Jerusalemite YISCA SHIMONY reminisces the good old days, a
good five decades ago, when life was not as structured as it
is today. Simple times, simple pleasures.
One thing that we can learn, even today when the conditions
are vastly different, is not to take any chances with
travelling on Friday.
Vacation arrived and we, the Shimony children, were thrilled.
Now we could do things we hadn't been able to do during the
school year. We slept late in the morning, kept late hours in
the evenings, and hiked and climbed the steep mountains
surrounding Yerusholyaim. Though we enjoyed ourselves, we
kept waiting for the visit to our grandmother's farm up
north. But that visit had to be postponed until after Tisha
B'Av. The days of sorrow came and went, and we were still
The week after Tisha B'Av was hectic, cleaning house
thoroughly, washing soiled clothing, starching, ironing and
folding all the wash (with typical Israeli meticulousness).
With all the chores involved, we were kept busy. Finally, we
children felt ready to leave, and we were still waiting...
A week had passed and we still hadn't had a hint from Ima.
Why was she postponing the trip? we asked. She smiled
secretly. Then came Friday. As usual, Ima rose at dawn and
started preparing for Shabbos. She cleaned the chicken,
soaked and salted it; while it was lying on its wooden board,
she ground up the fish, spiced it and put it up to cook. She
boiled up some eggs, made a huge potato kugel and even put up
tzimmes. The tiny kitchen was filled with wonderful aromas.
When Abba came home from shul, he was confronted directly:
"Let's go today!"
He was taken aback. "Today? But it's Friday! How can we risk
going on Friday?" It seemed he was overruled, or, rather a
compromise had been reached, because while he was eating his
breakfast, Ima came to us in the inside room and announced,
"If you are all ready within the half hour, we will be going
today, with G-d's help, to Grandma's farm."
Ima still had a little convincing to do. "Look, Abba, the
food is all cooked except for the chicken, which we can throw
into a pot as soon as we arrive." Ima's enthusiasm soon
tipped the scale and we girls rushed through our
davening, eating and packing. At ten o'clock that
morning, we were at Jaffa St., at the [original] central
station behind the Freiman & Bein shoe store.
In those days, bus schedules were non-existent, and our bus
to Haifa took a long while to fill up. The driver refused to
budge before it was full, and so it was closer to twelve by
the time we actually started rolling along towards Haifa, a
four hour trip. While we would not have to travel that far,
but change over at Hadera to get to Binyamina, who knew how
long it would take to fill up the bus there?
Ima was optimistic; Abba didn't dare voice the alternate
possibilities of not getting there on time. It was already
too late to back out...
The bus was old and the climb up and down the old road
leading from Jerusalem northward was awfully slow and
tedious. Each of us held a plastic bag with her personal
belongings and we chatted about plans and reminisced about
the woods, vineyards, the large park where Baron Rothschild
was buried, the many farmyard animals...
"What do you want to do most?" I asked Tehilla.
"Go off to the woods to read." She was a bookworm. "And you?"
"I want to visit the park. I want to visit Zichron Yaakov and
walk to the top of the mountain where you can see the sun
setting in the sea and washing the entire region in red." I
could visualize this beautiful sight right then.
"And you, Chavi?"
"Oh, many things. But mostly, I'd like to join the grape
harvest. I want to sit among the ripe grapes, smell their
heady aroma and know that it was I who picked them."
Tehilla looked grave. "I'm not sure I want to do anything
except sit under the pine trees. I'm scared silly of snakes
and other crawling, poisonous insects."
We talked and dreamed out loud as the bus crawled slowly
along. Ima tried to relax, which was difficult with Abba
sitting erect and nervous. He pulled out a small Tehillim and
started reciting in an undertone. We looked outside the dirty
windows and saw that we were traveling far too slowly. Would
we make it for Shabbos?
We reached Hadera at three and boruch Hashem, there
were still buses going towards Binyamina. Now Ima had her
mind on the fish and chicken which had been traveling along
without any ice. Would they be edible? Abba was still
resentful at having agreed to this risky idea. We ate our
lunch sandwiches in the bus and waited for it to get moving.
It was past four o'clock when we finally left Hadera. This
bus was also old and dilapidated and the driver not
especially adept at maneuvering it along the narrow road and
steep incline. We held our breaths. Ima had joined Abba in
We reached Grandma's farm an hour before Shabbos. Bobba Feiga
was surprised and delighted to see us. Ima cut short the
kissing and rushed off to the kitchen to reboil the fish and
cook the chicken. "Yisca, put the rest of the things in the
ice box." We had made it.
Our vacation was pleasant and slow paced. Grandma got us a
donkey to ride, small, grayish and cute. I followed him all
over the yard and he seemed to enjoy it. I was continually
brushing him clean, but he would roll to the ground and get
dirty all over again.
We helped with the milking and the egg gathering. We watched
wide-eyed as Grandma and our aunts went about their chores,
never tiring. Chava was allowed to help in the grape
Aunt Minna lived not far, and her three daughters kept us
The three weeks of vacation sped by pleasantly, contentedly,
and we breathed in all the fresh air and feasted our eyes on
the greenery before returning home to Jerusalem and Elul. And
school and Yomim Noroim...