Archives for the month of: December, 2010

Its not all fun & games around here. I am hard at work at a cafe in TLV before heading to the airport for my trip to Istanbul in a couple of hours.

see, Karen, I am working on our paper



You are cordially invited to Noah's class party. Sufganiot will be served! (Noah wrote the parts in pencil)

Black lights! Props! Choreography! It was a Channukah extravaganza spectacular like you’ve never seen.

We were told that we’d be impressed. Noah told us there were a lot of songs.

“4 or 5?”

“No, more.”

“6? 7?”


We didn’t quite trust his count, but he was right.  We thought we were going to a Chanukah party with some songs, but it turned out it was a Chanukah show with some snacks at the end.  The performance went on for about an hour and included at least a dozen songs.  Each song had its own props or costumes, with musical instruments, and a teacher in the front reminding them of the dance moves.  In this slide show, each new prop means a different song. One highlight was two parents dressed up in silly costumes doing a skit to music about a couple looking for the ingredients of their sufganiot. The soundtrack is one of the songs that the boys sang (when they were sitting on the floor with funny hats on).

Since Grandma and Grandpa had traveled the furthest to be there, Noah’s teacher Yafa invited “Saba Lawrence” to light the chanukah candles with Ella’s Saba Moshe who had come all the way from Tel Aviv.

lighting the chanukiah with the sabas and Noah's best friend, Ella

In this movie, you get a real sense of the elaborate staging:

We’ve noticed two types of children in holiday performances–belters and mouthers.  As he was in the US, Noah is definitely a mouther.  That’s okay, thirty-six belters would have been a bit much.

We noticed one friend of Noah’s wasn’t there.  When we saw his dad a few days later he confirmed they’d been out of town, but said they’d be sure to make it to the next show, at Purim.

After the show we celebrated with sufganiot and mingling with the stars.

Noah with his friend Tomer

Noah with best friend Ella

The rainy season, which was supposed to be Oct/Nov has finally arrived. We had severe weather warnings all week that this weekend would be stormy & possibly dangerous. The rain started yesterday (Fri.) afternoon just after Noah got home from school with entertaining thunder & lightening shows and has pretty much continued without stopping since (writing Sat. night). It even hailed twice today!

Today was the 1st Sat. since we arrived that we just hung out at home. It was nice to relax for a change, instead of searching for an adventure. We managed to keep busy, though. We saw a few moths & were worried that we might have an infestation, so we tore apart our kitchen cabinets. No signs of anything, but while we were working, Noah came up with his own plan (he did this all by himself!):

Noah's diagram for catching moths

The plan executed.

We are supposed to go on a guided tour of Tel Dor (yes, another archaeological excavation site) tomorrow, but it is likely to be cancelled, so back to work as usual.

Shavua tov everyone!

Last Sat. we set out to do some sightseeing with Roy’s parents. Caesarea is a national park holding archeological sites that is south of Haifa along the coast. On our way we had to drive through a plume of smoke from the wildfire near Atlit that was blowing west out to sea. After we were through it, we realized that it didn’t extend as far south as where we were going, so we continued on.

Caesarea started as a Phoenician settlement in 568 BCE and changed hands 7 more times until the late 19th c. when Ottoman authorities settled Bosnian refugees here. The park contains the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, which was built during King Herod’s rule of the city (30-4 BCE) and is the oldest theater in Israel. The park also contains the remains of a hippodrome that used to hold chariot races, public bathhouses, planned city streets from Roman and Byzantine times, and the city wall and moat from Crusader times. Fun fact: since the city was where the opposition to the Bar Kochva revolt was headquartered, it is likely that Caesarea was where the Jewish leaders led by Rabbi Akiva were tortured to death. We saw a pretty good CGI film that showed what the city probably looked like during different periods. Archaeological exploration of the site began in 1873 and continues until today.

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Belated Happy Channukah everyone! The fire overshadowed everything last week, but the night before the fire was the 1st night of Channukah. Now that things are fairly back to normal and a busy week has ended, its time to share . . .

We celebrated the first night by driving to Jerusalem to have a family Channukah party! Noah got to spend Channukah with his cousins in Israel for the first time. We brought sufganiot fresh out of the frier from haShuk Machane Yehuda. I would love to post some photos of the market at Channukah, especially the towers of beautifully decorated sufganiot, but my batteries died. Deborah made lasagna & cheesecake to celebrate the lesser-known, but still traditional, custom of eating dairy on Channukah. This is to commemorate the heroine Judith who fed the general of the Assyrian army salty cheese and lots of wine to wash it down. When he got drunk & passed out–off with his head! Its a holiday!

By the third night of Channukah we were back to the traditional latkes with the arrival of Roy’s parents all the way from Milwaukee, WI. They came for about 5 days before setting off for a tour of Egypt. We decorated the house with all of the holiday artwork that Noah had done at school.

