Valentine’s Day

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Rotem listening as we discuss what to eat

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve been writing about those things that interest me, or interest others, within the framework of the give and take in the blog world. I never really tried to present a diary or a log of my own day to day adventures. Nor did I try to meet any of the ‘challenges’ that circulate here in blogland. But there is something about the immediacy of the internet that does fascinate me. And on occasion, when I was away from home, with a portable computer in my back pack, equipped with a cellular modem and able to connect to the net from almost any corner of the world, I did want to share some feeling or experience immediately. A few months ago, I was in the north. Late at night, I took a somewhat abstract picture, after a very full and emotional day, and thought I’d upload it, and accompany it with a poem written on the spot, in order to enjoy that experience of sharing the ‘here and now’ with my readers. For some reason, that very evening, I had a problem uploading the picture, and so abandoned the attempt, and haven’t tried since.

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the waitress said she wasn’t photogenic

But last night, as I was dining with a few very dear friends, at a restaurant, in honor of Valentine’s day… which is probably a day I have never celebrated before… I had some thoughts about the subject, as a red balloon sporting a cartoon heart, sashayed above our heads, tied to a bottle on the table… it occurred to me that it would be fun to share the experience with you, my readers.

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checking out the menu, Rivka

We belonged to three different generations, and came from all parts of Israel to meet here in Jerusalem. One of the youngsters was in the army, and had just arrived from the battle front, taken a shower, and joined us for a good time. We have very different interests and live different lives. And in fact, none of us are really motivated by St. Valentine’s day, but it was a good excuse to have a good time, and get together. And the decorations in the restaurant of our choice set the scene for a celebration. We chose to make the most of the positive vibes. There was music in the background, almost drowned out by the conversations at our table and around us. But all the same, at one point, I made the effort and was able to identify the almost subliminal presentation of a song… the Beatles singing, ‘I want to hold your hand’. It was an Asian restaurant, but kosher… and so I don’t really know how similar the food was to what we might eat in the far east. But it was tasty and exotic for us, and we drank sparkling wine with the food and had a very good time. Smoking was forbidden, and so I would go out to the balcony between courses, and have a cigarette near the strategically placed ashtray, standing in the cold, and watching the traffic out on the street, and the city lights, full of spirit, and reflecting the constant stream of activity around us.

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Shira

Sitting around the table, I thought of my mother’s comment about ‘mothers’ day’. She had said, “If it’s not everyday… if it’s just one day a year… I don’t want it”. And I thought of the nature of a day, dedicated to romantic love. It seemed to me, that even if it was rare… even if it was only once a year… it was better than none at all, just so long as it was real and it worked. And then, I thought of romantic love, and how often it gets lost in the day to day grind, and the buckets of banalities that we have to deal with, sometimes face to face with those we’ve chosen as partners in living this life. As we drank the intoxicating beverages, I was talking to the young man across the table from me, and he mentioned drunkenness. I shared with him the thought that getting drunk is missing the experience. That I had found that the greatest appreciation of intoxication is to get pleasantly high, so as to be more sensitive to the music, the sights, the company of those around you, and to maintain that sense of appreciation for hours without letting it diminish or overcome you and then cause you to lose control of your actions.

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my date for the evening

And as I thought of that, I was looking for a key to understanding how to maintain romantic love without seeing it turn into disregard, or resentment, or any of the other negative phenomena that are so often seen in relationships that have grown old. As I contemplated the subject, I realized that the key to continued love is to remember that we are all different as people, and that very often we are attracted to people who are essentially different from us. And that the more we are aware of that, and don’t try to force our loved ones to act and think as we do, and don’t think of them as ‘belonging’ to us, but marvel at our capacity to bridge the gaps and truly appreciate them for what they are, the more we can marvel at the connection we have with them. I believe that when the French say, ‘long live the difference’, they are referring to the difference between the sexes, but I would like to adopt their toast, and direct my appreciation to the differences between human beings in general. So here’s to the differences, and to everlasting love.

