News of the Cruise (Part 10: A Ship-Shape Shabbat)

There we were, safely back on board the Costa Diadema, which would set sail from Civitavecchia at 6PM. For most of the passengers on board, it would be another day at sea, getting on and off the ship at the port of Savona. But for us, the AACI’ers, it would be Shabbat, so, while we could get a tantalizing view of this old and picturesque port from the balcony of our cabin or the decks of the ship, we would remain on board until we arrived at Marseilles Sunday morning. We would have our meals, served buffet style, in a different restaurant on one of the upper decks (either walking or using one of the Shabbat elevators to get there), and the Shabbat prayer services would be held in an area that is normally a disco. And therein lies a tale. In this case, one related by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, one just too good not to tell his audience, and for me not to tell you.

It seems, he announced, that this was the second time that he was davening on Shabbat in a disco. Well, that got everyone’s attention real fast – as he, the master story teller, knew it would. Continue reading

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Ezra’s Super Bowl Party

Maybe I should start off with the following anecdote that I think explains a lot about the topic at hand: My friend Michael was interviewing for a job with a local outfit – as is typical here, a start-up. This company has come up with some kind of metering device that, if I understand it correctly (no sure thing!), detects the amount of water in sewer pipes. For our purposes, it doesn‘t matter if you or I understand it exactly. The point is that they are trying to penetrate the American market big time, and that’s where my friend comes in. This was one of the few times when an Israeli company wouldn’t prefer to hire some hot-shot kid right out of the I.D.F., as opposed to Michael, even though he has ten times the knowledge and experience as the other guy. If nothing else, the men running the company figured out real quick that they needed someone who could chew the fat with the middle-age American engineers and officials who would be deciding whether to purchase a few of these meters on a trial basis. And that someone definitely was not going to be some twenty-two year old Israeli with passable English. If they wanted to talk to Americans, they’d better find an American.

Michael is an American from the mid-west. Michael is a 100%, genuine, certified, official good ol’ boy, complete with an impressive waist line and accent, the exact person you’d want to connect with similar folks back in Duluth or Des Moines. The job interviews were going well, and then an important question: “Do you watch the Super Bowl?” “Sure.” Continue reading

News of the Cruise (Part 9: Rome in a Day

It wasn’t always “this way.” Long, long ago when Barbara and I were DINKS(NM) – double income, no kids (no mortgage), we did a certain amount of traveling, and we did it on our own. The idea of going on an organized tour would have been the last thing on my mind. Even when we had fairly serious mishaps along the way – like having to travel around Spain in a stick shift car, which neither of us knew how to drive, became part of the adventure, the narrative we relate to friends today. Whatever happened, it was all good, at least in hindsight. Today? That’s a different story entirely.

These days, I am more than willing to let somebody else do all the planning: the itinerary, the accommodations, especially the part that deals with when and where we’re going to eat. Plus, if all goes well, I enjoy going around with other like-minded people. Yet, I am cognizant of the limitations of this approach, sometimes especially so. For instance, our day in Rome, Friday Sept 16. Continue reading

News of the Cruise (Part 8: Sushi on the High Seas)

“Sushi tonight!” That might be a good idea, but it wouldn’t be such a big deal lots of places I know where kosher sushi is there for the asking. Not in Jerusalem or thereabouts; there’s even a branch of Sushi Rehavia right here in Ma’ale Adumim. Not in Tel Aviv. When Tina and David lived on Ibn Gabirol St., we used to walk across Nordau to Nini Hachi, one of the finest kosher restaurants in Israel. Even when we were living in The Exile, sushi was easy to come by, at least in Teaneck. My sense is that if you are more than an hour’s drive from some kosher sashimi or a plate of pad thai, something is radically wrong. Continue reading

The 10th anniversary of a 60th birthday

Barbara and I have this on-going in-joke about her birthday: that every four years the American government throws her a big birthday bash. If you realize that her BD is on January 20, the point of our little joke becomes clear. This year not marked not only a presidential inauguration and the opening of a partly new road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, it was also for Barbara a BIG BIRTHDAY, one that called for some sort of celebration. Continue reading

News of the Cruise (Part 7: An Impressive Pile of Rocks)

We had done it before and we were doing it again: waiting along with several thousand other people, all of whom were eagerly and anxiously trying to walk down the staircases at the same time and disembark from the Costa Diadema at 9AM this particular Thursday morning. We had arrived at Cagliari, the port city of Sardinia, about an hour before, and we would have until 5PM to explore the island before the ship set sail again. Not a lot of time to get to our destination, the Su Nuraxi archaeological site and get back in enough time to spend a few minutes getting a glimpse of what there was to see in the very old port town. Especially since the bus ride to our destination, pretty much on the other side of the island, would take over an hour each way. Continue reading

New of the Cruise (Part 6: Sailing the Ocean Blue)

I find it hard to believe, but it’s apparently true: there are hotels in Las Vegas – several of them, in fact – bigger, way bigger than the Costa Diadema. Some of them so big they could possibly tuck the entire population of Efrat in their rooms, without anybody having to sleep on a love seat in the lobby or a blackjack table in the casino. Nonetheless, I’m going to stick with my preferred description of the ship we were sailing on: a huge Las Vegas hotel turned on its side, floating in the water.

On Wed. Sept, 14, the ship was sailing at its normal steady pace from Palma de Mallorca to Cagliari, the port city of Sardinia. The actual distance is 556 km. (346 miles), which means you could fly from one to the other in less than one hour (plus all the time in the airport!). By boat? Let’s just say that the ship left the one port at 1AM Wednesday morning (when we were all fast asleep) and arrived at the other port at 8AM Thursday morning (when we were having breakfast – with a whole day in between). The moral here is that this is not the way to travel if you’re in a hurry. Continue reading