This is our adventure

I will be chronicling our trip on this blog along with my general musings.2014-Michelle blog photo

Feel free to comment and we can have a conversation, or just read and look into my view of things.

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July 17, 2014 The Louvre

This morning we got a relatively early start. We had baguettes and fruit for a quick breakfast and grabbed our espresso to go before we submerged underground and caught the metro to the world’s largest and well known museum: The Louvre. I had anticipated this visit for ages, and felt like a kid going to the circus for the first time. I remembered Matthew’s first trip to the circus, he was about three years old and shared a bedroom with Nathan. The night before after they went to bed, I heard talking coming from the boys bedroom. I tip toed quietly down the hall and peeked around the doorway. I saw Matthew sitting on the floor next to a sleeping Nathan.

“There’ll be elephants, monkeys and tigers, and there’ll even be clowns…” I heard Matthew trying to whisper as he ran down the inventory of what they would see at the circus the next evening. That’s how I felt this morning: ‘There’ll be paintings, sculptures and artifacts, and there’ll even be the Mona Lisa…”

We got off the metro at the museum’s stop and were funneled right into an underground mall. We walked into the first shop and bought our museum passes. Armed with our admission we walked past remnants of the fortress built in the late 12th century and up numerous flights of stairs until we emerged into the heat and sun of the morning. The large courtyard was surrounded by the massive buildings that housed French royalty from the early 13th century until its beginnings as a museum in the late 18th century. We approached the huge glass pyramid with the masses of visitors roaming the grounds like disorganized ants.

Jesse patiently waiting for me to snap a picture

Jesse patiently waiting for me to snap a picture

We're finally here at the Louvre!

We’re finally here at the Louvre!

Our museum passes allowed us to enter via the shorter line, only to be herded down escalators into a grand foyer underneath the pyramid. The glass reflected the sun, and coupled with the enormous amount of people, made the large space hot and muggy. After a number of more lines we finally had our Nintendo audio guides and were ready to officially enter the museum. The escalator up to the Sully wing was the last free ride as we made our way to the second floor to start with French paintings of the 19th century.

There were so many people and it was so hot, climbing the stone stairs that continued to go up and up and up, was tiresome. We stopped at the first floor and explored some of the Greek ceramics while we caught our breath, before going up to our original intended destination. On the second floor the crowds had thinned, maybe because of the never ending flights of stairs, and I could almost feel the air conditioning.

We spent hours ambling from room to room admiring the variety of French painters. Some like Eugene Delacroix were prolific and it’s unimaginable how someone painted so many intricate and remarkable paintings in their lifetime. The farther we got into the exhibit the less people there were, which was nice. Towards the end of the wing I found myself in a small alcove with two large paintings on each wall. They both depicted mothers holding their young son. I stood looking at the paintings, staring at the faces of the mother and her child. The artist had captured the emotions of love and admiration so realistically, that I was overcome with emotion and found tears streaming down my cheeks. Although my baby was grown before he died, I longed to hold him like these painted mothers. Out of nowhere and like a flash flood my grief had overtaken me. I managed to find a tissue in my purse, and move onto more paintings and finally completed the section of French painters.

By this time I was quite hungry and the next task was to find a place for lunch. Jesse planned our route to a possible food destination and we hurried downstairs past hoards of people and quickly viewed Louis XIV furnishings until we found ourselves in front of a restaurant. We perused the menu and found some expensive but viable lunch options. We were seated in the small dining room and ordered our lunch entrees. I looked around the room of this historic building with its high vaulted ceiling, tall wooden doors and ornate fireplace and tried to imagine what function this room might have had. It was too small for a parlor or main room, but it could have been a cozy study where someone could have sat at a desk and gazed out the window down into the courtyard, or across to the sculptured façade of the opposite wing, while they wrote a letter and then sealed it with wax and their personalized stamp.

Louvre Restaurant where we rested, savored and refueled.

Louvre Restaurant where we rested, savored and refueled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I returned to the present and I noticed a family sitting at the table behind Jesse. They were playing cards to occupy their two school aged boys and my grief leapt up and grabbed me by the throat bringing tears to my eyes. I drank some water trying to clear the overwhelming feelings that just came over me. As I watched this family, I remembered our family of four at that tender age. Families change over time, but there are iconic memories that come to the forefront of my mind when I think of my family. It’s a family of four, with two young boys. My mind in an instant scanned to the present and I saw my oldest son, grown with his own family and the wonderful additions of daughter and granddaughter, and then the void. The void of where Matthew should be. I wiped my eyes with my napkin as Jesse reached across the table and squeezed my hand and smiled a tender empathetic smile.

Our lunch came and I looked down at my order. The while china bowl held a perfectly shaped taupe mound of risotto decorated with green curls of asparagus and zucchini. The smooth creamy pasta was filled with subtle flavors of cheese and spices. The crunchy vegetables added texture to the mingling flavors. It took great effort not to moan loudly with my palate’s delight. I maintained my table manners as I savored and enjoyed this delicious lunch. We finished it with espresso and were fueled and ready for the rest of the museum.

We wandered through the Napoleon III apartments and traveled through the sculpture exhibits and gardens. We made our way across the grand foyer under the pyramid and masses of people into the Denon Wing. We cruised through the Islamic art exhibit since we missed the Islamic Museum in Jerusalem due the limitations of travel with all the rocket fire. We then migrated into the Apollo gallery, where with eyes fixed to the ceiling we experienced the delight of moving through the seasons with paintings and sculpture of this National and World Heritage site.

