Sunday, July 09, 2006

This weekend in the life of Vicki

Times are indeed better even though the Gaza invasion keeps getting worse and Hamas has decided to use a few more Kasam rockets.

On Friday, I took the train to Jerusalem. It is honestly the most beautiful train ride I have been on, even outpacing the one we took in Switzerland. This is a picture of it, although not taken by me:

It is a great time to sit and think about things, and to prepare yourself for Jerusalem. You know I am not a religious person. But there is something very spiritual and special about the city, maybe because I don't visit it often, that puts you in a different frame of mind. The other thing is that, as I said before, to go to Jerusalem, you go up, so it also puts you on another plane. When you see it from a distance, it's a nice view. I think we may have even gone into the West Bank! How exciting! Well, probably not, actually. Don't worry. I suspect this because the train stopped at Beitar Illit, which, as you can see on the map, , is kind of in the West Bank. It's not really, but it is.

So I got to Jerusalem and went to the Wall. This is always a very important experience for me and even more so now that I got there all by myself. I don't know what it is, maybe I just set myself up for it, but every time I go there, it is like an overwhelming feeling of something greater than myself, of a sense of peace, of almost completeness. After I wrote my note and went up to the wall to put it in, I just stood there, leaning against it, and I probably looked really ridiculous, but it was just such a different feeling from things that I usually feel. Afterwards, I felt calm and relaxed and I left. I will not tell you what I wrote, because it's between me and the Wall. However, I did not ask for a BMW, and I'm beginning to think that I should have.

After I left the wall, I scrambled back to the train station. The last train left at 2 (Shabbat regulations are so annoying) and I had to make it. In the taxi to the train station, when I got in, the cab driver was playing a Eyal Golan CD (one of my favorite Israeli singers) and all was good. I got the train station in plenty of time and sat on a bench and was I pulled out about to Master i Margarita for the 30-minute wait.

There were also two soldiers sitting, waiting for a train (which is free for them, as well as busses) and a girl laying on one soldier's lap, in civilian clothing. All three were obviously tired, waiting to go home for Shabbat (soldiers get leave for the weekend) and it was very touching. Not that I was looking at the soliders.

The trainride back was uneventful, except it was PACKED because everyone was going to wherever they needed to be for the weekend. And by PACKED I mean religious families. You know, the kind where the father has an ENORMOUS kippah and the mother wears a long skirt, long sleeves and covers her hair. And they have like 6 kids. The family sitting across from me had 4, and probably more were on the way. Both of the parents looked at most 30 years old. INSANE. I feel so bad for the kids of religious parents, because they have no choice. They dont' know what's going on, but before you know it, they are circumcised, stuck in kippot and long skirts for the girls, and sent off to yeshiva to be brainwashed, and will spend the rest of their life praying 6 million times a day. They are so restricted in everything, and they don't even have a say in it.

After I got back from Jerusalem, I took the train to Herzliyyah, and Danny picked me up at the station. That was where my weekend of fun began. He drove me to Ra'annana, the town he lives in, which is right next to Herzliyyah, but very very very pretty. I like it 10 million times more than I like Tel Aviv. And if I had lived in Ra'annana the whole time, my bitterness would have been much less, and my thoughts much different. As it is, I literally felt my Zionism recharging this weekend. His town is green and pretty and clean and quiet, with colored street signs and numbered street lights (people got tired of telling their friends which light to turn on for directions, so now they're numbered) and a lot of pretty pretty houses and apartments. It's one of the only towns in Israel with a budget surplus and one of the greenest towns in Israel as well. Obviously, there are few Russians there. A lot of the immigrants in Ra'annana are from America, the UK, South Africa, and Australia, so it's a very Anglo town. Danny's house is nice and quiet, on the end of a street, and he lives across from people from England. It's very English-friendly, and for a minute, I felt like I was back in America-his house has American channels as well as Israeli, they get American newspapers, and they have American cereal in the cupboard.

Danny has two dogs. And they are awesome. I will send pictures. They are both Golden Retrievers, and they are mother and son. The mom's name is Pooch, and the son's name is Gever (which means man or male, so it's funny), and they are bilingual. It's very cute. They are very excited to see you and they jump up on you, but they don't bark like Babe (my dog) does. They just lick you a lot and like their tummies scratched. It's very obvious that Danny misses them a LOT when he is at Penn.

So we all came to his house: me, Schneid, Batami, Talia, Jon, and Ben Bloch (who made it safely from Hevron, despite the fact that rival factions were fighting each other). Elan and Ben Berg were in the Jerusalem vicinity. We sat around and watched TV, and then it was time for Shabbat. He rounded up everyone for the synagogue, and we went late. Talia and I had to sit in the women's section (above the men, separated by a thin gauze curtain,) and it was the worst synagogue experience of our lives. First of all, we couldn't find the books from which to follow the service and no one would tell us. Then, the girls all turned around to look at us. EVIL, HIDEOUS looks. Like, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY SYNAGOGUE. WHO THE HELL ARE YOU. And then THE MEN STARTED TURNING AROUND AND GIVING US POINTED STARES. It was so stupid and horrible, so after 10 minutes, we just left and went back to Danny's house. After that, we had dinner, and then, for dessert, Danny's two friends came over. I forget their names, but one was white Israeli and the other one was Persian. She was really really pretty and we all had a conversation in Hebrew. I understood the gist of it, and was really proud of myself.

Then, we all went to bed and got up late the next morning, ate a little, had lunch, took a nap. We then went to walk the dogs at the park. The park at Ra'annana is awesome. Danny actually had to show his Ra'annana residency ID because the park has started charging money, because the beach at Herzliyyah, the neighboring town, started charging money. This process also weeds out a lot of shady characters who could go to the park. Here are some pictures (I forgot my camera), but they don't really do it justice:,7340,L-2950226,00.html

There is everything in the park that you could ever want: an enormous children's playground, an ampitheater, a manmade lake shaped in the symbol of Ra'annana around which a gondola and boats go. The lake also has 10 white swans purchased from Denmark for 30,000 shekels (approximately $4 dollars-just kidding) that have a special hutch. There is a cafe across from the lake, a special children's playground, a mangal area, a train that goes around the park, a garden, basketball courts, a fountain that goes into the lake, and probably a lot more that I am forgetting. It is an awesome way to spend the afternoon, and there are actually A LOT of Israeli Arabs there, as well as the local Ra'annana residents, whose taxes pay for it. Danny was little bitter because he said, "A lot of my friends are in Gaza right now, and look what's going on here." He couldn't be more right. It's a world of difference, although I don't know whether it's bad or good.

We went back home and showered quickly and drove to Herzliya to see a "ballet"-really it was a modern performance with a lot of weird music, like the Blue Man Group, but less so. I don't know what I thought of it, but hey, as long as we got to see it for free, all is good. We got back home extremely exhausted and went to bed. Overall, it was very relaxing and a nice refreshment from the city, which is very not good for a long time.

On Tuesday we are going to the Dead Sea and Masada. Exciting.

PS-Tel Aviv made it to the Economist's guide for financial cities page. Yayy!

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