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September 17, 2014 | 22nd Elul 5774

You can get anything you want…

 

Galilee Diary #372, January 13, 2008

Marc J. Rosenstein

 

Fear not, for I am with you: I will bring your folk from the East, will gather you from the West;  I will say to the North, “Give back!”  And to the South, “Do not withhold!  Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the end of the earth.”

            -Isaiah 43:5-6

 

Having somehow failed to get our act together to take any vacation during the summer, we decided to take a few days' winter break, get out of the periphery and be tourists in the center of the country.  The resulting experience reads like the syllabus for a course on "Multicultural Israel."

 

We started in Tel Aviv, at a new and very rich exhibition on Italian Jewish life and history at the Eretz Yisrael Museum. The plan was then to meet two of our children for dinner at an Indian restaurant and attend opening night of a new play at the Gesher Theater Company's experimental-production hangar in South Tel Aviv.  But we had neglected to factor in rush hour traffic, so the plan was changed to dinner at whatever restaurant we could find within a few minutes walk from the theater – which ended up to be a wonderful local Tripolitanian (Libyan) place – couscous, stuffed vegetables.  Gesher is a theater troupe established by Russian immigrants, and has a record of doing productions that are more interesting, radical, and physical than most of the other repertory companies.  And indeed, the staging of "White Nights," based on a minor romance by Dostoyevsky, was fascinating and great fun to watch.

 

We drove to Jerusalem, where we had reserved a B&B (actually just a B – no breakfast) along Emek Rafaim Street, Jerusalem's newly "in" neighborhood, in the lovely German Colony area.  Since it has more nouveau-quaint coffee houses per kilometer than any other street in Jerusalem, we had no trouble finding a place to drink gourmet breakfast coffee among locals discussing literature, reading newspapers, and plying their laptops.  Not surprisingly for an upscale Jerusalem neighborhood, most people were speaking English with North American accents.

 

We drove out to the re-done Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum which is truly impressive, educational, feels hugely expensive, and left me somewhat uncomfortable with its heavy-handed didactic approach.  In any case, it is a must-see, and we were glad we had the opportunity to see it.  It took most of the day and was exhausting, leaving us just time for a brief nostalgic stroll through the Machaneh Yehudah open air market (where, in our Jerusalem years, we did our weekly shopping). 

 

The next day we spent entirely in the Old City, first touring the ongoing excavations of the City of David, the original biblical Jerusalem outside the present walls.  Then we walked all the way through the city from south to north, through the crowded markets of the Moslem quarter, and out Damascus Gate, eating lunch at a restaurant with only one item on the menu: chumus.  On to the Seam Line Museum – in the Turjeman House, that until 1967 was at the one crossing point between east and west Jerusalem.  Today it houses an art museum dedicated to social and political issues; we wandered through a powerful exhibit of works from all over the world on the theme of conflict between individual freedom and state authority.

 

Dinner at our son's tiny, cozy, obscenely overpriced apartment and a tour of his historic, multicultural Nachla'ot neighborhood, and then a performance at the YMCA auditorium of "Tranquila," a brilliant comedy from this year's Acco alternative theater festival – in Spanish, English, and Hebrew – featuring circus arts and magic. 

 

And a few hours later we were home in the pastoral Galilee, where the multicultural mosaic may be just as rich, but not so dense. 

 

Who needs Europe?

 

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