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We followed the stream of people to the prized possession of the museum: The Mona Lisa. On the city bus tour we were informed that the Mona Lisa was priceless and the museum did not insure the painting, instead they spent the money on security to protect it. The crowd around the painting was ten people deep of arms stretching with cameras and other video devices to capture a picture of this enigmatic woman. I waited patiently as layer after layer of amateur photographer captured their prize and left a space for me to inch closer until I was just one layer deep and had a clear view of the painting. I stood and just stared at the image; looking at her eyes and her coy smile, the uneven background and the deep dark colors and texture of the paint on the canvas. I would have liked to be closer and experience the masterpiece longer, but it was too crowded and the crushing spectators enticed me to leave. We finished up this section of the museum viewing many more stunning paintings, some that took up entire walls. After a long hot day at the Louvre, where I think we climbed more stairs than we did when we climbed the Eiffel Tower, we left and caught the metro back to our air conditioned hotel.

Hot and tired we made it through a small portion of the museum

Hot and tired we made it through a small portion of the museum

 

 

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July 16, 2014 Photo tour of Paris

Here are some of the sites we saw on the City Bus Tour.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and among the largest and well known churches in the world.

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Les Invalides is a complex of museums and monuments related to France’s military history. All the canons are ones that were captured by Napoleon

Narrow archway leading into the courtyard of the Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre: the oldest, largest and well-known museum in the world

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Pont Alexandre Bridge spans the Seine and the most ornate, extravagant bridge in the city.

Opera house that inspired the story "Phantom of the Opera"

Opera house that inspired the story “Phantom of the Opera”

Paris opera house, also know as Palais Garnier after its architect

Paris opera house, also know as Palais Garnier after its architect

L'eglise de la Madeleine. Currently a Roman Catholic church, which was a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army. It was a site of a synagogue that were seized from the Jews of Paris in 1182

L’eglise de la Madeleine. Currently a Roman Catholic church, which was a temple to the glory of Napoleon’s army. It was a site of a synagogue that was seized from the Jews of Paris in 1182

Luxor Obelisk, a gift from Egypt in 19th century. It is in the Place de la Concorde, the major public square in France

Luxor Obelisk, a gift from Egypt in 19th century. It is in the Place de la Concorde, the major public square in France

One of the two fountains in the Place de la Concord. This public square was where executions were held during the French Revolution.

One of the two fountains in the Place de la Concord. This public square was where executions were held during the French Revolution.

The shapes of some buildings seem to just fit the space, like this luxury hotel in the opera district

The shapes of some buildings seem to just fit the space, like this luxury hotel in the opera district

The iconic Eiffel Tower, this was the first place I needed to go once we saw all the sites of the city.

The iconic Eiffel Tower, this was the first place I needed to go once we saw all the sites of the city.

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July 16, 2014 Discovering Paris

I woke up in our hotel room and it was cold. Once I was awake Jesse said, “I think I turned the a/c down too much last night.”

“Good, because I thought I didn’t bring the right clothes for Paris,” I said. The chilled air was a nice change from the boiling Middle East. We took our time to get going, as vacation mode had finally set in. We walked to the corner café and had omelets and espresso, before we descended underground to the Metro station to explore the city. We found a machine with an English option and attempted to purchase a pass. The machine was not cooperative and kept rejecting the credit card, even though we had just used it successfully at the café. After several attempts we walked down tunnels to look for some help. After a few twists and turns we were funneled into an open area with turn stiles and the information booth we were looking for. We stood in line and when it was our turn we approached the window. The lady behind the glass was busy talking rapidly in French to her co-worker. She appeared agitated, obviously the man before us had made her life difficult.

Jesse asked, “Do you speak English?”

She shook her head and said, “No.” Jesse pointed to the metro pass advertised on the window and she seemed to understand and rang up two five day passes. Jesse had more trouble with the credit card machine. She told him to turn the card around. He turned it another way, and then another but it wouldn’t work. Finally the lady came out from behind the glass and swiped the card for him. She seemed more frustrated than she was when we approached the window. For some reason I found this amusing and couldn’t stop giggling, which in turn frustrated Jesse. After we got the tickets we made our way through the turn stiles and onto the train platform. I was still giggling.

“Will you just chill out?” Jesse said in his mildly irritated voice.

“Maybe,” I replied grinning.

We looked at the map to see which direction we needed to go. After a few moments we figured it out and boarded the train that had just arrived. We found seats and the train zoomed down the tracks, then screeched to a stop at the next station. After a number of more jostled starts and stops we arrived at the Saint Michel station. We got off the train and followed the crowds up the stairs and emerged into the sunlight and heat of the late morning.

We stood on the street as I marveled at the architecture of the surrounding buildings, the hustle bustle of the crowds on the streets, and the surrounding cafes and shops.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

“I’m trying to figure out where the Seine is so I can figure out where we are,” Jesse said as he alternated between looking around and at the map.

“The Seine is there, across the street, and Notre Dame is over there,” I said as I pointed out what seemed obvious. This was funny because I am the one who is easily turned around and Jesse is the one with the great sense of direction. Once we were both oriented to where we were Jesse finally agreed to take our first picture in Paris.

We're in Paris!

We’re in Paris!

We walked around a bit just looking at the Seine, Notre Dame and the surrounding area, as we maneuvered around the crowds.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

St Michel

St Michel

It’s amazing how many people come to Paris in the summertime. Eventually we found the stop for the Big Bus City tour.

Jesse buying tickets for the city bus tour

Jesse buying tickets for the city bus tour

The bus was so crowded that it took a number of stops before we were able to find seats and plug headphones into the recorder for the “official” tour.

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Once we were settled upstairs in the open air with a breeze and full views of the city, we just sat back and enjoyed the trip.

