Lest you be concerned: having returned to Ma’ale Adumim on Dec. 12 from our Study Trip, my venturous wife and I had just enough time to get back on board the virtual helicopter. It took off from the parking lot next to our building and landed on the Golden Iris’s heliport, bringing us back in time to Oct. 28, enabling us to join our ship mates the afternoon before we reached Venice. I should have had time to get in a nap before we left the ship in the late afternoon, but I’ll get to that shortly.
Venice has always been high on Barbara’s “while and before” list of places to visit, the “while,” in general, being while she is still physically able to handle the journey. In this case, the “before” meant before the city sinks into the sea. (No joke.) My wife had broached the possibility of going on a trip there in the summer of 2018, but I had strongly objected to that idea. You do not want to go there during peak tourist season. (Between twenty and thirty million visitors come every year, and it becomes standing room only in the center of town.) There’ll be another cruise next year, I said, and maybe it won’t be at peak season. Continue reading
On trips of this kind, it’s almost always we, the AACI-ers, who board the bus and head off to where the people we are going to meet happen to be. Except in the evening after dinner, when our featured speakers come to where we are staying to delight us with their well-chosen words. With one slight wrinkle. I mentioned that on this trip we had two busloads of folks, and we were staying at different hotels. Our group had to get back on the bus to go the few minutes to the Harlington Hotel, more of a ‘business hotel,’ which has conference rooms that could accommodate all 80+ of us. Each night we heard a different speaker, each from a very different background, but who wound up doing very similar things, under the radar that the media use to decide who is important and who is not. Neither of them had much to say about themselves and a lot of about what they were doing. (Maybe that’s why they remain under the radar.) Continue reading
Should you find yourself on a future AACI Study Trip, be forewarned that you will be asked (and reminded, but in a nice way) to fill out the evaluation form and rate 1) how well the trip was run; 2) all about the accommodations –the service, the food; 3) how good was the guide; 4) every place on the itinerary. No surprise, people don’t always agree. But to get a division of the house, yea or nay, that’s rare.
We had started out the next day (that’s Wed., if you’re keeping track) and made our first stop at the Sderot Media Center, a place that engendered opposing feelings by those of us on the trip. To be fair, its director and guiding light, Noam Bedein, was not around, and the task of explaining what is going on there was left to another young man. Maybe he just wasn’t up to the task. Dov did tell us about his own experiences: how the rocket attacks in recent years put a complete kibosh on his plans to do graduate work at the university in Beersheva, as well as wreaked havoc on his bronchial system. His take on the current situation was markedly different from what we heard from many of the other folks we talked with. Continue reading
Since we’ve been living in The Land, we’ve become accustomed to seeing the cranes just about every day. No, not as in The Cranes Are Flying or as in the migratory birds that come and go our way every spring and fall. I mean the large pieces of machinery needed to erect high-rise buildings. The ones you see in Jerusalem. The ones you see in Tel Aviv. The ones we kept seeing in Ashkelon as our tour bus left the city in the morning and came back in the late afternoon. What I didn’t expect to see (and I suspect I wasn’t alone in that) was the evidence of their presence in Sderot, that battered community. But, sure enough, as we entered from the south, there, for all to see, were a row of high-rise buildings, clearly constructed in the last few years, right smack-dab in the line of fire of the missiles from Gaza. I think we all had the same questions, directed at all and sundry of the locals we met on our trip. What are you doing? Why are you here? Isn’t it kind of dangerous in these parts? Continue reading
Where we left off, Barbara and I were on an AACI-sponsored cruise on the good ship Crown Iris, which was heading up the coast of Italy on its way to Venice. What happened next was something unheard of. The two of us were whisked away on a virtual helicopter (!) and moved ahead in time from Oct. 27 to Dec. 9, to allow us to join another AACI activity, one of their Study Trips, this one focusing on the beleaguered community of the Sderot and surrounding area. (We were assured that once this four-day trip was over, we would be returned to the Crown Iris by the same virtual helicopter (!) in plenty of time to land at the Pearl of the Adriatic. No worries.) Continue reading
After a day and a half at sea, it’s always good to see land. We had docked at Souda, a port city in Chania, a district of Crete, and we were eager to start exploring. I should say right off the bat that this was not our most successful day, part of which was out of our control. The Greek government, in its efforts to provide maximum security for tourists arriving from Israel, made us wait forty-five minutes before allowing the many tour buses – including our two – to leave the port area – meaning no extra time at any of destinations. Plus, Stella, the local guide for our bus, was hardly stellar. But there was another problem that could and should have been avoided. On our last cruise, we were divided by mobility into three groups, each one on a separate bus with a different itinerary. This time, we were all lumped together on bus 1 or bus 2. Some of us were quite fit or reasonably fit, and some, let’s say, weren’t. So, the more fit folks were slowed down by the less fit, and the less fit were made to walk more than was reasonable, given their limitations. Plus, as in many cities, they don’t let buses park where the passengers need to go. Our buses had to park where it was allowed, and then we walked and walked….and walked. First, we went through a quasi-shuk-mall, where we would have liked to stop and browse, but no time. Next, to the port area and the Nautical Museum. I’m certain that anyone with a maritime bent would have found this place of great interest. But I come from a long, distinguished line of landlubbers. To me the best part of the museum was the restrooms. Continue reading
One thing you can expect without fail on an AACI cruise is a scholar-in-residence. It might be a ‘scholar,’ as in college professor, but, more likely, it will be a rabbi (who might also be a scholar). Aharon Adler is a rabbi, a scholar, a musician, and a regular good guy. He also manages to get around. He leads groups to the Death Camps in Poland and can be found as a main attraction at some Israeli hotel over the various holidays. I’m sure he has a ‘trunkful’ of prepared talks, from which he can pick and choose the right ones for any occasion. But sometimes he’ll be asked a question that needs to be dealt with right then and there. I was Johnny-on-the-spot with a question about Birkat Cohanim (the priestly blessing), which he was more than willing to address and provide some much-needed clarification. If nothing else, I needed to know if I would be on-duty or off-duty as we sailed the wine-dark seas. Continue reading