Kaytana Savta Keeps Grandparents Busy


August is the end of the summer, the last month of Hofesh hagadol, the big vacation. Even the Yeshivas with eleven-month academic years give students three weeks off at this time of year. The professionally-run day camps have completed their sessions. Children are freed from all scheduled activities. But—and herein lies the problem—most parents still have to work.

The solution? Grandparents. IF you’re lucky enough to have some on call. And IF they are energetic enough to keep up with the grandchildren.

Kaytana Saba is in session. Or in my case, Kaytana Savta.

Four weeks ago, we had all three Bernstein girls overnight. We spent most of one day at the Bloomfield Science Museum. I’m not sure if they learned any science, but they had fun playing with the blocks and levers, looking at the plants, and playing with the optical illusions. We also saw a 3D video that compared the lives of two small rodents facing life-threatening challenges in very different habitats. The young chipmunk in a northern forest had to find and store food for the winter, fighting a larger older chipmunk to protect his supplies. The young desert rat had to find food and escape from a large snake on his first foray from the nest into the surround desert. Who would have thought you could care so much about the fate of these tiny creatures? But we all held our breath and rooted for these brave little rodents to make it through their day.

I don’t do well at 3D movies; an ear infection when I was studying pediatric nursing has left me with a tendency to get dizzy. Closing my eyes at a few critical junctures got me through the film without losing my breakfast.

I was not the only grandparent at the museum that day. A quick glance around the auditorium revealed me that audience members were either under the age of 12 or over 60. Not that I needed proof by then. All morning I had heard children calling ”Saba!” or “Savta!” No child called for their father or mother to come see what they had just discovered.

On Wednesday we had gone to a “multi-sensory show” about Jerusalem. That’s how the publicity describes it. The video screens surround the audience, not just on the sides, but on the floor and ceiling as well. The seats were equipped with safety belts and a safety bar.

The seats tilted and vibrated as the video swooped through the city’s narrow streets and over the red rooftops. Again, I had to control my dizziness by closing my eyes in a couple spots. The kids loved the experience. And once again, I sat in audience of people my age and their grandchildren. Kaytana Savta on a field trip.

As soon as we left the theater, the girls announced they were hungry. Unfortunately, we were in the Mamilla mall, an upscale shopping area in what for years had been falling apart ruins by the Old City walls. Given my granddau

Reaching up, to try to kiss the mezuza on the Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem
Reaching up, to try to kiss the mezuza on the Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem

ghters’ tastes in food, I was not about to pay Mamilla prices for lunch. But I knew a pizza place in the Old City. “The Jaffa Gate,” I said, “is up there, at the end of the stores.”

I’m not sure they would have agreed to pizza in the Rova if they had known it would be a half hour walk. But they were eager to go. We spent a few minutes at the Jaffa Gate as Yael clowned around trying to reach up to kiss the large mezuza.

Walking to the pizza place, it struck me. Here I was, in the heart of the Holy City, walking through the Jewish Quarter, as if it was a normal thing to do. I grew up thinking of Jerusalem’s Rova the same way I thought about the moon. It was there, but inaccessible. The moon was inaccessible because of physics; the Old City inaccessible because of politics. Both situations changed in the late 1960s. And although I’ll never walk on the moon, walking through the Jewish Quarter has become so ordinary, I thought nothing of taking my granddaughters there for a slice of pizza and an ice cream cone.

When I was a teenager, any access to the Old City of Jerusalem for Jews was a dream. Today it is a reality. My grandchildren are growing up taking for granted their ability to walk the streets of the Holy City.

May they always do so.

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