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After driving through the narrow archways passed the Louvre, down the tree lined streets of Champs-Elysees, and past the Arc de Triomphe, we returned to the Eiffel Tower where we disembarked.

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

Right at the entrance was an ice cream stand that seemed to be calling my name. I rarely eat ice cream but it was so hot and I was hungry so a large cone of soft-serve Pistachio was perfect. We ate ice cream while I stood in a massively long line and Jesse scooped out the surrounding area. We left the long line for the elevator, in favor of a shorter long line to climb up the stairs. So after just a 15 minute wait (verses at least a two hour wait), we had our tickets and began the ascent.

After over 300 steps we reached the first level. I was hot and sweaty and out of breath. Maybe this was overly ambitious after being sick just a day ago. We elected not to climb the additional 300 steps to the second level and just enjoyed the stunning view of Paris from 190 feet above the city. We were able to identify the sites since we had taken the city tour. The climb down was less strenuous but just as hot. Once we were on the ground level again, we found a stand that sold slushy drinks and made our way to the park next to the complex. Among the throngs of people we were able to find a bench in the shade and enjoyed our cool icy sweet drinks while my body temperature returned to equilibrium.

“Do you think those women are locals,” I asked nodding toward the four gray haired women on the bench across from the path from us.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Why?”

“Because they are feeding the pigeons,” he answered.

We both chuckled as we watched them get up and amble away. We then walked the two blocks to the train station where there were Metro employees who spoke English. Their job was to help us find the correct trains to get us to our destination. After the explanation Jesse wanted to go back and catch the bus, but I assured him I understood the directions, which was only partially true. We did figure out which trains to get on and arrived back in the Port d’Orleans neighborhood of our hotel. It felt like a great accomplishment. We finished the night with crepes for dinner at a side walk café.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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July 15, 2014 We Fly to Paris

I have had much resistance to creating blog posts out of sequence. I have been thinking about why the resistance is so persistent. It seems like since Matthew died I am living my life out of sequence. It feels like everything is out of order, so I find myself trying to create what little order I can. Life has its own pace and I need to adjust regardless of my preferences. I will return to my Israel posts later, as I still have things to say. Since we are now here in Paris I will jump into our Paris adventures.

Tel Aviv Paris

The last full day we were in Israel, I was sick. When I heard some strange noises in the middle of the night I didn’t sit up to look out the window so I know I wasn’t feeling well. In the morning when I woke up I had some kind of stomach bug. After some Imodium things settled a little, but the rest of the day all I could do was sleep and sip tea. Luckily by that evening I was able to eat some chicken soup, (aka Jewish Penicillin). Tuesday morning I felt much better but was quite weak, so luckily our flight wasn’t until the afternoon, which gave me plenty of time to slowly pack (with a little help from Jesse).

Our last breakfast on the balcony

Our last breakfast on the balcony

We will miss the view

We will miss the view

Eddy drove with us to the airport so that he could rent a car after we returned our rental car. We listened to the familiar radio station, we thought for nostalgic reasons, as there was supposed to be a ceasefire beginning that morning. We were not too surprised to hear three rocket warnings on the radio during the 35 minute trip to the airport, all were in the south. Once we returned the car and went into the airport we said good-bye to Eddy and checked our bags. We stopped to get a drink before we headed to security and the gates because we had a lot of time before the flight and I needed the rest and fluids. As we set down, there was Eddy. He decided to join us until we left for the gate, so we had another hour visit with him before we had to go. We said our real goodbyes this time and we wished him luck, hoping the ceasefire would take.

We made our way through security and to our gate where we began boarding. Once we were on the plane and took off Jesse and I both signed a deep breath of relief as Jesse said, “I think we are out of rocket range now.”

During the 4 ½ hour flight I did not feel the best but made it through and was able to eat a little bit. We arrived in Paris and were solicited by a car service and ended up having the driver take us to our hotel in Paris. It was more expensive than a taxi, but it was a nice sedan with air conditioning and Jazz music playing on the stereo. It took us an hour in rush hour traffic, so we figured the comfortable accommodations was worth the extra price.

We arrived to our hotel and made it up the stairs with our luggage and relaxed as we unpacked a few things. The room was small by American standards, but nicely decorated with a tiled bathroom, a desk and small refrigerator. A double window provides a quite environment from the active street below.

After we got settled, we walked to the corner past the metro station and across the street to an outdoor café. We ordered some cold sparkling water and dinner. We sat and watched all the activity on this corner. The trolley bus passed by every few minutes and floods of people merged into the street, while still hoards of others climbed on and disappeared down the track. A sea of people passed this corner from every direction, crossed the streets between honking cars and motorcycles darted between traffic. This is a noisy and congested intersection, but as I drank my water and felt the bubbles rush to my nose, I could feel my shoulders relax and my whole body released all the stress of the last few weeks. Jesse and I looked at each other and smiled. “Now I am sure we are out of rocket range,” he said.

“I am starting to feel like I am on vacation,” I said. We enjoyed a light dinner and returned to our comfortable room. I was exhausted from the flight and was just starting to regain my strength since being sick. I drifted quickly off to sleep while Jesse tried to figure out the internet connection in the hotel room.

 

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July 13, 2014 Counting the “Booms”

Friday night we had a lovely Shabbat dinner with friends, who spoke English. Funny how I enjoy the conversations so much more when I understand what is being said. The dinner was in North Tel Aviv, and during dinner two “Booms”, I only heard the loudest one. We never heard a siren, I guess the rockets were farther away than the booms seemed. We just kept on eating, talking and laughing.

