Visiting Friends in Central Israel

February 15-17, 2009

After we left the Bahai Temple, Pnina and I hired a car to drive south to central Israel for a few days, to visit some friends…

Edna & Mike

First stop was at Edna & Mike’s place in Herzlia.  The connection is this – my dad (Adi) and Mike served together in the Israeli army years ago, as part of an Engineering corps.  I’m always impressed at the tight connection my dad has with his old army buddies – I guess being in stressful situations together will do that.  But of all his army friends, dad has kept in touch the most with Mike.  Also, Edna has become a really close friend to the family, especially to my grandmother (Omama); they spent a lot of time together or on the phone before Omama moved to Portland.  Now Mike is semi-retired, working part-time as a proctor at a local college.  Edna is still working hard as a nurse.  Their daughter, Tamar, told us that she’s planning to spend a couple of months in the US as camp counselor, though it wasn’t clear exactly where (somewhere in New England).

Shahaf, Tamar, Pnina, Edna, Mike:

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In our one evening together Edna and Mike took Pnina and I to the Herzlia waterfront, which was surprisingly well done – wooden boardwalk and slick coffee shops all around.  Then we went to see a movie in a giant 20-screen cineplex called CineCity.  We saw Waltz with Bashir, an Israeli movie that was nominated for the best foreign film Oscar (it didn’t win, but we only found that out a couple weeks later).


The movie describes the Sabra & Shatila massacre that took place during Israel’s first Lebanon War.  The Lebanese president (who was Christian) was assassinated; Christian Lebanese blamed Muslim Palestinians for his death and took revenge by massacring lots of people in two Palestinian refugee camps: Sabra & Shatila.  Israeli troops stood by while this happened and even, arguably, provided indirect assistance.  The movie is told as a set of interviews by an Israeli veteran (the director) who tries to fill a memory gap about what actually happened there and what was his role.  The movie is semi-animated.  By the way, Ariel Sharon was Israel’s defense minister at the time and it’s a fact that he knew that the massacre was taking place and chose to do nothing about it.  It’s worth saying that for this irresponsibility he was fired from his job by Menahem Begin, who was prime minister at the time.  However, it’s also worth noting that about 20 years later Sharon himself became prime minister of Israel, causing outrage in the Arab world.  Pnina knew something about the Sabra and Shatila events, but not the details.  I knew almost nothing.  We both feel bad for not knowing more before seeing the movie, but we’re glad we saw it.  It’s highly recommended, but be aware that it’s depressing and a bit graphic.

Dana Cortish

The next day we drove to Jerusalem to visit Arlene’s (Pnina’s mom’s) friend, Dana Cortish.  Arlene and Dana know each other from their days growing up in Seattle.  Dana married a Jewish New Yorker and converted to Judaism.  They now live in one of the more orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem.  We didn’t take any photos with Dana, and that’s partly because we weren’t really sure if photos are allowed (Pnina and I are only so Jewish and we’re lost when it comes to the nuance of Jewish Orthodoxy).  However, we did take one photo we absolutely have to share.  Dana is really really into breeding birds – it’s somewhere between a hobby and a business.  Her apartment is full of cages all over the place holding parakeets, various parrots, and an endless number pigeons – many of which live in an outdoor building.  A few of the indoor pigeons are diapered.  That’s right, they wear diapers! Pnina had actually heard of chicken diapers before, but this whole concept was brand new to me.  It’s pretty impressive to watch Dana’s skill as she ropes down a pigeon to change its diapers!  And it works too – the apartment is pretty clean.

A pigeon wearing a diaper (the colorful thing):

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Maayan & Dikla

Pnina moved to Seattle in 2001.  Before starting college she spent a year working to save money and to establish residency (school in America is much cheaper for state residents than for out-of-staters and foreigners).  Before starting college she took off on an 8-month trip to Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel.  While in New Zealand she met and traveled with a few Israeli people.  Of them, she’s kept in touch the most with one guy – Maayan.  When Pnina and I  visited Israel a year ago (on our “engagement trip”) we met up with Maayan and his girlfriend Dikla, and went hiking in Metzukei Dragot, near the Dead Sea.  This time we didn’t have time for a hike, but we went over to their place in Rehovot for dinner and to crash for the night.  We were excited for this dinner because we remembered from last year that Dikla brought the absolute best pesto we ever had in our lives.  And she didn’t disappoint – dinner was great.  Maayan recently finished his masters and now works on research related to Colony Collapse Disorder, a relatively recent phenomenon where bee hives around the world are mysteriously perishing.  Dikla just finished her bachelors in nutrition and is now working on a business degree.

Dikla, Pnina, and Maayan:

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Tel Aviv Waterfront

The next morning we had a few free hours so we drove to Tel Aviv and walked around at the waterfront.  The famous spot in Tel Aviv is the artist colony in the southern beach area of Yafo.  But we didn’t go there this time.  Instead we walked along the northern promenade, which is relatively newly built.  It’s a pretty nice area, like Herzlia’s waterfront – wooden boardwalk and upscale shops.  They had one of those exhibitions of statues painted in different ways scattered around the boardwalk (like the cows, pigs, etc. that you see in various cities in the US).  In this case they had dinosaurs.  It was a pretty windy day so we spent time photographing waves crashing over onto the boardwalk.

