  I trained for a month with a trainer and another woman, and felt mostly ready, though hearing stories from triathlon veterans about being kicked in the face during the swim as hundreds enter the water at the same time was a bit nerve-wracking.  And I caught a virus less than 2 weeks before the triathlon, so I had missed 5 days of training and wasn’t sure if that would impact my conditioning.  I joked with the girls that I might be last at the finish line, but that I would get there one way or another.

Sadly, less than a month before this year’s triathlon, Susie Dwoskin passed away, so the triathlon was now in memory of both Tamar and Susie Dwoskin.  It was an emotional day for her family as well as the thousands of women who had been impacted and inspired by Susie.  The mom of one of Talia’s friends, who had gotten to know Susie well after her daughter did the girls’ triathlon 4 years ago and inspired her to do her first triathlon, flew here from India so they both could participate in the triathlon again.   On the day of the triathlon, it was wonderful seeing girls and women of all shapes and sizes, older and younger, as well as paraathletes exiting the water using leg braces, blind women on tandem bikes,  all coming together to challenge themselves.

It was a beautiful, hot day, and the sea was so calm that many were talking about how Susie’s spirit was with us from above to give us calm seas for swimming (the last two years the swimming portion of the triathlon was cancelled due to high waves).  Susie had swum in 23 triathlons–this year, her husband took her place.

Due to the 90 degree plus day, and the late morning start for the “popular” route, at the last minute they shortened our run to 1.5k and a loud cheer went up in the crowd of the “popular” triathletes.  I felt less nervous knowing that I wouldn’t be running up a big hill that was on the original route, and started the swim feeling like I could push myself a bit more knowing that the run was going to be so short.  I stayed behind and to the side of the crowd of swimmers, as my coach had advised me, but I still kept bumping into the woman in front of me, so I went more to the side, and when I looked up I was quite a bit off course, so I think I ended up swimming an extra hundred meters at least.  Talia was watching me in the water and apparently asked David where I was going!  It happened again going back to shore, I thought I was in the home stretch and then looked up to see I was heading towards a rock jetty and not the shore.  Oh well.

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For the biking part we got to ride on a closed-off highway called the Ayalon.  I had been worried about being bunched up with other riders but by that time we were fairly spread out and there was a lot of room with several lanes for us to ride in so it wasn’t an issue.  I started out the run feeling pretty good but quickly started to feel the heat–when I saw the turnaround for the run and knew I was close to the finish line, I felt relieved knowing that I would finish running with a smile on my face.  Though I wasn’t able to convince Talia and Dalit to do the girls’ triathlon, I am hoping that by watching me and all the other girls and women at the triathlon, they too will be inspired to challenge themselves in some kind of athletic endeavor down the road.

 

 

 

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Kibbutz Visit-Then and Now

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[This post is dedicated to those readers who were on the kibbutz with me so many years ago.   Hope this brings back some good memories.  You know who you are and I’m so grateful we’re still friends!]

This past Sunday we enjoyed a wonderful visit with my kibbutz “mother” at Kibbutz Ein Tzurim.  Let me backtrack and explain a bit-when I was 17, through a program of my high school, I spent 4 and 1/2 months on this kibbutz during what would have been the second semester of my senior year.  Kibbutzim were started in Israel in the early 1900s as  collective farming communities inspired by the ideals of socialism and Zionism.  There are still about 250 kibbutzim in Israel, though, as I will explain a bit later, most of them are much less” communal” and “socialist” than they once were.

There were about 40 kids on my program, which combined studying and working on the kibbutz,.  The majority of kids were from my school, but there were also a small group of kids from a New Jersey Jewish school as well as a number from other states across the country.  Every morning we would wake up at 6, eat breakfast, and study Hebrew and Israeli history, culture, and government for two hours, and then begin our kibbutz jobs at 9.  We also had organized trips to various parts of Israel as well as vacation time where we could travel around on our own.

During the latter, I had many adventures with my friends, traveling to Haifa during Passover break, camping on the beach, weekends in nearby Ashkelon on the coast etc. No one knew where we were or what we were doing, we didn’t have cell phones, and that was not considered out of the ordinary at the time.  Not that I wouldn’t be worried (terrified?) if my kids were to do the same at age 17!  This was the early 80’s and times have changed, or at least our fears have.  Despite the Middle East conflict, terrorism, and yes, the absence of a minimum drinking age in Israel at the time (which some kids were a little too eager to take full advantage of), it felt safe to travel about, and talking to strangers and getting their help and advice was the norm rather than something to steer away from or be afraid of.

My main job was in the fields and orchards, and when we first arrived in January the citrus picking season was in high gear, so we spent hours picking orange and grapefruit.  Sometimes if we were able to fill a certain number of crates before lunchtime, they would give us the afternoon off, which was a big relief as it started to get hot and the work was tiring.

