Our first full day (9/27, or as it would be written here, 27/9) was spent traveling from Tel Aviv to Haifa. Not after our obligatory Israeli breakfast, including my fave Shakshuka. We settled into the apartment in the Mercaz HaCarmel area of Haifa. We love our apartment and especially the location. We have a park (mostly the wooded with benches kind) close by and HaNassi Street just beyond. The Haifa Auditorium and the Cinematheque are on the other side of the park and a few blocks further is the Haifa Zoo and Gan HaEm garden. This week is the Haifa International Film Festival mostly at the Auditorium and Cinematheque, but will also include free concerts (Gan HaEm) and outdoor movies. I have my list of movies to attend! Bonnie and I are sifting through the lists figuring out which movies to attend. Our Hebrew is taking small baby steps (I think I may be at the toddler level), but we’re trying!
The kids have adjusted quite easily to the time changes and sleeping through the night. Bonnie and I, on the other hand, are still having 3 hour sleep intervals, including 2 hour naps. Of course, this has not stopped our exploring. We walked to the Louis Promenade with the great views of Haifa and the Mediterranean Sea. We noticed the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, which we are looking forward to checking out soon. Then, on to the Bahá'í gardens and Shrine of the Báb, both so beautiful! The walk back home was all uphill in that afternoon heat, nothing the awesome falafels couldn’t take care of!
A word on the animal life here. We have these extraordinary bats in and out of a front yard tree in the evenings. They are huge! We have been enjoying watching these pterodactyls from our sunroom. I have yet to find out the species, but I’ll ask around the biology department. I have been enjoying morning looking out into the garden at all the new birds cruising around. Can’t ID them yet, but we are seeing doves, LBBs that almost act like hummingbirds, and even spotted parrots (as it turns out African rose-ringed parakeet) in the tree across the street. The crows are different too (Hooded crows, Corvus cornix). Looking forward to seeing more. At some point in the blog, I’ll have to tackle the feral cat thing here.
There is a hallucinogenic that has overtaken us these past few days in Israel. We arrived on Tuesday night after 16 hours on a plane (14 actually flying, 2 fixing various problems). None of us sleep all that well on planes and it ended up being mostly cat naps (foreshadowing Israel [see Part 2 coming soon]) here and there. I watched several movies and must say that I was blown away by Whiplash. It had so much to say about life, art, and dreams; as a jazz fan, I really enjoyed the setting, but the themes found in it were universal and you could put your own field as the setting and it would be relevant.
Arrival in Tel Aviv provided a few observations. Here we were, the crazy Kneitels, arriving with almost no Hebrew in our vocabulary just trying to make it through the airport. One of the beautiful scenes at the airport was a huge group of Ethipopian Jews (at least 100) coming for a visit. Young and old smiling, like us, in anticipation of this adventure. Once in the baggage claim, there was probably double that group size waiting for them with balloons and cheers in equal anticipation. One of the first lessons we teach our kids is that of “stranger dangers”. Well, how easily we forget! We went to this taxi stand and a taxi driver took us on this 10 minute walk into this parking garage, trying to barter (his price was totally ridiculous) while also wanting assurance that he had a van (at least) to carry all of our luggage and us. Well, we get there and he’s trying to pile our luggage (we came with a lot of baggage, literally and figuratively) in this little sedan with no luck. Meanwhile, it’s past midnight (Israel time) and we’ve had no sleep and we’re getting lured into this isolated parking garage….once back at the taxi stand, nobody wanted anything to do with us…reminding me of Elaine’s experience with doctors on Seinfeld….we are finally saved by Robert DeNiro, no less! We had our first “stranger danger” lesson, but a happy ending.
We made it to our hotel, exhausted and of course Bonnie and I could not sleep and only got 2 hours that night! I turned the TV on at some point and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was playing with Hebrew subtitles…now, that is how I want to learn Hebrew! You can prepare in many ways: we talked with many people who have visited and lived here, watched You Tube videos (including Conan O’Brien’s videos in Israel), read blogs and other websites, and I had my Fulbright Orientation back in June, but this training goes only so far. Reality hits, we all look at each other periodically to say “are we really doing this?”, “what are we doing?” fear and excitement and then more fear stir through our bodies. Sometimes it volcanically emerges as meanness to each other, but mostly we have been in awe and laughing to tears about our adventures.
For about a week now, I have been officially on my sabbatical. I have been working on papers and other research, but life hasn't been that straightforward. We are moving out of our house this Friday and will be nomadic until we depart on the 25th. We are grateful to my cousins in town housing us during this time. For now, I have been spending much of the days cleaning, calling, preparing for departure from the house and the country.
Music has been a great outlet (along with reading) from the looming pressure in Casa de Kneitel.One of my goals has been to play more guitar during the sabbatical. I have picked up the guitar a little more and since my son is home schooling for now, we've been playing music together too. I have a mandolin that I've been messing with on and off for a couple of years and I will be bringing it along to Israel. One thing I've noticed is that I've also been turing to comfort music. We all know about comfort food, but I've been finding some music has filled that role (and less calories, eh?).
Here are some of the albums I've been turning to during this tumultuous time, my comfort music:
1. Rumours, Fleetwood Mac
2. Havest, Neil Young
3. Any Grateful Dead show
4. Songs for Ellen, Joe Pass (anything by him)
5. I'm All For You, Joe Lovano
6. Anything Django Reinhardt
7. Simple Things, Zero 7
8. On the Sunny Side of the Street, Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie
9. Further In, Greg Brown
10. Piano trios: Kenny Barron, Bill Evans, Hank Jones, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, etc...
This blog will follow my experiences as a Fulbright Scholar in Israel (University of Haifa) during the 2017-18 academic year. Also check out the family blog for another perspective.