I sometimes wonder if kids live on the same planet as older folks, former kids themselves, including me. I spent this summer here in Herzliya being way too hot, both weather-wise and under the collar. Weather is easily explainable. Israeli summers are hot. Hotter than you know where. Under the collar is strictly political. I wonder if many of the people running our world are sane. And I doubt it.
But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about our summer adventure, in the heat, in Israel, even with the under the collar sweats.
Our adventure actually started a few months back when our son and his amazing wife made their announcement. They would visit us in Herzliya in August, after day camp ended for the 5 and 7 year old girls. A first time visit for both kids. A long awaited dream come true for us.
We wanted to show the girls everything. We yearned for them to fall in love with Israel and long to return, soon.
We succeeded in one of the two missions. We could not show them everything. We, ourselves, haven’t seen everything. But, and this is the big but, they had a blast. They can’t wait to come back. They loved being here, maybe not always for the Jewish experience or fulfillment of the Zionist dream, but because they had so much fun. And if you’re 5 or 7, having fun is way more important than waxing philosophical. And if having fun means just loving a playground or beach or pita with good chumus (definitely not pita with the often stale, crunchy, too long expiration date of American supermarket pita, and the preservative laden chumus that’ll expire in 2020) although some of our Israeli version is also far from chemical free, that’s fine by me.
And if meeting your Israeli cousins, four of them, who are all in your age group, between ages 5 and 8, and figuring out how to play with them without a common language, and being wild and rowdy and laughing with total joy, makes you love Israel, just go for it! Like you did. That’s fine by me as well.
So we didn’t do everything. We didn’t even do all we intended. Hot days need some cool time. For our girls, both born in Florida and both fish-like swimmers, cool time meant pool time. And they found pools here in Herzliya, and in the holy city of Jerusalem and in the northern metropolis of Haifa. There were some pretty stunned lifeguards when they saw the little one do her thing but they soon realized she knew what she was doing. One almost jumped in after her, blowing his whistle frantically. He calmed down. Yes, pools were definitely fun and although they could swim anywhere, even at home, couple the pools with the sightseeing and it just rounded out the experience.
(A Haifa diversion: I never knew thee Haifa. I’ve passed through, complained about the pre-tunnel traffic, made a perfunctory visit to the B’hai Temple and ignored you………for decades. Silly me. Haifa is our answer to San Francisco. It’s beautiful, charming, full of flavor with its refreshing and friendly mix of multitudes; a really delightful place).
I think we’re on to something. Having fun is the secret to aliyah. You knew that all along. If you like being in a place you want to spend more time there…….like a lifetime. So, our job as de facto tour guides was to make these girls have fun. Whatever it took. If it was chocolate spread and Telma Cornflakes, go for it.
If it was the freedom to wander away from the adults in a strange hotel or restaurant or mall because Israel is so much safer than America and kids can be independent here, go for it. They were proud to descend a flight of stairs and visit the restroom unescorted in the Dan Carmel. We, on the other hand, were not worried at all.
Of course staying up long after their normal bedtime and having Savta Ro tell endless stories was a nice dividend…..at least for Savta Ro. They loved most the tales of their long gone relatives, those they never knew. Especially with the accompanying photos. And the girl named Sam gazed with wonder at the man named Sam whose name she bears. Somehow, in our New Jersey home, I never shared his picture. May she have his longevity love of life, and love of this land called Israel……which was his name in Ivrit.
The visit is now over and we are all sad. Sad that it’s over. One wouldn’t want such an important visit to end without some tears. We had the tears, all of us, and we, none of us, can wait until the next one. May it be soon!