Tuesday, October 31, 2006


This photo has been moved to my new post HERE.

We Interrupt this Blog for and Important Announcement

Photos from my Nahariyyah (yes, I will spell it differently every time) shabbaton will be posted shortly.

However, today is a great day in Planet Israel history: I have a bed!

It all started when my air mattress popped. One night of sleeping on the cold Jerusalem stone floor, bones grinding against one another every time I tried to roll over, convinced me that it was time to finally break down and buy a real bed, a process which I described in greater detail in this post. Fortunately, I was able to call on friends and neighbors in Pisgat Ze'ev, and most people still haven't put away their foam matts from sleeping on the ground during Sukkot, so I was able to stack up several foam slabs and build a makeshif sleeping pile. But pulling myself off the ground had been getting old.

Finally, Thurdsay, a knock at the door.
"You ordered the bed?"
"Bring it in!"

Wow, they were 5 days earlier than expected. How could that be? But watching them drag in the pieces of the new bed, I realized that it didn't quite look like the one I had bought. Finally, Miri the landlady, popped her head out the window from upstairs, "Eh... that's my bed." Turns out we both ordered beds.

So pretty soon Avi the landlord and Miri the landlady were asking me to take their old bed which they had just replaced off their hands. It's a bit frustrating, one of my negotiating points on the apartment was that it came with no furniture. Meanwhile, I figured I could use their bed until mine came. Since everything shows up two weeks late in this country, at least I'd have something for the time being.

Of course, my bed was the first and only item I've ever ordered which showed up here on time. So now, after two and a half months of sleeping on the floor, I've got two beds! I'm thinking of trying to transform one of them into a sofa.

Meanwhile, even better news came... after working with my company for the last few months trying to figure out how to get money deposited into my account while I'm all the way over here, my first telecommuting paycheck has finally been deposited! Wow! I celebrated by buying a water heater, seltzer machine, new pots and pans, real sheets (the ones I have now are hand-me-down teddy bear sheets), a little doormat to dry my feet, fresh tzitzit, and cooking utensils. I dropped 700 shekels in 30 minutes.

Also... fellow Olah and blogger Movin' on Up noticed my picture had shown up in an Israeli paper (Globes) and took the time to scan it and send it to me. My reputation preceedes me! All around, a great day.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Keep Making Aliyah Shabbaton in Nahariyya

A-Plus: 2 Months, 2 Weeks, 1 Day

Last weekend's "Keep Making Aliyah" shabbaton (Sabbath gathering) was the first of its kind. The idea of, "Keep Making Aliyah," is that the physical act of landing in Israel is not the end of a journey but only a first step on a very long process, that we olim chadashim (new immigrants) have both an opportunity to continue to develop a connection to the land as well as a responsibility to improve the country through personal action.

The idea of the "Keep Making Aliyah" shabbaton being to help the country as well as the immigrants, the shabbaton was held in the northern city of Nahariyya (or is it spelled Nahariyyah, Nahariya or Nahariyah, Naharriyah, Naharriya?) Located two kilometers from Israel's northern border with Lebanon, the city was one of the hardest hit in last summer's war.

Nahariyah on the Map

Last August in Nahariya

Leaving Jersualem on Friday morning, storm clouds began forming over the hills of Shomron.

A group of us met up at the Yavneh Olami center on King George Street in Jerusalem. There were enough of us to rent a van heading north, so we didn't have to deal with the busses.

Ya'akov, fellow passenger, participant, and oleh.

The program was sponsored by Yavneh Olami (a National Religious outreach and learning organization) and Magshimey Herut, (a right-wing political party) with programs designed by both, as well as Yishai and Malka Fleisher of Israel National Radio (a conservative internet radio station located in Beit El.)

Yishai and Malka

As our van pulled in from Jerusalem, other participants showed up from every corner of the country. Some were soldiers on leave for the weekend, national service volunteers, yeshivah students, all olim or potential olim from the U.S., Mexico, Hungary, England, and Canada to name a few.

The forces gather.

The shabbaton began Friday night with davening (praying) at a local Sephardi shul (synagogue.) Afterwards, we realized we were in the wrong shul, so we wandered over to the Benei Akiva (National Religious Youth Movement) shul, where the group was parceled off to different families to spend our Shabbat dinners with the locals.

The day included much programming and talks from volunteers and activists from all over the country. But most importantly, we met and got to know other people who were experiencing similar issues surrounding aliyah, had like-minded ideas about what we loved about the country, and what needed fixing.

