Memories of my mother

My mother died two weeks ago, that was the reason for my rush visit to Israel. I didn’t see her before she died, lucky for her it was only 10 days in the hospital and it was over. She lived with cancer for 12 years, but she lived very well. I’m glad I saw her three months ago.

Now for memories.My parents, when they were young, very very young.Still beautiful, at one of my nephew’s weddings.At another wedding, with her three kids. Meeting her first great-grandchild, my grandson Aytan. By the time she died, she had nine great-grandchildren and one more on the way. Unfortunately, because of the distance she never met my other four, only saw pictures of them. She loved hiking and was able to hike up until about 2 years ago.She still looked this good in February when I saw her.

Burials in Israel are very direct and basic. Coffins are only used when the body has been traumatized. Otherwise, the body is wrapped in a shroud, put on a simple stretcher under a Tallit, if it is a man and he had one. Or under a simple covering. At the grave site, the body is gently lowered into the grave, all the while the Chevrah Kaddishah – the men from the burial society are asking for forgiveness, that they are being kind enough and gentle enough.

Then the family and friends fill in the grave themselves. This may sound harsh, for me, it was very real and therapeutic. We returned my mothers’ body to the earth, no euphemisms no trying to hide death. Simple accepting it.

We sat Shiva for seven days, another wonderful Jewish tradition, where the mourners, (Parents, children, siblings, so in this case, only her three children) sit on low chairs and people come to share with us. Either memories they had, or ask us about our memories. Sometimes it’s just talk that has nothing to do with my mother. But it is a wonderfully cathartic experience.

On the 7th day, the Shiva ends and we went back to the gravesite to say Psalms.

This is what the gravesite will look like until a tombstone is put on top. Flowers aren’t really common in Israel, these were sent from my brother’s work. But most Israelis don’t put flowers. We put a stone on the gravesite.My father’s grave, right next to hers. He died 33 years ago to the week. This is what hers will look like in a few months.

Then it was back to her apartment, which is in a senior center, where friends from the building who couldn’t make it to the Shiva came to pay their respects. She was well loved.

I brought some items home, among them this: My mother’s wedding ring, this is the ring my she used when she married my father. In the last few years, she really got thin because of cancer and this ring didn’t fit anymore. She wore it on a chain around her neck. I don’t know where my father’s ring which was identical went. I’m sure my brothers will find it at some point. It fits me perfectly. It is a simple yet artistic ring, silver, and copper.

Someone at the Shiva stated things very well: it was sad but not a tragedy. She lived a long full life, she lived it well. She left many wonderful descendants and we will remember her and carry her memory on to our children and grandchildren.


Food in Israel

My Sister in law has turned a bedroom into a bakery.Getting this behemoth into the apartment was tough. Luckily it did fit in the elevator, but doors were removed and hinges taken off. They aren’t moving anytime soon. They also had to rewire, since this is an industrial oven.Making the starter. Sarah works with both sourdough starters or in this case – homemade yeast water. The yeast water was a few days old, bubbling away, from this stage until baked bread – it took 1.5 days.She made the yeast water starter on Wednesday night. By Friday morning the dough itself was ready to be formed.Each ball is rolled out, then twisted into this little braid, it’s not a challah, it’s much smaller.Letting them rise some more, then they are dipped in water and poppy seeds.She mentioned a German name, seeing that see grew up in Austria, I know it has the word Muhn in it, since that means poppyseed.  These are not sweet at all, but oh so yummy.Using the same dough and this finger trick, she also made Jerusalem bagel, which is covered on both sides with sesame seeds. Same dough, different taste because of the seeds.This is true sourdough made from spelt. Yup, all kinds of interesting grains out there and each needs it’s own starter.

There were Challahs as well, I didn’t get a picture because we were already at the table when they came out, and nothing survived.Obligatory images of the piles of vegetables at the open market. As well as fruit, the citrus season is ending just as the strawberry season starts. I know, it’s not food, but I did deliver the quilt, the parents are thrilled.The baby couldn’t care less.


Annual trip to Israel

Hardly any pictures from Jerusalem this time.Spring has sprung and the almond trees are blooming.

Then I went down to the coast to stay with friends in Kfar Saba. They recently moved into an apartment in the center of town.

Up on the roof of their 8 story building, they have a very nice rooftop room and patio. I took pictures. This part of Israel is the narrowest, 12 miles, from the sea to the Palestinian area. Looking northwest towards Netanya which is on the sea, right beyond those tall buildings.The big water tower in the middle of town, I could almost reach out and touch it.To the east, where the trees are is the edge of Kfar Saba, right beyond is the very large Palestinian town of Kalkiliya. I could have done a pano photo, 12 miles is really nothing at all. I have to drive further than that to get to my son’s house in LA.On Street level in Kfar Saba, lovely old trees. This community started with the First Aliyah in 1898. Most people think modern Israel started with the creation of the State in 1948, not so. In the late 19th century the Jews started returning to settle in Israel, at the time, under the Ottoman Empire the land was mostly empty. A few ancient cities (Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed) that has mixed populations of Jews and Arabs, and a lot of empty swampy, malarial lands. Young Jews came to be farmers, started the Kibbutz movement, started places like Kfar Saba which were originally agriculture in nature.  Through the early 20th century, more Jews arrived, as well as many Arabs from Syria and Egypt, the population changed drastically.Today, Kfar Saba is lovely suburbia, with a lot of High Tech companies nearby. I am interested in things like fabric and yarn stores.I found two yarn stores, chock full of acrylic yarn, a little bit of cotton as well as sewing supplies and embroidery thread. No real fabric.  The sign on the door says: Air conditioning, it gets very hot and muggy.  So I understand why wool is scarce. I also understand why there isn’t bamboo or other natural fibers. It’s just too expensive, and knitting in Israel is like it was in America in the 70s.  Those who are up to speed with what is going on get their yarn elsewhere. Israelis are the most traveled people around.Someone took one of the old homes downtown and created a compound. A new home for themselves while using some of the older structures as a delightful antique store. The red sign is pointing towards the store.How cute is this?There is an area where they offer free coffee.There is a little workshop, I could see they are painting pots, pans and other items that look like toadstools. Here shown with its own toad.You can make a cup of coffee and sit out here enjoying the yard.At a more modern bar, I found this decor. I love how Israel is really getting into bright happy colors.

Next post, food.