A trip of a lifetime: A father and his daughters in Israel

June 8, 2018

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Everyone has a hero. For me, it’s my dad, S. Beryl Adler. From extraordinary tomato gardener to dedicated flounder fisherman to champion gelato eater to ODU founding father (Monarch Magazine winter 2016), the man has always held my heart. So, when we had lunch together in March and talked about summer plans, there was no hesitation on my part as my dad reflected, “You know, I never made it to Israel. Your mother and I have been a lot of places, but never Israel. I guess I’ll never get there.”

“I’ll go with you,” I replied.

Six weeks later, my 89-year-old dad, my sisters, Dana Rosen and Anne Abraham, and I landed in Tel Aviv for a father-daughter adventure.

We visited just after the 70th anniversary celebration, so patriotism was especially high, with banners flying everywhere—along Independence Trail in Tel Aviv, at the old train station in Jerusalem, and places in between. People were jubilant, as were we.

It was somewhat ironic that I was the only one who had been to Israel. I went for the first time in 2007 on a Federation mission—sobbing—concerned I’d never see my college-bound son again (a true, but pathetic, story).

This trip, my third, was glorious. The four of us were filled with excitement over what we’d see and experience together— me, the seasoned Israeli (knowing how to count to four in Hebrew), and my sisters and father, in the promised land together. My mother was thrilled for my dad and his girls.

We covered a lot of ground in our nine days: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Caesarea, Masada, and the Dead Sea. Nico, our Romanian Jewish tour guide and archaeologist, provided historical details of old Jaffa and put up with our shenanigans in Caesarea (a tug of war between his “there is a lot more to see” and our “we want to collect a few more seashells”). He lovingly called my dad Saba, shared hidden gems with us, and pointed out ruins as we walked.

My father (an attorney and former judge) had a keen interest in visiting the Knesset—we toured the chamber, admired the amazing Chagall tapestries, and took heed of the “don’t eat at the cafeteria” warning. When we visited the Haganah museum, Dad shared his vivid memories of the formation of Israel as well as his Zionist summer camp experience when he and his cousin, Mort were 16. He recounted his mother’s impression from her visit 45+ years ago.

He’d finally made it to Israel.

We thought it would be cool to be a Foodie: we took a Carmel Market food tour (tasting as we went); we visited the Marzipan bakery in Jerusalem (eating warm rugulah from the oven); we mastered the hotel breakfast buffet each morning. We ate shakshuka, shawarma, falafel, halvah, Israeli salads, Nutella, babka (“chocolate crunch”), and hummus. We tried burekas, Armenian cheese, and malabi; we ate popsicles on Rothschild Blvd. We did not leave hungry—sababa and mitzyun food was abundant!

There was a short period of torrential rain during our visit and the country mourned the loss of 10 hikers swept away in a flash flood. We went to Independence Hall, floated in the Dead Sea, took the cable car up to Masada, visited Hebrew University, and walked the amazing ruins of Caesarea. We went to the Kotel, took the tunnel tour, explored the underground passages of the City of David, and attended a Tchaikovsky concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. We toured Yad Vashem, walked Mahane Yehuda and Ben Yehuda Street, and visited our cousin who’d made Aliyah 30 years ago (a t-shirt wearing attorney in a large law firm). We used our Gett apps and our 019 Sim cards. We bought dishes, mezuzot, spices, Maccabean coins, baked goods, and dried fruit. We lugged our purchases and our photo-laden iPhones home with us, grinning from ear to ear.

When we returned home, we posed for a family photo: my mom, dad, and sisters and I all wearing our new Masada hats. It is my favorite Adler family photo, following a trip of a lifetime and one I will never forget—the perfect response to “I guess I’ll never get there.”

- Stephanie Adler Calliott

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