Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Ma'ayan I (natural spring); Back to the Source
So I'm living next to what they call Nachal Prat in Hebrew, and Wadi Qelt in Arabic. It's a beautiful place of flowing water that soon, methinks, will not be so flowing. But on Friday I was able to trekk down for the first time. Or so I thought. Turns out I'd been there before with Migdal Oz 2+ years ago. But, as they say in Hebrew, lo norah. I enjoyed myself. My friend, lets call her Sharazzaldazzle, doesn't swim in mixed company, so she and I went deeper into the wild and found a little spot where it was deep where we dipped and dove. The dog of the yishuv had followed us and napped as we swam. His name is, of all things, Adoni (which, hilariously, means "my master" and is a polite way of addressing someone who you don't know. Sort of like "sir" in America. Yet some people accidentally mispronounce the name and it ends up sounding like, well, you know...ineffable). In any case, Adoni was our guard, and he stayed with us the whole time, cavorting and swimming and barking at other dogs. Great fun.

The Ma'ayan II; Song of Songs
I went down to the ma'ayan again yesterday during our mid-day break and spent two hours reading Shir HaShirim. Mostly with people who had never read it before. It was an amazing experience for three. First, everyone understod the Hebrew (more or less). Second, because the poetry is beautiful and everyone was just amazing by the power of the words of a man who wrote when the Temple was still in their backdoor. Third, because they knew chunks of it by heart. There are all sorts of songs that would just burst out when we would come upon a pasuk (verse) that they recognized from here or there. I suppose I still have a lot to learn. Aside: On the way back up in the car (this time we had a car) we were driving so slowly that a cop car honked and passed us. Oh Israel.

After classes on anarchy in shoftim, post-modernism in chassidut, Greek customs in the pesach seder, Shabbat came as a welcome day of rest. And it was lovely, for the most part. A bit strange at times, but then again, what shabbat of mine in the recent past hasn't been strange?! I went to synagogue in Alon on Shabbat morning when there just happened to be - of all things - a Moroccan Bar Mitzvah with screaming aunts and crying cousins and hard candy thrown at random across the mechitza. So I plucked up my courage towards the end of Mussaf and I turned to the row of (very) old Moroccan women chattering behind me in Darija and I asked where they were from in Morocco. In Arabic. Turns out the one I asked was actually living in Canada, but not to worry, the first question she asked me was certainly not "what's your name?" or "where are you from?" but - of course - "are you married?" To which I responded (stupidly) "not yet..." Sooooo she proceeded to tell me that she had someone for a shidduch and blah blah blah.....I thanked her and turned back around, chuckling to myself that I'd learned nothing in my two months in Masr and four and a half months in the Magreb. I still hadn't learned to tell people that I'm married. Or at least engaged.

The adjective "adkani" means "current" or "up to date". It's a fusion of the words "ad" "kan" and the letter "yud" to indicate adjectival use. I've learned the Hebrew words for "linguistic turn," "surplus value", "Freudian slip", "castration", and "jock itch" and "halo" which, if you put different vowels on the Hebrew letters, might well be the word itself. Oh, and I learned that when Israelis throw English words into their sentences (something they permit me to do, but only because I'm not really Israeli) they are said to have their "Capslock stuck", a turn of phrase I found quite amusing.

Oh and I just discovered a chameleon (for real: bright green with yellow stripes, funny toes and a head like a dinosaur) outside climbing on my friend's shoes. It excited everyone greatly. Which is often what I feel like. A chameleon. (No, Es, not that kind of chamleon) I change not how I look each time I go to a new place - Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, America, Israel - but how I look at the world. Recently my perspective has been one of K'naan: "Any who knows a thing knows he knows not a thing at all"...."When I get older, I will be stronger, they'll call me freedom just like a waving flag" So here you are....K'naan's NPR tiny desk concert for you today.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wrong Parsha For Dreams

