In transit

Actually, I’ve already arrived in Berlin. Last night, I stayed at a fun, party hostel with loud dance music – think “Despacito,” “What Is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me),” German drinking songs, and house/hip hop – and enjoyed my complimentary “martini.”

Now I’m in my more stable accommodation that will be my actual “mobile office” and home base while I take a massage course.

Just getting here was an adventure…

plane.jpg

The airport in Tel Aviv was ridiculously crowded. Four budget airlines with all their weekend flights leaving at approximately the same time.  It was madness.

But we’ve reached a new age in travel seating – charging stations!

IMG_20171110_102620

My flight seemed to be running on time and we got in the air.  About 15 minutes into the flight, “Is there a doctor on the plane?” Yes, there was a medical emergency, and yes, there was a doctor on the plane.

Next announcement, “We are returning to Tel Aviv for an emergency landing.” And we turned around.  The landing was smooth but felt extremely heavy.  After all, we landed with a full tank of fuel.

Thankfully, the person with the medical emergency walked off the plane under his own power.

Next announcement, “Please stay in your seats.  We will take off after we get our landing gear checked.”

Then: “For security reasons, we have to remove the luggage of the person who got off the plane.”

Eventually we got back in the air, only about 2 hours later than scheduled.

But then those calm, understanding people who had allowed for a medical emergency and who mostly stayed in their seats on the plane faced a single passport official dealing with all the non-EU passports. At one point they tried to crowd the booth nearly causing a security incident because they just couldn’t understand why we were standing in this dang line for so long. (But seriously, she examined each person’s passport like she thought she should run them all through INTERPOL.)

Once I passed that endurance test, my bag was practically waiting for me on the carousel, the bus pulled up to take me into the city, and R2D2 showed up to let me know everything was going to be okay.

IMG_20171110_190926

 

“What’s past is prologue …”

Israel doesn’t do Halloween, so there were no flash sales on every kind of candy and no wild costume parties.  Chanukah donuts are now showing up at bakeries though, which is pretty much like seeing Christmas decorations in September.  It doesn’t feel right.

Instead, this week Israel did what Israel does best, we marked historical occasions.  This week was the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, 100 years since the historic ANZAC battle in Beer Sheva, and 22 years since Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.

balfour

The Balfour Declaration is a one-page letter written by Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild.  The main paragraph says:

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

Since Jews had been coming to settle in the area since the 1880s, the Balfour Declaration was not permission, but was rather an international recognition of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

Prime Minister Netanyahu went to London for a ceremony, many historians and commentators have written or spoken about the Balfour Declaration, and the Palestinians have demanded an apology and threatened a law suit over the document.  So pretty much just like any other day in Israel.

Yitzhak_Rabin's_Grave_(103976006)

Source: By Niv Singer from Tel-Aviv, Israel (Yitzhak Rabin’s Grave) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The commemoration of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination was apparently quite different this year. The theme was national unity with the slogan “We are One Nation.” From the little I read, it seemed that everyone was united in not liking the way the commemoration was planned.  Israel and the Jewish people are quite skilled at remembering, so I think it will be quite a few more years before the heat of emotion cools enough for national consensus about how to commemorate and remember Rabin’s assassination.  It’s not simply remembering the life and work of a national leader, but his assassination represents a tear in the national fabric that has yet to be truly repaired.

Anzac

I’m reminded of my trip to Gallipoli while reading about the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) reenactment of the Battle of Beer Sheva. Descendants of ANZACs come to famous battle sites on pilgrimage to honor their ancestors.  I’m sure that they’ve come before to Beer Sheva, but because this is the 100th anniversary, it’s a much bigger commemoration with a delegation of 100 descendants visiting Israel.  The news stories have made a special point of Aboriginal soldiers making up about a quarter of the fighting force and because it was a cavalry battle, it was their expert horsemanship that helped win it.

Maori War Dance for PM Netanyahu for 100th anniversary ceremony (video)

The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Vegetables

I’ve been trying to eat more healthfully and so I’ve been trying to add more fiber and fresh foods to my diet.  Israel has great vegetables, but I just hate cutting them.  I know.  That sounds awful.  It’s a few minutes of my day.  I have a good knife.  But I don’t get any joy slicing and dicing.

