I was never a great fan of school parties, have generally considered them a chore I do just out of love for the child because I know it means so much to them, though I try to get as much as possible out of the experience if only to ease the boredom and tedium the events often tend to be. And so I approached Moshe’s party rather jaded and physically tired and just glad of Akiva’s company to help the hours go by a little faster.
Moshe’s 6th grade graduation party from Brandt’s school was pleasantly different from the usual run of the mill parties we’d attended in past years. For a start it wasn’t even in the neighbourhood, it was 9 miles out of town on a yishuv, Beit Meir. HaMasrek Nature Reserve is near by and the graduation event was held in part of the S.P.N.I. field school connected with that. The ride out there, provided by the school for all the parents, was really quite gorgeous.
I noticed very many new saplings had been planted all around the city in the past few years and feel proud to live in Jerusalem where so much effort is made to keep the place beautiful, centre strips on most of the roads planted with red rose bushes, geraniums, oleander and other vegetation, provided with drip irrigation and the statute that all buildings must be faced with ‘Jerusalem Stone’, light sandstone/limestone masonry which gives the buildings a much more natural look, as if growing organically out of the hillsides between cypress, pine, ailanthus and other trees.
As we left the city farther behind I noticed more carob, olive and others though mature Aleppo pine forest prevailed in most hillsides from valley to hill top. Unlike many European landscapes Middle Eastern towns and villages tend to be perched on hilltops rather than nestled in valleys, and Beit Meir was no exception. There was a winery there and I could smell chickens. The yishuv was well planted, charming, and I could happily move out there tomorrow.
Moshe had already befriended a group of young archaeologists from all over the world, in particular Adam, a boy from Canada he wanted us to meet and whom he’d already invited to stay with us! Naturally I was a little taken aback, the idea of a 20 year old complete stranger living with us in our tiny place was unthinkable at first thought. I began to change my mind very quickly as soon as I met him. I couldn’t imagine a pleasanter seeming person, quiet and with an easy going refinement I really appreciated. Soon both Moshe and I had convinced husband the idea was workable and in a short while he was booked for the weekend.
The party itself was the usual boring speeches attended by hardly anyone, a couple of sweet songs that almost seemed to get stuck on a never ending loop that would keep us captive for ever, then an arts and crafts workshop. I have endured countless such workshops over the years especially with the girls’ schools and I’d hoped I was done with them even though I often got quite into them once I’d got started. We were issued a wooden door panel and letters, as well as a wooden mezuza case which we were supposed to decorate with layers of patterned tissue and glue. Moshe felt the two ladies were treating all of us like first graders and my creative mind had already taken off on other possibilities. Raw materials like this and I’m confined to the issued napkins? No way, I appreciated the effect the ladies were working towards but I already had ideas of pressed plants and varnish so we stashed away the panels and letters in our bag and surreptitiously slipped out with the excuse of a bathroom visit. I needed air!
Outside I admired the gorgeous view and an ancient olive tree, tried an olive but it was still bitter and spat it out, watched a pair of big geckoes way up on the building wall and chatted with husband. Moshe went off to shmoose about Indiana Jones and other movies with his new archaeologist buddies. He told me that earlier in the day he’d been helping clean three thousand year old pottery with Adam and telling him about our local wildlife. When we left he high- fived the lot of them, he seemed quite a hit there apparently.
We did enjoy a very pleasant meal with the typical Israeli entrees, rolls with coleslaw, fried eggplant, houmous and Turkish salad and such, all spicey and peppery, followed by drumsticks, sesame breaded chicken breast, rice and baked potatoes and a couple more ignored speeches. I passed on the latter carbs, I’d already had enough calories from the rolls, houmous and sundry, though I did sneak one bite of husband’s chocolate covered ice cream. Actually I did pay more attention than that, listening always helps my Hebrew and the sentiments expressed are often very cute. I also heard a fair bit of Russian and Amharic this evening as Moshe’s schoolmates include a number of Ethiopians as well as Boris and Stanislav (or was it Vladistav, I forget) who made sure I was awake on the bus all the way home. My Amharic is pretty much non existent despite Moshe’s attempts to teach me the numbers, but I know a few more Russian words and can pretty much count on hearing ‘itdi suda!’ (come here!) any place where there is a Russian parent and kid.
Well, all in all it was a pleasant evening, we all enjoyed it though I was bone tired at the end of it. It’s always so much worth taking, seizing, embracing the opportunity to visit new places, enjoy the scenery, meet new people and generally experiencing life a little out of the regular comfort zone once in a while.