Petah Tikvah Memorial Park
Bring me Cappuccino (hafuch in Hebrew). He lowered his mask, put the opening of the cover to his lips, no coffee came out. Instead the hot stuff came gushing out of the cup, where his mouth wasn't but his green and white shirt was. Etti sits in the car munching a doughnut. Leon didn't even have a chance to experience its color.
The old folks were on their way. They arrived at Shilat junction, on road 443 at 9:30 heading for Memorial Park in Petach Tikvah. Everything went according to schedule. The mobile phone rang, Avishai said, where are you, what's keeping you. Etti asked, what should I tell him?'' Tell him the truth, said the old man, we'll be late, stopping at the Teller Bakery, to pick up bread. Okay, he said, but make sure they have a toilet, I'm not moving another inch without one, and a coffee break.
The cold of Winter struck Jerusalem, Avishai called and the old folks arranged to meet him in the warmer climate of the Lowlands. They poured Earl Grey tea into their flask, fixed the whole wheat bread and cheese into sandwiches, Cheddar and Gouda for the old guy, Feta for the old lady. Safety belts tied, the destination inserted into the GPS. Mother, hands firmly on the wheel, gave gas and the Prius pulled quietly out of the apartment parking area. The app said turn right and the driver obeyed.
The moment Avishai's Toyota came into view, father understood that they were at the right place. He indicated to follow him. The road led through Jabotinsky boulevard, lined with massive Sycamore's on either side, darkening the road.
Light blue masks over their mouth and nose, the pair entered the park at exactly 10:30.
The couple's son witnessed the scene; his father, a tall man, in the standard neat black Nike cap, on his head, carried a red and white shopping bag, full but not too heavy. His parents peered furtively this way and that. Where in heaven's name was there a place to sit, without suspicion of Covid.
Their eyes skimmed over a solitary figure, on a brown wooden recliner, made of slats, a permanent fixture.
He was dozing, his hat over his face, under the shade of an old Sycamore. According to the Bible, Solomon planted forests of these here 3000 years ago.
IKings 10:27The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills.
The beautiful park, in the heart of the "Mother of the settlements", was opened in 1963 by David ben Gurion.
Leon and Ettie walked, continually searching. A vacant bench didn't appear anywhere. they saw a grassy area where children were playing. This also did not meet with the couple's approval. Any place with people was unsuitable in this day and age, of danger of being infected with the deadly virus.
The quest for an isolated place is renewed every time mother needs to pick a place to sit in the open air. She's forever searching . Before the pandemic, only lovers and mysterious types would explore desolate places. These days are different; a person joining people in a group can be branded as a criminal. Ettie carries out the restriction to gathering with others far beyond the requirements of the law. I am sick and tired of this situation. We have been convicted and must accept our sentence with resignation.
Covid isn't going to last forever, thank goodness. But we might as well take advantage of the spare time being unemployed has afforded us. The travel agent wife can visit the interesting sites of our country, like this memorial park, she's never had time for. Leon, on the other hand, can use the time to learn how to write stories, something he's never had the time to do. He's virtually become an old dog learning new tricks.
Mother finally found a place to sit; on a wall next to a square of black and white paving stones. In Summertime children splashed in little fountains spurting out of these holes. But it was deserted, the quietest place in the park.
Time to stretch legs, said the old man, leaving mother and son to catch up on family news; Jonathan's new baby, Tali, the biscuits which Noga liked, Alma and Jonathan in Tel Aviv and so on and so on.
He strolled down, past the children playing on the swings, seesaws and slides. He came to the North opening, a narrow gate in a fence of dark green stanchions. He watched the road worker in a bright yellow plastic vest, warning cars to turn round, because of roadworks. Vehicles couldn't reach this access.
Leon turned around to walk back to the park. The sight of two leafy Giraffes, shaped out of a bush staring at nothing, came into view, indicating the shut down zoo nearby.
As he was climbing a flight of stone steps, he came across a group of laughing schoolgirls, in long colorful dresses. This was not their school uniform. Their institution won't be functioning until the government is satisfied that the danger of the virus spreading is over. One of them was taking a picture of the others.
