I arrived in Israel early this morning. The last few times I have come, my time has not been my own since I was leading a group. This time, I have a week free in Jerusalem before my students arrive. . . so a diary of my time is in order.
Before leaving: Sunday, I officiated at the funeral of my great-aunt, Dr. Ethel Platt z"l. Aunt Ethel died on Shabbat at 91. She graduated medical school in 1941 and spent close to 50 years in practice with her husband, Dr. David Platt in a large family practice in Wilmington, DE. David was the brother of my grandmother, Francais Kramen z"l. It is sad to have to see family at a funeral but not so sad when someone lived an accomplished long life.
My parents always joke that we never spend more than 24 hours in Delaware. Since we didn't leave until after Shabbat, this time it was more like 20 hours. On the way home, Deborah dropped me at a hotel near the Newark airport. It was lucky that my pre-flight plans changed. My ticket was leaving from Newark and I had booked a flight from Hartford to JFK!
After meeting the Birthright group I was escorting to Israel, I made my way to the gate. There, a Levine cousin, Ronit Field called out to me. Of course, this wouldn't be the only chance meeting of the last two days . . . On the flight was my former professor from JTS, Dr. Ed Greenstein (who is cousins with AC student Josh Glasser) and his family. Ed's son is classmates with the son of the family I am staying with in Jersuaelm.
The Birthright group was heading to Jerusalem so I joined them to meet my host, my college Professor and friend, Dr. Renee Levine Mellamed. She told me she would call when she was able to meet me. It turns out the bus was in a great place for her to pick me up--between Gan Sacher and Wolfson towers. So I told the bus driver who told me to get in the middle of traffic with my bags! Typical Israeli bus driver. A few minutes later, Renee picked me up on the road to Hebrew University and the Israel museum.
After settling in to their apartment, having some breakfast, napping and showering, it was time to venture to the Center of Jerusalem. I took the 6 bus into the center and went to visit my beduin friends from Dahab off of Ben Yehuda. I met Issa and his brother two years ago when I came during the war. Rabbi David Small and I bought our wives jewelry and promised to return with groups. I did so last year and decided to say hello. They served me tea and we talked for almost an hour. They showed me the new stuff in their shop and I promised to return with my students.
I decided I needed some lunch and went to Pinati--the best humus place in the city. Pinati is a hole-in-the-wall store that I walked by many times until my friend Rabbi Matt Berkowitz showed it to me in 1993. They now have a glass enclosure at the top and I had a great seat to people watch. You never know who you will see! After a few minutes, I hear a knock on the window and a loud call of "Bruce!" Matt was here in Jerusalem. With the type of coincidence that occurs in our Holy City, he had a few minutes free and was wandering around. If I hadn't gone to Pinati and he hadn't had free time, we wouldn't have seen each other. After finishing, we went for a walk and caught up about families, work, and Matt's art. I took him to visit Dahab and then waited with him until he met a friend. We will get together again on Friday.
After a little shopping (2 cd's and 2 books), I took the bus back to Givat Mordechai for the evening.