First let me state that we were supposed to go to Israel for Moshe Aharon's Bar-Mitzvah on 1/30/06. I was having problems deciding to go altogether due my serious take on the matter (kedusha, returning, etc).
As fate would have it we were offered by someone in my kollel $398/ticket on El-Al non-stop from 12/4/05 till 12/14/05. We couldn’t resist so we ordered tickets while at the kollel . As I was feeding the personal info to the agent the guy who told me about this deal was in a loud voice telling the agent my credit card information.
Then came the suspense of whether we are getting on a flight. This was also interesting. I was still not sure that we were getting on a flight. It was still on a waiting list. The agent Vicky called me and I wasn’t home. I still was at the kollel. I didn’t know what she wanted. I got home and called my credit card company, CitiBank, to cancel my card and get a new one. (The whole kollel had heard my number!) As I was doing this CitiBank told me that I was already charged for the tickets and they issued me a new card number. In the meantime we are calling each other back and forth. Finally she tells me that we are booked and tries to fax me the itinerary. The faxing system doesn’t work! Finally we get the confirmation by her personal email and afterwards in the regular mail.
Back to the account: I figured that I was in Israel exactly 1 year ago and gave Moishie the tefillin and showed him how to don them - him being so mature - as far as I was concerned he was barmitzva'd and going to the ceremony was a moot point for me. Also I wasn't really motivated to go but this cheap airfare did it and at least I would have seen Shmulie's family, Bat Sheva and Shloimie's upshearing.
DAY 1 - SUNDAY 12/4/05
Anyhow, on Sunday we took a van service to the airport. It was a snowy cold afternoon and we heard that the weather in Israel was perfect (boy was it perfect, the most gorgeous weather one can ask for). We check in, yes had to take our shoes off. Board the plane and we take off 20 minutes late due to the snow (1:30pm).
We get good seats (2 empties next to us) and spread out comfortably. The flight took 9 hours and 37 minutes. We davened Shachris and had 2 meals.
DAY 2 - MONDAY 12/5/05
We landed 7:05am Monday morning. The weather was cloudy but mild.
I got very emotional religiously, that is I couldn't continue once we got to the taxi stand. I couldn't even describe it to Chaya and she got very frustrated. Even the airport security got nervous because we were supposed to move on out of the airport. I felt petrified/paralyzed/overwhelmed and couldn't budge. I told Chaya to get a taxi to her brother's apartment in Telaviv/Ramatgan but she was unable to. Finally someone came over to us, a passenger wanting to share a taxi to Jerusalem, which seemed to jog Chaya into action and we finally proceeded.
We get a small taxi, the porter and taxi driver load the luggage on top and we head to Chaim’s place. My knee was already giving me problems and almost had to get out and walk. The cramped taxi wouldn’t let my leg straighten out. The cab driver suggested that I sit in the front and that helped a little.
Finally we get to our destination and Chaim comes down (4 flights walkup) and helps us carry up the valises.
I conked out and fael asleep for a few hours, you know, jet lag and all.
I awoke and chapped my matziv - Israel, Judaism, Holiness, etc (I really get carried away with these concepts) and was very uneasy. I was beside myself, listless, asking myself what now? I was in bewilderment!
DAY 3 - TUESDAY 12/6/05
On Tuesday morning I called Leora and she suggested that I come and stay with them for a while. It was supposed to be just for Shabbos but she said to stay for more than that.
I was feeling uncomfortable with Chaya and Chaim so I got the energy to get up and go.
I called my tenant, Helen Zer Macabee, at Elad and told her I would be coming over on the way to Betar to look at a broken Atom window. That’s a room widow that is used for emergencies in case of an attack. The room is sealed. This window, said Helen, cost $500 to replace. More than the trip to Israel! She said OK but she has to leave at 12:45pm. All this took place at around 10:00am. So I said maybe I will come over tomorrow but not to be surprised if I still may come today. I somehow got a spurt of adrenalin and left with a manic energy to try to make it yet on Tuesday. This was one of my prime reasons that I went to Israel for.
I took the bus to Bnei Berak and transferred to the Elad bus and got there 12:15pm. I had some coffee and cookies she offered me, looked at the window, was able to close it, and told her it didn’t pay for me to fix it and she should try to close it the way I showed her. But if she really wanted she should go ahead and have it replaced.
