Israel 2017-Day 1

We’ve been planning a first trip to Israel for ten years.  On two previous occasions we’ve had to cancel in the last minute because of family emergencies. Last November,  I received an email inviting me to  present a paper on something having to do with Shakespeare and the Bible at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem during a conference on “The Bible in the Renaissance.”  They would pay our hotel bill.


I’d long ceased to stay current, let alone work in this field, but there was one piece of unfinished business that remained after I completed writing Shakespeare and the Bible in 1998: an investigation of the relationship between the faked resurrection of Hermione staged by Paulina at the end of The Winter’s Tale and the Biblical figure of Paul, who makes belief in the resurrection the defining feature of Christian faith. I’d stayed away even longer from any concerted engagement with my childhood and early adolescent identity as an observant Jew. So this was a call to “return” in two senses.

The invitation came at a particularly auspicious time for both of us.  It coincided with Jan’s surprise loss for reelection to a fourth term as Mayor of San Luis Obispo and with a change in family circumstances that relieved us of the long-time responsibility for raising two of our grandsons, now aged 15 and 10. These changes would allow us to prolong the trip to include an 11 day tour of Israel before the beginning of the conference.

Our preparation involved my slow and hesitant work on the paper,  Jan’s research and discovery of  personal contacts for us in Israel, and some background reading, including My Promised Land by Avi Shavit, Black Box by Amos Oz, and Jerusalem by Guy DeLisle.

The trip from San Luis Obispo to Tel Aviv took 30 hours, mostly on Turkish Airlines, enlivened by conversation with Devin Troy, a famous artist, in the seat next to us, surprisingly good airline food, and enjoyment of Turkish classical and traditional music on the headset.

We switched flights to Tel Aiv at Istanbul airport, a sprawling new  facility located in the largest city in Europe, population of 14.7 million. I had my first encounter with Haredi, the ultra-orthodox Jews identified by black and white suits, big hats, beards, sidecurls and cell phones, who gathered a group of men to pray together conspicuously at the gate before departure.

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