Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Camels, Falafel and my last trip to Israel with Mom

I found this photo on Google I am inspired!
I can't wait for the weekend so I can  create my own
Yom Ha'atzmaut  #64 cupcake....coming soon!

Happy Birthday!  Tomorrow Israel turns 64!  This photo was taken on our last family trip to Israel with mom, shortly after her EOAD diagnosis.  I am not sure what I thought the future held when we first received Mom's diagnosis.  She seemed too young for this to be happening.  So when the specialist informed us that her EOAD was aggressive and progressing at an atypically fast rate, the push was on to make the most of the time we had.  In a matter of 2 weeks we were on our way to Israel, so Mom could show her girls "HER beloved Israel".

Mom, Dad and the girls at the Kotel

Let me backtrack a little, Mom and Dad are dedicated Zionists, as are Davie and I.  It is no wonder, given that they both witnessed the creation of a Jewish State, albeit from very different perspectives.  Mom used to tell the story of the creation of the State of Israel, as seen through the eyes of a 5-year-old girl attending a Hebrew class.  Her teacher was a survivor, and cried as she told her wide-eyed students that the Jews finally had a homeland - Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel).  That experience had a profound impact on Mom, and  consequently on me.  I can envision the scene so clearly, it is as though I lived it myself.  Dad's brother fought in Israel's War of Independence in 1948.  Dad wanted to go too, but was only 15 years old. A whole line of Dad's family emigrated from Russia to Israel (then Palestine), while Zaida David and Baba Dora moved to Canada.  Myself, I have only ever known a world with Israel in it, and my love of this amazing land and nation grows with each passing year. 

Our first family trip to the Holy Land was when I was 8 and Davie was 6.  We spent the summer there, touring, visiting with family and friends, and eating the most delicious food on earth.

Two years later, we returned for another summer so my father could write his Israeli Bar exams.  We spent another summer frolicking in the Israeli summer sun, spending time with family and friends, and, again - eating the most incredible food.

Both of these trips involved a great deal of sightseeing.  As far back as I can remember, my mother and brother shared a love of history and archaeology.  They brought both to life as we toured Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel). 

Back to the present...the same way that I can whip up a meal, my brother can whip up a trip!  Seriously, he can!  And so he did.  All we had to do was pack our bags and grab our passports and Moishe, Carol, Carlo, the girls and I were on our way! 

The 2007 trip was memorable for many was the first time Carlo or the kids had been to Israel, and it was love at first site.  It will come as no surprise to regular MMT readers, but I love food.  I love to prepare it and to eat it, and I tend to associate memorable occasions with the foods I ate and the music I listened to at the time. 

Please join me as I walk down memory lane, via photos from Mom's final trip to Israel with "her girls".


The view of the beach side park from our room

When we arrived in Tel Aviv we could not believe our eyes - or ears!  I was so tired and jet-lagged but the kids were full of energy, and eager to see and experience everything.  The Tel Aviv Promenade was just across the street from our hotel, and it came alive at night!  It was 10:00 at night and the beach was hopping with a concert (Hassidic, I believe).  The beach side park was bursting with young families and children playing in the sand park. 

We stayed in a hotel just off the beach and walked... A LOT!   So it was essential that we eat a big, nutritious breakfast before heading out each day.  The Israeli Breakfast at the hotel was out of this world.  The buffet table was the length of the dining room, and the dishes varied from cereals, to pastries and baking, to fruits, to eggs and toast.  My favourite part of the buffet was the section devoted to olives and cheeses.  Mmm  mmm good!  I kept going up to refill my plate with salty delicacies.  The kids' favourite station was the smoothie station - and they happily stood and waited for fresh fruit smoothie drinks every morning. 

View of our hotel pool - from Mom and Dad's room

Then it was off to the pool (above) for some fun in the sun and then walking to the Shuk Ha Carmel - the Carmel outdoor market (below), and the Galleria for shopping.  

