Monday, June 14, 2010
I have spent the past 10 months living in Israel as a participant on OTZMA, a post-college community service-based program sponsored by The Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel and MASA. OTZMA’s structure afforded me the opportunity to live in three different cities – Ashkelon, Haifa, and Jerusalem – and to learn what daily life is like in Israel in these very distinct places. While there are certainly plenty of cultural things I’ve had to adjust to (the Sunday-Thursday work week, the complete chaos that is a line at the supermarket), I have enjoyed each and every day I’ve had here.
I love the energy and vibrancy of this country, as well as the amazing calm and tranquility that come every Friday, 18 minutes before sundown. I love that a couple of weeks ago, the driver of the Egged bus I was on stopped in the middle of the street to pick up a hand-delivery of freshly baked rugelach. I love how I’m constantly being challenged to think about what being Jewish means to me and to re-consider my level of observance. I love how despite going years since actively pursuing any kind of Torah or Tanach study, the things I’ve experienced and the Biblical connections to the places I’ve visited make it impossible for me not to re-engage in our wealth of religious sources.
One of my favorite parts of OTZMA has been the education component, which has allowed us to learn about the wide range of domestic and foreign issues facing Israel and to meet with both government policymakers and NGO representatives. We’ve traveled all around the country, from Har Ben Tal in the Golan to Sussiya and the southern Hevron Hills to Yerucham and the Negev. We even had our own mock “Camp David 2010” conference to study in-depth the major final status issues surrounding the peace process. Each of these sessions, seminars, and trips has left me wanting to learn more, adding books and other resources to my “to read” list.
While I’ve gotten into my fair share of debates and arguments about some of the major political issues, it’s only by being a part of a community that I’ve began to truly understand the real challenges facing Israelis in their day-to-day lives. In Haifa, for example, I helped teach a television production class to high school students with behavioral issues, and I was able to see how this kind of educational approach can spark these kids to turn their lives around. I also got to work with Ethiopian Israelis in both Ashkelon and Haifa and learned about the difficult balance between preserving Ethiopian culture and absorbing or assimilating into Israeli culture.
It’s been fascinating to talk to all kinds of Israelis about life here. Whether religious or secular, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, third-generation or oleh chadash, Israelis care deeply about the future of their country, and as anyone who’s spent time here knows, they hold nothing back when it comes to their opinions of how best to move forward. And the great thing is there are people truly working to change and improve life here. During my two months as an intern at The Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel office, I’ve had the opportunity to see how American and Israeli philanthropy supports social change all over Israel. Just as it is in the United States, the gap between rich and poor in Israel has become a huge problem, and it’s critical to the country’s future that there are significant resources going to aid young adults find affordable housing, provide better after-school enrichment programs for youth-at-risk, and boost economic development in the Negev.
As the campaign to de-legitimize Israel grows, it’s become increasingly important for Jews everywhere, and specifically young Jewish adults, to consider everything Israel has given to us and to the rest of the Jewish world in just over 62 years of existence. For the first time in literally thousands of years, the Jewish people have a country of our own, one where we can decide our own future and live freely as Jews. For generations upon generations, our ancestors prayed for the return to Jerusalem and to this land, and now that we have it, it’s our individual and collective responsibilities to ensure its success.
A century ago, the original Zionist chalutzim came here and settled and built the land. They drained the swamps, developed an infrastructure and gained international recognition for the re-establishment of a Jewish state. The generation that followed paid a heavy price to defend the nascent state over years and decades of wars and also played a crucial role in developing and transforming the country’s economy. The challenge set forth to me and my generation is to figure out how we will continue their Zionist ideals and what we will do to ensure that Jewish life continues to flourish, not only in Israel, but in the Diaspora as well.
