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Archive for February, 2013

On Monday, I arrived in Israel for the first time in my life after so many years… decades… of waiting, hoping, praying.

I came alone.

I knew it was going to be emotional. I knew it was going to be intense.

I was prepared… or so I thought.

It was like being prepared to be hit by a bus… compared to actually being hit by a bus.

When the plane touched down in Tel Aviv, I began weeping. [1]

I could barely stand. Other passengers grabbed their carry on bags and headed out. I was in a daze.

I made my way through a blur of tears. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I moved as if in a trance. Was this really happening? Am I in one of the thousands of dreams and daydreams I’ve had over the last 30 or 40 years?

ben-gurion-airport2

I was nervous about being questioned by Israeli authorities. Who was I? Where was I from? Where was I born? Why was I coming to Israel? Was I Jewish? A Jew with an Italian name? Were my parents Jewish? Did I convert? What rabbinical court converted me? My daughter lives in Israel? She immigrated to Israel? Where does she live? What is her address? Is this my first visit? What prayer does a Jew make when he embarks on a trip? Recite the first line. Do I wear tefillin? When do I wear them? When do I NOT wear them? What was the Torah reading for last Shabbes? What’s the Torah reading for next Shabbes? Was I married? Did I have an aufrufen? Did I read from the Torah? What was the Torah portion? Can I recite the first line from my haftorah portion? What holiday is coming up in 2 weeks? What book is read? Recite the blessings that are read before the book is read. Can you read the first few lines from that book? Do you know the melody that goes with that reading?

I had heard so many stories about Israeli security. I was nervous. I stepped up to the customs officer and handed her my passport.

“What is the purpose of your visit?”

I explained that this was my first visit to Israel and that I came to see my daughter who made aliyah (i.e. emigrated to Israel) a year ago.

“Where does she live?”

I told her she lives in Ramat Gan.

“How long are you going to be in Israel?”

I said I was staying for two weeks, returning on February 25.

The customs officer looked at me for a few moments, sizing me up.

She smiled and handed me back my passport and told me to proceed to baggage claims.

I walked to the baggage claim area and searched for my luggage. A plain black suitcase. My dear friend (and international travel guide) Tracy suggested I attach some brightly-coloured masking tape or cloth to make it distinguishable. I found it. Both wheels were broken off.

ben-gurion1

I extended the handle and dragged the suitcase behind me as I moved out into the main lobby. I felt numb. It all seemed so unreal. I couldn’t help feeling that I was going to wake up at any moment.

A tall handsome young man with a wide smile. Tomer. My daughter’s boyfriend. He waves and comes to me, giving me a big warm tight hug.

And then I see my beloved daughter. I’ve not laid eyes on her in over a year.

I cry again. I can’t help it. Tomer helps me with my crippled suitcase.

We walk out into the fresh air. I breathe it deep into my lungs.

I’m here. I feel I’ve finally come home to a place to which I’ve never been before.

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[1] Actually, I started crying as soon as I heard the landing gear lowering. 

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For most of my life, I have dreamed about going to Israel.

I-love-Israel-2

I’ve imagined it countless times in countless ways.

Going with my family.

Arriving with my children.

before-after-kotel

My son’s bar mitzvah at the Kotel. [1]

Going with my new wife.

Moving to Israel. Making Aliyah.

gun-girls

Living in Jerusalem. Learning there.

In my imagination, I was often living in a tiny little room.

tower-david

A bed. A desk. A chest of drawers. A chair.  A small library. I wouldn’t need much.

This Sunday (February 10), I fly to Israel for the first time. [2]

Kotel-3

After a lifetime I will, G-d willing, be in The Holy Land.

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[1] Kotel:  The Western Wall in Jerusalem.

[2] I will be in Israel from February 10th to the 25th. I hope to keep posting blog articles as usual (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) but I may miss one here and there.

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Last week, science writer Jennifer A. Kingson wrote in an article in the New York Times Science Section

“What’s big and wooly and making a comeback on the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau?” [1]

yak(A yak grazing on grassland on the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau [2])

“Wild yaks are icons for the remote, untamed, high-elevation roof of the world,” said Joel Berger, who led an expedition for the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Montana that counted 990 wild yaks.”

yaks-fight(A big yak attack!)

“The yak population there had been decimated by hunting, much like the American bison population, so the expedition team, which included Chinese and American conservationists, was understandably best pleased to see so many of them up there.”

yak-face(We’re yak… and we’re back!)

Well done, yaks. Keep on going forth and multiplying!

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[1] OK. BIG question. Is it ‘wooly’ or ‘woolly’? Talmudic sages for generations have pondered this profound question. Here’s the answer.  The English (i.e. proper) spelling is ‘woolly’ (two Ls). “Wooly” (one L) is the American spelling. It’s kind of like the difference between humour and humor, travelled and traveled, aluminium – aluminum, burnt and burned.

[2] Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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Mt Fuji with a sedge hat or sugegasa  [菅笠].

mt-fuji-cloud-hat(Lenticular cloud hovering over Mt Fuji, Japan)

This is an example of a lenticular cloud, also known as altocumulus standing lenticularis. These are stationary, lens-shaped clouds that are formed at high altitudes. They are included in the middle layer cloud family because the bases of the clouds are stationed between about 2,000 and 7,000 meters.

These clouds form when moist air is forced to flow up around mountains and large hills. The water is super cooled and condensed from air below the dew point temperature.

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If I Am Your Mirror…

(Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”)

A 20-minute animated horror short, written and directed by Garrett DeHart, set in the Civil War Era.

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