KG Movie Review: Most Magnificent Marigold Afula Hotel

I’m not sure if you know this, but I absolutely LOVE to watch TV. When Ellin goes out (and has the audacity to leave me alone in the apartment), she either leaves the radio or TV on so I won’t feel alone. I do appreciate the effort. Once she left me with “Dog TV” (they had a promotion) and I must tell you that it was so boring. Whose stupid idea was that, anyway? Do they really  think that watching a bunch of squirrels or cats racing around on a TV screen (even a flatscreen) can compare to the marvels of being out in nature where you can smell them, see them really scoot around, and not be interrupted with a commercial for some over-priced dog food? They must thing that all dogs are really stupid. Or maybe they think that their humans are stupid. That actually makes more sense to me.

Anyway, today Ellin decided to make the most of her Saturday (her only day off) and do a huge amount of cooking and cleaning. She is getting a little tired of coming home after work and making herself some scrambled eggs. So today she decided to clean out all the veggies in the fridge. The result was Ellin doing what she loves best—cooking without any rules, time constraints, or expectations. Just having fun and being creative in her new kitchen. Before she began to cook, she placed everything on the counters, grated about 6 big carrots, cleaned and try a huge bunch of Italian parsley, cut up whatever wasn’t wilted to go into salads, and put the rest aside to make a vegetable stew. Who she thought was coming over to eat all this, I don’t know. Sure as heck isn’t for me. She has me so tightly regimented to my “sensitive stomach” kibble that I can only drool over the smells that came wafting in from the kitchen. Anyway, the end result was a barley salad with mid-eastern spices, carrot salad, cucumber salad, mashed cauliflower (instead of mashed potatoes) and some big bunch of stewed veggies that she’ll probably eat for the rest of the week.

The point of this entire tale is that while Ellin was busy playing a vegetarian Julia Child, I was sitting on the couch watching this incredible movie—The Most Magnificent Marigold Afula Hotel. I sure wish that Ellin would have stopped cooking long enough to watch this. She probably could have related to some of what the story was about. Basically, it’s a bunch of these old guys who decide that their world needed a little shaking up, so they sell everything, get on a plane, and move to a country where they don’t even speak the language or really understand the culture. It’s hot, the food is spicy, the buildings are old, things don’t always work, and there is so much noise coming from the crowds of people all the time. Yup! They actually made a movie about people with grey hair moving to Afula! Can you believe it???  I did find some things a little confusing, though. Like, what is ProfessorMcgonagall doing in Afula, and why is she sitting in a wheelchair? Can’t she just use her wand? She must really be getting old and forgetful. And I could have sworn that James Bond’s mother was in the movie as well. But you know, it’s often hard to tell one human apart from another. (They really do all look alike!).

Anyway, I was thinking about the movie. There was this great line in it, something like “everything will be OK in the end and if it’s not OK, it’s not the end.” I’m going to have to figure out how to tell  Ellin about this. Sometime she still gets so worried about her kids back in America or what her future will be like in Israel. She’s really happy here, but I know that sometimes she thinks too much!!!!!  The other day I heard her tell someone back in America that she does worry about making ends meet, although it’s not like it was back where everyone speaks English on the streets and all the dogs are more well-behaved, less agressive and fixed and neutered. I hear her talking to herself and she does know that being here is the best thing that has happened to her. She’s got a fabulous job. She loves her boss, the staff she works with, and she adores the kids at the Center. Sometimes I get a little jealous about how much she cares for them, but then, I’m the one she goes back home with every night, so I feel OK about that. But I know she worries about our kids (Max and Zoe, that is), and about something she calls moolah. Must be some word in Hebrew that I’ve never heard before. But it’s something that I don’t have and I seem to be making it OK. I wish she’d just lighten up sometime! But still,  there are  so many loose ends to tie up, and she just gets really frustrated when she can’t make things happen on her timetable. That’s when that dreaded spiky brush comes out of the drawer. She usually sighs, tells me that my hair is all tangled, that I’ve got too many brambles in it from the local fields, and that she has to brush me! When she gets really nervous, she brushes me about 20,000 times a day. I look like some freaking French Poodle ready for the Westminster Dog Show! Is she kidding? Sometimes I luck out and she just cooks, or cleans. Usually both. When she does get extremely preoccupied, she cleans, cooks, and brushes my hair. Today she did all that, replanted something out on the porch in her “garden” and then ironed!!!!! Sheesh! are you kidding me? I wish she’d use all that extra energy and study her Hebrew! Maybe she’d be less frustrated if she could speak a little more fluently. But far be it for me to tell her that. Actually, far be it for me to be ABLE to tell her that. I’m pretty good with my expressive eyebrows (I can even raise them independently!), my body-penetrating stares when I really have to go pee, my nose butts to her side when I know she’s had a hard day, and the way I creep up the bed at night and make sure that I’m scooped up next to her, just to make sure she’s safe. But more than that is really out of my control. I wish I was one of those dogs who could dial 911 or press the TV remote or something like that. But my talents lie elsewhere and we can only do what we can do.

Miriam, Pax, and Shoval were lucky to get some hand-knitted dolls from this nice lady from England! These happen to be some of my favorite girls at the Center (actually, I think they're ALL my favorites!).

Miriam, Paz, and Shoval were lucky to get some hand-knitted dolls from this nice lady from England! These happen to be some of my favorite girls at the Center (actually, I think they’re ALL my favorites!).

