I have been to Israel seven times. Each trip left a significant memory. The first one was in 1966. I remember being impressed by the efficiency. For example: Each floor had a light, but as the elevator went one flight higher, the light automatically went out. This was to conserve electricity. The same was true walking up or down the stairs. Beauty was also important. Every apartment in my cousin’s building had a clothes-drying balcony, but the clothes were not visible from the street; there was an artistic grill work hiding the clothes. The kitchen counter was marble. This was many years before it became the “in” thing here. And it was better, even then. The counter had an edge and a groove after it, so no liquids dripped on the floor. Now, about 60 years later, we still don’t have anything like it in the US!
On another trip, my cousin took me scuba diving (something he did almost daily). My cousin lived in Bat Yam, walking distance from the sea. After a day’s work, he’d take his gear and walk the few yards to the water. It was magical! I saw the remains of a sunken ship that might have been there for a thousand years! On that trip, I decided to learn to dive on my own, not breathing from someone else’s tank. I finally did that, many years later, in the Virgin Islands.
In early 1968, we saw endless train loads of captured ordnance from the 1967 war. Trainload after trainload! This went on for months! Most of it was Russian made, I was told.
Another thing I noticed was that construction work started very early in the morning; sometimes before 7 a.m. Lunch was long, at least a couple of hours, to avoid the midday heat. Work lasted later than here. With the advent of almost universal air conditioning, the above-mentioned hours have changed to resemble ours.
I must mention here that my cousin was Benjamin Siegel (or Zygiel). He was quite famous in Israel for his prosecutorial work. Many years have gone by since he passed (about 22), so his name is not as familiar to everyone. When he took me to the airport, he didn’t just drop me off. He escorted me to my seat, buckled me in, then saluted the captain and left. Besides everything else, he was also very tall and handsome. I was treated very well because of him. When my parents retired, they went on a cruise to Israel. My cousin took them camping in the Galilee. My mother was so impressed that he stepped out of the tent and picked their breakfast oranges right off a tree!
My first trip to Israel as a divorcee was a Hadassah convention. My Israeli girlfriend was amazed at the scope. By the way, she drove me from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That girlfriend was my best friend since sixth grade in Poland. Unfortunately, she is gone now like many of my loved ones. She died of lung cancer, and she never smoked. But her husband did, and he is still OK. Who said life is fair?
The best memory is the most recent: my grandson Zachary Opengart’s Birthright Israel trip this past spring. I am delighted that it was his idea and pleased with the effect it had on him. When he came back, he said he was proud to be Jewish! That is far better than “I had a lot of fun,” which many kids say today.
He visited many sights in Israel, including the Golan Heights, Tsfat, the Negev and more. He rode a camel in the Negev, met many people such as the mayor of Tsfat and the Minister of Tourism. He also made friends with a young Israeli man who was on the trip. He just made a presentation at the July board meeting of the Hadassah Lower New York State Region. Needless to say, I am a proud grandma! I’d also like to mention that Hadassah was one of the earliest supporters of Birthright Israel. It was money well spent.