Little things (and I'm not writing about One Direction's song) strike me when I'm least expecting it. On my recent trip to Israel I journaled the "little things" and discovered that each little thing generated an entire world of memories.
Little thing #1—The Hoopoes Have Landed.March 8, 2016
Hoopoe birds (dukhifat in Hebrew) look like they walked into a haberdashery and left with the fanciest hat but forgot to check the mirror.Their long hooked beaks remind me of cigarette holders and their black and white wings are reminiscent of a zebra rug. Their birdsong is more like a rap. And they are the national bird of Israel.
Last time I stayed in Modi'in with my cousins, I frequently saw hoopoe birds on my morning walks.They seemed to hang out in the adjacent neighborhood along Emek haHula.My first morning in Israel, I purposefully set out for the grocery focused on my list, absorbed in thoughts about the expense of buying an apartment, and enjoying the March warmth.Ornithology was far from my mind.
Suddenly, two hoopoe birds landed on the roof of a battered Subaru. I gasped with joy. They posed, they preened, they bobbed their orange Mohawk crests as they seemed to quibble with each other.My mind emptied of all thoughts unrelated to the hoopoe and drifted to the spring of 1968.
As preparation for our upcoming camp group's trip to Israel we were required to read The Source. As a conscientious teen, I read the book thoroughly, underlining the key passages and taking copious notes.The most lyrical chapter for me was chapter 5—The Psalm of the Hoopoe Bird. The pair of hoopoes sitting atop a car roof in March 2016 could transport me back to my reading and the feeling of wonder about the layers of Israeli history that I began to feel on my first trip to Israel in 1964 and continues to be a marvel for me with each subsequent trip.
Little Thing #2-- Here's What You Need. March 9, 2016
I have stopped bringing a complete kit of necessary toiletries with me to Israel.
Super-Pharm has absolutely everything I need and far more that I don't. headed to Super-Pharm to buy face wash. Super-Pharm carries a more extensive array of products than Target and I began the hunt. During my search mission, a woman dressed in a white coat (to make you think she's a medical professional?) clicked over in her heels and assessed my choice. She looked peeved. "That's wrong for you.Your skin is much too dry and wrinkled for that product. I'll show you what you need."Because I was enjoying the interaction and was curious to see what I needed, I followed her to an aisle with an artfully arranged display of expensive "products."Apparently she thought I needed three of those products to solve my skin issues.I thanked her and told her I was content with my simple face wash.She shook her head and her carefully lipsticked mouth turned down. She probably thought I was foolish not to heed her expert advice.
This wasn't the only time I was told what I needed. Waiters, taxi drivers, even new acquaintances showered me with advice. I remembered how shocked I was on my first trip to Israel in 1964 when my cousin Tzippora admonished me minutes after introductions—"You're too skinny, eat! Eat!" This year no one mentioned me being too skinny and most advice steered clear of my gray hair and my wrinkles. It aimed straight at my heart—"you should make aliyah."
Little Thing #3—Random Meetings. March 11, 2016
In the Talmud (Shevuot 39a) the phrase "kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh" (all of Israel are connected to each other) appears at the conclusion of a discussion about sin. When I'm in Israel, I think of that phrase each time I meet someone and discover we have a friend in common or when I randomly meet someone and introductions quickly move to a close connection.
Cousin Lisa and I headed out to the southern hills for a guided hike offered by the city of Modi'in Friday morning. The area overflows with wildflowers and scattered archaeological ruins.The rolling terrain provided enough challenge so Lisa and I felt we'd be combining learning with some exercise.
A group of six assembled at the designated meeting spot, but no guide appeared.Together we began to problem solve—should we call the city?Should we hike on our own? Should we call the guide directly?The six of us couldn't agree on a strategy so Lisa and I together with two women set off on our own hike.We decided to pool our botanical and historical knowledge and enjoy the warm spring day.
It didn't take long before we established our relationships.We were hiking with a mother-daughter team and they were hiking with a pair of cousins and no native Israeli accent could be heard among us. We began to probe each other's backgrounds. By the time we concluded our two-hour hike, we hadn't learned about new wildflowers or how to date the ruins, but we had uncovered our parallel paths.Rivka and Ilana immigrated to Israel in 1991 from Sevastopol. Rivka (the mother) authored three books, one a memoir of her life which she detailed as we walked. Her book was about to be released for publication.Of course, I shared with her the sagas of Alla and Vera in Jewish Luck. As she talked about her experience with her publisher, I remembered how Leslie and I had traveled to Jerusalem to meet with an Israeli publisher. It was another random coincidence that had secured us that exciting meeting in November 2014.
I did visit the Western Wall, enjoy the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), walk through the Bauhaus neighborhood of Tel Aviv, and meet outstanding artists.I enjoyed good friends, family, and the amazing tour with our Jewish Artists' Lab group.Each day little things enriched me in the moment and drew me into my memories.Perhaps that's why I couldn't help but smile throughout my stay in Israel.