Like many of my fellow OTZMAnikim, one of the reasons I came here was to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. After graduating from college and working for three years at what had been my dream job, I realized my real passion lies with the Jewish people and with Israel. This year has re-affirmed that feeling as well as my commitment to finding a career that helps me do my part to strengthen the Jewish community.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the people and organizations who have made this experience possible for me: The Jewish Federations of North America, MASA, and Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston for their support of the OTZMA program as a whole and their financial contributions towards my personal participation. The OTZMA staff has worked tirelessly to provide us the best possible experience, coordinating some amazing education seminars and what I’m sure will be a memorable final tiyul. I also want to thank my fellow OTZMAnikim, without whom this year would have been a lot more difficult. We should all be proud of the amazing work we’ve done as individuals and as a group, and of the way we’ve become a family, celebrating holidays together and supporting each other through the hard times along the way. You’ve all challenged me, kept me smiling, and yes, provided me with tons of ice cream, and for our experience together this year, I feel truly blessed.
Originally written for The Federation Connection Blog of The Jewish Federations of North America.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Somehow we did it. This past weekend, Jeremy, Sam, Brett, Ari and I completed the cross-country hike known as Yam L’Yam, or Sea To Sea. The hike took us from Israel’s western coastline of Yam HaTichon/the Mediterranean Sea, to its eastern border of Yam HaKinneret/Sea of Galilee, a 65+ kilometer hike (40 miles, not counting the inclines and declines, including Israel’s 2nd-highest mountain, Mount Meron of 1208 meters).
It was without a doubt the most physically challenging and mentally demanding thing I’ve ever done. There were many moments along the way where I was tempted to quit and others where I didn’t think we’d be able to finish the hike. But we did, and I’m very proud of this accomplishment.
After waking up around 5:30am, our first Manbreakfast of granola, Captain Crunch, and some nuts took place shortly thereafter. By 6:45am we filled a symbolic small bottle with water from the Mediterranean and we were off. After a few kilometers, you know, just for fun, we got to the beginning of the trail at Achziv, which is well identified because it takes you through a banana grove. The big adjustment for day one was dealing with the giant weight on our backs. But as you’ll be able to see from the pictures, the views and scenery were gorgeous, so at least we had that going for us.
We stopped for lunch near the base of Montfort, a Crusader fort somehow built atop a pretty steep mountain. Our Manlunch consisted of peanut butter and chocolate spread sandwiches, some salami, and apples. After lunch, we ventured through the first of several foresty trails cutting around and through little river streams and very green foliage. But as would be the theme with every day, the last leg was the hardest. We had a mountain and then some to climb to get to the end of our day’s hike. The initial incline was a quite a workout, but after about half an hour of steady climbing and several “I can feel it’s right around this corner” comments, we were all feeling pretty frustrated. But finally we got to the top of the nature reserve and exited to the road at the trail head.
Now this was where we expected to find our water source and campsite easily. Neither were to be found, but we checked the map and found the town of Abirim was right down the road, so we headed there at least to find some water. Just before reaching the gates, we met a man walking by us who had spent a few years studying in Santa Barbara, California. He invited us into the tiny town of 40 families to grill near the little park area just beyond the gates and to camp right there. The water tap was literally a stone’s throw away from our campsite so we couldn’t have been happier. We threw down our bags and started putting together some dinner, cutting up peppers, onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes, adding some beans, wrapping them together in a foil and tossing them on the grill. The dinner was cooked to perfection and tasted great after a very long day of hiking. And then at the unbelievably late hour of 8:45pm we headed to bed to prepare for Day 2.
We packed up early in the morning and left Abirim, and for the first portion of the day we were doing some highway hiking, going through the towns of Fesutah, Elkosh and Hurfesh. Despite having to walk along the side of the road for several kilometers, it was an interesting landscape passing through an Arab, a Jewish and then a Druze town. Just past Elkosh we picked up a hiking trail and all of the sudden we were back to the beautiful forest hiking we all love about the north.
Our goal for the day was to get to the base of Mount Meron by 2pm, to give us enough daylight to climb the mountain, enjoy the view and the experience, hike back down and set up camp. We set a great pace for the first part of the day, so we got Meron according to schedule, re-filled our waters and joined the Israel Trail, the hiking trail that goes from Tel Dan near the Lebanese border all the way down to Eilat (on our third day, as we were going south, we passed by a few different hikers who had in fact started in Eilat and who had almost made it across the length of the country…talk about an accomplishment). But back to us…When faced with a 300 meter ascent over the course of just one kilometer, there’s only one thing to do: power through it as quickly as you can. This was a perfect example of a time where I didn’t know how I was going to push through. After ten minutes of really booking it up the mountain, my legs were gassed, but since my friends were still moving, I was still moving. But as is usually the case with these situations, the view from the top was worth it. Even though there was a bit of a haze, we could see a good part of the north, including the city of Tzfat, which was really cool because when we were there for the 2-week Livnot program, we could see Meron from the balcony, and now we had switched spots.