In the end, we packed up, cleaned up, and agreed to stay in touch. May this be the first of many.

The shabbaton is over. Uniforms back on.

Stay tuned to Planet Israel for more photos from Nahariyyah. (or is it Nahariya? Or Naharriya? or...)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Who has the Power?

A-Plus: 2 Months, 1 Week, 3 Days
I could see the crowd swarming before me.  With tiny spasms of nervousness corkscrewing up my spine, I looked the mass of nameless faces smack in the eye and, with carefully sharpened words, lit the way to our future.  Inhaling the humid odor of the crowd, I thrived and built on their energy, until they weren't listening to what I was saying any more, they were just listening to me
In my mind's eye, that is.
There's a story that the American President, talking to the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, told her, "You just can't imagine what it's like to be president over two hundred million Americans."  To which she immediately responded, "You just can't imagine what it's like to be Prime Minister over two and a half million Prime Ministers." (Israel's entire population at the time.)  It's a true story, at least the part about every Israeli being his or her own Prime Minister.  I sit at barbecues or over the Shabbat table and people discuss exactly how Israel botched the Second Lebanon War.
"We should have dropped the big stuff on day one, gotten all the bunkers."
"No, no!  We didn't have the intelligence on the bunkers, and our air force would have missed.  We should have taken out the leadership in Damascus first, our Sayeret Matkal (special forces) could do the job!"
I used to live it too, sucking in the headlines nicotine.  After all, this is the first Jewish commonwealth in 2,000 years, trying to build a tiny free state in the midst of scores of Islamo-fascist tyrants.  Out-maned, out-gunned, and vastly out-financed, one wrong step and we're done for.  The fate of the free world hangs in the balance!  
I watched expectantly as a new messiah arose every couple of years, a great white hope with purity and promise.  But slowly, reality would begin to intrude, and his sweet talk turned sour to the ear as his failed theories on how to bring the new age smashed to pieces against the rock-hard realities of existence here.  Eventually, he would be disposed of like spoiled milk, making room for the next false messiah.
I used to watch the elections, coalition negotiations, secret deals, and corruption scandals with delicious intensity.  Israel is a political thriller of a country, with no government standing for long amid the boiling religious, ethnic, and class tensions, not to mention a war every five to ten years.  But after a time, the politics started to read with the predictability of an airport paperback.  I remember when the crowds called out " Bibi Melech Yisrael!" Bibi (Netanyahu,) King of Israel!  Within a few years, the bumper stickers read, "Bibi... TRAITOR!" and the crowds chanted "Arik (Sharon), Melech Yisrael! "  By the time he fell into a coma, the bumper stickers read, "Arik... TRAITOR!"  Today Arik's former palace servant, the suddenly-promoted way-out-of-his-league Ehud Olmert, is in rapid decline, Avigdor Lieberman's star is rising, and I couldn't care less.
Part of my disillusionment stems from a realization of just how powerless the nominal power-holders truly are.  Yitzchak Rabin was elected in 1992 on a platform of the "Three no's," no Palestinian state, no negotiation with PLO terrorists [read:Arafat], and no negotiations for a retreat from the Golan Heights captured from Syria in 1967.  By the time he was assassinated, he had already violated all three promises.  Netanyahu was elected in 1996 on a platform of reciprocity, "If you don't give [stop terror,] you don't get [the land, money, and weapons promised the Palestinians in the Oslo Peace Accords.]"  Anyone with experience in Arab culture knew that they are incapable of restraining the psychopaths among them, so it was understood that this meant an end to Oslo.  But by the end of his term in office in 1999, the blood was still flowing freely and Netanyahu had already signed over more territory than any other Israeli Prime Minister, before or since.  In marched the ex-Army Chief of Staff Ehud Barak with promises of a final accord to bring true peace with the Palestinians.  Eighteen months later, out he walked in the midst of the worst terrorist war Israel had ever faced.  Then in 2000, Ariel Sharon, the indestructible, "Arik the bulldozer," rolled in on a promise to never negotiate under fire, to fight to the end and not give one inch!  Even the remote seaside settlements of Gaza were to be the beginning of a future seaport, never to be abandoned.  By 2006, the Gaza settlements lay in ruins and he was rolled out in an ambulance.  But then, out from under Sharon's enormous shadow popped Ehud Olmert, here to lead the courageous retreat from the Judean hills, to end the alleged "occupation" (his words) and bring Israel down to manageable size.  Within six months his entire plan was derailed and he sat with thousands of soldiers in an authentic military occupation of that hell-on-earth of southern Lebanon.
Today, one can't talk about a "right" or a "left" political affiliation in Israel.  Under the old system, "left" meant "give our enemies everything we think they want, then they will leave us alone and the Europeans will finally love us," and "right" meant, "build settlements, kill terrorists, and don't give an inch, and they'll finally get used to us."  But in the last election, the left saw Peretz demanding that the fence and assumed future border be put on the green line (the pre-67 cease fire line,) Olmert in the center planning to put it a few meters up the hill, and Netenyahu on the supposed right demanding it be a few meters further still.  It was the same snake oil with three different labels.  Needless to say, voter turnout reached record lows.
