By Phyllis J. Lubin
The week flew by. So many memories, so many snapshots etched in my mind: My nephew Nachum being called up to the Torah and leining beautifully; celebrating Israel’s Independence Day, Yom HaAtzma’ut—in Israel!—with the requisite fireworks; strolling the streets of the Old City; davening at the Kotel. It still seems like a dream!
I hadn’t been to Israel in 17 years. The last time I was there, my brother Jacob and sister-in-law Haviva and their brood were living in Jerusalem. This was the first time I have seen their home in the Galil. Fortunately, my brother visits the U.S. for business quite often, and we usually see some of the children during the summer months on their way to or from sleepaway camp. But to be in Israel, along with my parents, for this very special occasion, was truly an honor.
I am not a great plane traveler. One might say I am a bit frightened. The takeoffs and landings are the worst part of the experience. Whoever sits next to me (typically my husband) has to be prepared for me to squeeze their hand tightly as the plane zooms up or pushes down. This time I was traveling on my own. How would it work out? Whose hand would I be able to squeeze?
Everything for this trip happened last-minute. The decision for my parents to go to Israel for Pesach and the bar mitzvah was finalized less than a week before they left. My flights were booked the day before they took off. As it was last-minute, I didn’t have many seats to choose from. I ended up between two people. The man on one side, although friendly, was not someone whose hand I would choose to squeeze, and the man on the other side kept to himself and managed to sleep practically the whole trip. As the plane ascended, I imagined my husband next to me reassuring me. That helped. I persevered and endured both the ascent and descent without having a meltdown. (And on the return trip, I had three seats across all to myself!)
My trip began quite pleasantly with a visit to El Al’s King David lounge. Definitely a way to travel! I felt like my vacation had begun even before I departed from JFK Airport. There was a nice Israeli-style buffet complete with hummus and pita, Israeli salad, and various drinks—including some lovely wine which I indulged in. There were comfy seats, free Wi-Fi, and an attentive staff. It calmed me down considerably, since this was my first time on a long-distance trip completely on my own. There were lovely people in the lounge to talk to and get advice from who were waiting to embark on their own repeat trips to the Holy Land.
It was a whirlwind trip. I arrived Wednesday afternoon, on Yom HaZikaron itself. That night, we were entertained by a lovely performance for Yom HaAtzma’ut by some adults and the youth of Kibbutz Hanaton (where my brother and his family live). My youngest niece, 5-year-old Shefa, participated in a dance, and my 15-year-old niece, Hallel, had a long speaking part. The bar mitzvah boy himself, Nachum, was part of the set committee ensuring that the play would run smoothly.
On Thursday, Yom HaAtzma’ut, Nachum celebrated his bar mitzvah with friends and family at the Jezreel Winery (www.jezreelwinery.com). The winery was established in 2012 by my brother. It was a beautiful venue on the grounds of Hanaton. The food was dairy (my brother and his family are vegetarians), and we were able to sample Jezreel wines at the same time. It was a wonderful day!
Friday, I made it to Haifa with my mom, courtesy of my nephew Adin (who was on a brief vacation from the army) and my niece Michal. They were attending a lecture in Haifa and thought we might like to tag along to explore the city. We shopped along a main street (don’t ask me the name) and found some good buys. One marvelous place we discovered was Cofix, a coffee shop where all the items are 5 shekel each—including sandwiches, danishes, and, of course, coffee. I also discovered that if you order “iced coffee” in Israel you receive a lovely Frappuccino-type drink. To receive what we call iced coffee you need to request “cold coffee,” or kafeh kar.
Shabbos was lovely. We took a walk around the neighborhood and I enjoyed playing an assortment of games with the family. On Saturday night we took a family trip to the Haifa Mall to see a movie. The movie (Captain America: Civil War) was nothing to write home about, but the theater was pretty and the company was good.
Sunday we took a trip to Tel-Aviv. The weather was hot (about 100 degrees), but lounging on the beach and swimming in the crystal-clear Mediterranean Sea was quite refreshing. My mom and I even had a chance to feast on hot dogs at a café along the beach.
Monday brought us to Jerusalem. My brother had a meeting to attend, and he took our father with him; he thought he would enjoy the technological topic. While they were at the meeting, my mom and I explored the Old City. The shops were enjoyable, and we even found another Cofix while wandering the neighborhood. When we finally reached the Kotel, I was mesmerized that I had actually gotten there. A true Shehecheyanu experience.
Tuesday morning we were up bright and early for our return flight to the U.S. The flight was at 10:40 in the morning, so we had to leave by 6:30. I woke up to the sounds of the kibbutz: roosters crowing, cows mooing, and birds chirping. The bags were packed and it was time to say goodbye. I gingerly went over to my niece Hallel, who was sleeping soundly on the living-room couch. She told me that she usually gets up by 6:30 for school so I didn’t feel too bad about waking her. I needed to give her a special thank-you for lending me her bedroom for the week. She went above and beyond the call of duty.
Actually, the whole family did. Jacob and Haviva loaned my parents their own room for the past month and cramped themselves into another room. The whole Ner-David family (Jacob and Haviva, Adin, Michal, Meira, Hallel, Nachum, Mishael, and Shefa) went out of their way to make sure my trip was memorable.
I felt so welcome in their home and with their family. It was hard to say goodbye, but I was also eager to get back to my own brood in Cedarhurst. The trip was relatively short, but I packed in many great experiences.
Here’s to many more return trips to come—17 years was much too long to be away! v
Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children—Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea—and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at MothersMusings@gmail.com.