I can’t seem to get past this aversion to vegetable dissection.  But eating a cucumber whole seems weird and eating a tomato like an apple is not as easy as you might think.

Enter mini-vegetables.

I found these in the store last week.  The carrot is included for scale.  And it took all my strength to pretty it up like that.

IMG_20171027_231652

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, and a carrot for scale.

Feeling a lack of protein?  Each vegetable is a hummus spoon.  Even the spice in the hummus is evenly distributed throughout the container.  No more stirring.  No more getting too much spice in one swipe.

IMG_20171027_232033

All I have to do is wash these bite-sized wonders and I’m good to go.  Except that after a couple of handfuls of vegetables, I not only feel full, but a bit bloated as well.  At least, I’ve added some fiber to my diet.  That’s good, right?

Safe-ish

One of the things I tell female travelers is that as a woman I feel very safe walking alone at night in Israel.  I haven’t taken a formal survey, but I’m pretty confident that many women would agree with me.

But with the #MeToo campaign this week, I’m reminded that Israel isn’t safe for women at night because of its enlightened attitude toward women. #MeToo hit Israel and turned into גםאני# (gam ani or me too).  It’s not really a surprise given the scandals we’ve had in the past few years, including a former president serving 5 years of a 7-year sentence for rape and other sex crimes against several women.

Metoo

Screenshot: Source

I’ve spent this week wondering how these two things can be true at the same time: I feel safe as a woman and yet there is sexism embedded in the culture and sexual harassment is a daily occurrence.

A bit of internet research revealed that indeed in Israel people generally feel safe walking alone, so the statistics bear out that people are generally safe from crime in the street.

Sexism exists even in the socialist utopia of equality on the kibbutz: When I volunteered on a kibbutz and worked in the banana fields, I could drive the tractor and climb the ladder with a machete to do the trimming, but I could not take the ladder out of the truck as it was considered “men’s work” and banana harvesting was extremely physically demanding, so only men did that. To be honest, I don’t imagine that any woman really wants to catch 100-kilo bunches of bananas on her back and deposit them on a flatbed truck.  I certain didn’t.  The ladder thing was silly though.

And I don’t wish to minimize the sexual harassment that goes on. Men do take advantage of women. There’s no reason or excuse. They do it simply because they feel that they can get away with it. From catcalling in the street to power-plays in the office, Israel is not immune.  Worst of all are the cases of sexual assault and rape that occur in all kinds of situations – at the office, in the army, and even at home.

And yet, I still feel safe when I walk alone at night.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to reconcile these two facts about life in Israel for women.  Was it cultural? Was it religious? Was it specifically Jerusalem? I thought about things that have happened to me in my years in Israel.

The only thing I can come up with is that both men and women benefit from the lower incidence of street crime. So feeling safe in the street as a woman is really just my view of a feeling of safety that applies to both men and women.

But in terms of sexism, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape, Israel has a long way to go.  Thankfully #MeToo and גםאני# have shined a spotlight on this pervasive problem and finally made it headline news in Israel.

GamAnchnu

Screenshot: Source The translation of the main headline next to the women reads, “Yes, I too was raped.” Six stories from Israeli celebrities were printed in the paper, but the internet site of Yediot Ahronot has sixteen stories.

Jerusalem Welcomes the World

Friday the 13th is not a thing in Israel.  Halloween is also not a thing.  Stores aren’t covered in fake cobwebs.  There are no advertisements for scary costumes.  Aisles in the supermarket are not dedicated to snack-sized candy.

halloween-1743239_1280

What is a thing here is a week full of events throughout the city and today being the very last day before the last Shabbat before we finally get back to our normal routines, the aharei ha’chagim time.

On Sunday, the streets were filled with Jews from all around Israel and the world making their way to the Western Wall for the Priestly Blessing.  That is still a thing in Israel.  Twice a year – on Sukkot and Passover – the entirety of the Jewish population is blessed by the descendents of the priestly class, the Cohenim, or anyone with the last name Cohen or derivatives thereof.

Fun Fact: Remember Spock’s hand gesture when greeting someone?  That was based on Leonard Nimoy’s memories of the Priestly Blessing as a kid.

