Thursday, July 12, 2012


The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

For Israeli Family Photos, See Prior Blog Entry

Everyone on our tour, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, it seemed, including Pat and I, had a crush on the beautiful, brilliant, funny Odelia Shabi, our tour guide (above), who was proudly Yemenite. Abel Pann, one of Israel's premier 20th-century artists, used Yemenite models among others in his art, for example, this image above (see a larger version). If there were an Olympics for country tour guides, Odelia would take the Gold Medal for Israel. How much can I express Pat's and my adoration as fans before embarrassing ourselves, let alone Odelia?

Pat snapped this photo of me (above) looking happy and lovingly at her on our first evening in Jerusalem, when Shabbat was on the way shortly. I couldn't believe we were actually there, together finally. As I wrote in a prior blog-entry, during all of my previous stays in Israel, from 15 onward, I pursued romance with boys and girls and then men and women who might have loved Israel, but who did not love me. In this case, I was finally with someone who loved me back, if not yet who loved Israel. Perhaps for Pat, Israel would be like golf was for me; we always played together because I knew how enormously happy it made her to be on a golf course, but golf was not natively beloved to me.

These two photos (above) depicted Pat & me on our final night in Jerusalem and our fourth day in Israel, under nearly a full moon. If this was for Pat just like a round of golf was for me, then it was an atypical round, where we played the most beautiful, uncrowded course and where I had a hugely successful game and was buoyed by it...because that's how Pat seemed by then -- extraordinarily happy and sated. Or maybe Pat was still mostly loving that I loved Israel, and her extra selflessness released endorphins. I'm not sure which it was, and it didn't seem to matter, since both of us felt ultra-relaxed and pleased for whatever reason, even beyond how we feel, say, on a summer evening when we're rocking in our double rocker on the back-deck of our house.

Our first night in Jerusalem, which was our very first night in Israel together, we ate dinner at Cinematech, which was also the cool place to go in 1985-86, when I was a Hebrew University student for the year. It seemed out of reach to me then, as the place where kids with money went on dates, and I didn't have much of either back then. What a triumph to be having a romantic dinner with my wife Pat, ordering whatever I wanted on the menu and paying with our collective money. And then afterward, we caught a cab to the Kotel (Wall), to watch the dancing there (above). Since Pat & I are both women, unlike opposite-gender couples, we were able to approach the Wall together and touch it side-by-side, and to kiss the same spot of it. As we moved back from it, Pat snapped photos of gorgeous female Israeli soldiers dancing.

So much shame scattered to the winds, thank God; last time I was there at night, I was a 20 year old who felt the way I did in a Women's locker room, forcing myself to look at the ground while in the Women's section, and then who also felt impossibly awkward in the open plaza behind the prayer sections, where other young men and women stood together -- but not too closely, of course -- becoming acquainted.

Our friend Eleanor Horowitz (above, left) lives in Herzliya and is a lawyer and artist. Like me, she was a Freshman and Sophomore at the University of Michigan and also studied at Hebrew University during her Junior year. Unlike me, she stayed in Israel for her Senior year and graduated from Hebrew University, and made aliyah, also graduating from Hebrew U.'s Law school as well as studying at Bezalel, Israel's premier art school. She always seemed heroic to me -- one of the brave ones who flirted with aliyah during her Junior year abroad and then who actually made it.

Both of these books (above) are at the Mt. Scopus campus of Hebrew University, in the library where I hung out a lot as a student, and which I took Pat to visit during our one afternoon that we had free from the tour. The book with the cover in Hebrew is also by Flannery O'Connor; it's the collection of short stories, *A Good Man Is Hard to Find*, translated into Hebrew, and it has the story I chose to include in my Comparative Literature thesis upon my return to Ann Arbor, "Good Country People". I don't remember seeing that book when I found the peacock-covered one in 1986. Both could actually be from that time, since the covers of both have been reinforced with extra cardboard.

Flannery O'Connor was like a friend in Israel back then. "Good Country People" particularly gave me what I needed, a theme that mirrored my life at the time: My emphasis was on objects of desire, rather than on finding real love (and healthy desire) with a similarly-intentioned woman. The desires of Flannery O'Connor's protagonist, along with those of all of the women I compared among the four short stories of my thesis, were thwarted and ultimately damned. Cheery.

Imagine my gratification at returning with my wife Pat to the very place where everything seemed so unsettled and unsettling romantically and being able to stamp it with a happy ending. Here we are a couple of days later at the Dead Sea (above), being photographed by a lovely guy from the tour group, Ishaan.

Pat and I were fortunate to swim in six very different bodies of water during our time in Israel. On the Dead Sea, we floated like cork rafts amid heat of 40 degrees Celcius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit -- that was the *air* temperature and the water felt around the same. I need to update My Swimming Autobiography, but meanwhile, I'll mention the Kibbutz Lavi pool here (above). Prior to our arrival at Lavi, we had been hiking and sweating in Beit She'an, which is in a hotter part of the north. Picture our relief at entering this pool, which was indoors, but which had glass doors and giant windows all open to criss-crossing breezes. Other than a pool in a mountainous Madrid suburb, where I was lucky to swim during a business trip half a decade ago, it was the nicest pool I'd ever enjoyed.

Just as I commented to my American first cousin Sari, I keep thinking about accidents of birth: My mom's friend Chaya (above) is probably 90 years old and her parents and she were born in Israel; my mother will be 87 in November and she says that Chaya is a few years older than she.

Our friends Noga and Hilla (left and right, above) also were born in Israel. Hilla's parents came from Tunisia and then took the family to Canada for eight years, but then ultimately returned to Israel. And Noga's parents were from Poland and the Sudan. I need to resist idealizing Noga and Hilla and trying to turn them into symbols of an ideal Israeli couple. They are just another couple in the world, albeit an especially lovely one, trying to take care of their family and each other, just like Pat and I are trying to do...speaking of which, it's time to feed Phoebe and Toonces, our cats.

Nothing like children to bring me back to the present. Phoebe and Toonces are our feline daughters and this photo (above) is from the day we returned from Israel, after Pat cut a bunch of gladioli that had bloomed in our garden while we were away.

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