We got an early start yesterday morning. By eight a.m. we were already walking through the shuk on our way to the light rail stop. We bought some bananas and fresh pita (straight from the oven) on the way, plus some treats to share with our cousins in Tel Aviv.
The train station in Jerusalem is new, beautiful, and very, very deep. We took an escalator down to the light-filled tickets concourse. Then we all scanned our tickets and went down another—very long—escalator. And another. And then another. I lost count at some point but I think there were only three. Suffice it to say, we were extremely far down.
(Fun fact: there are blast-proof doors at the top of one set of escalators. Apparently the station was also built to act as a bomb shelter for up to five thousand people in case of emergency.)
The train ride itself was fast, smooth, and pretty comfortable. The kids got to see (for the first time) men gathering at one end of the train car, wrapped in tallit and tefillin, to daven shacharit (the morning prayers.) We emerged from the station at Tel Aviv University and hopped on the number seven bus to the Museum of the Jewish People. Luckily for our fellow passengers, it wasn’t until we got off the bus that the kids started up their chorus of “We hate museums.”
Along the way, we passed the natural history museum and stopped to enjoy an outdoor exhibit of animal caricatures. I have a feeling we might have missed some of the jokes (like the one that played on the fact that the Hebrew word for “lazy” also means “sloth” (as in the animal.) We enjoyed them nonetheless. At least, some of us enjoyed them while others sat on a bench and listened to music.
At the Museum of the Jewish People we went straight for the important stuff—coffee and croissants at the Aroma in the lobby. Then we went through all three levels of the museum, learning about Jewish identity, history, arts and culture. Sadly (for all of us, I think,) R ran out of patience and we had to skip the last—and probably best—exhibit: Jewish humour. At least we got to enjoy a video of excerpts of some of the best comedic moments in Jewish TV shows and movies before we left.
We crossed the university campus—R and E took a break to climb on the sculptures—and took a bus down to the “Namal” (port) of Tel Aviv, which has been revitalized and turned into a destination for shopping and dining. We found an enormous playground where K immediately hit the swings and everyone else had fun on the play structure shaped like a pirate ship (including a wobbly plank for walking.)
Our cousins from Ra’anana drove down to meet us and we walked over to the beach. About an hour or so later, we were joined by another cousin who I haven’t seen since his family came to visit us in Toronto 30 years ago. His mom just happened to be visiting him yesterday, so she came along too. E played in the sand with his kids while I got all caught up with the grownups.
It was getting late; our Ra’anana cousins left in the hope of avoiding the worst rush-hour traffic. Our Tel-Aviv cousin invited us back to his place for dinner.
“Is it a long walk from here?” R wanted to know.
“I’m guessing—from the facts that his three-year-old twins can do it and that they’re barefoot—that it’s only a few blocks at the most.” I told her.
I was right. We hung out, ate pizza and salad and homemade tehina, and indulged in the baked goodies we’d brought from Jerusalem. And then it was 8:00 p.m., and it was time to go.
On the bus heading to the train station we saw a young girl with a Rubik’s Cube. “See?” I nudged K. “You guys aren’t the only ones who take your cubes everywhere.” Soon K, R, and this girl were comparing cubes and chatting about strategy.
I noticed two things on the train ride back to Jerusalem: First, that an absurd number of single travellers take up an entire set of four seats, making it hard for a family to sit together; and second, that the bathrooms on the Rakevet Yisrael trains are clean, well-stocked with paper and soap, and bigger than airplane bathrooms.
We finally got home just after 10 p.m.—a fourteen-hour day. The kids went straight to bed; I hung out the wet bathing suits and towels, updated the blog, and fell into bed, sea-salty skin and all.