Friday, July 1, 2016

There and Back

Monday, June 27, 2016
We drove north to Caesarea, an ancient city on the Mediterranean.  Our target was the Ralli 1 Museum, a strange and wonderful place that I had never heard of before.  Ralli 1 is really the third museum in the Ralli Museum group, founded by Harry Recanati, who made his fortune in banking.  The others are in Uruguay, Chile, and Spain.  The museum is remarkable for many reasons.  It is funded privately.  There is no admission charge; there is no commercialization, that is, no gift shop, no bookstore, no T-shirts.  Photography is banned.  Simple explanatory materials were kept out of sight behind a counter.  

The building is also notable.  It is large, airy, bright, Spanish.  It reminded me of the hacienda where Zorro spends his downtime.  Internally, it is a very large octagon, containing smaller octagons.  It has five galleries on three levels, two levels filled with contemporary Latin American art as well as a collection of two dozen or so Dali sculptures.  Scattered throughout the premises were hulking, blackened bronze sculptures of native women.  On the bottom floor, there was a fascinating archeological exhibition about the origins of Caesarea as a Roman colony founded by King Herod 2,000 years ago, and its growth under successive regimes.  On display were artifacts throughout the ages.  Mirabile dictu, the wall plaques explaining the exhibits were mostly in clear English.  The Hebrew seemed to be an afterthought.  While I have admitted previously that gift shops are usually my favorite parts of museums, Ralli 1 gets my enthusiastic endorsement even though it's only art for art's sake.

Sunday, we went to Jerusalem to visit Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, where neither of us had been  in 20 years or so.  Even after three hours, we could not absorb all the ugly truths that it tried to present.  It's hard to ignore the contemporary parallels, yet the geographic and   numeric enormity of the Holocaust protects its vicious uniqueness.
Today, we went to the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.  Although we did not take advantage of it, this museum sits right next to the Palmach Museum and the Yitzhak Rabin Center, which visited together would make a long and highly diverse day.  The Eretz Israel (Land of Israel) Museum is itself really a collection of small institutions in separate quarters including a numismatic pavilion, a postal history and philately pavilion, a ceramics pavilion, a glass pavilion, a copper mining pavilion, and a planetarium, surrounding an archaeological excavation.  

It may be that everything in the museum(s) may also be found somewhere else in one form or another.  However, what I found special was the connection to the place where I was standing, give or take a few dozen kilometers.  Two thousand year old coins, fifteen hundred year old mosaics, four thousand year old wine jugs, used and unearthed right here.  By contrast, the well-stocked gift shop was purely contemporary and centralized in one convenient location.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Mark Nazimova sends along this interesting article on the Chinatown produce scene.

While it's no surprise that the Wall Street Journal extols a market, any market even one in fruits and vegetables, I have been a happy customer of these street vendors for years, especially pursuing champagne mangoes, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.  So, stroll over to the intersection of Canal Street and Mulberry Street after your hearty lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, and pick up some natural sweetness.

I believe that Brexit will lead to some unfortunate political and economic consequences, but, short term, it has produced some good humor.  Michael Makovi, an Israeli studying for a Ph.D. in Texas (what a formula for chutzpah) has produced this list of successors: Grexit, Departugal, Italeave, Czechout, Oustria, Finish, Slovakout, Latervia, Byegium.  "Only Remania will remain."  

I recommend the Bakery, 260 Dizengoff Street, for excellent bread, croissants, muffins, pastries, and other vital ingredients in a modern man's diet.  One of their wonderful creations is a chocolate halvah muffin.  Unlike most of their other customers, I don't pause at one of the half dozen tables on the sidewalk, instead rushing off to our apartment two short blocks away to overindulge in private.  They have four other locations around Tel Aviv.  

I did have a dispute with the young woman at the counter this morning (her English was flawless) about babka.  When I admired the chocolate babka she was handing over to a customer in front of me, she corrected me (always risky business).  She said that babka could only be cinnamon, not chocolate.  Well, I told her that when she comes to New York, with ideas like that, she better avoid the entire Upper West Side.

