Turning a Dream Vacation to Israel into Reality

Bat Mitzvah Israel

I like to think I live “in the city”, but the reality is that I live in the ‘burbs. How do I know this? Easy, I drive everywhere. There’s no walking to the market, which I call a store because it’s not quaint and stocked with food fresh from the farm this morning. There’s no bumping in to friends while on a stroll. I don’t stroll. If I’m out walking, I’ve got my headphone in and am exercising, not strolling. And there surely isn’t casually grabbing a coffee since there’d be a weeks’ worth of texts just to plan a 20-minute coffee.

Paris Flower Shop

 

Jerusalem Shuk

 

Israel Juice Stand

But I wish I lived in the city. Spending time in Tel Aviv, where people were meeting for coffee all hours of the day and night, or in Paris where it seems that 20-steps from your quaint city-center flat is a flower stand filled with fragrant and beautiful buds, or even in Jerusalem where the market was bustling and filled with fresh goodness row after row, has me longing for that vibe. And while a grand summer vacation is fabulous, the reality is that summer is usually one big staycation. And I’m using staycation very loosely.

As I was missing the seemingly ease of the city-dwellers life, I shared that I wish I had the ability to just walk past a flower stand and within minutes carry out a beautifully wrapped bouquet. Stopping at the grocery store and browsing the industrial flowers just doesn’t have that same feeling. The PR team at ProFlowers noticed my public lament and offered to help me recreate that feeling with one of their beautiful tropical floral arrangements. Within days the flower shop came to me in the form of a large box dropped off by UPS. Inside was a little slice of Tel Aviv, Paris, Jerusalem, and Dublin.

Jerusalem - Hawkins Trip 2015

Instantly my house was filled with the scent that made me think of the flower shop on Rue Cler in Paris. The bouquet added just the pop of color to remind me of the little vases on the tables in the cafés along Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. One bouquet had all of us talking about our trip, thinking about the local resorts and their huge arrangements in the entry, and feeling like “the rest of summer” was, at least for a short time, a little staycation at home.

As we traveled around Israel this summer, we hear a lot of people refer to our trip as “a dream vacation” and “once in a lifetime”. I sure hope not! While it did take a lot of planning and saving, I definitely want to do it again. And again. And again. I hope. To lots of different places. Once I knew we were having a girl, I knew about 12 years later we’d be having a Bat Mitzvah. These don’t sneak up on parents. I had a plan A and a plan B for BabyGirl’s Bat Mitzvah, because my grandma would be 93 and I’m not naive to what that could mean. When my grandmother passed away at the end of 2013, the plan B Bat Mitzvah planning was kicked into high gear. As far as Bat Mitzvah’s go, having one is Israel isn’t all that much of a stretch. While not uncommon, though, it’s not all that common either. But I was going to do it.

Jerusalem Family Vacation

 

Haifa Vacation

I know people who will take a cheap flight to Paris for the weekend. Or go to Iceland for a few days to catch the Northern Lights. Few people, though, ever say, “hey, let’s go to Israel next week”. And while it’s an absolutely gorgeous place, the reality is many people are scared off by the news stories. For me it wasn’t a hindrance. I’d spent weeks in a bomb shelter when I was in Israel back in the mid-80s. I knew the situation of the 2014 summer wouldn’t last long. And if it did, well, that’s what travel insurance is form.

This idea of a “dream vacation” escapes me because my grandparents traveled extensively, so I knew that the world was out there waiting for me. I feel that it’s my job to give that same sense of wonder to BabyGirl. CycleGuy didn’t grow up with his family spending a month in China, weeks in Greece, or making several trips to Israel and Egypt. And while it didn’t take much convincing, there was still some apprehension. Israel does not have the same draw, or at least  it did not before our trip, as Paris or London or Dublin.

Planning a trip of this magnitude isn’t easy. If it were “just a trip” I may have felt like there was more room for chance. Ask any parent planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and you’ll understand the need for orchestration. However, big dreams don’t become reality without a little bit of extra work. All that work was worth it! Now, to dream more big vacation dreams. And you? Get to dreaming and doing too!

What’s your dream vacation? How are you going to make it a reality?

 

Sara

On Choosing Israel To Celebrate Her Bat Mitzvah

Israel Bat Mitzvah

This year BabyGirl becomes a Bat Mitzvah. In fact, according to the Jewish calendar she has already become a Bat Mitzvah. At the age of 12, a Jewish girl becomes a Bat Mitzvah, literally “daughter of mitzvah”. It means that she is viewed as an adult with regard to mitzvah observance. This is the more technical side of this ritual coming-of-age event, while most people are more familiar with the public celebration and commemoration.

When I was 12, it took many conversations with my grandparents to finally get approval for me to have a public Bat Mitzvah ceremony. My mom worked at a reform temple but we were what I’ve come to call “conservadox”. My grandparents were orthodox for much of their life, but by time I lived with them they were much more conservative-leaning. Still, they had not fully embraced the idea of my having a Bat Mitzvah. It was when we moved to California and I went to Hebrew School at the temple where my mom worked that I wanted to be part of what all my friends were doing.

At the end of the conversation I was able to have a Bat Mitzvah ceremony; but it had to be Havdalah, the Saturday evening service that marks the end of Shabbat. I would still be able to learn to read Torah and prepare the Haftorah but there would be limitations. Something was better than nothing. That’s how I looked at it. At least I would be up on the bimah leading the service and my friends and family would be there to celebrate with me. Family. An extended family that came together for this very important day in my life.

Now, I have a daughter who has become a Bat Mitzvah and it’s her turn to stand up and take her rightful place among the many strong, generous, kind, brilliant, and giving Jewish women who have come before her. Only now there is no family to come to town and fete her milestone. And there isn’t a class of peers who are part of “the circuit” that is the bar and bat mitzvah season when you’re 12. Instead, we are an unaffiliated Jewish family. I say unaffiliated but that’s not really true. No, we don’t belong to a synagogue per-se. But we are part of our local Chabad.

That came to be because of my grandmother, of blessed memory. She was involved in their Smile on Seniors program and during her final weeks I had the good fortune to see why she chose Chabad after she moved here. But now she is gone. A year ago. Yet I still need to give my daughter her special day even though our family is now just the three of us. While there is very extended family, the reality is that other than her dad and me there would be no other family. Which is why we’re going to Israel.

In her final days, my Grandma’s had me assure her that we’d make a Bat Mitzvah celebration for BabyGirl. We talked about going to Israel and as she shared stories of her and my grandpa’s several visits a smile came to her face and her eyes began to tear. She knew she wouldn’t be there, yet she knew that going to Israel was the right place for Baby Girl’s Bat Mitzvah.

So Israel it is! When I tell people we’re going to Israel I get that look of “are you crazy” coupled with “that’s so amazing”. And to tell you the truth it’s a bit of both. Yes, it’s a crazy idea to plan a bat mitzvah in Israel when you know no one there and are not doing one of those package deals. But at the same time it is so amazing to be able to do this for my daughter, for my family. It will be a bit bittersweet, although I’m sure I’ll look out among the people of Israel and know that we’re exactly where we should be for this special event.

If you’ve been to Israel and have suggestions, let me know. Planning a trip like this does, as they say, take a village.

Image Credit: imnewtryme (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) graphic added

Sara