Last year over Sukkot, if you recall (or even if you don't...) we drove two hours each way for an eighteen hour vacation at the beach in Achziv. This year we thought we'd top that by driving twelve hours to spend forty in Eilat.
On Friday of chol hamoed Sukkot, we drove down to Elazar, where we spent Shabbat with our friends the Richters. I am not sure exactly how we packed two tents, six sleeping bags, clothes for Shabbat and 3 days of camping, and food all into our seven-seater car that is the length of a corolla (literally), but we did!
Shabbat with the Richters was awesome as usual. It was a brilliant idea both because it is on the way so it broke up the drive, and because the kids are always excited to go there, so it took their minds off the fact that we were dragging them to Eilat entirely against their will. The boys just wanted to return to Achziv (the place they insisted they didn't want to go to last year...). Tali was adamant that she hates Eilat (which she has never been to, so I think maybe she was reincarnated, and had been a colorful fish in a previous life...).
Sunday morning, our two families went together to Ein Bokek-- a water hike that follows a stream up a mountain, walking through small pools and waterfalls. The kids tried to kvetch about that too, but as soon as we started the hike, walking the whole time straight through the stream, shaded by trees that looked like they were planted and shaped there just for us, there was really nothing for anyone not to like. Everyone raved about it afterwards.
From Ein Bokek, we parted ways with the Richters (the parents didn't want to join us in Eilat. The kids begged us to take them with us, as our own kids begged us to leave them behind. I was tempted to offer to swap, but i knew there would be a lesson in there somewhere....
So we drove down to Eilat, where we found the Field School and pitched our tents. The campsite was perfect. We went out for a very mediocre dinner (not everything can be fabulous...), and we went back to the capsite exhausted and ready for sleep.
The next morning was our day to "do Eilat." The day after that we were scheduled to be at a barbecue with friends in Jerusalem, which would mean packing up our stuff and heading out by noon (presuming that no one would have to pee on the way).
We loved the Israeli breakfast, with the exciting omelets to order, and the latte machine that can make fluffy hot chocolate.
The three really Eilat-y things we felt we needed to do were snorkeling (hands down the most important), swimming with the dolphins, and hiking up a mountain from which you can see four countries (none of which are Canada). The kids weren't really interested in the dolphins, so we let that one go. They weren't really into the snorkeling either, but that was just too bad. Come to think of it, they really didn't want to do the hike either.
Well, anyway, we did the hike first. There were complaints of the heat (how come we can't just do hikes that are through streams and pools?!) and of the difficulty (not hard enough for Abaye and too hard for the rest), but that all changed about halfway up, when it because challenging enough for Abaye, and the others realized how proud they were of themselves. When they realized there was a watchtower with soldiers at the top, everyone got all excited about offering them drinks. The top was amazing, and Rivital couldn't stop taking pictures of everything-- the mountain, the view, Eilat, the boys. (She has since posted all 200+ pix on her Facebook page). On the way down, the boys ran ahead, laughing and playing, as Tali stayed behind to help Adin, walking with him hand-in-hand. I felt like we were in a movie about a family who loves going on vacation together.
After the hike, we went back to camp to decompress, and then headed for the snorkeling. Tali said she wasn't interested, but Ross said he would rent her the equipment in case she changed her mind. Adin and I stayed back in the shallow water, and Ross took the boys one at a time to snorkel around the coral reef. It was unbelievable. All the kids were blown away (except Adin, who couldn't be bother to look at the beautiful, multi-colored fish that were literally swimming around his ankles, but he was still having a lot of fun...). Tali decided to give it a try, and guess what-- She LOOOOVED it. She was apparently particularly skilled with using the equipment. She and Ross overshot a turn, and ended up going on a much longer swim than intended. When they returned, she just wanted to go back again. Afterwards, she couldn't stop talking about how much she loves snorkeling. She spent the rest of the trip planning next year, when we have to come back to Eilat.
After snorkeling, we were really beat. We discovered a kosher pizza place in town. There was no sukkah at the restaurant, but there was one on the corner that had been put up by Chabad. By day it served as a place for chabad guys to invite strangers to come shake a lulav and etrog. By night it was deserted. It had absolutely no furniture. But there was a big welcome sign on the outside, and it was totally empty, so we sat on the floor and enjoyed our pizza. Afterwards, we bought s'more fixings and went back to make a campfire. Shmuel was asleep before we got the fire started, and Adin and I were asleep by the time it went out, but the other guys headed down to the boardwalk late at night, window shopping and watching a huge ball containing people fly way up to the sky and back down, over and over again, everyone challenging the others to go on the ride.
The next morning, I got our stuff together and packed before breakfast time, in hopes of maximizing our last morning. Two of the kids were really excited to check out the wax "museum" that we passed the previous night, housed inside the Imax. As it turns out, the only thing about the exhibit that made it feel like an actual museum was the price. I would have called it the "Wax Lobby." Still, the kids loved it. It had many of their favorite musicians, movie stars, disney characters, and a whole section of Greek mythology that made the trip retroactively worthwhile for Shai.
