Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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Breaking News

In a one week period, there has been more breaking news in the USA than I have seen since 9/11.  Pipe bombs sent to public figures including two former Presidents, a former Secretary of State and CNN.  A grocery shooting in Kentucky, a hate crime that targeted African Americans resulted in the death of two people, one of whom was shielding his 12 year old grandson.  Megyn Kelly speaking about how dressing up in black face was acceptable as Halloween costumes when she was growing up and it is not such a big deal (huh?).  Finally, the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that resulted in the murder of 11 people with another 6 injured including, and this is important, 4 police officers.

This whole week saw President Trump acting anything but presidential.  He blamed the media, which is where I have worked for the last 20 years, for the domestic terrorism in the US that I referenced.  The media is made up of many people who work behind the scenes to make the news, morning shows, lifestyle shows and entertainment shows happen. The people that had the greatest potential for injury were the people in the mail room or the security guards, not the “fake media” that the President so loves to reference.  This very man did not even reference the shootings in Kentucky.  He managed to tweet about the World Series, but not even a word about this particular shooting.  I am not sure if it is because “only” two people died or if it is because the two victims were African American.

The President identifies himself as a nationalist.  Think about someone else that identified himself in the same way – Hitler.  Last year, it was shocking seeing to see the white supremacists march the streets of Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us”.  People in the community held a counter-protest resulting in the death of a woman and the President said that was blame to be had on both sides.  While I do not believe that Trump alone is to blame for the environment of intolerance that I am seeing now, he has allowed people the platform to be open about their hatred.  He is also supported by the National Rifle Association (the NRA).  Here was his response to the tragic shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh:

“If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better. If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation,” Trump said. “They didn’t have protection. They had a maniac walk in and they didn’t have any protection. If there was an armed guard inside the temple they would have been able to stop him.  Maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him, frankly,” Trump continued. “Isn’t it a shame that you have to think of that inside a temple or inside a church? But certainly, the result would have been far better.”

Can we please get real for 1 minute?  The shooting still would have happened, in fact, the armed guard would likely have been the first casualty.  More guns are not the answer to gun violence.  No one should have to be at a house of worship with armed guards regardless of your religion.  Armed guards just mean more bullets and more targets.  The answer is twofold – tolerance and gun control.  No one needs an automatic assault rifle to defend themselves.  We have strict gun laws in Canada – and yes, while shootings do happen, because if you really want to get a hold of a gun, you will, it is not a daily event. How many more mass shootings do there need to be?  How many more candle-light vigils and marches need to happen before current administration in the States gets a clue?  Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both tried to pass gun control laws.  It’s time to stop pandering to a gun lobby and show value for life.

What happened in Pittsburgh was so devastating.  I have written about my own experiences with Anti-Semitism before (https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/being-different-in-a-trump-sort-of-world/) I mentioned that in this article that when I do go to synagogue, that I often have to go to security before I am allowed in.  It is my normal, but imagine having to do that.  Imagine, for a moment, if you will, being a 97 year old Holocaust survivor going to Sabbath services in your adopted country.  Surviving the brutal death camps only to be shot and killed by an anti-Semite?  Imagine how this makes other survivors feel or children and grandchildren of survivors?  Imagine knowing that because you are a minority, that this could happen to you?  Imagine looking at social media today and seeing your Jewish friends send out messages of hope to the community of Pittsburgh, but only your Jewish friends?  I remember seeing so many London Strong/Paris Strong/Boston Strong/Istanbul Strong/New York Strong photo frames going up, but today, I see only a few Pittsburgh Strong frames.

We all have a duty to speak out against hatred.  I watched CNN this morning, for the first time in a long time, and Jake Tapper ended his panel with this quote from Mister Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.”

There are more good people than bad in the world, and I have seen these helpers first hand, but here is another quote from the very same man that spoke to me:

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Be a hero – speak out against hatred and bigotry and intolerance, wherever you see it.  Don’t just like this post – act.  If someone around you spouts hatred of any kind towards any race or people of any sexual orientation, speak up and let them know that you will not tolerate this.  When Jews say confession on Yom Kippur to atone for our sins, we say it as a community, because if one of us is guilty, all of us are guilty.  We also believe that if you save one life, it is the same as saving all of mankind.  Think about that…if you speak out against one type of intolerance, you are speaking out against all types of intolerance.

