A Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem

We made this trip between May 9th and May 26th. Once again, circumstances conspired to make this post quite late.

Lior Standing before the Kotel (Western Wall) following his Bar Mitzvah

Lior, the youngest son of our Rego Park neighbors, Anat and Shimon, was going to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel in Jerusalem. We have known Lior since he was born and felt that we had to be there. So we scheduled a trip to Israel. Sounds simple… It wasn’t.

Susie decided that since we were heading to Israel, we should also visit her cousin Shelley in Aix-en-Provence. Shelley and her husband, Michael have repeatedly asked us to visit them and it was time that we do just that. That side trip was not as easy as I thought it would be. When I tried to book it myself, the trip was double th cost of a direct flight to Tel Aviv and back to New York. We turned to our travel agent in Sarasota for help in getting this trip done. Our travel agent found that it was not a simple thing because we wanted to fly on El Al, the Israeli airline.

To get to Aix-en-Provence, we left New York on Thursday afternoon and landed in Barcelona, Spain on Friday morning. In Barcelona, we took a high-speed train (the French TGV) to Aix, arriving there on Friday night. The trip involved 22 hours of travel during which we hardly slept. Shelley and Michael picked us up at the railroad station and took us to their home.

On Saturday morning, Michael drove us into the Aix. It was market day and there were several markets where vendors were selling fresh food, antiques and Flowers. The town was quite crowded. When we got to the main street in Aix, Cours Mirabeau, we learned of the other reason for the crowd… the next day was the running of a 70.3 Mile Ironman Race. Aix is a fascinating city and I wish we had the time to see more of it.

Susie and Shelley in front of the cathedral. I was surprised to see Alphorns playing until i remembered that the French Alps are visible north of the city
The Flower market on the Place de l’Hotel de Ville (City Hall Square)
Sand Sculpture on the Cours Mirabeau
The Finish line for the IronMan race to be run the run on Sunday

On Sunday morning, Shelley, Michael, Susie and I headed to Marseille, about 45 minutes south of Aix. My description of Marseille is a port area surrounded by hills. We parked in the Old Port and spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon walking. The upper part of the city contains a lot of narrow streets and stairways by which the area is navigated. By mid afternoon, we were all worn out and headed back to Aix.

Michael, Susie and Shelley in the Old Port area. On the hill behind them is the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde.
Marseille Harbor entrance. The smaller island on the left is the Château d’If, a prison used as the model in Dumas’ novel “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
The Marseille Cathedral
Street scene showing stairways and narrow streets on the hilly portion of Marseille.
La Vielle Charite.
Susie walking on one of the narrow streets of Marseille.
Graffiti covered several of the walls on the streets we walked.

On Monday, May 13th, We headed back to Barcelona. As I said earlier, there was no other way for us to economically make the trip to Aix-en-Provence and then to Israel. The trip required two changes of trains. The first leg was on the high-speed train to Marseille, a trip that took about 11 minutes. We then took a regional train (slower than the TGV) to Montpellier where we changed to the high-speed train to Barcelona. Not only did we change trains, but we also had to change stations. This was accomplished by taking a free shuttle bus to a light rail station. The light rail dropped us off near the second station. We arrived in Barcelona in late afternoon and stayed overnight in an airport hotel. The next morning we took our flight to Israel arriving that afternoon, local time. We rented a car and headed to my cousins Noemi and Yair in Ramat HaSharon.

On Wednesday, May 15th, we headed into Yaffo, one of the oldest cities in the world. Yaffo is now part of the city of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. The visit to Yaffo with my cousins Noemi and Yair, is something we have done every time we came to Israel. We walked along the Tel Aviv Promenade where you can a good view of both the Yaffo and Tel Aviv waterfront.

One of the highlights of this visit was eating at an authentic Arab restaurant. A variety of appetizers absolutely filled the table, with just enough room for the plates. After filling up on the appetizers came the main course… we didn’t need a big dinner that night.

