Thursday, June 3, 2010

To Jordansalem and Back

I just spent 13 hours in Jordan. 13 hours of non-stop action. 13 hours in which I used many modes of transportation, spoke a great deal of Arabic, and allowed myself to be awed by ancient things. I will proceed, I think, in an orderly fashion. This blog post will flow chronologically based on the mode of transportation required at each time period. Let us begin now:

9: 30pm -- Intra-city bus
I had to get from South Jerusalem to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. Not a big deal. Fine. Done.

10:30pm -- Inter-city buses
480 to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem.

11:15pm -- Taxi
I got off at the wrong station. Well actually I took the wrong bus. Should have taken the 405 and not the 480. My own fault. Stupid me. As usual. And my bus was at 11:59. In a quarter of an hour. So I sucked it up and took a taxi. My driver thought I was crazy for going to Jordan after the whole Turkey business, but whatever. I am sort of crazy.

Inter-City Bus

So my last long, all-night bus ride was from Cairo to Taba. This bus ride wasn't as bad. But it was pretty bad. In terms of the terrain, it similar; also a windy desert/dead-sea roads. In terms of the noise, it was different; there was a Chabad couple and their very unhappy baby on board (right in front of us). And in terms of drama, well, it was intense. There was a guy who didn't make it back on the bus before we left the second rest stop (he was in the bathroom or something) and had to catch up with us because his bag was on the bus and then when he finally got back on the bus it turned out that some 6,000 shekels had been stolen from his bag, and he had no money on his phone to call anyone. So he used my phone. And talked really loudly. While sipping Red Bull. And now I have no money on my phone. So at 5 in the morning we pulled over for a little stopover at the police barrier at the entrance to Eilat to "sort things out". Siyyut (nightmare).

Feet - 5:30am
The bus driver kindly let my friend - alias Glinda - and I off at a turn off to a kibbutz/bird sanctuary/desalinization plant - basically, in the middle of no where. We hiked to the gas station up the hill to ask how to get to the border. The explained(ish) how to get there, and off we went. We went the wrong way. But there was a man from the kibbutz who drove down with his truck to pick up Jordanian workers (sketch?) to take to - presumably - pluck fruit and the like, and he told us how to go. As in, right not left. And the next time he came back for the following round of workers, of he brought us a large bunch of grapes. Gorgeous, delicious, crunchy, green grapes. Breakfast on the border. Yum.

The border (Yitzchak Rabin Crossing/Wadi Araba) opened at 6:30 - and we crossed at 6:30. We went through three windows in Israel, had our luggage and passports checked, paid our exit tax, went through customs, used the lovely border bathroom to change, freshen up, etc. and then we walked to Jordan. We also went through three windows in Jordan. But it was early in the morning, the border officials were happy to be slow, taking time to peel back their eyelids, drink coffee (which, of course, was offered to us), and generally wake up...none of them expecting an energetic pair of girls coming from Israel so early in the morning, especially with one who spoke Arabic. Soooooo, after some playful words, Glinda and I just sort of skipped the part where one is meant to pay the entrance fee to Jordan. just glided on through. Not a penny did we surrender. Ha.

7:40am - Inter-city taxi - Border to Aqaba
We got lucky. I refused the first taxi offer (60 dinar!) to Petra. But the second one I did take. And it was a good thing, too. Our taxi driver brought us to another taxi driver -- one that can go between cities. And this driver spoke English. {I actually started speaking to him in Arabic ...Fadicha! this context, Fashla!} He and I had some exceptionally interesting conversations ranging from the driving culture (or lack thereof?) to the percentages of Palestinians to Jordanians, the percentages of "normal" to religious to "fanatic" people in Jordan, to the glories of America where he intends to return after a 5 year stint in Jordan -- all of his kids were born in the US, he lived there for 7 years managing two franchise restaurants (a pizza hut and something else...I forget). But beyond the conversation: We got to drive his daughters to school! He told us that the cab company had woken him up (it was, after all, 7:30am) and that he hadn't gotten a chance to take his daughters to school, so if we didn't mind, he could drop us off at a coffee shop (he said he'd pay...) for 15 minutes or so while he took the girls (12 and 16) to school. "No, no no! It's quite alright," said we. "We'd love to meet your daughters -- assuming that's alright with you..." "OK...but I want to warn you, the older one wears a headscarf, you know? Hijab. Her friends wear it, and you know, peer pressure..." "O, of course, sure -- we have friends at home who wear the hijab..." "Oh, yes -- but I would never let her wear the naqab (full face veil) -- that's too much, too extreme." "Mmmhmmm..." They were very sweet girls, the 12 year old didn't really speak English and the 16-year-old with the Hijab was very shy. But it was nice to meet them.