I left her at 12:50pm and took the Jerusalem bus to the Betar bus. At the station I meet Rabbi Scharf, a yedid, and realize that he is my link to Betar as I could not find anyone at the tachanah to point out the right bus. He did and arrived at Shmulie’s place at 4:00pm.
I figured my main objective was accomplished and my mind was prepared to head back to the States. It was 9:00 am there, too early for calling my travel agent, Traveler’s Choice, for a possible return ticket change. I waited an hour and called Vicky. She tried to get me a 1 way special back but to no avail. She gives me a number in Israel of an agent, a friend of her’s, also to no avail – too expensive, $600.00. I figure I’ll stick it out.
The kids were just coming home from school. They were very sweet. I felt a little better about staying. Shmuliie comes home also just then and I quickly forget my quest for returning back.
Anyway, I eat something and spend some time with the family. I start to be concerned that Chaya is alone with Chaim and I am alone with the family and maybe I split too abruptly. So little Naftali Tzvi starts asking for presents. He sems to love present. He says, “if you love me you will buy me presents”. So I tell him Bubby Chaya brought you presents. He says, “I want to talk to her”. I dial Chaya and he they speak. I’m on the extension listening to how Chaya sounds. She sounds OK. I’m relieved and all seems to be well. Leora talks with Chaya about me possibly going back to Chaim and coming again for Shabbos but talks her out of it and that Chaya will stay with Chaim for Shabbos and she will come Motze Shabbos and stay for the upshearing Sunday morning at which time I will return with her to Chaim’s and leave back to America on Wednesday morning at 1:00am. (Which is really Tuesday evening since by the time we pre - check the luggage at El Al in Ramat Gan at 4:00pm and take the Rakevet (train to the airport) we would have to leave Ramat Gan at 10:00pm. As it turned out I left at 7:30pm as I became uneasy again at Chaim’s place. However, it was nice getting to the airport early and roam and browse.
I retire for the night.
DAY 4 - WEDNESDAY 12/7/05
The next morning Wednesday I’m looking forward to integrate into the community and am up at 5:00am. I meet some more people that know me from previous trips. It’s feeling better and better. Now I realize I will have a hard time leaving Israel! After Shacharis I go to the Beis Moshe kollel. I bump into Mordechai Jacobs, a person who I accidentally met in Boro Park a few years earlier and got to know better last year in Betar. Last year I was in Betar for a whole month and was attending a morning kevius shiur at the Stern Shule just up the block from where the children were learning at Maseh Chiya. This was a group of American/Canadians my age and retired. It was just perfect. It even had me thinking to move to Betar.
DAY 5 - THURSDAY 12/8/05
Jacobs invites me back to the shiur. On Thursday I missed a ride that Jacobs gives Robinson every morning. I take a bus up to the shule (wrong bus I might add – bus to Bnei Berak 9 shkel instead of the local one at 2 sheks). The guys and the Magid Shiur Krieger are glad to see me and welcome me back. We finish the shiur, daven Mincha and the chevra ask me to come back. I didn’t go back.
Robinson invites me to a shiur in his house that evening at 8:00. I had in mind not to go but when it came the time I felt an urge to attend. I did. It was on Tanya. It was nice but I felt I was beyond it so I didn’t take it seriously enough to continue.
I return to the Beis Mosheh kollel, finish off the day and return home. Leora wants to spend Shabbos at a friends house with the whole family. I know that I couldn’t hack it so I tell that I will stay home and for her not to worry about me, I will be very comfortable home. They don’t like this idea so they decide to make Shabbos home.
DAY 6 - FRIDAY 12/9/05
On Friday morning I again take in an early Shacharis and kollel Beis Moshe for a half day rather than Stern’s Shule. Leora asks that I take Naftali and Shlomo to the park. They take alongtheir sand toys and I show them how to make a sand castle and a mountain with trees on it. We have a great time, thoroughly enjoying it. We get home at around 3 pm and everyone gets ready for Shabbos.
We all go to Beis Moishe shule for Kabolas Shabbos and Maariv. Shmulie introduces me to the new Rabbi Ackerman. Everyone is greeting me and very friendly. We proceed home for eating.
