As June came to a close, we were honored by another family visit; my brother and his family came for a two week vacation here. Because my brother has two kids, it was too many people to stay with us, so they rented an apartment instead. It worked out that they were in a place on our street so they were only a five minute walk away. It was so nice having them so close!
My brother and sister-in-law planned an amazing trip for the kids, who are ages 6 and 9. While they didn’t do a lot of historic and overly Jewish things, they did a lot of Israel things, which fostered a deeper connection to Israel for the kids. Each day they had an amazing array of activities that kept the kids busy and engaged. They arrived on a Thursday early in the morning, which is not an easy flight given the time change. They took it easy the first day; I was able to join them for lunch, and then Adam and I went over to visit them when Adam got home from work. It was so nice to be able to hug everyone!
Because Adam had to work while my family was here, and there are always errands to be done on my end, we didn’t go everywhere with them, but we did have the opportunity to visit a few places together. In addition, we spent both Shabbats that they were here together. Both Friday nights, we were at their apartment for dinner. My brother and sister-in-law wanted to go to the Kotel for services so I remained at the apartment with the kids. When they got back we had a nice meal together; just relaxing and talking. On both Saturdays, they accompanied us to the synagogue that we go to and then came back to our apartment for lunch. After lunch and a short rest, we met them to play in the park near our place the first Shabbat (we played ping-pong with the kids!) and in Bell Park after a walk along the rail-trail the second Shabbat. It was nice to have so much quality time with them. Adam and I are fortunate that my entire family gets together once almost every month (sometimes more) but when we do, there are about 15 people, which makes it hard to really talk to any one person for a long period of time. We have spent a number of Shabbat’s with my brother and his family in Jersey where they live, but the time always goes by so quickly since we always have to leave early on Sunday to get back to prepare for the work week. Having them so close allowed us to really have time to connect.
The first activity that we did all together was a trip to the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind in Beit Oved, which is close to Rehovot. Adam and I rented a car to get there, since the car my brother rented couldn’t accommodate all 6 of us. The car we got was a tiny, baby blue Fiat. The drive was smooth, and we arrived in time for our tour, which was lead by a volunteer. She was a very nice woman who is dedicated to the mission of the center. When we arrived, the kids were excited to play with the cat that was roaming around inside the facility. They almost didn’t want to leave the cat, which was ironic since we had come to the center to see dogs. Oh well! The cat is a member of the center’s family; its job is to help the dogs get used to cats since they are a common occurrence in Israel.
The tour began with a short video about the center and how the dogs are trained to be guides for the blind. I won’t go into all the details because I think everyone who lives here and who visits here should go to the center and take the tour. All I will say is that the video showed how special the center is and how what they are doing there is an amazing asset to Israel. It is the only place in Israel that trains guide dogs, and it was a dream by one man who struggled to make it a reality. We actually got to meet him as we were walking around the facility! It is so amazing to meet someone so dedicated to a cause that helps so many people! The video highlighted the benefit of having guide dogs trained in Israel rather than abroad which was where they came from prior to the center’s opening. After the video, we had a chance to experience what it was like to be blind with a guide dog. They have an obstacle course set up outside and a contraption that simulates the dog. You walk through the obstacle course with a blindfold on to get a sense of what it is like to have a dog guiding you. This obstacle course is actually used early on in the dogs’ training.
After the obstacle course, we went to visit the dogs. There were a number in their individual pens; there are always two per pen since they are very social. After flirting with a few of them, we were allowed into the big play area where there were about 15 or so dogs just running around. They were curious about us so before we knew it we were surrounded. They were so cute! It was really fun to interact with them. Once we were done with the big dogs, we were taken to the puppy house. They had a tiny play area here too, but the puppies currently in the house were too young to play outside. In fact, we weren’t able to pet them because they were only 3 weeks old and hadn’t gotten their shots yet! When we went inside the house, most of the puppies were eating. As they finished, they left their mother; some went to play, others seemed to be in a food coma. They were so adorable!!
After we left the puppies, we went back to visit the adult dogs. We got to see one of the dogs being groomed and another one that was being trained. After we chatted a bit more with our tour guide, we made our way back to the main building, and then back to Jerusalem. The ride home was smooth, and we were home by around 1 pm, which allowed us time to rest since it was a fast day.
We highly recommend this tour to everyone! The tour itself wasn’t long, and by going there you are supporting a great cause. Plus, there are really cute dogs!
Until next time…
See for yourself just how cute they are!