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Giddi and the wine in a bucket of ice

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65 responses to “Valentine’s Day

  1. Lovely. I too raise my glass and toast the wonderful differences and everlasting love!xxxxx P.s…..lucky you, your date looks smashin!

  2. I love your mother’s take on things. You have left me much to think about in this post. Thank you.

    • Yes, Jacqueline, my dear mother lived to be 101 years old, and I kept learning from her till a week before she died. And now that she’s no longer with us, I often think of her opinions on a whole lot of things.

      • Shimon I was very touched with your reply. Often I feel that older people can bring such value into our lives yet much of society doesn’t value what they have to say. Of course they have so much to give. You have certainly been blessed my friend to have your mum with you until she was 101.

        • If you look at what society values these days, it’s usually centered on self. Money is the great indicator. We see how much money society devotes to culture and education. And the family is rapidly losing its importance at this stage, in the western world. Those of us who are interested in maintaining community ties, who love, animals, and who love to learn and enjoy the riches of culture, have to take a different path… not to go with the crowd. But fortunately, Jacqueline, we do have a lot of freedom, so there are a lot of possibilities open to us. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

  3. It looks like your Valentine’s Day led you to good friends, food, thoughts, and photographs Shimon. Everyone around your table looks like they have interesting “differences” to share! Thank you for this!

    • It’s funny, Catherine. I almost didn’t take a camera. I thought, what do I need a camera for when getting together like that, with friends in a restaurant… and then I remembered that every time I go off without a camera, I regret it afterwards. So I took a little one that fits in my pocket. And later I was glad of it. Glad you liked the post.

  4. What a wonderful evening…thank you, Shimon.

  5. Great portraits. Sounds like a wonderful time.

  6. It sounds a much better Valentine’s Day celebration than many who are trying to be ‘romantic’! I applaud your sentiments, Shimon. And also, another way of keeping alive longterm love, is not to take each other for granted, but to appreciate the little things that are done, day by day.

    • Oh, I was romantic, Gillyk. I am by nature romantic. But I agree with you completely, ‘trying to be’ causes a lot of frustration, whether we’re trying to fall asleep or trying to be enthusiastic. That is one of the important tricks in life… to really go all the way with a mood or an emotion. And I agree too, with what you say about not taking for granted. That takes all the fun out of life.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your evening with us Shimon. Pleasantly high sounds perfect. We really should celebrate our differences so ‘Cheers’, I like your toast very much. 🙂

    • It’s my pleasure to share with friends, Chillbrook. There are so many things in this world that are just delightful in their proper measure… and dangerous or destructive when we’re over exposed. Take business meetings and loud music for instance… I toast to your health and happiness, my friend.

  8. Shimon, it sounds like you really had an intoxicating evening.

    A lot of ladies like to say they’re not photogenic, but they like being photographed :-). They know they are attractive. However the image (yellow) on the waitress’ top was like a man with a grumpy face.

    I suppose most restaurants in Israel would naturally serve Kosher food, or it is a wrong assumption of me?

    • There are places in Israel, Janet, where you can enjoy a non-kosher meal. But in Jerusalem, I think most of the city is kosher, so that includes asian food too. I used to go to a Thai restaurant that I really loved, and the people working there were all Thai. But they spoke Yiddish, which is a Jewish language that few foreigners ever know. It was very amusing for me. As for the subject of ‘photogenic’, a person can look beautiful and not be photogenic. I used to get called by our local paper, to take photos of non photogenic people. I’ll have to write about that one of these days. Thank you for your comment.

  9. First, I could see from the bottle top in the first picture that you were in a S.E Asian restaurant – that’s my assumption, because here, we usually use soy sauce with that type of food. The design of the bottle top is recognisable and ubiquitous.

    It was once mentioned to me that I could use my phone as a modem if I thought of owning an ipad. I did not ask for an explanation, or instructions, from the representative, since, while I was curious, I was not intending to buy one.

    Your mother’s incisiveness of thought was admirable. I guess though, having celebratory days, is all about extra focus and special remembrances. I think I would like to have that. I like the way you used the event and all got together to enjoy being in one another’s company.