So you'll forgive me if Avigdor Lieberman's declarations that, "To the right of me is the wall!", his chin high, jowl quivering in honest-looking determination, eyes wide with hunger, doesn't elicit so much as a passing glance from me any more.  I maintain my concern about the real issues and perils facing this battered land, and I still have the same enthusiasm for moving the country my way as I did when I lived here before, during the intifada.  But the perspective of four years, and my experiences in the United States, have clarified both the nature of the root problem here and the proper course of action for solving it.
It is my belief that Israel is a country forever cowering in fear from its true self.  Israel charity benefit videos and United Nations speeches notwithstanding, Zionism in it's original, eutopian-socialist sense, was not intended to cure the problem of the oppression of Jews in Europe by creating a place of refuge for Holocaust survivors.  By the time of the Holocaust and mass exodus to Israel, all the organs of the state, from de-facto government to labor unions to newspapers to a nascent army were already in place.  Most importantly the pre-natal yishuv, or "settlement," as the entire Jewish enterprise in the Land of Israel was called at the time, had a strong ideal of the sort of person the new country was supposed to produce.  The sabra (native-born) child in Israel would be the "New Jew."  If the Europeans hated Jews for being bookish, believing, rootless, cliquish, and sentimental, then the "New Jew"  would be muscular, faithless, rooted to the land, broad-minded and tough.  By inventing this fictional character, the early Zionists made the same mistake that is made, in some form, by every generation of Jews; they accepted the reasons anti-Semites give for hating Jews at face value.  They genuinely believed that, by modifying these basic character traits on a national level, they would finally be accepted by the Europeans amongst whom they had always been despised and outcast.  Two thousand years of exile would finally come to an end!
Toward this end, the early Zionists the discarded the faith and re-wrote the historical memories that had sustained their people over the mellinia.  The "New Jews," eager to revive a mythical ideal of "Muskeljudentum," muscle Jewry, as envisioned by Dr. Max Nordau at the second Zionist conference in Basel in 1898, opened a new Jewish Olympics, the "Maccabiah Games," named for the ancient Jewish rebel warriors, the Maccabees.  Never mind that the Maccabean revolt was fought by a band of scholars who took up arms to drive out foreign Greek influences, including the Olympic games.  The holiday celebrating the success of these untrained and unlikely Maccabee victors, the eight day festival of Channukah, was transformed form a celebration of faith over physical might into a day of military swagger and jet-fighter overflights.  The festival of Shavuot, remembering the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, was re-scripted as an agricultural holiday celebrating the first harvests of the year.  The "New Jew" became a mere imitation of Zionist stereotypes of the "Non-Jew."
Today, the "New Jews" who rule the roost in Israel find themselves without answers.  They face an Arab, and specifically a Palestinian adversary, who has learned to pluck out a tune on the heartstrings of American and European sympathizers, "we are dispossessed... this land is ours... it is not theirs."  That this faux nationalism has no basis in reality is irrelevant, it gets them sympathy, which brings them money, which buys them weapons, with which they kill us.  On the Israeli side, one simply does not find an Israeli leader in any party who is willing to make a counter-claim.    The left's response has been to repeat the same tired mistake of previous generations of Jews by accepting antisemitic grievances at face value.  By offering ever larger quantities of territory, land, and weapons, we can prove to the Arabs that we don't want to colonize or occupy them, to the Europeans that we aren't stingy or cruel, and to ourselves that we are "New Jews."  The right's response has been to grasp at "security concerns."  After all, anything we give them has and will be used to attack us.
While either of these arguments may receive a passing grade in a Political Science 101 bull session, they inspire neither confidence in the people necessary to persevere nor the respect abroad that Israeli culture so desperately seeks.  For while Israel's adversaries weep over their rights, the Jews refuse to claim any.  To directly claim that we live here as a positive right, not as a reaction to the Holocaust or for defensive measures, would require the leadership to make an authentically Jewish claim, one based on religious and historical ties to the land.  The same religion and history erased by the first generation of "New Jews."  To make such a claim would be to confront the failure of their own ideology to deliver on its promises, and of their own rationale for aspiring to power in the first place.
So I still read the headlines from time to time.  The political talk over the Shabbat table is as intense as ever, barbecue discussions over leaders and war strategies still elicit shouting matches.  But I watch it all go by, content to chew on my burger and sip on a Sprite.  The real change must take place on a deeper, spiritual level.  It will happen. It will take time and work, but I'm patient and determined.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Benei Darom