It took a bit longer than we anticipated to descend and to get to our campsite, but we did have enough time to gather our wood and set up our tents for the evening while it was still light out. There was a bit of a scare when we were sitting around the table finishing up dinner and could see a fox in the not too distant bushes waiting for us to clear out so he could eat our food. So we made sure to bring every last bit of food scrap to the dumpster by the water tap across the way from our camp site and Mr. Fox was never to be seen again.
Day 3 began great – we hiked through Nahal Amud and wound up joining up with a portion of a hike we had done together back in December while we were on Livnot. There was a particular bridge crossing over the river where we had stopped for a chevruta, or learning session, on that hike, and so we took a break at that same bridge in honor of Livnot (and wrote a little note for the current Livnoters who will be doing the hike in the next couple of days).
But as Nachal Amud turned into Nahchal Amud Tachton, things took a dicey turn. Our pace, which had been really quick for the first couple of hours, quickly ground to nearly a halt as we dealt with some really tricky climbing up and down. The hardest part was not really knowing how many kilometers we’d gone since the last landmark on the trail, since most of our hiking was up and down the wadi instead of steady forward progress.
We took a break for our last manlunch and re-charged our batteries. Within 45 minutes, we had reached Highway 85 and knew we were entering the homestretch, the final 10 kilometers of Yam L’Yam. The trail took us underneath the highway and for me, through the toughest stretch of the hike. By this point, I had drank 4 of my 6 liters of water and knew I needed to keep drinking to avoid getting dehydrated on the hottest day of our hike. It sure didn’t help that the majority of this next stretch would be in the open sun with very little shade. Thankfully the rest of my friends had water to spare and made sure I had enough water.
After about 2.5 or 3 kilometers of hiking at a good pace, the terrain became our enemy again. We entered a section that was absolutely beautiful to look at, but that slowed our pace considerably. Assessing the situation, and accounting for the fact that we not only needed to get to the Kinneret while it was still light, but that we needed to get to Tiberias to catch the bus back to Jerusalem, we decided to change course and get to the upcoming highway and take the highway to the Kinneret, as opposed to staying on the Israel trail until the town of Ginosar on the water.
But once again, we had no way of telling how far away from that turnoff we were. Finally, we turned a corner and could see power lines, signaling the highway and civilization couldn’t be far. And sure enough, a few steps later, we could see the highway. We got up to the highway, took a break, and knew we were less than an hour away from our goal. We began the final journey, and as we cleared the first hill on the highway, the Kinneret came into sight for the first time, and it had never looked more beautiful. Talk about a morale boost, to be able to see our goal right in front of us, the city of Tiberias on the right, the Golan Heights on the other side of the water. I felt the excitement build as we got closer and closer to the water.
We stopped at a gas station to refill our water and then set off for the water, only because of our re-routing, we didn’t wind up at an area with a public beach. But from the map, there appeared to be several paths going from the main road down to the water. And to take the title of another Yam L’Yam blogger, we went from Bananas to Bananas, cutting through another banana grove to get to what we thought would be an open beach. It wasn’t, but after some weaseling, we found an open path and stood on the banks of the Kinneret.
After three long, tiring days, lots of trail mix and water, and perseverance, we made it. Ari emptied our little bottle of water from the Mediterranean into the Kinneret and it was an unbelievably satisfying moment for all of us, knowing we completed this very daunting and challenging journey across Israel.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
"Im eshkachech Yerushalayim, tishkach yemini"/"If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand wither."
From the moment I first knew I wanted to come to Israel on OTZMA, I was excited about living in Tel Aviv for Part 3 – the beach, the big city, the food. I didn’t yet know what kind of internship I was looking for, but I figured I would find it in Tel Aviv. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to be in Jerusalem. It wasn’t just that the places that interested me most were here, although from a practical standpoint that certainly contributed to my decision. But the real reason lies in the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people. It is here that the two Temples stood, and to here that generations of Jews prayed to return, to this day facing Jerusalem and the Temple Mount specifically during prayer.