    • Yes, you’re right, menhir, about the restaurant and about the soy sauce, which I like very much. I’ve heard that about using the phone as a modem. In my case, I actually bought a cellular modem, which works just like a regular modem, and you have to pay for the service. But I like it as a back up, and I use it when I’m out of town, and out of reach of wifi. It works quite well. And I agree with you about the focus on special things at holidays or special days. I never like to pass up a holiday. I figure, if there’s a reason to celebrate, I don’t want to be apathetic. Thanks for the comment.

  10. It’s always so enjoyable to read your writing and see your images Shimon. You have a very easy way of telling your story as you dip in and out of the depths.

  11. I agree with Chillbrook….we need to celebrate our differences!! Sounds like an enjoyable evening.

  12. A glass of wine and a good meal with friends. A nice evening anytime. A celebration of love and friendship. I enjoyed it too. Thank you for the sharing.

    • Wish you could have joined us, George… I think it was just the sort of evening you would have enjoyed… except for the fact we were talking Hebrew… But that’s one of the nice things about a blog… we can transcend some of the barriers. Thank you for your comment.

  13. Not enough of us have the ability to put a moment on “pause,” and then appreciate all its quirks and subtleties.

    • Yes Rich, it makes life so much sweeter when we appreciate each moment… each hour. Sometimes, it’s easy to get sidetracked. But the here and now can give us great depth. Thanks for the comment.

      • i saw something on the news about a restaurant called “the old man and the sea” in a town called “jaffa.” is that anywhere you are aware of? i think it’s near tel aviv.

        • I don’t know the specific restaurant, but there are quite a few very good restaurants in Jaffa, right by the sea… some good fish restaurants too, and I used to visit there fairly often when I was in that area. You can watch the waves from the windows of the restaurants, and smell the fish and the salt in the sea. It is very beautiful. Thank you for reminding me… maybe I’ll put some pictures from there on the blog…

          • thanks. and you’re welcome. the reason that restaurant was on the news was because of the salads they deliver to your table immediately when they seat you instead of waiting ten minutes for the server to make it to your table.

            • It could be that the reporter was not that familiar with the customs of the Mediterranean kitchen. We have a number of such restaurants here in Jerusalem too, where the opening salads are both very tasty and served immediately, when the customer is ready to start eating. I always liked them, but now that I’ve grown old, sometimes the opening salads are enough to satisfy me…

  14. Good morning Shimon, and yes, here’s to the differences and to everlasting love:)
    What a beautiful post accompanied by superb images….x

    • How good it is to find you here, my dear Janet. So glad you liked the pics. I had a bit of a problem with the lighting… but something came through. And as for enjoying differences, I know we agree on that.

  15. Now wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all thought the same!

  16. It would only happen that I have a very different bent on this blog. Both my parents are alcoholics. Well, Mom died in 98 but Dad is still alive and kicking at 99 and is allowed 1 beer a day by my step-mother. And then, I find out sometime in the last 10 yrs, that my drama/english teacher oldest sister is a closet alcoholic (at 73). Only logical that I would consider your entry from a different angle. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been drunk and I certainly didn’t enjoy it. I would never have thought to drink so as to appreciate the music more. Marijuana did that nicely for me, but it’s so crazy illegal that I don’t dare get near it here in Va. I do enjoy a good Margarita but only one or two. I stop when my nose starts to tickle. Strange sensation.
    So, yes, it would be boring if we all thought the same.

    • I can well understand, Bob, that having experiences like that would make one very cautious around alcohol. But on the other hand, I don’t have to tell you, a physician, that some people have an allergic reaction even to wheat, which is the very symbol of food for the western world. Of course, it is important for us to know what we can absorb and what we can’t… but even more important is knowing the proper amount of those things we’re attracted to. As for me, I smoke and drink, and have still other vices as well. So I was assured that I’d die young. But it looks like I’m running out of time for that. Always good to talk to you my friend, whether we agree or disagree.