Shahaf on a Barcodesaurus, or something like that:

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From far away this looked like a kids playground, but up close we realized it’s actually a free outdoor gym.  Very cool!

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Galya, Arad, and Agam

Pnina and I owe our relationship to a couple of friends, Ari and Galya, who introduced us.  They lived in Seattle for a while, then moved to Philly, and then to Israel (Galya’s home).  So unfortunately they weren’t able to attend our wedding in Seattle back in August.  But at least we had a chance to see them in Israel.  We met up with Galya and the two boys, Arad and Agam, at a pizza place near their home in Ramat Aviv (just north of Tel Aviv).  Ari was away on a business trip to Spain, doing marketing for Sandisk.  This was the first time we saw them in a few years.  The boys were huge, but Galya was exactly the same – amazing!  🙂  Galya is a designer, and she surprised us with a belated wedding gift – Egyptian cotton sheets she designed herself (wow!).

Arad on the left, Agam on the right:

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Galya on the right; Agam on Shahaf’s shoulders; Arad on the shoulders of the babysitter (sorry forgot her name!  but she was really cool and apparently she’s #1 in judo for her age group in Israel):

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This time Arad is on my shoulders:

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Aviv, Noa, and baby Itamar

We mentioned in an earlier post that Pnina spent a year doing service work in the southern Israeli town of Yeruham.  One of the guys living with Pnina in the commune was Aviv.  Pnina’s kept in touch with him over the years, so on our way back north we stopped at his place in Petah Tikva.  Aviv and Noa came to Seattle to visit us a couple of years ago and we had a nice time kayaking on Lake Union and such.  Since then they had their first baby – Itamar – and this was our first chance to see them as parents.  Pnina had a good time doing baby aerobics with Itamar.  At some point we took Itamar to the bedroom while Aviv and Noa spoke with some prospective buyers for their flat.  I joked about heading out to the room to pretend like Pnina and I are rich Americans also interested in the flat and to propose some bullshit high offer, but we decided to let it go.  Anyhow, it was a good time.

Noa, Aviv with Itamar, Pnina, Shahaf:

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Yaniv, Sare, and baby Inbar

This actually happened a few days later (Feb 20) but we’re including it here because it fits with the general theme of “visiting friends”.  I left Israel when I was just 10 years old, and I’ve only kept in touch with one friend from those childhood years: Yaniv.  Yaniv and I lived in the same building in Kiriat Bialik and we were basically inseperable best friends all that time – we went to school together, we played together, even took piano lessons from the same teacher.  Flash forward twenty years, Yaniv is now married to Sare and they too recently gave birth to their first daughter, Inbar.  We visited them at their modern flat on Carmel in Haifa.  Sare is a judge at a local court.  Yaniv is an accountant with a huge shipping company.  He said that they made a gamble in the last couple of years, buying up lots of expensive ships to become the biggest shipping company in the world.  Then the economic downturn hit and all of a sudden you have ships everywhere with nothing to carry.  He said that many of these ships are just sitting out in open water because if they stayed in any port then they’d need to pay high moorage fees.  It’s interesting to learn, and I hope things pick up for them soon.  Back to more important things – Inbar is a very smiley baby and she clearly owns the apartment 🙂

Shahaf, Sare, Inbar, and Yaniv:

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Around the World

Obama finally signed into the law the American R and Reinvestment Act, which provides something like 800 billion dollars of investment in various infrastructure projects across America.  It was a battle to get this act through the House and the Senate.  Nobody is really sure if it’ll get America’s economy back on track, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.  At any rate, we support some of things that will be funded (e.g. public transport, green energy, health care, education, etc.).  We’ve already heard that companies across the states are trying to figure out how they can get their hands on some of this money, so of course there will be some misused money and probably even a little corruption.  But we’re impressed that Obama’s administration is trying to be as open as possible about exactly where the money goes.

In Cambodia, trials finally began for the Khmer Rouge genocide that took place in 1975-79.  The head of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, died naturally in 1999, unfortunately.  So the first person on trial is Douch, who was in charge of the Tuol Sleng prison where countless acts of torture and murder took place.  Pnina and I just finished reading The Gate, which describes one Frenchman’s experience surviving 3 months in a war camp that Douch managed before he was promoted to Tuol Sleng.  The book paints an unusually mixed picture of Douch – both brutal and humane.  From our perspective, it would be great to see him prosecuted.

While Pnina and I are traveling, our good friends Tyler and Sarah are keeping watch over our cats, Wesley and Buttercup.  Tyler decided to change his career somewhat and become a freelance designer.  Check out his cool protfolio website:  We love the tuk-tuk animation!  🙂


One response to “Visiting Friends in Central Israel

  1. Corrections from Pnina’s parents…

    Dear S & P

    Sarah (Dana) Cordish converted to Judaism before she met her husband, who is from Baltimore, not NY. .
    Your blog has a cute picture of Dana’s diapered pigeon.
    She has an annotated video of her talking budgie, Merton:

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