Last night we had a lovely fish dinner on the marina in Hertzaliya then while we strolled through the mall to go back to our car, suddenly sirens alarmed and we all had to go below to the parking basements. I was just getting ready to buy the cutest dress for Laila, and everyone was talking in Hebrew (the way they do here) telling us to go below. I did find it unnerving to have had no idea what anyone was saying, but really no language was needed as everyone was headed down, so I just needed to follow the masses.

On the way home we counted the sirens and “Booms” we have encountered. No way to spend a vacation.

Today we had a nice relaxing pedicure, which was almost a necessity verses a luxury. Then back in the apartment this afternoon during my nap, we heard distant sirens and had to go into the bomb shelter room. Eddy amused us with email jokes that his friends sent him. The rockets were north of us, they usually are south.

A nice way to relax in the afternoons

A nice way to relax in the afternoons, watching the kites fly by

Usually in the afternoons I enjoy the people soaring over the cliffs in the kites. It’s been days since I’ve seen kites. They have been replaced by helicopters, which are not nearly as relaxing.

Not as relaxing to watch as the kites

Not as relaxing to watch as the kites

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July 1, 2014 Dmumit comes home

This post returns to the chronological order of our trip. Which seems like a long time ago.

Last night the news reported that the bodies of the three Jewish teens that were kidnapped earlier in June were found. When I heard the reports on the news, I remembered thinking I can’t imagine what those parents are going through. Unfortunately, once they found out their sons were dead I do know what they are going through, at least partially. There are differences in all our stories and I don’t know what it’s like to have my son kidnapped or murdered, but I do know the overwhelming gut wrenching pain to find out your son is dead. So after some tears, for these parents and for myself, I went with Eddy and Jesse to the hospital with a heavy heart to pick up Dmumit.

 

A quick recycling stop before we head to the hospital

A quick recycling stop before we head to the hospital

Like any hospital I imagine anywhere in the world, things don’t happen quickly. So we had a little waiting to do before all the paperwork was settled and Dmumit was discharged. Not surprising she was anxious to go home. Once she was finally released we walked out of the ward and across a court yard filled with patients in hospital gowns and hospital workers in scrubs smoking. We went to the pharmacy, which was in a little mini-mall with food court and shops. Again we waited to get Dmumit’s prescription filled. We were able to find a chair from the cosmetics booth so that she didn’t have to stand. Once her prescription was filled we walked to the food court for lunch. There was a Mc Donald’s which we ignored, then passed by a bakery on to the falafel stand. Dmumit went into the ice cream shop next door while Eddy and Jesse ordered falafel and I saved a table. Dmumit ate a small cup of mango ice cream, while we devoured pitas stuffed with falafel and all the trimmings.

I sat and watched all the people coming and going through this min-mall attached to the hospital. Some doctors, nurses and a variety of other hospital workers. There were patients in hospital gowns with their families and other visitors. Some Arabs, some Jews; I think all Israeli, all working together alongside each other. This is not the stereotypical scene of Israel that is portrayed by the media. Just normal people wanting the same things in life, to live, to work, take care of their families, the basics of everyday life.

After lunch and my musings, Jesse and I went to get the car so Dmumit didn’t have to walk too far. By the time we got home, Dmumit was weak but happy to be home. Eddy and Jesse headed out to the store for groceries. Dmumit wanted to go to “supervise” but we wouldn’t let her and she knew she really wasn’t up to it. Dmumit napped while they are out.

Later in the afternoon I lay in bed with Dmumit and watched the funeral for the three Jewish teens. It was quite the televised event, with the Prime Minster and President speaking. The whole country was mourning. My heart ached for these poor parents. So much public exposure at the most vulnerable time of their lives and to have their children’s death become part of a larger political scene is unimaginable. . I had flashbacks of Matthew’s funeral. I remembered how difficult it was for us on a much smaller scale to be seen in such raw pain. There was such a mixture of comfort and sadness from all the family and friends who were there to pay respects to Matthew and celebrate his life. I couldn’t watch too much of this funeral as it was too painful and brought back such personal painful memories.

After two trips to the store Eddy and Jesse returned with all the groceries we needed. We had a simple dinner of chicken soup on the balcony.

After dinner I looked at the crescent moon casting it’s reflection on the sea. I felt sad. This is not how I thought this vacation would be. I did not have expectations really. We wanted to see some sites but mostly it was about spending time with Jesse’s parents in their homeland. I am glad we were here to help them. I don’t feel like we have done much, except to be present and keep them company, which I know can be a lot. My sadness really isn’t about this vacation, it’s about my life. I really didn’t think it would be like this. I have gotten past a lot of the intense pain, but there is a sadness that I don’t think will ever lift. Like the dim but shimmering reflection of the moon on the dark sea, I hope I can find the light in the darkness that cloaks my soul.

Reflections on the moon

Reflections on the moon

 

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July 10, 2014 Rockets and Espresso

 

It appears I have gone from leisure travel blogger, to “on the ground” war correspondent. I have resisted posting blogs out of sequence, but with the events today this seems pressing.

Today has been an incredible day with so many new experiences, some of which I could have done without. We had not been able to go into the old city of Jerusalem because of the earlier rioting and were waiting for things to calm down. We decided to go today. Dmumit is still weak from the pneumonia and hospitalization, so she stayed home to rest. Eddy, Jesse and I planned to go to the Kotel (the Western Wall), entering from the Jewish Quarters of the Old City, and then visit the Israeli Museum.