DAY 7 - SHABBOS 12/10/05
The next morning Shabbos I take in an early Mikvah due to Shabbos being earlier than in the States I wasn’t timed for taking a shower so I made up for it with the free mikvah early 5:00am I head back home and am so exhausted that I miss the minyonim. Luckily after mikvah I did a short havineinu vesikin davening.
Everyone comes home from shule. The kids went to a bar-mitzva (Rabbi Ackerman’s son was bar-mitzva’d that morning) so we wouldn’t have davened together anyway. We eat go back to sleep, over sleep minchah, maariv and havdoleh (Shmulie comes to my room to make havdoleh, I was so knocked out, all that running).
On Motze Shabbos Chaya arrives. The kids are really excited to get their presents! Meir, Levi Yitzchok and Yehude Zev put on a skit for Chaya and me. It was so entertaining. We retire for the night.
DAY 8 - SUNDAY 12/11/05
Sunday morning is the upshearing. We all trek up the hill to the cheder. When we get there the class is in progress. The Rebbi and Menahl invites me and Smulie at the head of the class and proceeds with the ceremony - honey, alef bais, pekelech, singing, dancing, photography, etc. We eat some cake. The Menahl wants Shlomo to suck some honey off his finger and Shlomo refuses so I do it in order to prod him, to no avail. Shlomo’s hair wasn’t cut until way later. We head back down. Shlomo also comes back. The Rebi says it’s better like this. It’s too overwhelming and something about the kedusha that should not be interrupted for Slomo.
Chaya and me leave for the Kosel. We take the bus to Jerusalem thinking to get off at the tachane haben leumi and take the no. 1 to the kosel but we either miss the stop or that it didn’t stop there. We wind up in Geulah where we take the no 1 and arrive at the kosel.
I was still hesitating to go back to Chaim and rather stay at Shmulie’s and leave to America with a sherut from Jerusalem to the airport and meet haya there. I also needed the bathroom on the Betar bus and told Chaya I want to get off near the Stern Shule while at the same time attend the regular Rabbi Krieger shiur. Chaya objected and I had to contain myself. I figured at the kosel there are bathrooms. So when I got to the kosel we made up to meet at the gate in a ½ hour. I went to the bathroom and used up all my time there. I never made it to the kosel (which by the way I have my issues with anyhow).
After the kosel we took a bus to Kever Rochel. The security was greater than that of anything I’ve seen. The bus can only go in one direction. Back out it must go backwards. Chaya goes to the women’s section and I daven Minchah in the men’s section.
Afterwards we head to Ramat Gan via the bus at the tachana merkazit in Jerusalem. I didn’t have the wherewithal to go back to Chaim since the last time I left there I told him I was heading back to America. I was too distraught. Finally I succumbed and I returned to Chaim’s place until our departure.
DAY 9 - MONDAY 12/12/05
Monday I went to shule in Ramat Gan and spent the rest of the day hanging out until evening at which time Chaya offered that we go for a falafel. I took her up on it (it was sort of a truce for my sake in me being uncomfortable being at Chaim’s place with her) . We went across an exquisite bridge to the Ezrieli Kinyon. Chaya shopped for some fish, eggs and veggies. Then I insisted that we get a falafel. We walked around until we found a falafel place. The falafel was excellent. We proceeded to walk home through a different route. We retired for the night.
DAY 10 - TUESDAY 12/13/05
Tuesday we made preparations to leave – packing, calling El Al, etc. As mentioned above I left at 7:30pm to the train. We had a nice flight back, again 2extra seats so we spread out. There was no davening on this flight since we left 1:00am and arrived 5:50am.
DAY 11 - WEDNESDAY 14/4/05
We arrived Wednesday morning at 12/14/05; 5:50 am and take the airport train to the subway. We had 2 pieces of luggage and we each took 1. We took the subway back to Boro Park, tried to get on the 18th Ave bus to get the free transfer but it was too cold, crowded and I was too tired. We took a car service to 1835 53rd S -, home sweet home! It was a mistake not to take a car service from the airport. Chaya thought that the airport train to the subway was free but it wound up costing $10 bucks. By the time we took a car service from the F train, for a little more we could’ve coasted home non-stop instead of erratic one and the horrible rush hours Queens ride to Brooklyn.
I had in mind to write this awhile ago but was not motivated until Anshie downloaded his Israeli tripphotography to my email and the thoroughly enjoyable Chanuka/birthday (mine 12/31/46) gathering at ZC and Yitzie.