Friday, July 16, 2010

Short notes/stories from Israel, July 15, 2010

We've just finished our second week in Israel, and I thought I'd send out some short notes, from the unusual to the mundane, but with an Israeli twist. Enjoy!

1. Friday afternoons at 3:00 and 3:30 there are programs on HOT regarding the weekly Torah portion. Rabbi Lau is usually the narrator of the show at 3:30. Our friend Haim told us that Rabbi Lau is the son of the former Chief Rabbi Lau, who was rescued from Dachau at age 8 by a group of African-American US soldiers, one of whom was the father of Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the former LA basketball star). Approximately ten years ago, Abdul-Jabbar visited Israel and was a guest of Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau. A friend of ours told us about this but I also found an article about the visitsent out by Jewish Telegraphic Agency on July 11, 1997, written by Naomi Segal.

2. Tuesday, July 6, and the biggest story on the news all day has been 2 car accidents where individuals were killed. At least one was a hit and run, and it involved a 19 year old who was high, probably on drugs. At 6 a.m. as he and his (girl) friend were returning from partying, they hit a 60+ year old man who had just left home to head for work, killing him instantly. The two fled the scene and were captured soon after. They were seen on TV in chains with their faces covered. It seems that serious hit-and-run accidents have become like an epidemic, with over 250 so far this year. And such accidents with the drivers high on drugs, which had not been so common in the past, are definitely on the rise.

3. Tonight (written last Sunday, July 11) is the final game of the World Cup. It just started a few minutes ago and it's amazing how quiet it is outside. Not a car is on the street, nor are people walking around and talking. Most are inside somewhere, watching the game!
4. Friday, July 9th, was the 12th day of the walk of Gilad Shalit's family from their home in the Galil to Jerusalem. Along the way, over 110,000 participated with them at different places during their march. Friends of ours participated last Wednesday. A few pictures of the walk are attached. They said that it was an amazing experience, one that they will not forget for a long time. Now that the Shalits have arrived in Jerusalem, they are camped in front of the Prime Minister's home and plan to stay there until Shalit is released.

5. We are renting a bright green small Daihatsu automatic from El Dan rent-a-car. We filled up for the first time a few days ago and we are getting 16 km per liter, which is about 37 miles per gallon, very good for rental cars in Israel. Gas, btw, is about $6.75 a gallon, but it is sold in liters, so the quantity and price on the gas pumps go up really fast.

Howard got this parking space after the other 2 cars were in their space.    Both of the other two had crossed over the white line....which about 25% of the drivers do in the big parking lot in front of the BIG center near KM.

6. Israel continues to widen and improve its highways. We drove today (July 13) to visit my mother's cousin Thea, who turned 90 in January. She lives in Kiryat Ono, an eastern suburb of Tel Aviv. We took the coast road. Howard was very impressed by the work done to improve the highway from Ashdod north, widening it and adding better entrances and exits. Highway 6 is the private toll highway that bipasses Tel Aviv to the East. Although it has only been open a few years, changes are already made to it too to increase the number of lanes, eliminating most of the grassy divided part between the north and south lanes. The main road to Jerusalem is still 2 lanes in each direction. To reduce some of the congestion, however, as one nears Jerusalem, there are others ways to go to the center or south of town.

7. This afternoon, July 15, I went to buy a few things at the supermarket, especially dairy products. (I had already bought some fruit and veggies at the twice-a-week open market across the street earlier in the day.) I was really happy to find a 5% fat goat cheese spread--it is delicious. As I was checking out, the woman in front of me bought paper diapers and 2 packs of cigarettes, a combination not too often seen in Seattle nowadays!

8. The currency in Israel is the shekel, and it is divided into 100 agarot. The 1 and 2 agarot coins have not been around for a number of years. Now the 5 agarot coin has diappeared. There are no longer ten-shekel paper bills in circulation, just ten-shekel coins (worth about $2.63). The smallest paper bill is for 20 shekels, or $5.26 US.) A new coin has come into circulation, however, and that is the 2-shekel coin. It is about the size of a US nickel.  All of the coins are pictured below except for the ten-agorot copper-colored coin.  From left to right:  10 shekels, 5 shekels, 2 shekels, 1 shekel, 1/2 shekel.

If one pays in the store with a 100 or 200 shekel bill, the clerk usually runs a special pen over part of the bill.  If it turns brown or black, it is counterfeit.   So far we have not had that problem!

9  Earlier this week, I went to a Shiva visit for the mayor of Hof Ashkelon, meeting up there with Ira, Itai and Revitla.   His mother, Ester Farjun had died the previous Thursday.  The funeral was the same day and I didn't get the SMS (text) message in time to attend.  The gathering was outside the home, under a tent-like covering.  It was similar to the picture below, only about 2.5 or 3 times as big, and it was full.

The Shiva tent to the left is just down the road from the volunteer apt in Kiryat Malachi.  It was set up a few days ago.  The family sits outside, and people come and visit. 

The shiva was being sat at Yair Farjun's family home, the first home at the entry to Moshav Brechia, where they settled almost 60 years ago.  As family members passed out fruit, cookes, and hot drink (cold drinks were already on the table), part of the time Yair talked for the family, using a microphone.  He told the story of how the family settled there, living in 45 sq. meters  about 550 sq fit) with 13 children.  The grandparents lived nearby as did other family members.  The Mom treated each child as if s/he were the only one.  Whenever someone was in need, there was always room for one more at the table, or for another spot on  a mattress on the floor to sleep--whether it was an abused wife or a farmer/peddler caught in a rain storm.  Yair told of bringing friends home spontaneously to eat and his mom giving all the food already prepared for dinner/shabbat and quickly preparing more, sending a younger child to the neighbors to get a fresh chicken.

10. Only in Israel--as I was making a spaghetti sauce about 6 p.m., I heard a loudspeaker blasting away. It wascoming from a car with an electronic megaphone/speaker on top, sending out religious messages the day before Shabbat!

11.  I've been working on the TIPS calendar which just will be distributed in Israel this year.  Ira and I worked on the wording for projects, and I typed it into my computer.  I don't have Hebrew letters on my computer, and he doesn't touch type, so I typed the Hebrew.  I have a Hebrew program with the keyboard shown on the screen.  By the end of the exercise, I found that I can pretty much touch type in Hebrew!  The printing is being done at Eddigraf, a local shop about 2 blocks from the volunteer apt.  Eddi Yosef, the owner, is on our TIPS steering committee.   The graphic artist that I worked with is Edward.  He made aliyah with his family at age 9 from the former Soviet Union.  He is a delight to work with.

     I was amused by the no smoking sign on the wall next to his desk.  (By the way, the second point is not to use cell phones in the area!)

12j.  This week (July 16) the main news has been:
    a)  The boat from Libya heading toward Gaza with Ghadaffi's son on board.  It ended up going to Egypt with some sort of an agreement and payment...but I could not understand the Hebrew.  The items will go through Egypt to Gaza.  Dan Meridor of the Israeli govt also said that they could go through Ashdod.
    b)  The budget bill in the Knesset for the years 2011 to 2013....and how much defense will be cut even though Barak is a big buddy of Netanyahu.  Many say he no way represents his party anymore.  He just represents himself.

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