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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?
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.
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.
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.