 

 

 

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An Unveiling

Today was my mother’s unveiling ceremony.  If you have never been to one, it literally is a ceremony where a headstone is unveiled and it is held within one year of the person’s death if they are Jewish.  Planning it, from selecting the headstone, to writing the words that will live on long after I am gone, and planning all of the other details was, as I saw it, one of the last things that I could to honour a woman that I so admired.  My sister, Michele and I decided last night, that I would say a few words.  It was harder doing this than it was giving the eulogy at my mother’s funeral.  The shock and numbness that I felt that day could no longer protect me from what I was feeling.  There is a sense, on a day like this, of a wound that had never closed, reopening.  Seeing my mother’s headstone reminded me that this loss is real, and now, it had a tangible aspect that it never had before.

I did not prepare or write down anything for today’s service.  I just had a very vague idea of what I wanted to say.  Some of my family, who could not be at the service, asked if I could blog about it; others who were there did not hear everything, asked for the same.  Here is the gist of what I said:

“I first want to thank you all for coming out on such a cold day.  Some of you, like my cousin, had to travel from out of town.  My aunt is in from Ottawa, but I know that she had always planned on being here, for her sister.  When coming up with the epitaph for my mother’s headstone, it was difficult to summarize everything that I was feeling in 5 words or less.  Some of you many think, when you see it, that I was seeing my mother through rose-coloured glasses.  That the words came from a child’s love for her mother.  I actually took the words from Rabbi Chaim (Harold) Zelikovitz.

After my mother died, I showed my aunt my grandfather’s siddur (prayer book).  It has to be about 100 years old.  Harold had written a passage in it when my Zaydie died.  She suggested that I should ask him to send me something about my mother, and here are his words:

Judith Zelikovitz Schneiderman returned her heroic, courageous and dearly beloved soul to her maker on 17 Adar 5778 (March 3, 2018).  May she find comfort forever in the everlasting world.  Rest peacefully.  Never to be forgotten.  

That is where the words for the epitaph – Heroic, Courageous and Dearly Beloved – come from.  They seemed to perfectly describe my amazing mother who was exactly the person that I remember her to be.

We know that the loss of our mother does not just belong to me and my sisters.  It belongs to all of you as well.  You all miss her too.  We wanted to make sure that we reflected that loss on her headstone.  

I know how cold it is out, but I wanted to thank just a few more people.  Emily, Narda, Grace, Julia and Angel – you all put the care in caregiver.  You treated my mother like a cherished family member, not just a patient.  You gave my sisters and me peace of mind and cared for our mother 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We are forever grateful to you.  My mother cared about you all too.  She would be deeply touched and so appreciative of the turn out today, and we are too.”

I had the chance to speak with some of my mother’s very close friends and her dear cousins today.  It was so touching hearing what they thought of her.  One of her friends told me that my mother would have been so proud today – that everything was done perfectly.  That meant a lot to me, but no matter how perfect it was, it will never seem like enough.  Today reminded me of how I felt the week that my mother died.  I wondered, then, how something could be awful and beautiful at the same time.  That week, my family, including my cherished mother, were surrounded by people and with so much love, even as we were losing her.  Today, we were once again, surrounded with love, but this time, we all had to deal with the pain of her absence.

When I asked the Rabbi, who officiated at the unveiling, months ago where my mother would be once she died, he said something incredibly profound.  He said, “The best way to explain it is that your mother will be everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.”  That still makes perfect sense to me.

 

 


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Cast-Away: Surgery

Castaway.jpg

Hello Toes – I’ll be seeing a lot of you….

Having surgery if you have never been through it, can be a scary thing.  My only other surgery was when I was a year and a half and I do not have any memory of it.  I had almost a two day wait for ankle surgery.  The challenging part was I never knew when the surgery would happen.  When I had my oopsie moment, and was told that I would need to go under the knife, I was really hoping it would be immediate.  No such luck.  I went home, high on life (actually ketamine, which quickly wore off).  I was told to fast from midnight onward and they would be in touch.  I received a call at 8:30am telling me that the surgery would not be during the day, so I could eat up until 10:30am and to fast again until I got the call.  At 5:30pm, I received another call saying that the surgery would not be that night, that I was to fast again from midnight onward.  They told me that if I did not get in for surgery the next day, not to worry, I would be on the priority list for the day after that.  Lucky me!