Arriving in Bnei Darom, I ran into a bit of trouble. The streets weren't as I had remembered them. And the traffic circle at the entrance? Was that there? No, my memory must have faded over the years. Eventually, after making a few wrong turns, I began to get my bearings, and eventually found my way to cousin Achikom and Sarah's house.

After the usual, "You've lost weight," comments, back-slapping hugs, and an hour or so catching up on the last four years, I had a few minutes to walk around the moshav before shabbat started. After fifteen minutes clicking shapshots, I wandered back.

"I'm surprised you were still able to find the place," Sarah told me.
"I haven't forgotten everything."
"No, but we built a whole new neighborhood. And rearranged the streets."

Foreground: Houses in the new neighborhood. Background: Ashdod.

I most remember the idyllic feeling of being surrounded by breezy olive groves and avocado orchards on Shabbat.
"It's changed a lot here since you've been gone," Sarah remarked.
"Were you okay with all the new building?""Of course! Look, we all have children who want to live near us but don't want to work in the fields or pay their salaries to the moshav. So we built the new neighborhood and they can still live near us. We're looking for young religious couples to move in. Our schools need children." Hint hint, when you get married...

New housing under construction.

Their house is wide and spacious by Israeli standards.
"When we first started," Sarah tells me, "everything was tiny. We couldn't afford anything. Now, Baruch Hashem (thank God) we have all we need."
Still, there is some nostalgia for the old days.
"I remember when you could walk to Tzomet Benei Darom (the Benei Darom intersection, a major transfer point for busses) in fifteen minutes. Then, they took half our land to build the freeway.
Looking out of the new neighborhood towards the freeway.

I remember getting off the bus at Tzomet Benei Darom, dodging the cars, and walking over construction of a newer freeway when I used to come for visits back in 2000.
"Then," Sarah continues, "they build another freeway. Then they built an interchange and onramp. You can't even walk to the bus station now, I'll have to give you a ride when you go."

The last remnants of older settlement.

Sunset over Ashdod. Midground: Benei Darom olive groves.

Dogs running on the main street in the new neighborhood.

Walking out to the old orange groves, I'm met by a stainless steel gate fence, padlocked shut. Looking out towards Ashdod, I see a network of shiny new fences delineating the fields. Only four years ago, this whole area was open. Walking through the groves on Shabbat, I would often pass by Bedouin shepherds passing through with their flocks. One Shabbat, I even walked clear to Ashdod, miles away, without encountering so much as a picket fence.

A fence at the orange orchards.

But the construction boom has brought with it many advantages, including new money to spruce up public spaces within the Moshav.

Foreground: a new fountain and garden. Midground: the Moshav Sukkah. Background: the new neighborhood.

The orange groves.

Eventually I meet up with Achikom and Sarah's son, Uri. He fills me in on the lates news in olive worms, chicken diseases, and the oranage harvest. They've stopped making soup nuts (little yellow crunchy crutons that Israelis put in their soup,) but they're now making chickens and hot dogs. So, despite the changes, the farm life continues.

The Benei Darom Shul (Synagogue)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Trip to Ashdod

Friday, I jumped out of bed early, bags packed, ready to go.

I swung through the Ben Yehudah pedestrian mall early, and took a few shots of the businesses setting up for the day, but unfortunately Blogger isn't letting me upload any more pictures right now.

Made it to the bus station by 11:30 AM, raced to the platform, and ran down the Express to Ashdod as it was pulling out of the terminal. Made it on, swung around the corner and, as we pulled out of the station, I realized I had gotten on one of those hour-and-a-half standing room only busses.