Synagoge,_Enschede,_Mozaiek

By Kleuske (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, the streets of Jerusalem were filled with Christians from all over the world showing their support for Israel with a parade.  It was reported that 60,000 people participated from 80 different countries. (Link has good pictures.)  And this year I didn’t even have to leave my house to see it because the parade route was on my street.

Why You Should Travel Solo (At Least Once)

“Shoot. I forgot to put ‘travel solo’ on my list.”  That was my thought when I woke up the morning after I posted last week’s blog entry, How to Travel Well. But then I thought it might deserve its own post.

This will not be about the Eat-Pray-Love journey of self-discovery that solo travel will allow to blossom in the heart of your true, authentic self.  Who has time for all that navel-gazing self-absorption?  There’s a world out there waiting to be explored!

Also, I’m not advocating throwing caution to the wind and trusting your sacred aura and charged crystals to protect you in every situation.  Take a self-defense class and be aware of your surroundings.

But definitely, at least once in your life, travel solo.

I’ve experienced group trips and traveling as a couple and the truth is that I like traveling solo best.

Get out of your comfort zone

Traveling solo pushes you to talk to strangers, try out some foreign phrases, and try new foods.  Your comfortable rut is no longer your anchor.  Every moment of every day when you are on the road is a new experience.

I don’t greet people in my everyday life by bowing with my hands together in front of my heart and saying “Sawadee-ka!”  But in Thailand I do!

IMG_20131124_172749

A temple in Thailand

Step out of the familiar

This is linked to getting out of your comfort zone.  When you travel as a couple or with a group, you surround yourself with the familiar and you travel around the world in a bubble.  Shared thoughts and opinions with your partner or friends will not give you a new perspective. You might just as well watch something on TV and discuss it.  But as a solo traveler, talking to strangers and being exposed to different points of view, you may just come across something you never thought of and see the world in a new and unexpected way.

People tend to be proud of where they are from and they love talking to you about it.  I learned a lot about the revolution in Romania in 1989 and how proud the people of Timisoara were of being the center of such a dramatic change in the history of their country.

IMG_20150915_213835

The opera house in Timisoara (r), the heart of the revolution

Celebrate self-reliance

In the dark days of my divorce, my soon-to-be ex-husband said to me, “Who do you think you are divorcing me? You’ll never get along without me.”  My reaction? I raised my left eyebrow and with icicles in my voice, I said, “Really.”

In the early days of traveling solo, every “tourism win” was just more evidence piling up proving that indeed I can get along perfectly fine without him.  I rarely think of his mean phrase these days. I just celebrate my own independence, competence, and ability to rely on myself in any and every situation.

Savor freedom

You wake up in the morning as the mistress of your destiny.  You can march forward to follow your plan for the day. Or you can change it 12 times in the first hour, or change the plan in the middle, or throw out the plan.  And all the while the only opinion that matters is yours.

On my first day in Paris, I was enjoying the view over the city from the top of Sacre Coeur and suddenly I remembered that I wanted to take the free walking tour. I whipped out my phone and checked the internet site for the tours to find out when the next one was.  Oof, 45 minutes.

I ran down the winding stairs and raced down the hill to find a subway station – Google maps!  And then I bought my week-long subway pass – research done earlier so I knew what to buy – and immediately ran into some inspectors checking tickets. Voila! Week-long pass!  Hopped on the train that arrived just then and made my tour with minutes to spare!  For the win!

IMG_20170919_115030

View from the very top of Sacre Coeur

Solo traveler at home

And when the solo traveler comes home, she has cherished memories and a few tools in her pockets for her everyday life.  She no longer needs to stay in her comfort zone, she can immerse herself in the unfamiliar and take pride in her self-reliance, and she can embrace her freedom. Life at home can also be an adventure.  It just depends on your perspective.

How to Travel Well

Having just returned from Paris, I had some thoughts on traveling. I have always believed that traveling makes us global citizens and shrinks the world.  Here are five tips to travel well.

Set a couple of priorities. The rest is gravy.