When I finally heard from the surgeon later that night telling me that they had me booked for 8:30 the next morning, I was relieved.  As much as I feared having an operation, the alternative was to be in the non-healing limbo that I was currently stuck in.  It felt like progress at that moment.  Once again, I began to fast – it’s funny how I immediately got thirsty the second that I knew that I could no longer have any water!

I had to be at the hospital two hours prior to surgery, so my dutiful sister made the sacrifice and left the house with me at 6:00am.  Admitting is weird – everyone there will look better going into the hospital than they will leaving.  It was actually just me and other woman, who was clearly terrified.  I felt bad for her because in my own head I was on the road to recovery and nerves simply had not hit me yet.  Once I got through admitting, I was wheeled (in a chair) upstairs to the surgical waiting room and was taken immediately to Pre-Op.  I’m guessing that since I was a fall risk, the wanted me safely tucked away in a nice little stretcher.  You have to change into a gown, are given a robe, little foot covers and a surgical hat which makes you look quite silly.  If you have any modesty, which I did, at least at that point, you can also ask for disposable undies.

After some time went by, the anesthesiologist came to speak with me to ask me my weight (really, who do they think they are – that’s private), height and if I had any allergies. He mentioned that I would have a breathing tube inserted and he warned me that it may chip my teeth.  Horrified, I told him that better not happen and he assured me it was rare.  At this point, I got a little nervous and told him, and he just said not to worry, everything would be fine.  After another 20 minutes, the orthopedic surgeon came to speak with me.  If truth be told, he picked exactly the right profession – he was a real bone head.  Seriously, he gave me 30 seconds of his time and made it clear that he had zero interest in answering any questions.  I only had enough time to ask him how long the surgery would be (2 hours which seemed like a long time to me) and what the next steps would be (no pun intended).  He quickly told me that I would be in a plaster cast for two weeks and that I should stay as quiet as possible for that time.  I was basically only allowed to go to the bathroom.  I thought two weeks was a small price to pay for mobility.  He wasn’t Mr. Personality or Mr. Bed Side Manner and I reminded myself of one thing that my mother always said….as long as they can do their job, you do not need to be their best friend.

This was the point where I started getting really terrified because I knew that I was going to be wheeled into the Operating Room shortly.  My legs were literally shaking.  I tried to put on a brave face for my sister, but I could see that she was nervous for me.  They started wheeling me away, and wouldn’t even let me say good-bye to my sister.  The hall way was incredibly long.  As they wheeled me into the OR, I remember thinking how narrow the door was.  The room itself was so much smaller than what you see on TV.  It seemed not much bigger than a small-ish office.  It was painted a pink-ish purple that was kind of pretty.  I was struck by the number of people in the room already, and the surgeon hadn’t even made his appearance.  They made me slide off the stretcher and onto the OR table.  They told me to wrap remove the top of my gown and to tuck it under my arms like a tube top.  They hooked me up to a blood pressure/ECG (electrocardiography) unit and monitored my oxygen.  They barely spoke to me, talking about me, but not to me.  I lay there, freezing cold (it was like an icebox in there) with some vague promise of a blanket.

The anesthesiologist then told me that he was going to start an IV, and that he would place a mask over my face and that I should breathe into it.  Within 60 seconds, I would be asleep.  I completely thought he was full of it.  A short period of time went by and I was thinking, what if I don’t fall asleep?  I then got really light headed and the last thing that I remember saying was “I don’t feel very well….”  I woke up knowing that time had past, but with no memory of the surgery.  It was a dark sleep, no dreams.  I was overcome with horrible nausea, so they administered something to help….and it didn’t. They tried something else and it didn’t work either.  They tried something else, and still, I was so nauseated and dizzy, it was unbearable.  A little while later they let my sister in and she told me that two of my closest friends were there, but I was still so sick, I couldn’t think.  The nurse asked her to leave.  I was on anti-nauseant #7 when she told me that she only had half a dose left to give me.  She said to try to sleep it off, and I was so groggy that is exactly what I did.  I was supposed to be out of the hospital by 12:30 but at 2:30, I finally woke up.  I felt a little better.  After another half hour, I was allowed to move into a chair, and then I was finally allowed to see my sister.

