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Rendezvous with Noga

Dying of starvation, at 12 Ettie asked, am I hungry. The midday meal would be ready in another hour.

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 Ramla, 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.

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