8:00am - Intra-city taxi - Aquaba to Petra
Once we got to Petra (Glinda and I slept most of the way, we were exhausted, and I suppose felt a decently secure in our English-speaking cab) we went straight to the Visitors Center (with huge portraits of the King and his son [I believe...] on the wall as you walk up) where we did exactly what our friendly cabbie had recommended: We lied. We told them that we were staying the night (if you stay the night the price is reduced by approximately half) and gave him the name of the guy - along with a description! - who owned the hotel. Now, Petra is a small town, and they bought our story because they know the guy we were talking about (Mahmood -- big guy, bald, chubby....)...until they picked up the Telephone. And I knew we were done for. He didn't know us from yesterday's rotten eggs. It took us an hour to get in. But get in we did - and yes - at the full price. The story I gave in the end was that I must have picked up the card at a different hotel (where our stuff must be! ...It was in the trunk of our helpful taxi driver) and it must be a differnet Mahmood. Must be. Veysmeir.

We walked a little bit. I bought a hat. The price was 15 dinar. I bought it for 2. Haven't lost my Moroccan touch it seems.

Part of the deal when you buy the exorbitant ticket to get into Petra is that the ticket includes a horse ride. But you can tip...if you want. Oh -- I don't think I mentioned how much it actually is. Its 60 dinar. Before this March it was half that and its going to go up by a third to 90 dinar (@#*&%!) pretty soon. That's the equivalent of approximately $130. Something smells here. And its not burning garbage. In any case - I had a fantastic horse ride. The guy understood that I knew how to ride more or less, so he gave me the reins. Bad idea. My horse wanted to run -- and so did I. So off ran Silver and I. Glorious fun. I gave the guy a tip -- but only because the tourism police saw me galloping down the sandstrip and yelled at my "driver" that I couldn't do that. Certainly one of the highlights of the day, those few minutes on horseback, since the rest of the day would be spent - more or less - on donkeyback.

We walked down through the chasm (siq) of Petra and marveled. The whole thing used to be made of one solid piece of sandstone, but has since split, probably over millions and millions of years so that by the time the Nabateans got there (it became their capital in the 6th century) they established themselves in the valley carved out of it. I could talk about the waterways that the Nabateans built, or the Treasury and its facade carved out of one piece of sandstone but it would be useless -- someday I'll post pictures and you'll understand. For now lets just suffice it to say we got to the end of the walking section and were picked up by a Bedouin kid who led us over to his brother's donkeys. He wanted 10 dinar for the ride. I said 5. We got it for 5. And man was it worth it. On donkeyback we saw The Monastery, Jebel Aaron, the Wadi (flowering and flowing, pink and bubbly), climbing up ancient stone steps on donkeyback, sometimes going double, sometimes walking, all the time clutching the donkey with my knees, leaning forward and back as the trail required for the close to two hour trek up.

Our guides were Bedouins. Our taxi driver called them gypsies (and distinguished them from the honest FalaHin {farmers} as the other population living in Petra. And the truth is, he was pretty on target. The men wear eyeliner, they wear their kafiyyas pirate-style, and they try and and rip you something fierce. Our guides were of this ilk. Sweet talking, tea-drinking {tasted like Berber Whiskey!}, loosely Muslim gypsies. I say loosely Muslim because when my guide wanted to give me a new Arabic name (Shireen wasn't good enough for him) and dubbed me "Aisha" I said "Oh! How nice, the wife of the Prophet!" He said: "No....the daughter of the prophet...." "No....the youngest wife of the prophet, don't you remember?" "Oh, maybe" said he. "Oh, I'm not very good at Islam." Yup. Seemed that way. Oh and his donkey reeked...

Donkeys naturally happen to have a glorious, earthy smell - and it seeps from their hair in a - well, in an intense way - when they sweat. And it didn't help that I had swapped my 2-dinar hat for my donkey-driver's sweaty kafiyya. I won't attempt here to describe the combination of smells that assailed (and followed us) as we descended the mount, but I will give it a name and recommend you close your eyes and try to imagine what a whiff might be like: Sweatdonkerfume.

