EB congregant Fran Israel just returned from a harrowing, but inspiring trip to Israel. Here's her personal account - enjoy!                                                                     

     We often hear the saying: “ Three Mishaps In a Row And You Are Home Free.”  I was leaving on a long anticipated trip with my daughter, Marilyn and grandson, Adam to visit family in Switzerland, Joe & Becky Benardeti, and then fly to Israel.  We had three panic inducing episodes that seemed to cloud the future of our trip:  First, there was the missing cash from my purse, then the credit card left at a Lausanne restaurant, and finally, when we arrived in Israel a piece of luggage missing?? –stolen??  After a hectic two-hour search with Israeli security, a young Israeli policewoman found the bag—it had been left on the luggage carousel.

     We checked in to the lovely hotel by the sea and breathed a huge sigh of relief, as we firmly believed nothing further could happen to us—we were home free.

    The first week in Tel Aviv -was filled with sightseeing and visiting friends and family.  We visited Old Jaffa with its wonderful shops and ancient cobbled stones.  Adam was always at my side offering his strong arm for assistance.  We visited Dr. Scott and Karin Pollock in Netanya and had Shabbat dinner with my cousin, Daniel Beyar and his family in Kfar Sava.  Dan was a former Attorney General and is now a superior court judge.  Adam was busy nights teaching master dance classes and private dance lessons.  The swing dance community at Dance Tel Aviv had invited him to teach. Therefore, we coordinated our trip

so that he could travel with us. His students included physical therapists, occupational therapists, the director of medical tourism, and Esther B., a flamboyant ballroom dancer who edited medical journals.  Adam is a musical theater actor who dances like a Sephardic Gene Kelley.

      The culmination of that week was a guided all-day tour to Cesarea, the B’hai Temple, Haifa— past the beautiful and mystical landscapes, and the Sea of Galilee, that paved the way to Sefat, the seat of the Kabbalah, where I purchased lovely hand-woven tallit for my grandsons and delicate Havdallah candles.

     The last day in Tel Aviv was Tuesday, October 30, a day I shall never forget.  We had gone to the Carmel Shuk enjoying the splendid array of art, jewelry, food and other delights.  We were on our way back to the hotel to leave for Jerusalem.  Strolling on the sidewalk, I was suddenly hit by a bicycle riding at a furious pace.  The shoulder strap of my purse caught on to the handlebar of his bike and I was lifted up and slammed on to the cement.

     Lying on the cement, in excruciating pain, I heard Adam’s anguished cry:  “You have killed my Grandmother.”  And then, “Call 911.”  Miraculously, the ambulance came even though it was the wrong number.  The rider of the bike was 22 year-old young man who had been in a hurry to get to a meeting.  In spite of the fact that he was contacted twice and informed of the outcome of his carelessness, he never expressed any remorse, nor did he make any effort to apologize.

(A police report was filed; as of this writing I have not heard anything.

     At the hospital, the Sourasky Medical Center, I was wheeled to the emergency room with Adam at my side.  At the front desk, Marilyn who did not speak Hebrew was met with a barrage of questions—all in Hebrew.  This was not the hotel where everyone spoke English; this was a different system, the Israeli Health System, a different world.

    After the tortuous ex-rays, the doctor told me that my shoulder had been dislocated and fractured; my hip was also fractured and needed immediate hip replacement surgery. I was then wheeled into a small screen cubicle where the atmosphere was far from serene:  there was loud talking, noises, babies crying, and the man next to me who had broken his arm was wailing loud and piteously.  Marilyn and Adam were asked to leave but they stubbornly refused.

      I remained in this chaotic place for 11 hours before being admitted to the hospital. The next day, Dr. Pollock tried to find out the time for my surgery but was told we would know only 10 minutes before the operation.  And to my dismay the surgery was postponed even longer because I developed a high fever. They had not been monitoring my temperature and to prevent this from happening the next day and thus delaying surgery again, Adam ran down to the pharmacy to buy a thermometer.

     I awoke from the surgery in a large room blazing with yellow light.  I perceived other beds around me.  I felt a strange pulsating monitor under my arm that arose like a worm under my armpit.  It seemed as if I were in a den of fiends and that I had died.   Suddenly, this gloom was dispelled by a cheerful, matronly woman who introduced herself to me:  “Hello, I am Yehudit, your nurse, I am Jewish, I will take care of you.”  And when she saw tears in my eyes she sang to me with gestures:  “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.”

