Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 11 David Bowie On Our Last Day

Waking up for our last day in London is bittersweet. I am having so much fun and at the same time I am missing my family and all that is familiar to me at home. After our wonderful English breakfast, jump onto the tour bus and head off to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the David Bowie exhibit. The museum itself is an incredible collection of art. We buy our tickets for the Bowie exhibit and have only 20 minutes before we can enter the hall. I wish I was able to take photos to share because this is a fantastic exhibit filled with Bowie's own words about his creative process. It is more than just music, there are ideas, inspiration and of course, the costumes. I don't know all of Bowie's music, but I know enough to love the exhibit.

Afterwards, we come back to the hotel for a quick snack/lunch and then Maddy and I are off to explore the streets with one last walk. We shop, we laugh and we walk arm and arm down the streets of London. As I fear the upcoming teen years, I enjoy every second of this time together and want to hold onto it for as long as I can. When she thanks me for taking her on the walk, my heart skips a beat.

My mother, Maddy and I celebrate our last night at Kiku, a sushi restaurant close to our hotel. It is the perfect ending to this amazing trip. We are tired, ready to go home and laugh about some of the funniest moments. Our three generations trip has come to an end and I will be forever grateful for this experience. It has far exceeded my expectations thanks to the education, the emotion, the fun and our strong bond.

Six months ago, this trip was just an idea and now it is over. All I can say is, "Best idea ever!"

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day 10 Old and New in London

Always start out with a great breakfast. It really is the cornerstone of the day especially on vacation. Fresh fruit, eggs, croissant and real English coffee is how I begin my day. Afterwards, we purchase tickets for "The Original Bus Tour" which takes us all around the city and allows us to get on and off the bus as often as we like. We sit upstairs of the double decker bus and enjoy every moment of the sites and the tour guide's goofy jokes.

First stop: Tower of London - I love walking around to see the Crown Jewels and the Armory. Walking along the cobblestones with the sun shining makes it even better. I imagine life 400 years before as players walk around dressed in costumes from that time period and act out scenes. So many of us take photos and video of these characters and I laugh for a moment as I look at the crowd holding up their iPhones, cameras, iPads, etc. The mix of times periods is so extreme that I find it difficult to imagine life without so many of the luxuries we take for granted.

Second stop: Piccadilly - With the London marathon scheduled for tomorrow the city is so crowded making Piccadilly really a circus. Great weather adds to the enormous amount of tourists and locals enjoying the weekend. We have lunch at a local restaurant and shop for some souvenirs.

After a brief rest back at the hotel, we head out again to see "Singing In The Rain" at the Palace Theater. Having seen "Matilda the Musical" the night before, I am struck by how American this show is and how long I have been away from home. The show is incredible, the dancers embody the 1920's and I am sure Gene Kelly is smiling down at the brilliance and joy of the cast actually singing in the rain during the live performances. Watching the show is a good reminder of how far we have come technologically. Silent movies were the rage 100 years ago and "talkies" didn't even exist and today our kids can watch movies in our cars or anywhere on portable personal computers.

Today was about old and new and I loved every minute.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 9 Goodbye Israel, Hello London

Waking up at 5:30 is never easy, but I am excited to go to London. Israel was an amazing experience, flew by fast and this time it was sad to say goodbye. Getting through the airport is a breeze and I am thankful for the early morning flight. We waste time by eating breakfast and last minute shopping.

Finally, time to get on the plane. Smooth flight, time passes quickly and I get to see a couple of new movies. Not bad for an almost 5 hour flight.

From the minute we land, I am impressed with the kindness and efficiency of the British. Everything is moving along and I see people smiling as they work. I haven't been here in about 30 years and it is a nice "welcome back."

My mother, Madeleine and I check into the Hilton Park Lane and it already seems like a great place to be. Questions get answered, service with a smile and so far, our first meal is good. Check out the view from our room.

Tonight we go see Matilda the Musical which is fantastic! I recommend it highly. The music is great, the theater is charming and the kids in this show are incredibly talented. It is a feel good, funny, and "songs are still in my head" show. Even though we are exhausted from Masada yesterday and traveling today, we make it through smiling and happy.

Sweet dreams - la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la ( I am still singing)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 8 Last Day in Israel: Footsteps on Masada

Pictures may have to express what I am not sure I can put into words. Our last day in Israel is spent at Masada. Twelve of us (six adults and six kids) travel by bus to tour this extraordinary site. Earlier in the trip we had seen the King Herod exhibit at the Israel Museum and now we are going to walk in his footsteps. The weather is gorgeous and the view is absolutely spectacular. As we begin to walk around Masada, I am overwhelmed with the fact that three generations of my family are standing at the top of this important piece in Jewish history. The three of us have had an incredible time on this trip, but this is a joyous moment for me. My mother walks with us for as long as she can and then waits for us to finish the tour. She chooses just the right moment because immediately following is a trek down into a cistern.