As we began our travel we tuned into a radio station that interrupts its programming to announce when rockets are launched. So as we drove along Eddy told us the procedure for air raids while traveling. He said, “They intercept the rocket only if they are going into populated areas. They let them drop in open spaces, and they consider roads open spaces.” If we hear sirens we are supposed to pull over, get away from our car and find a lower spot, like a ditch. Then lie face down in the ditch with our hands over our heads and wait for 10 minutes to make sure to avoid any falling shrapnel. I wished he would have told us the procedure before we left, I would not have worn white pants.

No sooner than Eddy finished the instructions, the radio interrupted the song being played to announce a location in the Negev. “Should we be going to Jerusalem today?” Jesse asked.

“It’s fine,” Eddy said.

“The Negev is way to the South,” I said as I leaned to the edge of the backseat so that I could clearly hear the conversation and the radio.

Just minutes later as we traveled through Tel Aviv I heard the radio announcer say “Yafo-Tel Aviv”. Seconds later we heard the air raid sirens blaring overhead. I could see people on the overpass bridge running from their cars. We pulled to the side of the road under the bridge with the rest of the cars and trucks on the highway. The bridge acted as our bomb shelter so we didn’t have to find a ditch to lie in face down. The sirens echoed above us.

We find shelter during the air raid

We find shelter during the air raid

The bridge that acts as our bomb shelter

The bridge that acts as our bomb shelter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My stomach tightened as thoughts raced through my mind.

I’m sorry Matthew, but I’m not ready to join you yet. I didn’t think Matthew was ready, yet he died. I don’t want to die today.’

This is somewhat of a revelation to me. As a parent who has lost a child, there was a long time that I really didn’t care if I lived or died. Did I declare my will to live now, because I wasn’t previously faced with the real possibility of death? Or have I mourned to the point that I can now see myself living beyond the grief?

As soon as the sirens stopped the huge truck next to us started encroaching upon the compact car in front of him and people started honking. We were to the far right and stayed put until we saw the police car a few lanes over emerge from under the bridge. We merged into the traffic and moments later the highway is moving normally.

This truck is ready to get moving as soon as the sirens stop

This truck is ready to get moving as soon as the sirens stop

Traffic begins to move again

Traffic begins to move again

 

 

 

 

“Do you still think we should be going to Jerusalem?” Jesse asked.

Seeing the exit sign to Holon up ahead, I said, “It’s up to you. We can go to the Design Museum, or we can go home.”

Eddy said, “No! We’re going to Jerusalem.”

I felt anxious and my stomach was in knots, but I wanted to go to Jerusalem. I should want to run for safety but nobody really knows where is safe. I think safety, to some extent, is an illusion we buy into so that we don’t have to face our mortality. I used to think we were safe. That as long I made the right decisions nothing bad would happen, at least nothing bad enough that couldn’t be repaired. Even when Matthew got sick I thought somehow it would all be ok. We had good health insurance, we saw the specialists, but Matthew died anyway and any illusion of safety shattered. Now I am aware that anything can happen at a moment’s notice no matter what I do, so better to live it up now while I have a chance. So we continued south.

We hit the usual traffic as the road climbed up to Jerusalem. We approached the Old City and I saw the Tower of David and its surrounding wall. The knot in my stomach turned to excitement. There is something special about this place.

The Old City

The Tower of David

The Old CIty

The Old City

Driving is difficult in Jerusalem. The buses crowd the streets and block the view of the small street signs that are positioned so that they are only seen once they are passed. The street to the Jewish Quarters disappeared behind us so we made a U-turn so that we were headed in the right direction.

Eddy said, “Turn here.” Jesse made the turn at the last minute and the road started descending. “I think I made a mistake.”

Jesse asked, “Should I turn around?”

“No, keep going. We will go a different way.”

The road kept descending until we were on the narrow streets of an Arab village. The panic in my stomach returned.

“Dad,” Jesse said, “We didn’t want to come this way.” I detected anxiety in his voice.

“Don’t worry, we are going by the City of David,” Eddy said. “Sometimes you just have to relax and listen to someone who knows where they’re going.”

At the corner a few moments later, Jesse said, “Which way?”

Eddy replied, “I don’t know.”

This was funny later.

We turned left and the Western Wall and the Old City was right in front of us. Eddy had us park on the curb behind a tour bus. “Are you sure we can park here?” Jesse asked.

“Sure, this is good parking,” Eddy said.

It was very good parking. We walked right up to the entrance of the Kotel. Eddy waited for us as we parted ways to the gender segregated areas of the Wall. I wrote a few prayers on some paper printed with Matthew’s name. I approached the wall and found a crack for each of my prayers. I placed my hands and forehead on the ancient stones. I felt the heat and energy radiate between me and this inanimate object that felt alive. I cried. Eventually I slowly backed away from the wall and returned to where Jesse and Eddy were waiting.

The Dome of the Rock & The Kotel

The Dome of the Rock & The Kotel

We made it to the Western Wall

We made it to the Western Wall

We returned to our car to find it sandwiched between two large tour buses. As we drove away Eddy said, “I guess we weren’t supposed to park there because you got a ticket.” It was a great parking space; and an expensive one.

We drove up to a park to eat our lunch that Dmumit packed for us. We sat under a tree in the shade that overlooked the whole city.

Eddy & Michelle with Jerusalem in the background

Eddy & Michelle with Jerusalem in the background

High above the city of Jerusalem

High above the city of Jerusalem

After a nice relaxing break we drove to the Israeli Museum. A burst of cool air welcomed us to the large museum, with so many exhibits to explore. I spent most of the time in the archaeology section, but did get to see a little of the modern and contemporary art before the museum closed.

