Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Getting Settled

We have now started to put food in the kitchen. So we will await the cockroaches, which we remember from earlier visits. Maybe I should be more careful! I got up in midsentence and moved the open cereal and crackers into the refrigerator. Once on a satiric show on Israeli TV I saw cockroach puppets under a sink singing (a parody I assume) to the tune of the old Zionist labor song "all men are brothers." Not just a problem of these apartments.

We saw Batya, secretary of the department we are visiting, this morning. It was very nice to see her after 8 years. We also checked in with Lisa who runs the visitor program. Batya told us how Edna, who used to run the visitor office, had retired. Her son-in-law made a huge fortune with a start-up company and bought apartments in Tel Aviv for all his family.

As well as giving us maps and other information, Lisa called up on our behalf because the car rental company had not yet produced a car as promised. She dropped us off when she had ascertained that a car was finally ready. We had arrived for or 9:00 appointment to be told every 10 minutes that the car would arrive in 5 minutes.

A man in the waiting room assured us that chaos and unpredictibility was what we could expect habitually in Israel. He left the states 30 years ago, he said, and has worked in computers in a large bank. He claims that Israeli habits are chaotic, so they do well at development, but have to partner with Americans and Europeans to do support and real-life implementation in successful technology endeavors. Maybe it's true. We asked how the Israeli partnerships in Europe were doing in view of increasing anti-Israeli sentiment in Europe. He says they are more sympathetic as they have more problems with their own Moslem communities. Maybe it's true.

Fortunately, the Weizmann doesn't work on this basis, so even our TV now works. Though unfortunately our wonderful new cell phone has developed difficulties and we will have to get another one after the holiday.

Janet (a cousin) and Abigail (her daughter) are on the way over here, bringing some food for dinner. We managed to do some grocery shopping before the early closing for Memorial Day today, which means everything is closing some time this afternoon, so we had to rush around. We didn't have time to go to the ceremony on campus, but we heard the sirens at 11:00 this morning and 8:00 last night. Everyone stands still for the 1 minute as sirens sound across the country. (They also use them for air raids.) The sound starts up with distant sirens, gets louder, then dies away as they shut down at slightly different times.

Everything stops in memory of fallen soldiers. I think of the young and not so young people who came out of Europe in time for the 48 war. Since the British didn't allow them in, many came from refugee camps directly to the Israeli struggle against the Arab alliance against the UN-mandated new country. Some of these new Israelis died in battle without anyone even knowing their names. Most Israelis now think of young men they have known and lost recently. We happened to be in the parking lot. One young man stood nearby us, absolutely unmoving.

Janet and Abigail arrived around 4:00 with Israeli salads, bread, and goat cheese for dinner. Also home-made cookies which are a spin-off from Janet's commitments as a mother of a soldier (Ethan). Before dinner, we took a walk to the solar energy viewpoint. Bedouin shepherds still tend flocks of sheep on the grassy slope beyond the high-tech experimental field of suncatchers. The Weizmann campus is still gardened with great taste. Tall jacaranda trees massed with purple, fragrant jasmine shrubs, nastertiums, and pansies in rows are all blossoming.

After dinner we watched the national Independence Eve ceremony sponsored by the Knesset. It featured special people chosen this year from the northern regions of the country. They included a Jewish woman from Kurdistan who led pioneer efforts in the Galilee -- she has 55 grandchildren; an entrepreneur who has founded many industrial zones; educators, doctors, and a Holocaust survivor. Each had a special accomplishment. All made a very brief speech (which Abigail and Janet translated for us) and then lit a torch. The torch-lighters included people from Romania, Morocco, Iraq, other countries, and also a Druse women. Marching soldiers, dance troops, and singers also participated in the ceremony, held at Mount Hertzl and televised nationally.

A program about the '48 war, narrated by Martin Gilbert, is now running on the Israeli History channel. From it, I learned that Druse volunteers fought on the Israeli side in the Independence war. It has wonderful contemporary films of the war and just post-war Israeli society.

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