Usually the way I blog is not entirely spontaneous. Usually I write down things I think are funny, or interesting, or both (usually both) and then I turn them into my story. Like the fact that the lats time I drove up to Kfar Adumim I saw camels...and baby camels (!) just sort of wandering around in the direction of the Bedouins. Or how I broke into the Mechina up the way yesteday in order to get at their grand piano in the mess hall. (No one was there, and there was a little hole in the fence...nuuu) Or how we had an episode of Midrasha-wide Rikudei Am (National Dance) yesterday that was, simply put, hilarious. But this blog entry is - if you will - a camel of a different color.

We had Mishmar last night (that's when you stay up all night reviewing what you learned last week, preparing for sabbath and having a good time in the mess hall as well as in the Beit Midrash. And I had a great time. But then it was 2:30am. And I remembered how absolutely dead I was after staying up all night for Mishmar last week, and I went to bed. Smart girl, Elisheva. Or so I thought.

I went to bed around three, a reasonable hour. I awoke to the light streaming into my room at 9:45. I got up. Closed the shutters. And went back to bed. But then I dreamed.

I dreamed that I had to decided to go to Chevron again. To talk to people and to visit the Ma'arat HaMachpelah (the cave where the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the matriarchs Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Leah are all buried. Some say Adam and Eve. Some say Esau. And some even say Joseph). To see, again, what there was to see. It would be my - I decided in my dream - fifth and final trip to Chevron. So I got on the bullet proof 160 bus headed down south. When I got off the bus I walked towards the Cave, but Chevron had changed. There were Chassidim everywhere. All with their respective hats, and all smiling, singing, drinking. It was like one big Tisch. I didn't know why, but I didn't care -- people were happy! As I walked towards the steps that lead up to the Herodian structure surrounding the Cave of the Patriarchs I saw some older women ducking down, laying flat like there had been a bomb blast or a shooting. I did the same, but thought nothing of it since I'd done it before in this area. Shootings, or at least the threat of shootings, are a constant threat in Chevron and its environs. But then as I stepped upon the last step leading up to the Cave, an man dressed as a Chassid threw a rock -- but not just an ordinary rock. It was a bomb that looked like a rock. And it exploded in midair. I saw everything happening in slow motion, like they do it in the movies, but I wasn't in slow motion. I ran. I ran like one of those urban runners who jump over cars and garbage bins and scale drainpipes. I found myself on the other side of the street, safe and feeling cowardly. I ducked into a restaurant where some Chassidim were having - still - a party. There was challah, sweet wine, crumbs in people's beards, the works. But then in walked that same fake Chassid with his explosive rock. And as I ran out I yelled at the maitre d' "stop that man!" But it was too late - he had already planted his rock of death. When I ran to the next restaurant I found only legs and arms in the bathroom (no blood though...?) and so I ran and hid underneath a car. And when the costumed terrorist came to wreak his destruction in the last restaurant he found me with his eyes and gave me a look that couldn't have said anything but "I'm coming for you".

That, more or less, was my dream.

It feels like a very personal thing to put on a blog - more so than clever stories about playing basketball barefoot, or washing floors barefoot, or running barefoot (thank you Mordechai). But I think it says a lot about my unconscious experience here (thank you Freud). So if there's a Yosef out there (not a Freud, please) who has a knack for dream interpretation, I'd love to hear what you have to say.

As for a song -- I give you a Shabbat treat. My Shabbat this week is going to be full of Israeli songs I don't know but will learn. But my Shabbat will also be full of Shabbatot past - which includes the music of Shabbatot. So I give you Lecha Dodi. Not the one I originally wanted to post, but since the version of that one of youtube is - simply put - horrid, I decided to go with the one which is worth your listen.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Caravan #11

And I find myself back in the world of petel and chocolate spread. A world where everyone wears army watches, sits cross-legged, and plays music on nylon-string guitars and cellphones. A world where you clean the floor with massive buckets of water and squeegees. And a world where, I once again find myself speaking in a tongue to which I am not native.