The sixth night was the big kindergarten party at Noah’s gan (which was so spectacular that it deserves its own post to do it justice) and we spent the last night with Yaffa & Menachem & family–once again at a party involving one of Menachem’s feasts.

The country celebrates with channukiot at every available plaza

you are welcome to attend one of the 3 talks I’m giving. Here are the details for one of them:

Invitation to my talk

The University of Haifa remains closed through the beginning of this new work week “until further notice”. It is being used as command central for all of the forces working to putting out the fire, so I (Sarah) am working at home and meeting with my co-author here instead of in the lab. I am scheduled to give a talk on campus on Wednesday, but we will have to see whether we are allowed to return by then. Noah & Roy are going to the Technion as usual.

The University is located at the top of the mountain and we live halfway down the mountain on the opposite side of where the fire is. So, we are close, but not in danger. Since we live in the north of the country, most of our travels since we arrived 3 months ago have been in this area, including many of the evacuated areas, so we feel quite attached to the Mt. Carmel region and the nature reserve and very sad about the loss.

24 hrs. after the fire started, taken from in front of my apartment looking south

Sitting at home, even protected from the fire by the mountain, we can still smell the smoke (it permeated the apartment today with a change in the wind), see the haze in the air, and hear the constant buzz of the fire-fighting airplanes. When I work at home, I usually hear only the birds outside and the occasional car; now I hear engines from planes and helicopters every couple of minutes.

one of the firefighting planes (I heard that yellow is Bulgaria, but I don't know for sure)

Yesterday we went sightseeing with Roy’s parents and as we drove south down the coast, we drove through a thick plume of smoke that was drifting west to the sea. We considered turning around and going home, but by the time we reached a point on the road where we could turn around, we were already through it, so we decided to carry on.

48 hrs. after the fire started. looking north to the fire from highway 2.

Saturday morning we met a friend of Roy’s and his family at the Eretz Yisrael museum. Noah was very happy to be hanging out with a “big boy” — Arik’s son, Shachar, is 11 years old. This museum emphasizes the history & culture of Israel. The museum houses several exhibits surrounding a permanent archeological site and has a planetarium. We saw exhibits on the history of currency, the postal service, ancient glass, and working wine & oil presses. We saw the planetarium show (with key translation provided in a whisper by Arik’s wife, Shira. And we visited Tel Qasile, the excavation of an ancient port city, built over 3000 years ago. Its hard to reconcile the ruins that sit atop this hill in the north of Tel Aviv with its history as a port. But that was before the Yarkon river, which runs east-west in Tel Aviv, was contained (now it is possible to meander along a boardwalk). A couple of thousand years ago, the river would have overflowed its current banks and created a passage from the Med. Sea further inland. The first discoveries of these ruins were made over 60 years ago and excavations continued for 50 years.

olive oil press, eretz yisrael museum

olive oil press

what is more interesting to a 5-yr-old: 1000-yr-old ruins or playing with a log?

After we said our good-byes to our friends, we went back into central Tel Aviv for a late lunch. We strolled for a bit on the pedestrian median on Ben Gurion St., but Noah was really beginning to flag by this point, so we did what every other person in Tel Aviv was doing at that same moment – lunch at a cafe. Newly fortified, we made our way down Dizengoff St. to the Bauhaus Center, where Roy’s sister (aka Aunt Julie) volunteered a couple of years ago. We watched the powerpoint presentation that she helped create:

watching Aunt Julie's presentation (ignore the stack of chairs, that's not part of the design). Well done, Julie!

and took a guided audio tour of Bauhaus architecture in the area

more Bauhaus. that awning on the 1st balcony? blasphemous!

One suggestion for future planners of guided architectural tours: Perhaps it would be possible to pick architectural examples that are not mostly-to-completely hidden by trees and other foliage?

And the obligatory shots at the fountain at Dizengoff Circle. I believe I have some of myself here from my first trip to Israel 17 years ago. I’ll have to unearth them when we get back to Brooklyn.

Dancin' by the fountain

You may have seen in the news by now that there is a serious wildfire blazing on the top of Mt. Carmel. It began around 11:30 this morning and I first saw it from the University when I was having coffee with a friend outside at about noon. By 2:30 the skies were dark with smoke and it looked like the sun was setting. That’s when we found out the University was being evacuated. I tried to show in previous posts how the U. of Haifa is oriented with respect to the mountain and forested areas. I also wrote recently that we are in the midst of a drought, which certainly has not helped matters.

I got a ride home with a friend. I can only imagine what a nightmare it would have been to try to catch a bus at the same time as everyone else at the University was leaving. I took the pictures below from my neighborhood. The dark tower at the top is the landmark of the University.

contrast between clear sky and smoke-filled sky

to get a sense of how far the smoke drifted

looks like sunset from the smoke, but its 3:00 in the afternoon

Luckily we are OK and not in an evacuation zone. This has been described as the worst fire in Israel’s history and the government has sought help from Italy, Russia, Cyprus.