You can almost smell the freshly baked breads

Such beautiful produce

The best restaurant in all of Israel has to be Maganda.  Mom loved this restaurant, deep in the Yemenite section of the Shuk.  Everywhere you go in Israel the meals start with plates of pita and hummus and trays of olives and pickles. Maganda is no exception, and my mouth waters just thinking about it.  We enjoyed many local delicacies there, including my favourites - Moosht (St. Peter's fish) and Moroccan cigars....

Maganda - the street view

A sampling of Maganda appetizers precede the meal


One day we walked to Jaffa -  a 1/2 hour walk along the beachfront.  Mom had wanted us to go to a restaurant she and Dad went to on their most recent trip to Israel.  It was closed, but we happened upon a small diner-type outdoor restaurant named Kuka Restaurant.  The kids were hungry, and we needed to stop somewhere.  As luck would have it, this restaurant was incredible, and we kept ordering plate after plate of Moroccan cigars.  They were the best cigars that I've ever tasted...ever!

We had such fun exploring Jaffa, leisurely walking off our amazing lunch and watching young newlywed couples having their photos taken in the gorgeous parks of Jaffa.  Then we stumbled upon the Wishing Bridge - which is lined with all the zodiac signs.  You find yours and make a wish...I wish I could remember what I wished for.  Right now I wish Dad had stopped taking pictures long enough to let us take his on the Wishing Bridge!

Mom and Sara


Rivi and I




Tel Aviv Train Station

Waiting for the train with Zaida

We decided to take the train up to Haifa to visit our family.  Even the train station was exciting for our girls!  I had forgotten how beautiful Haifa is - with the vast and incomparable Bahai Gardens, the coastline cousin Nina's phenomenal cooking!!  You heard me!  Our family are not used to eating a lot of take away food, and after a few days, it was really starting to get to us.  We were in desperate need of a home-cooked meal.  Lucky for us, Nina is an amazing chef.  We visited and ate for hours, the kids devouring her schnitzel, eggplant, and so much more.   She sent home leftovers, which we lovingly protected the whole train ride back to Tel Aviv.  Believe me, we did not leave a crumb.

Dono, Nina and me

Nina, Mom and the girls in Nina's beautiful garden

In Nina's kitchen, with just a sampling
of the many delicacies she served

Train ride home from Haifa - wheeee!


So, the next stop on our 2007 tour was to Masada and the Dead Sea.  We had a great tour guide named Allon take us there.  As we descended further and further below sea level Carlo's excitement became palpable.  This was the highlight of his first trip to Israel.  But first, we needed to see Masada.  And again, I had the all-time, hands down BEST EVER falafel in the Masada restaurant.  We refuelled our engines and headed up via cable car to the top (3 years later David and Carlo would walk it, while I sat on shpilkis waiting for them to reach the top). 

Waiting for the cable car at the base of Masada

Still waiting for that cable car...

Walking atop Masada...I felt like a wandering Jew in the
desert...oh wait, I WAS a wandering Jew in the desert!

Sure is a long way down...the squares on the left and
right are what's left of the Roman encampments

This is a perfectly stable, strong and safe walkway built on the side
of I kept telling myself.  My vertigo was not convinced!

After we finished at Masada the time had finally come!  We were off to the Dead Sea where we would stay for a couple of days.  Now, I like the heat, but the the Dead Sea in late July might have been too much even for me.  We changed into swimsuits and ran to the beach.  I couldn't keep Carlo out of the sea.  He loved it, and I took plenty of photos of him in a reclining pose, with nothing but the salty sea water holding him up.  The girls hunted for unusual shaped salt formations, and we played at the pool.  Otherwise, it was too hot to go outside, and Mom and Dad had to stay indoors quite a bit.  The food was OK - but nothing to write (home) about.

Check it out!  Carlo is actually floating in the Dead Sea!

