Where is home?

Israel is the country that shaped my personality. The place where I grew up, went to school, army and university. There is a feeling of belonging that cannot be explained in words.
I have been away from home, my family, my kids, my grandkids for almost a month. The home I created with my partner for life, the home we build together, the children we raised. This home is the US.
In the last month I have travelled from the US to Israel to India to Israel and back to the US. I explored new country, met new people, formed new friendships, spent time with my mom.
I feel like a tree, the roots are in Israel, the trunk is me, growing, the brunches , the leaves , the flowers are what I did and will continue doing …
Life is a journey and although this blog started as a travel journal I invite you to continue exploring with me. Let the tree grow…

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अलविदा alavidā -Good bye in hindi

It is our last day, again we start with a 6 am drive from Jaisalmer to Jodphur, board a plane to Mumbai then a flight to Israel.

It is a bitter-sweet goodbye, two weeks adventure. India is a complex place, there are lots of contradictions, lots of mysteries, lots to learn. It is so different but yet familiar. Hinduism starts with one g-o-d and there is all the deities each one with it’s own face, like “elilim”,is that what Abraham broke when he affirms the belief in one god.

Mindfulness tours was the name of our tour and indeed in each city, each temple, one cannot escape the notion that there are layers upon layers of meanings. We were 21 strangers that became friends, cared for each other and learned to accept the differences.

The literature festivals in Jaipur, we saw the future, the generation that tries to break from old traditions. At the women’s gno we saw how hard it is to elevate the woman’s place in the society, education is a key to advancement.

The palaces and forts are a symbol of the rich past but not all of them are well kept, some are dilapidated structures and then we see the Taj which is a magnificent building that draws lots of visitors. Some are keeping with the arranged marriage tradition and some are trying to break away from the caste system.

As I am sitting on the plane to Tel Aviv, full of Israelis, some who finished a three month’s vacation through the south beaches and some who were on a tour of the country. India is a big country and we only covered the Rajasthan area. Will I come back to explore more? Maybe the north where the Dali Lama sits or visit the golden temple where they serve 100,000 people food with no charge.

I can’t say yes or no but one thing I know that the effect of this trip will continue to make me think and be puzzled.

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Jaisalmer-Jali

Jaisalmer is a desert city, 80 km from the Pakistan border.Jali is the name of the stone lattice work. The color of this city is gold which comes form the sand, although it’s known for the incredible silversmith works.

We entered another fort ( I believe it’s the fourth on this trip), this one has four gates one cannot be seen from the other so you walk like in a zigzag. We entered the Jin temple and were able to take photos, their deity has a human like features and no adornments just an innocent smile..This is a “working” fort, people live within the walls, the streets are narrow , the market is bustling with merchants offering all sorts of stuff form pashminas to Kama Sutra books to bags and more . It’s a popular tourist destination. Our guide told us that there is a popular Indi movie that was filmed in the city , that explains the groups of students we met who cam on a two day train journey from Delhi.

Lunch was served on the roof of a hotel over looking the fort. In the last two weeks we tasted the food, smelled the spices, enjoyed the colors and heard folk music. Surprise waited for us, a lesson in traditional Indian music. We learned that there is order to the rythm, to the movement of the dance , to the gestures and the words. There are sixteen notes that keeps repeating. It felt soothing and transformed us to a maharaja palace where he is listening to his court musician.

After lunch we walked to the silversmith home , I must have been day dreaming as I bumped into a cow and then stepped in her S.., they say it’s good luck but i got startled..the streets are filled with cows walking around like they own the place with no regards to motorcycles or people.

The attention to details is fascinating, in the chaos of the street there is order.

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Thar Desert

Six hour bus ride; through the desert pass different towns. This time we watched an Indian movie – Taare Zameen Par, every child is special produced and directed by Aamir Khan, An Indian actor who cares about social justice causes.  The film is about a child with dyslexia.  His parents cannot accept the fact that he has a problem nor does his teacher, but there is an art teacher who recognize it and helps. And as in every Bollywood movie there is a happy ending and the kid wins the school art competition and recognition by his father.

