First stop: Sefer V'Sefel (Book and Mug), my favorite used bookstore. It's located off Jaffa Road in an alleyway and up the stairs, which adds to its charm. It's full of all kinds of English language books: new, used, fiction and non-fiction. The best part is looking through all the volumes and finding treasures. This visit I picked up a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, a book I wanted to read (but not buy at full price), and a bunch of recent magazines.
Although "mug" is in the name of the store, sadly there are no mugs of beverages, so...
Next stop: Coney Island Bakery on Jaffa Road for some coffee and pastries. Yet another reminder of America, the storefront looks a little like a subway:
From there, it's a quick ride on the light rail to Yad Vashem.
"Children from the Holocaust" is currently in the Exhibition Hall. Through video testimonial, artifacts, and recent artwork inspired by the stories of Holocaust survivors, their experiences evoke a mix of feelings - sadness for their suffering and for those that did not survive, happiness for their brief moments of happiness, and awe for both the creativity and the strength of spirit. A case of dolls and stuffed animals that survived the war was particularly touching, as the stories of the owners accompanied each toy.
As Yogi Berra said "It was like deja vu all over again" in the main hall and the art gallery:
In One Jew's Power, One Jew's Glory: The Life of Rav Yitzchak Shumuel Eliyahu Finkler the Rebbe of Radoschitz in the Ghetto and Concentration Camps (Feldheim,1991), Yechiel Granatstein recounts a story about Reb Yitzchak'l that took place in the Skarszysko Labor Camp: the Rebbe was able to obtain, at the expense of the inmates' secret valuables, a ram's horn, out of which another inmate, Moshe Waintreter, at the risk of his life, formed a shofar. "The Rebbe was beaming with joy that they were able to keep the mitzvah of blowing the shofar." Remembering these passages, I was taken aback when I saw the actual shofar on display:
Then it was back home. With shorter days and the blessing of rain here in Israel, it's a perfect time to catch up on my reading.
On the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, I am enjoying Killing a King by Dan Ephron. It is fascinating to see how much has changed in 20 years, and how events are put in perspective with the passage of time.
I finished Heather Streltzer Gelb's From Hilltop to Hilltop: My Path from Rwanda to Israel. While the details of her time with the Peace Corps made for interesting reading, her path meandered through Rwanda for about 90 percent of the book and the next 20 years of her life were wrapped up pretty quickly. For this reader, a map of Rwanda would have been very helpful.
My book club read Lovingkindness by Anne Roiphe, which I had reviewed for Fig Tree Books. Although it was published in 1987, the group found the mother-daughter relationship and the Israel experience fertile topics for discussion.
A Whole Lot of Wholeness
I recently received two books for review with "Wholeness" in the title: Increasing Wholeness by Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz and Everyday Wholeness by D.B. Estrin. Thinking "wholeness" may have replaced "mindfulness" as the new buzzword, I did a quick scan of Amazon: 3,535 books. In the Jewish category, there are 125, but Like Dreamers by Yossi Klein Halevi is included, and that one doesn't quite fit. It's definitely trending, but it means different things to different people.
D.B.Estrin's book is subtitled "Self-Coaching for the Jewish Family." The author, a life coach with an Orthodox perspective, looks at many aspects of life and offers some tips for managing the household cheerfully and efficiently, developing healthy habits (eating and exercise), organizing the home, and enhancing prayer.
Rabbi Spitz is the rabbi of a conservative congregation in California, has authored several other books, and focuses on spirituality. The subtitle of his book is "Jewish Wisdom and Guided Meditations to Strengthen and Calm Body, Heart, Mind and Spirit." His goal is "to surprise you with ancient wisdom and imaginative insights that move you toward greater inner ease and effectiveness" -- a wholeness that means "a fuller sense of awareness of your inner life and greater integration and strengthening of the physical, emotional, intellectual and intuitive dimensions of self."
While I ponder what I will need to do to achieve wholeness (am I currently at half-ness?!), I will leave you with some Real Cats of Jerusalem. Happy Reading!