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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The 12 Days of Christmas in the Holy Land

When you go to a co-existence school that includes all the pertinent ethnicities and religions in your geographic area, Christmas is likely to be a part of your curriculum. Hence, Raia and Lucas have been basking in Tis the Season for a few weeks now.
Raia's first encounter with Santa was actually with Baba Noel!
Note the decor in Raia and Lucas's classrooms (where I visited so I too could get my fill of holiday spirit). Raia's class also toured a church outside the Old City to ogle the Christmas decorations. This tour was replete with a visit from Baba Noel!

I visited Raia's classroom to get in the holiday mood
As you can see, a plethora of holidays are converging and colliding. Happy Hanukkah! 
Only in the Middle East: An olive tree
serves as the Christmas tree 
Not to be outdone: Lucas's classroom! 
And here is Raia coloring in her "Mother and Child' stained glass window!
But when you go to a kindergarten that happens to be reform Jewish, Christmas is "extracurricular"/spectacular. And everyone in the class makes a mandatory appearance at your Christmas party. Because everyone wants to know: What does a REAL Christmas tree look like? And by real, they mean, one not seen in the movies but in real life, like at my house. Because we have a real fake tree.

And so, with nary 48 hours until we would be leaving the country for more wintry climes (NY=White Christmas), my entire class (plus siblings and parents) was invited to our (relatively tiny) apartment for a Christmas celebration just 5 kilometers from where it all began!

Here's me opening the door to the humble
beginnings of the Ultimate Play Date 
Here's me 30 minutes later: I may have passed out from the
shock and overwhelming joy of hosting ALL
my friends at MY house at one time.
Shock. And awe.
Truth is, they all came for this photo op right here:
Rockefeller Center, move over!
That was about 50 people who mistook our humble Bethlehem Road (oh the irony of that name!) apartment for the Fifth Avenue department store windows!

I prefer to leave people guessing about how I am feeling, rather than use words to inform them. And this time, my parents guessed right that YES I would LOVE to host about  dozens of people in my home for a Christmas party. It probably started with how I enthusiastically ran around with my aide's phone at school one morning this week showing everyone photos of our decorated tree. That small gesture spawned one of the largest Christmas parties in the Jewish state since the birth of Jesus. Who was Jewish. But never mind. (This video might clear things up, or absolutely not, but may be really funny.)

It was a night of miracles, which characterize both Hanukkah and Christmas, making this party ever more significant. Here were just a few miracles from Saturday night:

  1. For the first time in their existence, every toy in our home was played with! (Most parents know that kids do not play with their own toys.) It was as if The Island of Misfit Toys was released from its bondage and all the toys were loved yet again.
  2. Not one toy was broken or missing! 
  3. The tree remained standing!
  4. My friend's baby sister's shoes were found the next day under the tree!
  5. We had more food and sugar than children to consume it all!
  6. More people drank mulled cider than spiced wine!! 

Since I don't use many words, my drop to the floor to sort of soak it all in was probably an indication that yes, I was in shock and awe and utter delight to host the ultimate play date/Christmas party.

Really what we took away as loot from this Ultimate Play Date/Christmas Party is that you don't always have to go to a coexistence school to be loved and accepted. Sometimes you just get lucky enough to be surrounded by the best friends that have all bonded together despite different religions and chromosomal pairings.

And that is what the spirit that birthed Christmas is all about! Merry Christmas everyone!

Utter chaos
Utter delight!
You could call it our first rave. Maybe. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Young babies, ancient places

At the Church of the Redeemer

This is how babies living in Jerusalem spend a day off from school: touring ancient churches and other sites that we cannot quantify because we still think 20 is "a lot."

Lucas and Raia, who attend a "coexistence" school in Jerusalem, had the day off for the prophet's birthday. They took the occasion to learn more about Christmas and the history of Jesus in the Holy Land.

They scaled ancient steps like nobody's business, climbed fountains that survived centuries of conquests, surveyed Christmas trees, nativity sets and stained glass windows. And they took stock of the many versions of Jesus on the Cross in paintings, sculptures and trinkets in the nearby shops.

Oooing and Aaahing at the Holy Sepulchre

Joined by three grandparents 

Scaling the fountain at Papa Andreas Square like invaders of yore

We left that gargoyle in shock!