05 Sep Lauren Shafshak

Shalom, ya’ll! I bought a tile sign that says that. ūüôā I thought I should send an update. Everything here is amazing! It’s warm, but not too hot. Slightly humid.¬†David’s family is so welcoming, you would think that¬†I was their kid, too. They’re all speaking English, and translating everything in¬†hushed voices for me when others are speaking Hebrew. The apartment is fabulous. Very home-y.¬†They¬†even¬†have a bomb shelter room, which is the size of a small bathroom, and has a door made of super steel or something with a huge crazy lock that seals everything in or out… There are no bagels to be found, which is totally bizarre and would be sad, but everyhere you go there is fresh baked bread so at least we have that.

I have talked to¬†a few of you, but for the rest I will quickly explain the last few days, and then tell you about yesterday, when we went to Jerusalem. The night we arrived, we got home about midnight and¬†stayed up until 3am chatting and eating baklava. Bless Clara’s heart for having that ready. Then when we woke up, we went to run errands and fix the computer so David could log on for work. Nothing too crazy. The next day, Vickie took us to Yaffo, or Jaffo, which is a port town and full of fruit stands, fish stands and trinkets. It was built 7500 BC, like when crusaders were running around the earth.¬†Sooo, it’s super old. It was full of¬†narrow walkways made of stones straight out of a movie. There was a flea market, (YYYAAAYYY!!!), called a shuke,¬†(I have no idea how to spell this stuff so I’m writing phonetically) and we walked around and bought a few things. The haggling here is a crazy thing. Seriously. I thought¬†I wouls be able to handle them, because this is what¬†I do for a living, but no way! First of all, I cannot figure out the money at all. It’s something like divide their price by 3, but I don’t get it. I suck at numbers. Secondly, they are RUTHLESS! One guy blocked the doorway out after we had walked into a stall, so he had us trapped and really pissed me off. Plus, he was trying to tell me to buy something I didn’t even want so he could make his siftah, which means first sale of the day. I know that from my job. It was 2pm. Ya, right, siftah at 2pm. Then, while we were looking at ceramic handpainted cupboard knobs, we saw a guy¬†give a price to a woman. Okay, no big deal. Out of nowhere comes another guy who starts yelling and kicking him! Like, ” Aaaah! What are you doing?? Get out of here!!” I’m freaking out, Vickie backs up, and David goes in and says something to them! So I figure we’re all gonna fist fight. We leave, and David says that they work together and it was all a show about the price. The guy was really saying ” I buy it for that price! You can’t give such low prices to my customers!” But they work in the same shop! All I ever do is have a coworker say she’s a manager and she can give a better price, which, even discounted¬†is still making us money. That’s all you have to do for them to think it’s a bargain. Madness. Anyway,¬†I wanted the painted¬†knobs for our kitchen, so David went back and said ” At the risk of you kicking your friend’s ass, I’m taking¬†these for blah blah blah price.” So we got them super cheap and of course¬†the¬†first lady was long gone by then. Madness. Then we ate and went home…

Next day, hang on, let me grab the camera so I can remember details…

Next day… Beach! We went close by, in Rishon Lizion, the city David’s parents live in. I think everyone in all of Israel was there. Seriously. I have¬†pictures of people as far as you can see. You couldn’t even tell who was with who, because every group of friends was squashed right up next to another. They had speakers the size of my suitcase and hookas and red lipstick everywhere. These girls are way too young to look how they did. And I’m from Vegas! I thought nothing could shock me regarding how teenage girls dress. It was gross.¬†Anyway, we brought coffee and jachnoon, a Yemenese doughy delight made by Clara over the course of two days. It takes¬†a lot of preparation, but was sooooo worth it. It’s Hadas’s favorite, so we invited¬†her and she came with her sister and two friends. We had a great time, even when the Jersey Shore wannabees showed up next to us and created a dance club on the beach with their enormous speaker playing techno. Not relaxing, but definitely interesting and colorful.

Well, that wasn’t quick at all, but now I can tell you about Jerusalem.