So it is this connection to Jerusalem that made celebrating Yom Yerushalayim so special. It began Tuesday night with the Yom HaStudentim/White Night concert in Gan Sacher featuring an odd yet entertaining lineup of Israeli and American bands, from Hadag Nachash to 70s funk band Kool and the Gang. But the real highlight was the sunrise performance by Ehud Banai, a Jerusalemite and one of Israel’s most well-known and respected singer/songwriters. The entire Banai family still lives in the city, and Ehud has written several songs about living here, particularly “1 Haagas Street” about his home right by the Machane Yehuda shuk.
Flash forward several hours to Wednesday evening and the unbelievable scene at the Kotel. Jews of all kinds – young, old, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, haredi, hiloni/secular – joined together, proudly hoisting Israeli flags and dancing at the the Kotel plaza, celebrating 43 years of the reunification of Jerusalem, and the ability of Jews to return to the Old City, something denied during the 19-year Jordanian occupation of the city from 1948-1967. Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut on the streets of downtown Jerusalem was great, but it didn’t compare to the emotion, the pure joy, that I experienced and watched everyone around me experience at the Kotel.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The Fourth of July is perhaps my favorite American holiday. So it should be no surprise that Yom Ha’atzma’ut is one of my favorite Israeli holidays, and for many of the same reasons: summer weather, barbeques, celebrations, and of course, fireworks. But as proud of an American as I am, Yom Ha’atzma’ut is more meaningful to me as a Jew. It celebrates the return to our Biblical and historic homeland, to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and the fulfillment of God’s promise to us as His Chosen People to bring us back to the Land of Israel.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Now that I’m settled in the new apartment on Har Hatzofim in Jerusalem, I have a chance to post an update on my trip to Italy over vacation. Here’s a quick little rundown:
Sunday, March 28, 2010
A quick update before Pesach break…it definitely feels weird to be leaving Haifa. A great 3 months, and it sounds cliché, but I can’t believe it’s over already. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here, both the time I spent volunteering in the community and my free time exploring Israel’s third-largest city. I was fortunate enough to meet so many great people, and while I know I’m not always the best at keeping in touch, I hope to keep these connections going, especially everyone involved in the Boston/Haifa Connection with whom I’m looking forward to working when I get back in Boston.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I enjoyed meeting and talking with people from both sides of the partnership, from new friends involved in the Young Leadership on the Haifa side, to the dedicated and talented professionals and lay leaders with whom I look forward to working when I return to Boston in June.
Hit it here for my most recent pics
Also, if you made it this far, check out the amazing work my sister Becca has been doing leading U. Maryland's Alternative Spring Break trip to Rancho Feliz, Mexico - they're doing some really cool things....kudos Beccs
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Israelis—religious and secular alike—feel such a strong connection to the land, evidenced by their love of hiking and exploring the country. It’s a great feeling to be able to join them in exploring and getting to know this amazing land, whose topography includes such a diverse range of mountains, hills, and valleys stretching from Metulla and the Hermon in the North to Eilat and the Arava Mountains in the South.
Here in Haifa, we're gearing up for the Joint Steering Committee meeting of the Haifa/Boston Connection starting on Sunday. I'm looking forward to this meeting to see how the two sides of the partnership come together and how each is planning to go forward with their respective programs.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
There’s no holiday quite like Purim. From the costumes, to sounding the graggers during megillah reading, to the Talmudic commandment to drink as a way of lifting our spirits closer to God, there’s no other celebration that’s as outwardly – and inwardly – festive on the Jewish calendar.
Hit it here for pics from the Purim weekend, including our Thursday night holiday festivities in Haifa.
Faithful readers of this space will remember that this was actually the second time I've "celebrated" Purim in just over 2 months. There was, of course, the absurd Purim party we had at Livnot in the middle of Chanukah. Weird as it was, it did bring us this fantastic picture...Captain Israel lives on!
