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Shlomit

Actually there were two: Shlomit and Luba.

They are the hostesses in the Art Museum Naatz and I tried to go to and was closed. The guidebook sucked. So I'm persistent. Went back yesterday to complete "our" visit. Big red sign: OPEN. Practically the only place that was, it was Saturday. The country is still closed on Saturday.

It happened that for three hours I was the only visitor. The other ten minutes there were three, who left. The three spoke both great English and great Hebrew and told me not to be too afraid of the West Bank and Efrat next week [Kiota's school] because things were a little calmed down around there [" little".] So I'm reassured.

So Shlomit had me all to herself for all that time.

Shlomit is Kiota's height but nothing else about her is the same. She doesn't have big wide eyes but small warm ones. When she wasn't giving me the history of her building and of Haifa, she was asking questions. [Kindred spirit, here.] So I was entranced, of course.

She walked me upstairs, downstairs, the yard, the old German school, what a tour. I even helped her with some English words to express concepts when she needed that, which wasn't much.

Her job in the army was what we would call a forward observer: she was stationed on the border with Jordan with binoculars and telescopes to watch suspicious enemy activity. With tanks and armored cars all around her and the Israeli Air Force waiting to hear what her reports were. She was on leave in the USA two summers ago when the Hezbollah rockets started coming in from Lebanon [courtesy of Russian weaponry materials and experts.] Her parents live here. She freaked. They were okay. She talked about the blown-up train station (yes, it WAS the one Neta got on to go home from here last wee,k and it's the one I'll use tomorrow to go down the coast to Tel-Aviv.) We stood on the balcony and she pointed out two buildings and a road that had been destroyed. Half-a-block away. Neta and I had walked right by those buildings and all the rest of it. And the dirt path where they were widening the highway? Nope, battle damage. Ben-Gurion Avenue is just fine without reconstruction for regular traffic, so they're taking their time fixing it.

They kept one wall of one of the building, rebuilding behind it. It's pockmarked with shell damage from the rocket warhead explosions. I can fit the heel of my hand into some of the holes.

Shlomit says I can rent an apartment in Haifa for 250 or 300 dollars a month, US, and Israel needs all the teachers they can get because "our school system is falling apart." Kiota's mom has essentially said the same thing to me.

Maybe MiaFedUp and I would make a great teaching team here?

Shlomit is originally from Transylvania [part of Romania] and Luba moved here from Moscow, also as a child, 16 years ago. Luba told me "they take you right off the plane" to sign you up for the army. She giggled but I felt that she was not joking. They give you a crash course in Hebrew and lots of military training. Luba's a nurse. And I worked in a med school in Vermont. Small world.

Each one of them say they would go hide if the IDF calls them up again [which the IDF can do until they're 36.] "If they can find me" is what they both said. It's some kind of a Jewish saying?? Luba has a sweet pussycat smile too. She's the total physical opposite of Shlomit: long, lanky, blonde, laid-back, sprawled out on a chair and helping translate my English here + there. In fact, she looks just like Mari. They talked pretty fast to each other in Hebrew and it was all this delightful tinkling.

They insisted on giving me their Email addys and Shlomit says she will send me some photos.

Shlomit is all excited about coming to America to college to study. The nation gives them some money for that since they're veterans [as long as they keep quite about the going-into-hiding part.] So she loves Boston and its colleges and we talked a lot about that also.

Okay, so now it's happened.

I've finally found a place here in Israel that I am very unhappy to leave. And it's not just about Neta, Shlomit, and Luba. They are my guides, of course ...

But, this:

Haifa is a Seaport and it's the place where thousands of Jews first immigrated to what was essentially wreckage and abandoned British territory, in 1947. They made a country starting here, block by block, kilometer by kilometer. Field of Dreams. If You Build It, They Will Come.

Kiota's school was all about her dreams, too. And she moaned and groaned and shoveled shit in the animal petting fields, and she bitched and wrote poems and cried bitterly and cut and burned her arms and thighs ---- BUT she also made it happen. Studied her butt off to achieve scores high enough to get into college in America. It was tremendously exciting.

This city of Haifa is about dreams and the future. Kiota was not only about death. She was about dreams and the future too. At least during some days and weeks of the short life she shared with us. And most of those four days F2F with me.

A perfect tapestry, a perfect thread. Like Pachelbel.

I talked about Kiota's living breath in my heart and what makes a difference in my life now.

And it's here.

And it's tremendously exciting.

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