Intra-city taxi - 5pm
We exited Petra the same way we came in (backwards...obviously). About three quarters of an hour into the trip back the driver began to speak with me in FusHa. Judaism and Israel were the subjects of the conversation - my own personal Judaism was his specific interest, which is not something terribly easy to describe in literary Arabic while driving down a desert highway trying to avoid swerving trucks.

Short Tremp - 7:30pm
Our friend from the Kibbutz who brought us grapes was back at the end of the day. He saw us, asked "back so soon!?" and the next time he came back with an empty truck he took us up the hill to the bus station in the middle of no where where we had been dropped off some 13 hours ago. It kind of felt like home.

Long Tremp
- 8:15 - 11
It was HOT - even at a quarter to 8 in the evening - and no one was stopping. The next bus that would help us from Eilat wasn't going to be until 1am. Bummer. So there we were - stuck. A quarter of an hour, a half an hour, three quarters of an was going to be dark soon and we were going to be stuck waiting until 1am. Uggghhhh. And then someone stopped. "Where are you going?" "To the north!" -- DONE. Glinda and I were inside, without a glance at the license plates. But really there was no need -- one of the nicest, most interesting tremps I've ever gotten in all of Israel. I once wrote in this blog that every tremp is like a dream -- this one truly was.

Tremp Tremp
Nice guy - couldn't wrap his mind around where we'd been. 15 minutes - he dropped us off at the entrance to Kfar Adumim.

Bus Tremp
- 11:30pm
Midnight, the road to Kfar Adumim - a tiyyul from the middle school is coming back. And it picks us up. Even the most surrealist of movies can't bring you to the strange disconnected feeling that Glinda and I experienced on this bus. 50-or-so high-energy kids who had just come back from a day in the sun, sucking on their camelpacks, yelling to each other about homework and boys and girls, jumping over to the front of the bus to ask their supervisors a question about where the bus was going to stop. Bright lights, jerky movements, no sleep. Wow. Bizarre.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Encounter Testimonial --

The Encounter facilitator's evaluation is long. It took me something close to two hours to fill out. The last question (section V) asked each facilitator (pet name: Fac) to write a testimonial about their experience on the trip. So I told them that I'd write a blog post and send it to them instead.

Here it is, my...

Encounter Testimonial:

If Encounter changed me the first time I participated then it created me the second time. The first time - three years ago, as a student in Migdal Oz- I entered Bethlehem from my refernece point: Northern Efrat. There I stayed alone in a cold, dark hotel room leaving Al-Jazeera on the television just for the comfort of the background noise. There I met Palestinians for the first time. There my curiosity was sparked. And then I went to Hebron where I walked from Area C to B to A and back again, walked from fear to anger to entitlement, walked from entombed silence, utopias and curfews to a stifling bustle, crowds and foreignness -- all of this was my first Encounter experience. I returned to America after a gap year in Israel changed. I studied Arabic. I got involved in Middle East politics on campus. I went to Egypt and Morocco to live the culture first hand. And then I came back to Israel.

And I was asked to become a facilitator for Encounter. I was asked not to only be changed, but to change. To experience and guide experience. To built and be built (livnot u'lhibanot). So I came to the facilitation training. And I met new people there who are wise, open, and caring. And then I came on the program. And I met new participants who wanted to see, to hear, to listen. And I lead small groups. And I met new people who were grappling with concepts like compassion, fairness, and honesty who reminded me of my own values. And I heard from speakers who brought hope, anger, and passion. And I met Palestinians again -- and I was able to talk with them. In their own language.

And all of this created me. This time Encounter wasn't scary. It was safe. This time Encounter wasn't lonely. It was a community. This time there was no need for Al-Jazeera. I slept well.

Song of the moment: Aisha by Kheb Chaled

Thursday, May 20, 2010

We worked like dogs. We worked all day to turn our campus into some sort of combination of a Bedouin Tent, MacDonald's Farm, and a Fancy Outdoor Restaurant. Room for 250+ people to sit (and at one point there were something like 400 people there). We built two covered-tent areas, brought in hay, hoisted a bicycle between two trees so that it hung suspended, took some flowers from a wedding that was held here yesterday and spray painted some of them gold, built a cage and brought in a duck, a goat, and a donkey....and a million and one other crazy things I can't mention for lack of space right now. It was nuts. In any case, I was enlisted to be a "meltzarit" - a waitress - at the "reception" that took place when the guests and bogrim (alumni) first arrived. I and a few others work black and white, smiled a lot, and took around platter after platter of cheese, banana shakes, and wine that we had prepared earlier in the day, pampering our visitors with hors d'oeuvres which both they and I took part of heartily.

