Reflecting on 2015

To reflect: My definition

January: Philippe and I spent two nights in Haifa, a mixed Arab-Jewish city in the north, where he worked as a chemical engineer for the Israeli Electric Corporation, his first job after college; where I completed a Masters in International Relations at University of Haifa and then worked in the Public Affairs department of the Technion University; where we closed ourselves in our sealed room with gas masks on our faces during the First Gulf War; where Benjamin was born, and, on his fourth day of life, we watched former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat shake hands in Washington DC on TV. Where, twenty-four years later, on a Friday morning, we meandered downtown, passing Al Istiqlal Mosque just as their prayer had ended and hundreds of men and women, mostly dressed in hijabs and jilbabs, flooded the streets; where we waited in line in the pulsing sun for a walking tour of the hanging Bahai Gardens on Saturday; where I spoke Hebrew with every store keeper, and, unlike in the center of the country, no one answered me in English; where Druze, Bahai, Arab Christians, Arab Muslims and Israeli Jews live side by side, and the country seems peaceful.

March: I accompanied Daniella to Tel Hashomer for an open base day when all incoming recruits who are frustrated with the process  are invited to state their case, open their file, and fight. Best description: controlled chaos. Best outcome: five months later, after several rounds of tests and interviews, Daniella ended up in her dream unit, Army Spokesperson Office.

April: I took Daniella to Istanbul for her eighteenth birthday. Highlight: a morning at Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam, a bath house near the Istanbul Modern Art Museum in the Beyoğlu district, where we luxuriated in being scrubbed, people watching, talking, not talking, sipping tea, lounging and celebrating—high school graduation, army recruitment, and womanhood.

May: Philippe, the girls and I devoured fresh pita with plates of hummus and French fries at Tunami, a Yemenite hummusia, in honor of International Hummus Day, another one of Benjamin’s creations. Stay tuned for an interview on NPR at a future date.

June: I went with friends to Jerusalem’s Festival of Lights, where artists use light to create statues, installations, performances and artwork in the Old City. Thousands of people followed one of four different lit paths, some walking through the Arab market, or around the edge of the Muslim quarter, others around the periphery of the Armenian quarter, down into the Jewish quarter’s Cardo. My friend and I strolled arm in arm, marveling at the creator’s ingenuity and awesome sense of security. Since that visit, the city’s magic has been challenged as, once again, innocent people—young, old, Jewish, Arab, Palestinian—are being stabbed outside the Central Bus Station, in residential neighborhoods, and downtown.

July: Simone left for a one-month volunteer job at a wildlife reserve in South Africa where she bathed and fed Somango and Vervet monkeys and cleaned their cages, visited Kruger National Park and spotted giraffes, elephants and antelopes, and became a very independent sixteen year old.

August: Philippe and I threw ourselves a joint fiftieth birthday, pool party surrounded by old friends and new. Two weeks later, we flew to Santorini for six spellbinding days. Top five experiences: riding behind my husband on an ATV, crisscrossing the island from north to south, east to west; spending my birthday on a catamaran, jumping into the Aegean Sea; learning how to stand up on a paddle board; trekking down then up hundreds of steps to the old port in Fira, passing donkeys and their droppings along the way; hiking from one city to another, ending at Oia, where we held hands, took pictures and watched the sun set over the horizon. Take-away: we still act (and look) twenty-five.

September: Simone entered eleventh grade, and I started my third semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts.  She cannot wait for school to end, while I want to stay a student forever. I began volunteering at Bayit Shel Benji one Saturday afternoon a month. The house, built and named in honor of Benji Hillman, the son of a British family who moved to Israel in 1983, was killed in action during the Second Lebanon War on July 20, 2006. It houses forty-eight combat soldiers from all over the world who are, by some definition, alone. Everything is volunteer driven: some take the soldiers’ dirty clothes and wash them every Friday, returning baskets with clean, folded laundry on Saturday; some prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner; some tidy up rooms; some, like me,  sit at the reception, answer the phone and door, make sure the soldiers sign in and out, check in visitors and read. Most befitting adjective: inspiring.

October: The political climate intensified. Raanana made world headlines with three stabbings in one day. Our twenty-year-old niece got married in Jerusalem, reminding us that life goes on and is and can be beautiful.

November: I took Daniella army shopping for undershirts, socks, a watch and personal care products. Six days later, we—Philippe, his parents, one of Daniella’s close friends, and I—accompanied her to Tel Hashomer, the army recruitment center, for her send-off. Daniella woke up nervous that she hadn’t packed properly but excited to begin this next stage. I kept telling myself it was like sending her to overnight camp. I try to remember that this country depends on these eighteen-, nineteen- and twenty-year-old boys and girls to defend its citizens, that to live here, my children have to step up and serve in the same way their peers do. But what goes on in my head and what I feel in my heart don’t always match up. Then, I cry. Daniella getting on the bus

December: I accompanied Philippe to see Jerry Seinfeld, along with another 4,998 people, in Tel Aviv. My biggest fear: I wouldn’t laugh after experiencing a sense-of-humor crisis in college. I never watched Seinfeld. My greatest achievement: I roared. A lot. At his skit on words, on women, on men, on marriage. I entered the amphitheater worried, wondering if the security would be heightened amidst the increasing tension, and left lighter, smiling, open hearted.