After leaving the comfort of the air conditioned museum we stopped for coffee at En Kerem before we headed home. We sat on the corner at an outdoor café and ordered espresso and focaccia bread. Suddenly the air raid sirens screeched their warnings and the waitress ushered us inside the restaurant into a stairwell. I was leaning against the wall and I felt it shake as I heard a loud “BOOM” overhead. The sirens stopped and the wait staff was outside looking up in the sky. We followed them and saw the jet trails where the rocket was intercepted right above the restaurant.

Jet trails of intercepted rocket

Jet trails of intercepted rocket

I am grateful for Israel’s advanced rocket defense systems. We returned to our table. Our focaccia bread tasted good, but I think it was cooked slightly longer than usual due to the disruption of the sirens. We finished our coffee and bread right as Dmumit called to tell us to come straight home, because she heard reports of five rockets fired over Jerusalem. We didn’t tell her of our experiences until we got home.

An hour or so later I was happy to back in Natanya, where there was less rocket activity and a proper bomb shelter inside the apartment. We filled Dmumit in on our adventurous day, and some of the stories were funnier than when they were happening. We enjoyed a light dinner on the balcony, caught up on the news, and then retired to bed. The sheets clung to my sweaty body as the fan blew hot air around me and every noise sounded like sirens. It was difficult to fall asleep, until exhaustion took over.

 

 

 

 

 

Aside

June 30, 2014 Yaffo and Dinner at the Gas Station

Dmumit calls Eddy from the hospital this morning. She doesn’t want us to come visit her, because this is no way for us to spend our vacation. She says she can get her friend to take her home if she is discharged today. Of course, we ignore her and come to the hospital during visiting hours. Dmumit is in a four bed ward in the “lung” department. I am told that this is the typical set up for an Israeli hospital. It’s all about community, right? She has made friends with the older lady in the next bed who has been giving Dmumit advice on how to maneuver to get her needs met on the hospital ward. Her roommate gives her a pear and tells her she needs to eat. Dmumit offers it to us, but we decline and she does eat half of it. Her lunch arrives and she eats about a quarter of the tray. This is the most I’ve seen her eat in days. I think this is a good sign. She looks a little better after some fluids and antibiotics. They want to keep her in the hospital another night. She insists that Eddy take us somewhere fun.

We make plans to go to a museum south of Tel Aviv and stop by to visit again on the way home. A short time later we find parking right in front of the Design Museum in Holon. We walk up to this uniquely shaped building with its flowing design, only to find that it is closed because they are setting up a new exhibit. It seems whatever we plan so far on this trip gets rearranged by circumstances beyond our control. This seems to be a reoccurring theme. I know all too well that things don’t turn out how I want. So I try to figure out how to make what happens at least tolerable. We walk next door to a nice air conditioned restaurant and relax with some cool drinks. It’s a nice atmosphere, especially compared to our more recent misadventures.

Design Museum in Holon

Design Museum in Holon

After this comfortable pause we head along the coast to Yaffo, the ancient port city next to Tel Aviv. We park the car and walk along the seawall where we feel the mist of the crashing waves.

Sea Wall at Yaffo Port

Sea Wall at Yaffo Port

We pass a gutted warehouse that will soon be turned into an array of shops and restaurants like the one next to it that we meander through as we view the harbor. The Old Yaffo Port is said to be one of the oldest port in the world. This is the port Jonah set off from in the Biblical story. Since more modern shipping ports have been built south in Ashdod and north in Haifa, Yaffo is now a marina. Eddy’s father arrived from the Ukraine to this port early in the 20th century.

Old Yaffo Port

Old Yaffo Port

 

 

A lot of Yaffo has been renovated and there is a mix of ancient and modern like so much of the rest of Israel.

Old Meets New

These bikes are rented via credit card and you can return them in different parts of the city. This modern technology sits below an old non-operational lighthouse.

Old lighthouse meets new technology

Old lighthouse meets new technology

After a leisurely stroll along the waterfront at Yaffo, we head back to the hospital . To say that Jesse is a natural Israeli driver can’t be understated. A lot of the streets in Yaffo and Tel Aviv are narrow with many parked cars, pedestrians that walk wherever without looking and of course the other Israeli drivers who dart in and out of lanes with no warning and honk for any reason. We get stuck in traffic but Jesse patiently and methodically takes an aggressive but cautions stance to maneuver through the traffic.

We return to for a brief visit with Dmumit, where she is surrounded by friends. An orderly comes to take her for an x-ray while we wait chatting. When she returns Eddy says we have to leave because we have to be home in time for the World Cup US game. Dmumit starts to give him a hard time, but he reminds her that he brought her to the hospital during a game, so he does have priorities.

“You did?” she asks. “I don’t remember.” A testament of how sick she was. We kiss Dmumit goodnight and leave in time to get a quick dinner before the game.

Eddy says, “We will stop at the gas station and eat at the Arab restaurant.” So right off the freeway we park in the back of the restaurant which is sandwiched between the gas station and car wash. It is a full service sit down restaurant with air conditioning and attentive waiters. We order drinks, Arab salad and kebobs. They begin bringing out the salads. There are about a dozen plates, with a variety of eggplants, hummus, tahini, tomato cucumber, green and cabbage salads. We start to serve ourselves when they bring pita, hot out of the oven. These are larger than a Frisbee and too hot to handle. A little tear here, then shaking and blowing on my fingers, a little tear there, before finally grabbing a napkin to shield my fingers tips from the freshly baked bread. As we eat our salads they bring more food, lentils with rice and French fries, and then the kebobs. The chicken is tender and juicy, flavored with just the right spices. The waiter has been quick and attentive as he knows we are in a hurry to get home to watch the game. He speaks English when he realizes I don’t speak Hebrew.

