Sunday, January 02, 2005

On Good Friends, Holy Sites, and Sensuous Delights

My college friend Roseanne, who reestablished contact with me a few months ago after being out of touch since my sophomore year, was in Jerusalem this weekend with her husband, Dan. Roseanne hadn’t been to Israel since she was 12, and for Dan it’s his first time! They came to my house for Shabbat lunch, and then we went together to the Brownsteins (who are so nice) for seudat shlishit, and after Shabbat we went to the Kotel and then to Cafe Hillel for hot chocolate. Then I picked up from their hotel room all the scented candles which they’d brought from America for me – I’ve got enough now to last for months. I’m so happy! The whole thing was such a nice weekend experience.

So, a few notes about all this:

1) I’m seeing now from the perspective of someone who lives in Israel what a big difference it makes when tourists come. In addition to the economic boost to the country, and the morale boost when I saw how full Ben Yehudah Street was, it’s just so nice to be reminded that Israel is a place so special and important that people are interested in traveling halfway around the world to see it. Also, I got to “show off” my neighborhood, point out interesting sites, translate for them . . . and it all reinforced for me how happy I am to be here, and how far I’ve come in getting settled.

2) Another reason it’s great when tourists come to see me is that then I go with them to the Kotel. It’s embarrassing how few times I’ve gone since my aliyah. I can’t excuse it with the old “residents don’t go to tourist sites” argument, because the Kotel is not just a tourist site. The wall really helps me to feel closer to God, like when I’m praying I’m making a local call. Every time I go I tell myself that I should take more advantage of living so close to it. But somehow, especially if I’m feeling spiritually “blah,” the Kotel seems so far away, in a sense that has little to do with geography. And then I go with my tourist friends, and fear that I’ll feel nothing when I get there, but it’s always fine. I always leave feeling more peaceful.

Note to self: Go to the Kotel sometimes on your own, just because you can.

3) Funny experience: As we were waiting to get through security at the wall, Dan called his father, and they arranged that Dan would stand at a certain stop so that his dad could find him on the Kotel Cam. The wonders of modern technology!

4) Despite my inability to digest milk, I went for Cafe Hillel’s Chocolatta.

I’d always thought it was just hot cocoa . . . .

Oh. My. God.

It is melted chocolate pudding. It’s served in a glass with a long spoon.

It is heaven.
Which reminds me . . .

5) Last week I went into the Ne’eman Bakery on Emek Refaim to buy fudge cookies for Roseanne and Dan (as I told them, those cookies alone are enough to convince anyone to make aliyah), and decided to treat myself to one of the little chocolate cakes on the counter.

I see these around all the time. Little cylindrical cakes, like tall muffins, wrapped in a tube of brown paper. I never understood why everyone sells these. What’s the big deal about individually wrapped chocolate cake for one?

Turns out that what you do is take it home and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds, and it’s really a chocolate souffle, and the middle rises and gets all soft and gooey.

Oh. My. God.

It was so good that tears of joy glistened in my eyes. I kid you not.

6) OK, enough about chocolate, let’s talk about my new scented candles. One dozen different votives from the Virtuous Vanilla line (Honey Vanilla, Orange Vanilla, Rasberry Vanilla . . . ) One dozen different votives from the "Autumn and Holiday" line (Plum Pudding, Candy Cane, Cinammon Bun . . . ). A tumbler of Cranberry Vanilla. A pillar of Mint Vanilla. And a jar, which Miriam threw in as my Chanukah present, of one of my favorite scents: Oatmeal Raisin Cookie.

[They do, by the way, sell scented candles in Jerusalem. They are ubiquitous, in fact, and I've tried some. However, the Root and Yankee brands of candles come in a wider variety of scents, the scent quality is higher, and the candles burn longer and more evenly. Plus, they are sold by Miriam, who is another college friend.]

My apartment will smell amazing for the forseeable future.

7) Thank you to Dan and Roseanne for shlepping all those candles – they are heavy—all the way from Manhattan to Tel Aviv and then Jerusalem. I told them that they should bring only what they could carry comfortably, and they actually packed them all by sticking votives into empty space in the suitcases. They are truly good friends. I love you guys!

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