Tuesday, January 8, 2013

First Impressions, Israel, January, 2013

I've come to Israel to visit and to see the Israeli Opera perform Mozart's The Magic Flute in Kiryat Malachi, together with close to 100 participants from Kiryat Malachi, many of whom are members of Art City, a big project of our TIPS Partnership.

I arrived on Wednesday, January 2nd. Our flight arrived at the same time two other flights came in, so I was in the line for passport control for close to 30 minutes.  Next time I'll not go to the restroom until AFTER I go through passport control. 

My first surprise was that the rental car area has been returned to the airport and not to the area by the old airport.  However, it is not on the ground floor but one floor up. 

Then as I drove south, I saw that Israel continues to build and expand roads.  To encourage safe driving, especially in the construction area, their have posted electronic signs to show drivers how fast they are going.  The speed limit on the highway in construction area is 70 KPH (42 mph).  Surprisingly, many people did slow down and were going about 80 or 85, amazing for Israelis.  Also, there were pull out areas for cars to stop, again something new.

The next morning I awoke to bright sunshine.  The temperature was close to 70 that day.  Everything is green.  Passion fruit is in season (it is twice a year) and people have an abundance of this fruit growing all over.  Other people have a lot of persimmons that they share with their neighbors.

 Also one sees all kinds of fruit trees heavy with fruit around houses--from kumquats to mandarin oranges.  

New Kumquat Tree in Bar-el drive way, Moshav Nir Yisrael

I was lucky to have two sunny days because after that the worst storm in ten years hit the country and has lasted close to a week. People are all wearing heavy winter coats and complain about the cold weather with highs of only 52 to 55. 

Each time I come to Israel, I see and hear new things on TV and radio.  Right now I am watching a TV show called "Master Chef."  Professional chefs rate people whose hobby is cooking.  One of the cooks is a young Muslim.  Another is one of 18 children who told her Mom on the show that she is very grateful she had 18 children!!  Another is a young man originally from Germany who converted to Judaism. 

On the TV they are now heavily advertising electric toothbrushes, especially Oral B.

And on the radio, with all the rain, the station that focuses on Israeli music today specialized in weather songs, one hour focusing on songs about winter, the next hour songs about rain, the next songs about wind, and so on.  After endlessly long weather reports, at 10 this morning, one station simplified the weather report to these three words:  "Rain, Storms, and cold!"

I spent Shabbat with Amalia Lewin at Nitzan, an orthodox community of 100 families north of Ashkelon.  It was founded 15 years ago.  Seven year ago, evacuees from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip moved to temporary housing near this community.  Now about  100 families from the evacuees now have moved into permanent housing in Nitzan.

Until that move, Nitzan just had one synagogue.  I've been to it twice with Amalia for Shabbat.  Since the community members are from all different backgrounds, depending on the custom of the man leading services, the service can be Ashkanazic, Sephardic, Yemenite, Moroccan, etc.  When I visited May, the leader was Ashkenazic, so the service tunes and the Torah reading trope were very familiar.  This Shabbat the leader was Yemenite and I was really really surprised by the 3 Torah readers.  The pronunciation of several vowels was very different from modern Hebrew.  It really was an experience to hear it.

Now with the infusion of new residents, Nitzan will have 6 synagogues, each with a different culture.  The original will remain but the idea of community unity will bedifused.

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