We sat there for awhile and I was beyond thirsty and was allowed a small drink.  You are not allowed to leave until you can drink and eat something small.  Crackers it was!   After another hour and a half, I was finally allowed to leave.  My friend kindly drove us home and helped me get settled into bed (after mocking my crutch abilities).  I stared down at my fluffy white cast and thought, I just have to get through two weeks of this….

Which will lead into Castaway – The Recovery – Stage 1 – tune in next week to find out if I went stir crazy – how I passed the time, and what home medical aids everyone with mobility issues needs!

 


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Cast-Away: Emergency

“Oh, I’ve never broken a bone or had an operation, ” I bragged, while walking back from lunch with a good friend of mine that I work with.  Little did I know, that 5 minutes later, that would all change for me.  Too cheap to spend $3 on a bottle of water, I walked over to the cooler to get a fill up.  I’ve done this about 100 times over the last 6.5 months at our office.  This time though, as I passed the fridge, I felt my foot slide through something, tried to catch myself, and went down really hard on my ankle.  The floor was concrete, so I knew this was not going to be good.  When I looked down, I saw a bit of water and some shredded carrots.  Yep – carrots caused this.  Anyway, a few people that I work with came over to try to help, but if you are ever in my shoes, err, cast, give yourself a minute.  It’s a shock and you are in pain, so breathe and try to move at your leisure.

I could not put any weight on my ankle, but I was still hoping for a sprain, I’ve had enough of them to know about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and that in a few weeks, I would be back to normal.  Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.  Now, my dear readers, I am going to pass along all of my wisdom to you so that you know what to do in case this ever happens to you.  You will get a first hand account of everything from the incident, to the Emergency Room, to the surgery and finally to the path to wellness.  And yes, I take questions.  I had to depend on some of my own knowledge of hospitals to being a planner and finally, to the kindness of strangers and of course, my family and friends.

The first thing that you should do if you are going to break anything that requires an ambulance is to work in a completely accessible building.  Of course, I do not.   This was not ideal, but I was in an office chair and everything worked out.  Really, the most important thing that you can do is to remain calm.  Yes, I know it hurts, but freaking out is not going to make you more comfortable – trust me.  The nice paramedics put me in a cardboard splint and they advised that if I can make it from the stretcher to a wheelchair, I may get seen faster.  Unfortunately, if you do take an ambulance to the hospital, they will not be turning the siren on.  Think of it as a good thing – your injury is not life threatening.

The most important thing that you do need is someone there with you.  I initially thought, NONO, I do not want to be a bother, but I have since rethought that bit of stupidity.  That person can help you, remember to ask things that you may not think of and advocate for you.  I have done this so often for family members that I thought I would be a pro at it.  It is different when it is you.  Also, remember when you go through emergency, you have to be patient.  You are just one of many people there who have problems, and as difficult as it is to wait, your turn will come.  I listened to the paramedics and transferred into a wheelchair as quickly as I could.  It took me three hours to get through triage and another hour after that before I was seen.

Your next step, once you get a bed is a quick look by the doctor and then you will be taken to have X-Rays.  I was very hopeful that I would just have a sprain, or at worst a break that would just need a boot.  No such luck.  I broke my ankle in a place that would require surgery.  I would need plates and pins.  They needed to reset the bone (also called a fracture reduction) where the doctor manipulates the broken ends of the bone into their original position and fixes them in place with a plaster cast, in my case.  I was given the option of morphine where I would feel the pain, but it would be over quickly. The other option was to do it under a twilight sleep where I would be given a combination of ketamine and propofol (the Michael Jackson drug) and would not remember the pain, although I would be semi-awake.  I initially was going to go with the quick and easy morphine, but my friend convinced me that the pain would not be worth it.  I did what any normal person would do, and I checked with my other friend who confirmed that I was stupid for wanting to remember the pain.