Later on the tour we see what had been a synagogue. As everyone leaves, I step back inside to say a prayer for a friend's father. There is something about being in a place that is old and sacred that gives me some hope and faith.

We then take the kids to the Dead Sea. Watching 12-year-olds try this new experience is comical. We watch as our kids play, find humor in just about everything and laugh until we cry. As we travel back to modern day, we enter Jerusalem at sunset and witness the most beautiful red sun I have ever seen. The picture is blurry, but it is incredible and we all know that this day is special. We wonder if we should say a prayer, but instead we are all silently aware of the gratitude we feel for being together.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Day 7 The Beauty of Tel Aviv and Goodbye to Magen

For me, Independence Hall is one of the most moving sites in Israel.  As an American and a Jew, I am deeply moved by the story birth of a nation story.  Imagining David Ben Gurion and others packed in the hall knowing that it would take more than the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  War was coming and they knew it.  We have the luxury of looking back to see the story in its entirety and are proud as we see what has been created.   It meant a lot to me to be with my mother and daughter on this day.  Sharing one of my favorites landmarks with them made it an even more meaningful experience.

Following Independence Hall, we walked over to the Conservative Synagogue in Never Tzedek.  It is a beautiful building and we learned of its exciting new growth in the community.  In a city and country where most people are either orthodox or secular, this new conservative synagogue brings a new perspective to Israel's story and is welcoming Israelis who have never been to synagogue.  As our Pressman kids pray, I am amazed by their comfort in this place so far from their home.

We visit Tel Aviv's 1st train station which is now a destination for food and shopping.  We all did a little shopping and enjoy the most delicious ice cream.

Though some of us are staying, the Pressman program ends and we meet at the Magen school at night to say an emotional good-bye.  Mazel tov to Deb Kollin and all the staff that made this trip extraordinary for  the kids and the participating parents. Thank you to the Magen staff and families for their love and kindness and in making our children feel at home.  Thank you also to The Jewish Federation for funding and partnership of our program.  For so many, this is a life changing experience - it has been for me.  My mother and I are so happy to have been a part and are grateful for the beautiful family experience.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 6 Celebrating with New Friends

What I find extraordinary about our cultural twinning program are the moments that we get to share Israeli life with our hosts. In celebration of Yom Haatzmaut, our hosts invite us to join them for their holiday celebrations.

Party #1: We enter a beautiful home and are immediately greeted by its owner, an American and her Israeli husband. They are so happy to have American guests and their friends are equally kind and welcoming. As I begin to meet the other guests (which are a mix of transplanted Americans and Israelis) I find connections through work and friendship. I am shocked by how easy it is to find connections. Jewish Geography is so fun when you are so far from home. Our host welcomes all of us and we take a moment to think of those in Boston. A delicious home cooked BBQ is served and for a moment it feels as though I am at home.

Party #2: Imagine your best outdoor party with about 50 men, women, children, all ages, and in someway you are related to them. This is the experience I had this afternoon. This family tradition started about 40 years ago with a few families coming together to celebrate this brand new country. The children of these families have all grown up and have families of their own. In one area, some men and kids are playing soccer. In another area, women create 4 different talking circles. While we are there, they serve incredible homemade fancy desserts. While there is a bit of a challenge at this party due to my lack of Hebrew, the host makes a special effort to make us feel welcome and to say (in English) the party is extra special because we are there. I think my heart actually skipped a beat with this show of kindness. Our 12 year old host translates an entire presentation that is given and she did it naturally without me asking. No one wants us to feel left out.

By the time we left, we have spent six hours with our hosts and I have enjoyed every moment. My mother and I comment later that we are so happy to have shared this holiday with our Israeli friends. When July 4th comes around this year I will take a more serious view of what we are actually celebrating and hope to infuse some new meaning into our BBQ and fireworks.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 5 - Part 2: Yom Haatzmaut in Tel Aviv

As I write this post, I am watching the news about the attack on the Boston Marathon. As of now, 2 killed and 23 injured. It is weird that I am in Israel hearing this news. My heart goes out to everyone in Boston. And on a night that we celebrate Independence Day here in Israel.

The past 24 hours in Israel are the saddest of the year and are followed by the most joyous. Our host family invites us over before the celebration which gives us a rare opportunity to share our lives. Perhaps I expect us to be different, but we are very similar - parents who love their children and worry about them too. We talk about our common interests, the kids, education, Jewish practice and music.

And then off to the big celebration with their community. The outpouring of hospitality by all the Magen families is extremely kind. The night is way beyond any celebration I have seen in the states - a BBQ picnic on steroids. Music, kids running around spraying each other with foam, so much food, fireworks and kind faces are what I will remember from this evening. My spirit is truly lifted and I feel deeply connected.

So again, I pray for those in Boston tonight. I am sad for those who lost their lives, those who are injured and the entire community who simply wanted to run in their historic marathon.