Monday, February 22, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
A very Happy Australia Day to all - it's hard to believe it's really been five years since that incredible semester in Sydney full of sun, Toohey's Old, pides, ice cream, and plenty of giggling in the Cohen/Goldstein room (thanks Mikey for the photo)
Today we celebrated Brett's 23rd birthday in style. Haifa Hotel manager Joseph cooked up a Tex-Mex dinner, and Gym Instructor Tom Holtz and I contributed the dessert to the celebrations.
One of the other highlights this week was meeting with a delegation that's here from Boston called The Learning Exchange. It's a group of NGO leaders visiting Israel for a week and Haifa for a 3-day seminar, in conjunction with the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Haifa/Boston Connection. They are meeting their NGO counterparts in Haifa to share experiences and learn new approaches towards strengthening the economic development and social justice work in their respective communities. For many, this is their first trip to Israel and to Haifa, and I got to meet with them at their opening event last night.
Thursday, we will be waking up bright and early to get on a 6am bus for the start of a 5-day seminar...and if it wasn't a seminar I was really looking forward to, I'd be royally pissed to get up that early. Our Otzma seminar is called Sichsuch veh Tikvah, or Conflict & Hope, and is about the Israeli/Arab conflict. We'll be hearing from people from all across the political spectrum - from the left, the right, and from the Arab perspective, and we'll be going on some tours around Judea and Samaria. I think it will be fascinating to be able to see with our own eyes things that we read about in the news. I think it will also be important for some people in the group to learn the real facts about certain issues, as opposed to the way the mainstream media and often anti-Israeli media, reports.
I try to read as much as I can about the current events, and I found this feature from Ha'Aretz particularly interesting, and it's definitely something I'd like to ask different people about during this upcoming seminar. The headline is, "Not all settlers and Palestinians want each other to disappear", and it's about a group called Yerushalom, made up of Jews living in Judea and Samaria, and Palestinians living in surrounding Arab villages, who meet on a regular basis and talk about the things going on in their communities and look for a way to find a common ground and live peacefully together. It's long but very well worth the read.
I'm sure I'll have plenty to write and share after the seminar, so I will post another update when I get back to Haifa next week.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
In addition to meeting the people we'll be volunteering with, we've had fabulous weather with which to go out and explore the city (and yes, as you can see from some of my pictures, go on an adventure to the Yam in January). Becca and I did quite a bit of walking the other day. There are 4 different walking trails that take you from the top of Haifa and the Carmel Mountain to the bottom of the city by steps (there are about 1000 steps on each trail). We figured it would be a great way to see different neighborhoods in the city and get some exercise at the same time. I knew where the trail began so I didn't bring my map of where the trail went...each of the paths is color coded so I figured it would be marked which way to go. Well, naturally after about 50 steps we lost the steps and just wound up making our own trail, which ended us being a good thing because we found both the Arab markets and the regular shuk, so we stopped off to get some good fruits and veggies, and continued our walk all the way down back to our place.
One of the great things about being here has been meeting the volunteers of the Young Leadership Division of the Haifa/Boston Connection. They've been a great welcoming committee, taking us out to some fun bars around town and even bringing us gift baskets full of food. Liel, a member of the YLD, works as a broadcaster and producer at Radio Haifa 107.5 FM and invited us to the station last night to watch her show. We hung out in the studio with her while she was on air from 10pm-midnight and she talked a bit about us during the program and let us each give a quick shoutout on the air. And as we found out during the middle of the show thanks to Tom Holtz, the entire show is broadcast via webcam online, so next time we go visit, everyone can see us rocking out in the studio.
Many of the kids I talked to first asked me where I was from and how long I was staying in Israel, and then asked me if I listened to the same American rap they did. And of course, pretty high up on that list is Tupac. I still don't understand how Ethiopian Israelis came to be obsessed with Tupac. I mean I know why I became obsessed with him, but it's really interesting that Israelis who were literally 2 or 3 when he died still know everything about him. So I actually spent a good 15 minutes talking to these 15 year old girls about Tupac...gotta love it! Another reason I'm excited about volunteering there is the community center receives assistance as part of a project called Shiluvim, which is run by the Haifa/Boston Connection to help the Ethiopian community. Generally volunteers have a chance to be involved on the committee level or on the grassroots level but not always both. By working with these students twice a week, I'll be able to see exactly how the aims and goals of the Shiluvim project are carried out in the community and how it helps build the future leaders of the community.
