My Canadian neighbour helped me to contact Barak service provider to set up a wireless system here and then I sent a sample page to a translating agency, specialising in French, of a book dealing with the importance of kashrut.
Then in the afternoon, I met three terrific translators in a lovely cafe just up the road from me. One is English and lives in my street (what luck); one is Russian and the person who organised the event is an Arab.
In many ways this was the most significant meeting of my short residence in Israel so far. Because to be a translator you have to know about different cultures and get under the skin of 'the other'. I felt that if these three were in the government or in the government of the Palestinians much good would be done and we would not need interfaith groups or meetings.
Good advice was given on accountants, being bloody-minded, standing up for yourself etc etc. And I have been invited to a weekly meeting of different professionals where I shall have to do a very short presentation on myself in Hebrew (oy vey).
I just managed a swim in the sea, thanks to the lift I was offered by one of the three. Today there has been a general strike, so that parking was free and they came by car. I left my stuff on the beach with a Rumanian lady who feels that another war is inevitable and also earthquakes in Haifa. She also asked me my star sign, which funnily enough, I knew in Hebrew even without thinking.
And tonight was another German-Israel meeting at the university: this time with the Consul General http://www.tel-aviv.diplo.de/Vertretung/telaviv/he/Startseite.html. The subject was about acquiring a German passport if you are an Israeli and similar matters. But at the end it was more about the closer ties that are being drawn between Israel and Germany and the genuine desire to put the past behind.
But what I found really amusing was the row that broke out in the audience about whether the term yekke http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yekke is acceptable, or whether it is a term of abuse. And believe me, the arguments got quite heated.
All I can say is that I have never felt more of a yekke in my life since living in Haifa. I realise that I rate honesty, punctuality, keeping one's word, being reliable and being punctilious extremely highly. And this is not because of old age - it is because although my parents came from Poland, I am quite sure that originally, at least on my father's side, they came from Germany.
The Consul German told me I spoke perfect German. What a lovely lady - and good for one's confidence. Don't get many Israelis telling me I speak perfect Hebrew. Probably they never will.
And I remembered to tune in mentally when Les was giving his Professorial lecture on Transpersonal Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University. Here is the link: http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/Psychology/80007.htm
The weather is still gorgeous, so went to the beach with one of my French recorder-playing friends after our fortnighly practice session. We picked up her two grandchildren, aged five on the way, and they had a whale of a time on the white sands, playing with shells and other interesting phenomena. Naturally, it was time for yet another swim, and the sea was as still as I don't know what, when suddenly out of nowhere a boat came past with an oarsman, and a woman on a chair (balancing precariously) and he was talking to her in English. This is so unusual in Haifa that I just had to let him know that I belonged to that tribe too, and he articulated my thoughts perfectly when he said, 'Isn't this just the most beautiful sea in the world'.
And it appears that there is still no rain in the offing, because the bus driver shook his head forlornly when I asked him what the weather forecast was. When he learned I was English, he said that he loved skoons. I had no idea what these were, but he made it clear that he meant 'scones' and that he liked baking them.
It doesn't feel like Christmas at all yet out here, although the shops are full of yule-tide fare and the Church Times, arrived today, certainly brings you back with a bang to the reality that is Christmas in England.
My friend Marilyn invited me to hear the Tel Aviv Philharmonic Choir http://www.israel-opera.co.il/site_old/classicalmusic2007.htm, together with the Rishon le-Zion Symphony Orchestra http://www.rishonlezion.muni.il/htmls/english/symphony.html, perform Mozart's Coronation Mass http://www.mozartproject.org/compositions/k_317__.html and the Mass in C Minor http://www.hartfordchorale.org/mozart.htm at the Auditorium in the central Carmel part of Haifa http://www.frommers.com/destinations/haifa/N24923.html - just next to the spot where the mayor made his impassioned speech about Haifa just after the war.
The last concert I went to was one by Paul McCartney in Manchester http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/music/2003/04/10/mccartney_review.shtml and although I love Mozart - he is my favourite - I very rarely went to concerts in England.
