FROM MY WINDOW AT THE Executive Sea Suites hotel, Tel Aviv.
It used to be that when I walked off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport I would immediately fall into the rhythm and language of the country. What with the High Holy Days approaching so rapidly and the myriad details and constant negotiations needed on a tour of a group of world-class musicians, and the usual "problems", it has taken me almost a week to attain the same attachment and excitement about being in Eretz Yisrael.
Last night, we performed in the back yard of the U.S. Ambassador's house. Mr. Shapiro has roots in Illinois, Wisconsin, and now Chicago where he and his family live when they are not stationed abroad. After standing in line for a while, I was able to give him and his wife, Hillary, a "griss" from Gary and Fraeda Porton who are very close friends of his family. It was another fabulous musical experience, although he had to sneak away in the middle of the concert to make his plane to NY for the proceedings at the United Nations...we understood!
Did I tell you about the day that I said goodbye to the gentleman who was critically responsible for bringing Saffron Caravan to the Bedouin community of Chura? He is a brilliant computer scientist (yes, a Bedouin) who teaches at Beersheva University and is on the forefront of using computers to translate Arabic and Hebrew ancient documents with the use of very coplex software, especially since some of them are written atop each other....wild stuff. His name is Jihad, which does not mean "holy war"! Look it up!
I never thought I would hug a Jihad, and yet, there I we were, saying goodbye. What a world. Israel has won all the wars it has been forced to fight. The only war we have lost is the Arab's brilliant move to make the plight of the Palestinians an international issue. The only "refugees" that have been accorded this status in the last many years.
Let us finally deal with the main theme of our tour; FOOD. Oh, my gosh! The receptions, restaurants, parties and even street food we have been privileged to taste and experience shed a completely new light on Middle Eastern cuisine. Between that and the music that plays everywhere (not always great but often quite loud--- reminding me of the SUV's on U.S. streets with their overblown bass woofers) Israel remains a vibrant, on the go, well to do society that simply needs a few years of peace in which could be created a powerhouse of knowledge and commerce that would even excel the reality of this day.
Shanah Tovah umetuka... may we all share a peaceful and fragrant New Year.
I say shalom to Israel at 5AM this morning, but if granted health I am sure that Debbie and I will be back again and as often as possible.