Caravan #11
So I'm not in Caravan #17. Praise be to Allah. I'm in Caravan #11. And its beautiful. But there's still nothing in it. Which just sort of means I'm still living out of my suitcase. Which is fine. For now. I have one suitcase of clothes and one of books. I'm not sure what to do with the one full of books exactly, especially because there's no way I'm going to get through them with all they're trying to get me to read in Hebrew. Plus, there are no bookshelves in Caravan #11. But we'll see.

OK where to begin? I feel like I've been here for ages, when really its only been what? 2 1/2 days? I spent the weekend next door, in Kfar Adumim with a friend, lets call her Raisin, who I know from when I was in Migdal Oz, which I think probably has something to do with the fact that I feel like I've been here forever. Plus I slept here Saturday night. Alone. Oh, and I stayed up all night Thursday night. They take their mishmar here seriously.

OK, a word about the people. Ages range from twenty to thirty -- my chavruta (study buddy) is twenty-eight ... as of yesterday... and they're really wonderful. The vast majority came with no Jewish background, and consider themselves "Chiloni" or "secular". There have been some questions that people have asked that have sort of blown my mind. "What is the Talmud", for example. Or "Who was the Rambam?" Stuff like that. But no one laughs, no one even smiles, they just explain. Its really wonderful - the lack of cynicism is one of the things that really struck me. The best example of the sheer lack of frustration, disgust, anger, sickness of heart and pain came during our "group time" - a wonderful decompression and reflective practice that amounts to a sort of group therapy that I experienced both in Migdal Oz and on Bronfman - people said lots of things. But one girl said two things - right after the other - that really hit me as just beautiful and pure. She said that the two things that she took with her from the week were that first, Aramaic is a very "cute" language and that she enjoyed trying to puzzle together a sugya of gemara, and second, that Wittgenstein was right and that language does not express what we want it to express, ever. And I as I sat there, I felt the need to say how much I appreciated what she had to say. So I raised my hand and I did. I began, "its amazing how much siniut there is in college." A few people looked at me funny and someone said "what?" So I repeated -- realizing -- "its amazing how much tziniut there is in college." And they I started laughing. And so did everyone else. The word "sini" in Hebrew means "Chinese person". But the word "Tzini" means "Cynical person". And I had confused the two. I think I'm going to start זמן קבוצתי (group time) at Penn. Its hard for me to understand why no one has until now. Its beautiful.

A Word on Shoes
People don't wear them. Not no the grass, not on the porch, not in the mess hall.
We went up to the Mitzpeh (lookout) which overlooks the Wadi (which Israelis call the "Vadi" since there's no "w" sound in Hebrew) twice on Thursday night. Once a bit before 3am and once at 5 to watch the sunrise (even though the mitzpeh faces West). Both times I watched people climb the small mountain that Alon sits under without shoes. Both times I imagined the gravel of our path digging into the tender underbelly of my feet. Both times I sort of cocked my head and thought "wow, people really don't wear shoes here". Oh and I almost forgot, on Thursday, before the whole crazy mishmar thing, one of our teachers, a man who is well-respected, teaches TOSHB"A (Oral Law) at Hartman high school, and was giving us a class in literature which was, in turned out, very interesting, took his shoes off as soon as he walked in to the Beit Midrash. And it was not because "the place upon which he stood was holy ground". No. It was because people really don't wear shoes here. And then - the kicker. On Shabbat was in synagogue in Kfar Adumim (which has, essentially, the same atmosphere as Alon. In fact, Alon is built in Kfar Adumim land. In any case, they're pretty much the same) I happened to glance down to the men's section below. And lo and behold, one of the guys who I had met the day before was standing, praying, and had no shoes on. Let me repeat. He was praying and he had no shoes on. It is Halacha, al pi the heilicke Shulchan Aruch that commands that when one prays one must have on footwear. But I decided that I think that once one's become so callused and coarse that you feel no need to wear shoes ever, one's feet literally become one's shoes, and so - presumably - there was no Halachik problem with it. But still. People really don't wear shoes here.