But this was different. The conductor was Leonti Wolf (goodness knows if that's how you spell his name in English). He was also at one time an immigrant, from Russia. He was just as a conductor should be: I've never seen anyone move their body about so much in the name of music, but all to good effect. And he had long black curly hair to boot.
It was terrific. I never thought I would see the day when a Catholic mass (two in fact) could be sung by Jewish singers in their own State, with a mixed audience, including Orthodox Jews. I myself have turned down the chance of singing in Handel's Messiah http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah_(Handel) in Britain, because to me singing is more than just performance.
But here, in their own State, Jewish singers (including many immigrants) feel secure enough to perform Agnus Dei http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OAtyQIeVic, and people wearing kippot applaud it.
Even though someone's mobile did go off during the Agnus Dei, much to the annoyance and discomfiture of the entire room.
Listening to this amazing and triumphant music, I know that Israel will prevail and even if missiles hail down on Haifa again, the human spirit will conquer all.
I wonder if Hamas allow concerts including Agnus Dei - just a thought.
Was struck by a Prayer for Peace that I found in a local synagogue prayer book this weekend. Based on Leviticus 26:6, Amos 5: 24 and Isaiah 11:9, the piece also uses words from Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1772-1811) http://www.breslov.org/nachman.html, the great Kabbalist, who used to pray out of doors.
'May it be Your will, O Lord our God and God of our ancestors, that You abolish all wars and bloodshed from this world and extned a great and wonderful peace in the world. Nations shall not lift up the sword against one another, neither shall they learn to make war any more. May all the inhabitants of this universe acknolwedge the one great truth: that we have not come into this world for friction and dissention, nor enmity and jealousy and vexation and bloodshed. We have come into the world solely that we might know You, eternally blessed One.
And therefore, have mercy upon us, that through us the written word will become a reality. And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone. I will give the land respite from vicious beasts and no sword shall cross your land. But let justice well up like water, righteousness like an unfailing stream. For the land shall be filled with devotion to the Lord as water covers the sea."
I love that translation, well up, from which we get the word gal meaning 'a wave' (and also reincarnation, but that is another story).
And was reminded of all this at 5.30 am this morning (3.30 am in England), when my friend who loves the sea just as much as I do, and who I met on my first Shabbat here, telephoned and I couldn't answer, because Shekem Electric was wrong: the phone is definitely not working - it is not just a question of batteries.
So I got dressed very quickly and went over the road to her house. And down we went by car together just as night was becoming day (no dawn here). And she pointed out the Carmelite monastery on Stella Maris http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/haifa-stella-maris-carmelite-monastery.htm, the first place to be hit by the Katuysha rockets during the war, and then the Rambam hospital, also hit, several times. And it was 6.00 am and the news, starting with the most important prayer in the liturgy, the Shema http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/shema.html, which amazed me on secular Israeli radio.
And then in ten minuts flat (by bus it is well over an hour) we had reached Bat Galim - the daughter of welling up, which in her view is the best swimming beach in Haifa (which probably means in the whole of Israel). And all the Russians were there already, wading into the water, or running on the beach, or even coming out of the water.
The air was cold and the sand was freezing, and so was the water, but once you started swimming, the warmth suddenly grew. And the sky was a hazy pink, on the side of the rocks where the fishermen were busy doing their own thing, with, the Carmelite monastery, somewhat isolated, but defiant up ahead on the Stella Maris
And the (nearly all female) swimmers spoke Russian to each other, saying how beautiful the water was. And one told me she was actually Hungarian and asked if I were a tourist. So I said, 'No, a new immigrant'. And she replied "I was in Auschwitz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auschwitz_concentration_camp, and lost everything, my parents, brothers and sisters, everything. I came here in 1948, and I lost my son in the Yom Kippur War http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_Kippur_War as well. But we have to go on. I have a daughter and three lovely grand-children and they were with me for Shabbat. Life is what is important. We have no choice. Welcome to our land. No-one has to be afraid of coming to Israel, not even people from Britain. Nowhere is completely safe in our world."
