(Written in Australia,, four months later. Our apologies to our many friends in St Thomas whose pictures do not appear here. We seem to have lost a roll of film.)
When we were making arrangements for our round the world trip, we were delighted that our ticket could include St Thomas.
We arrived on the island still overwhelmed by the events of 11 September. Back on the mainland people in subways spoke in hushed whispers; they walked the streets at a slower pace; there was no music blaring and even the hawkers on the streets were silent. We had come from a New York that was subdued and grey.
As the plane flew low over the water our excitement mounted. The blast of hot moist air as we deplaned was most welcome. St Thomas was wonderful. We had forgotten how beautiful the islands are - the whiteness of the sand, the aquamarine colour of the sea contrasting with the green islands, the insistent rhythm of the soca music and the friendliness of the locals. The shops were full of beautiful things and everything looked so colorful. This is a picture of Smith Bay looking toward the resort where we used to live.
We worked a total of seven years in St Thomas, the last time returning to Israel in 1995. We wondered how it would be to go back. We shouldn’t have worried. Our old friends were so welcoming and pleased to see us, it really made for a wonderful weekend.
We stayed with Mina and her dog Charles.
Mina is my friend. Our relationship dates from when we discovered we had a similar passion for excellent bread and I helped her out in her artisan bakery. She no longer has a bakery but we were delighted when she baked her Sunny Honey Almond bread to accompany the excellent dinner we enjoyed. The Ogdens and Feuerzeigs came as well, leaving synagogue business to say hello ( arranging a public auction to be held on February 3, wonderful items, worthwhile to bid by internet: www.onepaper.com/synagogue ). It is the women in the community who are the power behind the synagogue's activities: Ella is secretary of the synagogue and much more; Penny's energy is currently directed towards arranging a public auction, also via the internet, as a fund raiser.
We visited Coral World which is now owned and run by Trudie Prior. It was strange coming back as a visitor to a place that had been a second home. Trudie took us on a royal tour of the project she has so dedicatedly restored after hurricane damage. We were delighted to meet Richard Blake and Trevor Hughes who had worked there while Eitan was manager. Many memories flooded back to us – one was of our son Aviv trying to feed the sharks in the shark tank but the sharks must have felt his nervousness and refused to eat.
We went diving at Buck Island (St Thomas). Our dive master assured us that that was the very place where the astronauts had trained for weightlessness in outerspace. Ask Armstrong about that. There was a tropical depression that day - high waves and lots of wind. The diving wasn't great, only the sponges are colourful, but it was a really comfortable first dive. On our second dive Eitan had problems with his regulator and I was nauseous, good preparation I suppose for the Barrier Reef in Australia.
On Friday night we went to the synagogue and celebrated Succoth.
Afterwards we attended the monthly communal dinner, where we enjoyed
meeting many old acquaintances. When we were there in the 1980’s and
1990’s the synagogue's interior walls were bare, revealing the
wonderfully warm bricks brought as ballast on ships decades ago.
Because the walls were crumbling they were recently replastered and we
found the whiteness startling. We were glad that the sand floors
remained. It was with great emotion that we walked around the
synagogue. This is a picture of Eitan with Mina and Ella
The synagogue has a special place in our hearts. Perhaps more exactly it is the dedicated people who work tirelessly for the synagogue and the small Jewish community on the island with whom we have this special relationship. The synagogue was the instrument whereby we forged these connections. Although no longer living on the island, Steve and Nina Schafer ( whom we saw in America ) are still very much part of our association with the island. It was for the synagogue's Sisterhood that, some 20 years ago, Nina and I sat and composed letters on one of the few personal computers on the island (Eitan's) and prepared special synagogue services. It was fun! This was my first involvement in women's affairs and was to have a profound effect on my life.
Marilyn and George Blackhall invited us for drinks. As we sat and talked and drank (and ate the delicious local chicken courtesy of Hank and Penny) we felt very much at home. Marilyn and George, Mina, Penny and Hank, Ella and Archie, Teri and Dick, are more than just friends; we feel part of their extended island family. We almost forgot we were visitors, and only at the end of the evening when we were saying goodbye to the Blackhalls did we realize that we’d forgotten to take pictures. Our apologies to Penny and Hank and Teri and Dick.
Bridge had also played a part in our St Thomas experience. It was fun exchanging bridge stories and reliving past victories (and defeats?) at lunch in Frenchtown with Helen and Richard Kirwan, friends and old bridge partners. The Kirwans have a special place in our hearts. Helen is one of Eitan's all-time favourite bridge partners, and the Kirwans were the first people in St Thomas to invite him to their house, before the children and I joined him.
It was hard saying farewell to St Thomas, and we postponed the
farewell to the last possible moment - on the way to the airport we met
Mina, Ella and Archie for the last breakfast.
St Thomas is a place where we feel at home.
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