  17. Long time no see … but always in my heart, Shimon … feel so much gladness when I read your blog … your pics are beautiful … thank you … Love, cat.

    • Hope you had a very sweet Valentine’s day, my dear cat. And I know that cats come when they want to, and go off for adventures when it seems right. You are always welcome, and you’ll never hear any complaints from me.

  18. Beautiful, vivid post, Shimon – how can that waitress think she’s not photogenic?

    • Hi there, Richard. Actually, this business of being photogenic has nothing to do with individual beauty. I’ll have to discuss that in a post soon. It’s a very interesting problem, that I studied quite a bit in my work. Thanks for the comment.

  19. Love the post! There is much truth in it. Thankyou for sharing 😀

  20. Ah, those differences that make us interesting, and those similarities that make us appreciate the interest! There are so many kinds of love, and I’m delighted that you brought so much of that to vivid light in this post, dear Shimon. Thank you for the thoughtful and heart-warming sharing–in this post and always!

    • Thank you very much for your sweet comment, Kathryn. Yes, love too, can come in many different incarnations. But it seems to me that there is something universal about it. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

  21. I was so surprised to hear that Valentine’s day is being celebrated in Israel!
    Nice to see pictures of three generations celebrating together and yet in principal I so agree with your mother’s opinion that we don’t need to institute a special day to celebrate love, or to honor our mother ( as in Mother’s Day). At the same time each and every holiday is a marker and a pause so as not to take any thing for granted.
    A beautiful post.

    • Actually, Valentine’s day is not celebrated much in Israel. And those who do mark the holiday, are usually motivated by commercial interests. We do have our own holiday to celebrate romantic love. But I agree with you, that every holiday can help us focus on some precious aspect of life. Thanks for your comment, Rachel.

  22. Kathryn Braithwaite

    Shimon,I feel happy when I see all of you together enjoying a celebration.I especially like Shira’s photograph.I was surprised you have St Valentine’s Day,but why not?I feel the more of these days the better.
    All the faces are beautiful and you must feel joy with them near you.

    • Thank you, Kathryn. As I said before, Valentine’s day is not usually celebrated in Israel. And it’s just motivated by commercial interests. But any excuse for a holiday can help us focus on some precious aspect of life.

  23. This was such a rich and lovely post Shimon. I’ve loved it several times already. 🙂

  24. You are right about appreciating the differences in our loved ones and other people. The world would be a boring place if everyone were the same.

    • Well, that’s a thought… I don’t run into ‘boring’ much. But in any case, the close we get to know people, the more differences we do see. Thank you for your comment, yearstricken.

  25. Rich and thought provoking words..I always feel that my comments don’t do justice to them – but I do so love reading here..

    • Your comments are always welcome, Cath. It is good to get feedback, and to know who finds value in these posts.. I understand that it isn’t always easy to comment, and sometimes we feel we have nothing to add. But there is a value in comments all the same. Even if just to say hi. The other day, I commented on a friends post, that I was commenting, just to be able to follow the post, and see what others have to say about it.

  26. I like faces so I enjoyed these photos

  27. keep on story telling like this! wonderful little portrait gallery!

  28. Dear Shimon,

    I enjoyed hearing all about your Valentine’s Day celebration, your friends, your mother. I don’t actually think of Valentine’s Day as a celebration of romantic love, so much as one of love and friendship. My mother-in-law, and our children were all our valentines and we would celebrate with chocolate and Chinese take-out on the good china. As you say, we love having a reason to celebrate. Glad your day was a happy one.

    • Yes, it was a happy day, though it’s kind of unusual in our country, and the first time I celebrated this holiday. I’m all for romantic love, and believe it deserves celebration… so long as it isn’t forced. Thank you very much for your comment, Naomi.

  29. Hello Shimon,

    I hope you see this message. I did not find any other way to make contact on this site.

    First, I miss you, I think many others do. I was glad to see your prose today, Wednesday 6th August 2014, it provided a much wanted connection. It reflects the pain, the past pain and the continuing pain all humans feel whatever place they are in.

    Stay safe and shalom.
    Menhir xx

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