At the top he came to a level lawnlike plain, and gazed down over the little waterfall splashing into a pond with fish. On the other side he could see his wife and son sitting and chatting.
Leon continued to walk up the verdant slope, and came to a wall of names, the heroes who died for their country. The recreation area was laid out in their memory. A little further on stood a Sherman tank captured in one of the wars. Beyond, another gate led out of the estate into one of Petach Tikva's suburbs.
Truly this is a memorial, Leon thought to himself, when he stumbled on the remains of an olive oil production plant.
A flat smooth stone on which his primogenitors smashed the small round fruit into pulp, lay on the one side, the basin to collect the mush next to it, and the press to squeeze out every last drop of the precious liquid, and to purify it, in the centre.
The park is a fitting tribute to the industry of my forebears. The oldest apparatus of the press dated from the Neolithic period, more than 10000 years ago, the newest from the Roman period.
Leon reminded Avishai that he was not his first forefather, but that he stood at the pinnacle of a long line of ancestors, who were industrious people. They founded civilization, like planting a seedling, and we are at the heights to which that small tree has grown so far.
Each generation improved the culture of the previous one. Avishai is the accumulation of all those generations of cultural improvement industry and intellect, and his offspring will add more understanding to the knowledge he has inherited from his antecedents. The people grow more intelligent, adding wisdom onto the wisdom of their progenitors millions of years ago.
As he made his way down the hill back to Ettie and Avishai, he stopped to rest in one of the wooden recliners. He closed his eyes and dozing had a vision; the whole area was an olive grove, with a little stone home in the centre, where great great great grandpa lived, exactly where they were sitting and chatting.
Their visit to the memorial ended. Avishai continued to his home in Tel Aviv, and Ettie and grandpa proceeded on their way back to Jerusalem.
They came back home, had lunch and rested, to be ready for another visit to another park tomorrow.
Rendezvous With Noga
I'd been waiting to eat, since we'd returned from our daily walk round the neighborhood. But first I set about the chores the lady of the house had allotted to me; changing the bedding, according to Etti's fancy. I wrapped the white eiderdown in a cover with black shapes like leaves. Tonight we'd be sleeping in the forest.
My wife made my favorite, fried fish, preceded by a delicious minestrone, accompanied by a tangy pecorino, slightly piquant, the texture smooth yet dry, the color off-white to creamy, wrapped in a black wax skin that peels off easily.
I gulped down a sip of Grants. The whiskey flowed smoothly down my throat, and glowed inside me. We sank into complete relaxation, in the warm Winter sun on our balcony.
A round, white, plastic table covered in a red and white cloth, we sat on white chairs. A scene of the Judean Desert before us, obscured by Arab villages, crowding out more of the barren intriguing landscape with ever increasing high rise apartments.
The day before, Thursday 12th November, Ettie and I took a drive out to a weekly farm stall at Naham, an agricultural settlement near Bet Shemesh.
They cultivate their crops organically. We bought a lot of produce. I hope it'll last until the next market day, because now we are trying to do away with daily visits to our local greengrocer.
I couldn't wait to try out the fruit and vegetables, raised without artificial stimulants or pesticides. The Oranges taste like the ones I remember as a child in South Africa, before they invented all sorts of insecticides and growth hormones for agriculture. The same goes for the lettuce.
As we were leaving with our purchases, we came across a woman preparing all kinds of dishes, very simple foods like beetroots, turnips, carrots, fennel and god alone knows what else, all baked. There and then, I sat down to a whole bowlful of the delectable mixture.
We also bought some tasty calming tea, made with ginger, and a variety of other plants. This visit aroused in me again the desire to nourish myself exclusively with vegetables. I lived like that for seven years, not out of dislike for the flesh of living creatures, but out of sympathy for their suffering. I'm going back to that way of living, but I'll have a steak, now and again, the temptation is too strong to be resisted.