“Where are you from,” he asks.

“San Diego.”

“Ah California, San Diego- big zoo!” he replies. “I was in California and drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco on highway one. Beautiful!”

We enjoy the feast and Eddy asks for the check.

The waiter says, “No. Coffee.” He brings out Arabic coffee and dessert, baklava and custard covered in a fruit topping. So we savor the sweets and our delicious coffee. When we are finished we get the check. As we are leaving the waiter waves and says, “Go USA!”

Arab Restaurant at Gas Station

Arab Restaurant at Gas Station

This was not the dining experience I expected when Eddy said we would eat at the gas station.

We make it home in time for the beginning of the game. We find that tonight’s game is France and Nigeria, the US plays tomorrow. This matters little to Eddy, as he is home in time for his passion, Soccer, or I should say football.

 

 

Aside

June 29, 2014 Hospital

Today Eddy and Jesse take Dmumit to see the doctor because she is still not feeling well. I stay home and watch most of a pretty good movie and all of a really bad one, but just relaxing. When they return home Dmumit goes to bed. Jesse pulls me aside and says, “Can you keep a close eye on her? She is really sick. It took both of us to get her in and out of the car.”

“I think she might be a bit dehydrated. I have not seen her eat or drink much the past few days. I will put her on the ‘Matthew protocol’.” Jesse agrees. I dilute some mango juice and make her drink at least every ten minutes, even if I have to wake her up. She is slightly disoriented, but smiles and swallows a little bit each time I come in with the juice.

The soccer game is on and between sips I am watching Mexico play the Netherlands. Right before half time the phone rings. It’s the doctor. He read her x-ray and wants her to go to the hospital. He says she has pneumonia. To say that the word “pneumonia” is a trigger for me is an understatement. I jump up and I am hyper alert. It is slow going getting Dmumit ready for the hospital as her disorientation impedes progress. After about ten minutes, which seem like an hour to me, we are headed out the door when the phone rings. It’s Jesse’s brother Jon, and while Eddy is talking to him I am on the verge of panic.

“Hi Jon, we have to go to the hospital. Let’s go!” I scream silently to myself. I take a deep breath and try to get a grip. Eddy is calm but to me it seems like he is in slow motion. He explains to Jon we are headed to the hospital and hangs up.

Panic

We finally get in the car and head out. Dmumit is resting in the back seat and periodically says, “We’re going to the hospital.”

I am having serious flash backs, remembering when Matthew had the swine flu a year or so before he really got sick. He had a fever and was disoriented. We were driving him to the peds office and every few minutes he would ask, “Where are we going?” We would reply, “To the doctor.” Then he would ask, “Are we going to the doctor?” So the conversation went back and forth like this for the fifteen minutes it took to get him to the doctor. I am tripping back and forth through different memories while just trying to contain myself.

I silently reassure myself. “Dmumit is going to be ok. We’re on our way to the hospital where they will give her IV fluids and start antibiotics. She will be ok.” I would have never guessed that Dmumit had pneumonia. Yes, she was sick and seemed dehydrated, but pneumonia? I can’t help but think of Matthew. What would have happened if someone could have gotten him to the hospital? Would he have survived? Maybe, maybe not, his immune system was so compromised by the steroids. Oh how I wish we could have saved him! I can’t control the tears as I look out the window.

ER and hospital

After what seems like an eternity we arrive at the hospital where we drop Eddy and Dmumit at the emergency room. Jesse and I go park the car. We get out of the car and I have to stop to take some deep breaths. Jesse realizes I have stopped and he turns around. “Are you ok?”

I wipe my eyes, “I have been freaking out, but I think I will be ok.” I take a few more deep breaths. I am calm by the time we walk through the metal detectors at security and make our way into the ER.

Eddy is at the admissions counter and Dmumit is sitting in one of the hard plastic chairs. We take a seat on either side of her and I hold her hand. Finally Eddy gets her papers and we walk the short distance to the waiting area where the orderlies and ambulance drivers have just dispersed from watching the end of the soccer game. Netherlands beat Mexico so the results are spoiled for Eddy, but he will catch the details on the DVR later tonight.

After a short wait they call Dmumit back to the triage area and Eddy joins her. Once Dmumit is in triage I feel better. I think because I know she is being taken care of and I don’t feel so helpless. Jesse and I keep the lime green chairs warm as we watch the ER empty and fill a number of times over the next few hours. I close my eyes periodically  and I can clearly see the numerous times I sat with Matthew in ERs and other hospital settings. I am not panicked now, just calm as the memories roll past. I guess all the work I have been doing with EMDR to process the PTSD I experienced as a result of Matthew’s death and illness is finally paying off. I think a few months ago I would fully decompensate, but at this point my main difficulty is trying to find a comfortable position in these hard plastic chairs.calm in chair

After a few hours they are ready to admit Dmumit and she wants us to go home. She is sick and disoriented but she is still concerned about us. We leave Dmumit in good hands and return home. I am exhausted, not from activity but emotion. I go to bed while Eddy makes phone calls to update the other family members then he and Jesse catch up on the details of tonight’s earlier soccer game.

 

Aside

June 28, 2014 Our Misadventure

Today is Shabbat. Dmumit is still sick but she is having a little cabin fever from lying around for days and is concerned that we are not having fun. So we agree to take a drive to Nazareth to the north. For Christians it might be a religious trek, but for us it will be a scenic drive and shopping trip. According to Dmumit Nazareth has the best olive oil and nuts. There is also a good Arab restaurant where we will have lunch. So we pile into our rental car, a brand new 2014 Hyundai I110. Despite the newness, before we’ve gone too far Jesse says, “I think there is something wrong with the car.”

