Israel Long Weekend
I sat on a stone bench outside old city Jerusalem with my 76-year father in law. A small man of 5’5,” hair peppered with silver and hands refined by decades of machining industrial equipment, picking palm nuts and tapping rubber trees.
This was the tail end of our Israel long weekend through the land of the great monotheistic religions. The first night in Tel Aviv, my father-in-law left our apartment to purchase some milk and came back with a story of how he was stopped by a man who wanted to provide him with “many beautiful ladies.” My father in-law responded that he already had all the ladies he needed in his room…not bothering to mention they were his wife, daughter and two granddaughters.
At the Dead Sea, Grandpa pocketed salt rocks that he carefully wrapped in the flyer he had picked up at the airport. These quickly joined a Jaffa magnet for the fridge, a stone from Bethlehem, and the rosary laid on the Stone of Anointing. Bracelets for each female grandchild were also added.
Trip planning proved to be a bumpy ride for me. Multi-generational coordination of disparate schedules and an unexpected Israel Independence Day holiday left Grandpa with at least one of his girls in tow at all times. Many a night we arrived back at the apartment sleepless and disoriented, into what I had imagined as a way to mend breaking my in-laws hearts for undertaking this Foreign Service adventure. Across the room was grandpa packing the Tupperware with snacks for tomorrow’s journey.
And then, we landed at the Mount of Olives, with Grandpa and me sitting on that stone bench resting after a long sightseeing day. A twenty-something woman sat across from us. Her hair was so naturally blonde it was almost white. A local man in brown pants and a white shirt began talking to her in broken English. The blonde responded, heavily tinged with a American southern accent. She became more and more uncomfortable, especially when the man insisted she join him for some food.
Soon Grandpa, still sitting, shook his index finger at the man and exclaimed “no you don’t.” The man, startled a bit basically said: “I don’t have to listen to you. You’re not her Grandfather.” Grandpa replied: “How do you know!” The man considered this coming from an Asian man sitting next to a younger Caucasian for a few seconds, and then just walked away.
The blonde’s relief and the gratitude in her eyes were thanks enough. I am still in awe of how he helped that young girl so instinctively.
Then it was time for our trip home and Grandpa had a treat for us that we will never forget. Two sleeping babies, one in his lap, and one leaning against his arm in the seat behind us. Flipping through a magazine, I showed Grandpa a beautiful Cyprus beach. “All expense paid trip to Cyprus,” if you stay for a couple more weeks I joked (he knew I was serious though).