And it didn't sound like a speech in Hebrew, but like something else.
And another swimmer said 'You are our guest in the water'.
And I seem to have passed some test, because on the way home, my friend said she might go swimming again tomorrow, and to make sure the phone that worked was the one I answered. And yes, it might possibly at the same time (oy veh). And the news at 7.00 seemed to be stating that a cease-fire might be on the cards, if the different Arab factions can control each other, that is. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/792512.html
Maybe Rabbi Nachman knew about Bat Galim. Who knows.
Got up at the crack of dawn yesterday to catch the bus down from the Carmel to the central bus station for Jerusalem. It was so early that I was the only one on it at 6.45 am. Surprising, as in Britain quite a few people would be starting for work at that time.
Once again the weather in Jerusalem was glorious as the Haifa-Jerusalem bus arrived slightly late because of the traffic, at 9.00.
The so-called ten-minute walk to Bet ha-Kerem http://www.jerusalemshots.com/Jerusalem_en30-4112.html one of Jerusalem's loveliest areas, took more like twenty, and there was Dalia running out to meet me. The last time had been in Manchester two years ago. She said I had gone really thin and looked very well. Israel must suit me, she said. Which is strange, because I weigh exactly the same as I did and have had all sorts of different issues to deal with, as well as being on my own for the first time in my life and not understanding the lingo, i.e. Russian.
And then we got down to business: her new book in English on Beruria, scholarly wife of the great sage, Rabbi Meir: http://www.jewishmag.com/37MAG/talmud/talmud.htm, which needed tightening up. Anyone who loves language would love this sort of work, in which a creative writer has to wrestle with someone who knows the language a tiny bit better than them and has to trust them not to massacre the fruit of their labours.
Because Hebrew has such a tiny vocab and English such a large one the possibilities are endless, and as this is a family blog (by which I mean, my family reads it) I do not want to go into too much detail. Suffice it to say that I have possibly saved Dalia much embarrassment. One word in Hebrew particularly meant two in English and if you don't choose the right one ......
Talking of translation, I was contacted in the midst of our endeavours on my mobile (so it does have its uses after all) by someone high up in the Israeli Translators Association http://www.ita.org.il/ and invited as his guest to their monthly meeting and dinner in Tel Aviv next week, when the subject will be translating poetry from Hebrew, which particularly interests me because I have done it myself.
Plus they are holding their AGM next year in February here in Haifa as a tribute to the North.
He got to hear of me because of my blog (so this has its uses as well) and is proving very helpful in other ways as well. One of the best types of Anglos. Salt of the earth!
I then caught the 940 back to Haifa, packed as it was with people going home or to relatives for Shabbat. Have to remember that Shabbat actually starts on Thursday afternoon in Israel.
Waiting at the bus-stop in Horev for the last of my three buses home, I got talking to three really nice students from the university here, who urged me to visit the Golan Heights area http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=Golan+Heights&meta= where they live. Turned out to be Druze http://www.campsci.com/iguide/golan_heights.htm. I couldn't believe it.
Just shows that you should not be prejudiced. But one thing I really believe: Haifa is a haven of peace and tranquillity compared to Jerusalem. Cars stop at pedestrian crossings: people help out: the pace is much slower (for Israel, that is).
And even the local authority has apparently agreed to take into account that as soon as they informed me of the water leak (started in the war before I was here) from my solar heater onto the roof, which cost an arm and a leg last time around, I had it fixed immediately and I am therefore now in credit.
Good news, as it is now exactly three months that I have been in the apartment, which started with cockroaches, exterminators, water leaks, dead mice and electrical nightmares, and is slowly, very slowly, turning into something else.
And just as I finish, dear Rebecca of Radio Manchester has e-mailed to ask me to take part in their Christmas show on Changes and to talk about my new life here and what it is like.
