“Are you Jewish,” asked the rabbi who sits atop Masada copying the Torah.

“Yes,” I confessed, mumbling something about being “a terrible Jew” — not religious, synagogue only for funerals, first trip to Israel, not bar mitzvahed . . . proud of being Jewish, for sure, but —

“You’re not bar mitzvahed?”


He pushed aside the glass that separated him from tourists and smiled.

“So shall we?”

The four minutes that followed, which I have on video, show me confused, amused, beyond clueless, being draped with things and wrapped with things, repeating Hebrew words I didn’t understand, as my Israeli hosts laughed, translated, and encouraged.

Everybody else spends years going to shul learning their portion of the Torah until, at 13 — all suited, tied, and nervous — their Big Day comes.  Somehow I had skipped all that and, totally out of the blue, by chance, by surprise, in sneakers and Levis — via cable car up to the spot where 967 Jews perished 2000 years ago — got it all done in four minutes.

I feel a little guilty about that. And no more religious than before. But it was wonderful.

Gmoke: “A surprise Bar Mitzvah at Masada is certainly better than a surprise bris anywhere.  Have a great time in Israel and remember — two Jews, three arguments.”

I did have a great time.

Now that I’m back, a few random notes, with more in another post soon:

> What’s with all the stray cats?!

> I am not a museum guy, but the ANU Museum kept my interest four hours straight, right up to closing time.  (Speaking of which, it even had a tiny dark theater with “Leonard Cohen in Israel” running on continuous loop.)

> The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, also in Tel Aviv, rocks.  Tech start-ups, agricultural ingenuity, medical breakthroughs, cyber security, virtual reality.  And what a wonderful leader Shimon Peres was . . . witness the soccer ball on display from the program he launched to bring pre-teen Palestinians and Israelis together for soccer (so teammates had to learn to work together) with no referees (so competing teams had to learn to resolve disputes on their own).

> February was a great time to visit: cool but not freezing; sunny and . . . not crowded!

> Don’t miss the amazing drinks at Bellboy Bar.  Mine came in a miniature bathtub served by a waiter with a rubber ducky on his head.  Later, the host came by pushing a baby carriage filled with oyster shells on a bed of ice for serving shots.  I did a magic trick for him (of sorts) and we wound up taking him with us later in the week to meet Uri Geller.

> If you read Noa Tishby’s book (or listen to her read it), you will be surprised to learn who’s funding the BDS movement on American college campuses.  You may even come to agree with her that — with best intentions (which is what makes it so tragic!) — the BDS folks are actually hurting the suffering Palestinians they’re trying so hard to help.


Time For Russian Sanctions With Real Teeth

Amed Khan argues for getting much tougher on the oligarchs.



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