We arrived at Mama’s resort, an oasis in the desert with fancy tents.
We went on a camel ride to the dunes. The scenery reminded me of bible times. I saw women at a well and could imagine Eliezer meeting Rebecca there.
We tried to meditate on the dunes waiting for the sunset but for some reason it was a popular place, jeeps came by, children looking to sell chips and drinks, who knew..finally it was quiet . The sun went down.

So what do we do for dinner? Outdoors it is with a bonfire and dancing. A mix of belly dancing and Bollywood kept us warm. Again chai amsala, paneer and a new dish mini eggplant in masala sauce.

How romantic it sounds to sleep in a tent , not on a floor but on a bed , but it’s desert and it gets cold at night so I went to sleep with all my cloths.

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Fort and more- Shabbath in Jodphur

This is the third post in the past 24 hours. I have so much to share so forgive me if it is too much and I hope you will enjoy the ride.
Being on a bus for 7 hours for the ride from Udaphur to Jodphur was not too bad, we watched a great movie called “outsourced”, stopped for Chai at a nice spa and soon after arrived at the blue city.

There are almost 2 million people living in this city. The Mehrangarth is a fort that towers over the city. From one side one can see the old city with it’s blue color buildings, they say its the color of kings, on the other side the new city spreads.
The fort was build form stone and the intricate work is unbelivable. The carving are made in stone but it gives the illusion of carving in wood. Once entering there are displays of miniature paintings, textiles and wall painting which are unbelievable in their intricacy.

I treated myself to an ayurvedic massage that started with half an hour oil pored over my head and ended with a 10 minutes steam. I came out rejuvenated and ready for Shabbath.

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Shabbath at the Ranbanka Palace hotel started with mindfulness two and half hour meditation lead by Dina. We meditated to the מודה אני ושמע ישראל , we practice walking meditation and did an exercise with a partner asking each other- what do you really think multiple times, we continues after lunch and rest into a two hour yoga.
The combination of meditation-yoga-india worked after a week of intensive travel we all needed to recharge.

Namaste

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Kosher in India?

Cows, buffalo, dogs, pigs a whole zoo walking in the street. You are not allowed to eat any and if by mistake you kill a cow you have to feed the whole village-have a party and dip in the gangas river which is not so clean.. Some eat chicken or goat meet but as our group keeps kosher it is easy to stick to non meat and some time non dairy diet.

Most dishes have protein in the form of beans. Then use of spices like turmeric, cumin, fennel, mustard seeds and red chili powder adds amazing flavor and let’s not forget vegetables like tomatoes, onions, eggplant and more makes it easy to be vegetarian for two weeks.

Lunch was served in something called Thila, a round platter with small bowls, each contains a dish, rice in the middle and Nan, so you supposed to pour the dal or paneer on vegetables masala on the rice and eat with your right hand. Eating with your hands adds to the taste.

The thing with Indian cooking is that there are those 7 spices , red chili powder for taste, turmeric for blood circulation, cumin for brain and sharp memory, black mustard seeds for digestion,fennel seeds for digestive and Fenugreek seeds for arthritis, and another mixture of spices called Gara masala which includes black pepper, cinnamon, black cardamon, cloves, coriander seeds, bay leaves and cumin seeds, roast them and grind. This can be kept in closed container for years.

The last night in Udaphur we were treated to a cooking class. I got real excited, the mystery of cooking dal, paneer, masala, nan and more will be revealed. I promised an Indian meal on my return but here is something different to have any time of the day .
We all love tea and in India we have the chai masala, a black tea with a mixture of dry ginger, cardamon black pepper, cinnamon all mix in equal parts and grind. To make chai boil 1 cup water with 2 pinches of the chai masala add assam tea leaves, add 1 cup milk and sugar to taste bring to boil for two minutes and again ( just like Turkish coffee) cover it for two minutes and strain.

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Women power, art and food

Yesterday we had the most incredible day it started with walking to the Jagdish temple,climbing up steep steps , taking off our shoes, listening to the chanting, getting a red dot on the forehead. The hindus love their temple, the carving in the marble stone are intricate and tell the stories of the different lords.

Udaphur is known for it’s artists. There is glass mosaic and miniature drawings. I chose the drawing workshop. We came to an artist cooperative, the artist helped us create our own elephant drawing using paints like orange tumeric, blue lapis,  grey purple for the elephant body. All are minerals from the ground. I was in my element. I was transformed into a magical world, there are three symbols for the Rajasthan state, the elephant is luck, the horse is strength and the camel is love, each also relates to a different city, the elephant for Jaipur, the horse for Udaphur and the camel for Jaisalmer.

