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This was both the first and middle parts of my travels this past weekend, and I will write the post as such (so to get the other parts of the middle and the end of the weekend, go read those respective posts).

The Pitilon Household at our arrival
After meeting north of the Student Village slightly late (as Théo correctly pointed out, it stands to reason that as the sole American on our expedition, I was the only one on time and waiting for the Israelis and Europeans… 😀 ), we got on the bus and went towards the Central Bus Station. Once there, we immersed ourselves in another Israeli pastime, that of waiting in a queue which had lost all semblance of any line and instead had become a mass of people all trying to push past one another as if we couldn’t see them trying to push their way past us. We eventually got into the station, and played that same fun game again at the bus itself (because Greyhound-style buses which travel longer distances in Israel operate as though they are municipal buses; you only buy the ticket once you’re physically onto the bus), although this time we lost and had to wait for the next one. It finally arrived and we piled on, intent on getting seats; in Israel, they sell “seats” to people willing to make the journey sitting in the aisle, which given my stature, wouldn’t have gone so well, nor would it have been particularly enjoyable. On the bus, Théo and I had another installment of our ever-continuing conversation of comparative politics, this time referring to our respective opinions of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

We arrived slightly later than intended, and climbed into Eti’s father’s van, as well as her brother Itzik in his car for the trip to their house. Traveling there, we got our first look at the city of Haifa at night, and it was similar in many ways to being at home in the US, albeit with a few more Israeli warships in the naval harbor there. At the Pitilon household, we got initiated into the habit of the rest of the weekend: 1) we would enter a house and be joyously greeted by everyone there; 2) we would barely have a split second to put our possessions in a heap on the ground; and 3) we would then be beckoned to a/the kitchen table and ordered to “eat, EAT!!” This trip’s inaugural meal consisted of omelets with vegetables, bread of several varieties, and a plethora of cheeses… all delicious, as we were hungry from the trip and preceding events of the day. Still residing in our false sense of safety, we ate a bit more than our fill, frivolously figuring that “they can’t possibly feed us this much good food at the next meal, can they?”

We were wrong. Utterly, totally incorrect. As other posts will highlight, I ate enough this past weekend as to prevent me from eating anything else for (at the absolute minimum) a month (although 9/10 American doctors suggest leaving 3-5 months of no caloric intake and heavy manual labor between consumption of Israeli Jewish meals, for the sake of safety and good health). Like, to be entirely honest, I can not stay silent on this issue any longer. Any and all claims about Americans eating the biggest meals in the world are actually slightly imprecise. We eat some of the biggest meals in the world, yes; my experiences this past weekend highlight the fact that Israelis eat bigger meals, especially when *gasp* two special events coincide for one monstrous Meal of Doom, such as a combined Shabbat dinner/Adi’s birthday dinner (see the “Bethlehem 2” post for more of why I say this). Don’t get me wrong, it was all so absolutely delicious; its just that the human body can only consume so much before health issues start to occur 😉

In any event , we spent a part of that evening enjoying the beaches that are all of 2 minutes away from the Pitilon home, and regarding the lit night skyline of Haifa across the bay (pictured below).

Pitilon Household 2: Soccer before Departure
Eti, Théo, and I arrived back at Eti’s house a bit earlier than Adi and Justine, as we needed to drop off the car and wait for the earlier bus back to Jerusalem (departed around 7:30pm or so). Once there, Théo and I immersed ourselves in the soccer experience that is nearly universal… except for at home in the US, which is quite a shame. We watched with Mr. Pitilon, and we watched the game on his pride and joy: what he accidentally proclaimed to Eti as “our family’s new LSD,” we in fact watched the game on a beautiful brand-new LCD screen (rather than any sort of hallucinogen 🙂 ). After a great game, and snacking on some more of Mrs. Pitilon’s delicious cookies (because, as we were in a Jewish Israeli household, it would be a crime of the worst sort for us to not eat something; plus it was so good, how could we not?).

Mr. Pitilon drove us to the bus station, and we got onto the 7:30 bus as planned for a fairly quick ride back to Jerusalem. Although this post isn’t the last one from this trip, allow me to reiterate here the following: this past weekend was the best weekend I have yet had while in Israel, and I consider myself very blessed to have had the opportunity. Hopefully, I can try and come close with future weekends, but I cannot hope to expect such a great time to come so easily in the future.

In less friendly and happy news, it turns out that life here can sometimes be very, very close to tragedy without anyone knowing it. This is nothing new, as violence has occurred here consistently for many years, but what is new is that I was so close to a possible issue. The last photograph posted in this gallery is a screenshot of a news article about a very real potential disaster. In the city of Haifa, where I spent a good part of my weekend, there is a large shopping mall which is frequented by a bunch of people at all hours. As a matter of fact, this was the mall that Eti was planning on showing me around so I could try and find some shorts here that wouldn’t be the awful too-short European style that many other stores have seemed to have. This was the mall we drove by several times on our adventures in and around Haifa. This, as it turns out, is the mall where later Saturday evening (around 8:30 pm) a huge car-bomb malfunctioned and only partially detonated, thus allowing police to quickly arrive and safely diffuse the weapon. Thank God, we were already on the 997 bus back to Jerusalem around 7:50 or so, but nevertheless, this was a life-threatening situation that we were right near for most of the weekend. I am not one to dwell on the idea that death could come at any time for any person, nor am I the type to curtail my intended travels and exploring based on the possibility of something going wrong, but I assure you; this news story was close enough to home to give me pause.

That said, this past weekend was by far the best series of experiences I have yet had in Israel, bar none. I was graciously invited to Eti’s and Adi’s households for the Seders at the beginning of Pesach (Passover), so I look forward to the chance to go back to the north, and hopefully even hit up Nazareth, Galilee, Tiberias, the ruins of Capernum….. 😀

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