     There were other quirky characters that cared for me during my stay in the hospital:  There was Igor, the tall blond Russian with the gentle face.  He told me that I was his hero, but I never knew why.  Then there was Emile, a small dark-haired man who always wore orange clogs and looked like a detective in a B-grade movie.  There was also an extraordinary tall poker-faced man whose name we never knew but who moved like Lurch from the Adam’s Family.  They were all very kind people whose services were scarce.  It became clear to me that they were all seriously over-worked and that the main job of attending to my needs was to fall on Marilyn and Adam.   For example asking for pain meds required some dramatic feats: grimacing and groaning—until they said, “Ahh—Ahh, Pyeer- ko- set.

     Adam wheeled me around the hospital wherever I needed to go.  One day someone asked him  “Who are you?”  “I am Security, “ replied Adam.  “And this is a famous film celebrity who I am protecting.”  Other family members pushed their loved ones right in their hospital beds on to the terrace where they could smoke freely.  Sometimes Dr. Gilad would come to draw blood all the time complaining that I left my veins at home.  He finally took blood from an artery with Marilyn assisting.

     After 5 days in the hospital, I was ready for rehab.  The influential dance community, which included the occupational therapist at the PALACE, a private rehab facility, decreed that is where I needed to go.  From my hospital room, several blocks away, I could see a tall cream-colored building with the words PALACE emblazoned at the top.  Before we had time to ponder this decision, a smiling young woman with curly red hair appeared in my hospital room wearing a white fleece pantsuit with the PALACE insignia.  In my hospital gown, with a pillow between my legs, as prescribed for hip surgery, she wheeled me through the busy streets of Tel Aviv, horns honking, and Adam and Scott following behind us.  Marilyn and Karin had stayed behind to quickly gather up my clothes from the hospital room.

     The reception room at the PALACE was like the Four Seasons with gorgeous marble floors and crystal chandeliers.  A lovely woman received me all dressed in white.  I said to her, “If this is the PALACE, you must be the queen.  She nodded and smiled.  She did not understand a word I said.

     By this time Marilyn and Karin had caught up with us.  Marilyn was once again prepared for a lot of questions and forms to fill out and was amazed that there were none.  All that was needed was a credit card.

     Thus, my life at the PALACE began.  I was whisked up to the 11th floor to my beautiful private room complete with marble bath and shower.  In the morning a nurse appeared to take my vitals and then another nurse would appear and say, “Bath”?  I was showered and dressed, my shoulder was still immobilized and in a sling.  Then I was gently pushed into the elaborate dining room all covered with white tablecloths and given a menu—all in Hebrew.  The nurses were all very sweet and attentive but only spoke Hebrew and Russian that seemed like the language of most of the patients there who were from Moscow.  My life became one of signs and gestures and often seemed surreal.  I looked forward to the afternoon to visits from Marilyn and Adam who often ate with me as well as Karin & Scott, Dan & Ahouva, also Talya, my daughter-in-laws niece who had made aliyah several years, was another welcomed guest.

     I was fortunate in that all of the physical therapists at the PALACE spoke English.  They were very kind and inspired hope and confidence that I would fully recover.  On the first day of my therapy they had me climb stairs.  My therapy began each morning when a nurse would escort me to the lower level of the building to a large brightly lit room where physical therapy would take place.  The room led to a terrace and gardens where I often walked with my therapist.

     I spent 11 days at the PALACE and while they were pleasant enough, I longed to leave my gilded cage and go home.  I was excited when we finally heard from our travel insurance company that plans were being made to re-book our flights home.  First it was Tuesday, then Wednesday, and then the rockets began to fall.  At the PALACE, when the sirens went off, we were rushed to the “safe” room, a clatter of wheelchairs and walkers.

On the beach, with temperatures in the 80’s, Adam ran into the ocean for a last swim.  And then the sirens went off again.  He had to turn around and race back grabbing his mother, who had been on the beach admonishing him not to go in, and together race for a shelter.

     Finally our flight home was arranged.  The travel insurance ordered a rescue nurse to fly with us.  We dubbed him the Jewish Indiana Jones.  While all of us were anxious to go home, we were saddened to see the trouble that Israel once again had to endure.  We flew home on November 17th with the rockets still flying.

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     In the beginning of this whole catastrophe there were many frantic calls home to worried family members.  Now Sari, my youngest daughter called to talk:  “Mom, she said, “I know you like to bathe in your beautiful bathtub, but this is not going to work for you now.  Rick and I have contracted to have a walk-in-shower installed in the other bathroom.”  I felt tears move down my cheeks and for the hundredth time I thanked God for the wonderful, loving family He gave me.  At the same time, I was deeply grateful for the doctors, nurses, and physical therapists that helped restore my battered body.

     I also remember, with laughter, the pretty physical therapist that said:  “Come back next year.  Choose which leg you wish to break—and come back!”