Tel Aviv, as seen from the northern part of Yaffo. When I left Israel, in 1952, the tallest building was about four floors high.
Yaffo as seen from the Tel Aviv Promenade. The rocks on the left center are the location of the Greek Mythological tale of Andromeda.
Yaffo Port Breakwater. Andromeda rocks are visible off the end of the breakwater.

Thursday, May 16th, was devoted to Lior’s Bar Mitzvah. We left Ramat Hasharon early in the morning and headed on our first of three trips to Jerusalem. Our destination was a parking lot adjacent to the Pais Arena, where we boarded a bus to the Dung Gate of the Old City. On the way, we stopped at the Jerusalem Windmill for breakfast. The lack of parking anywhere near the Dung Gate necessitated the use of the bus. The Dung Gate is located adjacent to three structures that are significant to two religions. The first and second are Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, holy to Islam. Both of these are located on Temple Mount. The third structure is the Western Wall, known as the Kotel to Jews.

The Montefiore Windmill in Jerusalem.
Three generations of the Weitz Family at the Windmill. The old City wall is behind them.

The area in front of the Kotel is managed in accordance with Orthodox Jewish tradition, the men and women are in separate areas, separated by a fence (see picture below). The picture below was taken during our visit in 2014. It was taken on Wednesday when no Bar Mitzvahs are held at the Kotel because the Torah is normally read on Saturday, Monday, and Thursday.

The Kotel on a Wednesday

The crowd on Thursday is a lot larger with the men in the Bar Mitzvah party pushing closer to the wall. The women are trying to get closer to the fence so they can watch the proceedings over it. My pictures of Lior’s Bar Mitzvah were limited because the professional photographer was in the best position, as he should be, and blocked my shots.

Shimon Assisting Lior with the Tefillin (Phylacteries)
Shimon blessing his sons, Lior and Ron, after the Torah reading.
This picture is symbolic, to me at least, of Israel. An armed soldier praying at the Kotel. This picture also provides a view of all the prayer messages tucked into the wall.

After the Torah reading the group proceeded out of the Old City accompanied by musicians. We boarded the bus and headed to a restaurant for the reception. After the meal, we boarded the bus again and headed to the parking lot to retrieve our car for the trip back to Ramat Hasharon.

The next few days were spent with my cousins. The highlight was a dinner on Friday night with our five cousins and their significant others.

On Saturday, we drove through Jerusalem to the settlement of Kedar, to attend Lior’s Bar Mitzvah in the local synagogue. We had to Leave Ramat Hasharon early to make the 8am start time for the service. I left my camera at my cousins because photography was not permitted in the synagogue.

On Monday, May 20th, accompanied by Noemi and Yair, we headed to Haifa. A week before we left New York, Susie learned that she had a second cousin, on her paternal side of the family, who lived in Haifa. Up until this point she had very little knowledge about her grandmother’s family. It turned out that the newly found cousin’s grandmother was Susie’s grandmother’s sister. While still in New York, Susie contacted her cousin, Sharon and arranged a lunch meeting at a restaurant on Dado Beach near Haifa. Prior to meeting Sharon, we went to Mount Carmel, where we viewed the Bahai Shrine and gardens. Following the lunch, we headed to Caesarea, to visit her cousin, Anne.

Yair, Noemi, Susie on Mount Carmel
Bahai Shrine seen from above, Mount Carmel, Haifa
The Bahai shrine seen from the German Colony.
Susie on Dado Beach, Haifa
Susie and newly found cousin, Sharon

On Tuesday, May 21st, cousin Gadi took us north to Galilee. We had been in the area on previous trips to Israel, but not to the places he took us. We visited Qiryat Shemona, Metula (northernmost city in Israel), Tel Hai, Tel Dan Nature Reserve, and places in the Golan Heights.