We've also had the chance to check out the nighlife in Haifa (yes, there are other places besides Scubar). Thursday night, a few of our other friends from Otzma came to visit and celebrate Jeremy's birthday – dinner in the German Colony followed by seeing HaDag Nahash live in concert. HaDag Nahash is one of my favorite Israeli bands – for those who haven't heard of them or their music, I can describe them as the Israeli version of the Roots, especially in concert, when they have 8 musicians on stage in addition to the two MCs. In addition to their classics and fan favorites such as "The Sticker Song" and "Hine Ani Ba", they played a few songs from their upcoming album, which should be out in the next couple of months.
For those that made it this far, the reward is this...here's the link to my album of pics from the first week in Haifa, enjoy!
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
As you can see from the picture, it's absolutely gorgeous here, and there's amazing scenery to see just about anywhere in the city For those who don't know, Haifa is Israel's third-largest city, located on the Mediterranean about an hour north of Tel Aviv. It's built on the Carmel Mountain, and I've heard its steep streets going up the mountain remind people of San Francisco.
I'll be here for 3 months, until the end of March, with 3 friends from my program: Brett, Joseph, and Tom. We're living in the lower part of the mountain, in between the Kiryat Eliezer and German Colony neighborhoods, and about a 15 minute walk from the beach. There's so much to do and so many things to see, I almost don't know where to begin with all my exploring.
Haifa is Boston's sister city, and so much of the work I'll be doing is in conjunction with the Boston-Haifa Connection, the organization that runs the partnership between the two cities. Along with two of the people who work on the Haifa side of the partnership, I'm going to be working on communications outreach and raising awareness about all the great programs and events going on across Haifa. Hopefully this will include not only revamping their website and translating it into English, but getting out and taking pictures and videos of different events around town and putting together a more updated promotional video to highlight what the partnership does. One of the reasons I'm so excited about this work is I'll get to meet all the different groups coming from Boston to Haifa during the time I'm here, including different birthright/Taglit trips (we met a group from UMass yesterday) and kids from the same Schechter school where I went from K-8.
I'm also going to have the opportunity to help teach television production to high school students. Here in Israel, students have the ability to choose a major in high school and take extra classes in subjects that interest them. So for students interested in communication, they can take classes in film and television, and I'll be helping out with the technical aspect, teaching them about studio and field production, and how to use different computer programs to edit their video projects. I enjoyed getting to teach TV production during the ITRP summer programs at BU, and I'm excited for the opportunity to be able to use my skills and knowledge in TV to not only teach Israeli teenagers, but also get to know them outside the traditional classroom setting.
I realize it's been quite a while since I posted anything, so here's a cliff's notes version of what I've been up to (you can also see the visual diary of my pics on facebook). After the Livnot U'Lehibanot program in Tzfat, I had the opportunity to take part in the first ever conference on Israel-based education. It was held over 3 days in Jerusalem, and I learned a tremendous amount about the challenges Israel educators face in teaching about Israel. It's so important to me that Jews all around the world, and particularly American Jews, have a connection with Israel. Of course there's the old saying: 2 Jews, 3 opinions, so we're not going to agree on everything, especially when it comes to politics, but there's so much more to Israel than politics, and it's crucial Jewish day schools and Hebrew schools work to do a better job of incorporating Israel education into the curriculum. Especially with the incredibly high rate of intermarriage among American Jews, it's important to foster a connection to Israel and to teach why Israel is so crucial to Jews all around the world.
After the conference, I spent a couple of days with Reut and her family in Netanya - we had a great time wandering around Yafo and Tel Aviv, and watching Home Alone on Christmas Eve! I spent the following Shabbat in Katzrin with Eli, Elisheva, Ma'Or and a whole gang of hooligans, and then Becca came! It’s been a few years since we’ve traveled together, but true to Cohen family tradition, we quickly had gigglefests, and I’m sure there will still be many more along the way.
So that's what's going on in a nutshell...click here for pictures from my vacation, and here for a few first pics from Haifa!