Thursday, April 14, 2011

Life Is Good (1 of 2)

So it’s been a while longer than I’d have liked and I have a lot to write about. Generally, my posts are long and detail oriented. I am here going to make one post be a combined post of truncated longer posts.
Thursday Fun Day
Two Thursdays ago, my friend Aviva joined me on my journey to Nefesh B’Nefesh to make Aliyah (see here). We had such a fun time two weeks ago that we planned another (less life influencing) Thursday Fun Day.
We set out in the morning to Holon (near Tel Aviv) to the Children’s Museum. At the museum, we visited the Dialogue in the Dark experience is I think the best way to call it. Dialogue in the Dark is a tour through the world of the blind. When you enter the experience/exhibit, you are given a walking stick in preparation for entering the darkness. The entire exhibit is in the dark – dark like you seldom experience. The exhibit gives visitors the experience of ‘being blind’ in a series of different environments including a park, market, boat ride, home and cafe. Since Aviva and I were the only ones in our tour group, we were advised to come in without walking sticks. The experience was really powerful and quite amazing.
As we felt our way through the different environments, we spoke with our guide Avi, who like all the other guides at the museum is legally blind. I continually felt that I was going to hit my head on something as I walked through the different environments. I did walk into some branches in the “park” room. The experience left us both with a lot to digest, think about and be thankful for. In the last room ,the cafe, Avi served us drinks and we sat at a table discussing how life is different blind. The conversation was really frank and open. Avi used to be a musician and has been working at the museum for a few years. He said that the exhibit (of which there are several in the world) helps tear down the stigmatism of bling people and also interestingly connects blind people. Avi said that there is not a strong network for the blind and he and the other staff enjoy the camaraderie of working to educate the community at large.
After the meuseum, we headed to Tel Aviv, walked on the beach and enjoyed the mid 70s weather. We jaunted through the market for some snacks (we hadn’t eaten all day) and ended up only sharing a blood orange (orange that is purple inside). From there we walked to the Azrielli Center, a landmark building complex in Tel Aviv – three buildings in the shape of a circle, square and triangle that emerge from one base. We bought a late lunch (6 pm) and snacked on the roof of the base of the buildings. We then headed up to 2C, the observatory restaurant on the top of the circle tower, to grab a drink.
2C is amazing. The views, the menu, the service were all incredible. We sat at a table overlooking the Tel Aviv skyline and watched the sun set as we sipped white wine and Drambuie. We also shared an awesome, and frankly quite fun, desert called a Banana Creation.
Thursday Fun Day was a really nice time. Thanks Aviva

