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Earlier this week, Eti and I departed for her home near Haifa, while Théo made the wise decision to stay in Jerusalem for the extra half-day to fully finish one of his papers for the semester. Nevertheless, Eti (which is short for Esther, as people may be interested to know) and I got on the bus at the Central Bus station and settled in for the long ride. We talked about all sorts of different topics, and it can be objectively measured as having been interesting; her usual method of dealing with bus rides, sleeping the whole way, didn’t kick in until something like an hour and half into the ride.

Arriving at the station, we were greeted by her parents and her dog Liri, although a certain dog had gotten a haircut to match her 50% poodle ancestry. We first made a stop at an Israeli mall in order for Eti to find some new shirts to wear for Pesach, while Mr. Pitilon and I shared stories of difficulties with ordering food in foreign countries when you don’t really speak the language of that country so well. We then drove to their home, and right away the offers of excellent food loomed over my head (but its OK; life could be worse, right? 😉 ). We spent the evening relaxing and enjoying the fact that we didn’t actually HAVE to do any work and could merely enjoy our lives.

The next morning, we woke up somewhat late and waited for Théo to arrive by really stressing ourselves out… we relaxed. When he finally did arrive, we were able to all sit down and… relax, watching some of the hilarious videos by Remi Gaillard (a famous French impostor, as the linked video demonstrates well; he is amongst my favorite comedians). As should be apparent, this past week isn’t going to make my Top 10 Most Difficult Weeks in My Life.

In any event, at a certain point in the evening we needed to get the house and ourselves ready for the extended Pitilon family which was coming for Pesach dinner. We set up a few tables and moved couches around, and then went to change as soon as some of the guests arrived. We introduced ourselves to everyone who came in, and offered whatever assistance we could, all in preparation for a meal of unprecedented proportions. Eventually, several multilingual copies of the Haggadah (story of Passover in the Jewish tradition) were brought out, as were all-black kippas for Théo and I to wear as guests. At that point, many of the family members present had to inquire again in Hebrew if I was actually Jewish or not; apparently, I am told, I looked very, very American Jewish with my choice of suit and the black kippa on top (decide for yourselves, as the photographs are attached).

We sat down and began reading through the story of the Haggadah (the family, at least; Théo and I merely followed along in our respective languages). We ate a bit of the bitter herbs with the lemon juice, which wasn’t quite as bad as everyone made it out to be. We also partook of some of the most delicious stuff I have yet eaten in Israel; I don’t know the name of it, but I do know that it is made primarily of nuts and dates, and is to be eaten in pieces of plain lettuce. I am also sorry to report that it is only made once per year, for Pesach; this sentiment of sadness at the infrequent ability to consume this delicious material was echoed by many of the people at the table near me.

After reading additional portions of the story, we began to eat some of the hard-boiled eggs that had sat on the table for the whole evening up until that point. Then, while some people were still working to shell their eggs and consume them, other people arose from their seats as if by invisible cue that only they could see and proceeded to clear some plates, remove some types of food, and then bring additional flatware and containers of all sorts of food.

I cannot begin to properly describe just how much food there was, nor what everything is properly called (don’t know the Hebrew, and in some cases I never found out what it was in English). As a short, introductory list:

Red wine; spicy fish; ‘gefilta’ fish; chicken stuffed with vegetables and rice, cooked slowly for hours; cabbage prepared 3 different ways; several styles and types of potato salads; extremely tender beef brisket; a meat-based soup with ‘kanedella’ [a sort of dumpling that I helped make half of]; beets; other vegetables; and then a strawberry cake for desert. All of these delicious things came in large quantities, and due to the apparently-choreographed dance which removed some foods and plates before I had even started a given course/plate, I probably did end up missing some of the available options available to me (but I certainly didn’t want for food).

After the main course, we watched the second half of the European Cup match between Barcelona and Bayard-Munchen, which was devastating for Munich, but an amazing game to watch on Mr. Pitilon’s pride and joy television set (one of the attached photographs highlights this). We enjoyed some tea, and then drove Eti’s lovely grandmother (who although she has Alzheimer’s, it is in the early stages and so she is still able to participate in much of the Pesach festivities) and aunt to their nearby home. We eventually got to sleep, and I assure you that we slept well (I was woken up by Eti’s downstairs neighbors at around 9:30, but Théo and Eti each slept until something like 12:30 pm).

The next morning, I woke up and was fed something special; as Mrs. Pitilon assured me, I was now “a true, strong Jewish boy” because I had consumed the apparently ultra-Orthodox mixture of matza cooked with eggs and then drizzled with honey. All I know is that it was very, very tasty, and I didn’t feel any immediate spiritual side-effects. That said, it was wonderful of them to invite me into their home again, and to participate in a very family-centered religious gathering as an outsider. The story continues with the next post about the barbecue at their house, and the activities that happened thereafter.

It is important to note that while the first 6 photographs were taken by me, the rest of the photographs were taken by Eti Pitilon, and are posted here with her permission.

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