I was a little nervous about being put to sleep, if I’m being honest, and the guy in the next stretcher was screaming and moaning.  They started an IV, told me to think pleasant thoughts because I would be having vivid dreams, and warned me that I may feel a burning.  I remember the burning and initially, I didn’t feel well, but then they an oxygen mask over my face and told me that I would smell plastic but to breathe in.  I did what I was told and all I remember was seeing the prettiest most vivid colours…ever.  I saw sparkles, pick up sticks and even incomplete flags.  My friend told me that one of the nurses was wearing a t-shirt with a flag – I guess that’s where it came from.  It was the most magical 20 minutes of my life.  I remember coming to and looking down and seeing the cast they put on my leg and declaring it pretty and fluffy like a cloud.  I then said, in my outside voice, “That was fun, can we do it again????”  I was loving life, laughing and joyful, and wanted to call my sister and let her know that I was OK.  In my dreamy state, I just called whoever had the letters i and l in their name – and could feel my friend roll her eyes at me.  I was loving life.

Apparently, I was allergic to ketamine and needed Benadryl but I did not care.  I was nauseated and was still just happy to be there.  I went for more X-Rays, was given the clearance to leave the hospital with a pair of crutches, and told not to eat after midnight in case I got my call for surgery….which will take us to:

Castaway – PART 2 – The Unkindest Cut (AKA Surgery)

 


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Path to Peace

 

Path to Peace.jpg

Image courtesy of Steven Branco

It has been two months since I came back from Israel and people still ask me what my favourite part of the trip was.  It is a question that I find impossible to answer.  The trip has become a series of moments and a blur of places.  Each place has their own story, but none more than Netiv Ha’asara – a small Moshav (cooperative agricultural community) that is the closest Israeli community to the Gaza Strip. The distance is 400 metres away or a little less than a 5 minute walk.  Just to give you some perspective, the distance from Niagara Falls, Canada to Niagara Falls, US is around 5.6 kilometres.  When we first were told that we would be visiting Netiv Ha’asara, I was filled with a sense of excitement.  How many people get to visit this place?  Other people may be a little fearful, but I knew that by going, that I would be able to see things differently.  It would not just be my own love of the country of Israel – it would be seeing, first hand, the day to day struggles of people living under the threat of rocket fire and now, the thousands of burning kites.

NATIV Haasara

To get to the Moshav, we drove through an imposing gate with barbed wire – it gave off a prison-like feel.  This quickly dissipated when we stepped out of the van into the hot, desert sunshine.  A short distance away, we could hear children laughing and playing in a pool.  It felt like we could be anywhere in the world.  We were met by a resident and we walked a short distance to a building that was the community bomb shelter.  It was larger than I expected and looked more like a place where you would have a town hall meeting versus a safe haven from missiles.  He explained the founding of the Moshav (they moved from the Sinai Peninsula after the Egytian/Israeli Peace Accords when they were displaced) which is why they feel that they cannot move.  He showed us some of the Qassam Rockets that rained regularly on the community.  We had the chance to hold them and they are quite heavy and capable of a lot of damage.  He also showed us an Iron Dome which Israel uses to intercept and destroy the rockets.  He patiently took our questions, but one question that he was not sure of is how much longer he could live with the rocket threat.

We were then taken a short distance to an outlook where you could Jabalia (Gaza) a very short distance away.  It really brought home, to me and my traveling companions, how precarious the situation was for these residents.  As we drove another short distance, we could see these little buildings decorated with artwork.  They were bomb shelters, decorated for and by children to make them less scary.  When an air siren goes off, the people (including the children) of the community have 15 seconds to get into a bomb shelter.  Imagine living your life that way.  We were dropped off at the Path to Peace (Netiv Hashalom) Visitor Centre where we had the pleasure of meeting its owner,  Tzameret Zamir,  Zamir lives in a house that is closest to the imposing gray walls that protect the people in Netiv Ha’asara from gunfire from the Gaza Strip.  We were shown in and told to select a colourful tile with a saying on it; I selected happiness.  We then sat and watched a movie about Zamir, her daughter and the Moshav that they call home.