28 km outside of Udaphur there is a village called Delwara, a town of 5,000 people from 27 different castes and different religions.
Seva Mandir which is a non profit NGO (non government organization) founded the Citizen’s Development forum, together they transformed the town infrastructure. Major changes were accomplished which include sanitation, half of the households did not have toilets or running water. They created a step well. They build youth centers . We were taken on a heritage tour by a young man, there are incredible Jain temples. Jain religion has a different god, a human like figure that is not adorned in cloth like the hindu gods.

They helped women organize themselves into self help groups, they created a Sadnha where they make cloths that sell at the Fab India store. Some of these women come from abused homes and this is their way for independence.
Seeing garbage on the street is a common sight, whether it is the big city like jaipur of the smaller city of Pushkar but the village of Delwara look cleaner in comparison. With the help of NGO’s like Seva Mandir or the Barefoot College we saw outside of Pushkar there is hope for a cleaner , more civilized society.

It’s been a long day, rewarding and intriguing. We were treated to a cooking class.
It was a delight. I got really excited, You all know I love cooking so I was in my element. I got to stir the base for the masala.  Home cooked meal tastes so much better then a fancy restaurant.

What a day, it felt like India in a day – pray,art,people,food. Colors, Smells, Taste .

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Going south-Udaipur-

6AM and we are on the way to the train that will take us to southern Rajasthan-the land of kings.
As a matter of fact we landed in Mumbai and went north to Jaipur which is the capital .
The landscape changes, there are no green fields of wheat or yellow flowers we saw from Agra to Jaipur but rather desert like sceneary, some trees but mostly dry land.
As we get closer the white magnificence of the palaces appears.
We drive through narrow streets up and down alleys towards our hotel which sits on the lake.
As we enter The Jagat Niwas Palace we think we are on the set of the improved Marigold hotel ( some of us saw Judi Densh in Jaipur filming the sequal).
We go on a boat ride, see the palace , unfortunately it is closed as the prince is getting married tomorrow.
The mountains around reminds of Italy, There is the summer palace which sits in the middle of the lake but alas it is converted into a fancy hotel.
We have a Rajasthan diner on the roof of another hotel by the lake looking at the palace.
I am not a big fan of Indian food but there is not much choice so I tried the daal which is basically lentil soup in yellow orange sauce, basmati rice, paneer with spinach and some spicy vegetables, desert is these round sugary balls .
As we leave we try the mix of fennel and sugar to cleanse our palate, it’s actually good, does the trick.

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Taj-Shmaz-Crown of India

Yesterday we took the train to Agra , the ride on the train seemed ok to start but turned into a nightmare, the seats -not comfortable, the train crowded and on top the fog made us stop every half hour so a trip of four and half hours took six. We spent the night at the Radisson, a western hotel that felt like a palace.
The weather prediction for morning fog was true so no Taj at sunrise. We started the day at the AgrA Fort, a beautiful fort build by the shah Jahan ,it is an Incredible structure , geometric designs.
At noon it was time to see one of the seven marvels of the world , The Taj Mahal. We entered through the east gate, as we got tickets in advance we used the vip line, went through security, only cameras allowed , got water and surgeon slippers to cover our shoes.
We then proceeded to the North gate, which by itself it a work of art with writing from the koran. As we pass through the magnificent of the Taj Mahal appeared . The symmetrical gardens are perfect and the marble white structure with the four towers symbolized the four corners is truly incredable. All skepticism aside , It is an incredible achievement that was build in mid 16 century by shah Jahan as a memorial for his third wife, mum tax mahal who died giving birth to their 14th son, there are stories that his hair fell from sorrow. How interesting it is that “we” create/build momentous buildings for the dead as if to immortalize them.

India is a country of extremes, the Taj is a pure drop in a sea of sorrow , a rich element in a poor place.
So let’s enjoy the beauty and the purity and remember the suffering and the poor.
We returned to Jaipur and this time the train was on time , the seats more comfortable and it only took 4 hours.

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