Clara has back issues and couldn’t join us because she can’t walk for that long and this was a packed day. So the rest of us got up and drove ourselves¬†to the train. I love people trains! It was an hour ride from Lod to Jerusalem ( Dad, you can look up this route¬†on a map:)). Everything is old. Soooo old. I can’t compare the oldness to anything. There is a law in Jerusalem that everything has to be built with the same Jerusalem stone. A big brick. But not a brick like our hideous Vegas walls. It’s like a huge rock. Every building is the same. ( I have a billion photos that I’ll upload after I get home. It’s way too difficult here).

Deep breath, everyone. We went to Yad Vashem (there’s an apostrophe somewhere in there, but I don’t know where). It’s the Holocaust museum. (Rachel, if there was a day you should have experienced, it was this. I missed you the whole day. Hence, the billion photos of the day, although I was only able to sneak one inside the museum, which I’ll explain later. I had to take this one.¬†Photography was not allowed). One entrance was a gate, a big black door gate, that was artistically made into¬†enlarged¬†barbed wire, like the fences of Auschwitz. We¬†had to walk through them. There were so many people inside¬†that we could barely get close to certain things. It’s a very long pyramid-ish buiding, and you zig zag from side to side down the hallway¬†to each exhibit. For me, I know the story because this is my favorite thing to read about, and honestly, if I were to have read everything there, it would have been too heavy to take. So,¬†I mostly tried to look at the objects. Visas written in Polish and Russian,¬†personal photos and belongings of victims who were burned in the streets but some¬†things in their pockets survived, (some of the photos and papers even had burn marks on them around the edges),¬†toothbrushes, hairpins, buttons, theater tickets, tin cups which were called pots and defined ghetto life because that’s the only way anyone there was given food rations, shoes… so many shoes that the Nazis¬†took from people who went to the chambers, all completely¬†dirt soaked and black and piled up in a glass¬†exhibit in the floor¬†which¬†we had to walk on to get past… prisoner and soldier uniforms, diaries with heart breaking entries staring at you…

They made us check our bags in before entering,¬†so all I had¬†with me¬†was the museum map. I didn’t realize until I left that I had completely ruined it by wringing my hands for two hours. It’s crumpled and twisted.

There was a circular¬†room at the end, I don’t know how big, maybe the size of a high school¬†basketball court, but round and with a high ceiling. It was completely filled with books on the shelves. It¬†looked like library shelves that you would need the sliding ladder for¬†with the same big black book over and over and over. I snuck¬†my one and only¬†photo inside after I realized these endless books were filled with the names of everyone whose life had been taken. It wasn’t one name per book. It was like phone books, listing the names. Book… after book… after book…¬†after book.

At the end of the long hallway building, there are doors to go outside, with a slightly uphill walk to the end. From there, you have a beautiful view of the city below. The uphill is supposed to symbolize that the Jews will always go onward and upward, no matter what they must go through, and that Jerusalem will always be their home

Outside, on a train track that drops off the edge of the mountain to nowhere, was an actual railway car used to take prisoners to the camps. Rusty and small for what we have now. There was an inscription scratched into the walls inside the car, which read ” Here in this carload, I am Eve, with Abel my son. If you see my other son, Cain son of man, tell him I”, and that’s it. It wasn’t finished. She was unable to complete her sentence.

Before you leave, there is an entrance which brings you to a room with a narrow¬†walkway, totally dark except for a billion tiny shining lights like stars, in the floor, walls and ceiling. You¬†can’t see where you’re going, so you have to hold the rail and walk slowly.¬†It¬†threw off my depth perception. As you walk, a recorded¬†voice is reading off the names and ages of all the children murdered in the streets and chambers. Just as chilling as the book room. I didn’t want to go in there because David remembered it from a previous trip and warned me, but if these people went through everything I had just seen, I have no excuse not to go and honor them.



I’m back. I’m sure¬†I can tell everyone more about that¬†later, but when I send this tonight, it will be your morning, and I don’t want to start your days off so dark.