In addition to the orchards, I helped with getting pipes and hoses set up for irrigation, tying down the branches of persimmon trees, and perhaps most memorably, pulling worms out of the trunks of fruit trees.  On rainy days I was sometimes assigned to the “Beit Imun”–the baby turkey house, where I had to inject vaccines in their legs and load them onto trucks.  It was a pretty unpleasant, smelly job, as the turkeys would flap about and sometimes crush each other.  Invariably, when we went to lunch they’d be serving turkey, and that is when my semi-vegetarianism began (though they didn’t process the turkeys on the kibbutz, they raised them and sent them elsewhere.).  I also had a short stint in the metal fitting factory so got a taste of assembly line work, spent a week in the kibbutz laundry (also known as the gossip center!) , chopped massive amounts of potatoes in the kitchen, and spent a few dreadful days in the turkey hospital (that was the worst, I will spare youthe details).

For someone who grew up in the D.C. suburbs, it was a pretty drastic change of environment and I loved it.  There was such a tranquil, peaceful feeling on the kibbutz-with only roads on the perimeter, we got everywhere by walking on the paths that crisscrossed the kibbutz, with an occasional ride on a truck to a distant field.  I still remember the pungent overpowering smell emanating from the cow barn (“refet”)  when we first arrived from the airport, and how quickly we stopped noticing the smell (only to be reminded of it when we returned to the kibbutz after a multi-day trip and had grown unaccustomed to it). I also for the most part enjoyed the physical nature of the work, so different from the academic work that had occupied many late nights during high school.   Even though I was far away from home, I did not feel homesick. I got the chance to get to know my school classmates in a different way as well as meet some new kids which was nice since the school I had attended since 7th grade was quite small.

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The kibbutz turkey house

Everyone on the program was assigned a kibbutz family, who we would visit every Shabbat (Saturday) afternoon and who we could turn to for help.  My sister had been on the same kibbutz several years before me on a different program and so I was assigned the same family she had been matched with.  The kibbutz was religious and so Friday night and Saturday were especially peaceful, restful times.  My kibbutz family had 3 young children at the time, so I would play with them and enjoy some special foods that my kibbutz “parents” prepared for Shabbat.  I remember the taste of a special bread my kibbutz father would make, it would cook all night long and then we would eat it warm on Saturday afternoon, I think it was called “kubane”.

Unfortunately my kibbutz father passed away a number of years ago, but I was able to get in touch with my kibbutz mother Leah and arrange to visit her on the kibbutz. I didn’t plan it this way, but it happened to be Mother’s Day, the first one since my own mother’s passing last fall.  It seemed the perfect time to spend with my kibbutz “mother,” who welcomed me and my family so warmly and introduced me to a passing kibbutznik as her “American daughter.”   She shared with me many stories of her life since I had been on the kibbutz so many years ago, and also explained how the kibbutz had changed since then.

Some aspects of the kibbutz had already changed when I lived there–for example, Leah, who had lived on the kibbutz since she was 14, said at first the children from a  very young age would visit their parents in the afternoon, but would sleep in the children’s houses at night.  By the time Leah had her own children, the children would sleep at their parents’ houses (at some of the more “socialist” kibbutzim, the practice of children sleeping at the children’s houses continued for many years).

About 20 years ago, many kibbutzim in Israel faced severe economic crises–their population was aging as a majority of young people raised on the kibbutz did not return to live there as adults.  Ein Tzurim also faced these difficulties, with not enough young people to do the work and sustain the kibbutz’s income.  Also, as time passed, there was less interest in the communal aspects of the kibbutz–families preferred to eat in their own houses rather than the communal dining room, for example.  Now, the dining room is run by an outside contractor and kibbutz members can buy food there, but mostly do so to bring to their own houses.  More of the kibbutz members work outside the kibbutz, and instead of members just receiving a small budget for personal needs, they receive a salary based on seniority, family size, etc.  Before, all needs like medical, food, clothing, laundry, were taken care of  by the kibbutz.  Now these are paid for individually.  However, there is still some equalization of incomes as those who earn above a certain amount are” taxed” so that those with less, retirees, etc. can be taken care of at a comfortable level.

These changes have succeeded in sustaining the kibbutz, as more young families have moved there in recent years.  The kibbutz still has some agricultural fields (no more orange groves though), the turkeys, and the cows, but with more members working outside the kibbutz, these are a much smaller part of the overall kibbutz than they once were.

Many other kibbutzim have similarly changed, as well as developed new sources of income through high-tech, tourism (kibbutz hotels and resorts are popular), factories, etc.  While in some ways the dreams of the original kibbutz pioneers did not turn out to be sustainable in quite the way they envisioned, the kibbutzim played a key role in developing agriculture in Israel as well as settling the more remote areas of the country.  As recently as 2010 kibbutzim produced about 40% of Israel’s agricultural output.

