Hello, my loves!
Israelis do not like the letter "H" or "hey" (in Hebrew). So the name of this place is pronounced Nariya unless you are a total newcomer... which is why I have been pronouncing it NaHAriya all week.
We took a detour on our way here to a town called Raanana (say it ra-NA-na and leave out any extra A's). It is a pretty town sort of halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
The one thing we learned there is what we already knew - we will not be living there! It is pretty but very expensive. But they do have a Merkaz Klitah there, which is an apartment building where people can live for a few months when they first get to Israel. The apartments are okay, and clean, but rather small. The fun part of living in a merkaz klitah is that you meet people from everywhere - not just English-speaking people, but people from Russia, Argentina, England -- from all over the world -- who have decided to make aliyah. So you get to learn lots of languages, not just Hebrew, and make friends who are also new in the country.
A nice thing there is that everything is nearby, including schools for kids and ulpan for adults, so you don't have to wander around finding everything. The young lady giving us the tour of the merkaz klita said she grew up going to the mamlachti dati elementary school around the corner. There are several different kinds of schools here - religious, not religious, and different kinds of religious private schools. Everybody learns about Jewish things, but in slightly different ways. Mamlachti dati is a religious public school.
After we saw the merkaz klitah and met the ulpan teacher (and a lady who's a new olah from Toronto, who was in the ulpan class!), we got some pizza and coffee (not the best of either one) then caught a long, winding bus ride to the train station in Herzliyah, a city nearby. It's named after Theodore Herzl, who I hope you remember because we read about him.
The train came right on time and was beautiful and clean... But then we had to get off and switch to a dingy older kind of train for the rest of the journey up north where we are now. It is VERY hard to crochet standing up on a moving train!!! (but not impossible)
At this hotel now in NaREEya, we are in the middle of a group of about 35 people from all over North America (we are the only Canadians in the group, but 2 of the organizers, who live here now, are from Toronto). They are putting us in buses and driving us around to see 2 different cities a day and meet a few people in each place.
Today, they just fed us supper and talked to us for a while. When we were done, Abba and I walked down to the seaside and stared out at the Yam HaTichon (Mediterranean Sea). All I could think about was Odysseus and his 20-year journey (I hope you remember!) to get across a small part of the Mediterranean so he could go home to his wife and son in Ithaca. It sounds like a ridiculously long time when you read about it on paper, but at night, those waves do look pretty scary and not entirely implausible.
Anyway. They have some cafes and ice cream shops... But it's really not Yerushalayim here, in many ways.
Tomorrow, they are taking us to Maalot, which is high on my list of Wonderful Places to See and is as far north as we're going to get (10km further than that is Lebanon!), and a place I know nothing about called kfar Vradim (vradim are roses).
That's quite a lot for now.