We had a MASSIVE "Kabbalat haChag" on the Mitzpe (lookout) with all of the guests, everyone bright and shiny in pure, festive white. It was beautiful on many, many levels.

Play: We had an incredible dinner (though, I will admit, I had eaten a lot of cheese...wasn't so hungry by the time all the delicious food came around) which I helped to serve, running around with plates of labane, hummus, two types of pasta (yuuumm!), lasagna, and bread.

Precious: The lectures after dinner were great. But the highlight of the night, for those in my machzor (loosely: semester) was a play that a bunch of the guys put on imitating some of the teachers. They really loved it. Erez Eshel said he watched it twice.

Pontificate: At 2:30am everyone broke into group "chavrutot", or discussion groups that some of us had prepared. My group was - yes - on one of Levinas' 9 Talmudic Readings. I lead it with my friend Tea, a wonderful, thoughtful secular from Haifa. One I first learned in Migdal Oz, and have never forgotten. It's about the meaning of the phrase "Na'ase V'Nishma" ("we will do and we will listen") and its flipped logic. There is a story that Levinas brings from the Talmud about God holding Mt. Sinai over the Children of Israel and essentially leaving them with the choice of "Torah or Death". The group that sat with us was very serious, very studious, and very interested in the subject matter. The discussion was flowed, breathed, lived, and we talked until 4am (!) when I took my leave (before everyone else!) to go listen to the Book of Ruth be read in the Yishuv's synagogue. I sang along.

Pass out:
Then I went to bed. Ahhhhhh. The next day was...chill. No one was up before 1pm. Including me.

Chag Sheni (or, My Personal Shavuot):

When Havdalah came around

Surprise Tiyyul:
We're going on a tiyyul - the whole Midrasha - next week. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. No one knows where we're going, but we're all gung-ho. Should be fun. They told us last Thursday. They told us to bring our passports. I think that was a joke. It must have been a joke.

Slip Down to Qelt: Went down to the mayaan this morning. The most "chagigi" thing I could think of doing. And it was lovely. I read Sefer Ezra there with a friend. Glory.

Shiur Ezra:
Micah Goodman gave a talk on Sefer Ezra. That's all I need write here.

"Shimru Al HaEsh!":
I made myself a lunch of what food there was. I managed to save a yortzeit candle that had been lit before the holiday so I could use it's flame to light a fire to cook with, and I made a stir-fry dish of red pepper, tomato, and whole lemon seasoned with chili pepper, turmeric, salt. Spicy. Strong. Tasty...?

An abbreviation for "Sheina B'Tozhorayim" or "afternoon nap". Something I did today.

So I leave you with this, a lovely ballad called Jaykub. The band is called Sparklehorse (here they perform with another band called Danger Mouse. I like the animal themes ///|||\\\\), and I like them for a couple reasons, not the least of which is that their first album is called Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot. One word.

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

I want to write a book about tremps. I think I have tremps like other people have dreams. I have bizarre, surreal, unreal tremps. (A tremp, by the by, is a lift. It's a ride from a total stranger. A hitchhike -- the only way to get around in some places, including Alon.)
-I had a tremp with an Ole (a guy who moved to Israel) from Mexico and was a hard-core surfer. He was coming with his boards and equipment from the beach, an hour or two away. Turns out he's the gardener of the Yishuv and is helping us to put together a compost. We had a long conversation about water-sports and the smallness of Israel where people think that to drive an hour to the beach is like driving to the end of the world.
-I had a tremp with a man and his son to Jerusalem where I kept silent until we were in East Jerusalem and his son, who must have been about 10, asked if the women in their long black garments and heavy hijabs were hot all of the time. And his father answered "no". So I said, "I'm not so sure" and from there we ended up having a conversation about where I had been in the last six months and Arabic. Turns out, his mother is from Tunis, and he knows some Moroccan Arabic, so we spoke Arabic for the remainder of the ride. I see him around the Yishuv from time to time, and we always exchange some Magrebi. Fun.
-I had a tremp with a handicapped woman who drove - not with the wheel - but instead with small, sensitive device that, when turned, turns the wheel. Her baby in the backseat slept the whole way, making cute slumber noises from time to time.
-I had a tremp with a Chareidi who wouldn't stop talking to me. He was curious about things. He started off on a rant about Diasporic Jews, to which I (obbbviously) need to respond. So we talked about living as a Jew on an American university campus. Slowly the conversation turned to shidduchim (matchmaking) and how it worked on my side of the fence. He was interested to learn how men and women met when there was no third party to set them up, what age was a "normal" age for marriage, and what it must be like to "pick" your own match.
-I had a tremp with an American form Teaneck who had come to hear Micah Goodman's talk on History and Philosophy. He made Aliya a few years ago. I actually had a tremp to his tremp...i.e. the guy who picked me up told me that the guy in front of him (this American guy) was going closer to where I needed to get we chased him up and down the windy Alon Road, caught him at the turn onto the highway and had a crazy Chinese fire drill.