Back to the camera for what’s next…

We took a shuttle from the museum to yet another shuke market, and decided to eat. Vickie didn’t look well, so I took her to the bathroom to freshen up. People were smoking in there. Here, you can smoke anywhere. Even in shops. That didn’t help her nausea. The spices and fish and food garbage in the outside market combined with the heat¬†gives off a lot of strong smells, and she was trying to control it. Anyway, we walked to a restaurant recommended by a friend of the family. It was absolutely delicious! I had tilapia and I don’t know what the boys had and Vickie had a Coke to calm her tummy. She went twice to the bathroom, but wasn’t feeling better.¬†The¬†third time she threw up before she made it. All over herself, even her shoes.¬†We cleaned her up and went to buy her a new tshirt. I know this is gross, but if you got through my previous paragraphs, you’ll manage through this one. It’s all part of the day.

In Jerusalem, most of the girls are dressed very modestly. They wear heavy tights under knee length skirts, and long sleeves under any tank¬†top kind of dress. It’s frikkin’ hot.¬†But they do it.¬†Some of the men are dressed super traditionally. The dark clothes, hats and curls around the ears. They look like they walked right off the pages¬†of a history book, especially against the stone backdrop of the whole town. Some don’t. It’s a visually bizarre mix of old and new. Extremely old, and sort of new.¬†Even the more modern women¬†had none of this teenage red lipstick crap. Just showed a tiny bit more skin. Tiny bit.

Sorry, this is really long. I’ve been sitting here forever. Okay, so then we got on a trolley car and went to the Western Wall! Finally, time to make a wish!¬†I wrote some on the first train ride for the people who didn’t give me one.¬†I put your names in the middle of the paper, and wrote¬†small wishes around the names, and figure G-d will know who to help.¬†Michelle, I did them for your mom and sisters as well as you, Luis and our babies.

The wall is inside the old city. So¬†you walk through an ENORMOUS gate, and even more enormous walls to get inside. Like a movie. Everything was like a movie. I¬†really can’t think of anything I’ve ever een in real life to use as comparison. You know when kings had kingdoms, and they built walls around the whole thing? And then when people came to attack they¬†couldn’t because the entire city is enclosed and the walls are taller than ever?¬†¬†That. It was that. Inside the gate are more narrow, stone pathways before the wall. Mazes of¬†pathways made again, of stone.¬†They have shops, but it seemed weird to me to buy keychains and such in there so we kept going.

After a certain point, we reached a metal detector. After that, lllllllaaaaaaaa!!!!! The Western Wall!!! It’s way smaller than I expected but still huge. They’re doing construction in certain points so again with the mix of old and new, stone and machine. The men are separated from the women. I went with Vickie, who explained things to me that I wouldn’t have even known to ask. Example- It is said that you should not turn your back on the wall, so after you finish praying, you walk backwards until you are out of the marked area. You don’t have to do this, but¬†most do.¬†Both areas are¬†outside and open right next to each other, but there is a gate¬†giving the men access to¬†one side of the wall, and women the other. The women had considerably less space. The men had at least twice as much, so they could easily find a space to touch the wall, and tuck their notes in. Women were more¬†cramped, and waiting behind others, like trying to get to the front of a standing-room only¬†concert,¬†only silent and without pushing or any impatience. It sounds worse than it was. Vickie said she’s seen it so busy she never got through. We waited only a few minutes, and I’m sure there are times during the day you may have trouble getting¬†close enough.

I put each of the wishes in, one by one,¬†and just said in my head each time” Please help them with what they ask, and they thank you’. I don’t pray. I wish. To me, usually, it seems the two are the same, but here felt different so I did my best, not knowing any prayers. I put my left palm on the wall, (that’s all the space I had)¬†closed my eyes and imagined each of you as I did it, and tried to send them with your energy. You’re all my family and my most bestest friends, so I figure the message should get through. We walked backwards, but halfway out I decided to go back and take advantage of the opportunity, and said thank you from everyone again. It felt more solid that way. We walked backwards all the way out and found the boys.

After this, we walked through more of the city, got some holy dirt and water for people who asked, and headed out. We found a spot in a park where the water shot up out of the ground like the Bellagio fountains, but not as high. High enough to run through, though! I took off my shoes and ran all the way to the end! So refreshing. A perfect end to a crazy day. We headed home, with me soaking wet.

That’s it. Time to go. This is my book for the day. Tomorrow, Dead Sea.¬†Love you all!!! – Laurenita

If there are any typos, please ignore them. The laptop battery is dying¬†and I can’t¬†proofread this now. ūüôā