It's been a few days since my first post. Thankfully, I seem to be over jet-lag and the temporary stomach distress I originally attributed to travel...(but was that actually caused by USING that cute teeny tiny toothpaste supplied by Turkish Air? I remembered much later that while brushing my teeth on the plane, I had noticed that there was a teeny tiny sign about not drinking the water. OK, I didn't DRINK it, but I did rinse out my mouth. Just a teeny bit. Is that TMI? sorry. All better now :-)
Getting to Tivon from Ben Gurion Airport proved easy, even after no sleep and too many hours in the air & airports. Aviva (Sela) had given me instructions about which train to catch from the airport, and on the train platform I met Tzvi and Sharon, strangers who were returning from South America, with back packs. They were curious about my travel plans and set me in the right direction for the next leg of the journey, a shared cab to Tivon near a Tel Aviv train stop. I had run past the money changing window at the airport b/c there was a line and I had heard the train was leaving in 10 minutes. I told them I thought I was a few shekels short of cab fare- but before I could ask if the driver would accept a couple of dollars with the fare, they handed me 15 shekels (about $3.50) and refused to take anything in return. Also offered to let me make a call to Aviva on their phone. wow! a great welcome to Israel.
Another welcome awaited in Tivon, after a sleepy, mostly uneventful hour and a quarter in the shared cab (a minivan that follows the same route as the bus, will make custom stops, and costs LESS than the bus- go figure!). My dear friend Aviva was waiting at the stop, and we walked over to a new restaurant close by- a health food café with some whacky vegetable, herb and seed concoctions to drink and great looking salads. I'll try them next time we go, and take a menu back so I can give you an idea of some of the combinations- that day all I wanted was some ginger tea. Real chunks of ginger in the tea!
Kiryat Tivon is a pleasant, hilly town with small streets lined with homes, radiating from a little town center circle and plaza, with the bus stop, café, falafel stand, bank, grocery store, post office, gas station, home-made chocolate shop and more, right there. It takes about 5 minutes to walk from the town center to Aviva's house, and about 12 minutes to walk from her house to the community swimming pool. The houses in this part of town are all built as duplexes- 2 separately designed private homes stuck together with a shared wall, surrounded by narrow gardens, often in the form of outdoor potted plants. Makes for some interesting neighborly confrontations...!
It's hot and hazy this time of year, but there is often a breeze, especially in the evenings. Outside Aviva's front window is a heavily laden pomegranate tree, an orange tree, a palm tree and others I don't recognize, including one tree that has a vine with huge purple flowers- like morning glories- growing on it. Lots of houses have vibrant red, orange or yellow bougainvillea spilling over the garden walls! I was surprised- I thought that was something you'd find in the Caribbean, not here.
This is getting long...I don't know how interesting to read this kind of description is, but it's my attempt to set the scene for you. Being here feels familiar (I spent a month here in 2010, but even then I felt easily at home) and it's also exotic in ways that I'll try to describe as I go on.
Today was Yom Kippur. Before the holiday started yesterday, we had gone to visit Rena, a retired drama teacher and self-styled artist. Her home is full of amazing items she had found on the streets and refurbished, beautified and repurposed, but the effect is comfortable and uncluttered. We went for a pre-holiday meal to a restaurant at the town center- a popular Arab restaurant that has been there for years. To start the meal, the waiter brought out ten (10!) little dishes of a variety of salads and pickles. All great- the smoked eggplant was my fave. Rena and I had excellent grilled fish, and we all drank pomegranate juice…decided this was a fitting meal to celebrate the new year (fish and pomegranates referring to luck in the new year).
Rena and the owners of the restaurant like to banter ...one asked if she was going to fast (for Yom Kippur), and she said with a laugh that no, she was such a great woman so she didn’t need to fast. No sins. He shook his head and said that he wasn’t a religious Muslim. He doesn’t go to the mosque often, he even sometimes drinks alcohol, but when it’s Ramadan, he always fasts with his family, and joins in the iftar feasts (translated for me by Aviva).
Later, when it was time for the evening service to start the holiday, Aviva and I walked from her house in the other direction, down the hill towards the small tunnel underpass below the main road, a walk lined with overgrown bushes of rosemary and sage, and past the traffic circle, partway down another hill to the pair of small stone synagogues- Ashkenazi and Sephardic- sitting next to each other. We climbed up the outside stone staircase to the second floor women’s balcony of the Ashkenazi shul. As in Orthodox synagogues everywhere, women prayed, visited, moved in and out according to needs of their children or their tolerance for the heat. The landing at the top of the stairs was a popular gathering spot, to catch the breeze that was picking up.
After the service, we took a long circular walk through the dark neighborhood. No cars at all were on the roads- instead, the streets were filled with happy bands of kids on bikes, and parents with strollers. When we arrived back at the little traffic circle, it was a circus of small wheeled vehicles of all kinds- toddlers on tricycles included. One determined little two-year old propelled her push bike with her feet.
We went back for afternoon services today, and heard the shofar blown in each of the synagogues…but at the conclusion of the services, and the end of Yom Kippur, no bikes in sight…the car traffic had begun. I missed the bikes! When we again took a walk, we stayed on the sidewalks.
Now it’s almost midnight, and it’s still sticky outside. My first shower since the holiday began is going to feel really nice right now- I’m not even planning to turn on the switch to make hot water!
All for now~