Turning back in the direction of Jerusalem, we made a detour to Azariah, a moshav near Ramallah, Etti had heard about, where they operate a goat farm, producing all kinds of cheeses.
After lunch we got together with Noga, wearing a mask to protect us from any contagion she might have brought from school.
We rendezvoused in the tracks park, located along a 9 KM disused section of the Old Turkish train rails.
These days two train lines run between Israel's two main cities, the old one, which begins at a new station in the suburb of Malcha, outside Jerusalem, and the modern high speed one, that leaves from near the central bus terminus.
The slow train still winds its way round the bends in the Sorek River Bed, the same valley that Samson passed through on his way to see Delilah, the grand dame of the Philistines, who once lived along the coast of Israel until king Solomon conquered that territory, and they fled back to the Greek islands.
I've walked the entire length of the recreation area, from the old Turkish built railway station to the Biblical Zoo.
Some neighborhoods, of the new city of Jerusalem, stand alongside the track parkland, like the German Colony, Katamon, bet Zefafafa, and Jerusalem's light industry area of Talpiot West. .
A sudden downpour hit us and there was no shelter. Luckily Ettie had some brollies in the car, and the day before Carmela had given us a towel to lay the TV on to protect the screen.
I thought I'd use it for shelter, while the others used the umbrellas. Our granddaughter decided otherwise, she needed it to cover the wet park bench, where she wanted to sit with her grandmother, which left me soaking in the rain.
Fortunately it stopped after a few minutes.
She sat close to Etti, but not touching, in accordance with the Corona safety laws.
Ittamar and I stood nearby, We had spent some time with Noga a few days earlier, but watching the two of them chatting it seemed as if they hadn't seen one another for years.
Separating the old folks from the children has become stricter, after school reopened. The little ones meeting at school, increased the possibility of contagion. Before we could meet indoors and embrace, now only outdoors and no embracing.
Ettie gave Noga the gifts her friend Irena had brought for her from Brittany, where she and her husband Nisim spend several months each year, in their country house in Pleumeur Gautier, an agricultural area on the coast of the English Channel. Here I roamed the countryside in August 2016 when we took over Irena's house for 10 days and had a glorious holiday.
Every day we visited a fair offering distinctive products, peculiar to the place. According to custom, the villages took turns at having a market, so you can visit another town with other goods on any particular day, depending on where it's being held.
Noga immediately put the little bag on her shoulder. It was made of rough string that had a light beige color like straw. She walked like a lady, who put on something made specially for her. In it she placed the gifts Irena had brought;a necklace and a bracelet of little rough white stones, and shapes, which like magic an animal emerges in color as you press on them.
She and Ettii busied themselves, creating the variously hued animals. By this time the sousing ended and the ball of fire shone brightly. We all caught the warmth and brilliance, at their best, when the brightest light in heaven appears after a shower.
The rain gone and the sun shining, brought out the brilliant reds and whites of a wall of Geraniums. I pointed my smartphone camera at the yellow and orange leaves of the Maple trees, brilliantly lit up by the last glimmerings of the setting sun, and captured the scene.
Turning round like a cowboy quick on the trigger, I aimed into the sun and the blaze became flashing stars in my picture.
The sun enlivened everything, including my granddaughter, who chased after me using her umbrella as a stick, for poking me in the stomach. I jumped, she missed, pursued me again, managed a gentle prod and laughed loudly.
Our meeting was over, Noga and Ittamar went to their home, Ettie and I proceeded to the car.
My dear wife shed a few tears of happiness, at seeing her granddaughter.
I think that we are lucky to see our grand-kids, even for a short time, and under strict limitations. Other old people have grandchildren living further away, and in the situation of uncertainty prohibition and caution, not coming into contact with their beloved little ones, must be difficult.
Yad Vashem, The Israel Museum, Shrine of the Book, Model of Jerusalem, The Knesset, Chagal Windows at Hadassah Hospital, The Scroll of Fire, The Wailing Wall
The 4 quarters of Old Jerusalem, an overview, walk through the markets, vantage points over Jerusalem
A 3 hour walk on Jerusalem's walls