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View of kibbutz fields in the background

Although the kibbutz is less communal than it once was, Leah told me how helpful it was to have the support of the kibbutz community when she became a widow raising her youngest child alone..  As we wandered around the kibbutz with her, children and parents biked, walked, and were pulled in wagons towards the fields to set up bonfires for a minor Jewish holiday that happened to fall on Sunday.  Leah knew everybody and everybody knew her, and I sensed that there was still much to appreciate, and much to learn from the kibbutz way of life.

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Ein Hod Artists Village

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After the long two week Passover/spring break and our trip to Greece, as well as Israel’s Independence day holiday this past Tuesday, I am finally getting back to blogging.

I had heard about the only artists’ village in Israel awhile ago and had been wanting to check it out, and finally got the opportunity to do so this week with a group tour organized for the American Embassy community.  The village was founded in 1953 by a “Dada” artist and is now home to about 150 artists.  It is in the southern part of the Carmel mountains, with beautiful views reaching to the Mediterranean sea.  We had a guided tour by one of the artists who lives in the village and visited several galleries and ceramic studios in addition to learning about the history of the village.

Interestingly, when the founders were establishing the village, they wanted it to continue as an artists’ village for future generations so they put in the contracts for the houses that they could only be sold or inherited by artists.   There are many second and third generation artists living in the village.  I loved all the pottery and was very tempted to buy some (though didn’t on this occasion–I will have to go back!).

 

In the main gallery we visited, this poster of Netanyahu caught my eye.  Lately there have been many jokes in the press that he went to a new hair salon because his hair color, usually a silver gray, had suddenly developed various color hues  The Hebrew says “not everything is black or white,” which you could very well interpret as a critique of more than Bibi’s hair.

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Lastly, our guide brought us to her gallery and demonstrated her silkscreen on fabric technique.  I admittedly did not quite understand exactly how it worked, but it looked great and her t-shirt making workshops would be fun to do.IMG_20170503_111636

 

For more information about the village, check out http://en.ein-hod.org/about-ein-hod/

Ayalon Institute (“Bullet” Museum”) and the Garden of Science

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Last Thursday we go the chance to visit the “Bullet factory museum” in Rehovot.  http://eng.shimur.org/Ayalon-institute/   The underground factory was essential to the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel between 1945 and 1948.  Under British rule, Jewish fighters did not have the ability to import ammunition, but were able to secretly import various machines and materials to manufacture  over 4 million bullets.

The facility was hidden underground, with a bakery and laundry above ground serving to hide it as well as mask the noise and provide ventilation for those working underneath.  Our guide told many fascinating stories about how the facility was kept secret and the many “close calls”  that almost led to its discovery.  Above ground was a sort of mini-kibbutz that served as a training facility for groups who wanted to establish kibbutzim, many of whom did not know of the bullet factory right beneath them.  They were nicknamed “camels” since they could not see what was under their noses.

This was definitely an interesting and educational visit–since the girls are not attending formal “religious school” while we are here, I look at these kinds of outings as a kind of “expeditionary” learning for them to learn the history of Israel.

Since we were already in Rehovot, we also stopped at the Weizmann Institute of Science’s outdoor science museum.  It was a bit crowded due to the Passover break, but the girls enjoyed some special activities like making “bricks” from sand and straw for a pyramid.

 

Neot Kedumim-Biblical Landscape Reserve

At the start of Spring/Passover break, we visited Neot Kedumim http://www.neot-kedumim.org.il/, in the Judean lowlands halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem  It is situated along a route used in ancient times to travel from the port of Jaffa to Jerusalem.  We were blessed with relatively cool, partly cloudy weather, which made walking along the trails pleasant.   I would not recommend visiting in the middle of summer, shade is limited and it is a hot area!

The reserve contains a number of different self-guided tours along trails which contain plants, flowers, and trees that are referenced in the Bible, as well as a number of archaeological ruins such as the remains of a Byzantine chapel, water cisterns, ritual baths, winepresses, and olive presses.  Some things like the mill and wells have been reconstructed to give visitors a chance to see how they were used in Biblical times.

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Talia with the grindstone

The girls had fun trying to grind some wheat on the threshing floor and getting the water wheel for the mill to rotate.

 

The trail was  marked with signs containing verses from the Bible referencing the various plants, flowers, trees, as well as structures we encountered along the way.  The written guide we were given also gave detailed explanations of the Biblical connections for each station, so we could imagine for example, Joseph being cast into a cistern by his brothers, or Rebecca drawing water from a well for Abraham’s servant and his caravan of camels.  I would have loved to do all the trails, but we only managed two of them before certain family members (who I shall not name!) were antsy to leave.

Overall it was a pretty cool place to visit, and they also have a a lot of special activities and workshops throughout the year, including the opportunity to plant olive trees as well as a “Biblical” cooking class.  Not sure I will get the chance to visit again soon, but would love to at some point.