We learned more about Zamir and what the Path to Peace is.  We took a moment to write a wish on the back on the small tile we were given.  We walked beyond the Visitor Centre (which is attached to her home) to the walls that protect the Moshav.   The walls, huge and imposing, are covered with a sign made up of thousands of tiny mosaic pieces, like the ones we just wrote our wishes on.  On one wall, there are doves and peace signs with Path to Peace written in English, Hebrew and Arabic.  On other, smaller walls, there are butterflies and flowers and an Israeli Flag mosaic lives on yet another wall.  It was overwhelming.  There, the scale of what Zamir has created finally made sense. She told us that she wanted to create these beautiful works of art so that the first thing that the Gazans see is something beautiful and welcoming when they look across at Israel.

Ceremic Messages

Image courtesy of Steven Branco

We each placed our tiles down and took a photo.  We had just a brief time to walk around before our visit came to an end.  I hugged Zamir and told her what an incredible person that she is and how moved I was by the experience.  I was also a little embarrassed that I did not know about the place or the Path to Peace artwork.  It is, of course, not controversial enough to make conventional news.  It is also too positive of a story to get any traction.  It is a reminder of possibility in these very dark times.  The residents of Nativ Ha’asara do not hate the people on the other side of the wall.  They want peace and this wall is there as a reminder to all that anything is possible if you set aside fear and embrace hope.

 

 

 

 


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Israel Then and Now

ElAl

EL AL Airlines postcard circa 1961.

After my mother died, I found a bin where she had some of her cards and letters saved.  I came across a stack of letters and postcards from my grandparents first and only trip to Israel in 1961.  My grandmother wrote my mother almost daily while she was away; her musings and love for travel put a smile on my face.  There was a wonder about travel in the 1960s.  People were still amazed that you could fly overseas and they dressed up in their finest clothing, not in their yoga pants like I do.  Sometimes, I wish that we had the same innocence, but my latest trip to Israel did remind me of how incredible the country is.  It was the right place at the right time in my life with the right people.  I thought it would be fun to look back at how much the country has changed using the postcards from my grandparents, putting them side by side with current pictures of the places that we visited.

 

It is not exactly Tel Aviv, it’s Ashkelon on the coast of the Mediterranean on the left, with a photo of the beach in Tel Aviv on the right.  The biggest differences?  The swimsuit fashion and now Israel is so dog crazy that they have part of the beach reserved so that the pups can bond, play and go for a run with their owners.  Here was a passage from my grandmother’s note: “We arrived here tonight (Ashkelon) and this is the loveliest place.  Our rooms are like bungalows facing the Mediterranean.  We are staying here overnight, then leaving for Beersheba and Jerusalem.”

Tel Aviv has changed so much in the 57 years since my grandparents visited.  On the left you see what part of the city used to look like.  On the right, the modern skyline of the White City.  My grandparents loved Tel Aviv with my grandmother telling my mother that “I enjoyed every minute of this wonderful city.”  She also wrote: “If my cards sound mixed up, Daddy was rushing me, so forgive the mistakes.  Daddy is so excited.”   Yes, my grandparents called each other Mummy and Daddy and no, it was not creepy in the least.  It was adorable.  They had quite a love story.  If you are all good, maybe one day, I will tell you about it.  It really is swoon-worthy.

Haifa Hotel

We did not go to Haifa this time, and I only got to spend one day there when I was in Israel in 2006.  It is a city on a hill with the beautiful  Bahá’í Gardens being the centerpiece. She wrote: “Arrived here yesterday, I doubt whether any place could be more beautiful than Haifa.”  The hotel featured on the postcard was Hotel Ben Jehuda – I do not believe it is still open, but there are plenty of places to stay.  I cannot wait to go back and spend a little more time there.