Each one is a dream. Not all are good dreams, but very few are nightmares.

This upcoming week is the "shavua emtza" - the "middle week" indicating that our program is halfway over. Or a little more. Which I don't want to think about, I want to be present, live in the moment, and carpe diem (I learned the Greek poem where that phrase comes from the other day!) while I can. My song for you, as you may have guessed, is Simon and Garfunkel's "59th Street Bridge" because, well, I'm feelin' groovy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

One Fantastic Week

Someone told me yesterday that I have a creative soul. I hope that's true. Because I was thinking about writing a book. A book from the perspective of the soldier who I saw on my way back from the Gush the other day. I saw him -- I couldn't tell the color of his skin, he was standing in the dark, all I saw was his outline. He was a skinny guy, and he was turning, spinning, with his gun. He was playing -- he was a kid playing, only in a uniform, and with a gun. And suddenly I wanted to write his autobiography. I wanted to understand his life. But the car I was in kept right on driving, and he passed me by. Maybe someday I''ll find him as a character in a novel, or I'll write him into mine. For now, I'll have to make do with this blog.

Its been a long time since I last blogged. There's a good reason: The huge bonfire that the kids of the Yishuv built on LA"G B'Omer (they've been gathering sticks and furniture and brush since Pesach...) burned through internet cable of Alon. I mean, really!? Alon didn't have internet for 3 days. Painful. In any case, I've (obviously?) been through a lot since I last posted. Done a lot, thought a lot, just...a lot. Right now I am sitting on Derech Aza sipping tea (delicious! ginger, lemon, nana) and thinking about what I want to do with my life. I've recently been considering a career in journalism as opposed to academia. I guess what it comes down to is that I just want to write (as can be surmised from my prologue to this blog). Maybe I'll just do this for a living. Sit, drink tea, and write a blog. Who needs money anyway?

All kidding aside: What have I been up to, you ask? I shall describe in brief -- It's been sort of political, so get ready...

Two Shabbatot ago...
I went to Talmon.
Talmon is a settlement.
A real settlement.
Not a Gush Etzion going-to-be-included-in-any-future-borders-of-the-state-of-Israel settlement, not an Alon mixed-religious-non-religious-progressive settlement.
A real settlement.
It sits on what used to be Arab land.
It restricts the Arab access to its 200 year old olive trees.
And its in the middle of nowhere.
Mode'in, a half an hour away, up and down a windy road, is the "big city".
Mode'in, for those who have never been there, is really just an small, ugly version of Miami without the beach.
There's a mall in Mode'in, and a park, and...well, that's it.
So Talmon was an interesting place to visit.
And my friend's (code name: Madeline) family is hilarious. So I had fun nonetheless.

I fear that this style of writing might make this blog post look longer than, well, than it should. So I'm going revert to my previous paragraphing style.

So - that was Talmon. This shabbat I was in Jerusalem. But there was everything in between that -- everything before that we're just going to ignore for now...there was a lot of mayan swimming, my birthday, LA"G B'Omer, friends coming to visit me in midrasha, fox sightings (Abba: I've now seen a fox twice on my runs - once at night and once in the day. I think of you and Rabbi Akiva every time) and learning, of course, lots of learning. And, on top of it all, it's getting hot. Too hot. Running is not fun when its hot. And it's even hot at night. Today I ran during the day (10:30 am, since I didn't wake up for my pre-"daf yomi" run at 6:15 and I was annoyed with myself) and I could only do one go-round -- and even so, at the end, I was gasping. The tyrannical cloudheat creeps into ones flesh and burns one from the inside...slowly. Roasting.