May 2016 bring us all a greater sense of peace.


Santorini renewing vows

Leave a Comment

20 Responses to “Reflecting on 2015”

  1. Annette Barletta December 28, 2015 at 6:01 pm #

    Jennifer, it is lovely to hear from you! So glad you and your family are safe and sound “over there”. Love the photos, especially the one in Santorini. And you are right, you both look half your age(s). It must be the good life you lead and the good in your hearts. Happy New Year from Armonk, NY!!

    • Jennifer Lang January 1, 2016 at 4:56 pm #

      Love to you in Armonk. I wish you all a lot of yoga and inspiring moments in the new year.

  2. Leslie Ward December 28, 2015 at 9:50 pm #

    Lovely reflection on the year, on your worlds both public and intimate. Can’t wait to begin our fourth semester together! xo

    • Jennifer Lang January 1, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

      Thank you, friend. Hugs. Real ones.

  3. Patty Holmes December 28, 2015 at 10:03 pm #

    Hi Jennifer.
    I truly enjoyed sharing your year’s highlights. And so glad to hear you are doing well.
    Much live to you and yours !
    PS still seeing Michael B… Thanks again for your referral

    • Jennifer Lang January 1, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

      Thanks, Patty. Love and health and peace to you and your family too. Have a quiet year.

  4. Mina Bernhard December 28, 2015 at 11:09 pm #

    Jennifer, I cannot believe that the couple in the photo have reached the exalted age of 50!
    It seems to me that each generation of newly minted 50yr olds look younger than the last. It’s also apparent that your passion for exploring and getting the most out of each day hasn’t diminished. Maybe living in Israel has heightened those traits.

    Your writing always makes me reflect on the many things we Americans take for granted, especially where it concerns our children and in my case,our four grandsons.We would do well to have a national service (without the stress you experience) so that our young people
    would have the chance to contribute something larger than their very own futures.

    I hope we will get lucky and see you in 2016….meantime, I wish you and your family a safe,
    and healthy new year filled with more adventures and joy.


    • Jennifer Lang January 1, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

      Thank you for your perspective, Mina. It is one to ponder. Send our love to all your clan. And feel good.

  5. Sheila Black December 29, 2015 at 3:28 am #

    What an eventful 2015 you Langs have had! Look forward to rereading about another year of your adventures and travel and lovely stories about your beautiful family. Happy New Year to you all.
    Much love,

    • Jennifer Lang January 1, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

      Sheila, I love that you are there, reading, on the other end, out yonder. May you and Michael and your growing family share many adventures in the upcoming year.

  6. Clare Ellis December 29, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

    Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing your thoughts with us. What an interesting year it has been! Best wishes for this brand new year of adventure.

    • Jennifer Lang January 1, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

      Thanks, Clare. A wonderful, bright year to you and yours. Enjoy your adventures!

  7. Amy Klein December 29, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    What a wonderful year of adventures you have had! Glad you are finding the Seinfeld moments along with everything else. Wishing you all much health, safety, and prosperity in 2016.

    • Jennifer Lang January 1, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

      My Seinfeld experience was eye-opening. I hope to find more of those moments indeed. Be well. Stay safe.

  8. Maris Krasnow December 30, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    As always, thanks for your honest, moving, and inspirational reflections. You and your family have found deeply meaningful and passionate connections to many things, in Israel and the rest of the world. You are all role models for us. Wishing you all peace, good health, safety and togetherness in the coming year. L,Maris

    • Jennifer Lang January 1, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

      Thank you, Maris. A happy, peaceful and healthy year to you all.

  9. Barbara Liss January 2, 2016 at 2:31 am #

    Great to hear from you, Jennifer, and so nice to keep up with your family. Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy New Year.

  10. Kate January 22, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    Hi there, I’m new to your blog. We are moving to Tel Aviv in March and so I am finding your posts very interesting! Thanks for sharing your stories.

    • Jennifer Lang January 27, 2016 at 6:28 am #

      Kate, I am so glad you find the blog interesting. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the move. Good luck!

  11. Celeste Pierson March 6, 2016 at 11:03 am #

    Hi Jennifer, I just read your blog and want to introduce myself. My name is Celeste Pierson and I’m an art teacher in Istanbul, Turkey. I’m moving to Tel Aviv in July to teach at The Walworth Barbour American International School. Thanks for your insightful and honest ruminations about living in Israel. Any information I can gather will help with the transition to a new culture! I also have a daughter named Simone! Can you recommend any on line hebrew lessons? Thank you!

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