Perfect Day Friday
Thursday Fun Day transitioned when Aviva left 2C to head to Jerusalem and Chaim XXXX (from my previous post here) met me at Azrielli and we headed to his place to drop our stuff and head out to meet friends. We went out to a cool bar in Tel Aviv but called it a relatively early night since I was waking up early the next day (6 am) for the Tel Aviv Half Marathon. The night ended up eating thin crust pizza at 12 am before heading home… a really good day indeed.
The next day started off with a startle by Chaim’s sister who had stayed at his apartment since she was running the 10k. I slept through my alarm and jumped up to prepare for the run. We headed to the start line and shortly after our arrival, I was off. This race was a unique experience for me. I was a sponsored runner. My company sponsored all employees that wanted to run the race, so I was paid for and ran in my company’s t-shirt.
Interesting side note (I may have noted this in the past):
Background: Runners that do a lot of races (at least in the US) know that you never ever run a race in the shirt from that days race (most races give runners a shirt from the run). There are two reasons for this – one is that tourists, as I call them, or non-real runners wear race day shirts. To show that you are not a tourist, you either wear a non-descript sports shirt or a shirt from another race (preferably a race of a longer distance or of higher repute). The other reason is that it’s risky to run in something you don’t know. Just as you don’t run a race in new shoes, you don’t run in a new shirt. This more applies to longer runs, but nonetheless.
Side note: Israelis all run in the race shirt – everyone. I don’t know why… we know you ran it, we see you on the course.
Anyhow, the half marathon was a nice course with a few issues. When we started the race, in classic Israeli form, there was techno… techno so loud I felt it inside. Not what I wanted to feel at 7 am. The bigger issue I had with the course was the water or lack thereof. There were 4 runs – a marathon, half marathon, 10k and 4.2k (10% of a marathon – really a run for kids). The first three courses all overlapped for the 10k course, but the half and full marathons kept going. In the start, where the 10k ran, there was ample water in bottles. In the half/full marathon course, there were sporadic tables with cups of water – the people managing the tables couldn't keep up with demand and the cups were half full (note the optimism even though during the race I was pissed). At one point I had to stop to get water – really annoying. The course was cool though – we ran through a great park in North Tel Aviv (actually where the 10.10.10 10K was held (see here), but since that was at night I could not admire the park’s beauty. A highlight of the park was as I was running past the mini-zoo in the park, I saw these two mountain goats headbutting or rather horn-butting each other for the right to stand on a table. It was really amusing, but alas, I had to push on in search of more water.
At the end, I ran a 2:02, a 12 minute improvement from my Jerusalem half marathon time of 2:14. This was also my 10th half marathon, which is a nice accomplishment.
After the race, I ran into my friend Gideo who ran a shorter race. We then met up with a bunch of other friends. After stretching ,recounting our race experiences and relaxing for a bit, we set out to satisfy the hearty appetite we all had. This led Ely, Michael, Gideon and myself to a neighborhood renown shawarma restaurant for a meaty gyro breakfast. On the way, we passed a liquor store that was offering samples of Cutty Sark, in which we partook. The meal was delicious – nothing like a schawarma laffa and a beer at 10:30 in the morning. The restaurant had laffas (flat wrap bread) with meat baked into the laffa… it was great!
We then headed to the market and met up with Chaim, bought some beers and a watermelon. We walked to the beach and spent the next several hours enjoying the sun, surf, watermelon, cold beer and utter relaxation. In the early afternoon, Chaim, Mikey and I headed back to Jerusalem (Mikey and Atoosa met us on the beach as well).
The day was simply perfect.

Rocket Attacks from Gaza
Shabbat for me was nice and pretty uneventful. I ate out both Friday night and Shabbat day. As you can imagine, I was pretty tired on Friday night and I fell asleep at the table. Felt pretty bad about that. Sorry Avraham (gracious and awesome host). Last week, Hamas terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at a bus of civilians severely injuring a teenage boy. This was the first attack in a long time that so brazenly targeted citizens with targeted accuracy. I mean that to say that while the rockets fired from Gaza are targeting citizens, they are unnamed and the terrorists firing them simply hope to succeed in harming people. This was a very aimed and calculated attack, which took planning and preparation.
In response to the missile attack as well as a large uptick in the missile firings from Gaza into communities in the south of Israel, the army responded with air strikes at rocket launching cells, Hamas terrorist leaders and smuggling tunnels. In these attacks, Gaza citizens are occasionally injured due to the fact that Hamas terrorists operate within residential areas and around civilians as shields. Video Here. Israel recently deployed its first two Iron Dome missile defense batteries. These systems track and destroy mid-range rockets in mid-air. Thankfully, so far, the system has worked with perfect accuracy and has neutralized 8 (I think) rockets in mid-air. Here is a video of the Iron Dome in action. After Shabbat I heard that several rockets had been fired at Ashkelon, the city where my brother-in-law Itay is from and where he and my sister were for Shabbat. I called Rachel to see that she was okay. Thank G-d she was – all the rockets that were headed for Ashkelon were stopped by the Iron Dome. None the less, every time a rocket was fired, the air raid sirens went off and My sister, brother-in-law and his entire family needed to run to the bomb shelter room in their home (every house has one) in case the missile was headed for their neighborhood. It is a sad state that entire cities need to live in fear of being hit by missiles fired over 50 kilometers away. Thankfully now, there is a bit of calm as Hamas stopped firing rockets and cut back its attacks. Unfortunately, experts are saying that the calm is temporary and a larger scale confrontation with Hamas is eminent. Let’s hope things calm down and remain safe for a long time to come.

I am going to cut it off here and write more soon. I still have updates for y’all.

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