For this visit to Paris, my second, I decided that my top two destinations were going to be St. Chappelle and the Rodin Museum.  Everything else that I saw and did was extra.  I made sure to schedule my days around these two things and let go of whatever else I didn’t manage.  The new kiosk appointment system for climbing the towers of Notre Dame didn’t work with my schedule, and as much as I may have wanted to visit those lovely gargoyles keeping the Hunchback company, I let it go.

IMG_20170920_115815 (1)

St. Chappelle in the morning.

IMG_20170921_115847

The Thinker at the Rodin Museum.

Have an open mind and be curious.

I saw many people who seemed to view Paris and all its sights as part of a tourist checklist.  Eiffel Tower. Check. Notre Dame. Check. Louvre, esp. Mona Lisa. Check. And on and on (there’s a lot to see in Paris!)  Moreover, they wanted to get through their list with all the comforts of home.

Instead, appreciate the shoe box-sized, creaky elevator in your quaint hotel.  Pay attention to your surroundings and find out what the cultural differences are between your home country and the country you are visiting.  Then accept them as part of your travel experience.  Embrace them if you like them.

Get some historical background of the place you are visiting.  Do something simple like take a walking tour in the center of the city and listen to your guide.  They function as bridges between you the visitor and the city they love.  Ask questions.  Nothing will endear you more to your hosts than asking about the city and its history.  If you like something, gush about it.

IMG_20170919_182156

I know you thought that the Moulin Rouge was just a dance show or a musical film, but actually in French it means “red windmill.”

Buy blister patches, if needed.

On my first day in Paris, I got a monster blister.  It could have ruined my whole trip unless I liked the idea of walking for hours with a limp and in pain.  In Europe, I’ve found these amazing things that specifically treat that annoying blister on the back of your heel.  Usually the patch can stay on for 2 to 3 days and your heel is like new.  They are kind-of expensive, but totally worth it if you have a painful blister.

IMG_20170929_191954

I have French ones and Danish ones.

Roll with it.

Sometimes things don’t work out.  It rains on your only day in the Highlands.  The statue you came to see in the museum is not on display.  The tour you show up for is only in Spanish.  These things actually happened to me.  On the Highlands tour, I met someone from China who I still keep in touch with.  I saw different versions of the missing statue and I was able to appreciate the lesser known works more because they were no longer in the shadow of the more famous one.  I walked in a lesser-known neighborhood and found an excellent Korean restaurant.

IMG_20170921_220408

Bulgogi (beef), side dishes, and Korean beer.  YUM!!

Sometimes your plan doesn’t work out, but if you roll with it, sometimes an even better plan appears.

Stay in the moment.

I read an article recently that suggested that if you take too many pictures and videos, you lose the experience in the present by trying to document it for the future (or for social media).

On one walking tour, we saw racing lights on the Eiffel Tower.  It happens every hour in the evenings and it’s really worth seeing!  I took a couple of pictures and a few seconds of film.  And then I put my camera away so that I could just enjoy it.  I noticed out of the corner of my eye a man spending the entire light show trying to get just the right shot.  Will he remember looking at the lovely lights of Paris with his wife or will he remember fussing with his camera and his wife’s framing suggestions?

15 seconds of racing lights.  Go see them for yourself!

A concluding thought for Yom Kippur

This is my late dad’s (z”l) favorite story about Yom Kippur.  The original is much longer, but this shortened version gives you the main idea.

Heavy.  The Yom Kippur prayers were heavy and try as he might, the rabbi simply could not lift them up to Heaven.  A young man came into the synagogue.  He only recently became aware of his Jewish heritage and knew only how to recite the aleph bet.  He didn’t know what day it was or what was going on, but with pure and focused intention he recited the only thing he knew.  Aleph. Bet. Gimel. Dalet. …

The rabbi noticed that the prayers were suddenly lighter.  They floated like feathers on the wind straight up to Heaven.  And he knew that is was because of the young man who prayed with all his heart in the only way he could.

As we travel the world and live as global citizens, we don’t have to be multilingual or the most knowledgeable, but if we approach the world with pure intention and genuine love, perhaps we can lift up everyone around us.

Gmar Hatima Tova! May you be inscribed

and sealed in the Book of Life! 

And for those of you who fast, may it be meaningful!