What a dear thing she is.
Today was the day! More challenging than immigration, separation from loved ones, the sea's dangerous currents and dealing with people who only speak Russian was the trip I made today with a friend to Shekem Electric. Of about eight items bought there in August, four did not work or broke straight away. The washing machine has broken down four times, necessitating three different workmen. One of the phones also did not work. The guy who had delivered the fridge broke my lamp en route to the kitchen and then said it was all my fault. The CD player swallowed the first CD I inserted inside.
We arrived early and had to wait for the shop to open. In the end, it was a bit of a damp squib, Israeli style. The phone apparently only needed batteries. The cost of replacing the lamp was not refunded by the shop, but the guy who had caused the damage in the first place was telephoned and told to bring the amount to the shop, where I will have to return to collect it. I will have to take the CD player to the LG outlet and Electra have promised, apparently, to phone me about the washing machine.
So it was a relief to attend a lecture by the German Ambassador tonight at Haifa University. He spoke about the reunification of Germany and Germany's ties with Israel. He also fielded questions. One was about Christians in Israel. His answer to that was simple. Christians are free to practise their religion(s) in Israel unimpeded. The only problem is for Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and Gaza. The reason many of them are emigrating (and he met some when he was ambassador in Saudi Arabia, as well as in Germany) is the same reason any people emigrate, he said, in order to find more conducive places to live. He said that this was not a question of religion, but of demographics. For instance, Lebanon is not a good place for Christians, because they tend to get murdered there.
He ended by reiterating his belief that Israel is a great place for Christians to practise their religion and that is one of the reasons that it is respected by Germany.
So that is two great talks in three months by representatives of their countries: the first being Janet from the British Embassy and now the German ambassador.
And both were excellent in their own way. Somehow I felt proud of the German ambassador. Don't know why. Possibly because he tells it how it is and was incredibly informal, almost British, in fact.
Saw the dentist for the first time yesterday, American Alan and his Swedish wife, Maria. She originally came here to volunteer, converted to Judaism and told me a funny story, which rings so true. They live in a mixed Arab and Jewish area. Nevertheless, when she goes back to Sweden, she is told by those who know better, of course, that she doesn't understand the situation over here, as she is too close to it. But when she lived in Sweden, she was told by the same people that she didn't understand the situation either, as she was too far away from it.
Which is why we Jews never win the information war. Apparently we just don't understand anything.
Maria told me about a former pastor who lives in Nahariyia http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=Nahariya%2C+Israel&meta=, who also converted to Judaism and who is involved in interfaith work, so I rang him and we have arranged to meet in the near future.
It was a perfect day, so I went down to the sea http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Middle_East/Israel/Haifa_District/Haifa-1708915/Things_To_Do-Haifa-The_beaches-BR-1.html again and tried at Dado Beach, but the waves and current seemed to be deceptively strong. So walked the mile or so to the Meridian Beach http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/548256813iPiJxz instead, over pristine sands. It could have been the Bahamas (yes, I have swum there once, but that is a long story), except here there were no 'beautiful people', just salt-of-the-earth Israelis jogging, lying down and playing ball games on the beach.
And there was a corner where serious swimmers had laid out their gear, fixed to a wire mesh and the break-water to protect us. It was heavenly and I really did think that I was in the Bahamas, with the added advantage of people around who would jump in and save me if I were in danger of drowning, even though there isn't a life-guard around at this 'cold' time of year.
And when I went into the First Aid room just to make general enquiries, I was brought back to earth with a bang when the guy working there looked at me in utter contempt and said 'Can't you see that I don't speak Hebrew, only Russian'. Well actually, not I hadn't realised that just from looking at him. Let's hope only Russians have cause to use the First Aid room!!
And today I went again, this time nice and early, despite the wind up on the mountain. But this time there was an absolute gale by the Meridian Beach, such that when going down the steps from the bus, I had to hold on to the rail, tightly.