I was none too amused. This put a major damper on my bus-window photography.

So I scooted up front and got what I could over the driver's shoulder.

The cemetary on Jerusalem's eastern outskirts.

Cvish Mispar Echad, Route 1, the main connection between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The outskirts of Abu Ghosh, an Israel-friendly Arab village.

The bus dropped me off at the main mall in Ashdod, a large seaport and beach community where I met up with...

.. my old roommate Yigal! (a.k.a. Gali,) who insisted on taking me out for shwarma.

We went to get him some fish.

All these buildings (performing arts center at left, new apartment blocks at right) have sprung up since last time I was here five years ago.

We hung out at his place for a few hours, and I got to visit with his family, who knew me way back when I was only 22. His friend owns a yacht, and was going to take us out, but it was too late. Shabbat starts very early, at 4:45 PM now, and I couldn't risk going out on the water and not being able to make it back in time. I felt badly but we thought we would try for Sunday.

Instead, Gali's friend gave me a ride to Moshav Benei Darom, where I have some cousins, so I could spend Shabbat with them. A Moshav is an agricultural collective, much like a kibbutz except private property is allowed. Most of the kibbutzim and moshavim began as secular/communist in outlook, but Benei Darom is one of those rebellious communities which stuck with Judaism in spite of their minority status, and is today a fast-growing religious community.

Pictures from Benei Darom coming soon...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gettin Out There

Living in the telecommuting bubble can be easy. Almost too easy. Listening to news all day in English, talking with my coworkers... in English, it's easy to forget that I actually live in another country. Mail comes in, I don't understand some of it, so I just sort of put it aside for later. And later becomes never.

But the thing about Israel is that it's the details that kill you. Small mistakes on paperwork or unpaid bills can come back to haunt you. Of course, that's true anywhere.

I recently read a horror story of an oleh who didn't pay his rent and ignored a warning letter because he didn't understand, and ended up in a perilous legal situation. I've been having this sneaking suspicion that somewhere, somehow, I've missed something, so I decided to leave the bubble for a day and follow up on every loose end I could think of.

I left the house. From the bus stop I have a pretty good look at my street.

My house in the middle of my street.

I proceeded to Kikar Tzahal (army square) next to the old city walls. They have been working on the Jerusalem Light Rail System since the last time I lived here, four years ago. Expected date of completion, June, 2006! But, since they're nowhere near done, they decided to put up this poster of what the Kikar Tzahal station would have looked like if they had finished on time.

Kikar Tzahal

I came to my bank and found the hours posted on the door.

Everybody has their little piece of Hebrew that they'll never get used to, mine is reading "Opening Hours" signs because, while Hebrew is read from right to left, numbers are still left to right.

You have to do it in the following order, illustrated below:

1. Read the day (In this case Tuesday and Wednesday.)
2. Since numbers are still left to right, you have to skip ahead to the beginning of the next number.
3. Reverse direction and read from left to right (8:30 PM)
4. Switch directions again, and go from right to left to get to the hyphen.
5. Read the hyphen right to left.
6. Skip ahead to the beginning of the next number.
7. Reverse direction and read the number (in this case, 14:00, or 2PM.)

And now you're done! The bank is open from 8:30 AM to 2 PM.

The equivelant in English would be to read a sign that says:

Tuesday 00:8 - 00:41

Speaking of hours, what ever happened to nine to five? And notice that each day has different hours? Hello?

Not only that, every office, be it the bank, post office, ticket counter, you name it, has it's very own, special hours, which are usually different on each day of the week. And sometimes you show up at the right time and the doors are locked anyway.

Anyway, I managed to make it to the bank when there were actually other humans there, which was no small feat. I checked my account balance, no, no disasters, nothing in the negative, no erronious transactions. Beautiful!

Next, I headed to Kanyon Malchah, where I bought my fridge. The problem was that since I ordered the new one over the phone, I didn't have a receipt for it. I had at the back of my mind that they could be charging me just about anything for that fridge and claim I had okayed it, so I figured it would be worthwhile to check.

On the way, I paused for a moment of self-reflection (below.)

I went back into the electronics store, found my salesman who was, shall we say, a bit apprehensive at seeing me. But when he realized all I wanted was the receipt he relaxed a bit. I checked the bill and... no mistakes, they didn't overcharge. But something still felt wrong.

