As Alan's last post indicated there really has been a lot going on! My family's visit (minus some much-missed key players!) was wonderful. In all of my mixed feelings about being here and its joys and challenges, having family here --with me as the main tour guide-- afforded a wonderful opportunity to figure out what I really wanted to share with them of this strange and beautiful country. One real highlight was visiting Kfar Blum, the kibbutz where my brothers and I each spent our tenth-grade year. Our consensus: everything looked smaller except the cows which somehow looked bigger.
Both there and throughout our trip it was amazing to hear Isaac speaking Hebrew!!! That he is as comfortable as he is with the language after relatively little contact with it for over 15 years drove home to me the idea that the true key to speaking a second language is not the size of your vocabulary or the precision of your grammar, but your willingness to engage in the act of opening up your mouth and trying to communicate. And hearing their papa speaking Hebrew definitely sparked Daia and Sadie's interest, at one point leading them to ask, "Papa, how old were you when you started to learn Hebrew?"
So very much more to tell about their visit (and kudus to each one of them for making the journey!) but no sooner had they left than I got on a plane for a quick trip to visit Alan! If a major theme of this year is retracing my steps from 10th grade and healing/fixing various things along the way then indulging in a quick trip back to the States was a big big healing. Left over from that year was the sense that I was somehow "trapped" here and just had to "stick it out." No, the adult me happily remembered, I can come and go as I please (credit card in hand). This has the added benefit of getting a sense of Israel as more accessible: It's not some far off alien territory; it's really just a plane ride away.
I flew back to Israel late Sunday night and would have forgotten that Monday was Ta'anit Esther/the Fast of Esther had I not been reminded of it by a snippet of liturgy that I heard as the Orthodox men began praying all around me on the plane. It's a dawn to dusk fast and, because of the hours lost in flying was a very short "day" indeed. By the time I got home from the airport it was already dark.
Purim was starting to be in evidence on the ride home: here and there a pedestrian in a tiara or a crazy clown wig. But Purim in Jerusalem started a day later (walled city, long story) so I've been in a sort of jet-lag and Purim fog for the last 48 hours or so.
Hands down best part of Purim this year: The משלוח מנות/mishloach manot (customary gifts sent to friends and neighbors on Purim) from Jacob and Tamar. When I finally left the apartment today I found on my doorstep a Roll-Your-Own sushi gift basket complete with bamboo sushi roller, prepared rice, nori, veggies, and --most important of all-- instructions! As you can see from the pictures, my technique will take a lot of work but it was delicious! Definitely the most creative משלוח מנות I've ever heard of. Ingenious! Thoughtful! Yummy!