And the only time I have ever experienced something like it before was on the windy west coast of Ireland at a beauty spot known for its huge stormy glaes, which have caused erosion of rocks into interesting shapes. I don't recall its name, unfortunately.
And there was no-one else on the beach, only serious joggers. So I asked the guy in the First Aid room, who this time did speak Hebrew, and said 'Forbidden! It is absolutely forbidden. Today there is an east wind from the mountains. Like a sharav http://library.thinkquest.org/26823/climate.htm, without the heat.' Go home, woman, go home.'
So I walked at the sea's edge instead, marvelling at the fact that this place appears to be unknown to tourists. How? I wonder.
And then I held on again going up the steps to ask at what looked like reception what was the forecast for the rest of the week. But the guy turned out to be a taxi information service and asked me to shut his window, as he was cold.
So I tried the Meridian Hotel instead, 5 star apparently http://www.starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1881. And the jolly Georgian on the desk said, 'Really, is there an east wind? I hadn't noticed. But I saw swimmers here at 7.00 am, when the wind was even stronger. Why don't you find a rock for your things and just take the plunge.'
But I came home instead, because why antagonise the guy in the First Aid room. Maybe, one day, I will really need his help on the beach. And if he says something is 'forbidden', who am I to argue with him? http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Middle_East/Israel/Haifa_District/Haifa-1708915/Warnings_or_Dangers-Haifa-BR-1.html
And there was no wind on the mountain when I got back, just perfect weather.
No wonder the Hebrew for weather is mezeg-avir, literally 'mixture of air'. And here in Haifa the mixture really is a phenomenon which you have to learn to respect, or else.
Beautiful weather recently, so decided to go down to Bat Galim for the first time today for a swim, near the famous Rambam Hospital, which was hit during the war http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3138466,00.html, probably deliberately. Bat Galim was also one of the places hit by the Katuysha rockets. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9juGmjFlUNw. It takes about an hour to get there and two buses, but definitely worth it. The sea is calm, because of breakers (even though it is regarded as Israel's best wind-surfing beach http://www.batgalim.org.il/about_en.html) and considerably colder than it was in October, but superb, with fishermen also enjoying themselves http://www.enchantedceiling.com/AAAV55XC42?s=acb3d22dda09e3a912ad9b89120ddab2 and here for a very interesting summary of the neighbourhood http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3138466,00.html. Once again, there were quite a few Russian swimmers who have made the beach their own and were amazed at someone English wanting to know where to get changed. Didn't I know that the changing rooms were closed? they asked. Well actually not. It may be winter here, but the sun was shining brightly and it was like a very warm British summer's day on the beach, as well as being a good 10 degrees hotter than up on the mountain.
So a complete stranger looked after my belongings and heaved a sigh of relief when I appeared after about three quarters of an hour.
On the way back on the number 24 bus, we passed a beautiful building in Hadar http://muse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/access.cgi?uri=/journals/israel_studies/v011/11.3amit-kochavi.html, and somebody said that it used to be where the British consul was housed during the Mandate http://www.jewishmag.com/47mag/evafeld/evafeld.htm, and we all burst out laughing, for a more unlikely place for a British consular building to be housed now, I couldn't imagine and neither could others on the bus http://muse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/access.cgi?uri=/journals/israel_studies/v009/9.1goren.html.
I think Meridian Beach will be the one for other sunny days. Much nearer if you catch the 46 bus and only a stone's throw from the central bus station. This link features my new friend, poet, Professor Ada Aharoni, who kindly recommended the Bat Galim beach to me: http://muse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/access.cgi?uri=/journals/israel_studies/v009/9.1goren.html
Then in the evening the choir once again, which finished with Mendelssohn's Elijah, one of my favourite pieces ever. And I do hope we get to sing it at the concert with the wonderful piano accompaniment.
And in between the guy who mended my Electra washing machine rang to see if it was OK. I couldn't believe it. This is the first time this has happened in Israel.
I'm receiving quite a bit of correspondence from readers of Ruth Gledhill's Times blog, which is really nice.
