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Pesach in Haifa + Life in Modi'in

Our seder (in Haifa, where Ezra and Shiri live) had 9 adults -- Marian and me, Micah and Alyssa, Ezra and Shiri, Ranana, and two of Micah’s friends from St Louis who had made aliyah a few years ago -- Adam and Ann C. Two grandchildren (Talia and Bentzion) joined us, while the three younger ones were fast asleep.

Pesach products in Israel are varied and plentiful, especially for those who will eat kitniyot. For example, a variety of Pesach rolls are available, as well as snacks and cakes. On chol ha-moed, we were able to eat at the mall – not only kosher, but kosher l’Pesach!

After Pesach, we went to stay with Micah and Alyssa in Modi’in. Modi’in is still perhaps the most American-like city in Israel. A planned city between Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim, it is modern looking and clean. Most dwellings are apartments, usually about four stories, but some ascend 11-stories high. Some neighborhoods have some stand-alone houses. The neighborhoods are residential areas with schools, parks, and in a few areas, several synagogues. The center of Modi’in features the main mall, the train station, the civic buildings and police, as well as many shops and eateries (many, but not all, are kosher).

Micah and Alyssa’s apartment, like most here, is relatively small -- less than 1,000 square feet. From their mirpeset (balcony), I can unobstructedly see three large playgrounds across the street -- children enjoying swings and climbing aparati, soccer fields and basketball courts with high fences. (See photo.) It is a five-minute walk to their shul, which seats about 100 men and 20 women and was full on Shabbat. Most are families with young children, though there are some my age. The members are planning an expansion. (The picture with Marian and Bentzion is at another park a few minutes’ further away -- with an ecological koi pond; Bentzi loves to climb!; the others are day and nighttime photos from Micah’s balcony.)

Last Shabbat we spent some time in another park, about a five-minute walk in the other direction. While it had only one smaller soccer field, there was much for the kids to do. Across the highway below there is a steep open rugged field with greenery and rocks. Someone pointed out a small structure on top of one hill – it was an Iron Dome launcher.

To state it explicitly, to me this represents so much of Israel -- a very young population, modern (in many places), expanding, children playing, religious and non-religious living side-by-side in harmony (there is, of course, other political polarization); rugged too, and still needing its defenses.

After spending Shabbat with Micah and his family, Marian left Israel for St Louis, and two days later I settled into the apartment I rented. It is plain but spacious, even for a small family, let alone me by myself. There are two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a good sized upper-floor mirpeset. It requires walking up and down three flights of stairs, even with a heavy bag of groceries. The weather has been in the 70’s during the day and 60’s at night; sitting on the mirpeset is refreshing.

The location is excellent. The neighborhood is called Kaiser, a few-minutes walk from the central train station, the main mall, and other shops. The streets in my neighborhood are named for the precious stones on the Kohen Gadol’s breastplate. (See Exodus 28:15-20.) I live on Yahalom -- diamond. A three-minute walk in one direction – is the well-known eatery “Holy Bagel” -- and several others stores. The other direction leads to the central area. Five minutes to the right is the shul where I first davened here. Another five-minute walk to the left brings me to the “Kaiser Center” -- about 25 or so shops (see picture) , including a grocery store, a prepared food store, Judaica shop, candy store, bicycles, hair styling (don’t need that!) and more.

To scout the area, on the first full day I went to the Kaiser Center to look around. After a stop or two, I ended up in the Judaica shop and decided to purchase a large bath towel. The young woman asked whether for another 30 shekel I would want it embroidered with, perhaps, my name. “OK,” I said. “It will be ready tomorrow,” she said.

Ordinarily this story is boring. Who cares that I bought a towel? But there’s a bit more to this story. That evening I returned to the Kaiser Center that evening to shop for groceries. The shopping carts require inserting a 5-shekel coin to detach them from a string of others; upon returning the cart, the shopper re-inserts an attached key, and his/her coin is returned. I had forgotten how it works, but near me I saw a tall older man with a very dark and rugged face. I asked for and received his assistance.

As this man wore a kippah, I also asked him about neighborhood shuls and their service times, and he generously offered to show me. As it turned out, we walked to his home to get his daughter so he could drive her to the train station. While we waited outside I asked my usual questions -- “Where was he from?” etc.

Alexander was from Azerbaijan, served as a military officer in the Russian army, and moved to Israel more than 20 years ago; he served in TzaHaL, the Israeli army. When his daughter, Keren Emunah, met us outside -- she recognized me as the customer who bought the towel earlier that day!

Among the great events in life, this is tiny. But how many “coincidences,” random incidents, according to many, filled my day? What are the chances that on the day that I met this woman, purchased the item and extended the conversation for the embroidery, that I would meet her father as I struggled with the shopping cart, that he wore a kippah when I needed info about the location of the shuls, who offered to show me, but had to get his car to get his daughter, who was the one I met that morning? I see Hashem. It may not be God saving me from harm, major harm, or even premature death, but nevertheless, Hashem.

Hashem’s blessings to you.



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