First let me thank all of you for your prayers and well wishes. We arrived safely and uneventfully late Thursday night. We arrived at the apartment only to find that while it is great space and a great location, it was filthy and lacking in some basic necessities. (Maya's mother had been kind enough to deliver groceries ahead of time and can vouch for the condition of the place. If it had not been for her deliveries, I probably would never have come back.) Since most of you know me rather well, it should come as no surprise that we spent that first night at the Crown Plaza hotel (only because the Dan and Inbal were fully booked). After a semi-good night sleep and hot showers, we were ready to go. Jim took Elliot and Sabrina with him to the apartment to deal with the landlord, while Bennett and I set out for Mega - a supermarket that is somewhat of a cross between Costco and Safeway. Several hundred dollars and many bags later, we were in a taxi heading for home equipped with every cleaning supply imaginable, new sheets, new towels and a few other basic necessities. While the kids veg'd in front of th e tv, Jim and I went to work. We scoured this place top to bottom - I am sure it is the cleanest it has ever been. I finished unpacking today and I must admit that I now love the apartment. It still needs a few homey touches, but it is fabulous space, a great location, warm and most importa ntly - the kids love it. After the cleaning on Friday, we decided to fulfill our promise to the kids and take them to the Kotel on our first Friday night. It didn't occur to us that it was 9pm and the place was deserted and it might not be the wisest thing. So we forged ahead. We parked outside the Zion Gate - with Bennett protesting the entire time that we should not be driving on shabbat - and walked quite a ways through the Jewish Quarter. When we made it to the Kotel, it was odd - there were only two people there. I had never seen it so empty. It was not the experience I was hoping for. As we walked away, Elliot asked when we were going to the Kotel. I am not sure what he was expecting, but clearly he missed it. The next day we had a wonderful day with Maya's parents, Aliza and Chris, in their home in Nataf - a small village right on the green line. They were appalled that we had gone to the Old City and gave us strict instructions to stay away until things settle down. Apparently there have been quite a few stabbings in the Old City. I must admit I am glad we found out after we wer e all ok. Back to our afternoon - Aliza cooked an unbelievable feast which we greatly enjoyed. It was nice for all of us to see a familiar face. They are so wonderful. I know they appreciate our caring for Maya - but as we keep telling them, they were the ones who did something for us by g iving us Maya. We all miss her and wish she was here with us. We will see her in February. When we got home, it was already dark but that didn't stop us from strolling out to Emek Refaim. (Well, if you really want to know, our power was out because the new electric heat system was causing a melt down.) When we returned, our landlord met us with an electrician who claims to have fixed the problem. We all had trouble falling asleep as our schedules are still off. It didn't matter for most of us, because we did not have to get up in the morning, but poor Jim had to get up at 8am. Today was the first day of Ulpan and Jim has the early shift. We split up so Elliot would have company. When Jim finished, he took Elliot and Bennett, Sabrina and I went. We all loved Ulpan. It is three hours of one on one and will be for two weeks. We hoped to do it longer but it is very pricey. We met two other American families who are on the same schedule as us. They were all nice and have promise of friendship.
Now for the purple elephant in the room- the war. We really do not feel it in Jerusalem. There is a military presence, but not an overwhelming one - I remember much more of a presence during my visits 20 years ago. It is all people talk about and on the front page of every paper, but we really do not feel in danger at all. In fact, many people believe that West Jerusalem is among the safer places to be. The IDF is positioned along the Green Line in case trouble comes from that side as well so we are protected. We have informed the kids of the situation so they are aware and can ask questions. My concern right now is for all of the soldiers who are in harm's way - including Maya's brother. We pray for their safety.
It is 12:30 am here and I just woke up Bennett so he could watch the Eagles game - crazy, right? Well, I am going to watch with him a bit so I will sign off now. More soon. We miss you all. Please send emails to the kids.
(For those of you who don't know, Maya is the 18 year old Israeli who lived with us all fall. She along with several others is in the US doing a year of service before entering the army. In four short months she became part of our family.)