Back From Vacation

Raring to go? Uhm, not quite. At least not yet. We returned last evening from a whirlwind trip through Spain and Israel. Impressions, before the crush of re-entry relegates them to the photo album of one’s mind:

Spain with the girls and Katie’s family… Their old Spanish farm house in Javea on the Costa Brava that we all call Casa San Ramon… Daily tennis at a club in the hills on dusty red clay courts that you water down for the next players… Paella for 20 not once but three times during the six days we’re there… Seeing midnight fireworks in Altea with outdoor symphonic backdrop and taking a mobbed 2 AM train back to Denia with Spanish families because 50,000 drivers on tiny coastal roads makes for an insane traffic jam, which we walked through on our hike back to the train platform.

Spain is for siestas, and reading in the hammock, and writing in a blue oversized journal, and going to the aranal, walking the beach boardwalk, buying ice cream, and swimming in the cove, and in restaurant swimming pools… It’s living in a house with no electricity and managing fine on gas “bumbas” to power the tiny fridge and the night-time lanterns… Drying towels on the stone ledge… Cracking handpicked almonds… The daily rhythms of shopping for food in the Mercadona; cooking; eating; doing dishes; family dynamics; children and spider bites and plenty of kisses…

Israel with the girls and Katie… The first time Sophie sees the country; we’re there as a follow-up experience to her bat-mitzvah and to make one last happy family hurrah before Isabel goes off to college next week – We’re back in the land where Kate and I first met 28 years ago and where Isabel went to nursery school while Kate taught at Tel Aviv University in 1993. Could one write a book about this quickie family sojourn? Nah, a different play is coming (I promise! I worked on it; I read it; it’s coming; it’s good; it’s still a long way away) but the adding to experience – personally and as a family – was so cementing. We have such dear friends in Israel…

Herzliya/Nof Yam is the Israeli Gold Coast, but it doesn’t feel that way inside someone’s home; Kate’s best friend Becky Kook runs a two-professor household in frantic, child-strewn “balagan” fashion, and what you remember is late night talks over tea, the floor littered with toys from 6 year old Hillel; the midnight comings and goings of 17 year old Batya; three different friends sleeping over even while this vacationing family of 4 from the States crashes in one room and the living room. Israel is a land with no child curfew. Our children wonder about the relative lock and key they’re under in America. They are so happy to be in Israel. Here’s the only thing Sophie wants to buy when we get to the Canyon (or mall); a pictorial Hebrew-English dictionary, a fun phrase book, and “Easy Answers to Difficult Questions” (A “How Things Work” in Hebrew with vowels). We are here on a Joy Trip; not a Conflict Consciousness Raising Sojourn. Still politics is with us on a daily basis. We’ll talk about how in another entry.

Our itinerary had us in Herzliyah from Wednesday evening through Friday morning, with a visit from Motti Lerner Thursday morning. Motti comes to Becky Kook’s house to finally meet this long-talked about friend who’s the daughter of the pioneering Zionist ideologist, world Jewish organizer, agitator and later politician, the late Hillel Kook (see our earlier entry from March where we discuss the play written about Hillel Kook, The Accomplices), whose dissident spirit hovers over the made for TV movie Motti’s written that goes into production next week, a three part recreation of the drama of the sinking of the Altalena in 1948, a captured cargo ship which carried weapons and fighters for the Irgun, a rival military force which sought to challenge the newly established Israeli Defense Force. No issue is more hotly contested in Israeli history. Motti was coming both to assure Becky that her father does not appear anywhere in the movie (since he was arrested by the IDF a day before the ship’s sinking upon his arrival into Israel from abroad).

The meeting between Motti and Becky sends ripples through the rest of our trip even as we struggle to make the history understandable to our girls and show how even our closest of friends can wind up on very different sides of a historical divide in a tiny country.

Woops. I see I promised to talk about politics in the next entry and here we go on yet another potential full-length drama! Back to the itinerary: Coastal beach dinner on Thursday night after bathing at sunset in bath-warm Mediterranean waters; Jaffa’s Old City for lunch and then sailing for two and a half hours with my Israeli 3rd cousin Rafi who lives on the moshav Beit Yiztchak outside Natanya; Friday night dinner with many relatives on the moshav. A Saturday lunch reunion with the Israeli artistic team from PANGS OF THE MESSIAH – pictures to come – and then touring of the Tel Aviv Namal (Port), a kind of Israeli Navy Pier. Sunday we go up north and over the next three days we go through the kibbutzim of Kfar Blum (where we see two lovely theaters and dance studios and where we’re exploring their summer festivals for possible Theater J involvement); Maayan Baruch (Katie’s old kibbutz where she toiled as a teenager); Nayot Mordechai where we all buy new sandals direct from the famous factory there; and we sleep for two nights on the Lebanese border at Kibbutz Sasa, staying with Lynn and Jon; Lynn being our family baby-sitter from 1965-69 whom we sent to Israel one summer and she’s been living on the same kibbutz practically ever since. A remarkable place and time with her and two of her five children. I drive over to Kibbutz Tuval on Monday afternoon to meet with Makom (Israel Engagement Network) artist-in-residence Robbie Gringras and get lost in the Arab village of Majda Al Krum on the way down the hill. An interesting tour, to say the least. On Tuesday we leave Sasa and travel to Nazareth where Maha Najjar takes us on a tour of churches and the Old Market. After a bountiful traditional Arabic lunch at the Nazareth YMCA we drive to Jerusalem and into The Old City; walk to the Western Wall and do our Bat-Mitzvah “shehechiyanu” in the common plaza before being divided, men and women, as we approach the wall to meditate for a moment. We leave Jerusalem that night and return to Herzliyah to say goodbye to Becky, and then to Ramat Hasharon to say goodbye to Motti and return the cell phones he lent us – in between which I see my old boyhood friend, Aryeh, for a drink on the beach and to toast a new business deal of his in Sweden (!) and finally we make our way for the airport for a 5 AM return flight – we don’t sleep the entire time since we need to return the car at 2 AM, check in, board… It’s 21 hour day for all of us and as rich as it gets.

There will be much to decompress from. And much too much to return to. Plenty of new worries for a new year and a new season. And plenty of activity—all things we dreamed of doing; desired to see happen; and now we gotta pay the price for those dreams. Sort of like getting a bill after a great vacation. It’s what we wanted; what we dreamed of; the memories will last for ever. But it was quite an endeavor to pull off…

Staff meeting later today. Plenty of re-entry drama, to be sure.