MUSIC in my life
But last week - last week was packed: I went to a marathon of concerts in Gan Saker for Yom HaStudent which took place on the eve of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day which commemorates the 1967 reunification East and West Jerusalem by the Israelis). I got a student-priced ticket, and hung out with some of my "peeps" enjoying Monica Sex, The Ramirez Brothers, Geva Alon, and I missed (to my great pain) HaDag HaNachash and Ehud Banai at the end. There were a number of American bands (like Cool and the Gang -- I kid you not) that were, as they say, "bli kesher l'klum" - totally disconnected from anything and everything Israeli and probably had come that night to Gan Saker because they had run out of venues in America.

Yom Yerushalyim
On Jerusalem Day itself, I had a tour of the old city of Jerusalem on the day itself, was disturbed (as usual) by the storm that rages in its ancient, narrow passages, and reminded of its painful, divided history. And the next day...I went to Bethlehem (....yes) as a facilitator for Encounter ....HOLD UP. WHAT!? What did you do, Elisheva!? WHAT!? Yes. Ok here I must pause and insert some explanation -- actually, no. I'll leave the explanation for another day. And on that other day maybe I'll tell you about all the weird creepy-crawlers that I've discovered in the desert and elsewhere. They really are bizarre, and sometimes beautiful. Someone should remind me. In the meantime I'll give you this song by Geva Alon called Modern Love, his most well known work, I believe.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Meirutz Kan Beiteinu (Race of Here Are Our Houses)
I ran 10 kilometers on Friday. I know that I said that I was going to run 5km in my previous blog post. But then I plucked up my courage and did the whole thing. Up, down, up, down, up, up up. My knee hurts. And almost died from shortness of breath on the last kilometer. But it was incredibly fun. And I had a huge entourage on the last uphill as I staggered to the finish line. But it was awesome. Mishmar was the night before. The boys hadn't slept. Really hadn't slept. But they trekked up the soon-to-be Hill of Death and Lack of Breath to the starting line, stretching and rubbing their reddened eyes with me at nine in the morning. I had gone to bed at 2:30 or so, and the other girl (lets find her a name, how about Yo Yo Ma? Yonsters? Yeshu? hmmm. I vote for Yo Yo Ma), Yo Yo Ma had slept some as well -- and had had coffee. So we ran. We ran all of K'far Adumim, Nofei Prat, down to Alon and back up. Lots of encouragement, lots of water, and a free t-shirt. "Kef Chaim" as they say. I came in second for my age and gender (which - I must admit - says very little since there were somewhere between 4 and 5 girls who ran in my age group) and managed to acquire a medallion. Ha! Yes. A medallion. Hilarious. Yes, Mom. I'll do my physical therapy, I will, but I'm blogging now, OK? My time: 1:02:15. Respectable? For the number of Judean hills we had to climb, I'd venture to say the affirmative.

Socialist Puppies
We have puppies on campus. Names are not clear. I heard someone call them Shifra and Puah, and I'm sticking with that. They're girls, and they're twins and they eat from people's forks. They also look like sheep - they're close to white in color and have just the right amount of shag. They're one of our number's "responsibility", but they're really everyone's Responsibility. Which is why I call them socialist puppies. People feed them, play with them, make sure they're secure when we leave for the weekend. Ahhh the residuals of kibbutz culture. Beautiful.

I got to see people from Seattle this weekend, always a treat. I think one family in particular - lets call them the Shmazoses - deserve a great big shout out in this blog. I was able to hang out with them (dairy Shabbat lunch!), go out to a restaurant with them (best chili mushrooms ever!), borrow their spare bed (bed!). Exceptional fun.

Bugs in the Beit Midrash Bathroom
There are so many. I almost prefer Turkish toilets. Why, you ask? Well, I'd rather sit on nothing (read: squat) than sit on dead dragonflies, daddy long-legs and flies. No, that's not really true. And someone's finally brought soap to the sink there, so things are looking up.

