By Michele Herenstein

Dear Readers,
I am here in the land of Israel and I couldn’t be happier.

I started making plans for my trip to Israel way back in February 2019. I thought it would be a typical trip, seeing my brother and his family whom I now consider Israelis, and going to Cramim Spa. It turned out that when I mentioned the trip to my closest friend, she decided to go on the same exact day as me. We both arrived on a Monday and had plans together for the entire first week. The first week was stupendous, even with several bloopers, and there were many super-cool happenings.

One day we were on Rechov Beit Lechem and there were several guards and policemen lined up. My friend asked what was going on. She was told that Bibi Netanyahu was coming to see the opening of a new museum. There were at least eight cars and nobody was supposed to know which car Bibi was in. The guard described to my friend (surprisingly) which car Bibi was in (regular middle car) and why they did that. Suddenly the line of cars passed right in front of us, without even a siren or other noise. And before we knew it he was out of sight. No time to grab my phone and get a video. Bummer.

It felt surreal because in the United States, if President Trump is in town, the whole New York City “closes down.” When Bibi was in town, it was secretive and didn’t bother anyone.
Our first day together in Israel, we did the Kotel tunnel tours. We had both done it previously, but it was enlightening a second time. We were shown the largest brick that went into building the Kotel. It was tremendous. It amazed me. However, the temperature was in the nineties and I was a bit cranky. We kept on buying water bottles.

Each night we chose a different restaurant to eat in. My favorite was Crave, although Luciene was excellent, too. Cafe Rimon (meat) was quite delicious as well. The downside was the three uninvited cat guests waiting to eat our meals. They were quite a nuisance.
The whole first week I kept spilling things: iced coffee, water, more iced coffee, etc., and I had to do laundry my first week. I washed a dress that should have been dry cleaned and I think I ruined the dress. Par for the course.

The second day of the trip we went to Holon, where the blind and deaf museums are located. We were to start off at 11:00 with the deaf museum tour, which was over an hour long. Noon would be the blind museum tour and therefore the two would overlap. So the deaf tour told the blind tour to wait for us before starting. Only in Israel do they change everything for two people. I was incredibly impressed.

The blind tour was incredible in the way it was set up. You couldn’t see a thing and the tour guide was blind as well. It was a bit hefker until we settled down. You had to use a walking stick, your hands, and your voice. It was tremendous in the way it taught you how to live without using sight. The deaf tour was also special. I wondered if the deaf and blind tour together would make someone crazy. Yet, there are people who have both these deficits.

We learned to be grateful for our speech, sight, and hearing. We should thank Hashem every day for these senses that we use all the time.

After the tours we tried to find an exit using all our senses. We ended up on a huge boulevard, trying to get a Gett car or monit (taxi). Eventually we made our way home.
We saw lights in the sky one evening on the way home from dinner and decided to explore. We went to Migdal David and found out that the annual light show started the next night and if we paid a little more, we could be VIPs, which consisted of wine, blankets, and excellent seating, and a tour of the roof. We signed up for this and were glad to be VIPs for the night.

That same night, we went into a store called Shekalim. I bought a skirt and my friend bought something as well. The owner started giving us a dvar Torah, which was not unusual for Israel. He gave my friend a berachah.

Thursday evening was a girls’ night out. My sister-in-law, her four daughters, and I met up at a restaurant called Ice Story. We ordered a ton of food and there were a lot of laughs. It was the first time I’d seen my nieces in almost two years, but we’re so close that it felt like I had just seen them yesterday.

Every morning I walked to the bread store and bought croissants. On the way home I stopped for iced coffee. I had to get to the bread store early or else the croissants were sold out.

There was one huge problem that affected me on the first night in Israel. It turned out my credit card was declined everywhere I went. I started getting fraud messages on my phone. Someone had been using my card. So at dinner the first evening in Israel, I was on the phone with the bankers at my bank in Cedarhurst. It turned out the fraud began after I bought a water bottle in the airport. So I’ve had to use my debit card ever since because my credit card still isn’t being accepted. I’m upset about how many points I’m losing.

This was considered a blooper!

However, I think I handled it with calmness and grace.

Then my Gett app wasn’t working, shockingly enough. I had to use my friend’s Gett or a taxi. It was just another snafu. Finally, my app was working again.

My friend and I have learned Torah, which we love to do. We did some Chofetz Chaim and some Living Emunah. We hope to learn some more.

Shabbat is about to begin. My friend is away for Shabbat and I am staying in the house. The plan is to walk to my brother’s apartment in the Jewish quarter for lunch. I’m looking forward to it. Not the heat or the stairs, but the company!

I opened the front door when I heard the siren go off signaling that Shabbat was to begin. It was such a beautiful sound. I didn’t close the door until the siren had completely stopped. It touched my heart.

My readers, I’ll keep you posted with my story as it proceeds.

Love from Israel. B’simcha! 

Michele Herenstein can be reached at msh61670@gmail.com. Read more of Michele Herenstein’s articles at 5TJT.com.

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