Alaska Inn hotel in Metula. Not something I expected to see in northern Israel.
Lebanon, viewed from Metula. The road, at center, is in Lebanon. Snow-capped Mount Hermon is in the backgound. The israeli occupied part of the mountain contains the only ski area in the country
Joseph Trumpeldor Memorial in Tel Hai. Behind it lie the graves of the defenders of Tel Hai in 1920.
Site of a major tank battle in Golan during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Vineyard in the crater of the Avital Volcano, Golan Heights
New Qunaitra, Syria viewed from the Golan Heights. The old city was almost totally destroyed during the 1973 war. Truce line is located just beyond the agricultural land in the foreground.

On May 22nd, we went back to Jerusalem. Susie wanted to revisit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. We had visited it previously in 2000. Photography was not permitted in the museum, so.. No Pictures.

Before we left New York, Susie learned that her friend and colleague, Barbara Stripling, was going to be in Jerusalem on this day. So, we decided to meet for a few hours. That turned into a minor comedy. Barbara told Susie the name of the hotel. Unknown to us, there were three hotels in Jerusalem with the same name. Of course, Susie and I went to the wrong one. A helpful front desk clerk helped us locate Barbara.

Barbara Stripling and Susie in Jerusalem

We had one last excursion on May 23rd. That was back to Caesarea. We had already visited Caesarea a few days earlier, but this time we just went to the beach north of the town. The beach sits alongside the ruins of a Roman aqueduct that I assume supplied ancient Caesarea. It appears that there is some stabilization work being performed on the aqueduct as well as some beach replenishment from the sand on the land side of the aqueduct.

Roman Aqueduct at Caesarea Beach. Sand has blown over the aqueduct and is being used for beach replenishment (center, right).
Beach restoration and stabilization of Caesarea Aqueduct
Susie under one of the aqueduct arches. We saw people using the arches as cooking shelters and a place to get out of the sun.

Friday, May 24th was spent relaxing and walking on the shopping streets of Ramat Hasharon. Saturday was a day of rest and an early night. On Sunday, we left Ramat Hasharon at 5 am for an 8 am flight to New York. The flight was long, eleven hours, but uneventful.

This was a great trip. We saw Lior at his Bar Mitzvah and we saw Susie’s and my relatives. We are already talking about another trip in two years, God willing.

Washington DC at Night

On our way to Florida for the winter, we stopped in Washington, DC for a long weekend, to attend the festivities surrounding the wedding of the son of one of my cousins. On Thursday, October 4th, our only evening without any scheduled activities, we took a night tour of Washington, DC. Over the course of 2 1/2 hours, we stopped at the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, and Marine Corps Memorial. Susie and I highly recommend that anyone visiting Washington take a night tour.

I have not done much low light photography and this tour was quite a challenge for me. My camera does not have a flash… it would be useless for most of the pictures I took; I left my monopod and tripod in the car, which was in the hotel garage, so I had to take all the pictures free-hand. Fortunately, I took enough pictures changing camera settings until I got a usable shot. Below is a selection of what I felt were the best shots of the night.

 

Jefferson Memorial viewed from the edge of the Tidal Basin

Cousins at the Jefferson Memorial. From left to right, my Chilean cousins Polo, Patricia (aka Jenny) and Sam with Susie

FDR in a Wheelchair. The sculpture is based on a rare photograph of Roosevelt in a wheelchair.

This sculpture of a depression era breadline is based on a famous photograph

Martin Luther King Memorial

Lincoln Memorial Viewed from the edge of the Reflecting Pool. After walking about five miles this afternoon, I was in no mood to tackle the steps into the Memorial. That is why I stayed below to take this shot.

Washington Monument and Capitol viewed from the Lincoln Memorial

Pentagon 9/11 Monument. This monument consists of 184 benches, one for each victim. The benches have reflecting pools under them

Marine Corps Monument

Note: I didn’t realize that I the copyright date on the pictures was wrong. I thought I had updated it. All these pictures were taken on October 4, 2018, and the copyright is for that date.