The trip back from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem was eventful.  First of all, we went to the Ahava factory.  It was fabulous!  I am a huge fan, and Carlo had to hold me back from buying one of everything.  Then our driver stopped at a gas station nearby.  There was a man with camels.  Sara was a little older and a great sport.  She hopped right on.  Becca was a little thing - not quite 5 years old - and terrified.  I offered to go on with her, but that was a no go.   In the end, I ended up on the camel!  And so it came to be that Carlo took a picture, but the camel must have had a better smile than I did, because it ended up being one of the big hits of his collection. 

Sara and I going for a camel ride!

My smiling camel!


We arrived in Jerusalem and settled into our hotel.  The kids loved having their own room - and immediately went to work setting up their room - placing their beloved stuffed animals on their beds and stocking their bar fridge with snacks and treats.

Introducing Bubbles and Rory

Everywhere we went, the first thing
the girls did was set up their little fridge!

And then it was time to experience Ha'eer Ha'atika (the ancient city).  We walked from our hotel to the Jaffa Gate and into the Shuk (market).  Carlo and the kids had never seen anything like it.  They were in awe as we walked through the cobbled winding alleys, discovering hidden treasures in each little cove and shop.

The Jerusalem Shuk is divided into 4 quarters:
Jewish, Armenian, Christian & Muslim

Although many AD symptoms were obvious to us by this point, Mom was lucid and determined to share all that she knew of Jerusalem with Carlo and the girls.  And then it was time...we finally arrived at the Kotel (Western Wall).  I had been there before, but this time was different - this was the only time in my lifetime that I would be there with my mother and my daughters.  Did I realize it at the time?  I cannot remember.  Oh Mama...

The wall is divided by a mechitza (dividing wall that separates men and women during prayer in the orthodox synagogues, and at the Kotel).  Mom and I took the girls and we began to approach the Wall on the Women's side.  I remember being overwhelmed with emotion as we reached the beautiful golden stones, touching them, and making sure that we got the girls right up to the front, to touch the Kotel and say a prayer.  I am not a particularly religious or observant person, but I remember feeling the embrace of G-d, and an indescribable connection to my people over our history spanning 5 many millions of us have touched these stones, seeking a connection to G-d and to goodness?

At the Kotel

We saw many beautiful and meaningful sites in Jerusalem, but at the end of each touring day, we would stop at a fabulous restaurant where we would indulge in the most delicious food.  I drove Carlo a little nuts by insisting that we photograph some of my favourites!  But he paid me back in spades by making me stop, over and over and over (every opportunity we got) to try a cappuccino.  He was amazed and impressed at how delicious and well-made the cappuccinos are in Israel - marvelling at how he did not have even one bad cup during our whole stay.

Montefiore Restaurant, where I had
 the most delicious Israeli Salad!

Montefiore's Windmill in Yemin Moshe, our friend,
the late Yonah Mach, lived right by the Windmill.
As a little girl, I thought he lived in the Windmill!
In my heart it will always be Yonah's Windmill.

What kid doesn't love McDonald's?  

We had the best pasta in all of Israel at this restaurant...delish!

The sign reads "Shnitzi"...we never
actually ate there, but I loved the sign!

All in all, it was a wonderful trip.  On a sad note, it marked the closing of one chapter of our family's connection with Eretz Yisrael - it was Mom's final visit there - but on a happier and hopeful note, it marked what I hope will be the beginning of a lifelong love affair between Carlo, our girls and Mom's Israel.  

Thank you for joining me on this trip down memory lane.  Happy Birthday Israel!

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!


  1. It’s a good thing that you decided to visit Israel then than any other place, which might not be as rejuvenating. Have you ever been to Hula Nature Reserve? It would be nice if you have brought your mom there. It’s my favorite place there. How’s your mom now, Naomi? :)

  2. Thank you for joining me on my journey Constance - welcome!

    I have never been to the Hula Nature Reserve Constance, but it looks beautiful and I will add it to my list of places to see on our next visit. I am glad Mom's last trip was to the place she loved most, with (almost all of) the people she loved most in the world.

    She is in the latter, severe stages of AD, but still manages to smile when she sees us - a testament to the loving and happy person she has always been.