Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Current events have a way of affecting all aspects of Israeli life, even my mom’s. She’s not cognizant of what happens outside the walls of her care facility, but visiting her yesterday made me realize that there is no escape from the impact of living in Israel, even if you have Alzheimer’s.
Israel’s civilian population is under rocket attack from Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. This is in retaliation for a pinpoint execution of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist chief named Abu Al-Ata who Israel targeted on Monday night. Now, hundreds of rockets are being aimed at the population centers in southern and central cities. My city of Beer Sheva is eerily quiet. Schools and universities are closed. Most stores and non-essential businesses are shut down. Hospitals are working on emergency footing.
Mom’s care facility has had to rearrange itself to provide safety to the residents in case of a rocket attack. The main dining room, which is a sturdier room with less windows, has been commandeered as both day center and bedroom. Yesterday when I went to visit, they had moved out all non-essential tables and chairs and lined the beds along the walls, with a separation screen to separate the men from the women.
It looked like Mom was getting ready for a big slumber party! Except that this was serious. There are hundreds of people across my country who are not near or cannot access a reinforced safe room if there’s a rocket falling in their neighborhood. What do the elderly who are on their own do? Or mothers with newborns? A hospital in Ashkelon evacuated all the children in their care—including preemies—to an underground facility in the hospital that was built especially to protect them. I was thankful that the staff of Mom’s facility were up to the task of caring for her, even in an extreme situation.*
Thankfully, my visit with Mom was a success. We sang amidst all the balagan of beds and chairs and reduced space. I got her up and down from her chair and we even walked a little. Only after I left her building did I realize how focused I had been on making our visit a happy one. I seemed to literally sag with relief when I left, knowing she was safe.
An hour later, my husband Jeff and I were on the road to Beit Shemesh where I was scheduled to talk about my book, The Lost Kitchen. The meeting was held in the Melabev day center, in a room similar in size to Mom’s facility. Strangely, though Beit Shemesh is only an hour away from Beer Sheva, there have been no interruptions in the daily routine of this centrally located city.
I was proud to be speaking at Melabev for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Melabev is a pioneering organization in Israel dedicated to bringing dignity to those with dementia by providing daily care centers in a multitude of languages that allow these individuals to be cared for at home for as long as possible.
I read poems and stories from my book, and we discussed care ideas and shared stories. It was a truly inspiring evening.
Then we drove home, passing several large army vehicles heading to the border. My soldier son is on alert. My country is under siege. My mom, thankfully, is oblivious to all the tension.
Last week I had the privilege of accompanying a tour to Barcelona via AACI, the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel. It was an inspiring visit filled with amazing sites and art and a wonderful group of travelers. We ate our meals at the Maccabi Restaurant on the Ramblas, the most prominent promenade in Barcelona. The meals were plentiful and very tasty, if somewhat repetitious. But I really didn’t mind eating grilled sea bream every night. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I had my husband Jeff grill some for us when I got home to our balmy 30° C weather. Another name for this fish in Israel is Denis.
Grilled Whole Denis
I’m not sure why I haven’t grilled whole Denis before. We’ve grilled salmon, which is also excellent. But this is a lighter fish than salmon, and so easy to make! Estimate one fish per person.
2 whole Denis fish, cleaned and dry
Sprigs of basil and parsley
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the grill and let fish warm to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Stuff cavity of fish with basil, parsley, garlic and lemon slices, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush fish and grill with olive oil (we used an oiled piece of aluminum foil). Grill fish over moderately high heat, uncovered, until skin is lightly charred approximately 10 minutes. Fish should easily come away from the grill. Turn and grill another 10 minutes until the flesh is white throughout. Transfer fish to a platter and let stand for 10 minutes. Serve with a wedge of lemon.
*And this happened: "Gaza Rocket Slams into Old Age Home."