We finished the entire "museum," including going back to the car for the camera and taking every conceivable picture possible, in 45 minutes, and it seemed like we had enough time for one more site. Friends had told us about a place called "The Kings City," something about a ride through scenes of Biblical stories with a water slide at the end. I thought we should check it out.
After getting lost a few times, we arrived at The Kings City, to realize that it was much more than we realistically had time for. Fortunately, we are not realistic, so we went in anyway. We said we would go in and take advantage of as much as we could in the short time we had (already calculating that we would be late to the BBQ, but that that was OK). When I gave the woman my credit card to pay, she said, "Wait! With this card you have a two for one sale! But you can't purchase the tickets here. You have to call them." So I went off to the corner of the lobby that had the least amount of insanely loud noise, and I proceeded to follow a series of complicated Hebrew instructions that, as it turns out, ten minutes later succeeded in procuring us one free ticket. I got back in line to complete our transaction. When it was our turn again, the woman explained, "This is only good for one ticket. If only you had another credit card like this..." I asked if Ross's would count, and she said of course, so I went off to my "quiet" corner and repeated the process. When I came back with our significantly discounted tickets and our negative forty five minutes with which to see the place, the woman pointed out that in addition to everything else, every kid received three free amusement rides. Yippee. The BBQ was not looking good.
When we entered finally entered the Kings City, it looked amazing! Everyone wanted to do everything. When you are working with negative time, it suddenly seems like you have so much of it. It's like eating when your full-- you don't know when to stop. So we began in the time elevator, that took us down into what was meant to feel like the bowels of the earth, to walk around and watch little mechanical scenes of Bible stories, interspersed with live animals such as snakes, gerbils and tarantulas. To be honest, this was totally something my kids could have hated. In fact, the Richter kids had not enjoyed the place. But everybody was captivated. No one would leave a station until they heard the whole scene play out from beginning to end.
When we exited the time elevator, we saw the true brilliance of the museum designers. Upon entrance to the museum, there are four exhibits to enter. Each one takes you on a totally different course. But magically, just like the mail room in Bugs Bunny, every one of the exits deposits you into the food court and souvernir shop!! After the first exhibit, when it would have been a wise time to head home, we saw the restaurant and everyone was suddenly starving. At this point we realized it was time to call our barbecuing friends and tell them we would not be joining them. Their response was, "Yeah-- we had no idea how you thought you'd make it here...."
After lunch we split up, since the ride with the water slide was not appropriate for Adin. Adin, Shai and I went to the room of Illusions, which was AWESOME! It was like one of those science museums with lots of amazing hands on exhibits. But in the interest of time, I will just share the coolest part. After their ride, the other guys joined us and we headed for the exit. We followed the signs, and found ourselves in a maze of mirrors, where to get out, you had to figure out the way. Once you got through the mirrors, there was a similar maze, but with bars that made it look that you were always trapped. At one point, no matter which direction you turned there were bars, so you were really trapped, until you realized that on just one side, the bars were made of rubber so you could walk through them. This went on for awhile, followed by a hall of terrifying screams, and a narrow suspension bridge surrounded by a tunnel with rotating walls. It was unbelievable. The craziest part was that there was no indication that this part of the museum existed-- at least none we had seen, from the outside. We were just following the exit signs. When we finally made it out of all the labyrinths, guess where we ended up-- in a bigger gift shop! From there we headed straight out to the amusement park rides that are just before the parking lot (Do not pass go; do not spend $200 in the gift shop...). The rides are really for smaller kids, but after a whirl or two on the pitsky roller coaster, everyone had a great time taking turns accompanying Adin.
I think that ends the exciting part of our trip. From there we went back to the Richters where we slept. Fun, but not exciting. The next morning we stopped in Jerusalem for some American food shopping (Life cereal, Philly cream cheese, etc-- totally forgetting how packed our car was). We managed to fit all the food by strapping Abaye in the very back seat, and packing all the food around him. I don't think that boy had ever been safer.
We made it back to kibbutz with two hours to spare (and prepare for Sinchat Torah and for company coming, if you count Morey and Alissa as company. They felt more like family, helping us through our raw challah crisis and all...). Tali made challah dough which we figured we would bake on the holiday (because you're allowed to do that!!). The rest of the food I was able to throw together before running off to shul. In the middle of shul, Tali came to inform me that somehow our oven hadn't been turned on (or it had, but someone had hit the Shabbat switch by accident...). We tried baking the challah in a pan on the stove, but it was just getting burnt on the bottom. Then I had a sudden inspiration, and we fried the rest of them. They were SO DELICIOUS!!!!!
I feel like that's enough for now. Now we see the perils of my not writing more often-- I could go on forever. But I think we covered a lot, class. Next time we'll pick up where we left off. Or in some totally different place....
Hope you all had great holidays, and that you enjoy getting back to normal life.