Because I am impatient and because parking is very difficult in our neighborhood, I went downstairs around 4:40 P.M. to wait for our friends Itamar & Phyllis Nacht, who entertained us so well ten days ago at their home, who were joining us for our last evening in Tel Aviv.  It's a busy spot, but Double Standard, the bar on the corner, doesn't open until around six, so I positioned myself to see and be seen from all directions.  

After a while, a young woman, 20ish, simply but carefully dressed and made up, came to the corner and started looking around, discreetly looked me up and down, and waited.  Several minutes passed.  Oh, no, I feared that she was waiting at the popular corner of Nordau and Dizengoff for the "Tall, prematurely gray, non-observant, European-appearing man, no tats, no piercings, wishes to meet sincere woman for walks on the beach, candlelit dinners and maybe more," who she found on J-Date.  She soon walked away, no doubt muttering something about "truth in advertising" in Hebrew.

Our friends arrived a bit later and we headed to Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the old city of Jaffa.  While many buildings and streets there  show their age, gentrification has also taken hold, which seems to be characteristic of any part of Tel Aviv that has a building standing more than 30 years.  We ate at Goshen, 30 Nahalat Binyamin Street, a Kosher restaurant about to move across the street to quarters twice as large.  It is known for its meat and we dug in.  We shared roasted chicken livers on stewed fruit (mostly raisins) (38 NIS, $9.80) and lollipop wings (36 NIS), panko-coated, deep-fried chicken wings.  There was a particularly pretty salad that tasted good, too.  

They served us complimentary rice balls, arancini di riso as my grandmother never called them.  I ordered lamb chops (130 NIS for 300 grams), accompanied by a mashed root vegetable (otherwise unidentified).  An excellent plate.  The other folks enjoyed their steak and hamburgers.  It was a fitting conclusion to our two weeks in Israel, although I hope that young woman returns to the corner of Nordau and Dizengoff soon on the arm of מר צודק (Mr. Right).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016
We awoke to the news of the deadly bombing at the Istanbul Airport, which had been our original transfer point for our flight home today.  Instead, I found a good deal on a non-stop El Al flight leaving this afternoon.  If all goes well, we will be back in the Holy Land before the day ends.

Thursday, June 30, 2016
Yesterday was a long, dull day, which is probably the best that you can hope for when flying from the Middle East to the United States. 

I can't blame it on jet lag or the dramatic time difference (7 hours) which got me out of bed by 5:30 AM, but today's New York Times crossword puzzle really puzzled me.  I finished it, that wasn't the problem.  However, Thursday invariably has a gimmick, sometimes different letters in the same box across and down, or a word instead of one letter in a box.  This time the answers eventually emerged from the fog, but purely by deduction.  Even with the puzzle complete, I had no idea how the clues -- strings of capital letters and numbers -- connected to the answers, even after one of the answers was identified as the key to these opaque items.  For example,  TB8L = Adored superstar.  If you share my pedantic obsession, or a similar one of your own, an explanation is found at

Friday, July 1, 2016
Up again at 5;30 AM, half past noon back there.  Somewhat impatiently, we waited several hours before calling our adorable granddaughter on her third birthday.  Then, I went back to sleep.  

I met Mossad Moshe for lunch at the Hummus Place, 305 Amsterdam Avenue, to make up for a glaring oversight on our trip to Israel.  I never had any falafel, prized by Jew and Arab alike throughout the region.  Hummus Place, always busy, often too noisy, did a good job filling this gap. I gave Moshe some confidential information, which might be mistaken for gossip, and passed one secret document -- a picture of him appearing to have a good time.


  1. alan, when my mother went to israel in 1950, part of the group of women who sold more israel bonds than any group in the u.s., of course, they were treated as VIPs and met various government officials. it seems that my mother whispered in the ear of one, perhaps moshe sharett, that "what this country (remember it is 1950) needs in a golf course." she must have made her point because she did live to play on the course in caesaria.

  2. Wo Hop last night for dinner....soft shell crap, crispy whole fish, pork fried rice, garlic string beans.....:-))

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