My trip ended in Jerusalem and even though it was the second time that I was there, it is still awe-inspiring to see the first view of the city as you wind around the Judean Mountains.  My grandmother wrote: “We just arrived in Jerusalem and never will I forget this drive!  When we came into the city, Daddy was asked to say the prayer and everyone was crying.”  Remember, that when my grandparents visited, the country was only 13 years old, and the Holocaust was not even a distant memory.  My grandparents and their contemporaries, likely never thought that there would be a Jewish State or that they would have the opportunity to pray at the Western Wall – a single spot that has not changed in thousands of years.  It meant everything to them, and that is just one of the reasons why I find visiting Jerusalem such an incredible experience.  It is a blend of ancient and modern; quiet contemplative moments and hustle and bustle; religious and secular.  It’s everything.  By the way, the President Hotel has long been abandoned, but had a very interesting history – check out this article to learn more https://guyshachar.com/en/2016/abandoned-president-hotel-jerusalem/

There were other postcards, from other places, like Eilat, where my grandmother was so excited to sail on a glass bottom boat.  One of the nicest surprises for them was the last night of their trip, at a farewell banquet, “…and for dessert, oranges from the Zelikovitz Orchard.  Was Daddy proud!”  My grandfather and two of his brothers, were in the fruit business for a long time, and until a few years ago, our family had the orange orchard.  The land was donated back to the State of Israel but for a long time, it produced oranges that were sold around the world.

The best part of Israel?  It is a country that is continuously changing.  The Tel Aviv skyline has changed, even in the 12 years since I was last there.  The Old City in Jerusalem has changed as archaeologists continue to excavate and discover groundbreaking knowledge that is corroborated by both the Old and New Testaments.  It is at the forefront of new technology and advances in medicine that can change lives.  It is a country that was a desert and where trees and flowers now grow.  It is a place where I can go, even though it is thousands of kilometres away, and feel the presence of my family.

 


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All Roads (Flights) Lead Here

I leave for a media trip to Israel and I was asked to write a tweet about what I was looking forward to the most.  In so few characters and with a more general audience, it’s hard to put what I’m feeling into words.  I kept it simple and said the White City in Tel Aviv and the Old City in Jerusalem. Of course, experiencing the blend of modern and ancient that Israel possesses is incredible. I am happy to be doing everything from a tour of the Soda Stream factory to being moved by once again visiting Yad Vashem to seeing the beautiful Baha’i Gardens in Haifa.  There is one thing that I am looking forward to more than that though.  It’s not a place – it’s a feeling.

When I visited Israel for the first time in 2006, I was overwhelmed by many things.  What stood out to me the most though, was not the history of the country itself, although that was impressive, it was the knowledge that I stepped off of a plane and into a place that held so many memories for the people who were the most important to me.  My grandparents, Nathan and Sara Zelikovitz, visited in the late 1960’s and fell in love with this new nation.  My parents visited the country in the 1980’s and could not stop raving about it.  It was, and is, still a very important part of our family history.

When my mother passed away 4 months ago, I made a promise to myself to find ways to honour her memory whenever and wherever I could.  I never thought that I would be travelling so soon after her death, but when my friend Shai asked me about coming, one thought really struck me. I could say Mourner’s Kaddish (a prayer that you say for 11 months after the death of a parent or for 30 days after the passing of a child, spouse or sibling) for my mother at The Western Wall – the holiest site where I can pray as a Jew.  I am not religious in the least, but my mother was spiritual, and this is something that I can do for her and it will be especially meaningful in the land that she loved so much.  Once I finish, I will put a paper in the wall with what is believed to be, a written prayer to G-d.  Spoiler alert – it will be prayers of good health for my family, particularly, my oldest sister Michele who is also battling breast cancer.

On my first trip to Israel, I wanted a picture at the Wall simply because my grandparents and parents had photos from there and it was a chance for me to recreate a moment in time, even if my relatives could not be with me.  This time, my wish is that somehow, my mother will feel that I am doing this for her and that my grandparents will know too.

Not too long ago, when I was cleaning out my mother’s papers, I came across some letters that my grandmother wrote about her own trip to the country.  She wrote about how much she and my grandfather loved it and were so excited to be there.  She said that at dinner one night, they were served oranges from a grove that my grandfather owned, and he was bursting with pride.  I can picture the look on my quiet, unassuming Zaydie’s face.  To know that I’m going to be back in this country, a place that was so important to my family and to be able to honour my wonderful mother is what I am most looking forward to.