Meanwhile, Moshe showed up to say hi and give me a ride.

Blurry Moshe

We went back to his place and he helped me read through the pile of mail I had been struggling with. Eventually we found a suspect bill. It was a bill from Bezek, with whom I had opened an account, then closed it after realizing that they were physically incapable of installing the line. Moshe immediately got on the phone and started yammering questions at the operators. Half an hour later, we understood that it wasn't a problem. The bill had been sent before they had closed my account. No problem. But something still felt wrong.

Moshe haggles on the phone.

Later, Moshe took me to Talpiot and helped me negotiate for a bed, as my air mattress has finally sprung a terminal leak. We found a decent deal for 900 shekels total, and he took me home.

I came home and sat at my computer. Strange... nothing went wrong. I was sure that... well, here's an email from my father. Some sort of scanned piece of mail. A letter from Wells Fargo.

MY WELLS FARGO CREDIT CARD IS DELINQUENT! Aha! I forgot to give them my forwarding address, so I haven't been paying the bills, and now my account has been forwarded to a collection agency. Yes! Thank GOD! I figured it out! So I called them up to deal with it, wasn't too bad, and they speak English.

And I'm already getting ready for the next big trip tomorrow. I have a shidduch in the morning (wish me luck,) then a bus to Ashdod to visit my old Be'er Sheva roommate Yigal, and then off to stay with some farmer cousins at the religious moshav (agricultural settlement) nearby, Moshav B'nei Darom. I'll be off the blog for a couple of days but the pictures will be a'comin'!

Emek Refaim Photos

I've been sick for the past couple of days and so have not been able to blog (or do much of anything.) Today I finally got out of the house, and went down to Emek Refaim, a happenin' south Jerusalem neighborhood, for some fresh air.
Here are some street shots I took in the Emek Refaim area today.
Bus stop people

A quiet side street.

Crossing guards.

The performing arts center

Another side street.

Emek Refaim coffee shops. Security guards in flourescent.

The same scene from a different perspective.

The message board.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

And There Was Much Rejoicing! The Second Hakafot

In the far reaches of the diaspora, like Walnut Creek, the festival of Shmini Atzeret at the end of Sukkot, where we complete the yearly reading of the Torah and begin againis a two-day festival. The second day is the festival is called Simchat Torah (Happiness of Torah,) during which all the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and carried around the shul (synagogue) with dancing and singing. Each circuit around the shul is a hakafah, and there are seven total (although the dancing goes on for hours and hours and hours.)

Within the land of Israel, holidays are celebrated for only one day rather than two, so Simchat Torah and Shmini Atzeret are all crammed into one day. But in the evening, after the holiday officially ends, those of us in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) celebrate a "Second Hakafot," this time with live instrments and electronic music (which are forbidden on Shabbat and Holidays.)

In Pisgat Ze'ev, the town square is set aside. Below, the setup begins, with the stage, lighting, and Mechitzah (separation for men and women.)

Lest we forget that we live in the middle east, the ever-present security forces take up positions.

Meanwhile the band warms up, and the teenagers get excited.

A couple of soldiers guard the parking lot.

The music gets started, and people pour into the town square for dancing, waving flags and holding up Torah scrolls.

Cousin Rafi was the lead singer.

More Dancing.

For the first Hakafah, two representatives are called up to read Hakafot.

Meanwile, vendors show up with cotton candy and popcorn for the kids.

The dancing continues.

I bump into Shmulik, Rafi's brother (who I seem to bump into every day on the bus.)

Meanwhile, the dancing continues.

For the second Hakafah, Rabbi Shlomo Ish Ran, who happens to be Rafi's father, is called up to the stage (center.)

Rafi's brother in law, Yehudah (pronounced Yoodah) dances with a Sefer Torah.

Another Hakafah. This time, the honor is given to the chief of police and the security guards. Um.. guys, who'se guarding the entrance?

And the music continues...

... as does the dancing.

The crowd fills the square.

The Ish Ran boys: Yehudah, Rabbi Shlomo, Shmuelik.

And the band played on.

The final hakafah (I know, there were seven, but I skipped a few.) The boys from B'nei Akivah, the National Religious youth movement, run up to the stage.

Yet more dancing...

I bump into Yehuah in the crowd.

The party rocked on for four hours, ending at around midnight. Today, we all woke up and dragged our sore bodies back to work.