I suppose I've gotten to the stage in life where - had I lived in Israel - I would have gotten out of the army. And now my friends (and, kamuvan, educators) are in Miluim (yearly reserve army service). Micah Goodman had to go to Miluim (he got back today), one of our number left to Miluim yesterday -- I saw him off on Saturday night. Miluim sucks. I suppose that's all I wanted to say here. [Editor's note: when Micah Goodman came back from Miluim he immediately gave a class. He talked about the polemics in Israel politics, left, right, Hertzl, Rav Kook, and all that. And he talked about Miluim -- and I he convinced me (I just wrote "I decided" and erased it...) that its not such a sucky thing. It's very necessary. Very. That's all.]

Its been a wonderful day. I've gotten to read a lot, I've gotten to work out a lot, and I've gotten to listen to music a lot. A lot of a lot of good things (I even got a nap in the middle of the day). And Shabbat is going to fun. So I'm in a good mood. So here's a good mood song for you -- By Jarabe de Palo. Don't ask me what the rest of the song is saying, but I'm pretty sure the title has something to do with "connection" (...and since I'm in the mood to do something for mah sista, we have Killer Queen as well).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Hazy Shade of Spring

The weather. It's been sort of awkward. It's that in-betweeny kind of cloudy that's not sure when it wants to burn itself out. It's a coffee-colored, sweaty background to my first week back at Ein Prat. So I've been running at night, generally, taking the road less traveled, if you will. And that has made all the difference.

K'AN Beiteinu
If we're already talking about running, I'll just mention that I'm planning on running in the "mirutz" or race that takes place hereabouts every year. They call it the Race of "Here are our Houses" which sounds politically charged in English, but when translated to the Hebrew it comes out to כאן ביתינו (ka'an beiteinu) and the acronym for "KAN" turns out to stand for K'far Adumim, Alon and Nofei Prat which are the names of the settlements of the area. So I suppose it sounds politically charged in Hebrew, too. Hmm. In any case, they have three "races" - 2km, 5km, and 10km. I'm doing the 5km. You're all welcome to sponsor me, the money will be going to a charity....JUST KIDDING. Its just for fun. Prep for the Danskin (rock!).

Sofa"sh (Sof Shavua -- Weekend)

The time between Yom HaShoah (Monday) and Mishmar (Thursday night) is all a blur. Nothing happened, everything happened. We had special talks, activities, chavrutot, ceremonies, songs, and then it was the weekend. I went Tuesday night to Migdal Oz, to see it again - to see my friends, to see what had changed and what hadn't. And going back reminded me. It reminded me of all of the great changes, the crises, the emotions that I experienced there. And I decided I was going to go for Shabbat as well. So on Friday I got myself back to Migdal Oz for a Shabbat for the first time in three years. It was lovely to be back. Same food, different toranim. Same Tefillah (prayers), bigger building (they built a whole new space for Mechon Herzog). Same feeling, different experience. I split my time between the first year Americans and my friends in second and fourth year. All in all, it remains a place full of song and pilpul (thanks, Adi Zalis!!!). Saturday night was a double birthday party. And on Sunday it was off to Midrasha -- full-speed ahead.

Cemetery/Ceremony (I'm not the only one who gets confused in foreign languages...thanks Adi Zalis!!!)
Pardes was coming to the Midrasha. And they asked me to help out. So, of course, I agreed. But what they hadn't told me was that my task was to put together a program for Yom HaZikaron. And when it came to light that this was, in fact, what was at hand, I felt a bit out of place. Who was I to put on an emotional show for the day upon which Israelis commemorate their fallen heroes, their victims of terror, their fallen loved ones? And how were the Americans to connect? How was I (it wasn't just me, don't worry I had lots of help) to strike a balance between languages? Between cultures? Between Jews? The program went like this in the end:
-Siren (all of Israel stands silent for one minute to commemorate the dead)
-Israeli Song
-"Introduction" (this is where I explained what would Hebrew and then in English)
-Reading of Names (of fallen soldiers or people who died in terrorist attacks -- names provided by Ein Prat's members)
-Yizkor (prayer for the dead)
-Reading of Names
-A personal story from a friend from Ein Prat
-Reading of Names
-A poem read in Hebrew and simultaneously in English
-Reading of Names
-HaTikva (Israeli national anthem)

And people liked it. It was meaningful, somehow. They came up to me and thanked me. Thus, your song today is a song I love, a sad song, one that, when played on the radio during the second intifada would let Israelis know that there had been a terrorist attack. It's called Darkeinu and this version is from the TV show Burganim (which I've never seen, and can therefore not be held responsible for its content).