Speaking of kids and worrying about making sure they’re all OK, aren’t these girls the cutest? These are a few of the younger girls and Ellin loves to go in and see them after they  get back from school and have had their lunch. The one on the left, Miriam, is also called Mascha. She has a small sister named Dascha. And a brother named Pascha. They are very cute kids and are always running to give her hugs (not Pascha. He’s a boy and it’s just not cool). Paz is great too! She’s one really bright girl. And I’ve heard Ellin say that Shoval would be a fabulous new president of the Women’s Club or Sisterhood  at some synagogue. She’s always right in there, helping to set up and clean up. Really a doll. And now they’ve got their own hand-made dolls. Some of the supporters of  the children at Emunah really go out of their way to bring special things to the kids. A lot of thought. Who knows? Maybe one day someone will come with some yummy treats for the Center’s  very important Ambassadog!!!

Oh oh . . . .the vacuum cleaner is coming out! I’d better hightail it (get it? I’m a dog and I’m “high tailing” it? Yuck yuck!) before she decides to vacuum me! She’s already done 2 loads of laundry (the sun dries the clothes in about 1/2 an hour), folded them, put them away, cooked enough for everyone on Gilboa Street, and I  think she’s running out of things to clean!!!! Someone please get this woman a nice man-friend or let her win the lottery!!!!!

Yours truly, KG, the cleanest dog in Afula, signing off!!

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Yom Ha Shoah, 2013

It’s just different.

I’m used the ceremonies that are 1) later on in the spring in the US, and 2) more synagogue and community-based. Therefore, last night’s ceremony at Kibbutz Mizra was stunned me in many, many ways.

To begin with, Mizra is an old kibbutz (established in 1923) that is extremely secular. Its industry is a meat-processing plant. And one of the meats processed is pork. Mizra also has a very lovely farmer’s market every Friday and Saturday afternoon. But before you privately turn up your nose about such a place, let me tell you that this Yom Ha Shoah was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had.

The ceremony took place in the hadar ochel (dining hall). There was a small stage set up, seats for about 100 people, and a long scroll that listed the family and individual names of those who were associated with the kibbutz, and who had lost family members.

The ceremony was simple. Two people took turns reciting the names of the families and the individuals who were listed on the scroll. When the names were called, someone from that family (ranging in age from those proudly exhibiting their first steps to elderly, walking with canes) approached, slowly,  and lit a candle. No documentary photographs. No movies. No visuals other than the scroll. Songs  were sung, but beautifully accompanied by guitar. No big chorus, no violins, no organ or synthesizer. Just a guitar. The music wasn’t what I was  usually accustomed to—schtetl-influenced songs, Itzhak Perlman plaintive violins. It was simply Israeli folk music. Gentle. Simple. Direct. A lullaby.

And the reading of the names was different in so many ways. What first struck me was that the names themselves seemed different. They weren’t the anglicized, shortened, cultural-neutral names that we often hear in the US. They were the original deeply Czech, German, Polish names. Long names accompanied by beautiful, old-world first names. Yankeleh. Faigeh. Schmuel. Channeleh. And they were spoken in such a cadence, in such a lilting, gentle tone that one would have thought one was hearing the recitation of a love poem rather than a recitation of those who suffered and whose lives and potentials were viciously wasted as victims of the Holocaust.

The ceremony ended with everyone standing and singing Hatikvah. Again, this was different. Not to make light of anything, but this was the first time I was among a room full of people who sang Israel’s national hymn and properly pronounced each word . . . and knew what it meant. But I must tell you that even the singing of the anthem was done in a reverential, subdued, respectful manner. It was accompanied by the mellifluous and dulcet tones of folk guitar that picked out the melody of this beloved song, seemingly etched into the heart of each kibbutznick who stood there. Each person sang in a volume barely above that used in a conversation, well below the elevated pitch and din of the usual Israeli conversation. Whispers. Prayers. Connections. Private, yet intimately communal.

Driving home afterward, I realized that everything was closed down. It was almost as if Yom Kippur had made a return appearance. Definitely not like the feeling of a quiet Shabbat. But an unusual, anachronistic quiet for a weekday evening. Televisions showed only documentaries, dramatizations, and informational programming about the  Shoah. Other stations were completely shut down, their place-holders showing six candles burning with a subtitle indicating  that the programming would resume after Yom Ha Shoah. I must admit that an image of the Yule log that burns at Christmastime back in the States did come to mind. I was hard-pressed not to compare how two occasions used flames as a visual reference to a particular day. The thought made me wince.

Today? Today things are open. But even in Aroma, Israel’s answer to Starbucks, the TV that constantly blares out music videos or appetizing shots of busy Aroma bakers lovingly preparing the goodies you are about to eat, showed six burning candles. Commerce does not trump the Shoah in Israel.

And what about here at the Emunah Center? Today was an opportunity to take small groups of our children into a room, transformed by the shereut leumi girls into an educational, commemorative center for Holocaust education. They had covered all the windows with black cloth and used it as a backdrop for photographs, yellow stars, and the Hebrew word, zachor (remember). Small groups of children came in, sat down, and watched a very appropriate 10-minute video explaining the connection of Israel to the Holocaust. Tea-light candles were arranged in a Mogen David and the children took turns lighting them. There was no doubt that every child there knew what was happening that day. They know what the Shoah is.


At 10:00 am today, a siren wailed. Everything and everyone stopped. Each person that was sitting stood. Each who was in the midst of a conversation stopped. Phone calls were shut off. Radios off. Cars stopped. One minute. Silence. Total silence. The only sounds were the chirping of the birds, and the mewing or barking of neighborhood cats and dogs. It was profound.

Next week we participate in yet another ballet. Yom Ha Zikaron will morph into Yom Ha Atzma’ut at 8:00 pm. More sirens. More silence. More reflection. Followed by joy.

Yes, I knew it was going to be different here than back in Fairfield. I just couldn’t picture or imagine it, no matter how many times it was described to me.Image