Being a true backseat driver I tell Jesse, “Oh, it’s just the gravel on the road.”

He calmly replies, “I don’t think so,” as he pulls the car to the side of the road. He and Eddy get out and lift the hood where they can see a belt just hanging.

Jesse inspects the problem

Jesse inspects the problem

We roll down the windows as Jesse calls the car rental emergency phone number. Jesse tells them we need a tow truck, but there is a protocol so they will send a technician out to look at the car. Shortly it is too hot in the car so we get out and sit in the shade of a nearby bus stop. A couple of people stop and ask if they can help, but we decline telling them that the tow truck is on its way.

Finding some shade at a nearby bus stop

Finding some shade at a nearby bus stop

In about 30 minutes the technician shows up and looks at the car. Yep, we need a tow truck. He has the rental company call for one. His wife is in the back seat of his car with a baby. The technician opens the back door and grabs a liter of lemonade.

Jesse hears his wife say, “What are you doing?”

The technician says, “They need this.” He closes the backdoor of his car and gives the lemonade to Jesse.

Jesse diagnosis' the problem "We need a tow truck"

Jesse diagnosis’ the problem “We need a tow truck”

The technician diagnosis' the problem "You need a tow truck"

The technician diagnosis’ the problem “You need a tow truck”

"At least we have lemonade"

“At least we have lemonade”

We are watching this exchange from the bus stop just a few yards away. Dmumit says, “If he is giving us something to drink that means we are going to wait a long time.”

The technician leaves and we all sit at the bus stop eating fruit that Dmumit packed for our trip and drinking lemonade. A short time later a man stops to offer help, “Do you speak English, Russian, Yiddish?” he asks. Again we decline help because the tow truck is on its way.

Another hour passes and Jesse calls the rental company again. Yes, the tow truck is on its way. It is picking up a new car for us. They will have the driver call us when he is on his way. Another hour passes and it’s hot. We drank most of the lemonade the technician took from his wife along with water we brought. Another call to the rental company is made. The tow truck is at the airport in Tel Aviv to pick up the new car. He will be on his way as soon as he loads up the car. Since it is Shabbat the only rental car branch open is at the airport. Realistically it will be another two hours before the tow truck really arrives.

After two hours our shelter is quite hot

After two hours our shelter is quite hot

We need an alternate plan

We need an alternate plan

Dmumit has returned to the car to lie down and it’s time to brainstorm other idea besides waiting another two hours in this heat. We are at a bus stop but the buses don’t run on Shabbat. I did see a few taxis drive by earlier so we try to find a taxi thinking that we can drive to a restaurant, have lunch and some cool drinks while we wait for the tow truck driver.

Eddy is on his phone trying to find listings for local taxis, but his phone thinks he is in Istanbul, (that taxi will probably take longer than the tow truck). While Eddy’s phone tries to “find” him, another car pulls over to offer help. We explain the situation with the tow truck and ask if he knows of somewhere nearby we could get lunch and wait. He looks at the car and tells us everything nearby is closed because of Shabbat. He is sorry he can’t help us, but he does give us another liter of water.

Another truck pulls up as the other car is leaving. There are two men who are from a nearby Kibbutz. They make room for us in the truck and in just a few minutes we are at a falafel stand on Kibbutz Givat Chayim ordering lunch and cook drinks.

 

Eating falafel with Bob Marley

Eating falafel with Bob Marley

 

 

We tell our tale of being stranded as we order lunch. I look around our new refuge and on the wall is a painting of Bob Marley eating a falafel. On the opposite wall is a Pink Floyd poster that is the same as the one that still hangs in Matthew’s bedroom. Our falafel arrives and as we eat a song from Pink Floyds Dark Side of the Moon, plays overhead. I can’t help but feel that Matthew is here with us at lunch.

After Jesse enjoys his falafel he calls the rental company again. They tell us the tow truck is on its way and should be there in 20 minutes. Jesse decides he will walk back to the car to wait for the tow truck driver. He borrows Eddy’s hat and we pass him a liter of water for his walk. Ram, who owns the falafel stand, offers to give him a ride. So much kindness from strangers but it seems in Israel there are no strangers, everyone is just a new friend.

Jesse's new friend Ram

Jesse’s new friend Ram

While we wait we learn the story of the falafel stand. Ram and his sister are two of five children who all grew up on this kibbutz. Their father used to work in a factory and got laid off. People told him to follow his heart as he had difficulty finding work. So he opened this falafel stand on the kibbutz. This used to be a chicken coop. Their father died last year and he gave the business to Ram who is the youngest of the siblings. There are pictures of their dad on the wall along with a newspaper article about his story.

 

 

Our gracious hostess

Our gracious hostess

Jesse finally returns an hour later with a new rental car. YEAH! We crank up the air conditioning and head back home after thanking the falafel stand owners for their hospitality. We pass the tow truck loading the other car.

We say farewell to our falafel refuge

We say farewell to our falafel refuge

A short time later we are back home. Eddy turns the air conditioner on and once it is cool I fall asleep for an afternoon nap. I guess this is chance to shake off the last of the jet lag along with the heat and fatigue of the day. I’m awake five hours later in time for the 2nd of the world cup games. As the game starts the TV announces their sponsors, their first is Hyundai. “I’m not a big fan of Hyundai today,” Jesse says. The next sponsor is Orange 4G, Jesse was not a big fan of them the day before. Jesse tells his father,”We may not have had Brazil, but we have had a few adventures!”

We all chuckle.