And Les has just started his Professorial lecture, which he says I will be able to download nearer the time. More of that later.
Today is exactly three months since I arrived in Haifa and time to assess, maybe. But first things first.
On Monday, I visited my daughter, Kalela, who has moved to her own apartment in the centre of Tel Aviv. http://www.telavivguide.net/Shopping/Favorite_Spots/Masaryk_Square_20051018111/ There is a great greengrocer's next door, a French-language book-shop over the road http://www.telaviv4fun.com/books.html, and easy access to her work. The only thing is that she took me to catch the train at about 9.45pm and then couldn't find anywhere to park when she got back. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tel_Aviv
She is really happy in her new place and I am really happy for her. Plus, the trains there and back were double-decker, cheap and very clean. And when I arrived in Haifa I was offered a lift home by a fellow passenger.
Tuesday was our normal piano and recorder day, which was held at the house of one of the recorder players, in the West Carmel part of Haifa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haifa. Then, in the afternoon, an excellent lecture on Time in Judaism by a retired Reform Rabbi. His main point was that Judaism's contribution to the world had been the worship of the 'One', whereas others had worshipped the 'many', the 'two' (Zoroastrians) the 'three' and, today, the 'none'. He also felt that the fundamentalist backlash is the inevitable outcome of worshipping the 'none'. Food for thought there.
And today, I visited the Haifa Tourist Board's offices in the mainly Christian Arab area known as the German Colony http://www.frommers.com/destinations/haifa/0376022400.html and we may be working together on some projects. They are situated right opposite the southern entrance to the Bahai Gardens http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=Bahai+Gardens&meta=, which takes your breath away.
Then, Electra sent one of their senior mechanics to look at the washing machine and he told me the computer card was faulty and replaced it. He lives in an Arab village in Western Galilee. We discussed ibn Sina http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=Ibn+Sina&meta= at length and I showed him the chapter in my work which had demonstrated the influence of many Muslim philosophers, including ibn Sina, on ibn Ezra http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=109219716.
We agreed that without Muslim philosophy, there would never have been any Jewish philosophy and he told me that his uncle was professor of philosophy at the Hebrew university.
Then HOT, the cable company rang, and asked me if I was satisfied with their customer service, so I told them honestly that it was getting better, because everyone needs to be loved.
And Shulamit, who used to work at a Jewish school in Manchester, invited me round for dinner, and asked me to keep in touch.
So, how to weigh up the last three months? An improvement in Hebrew and French, but probably not in English. Meetings with many Muslims, Christians and Druze, as well as new Jewish friends. Various synagogues. People's houses. Music. Lectures. Wonderful and knowledgable speakers. These are all pluses.
Customer service not as good as in England. Here it is more caveat emptor and you have to be terribly on the ball all the time. However, once you are a client or customer, they do at least promise to look after you 'next time' and it is yet to be seen if this is actually the case. On the other hand, I was terribly touched to have just received a reminder to have my flu jab, having just reached the age at which it is regarded as important here. I don't yet know if I will do it, but was amazed that I was already on their computer.
People love arguments and ideas here and are truly interested in other people. However, they are also terribly busy, even more so than I remember in England and the threat of war, devastation and havoc is of constant concern, made even more so by the fact that this threat and reality is rarely spoken about.
The bank here is a delight, even though the system is very different. The sea is the best kept secret about Haifa, but the weather is surprisingly wet and cold, more so than I remember from Britain.
So now, with only about 10 boxes of files and music left to unpack, let's see what the next three months bring and having read the Church Times http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=109219716 and the Tablet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tablet this week, I suddenly realised that it is Christmas-shopping time in Britain already.
And I must end by a general thank-you to all those who read this blog and have been helpful over the last few months.
And thank you also to J. Pearce, off Ruth Gledhill's blog http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/, who reminded me that I hadn't posted on my own blog this week. I'm really grateful and dedicate this particular piece to you, J. Pearce.