Ok that's enough for now - more later. Its windy right now so I thought about putting on a song about Ruach which would have a nice dual-meaning. But instead, I've decided to put on something a bit different, something I was listening to last night. Its by a band called The Miracles of Modern Science, a very talented group of guys playing strings. The song: Luminol.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Acute (חריפה) Tonsilitis

Ein Prat started on Monday. Today is Wednesday. And I'm still in Baqa. I went with a friend, lets call her Librevox, who helped me get settled into the system...or really factory...that is - gasp - socialized medicine. Yes, I did feel like I was being processed, but I did get results in the end. They took a strep culture that Thursday. It was negative, I found out the next Sunday. So on Monday I went with Librevox's father to a walk-in clinic at Wolfson which, despite being in Israel, is actually American. As in, everyone there speaks English with no hint of a Hebrew accent. I was a bit astounded. But only a bit. Mostly because the Anglification of Jerusalem doesn't surprise me any more, but also because...I was still feverish.

The doctor that I got at Wolfson was an adorable 70-something Australian man who took one peek my throat, and diagnosed me with what I had diagnosed myself with the night before: Acute Tonsilitis. Great. "Wow, your lymph nodes are swollen!" he said. "I'll give you antibiotics from The States," he said. "It'll be better in 24 hours," he said. Twenty-four hours later, I was still abed with fever.

One full season of House M.D. and twenty-four MORE hours later, I do, in fact, feel better. This has been a lesson in patience for me. A virtue for which I fear I will forever be in need of schooling. These past two days I have been frustratingly inactive, but then, in my mother's wise word: "You don't realize how fragile the human body is until we get sick". And then, well, it hits you, don't it?

So if you were expecting a blog post to catch you up on how awesome Seattle was, telling you about getting coffee with my Grandma (shout out!), seeing Avatar in 3D IMAX, buying her a laptop, etc. Oh, I mention that she has a cult following at BU? She does. Or if you were expecting a blog post about how fascinating Ein Prat has been in the first few days, what with Erez Eshel and Micha Goodman being my teachers and all, living in a shnasty caravan, eating Israeli style (breakfast: salad, lunch:meat, dinner: salad <-- not going to work for me)...Sorry to disappoint. I've learned, so you can learn: Sometimes life is disappointing. But not everything must needs be disappointing. This song, for example, is amazing. Consider HaNachash's new "Od Ach Echad".

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Caravan #17

Sleep Struggles
I'm sitting in my friend's lovely kitchen in Baqa on a cloudy Jersualem morning at 6:52am inhaling Wellness Tea because its too hot to sip since I left the cup of water in the microwave long enough to kasher the thing. I've been up since 3:30. My lymph nodes feel like watermelons, or better yet, since I am, after all, living in the settlements, they feel like really big (stun) grenades. My throat feels like its been jackhammered and is now mere jagged cement. My vision is hazy and I think one eye is stuck so that one appears larger the other. I don't think I look pretty. But then, what's a blog for if not to avoid the most physical part of a relationship? Ahh yes, now I remember why I do this.

Appearances aside, let me tell you about Israel. Which is where I am.

Yom Chilutz Atazamot
I got in three days ago -- give or take a day or a night -- and have been on the run ever since. Ein Prat (the institute I am about to begin attending) scheduled a "yom chilutz" which literally translates to "Pioneer Day" on - I thought - Wednesday, the day after I got in. So I went to the central bus station, got on the 125 out to the boonies, arrived at Kfar Adumim (the closest spot to Ein Prat to which buses run) and walked/hitchhiked down to Alon, the settlement to Ein Prat is adjoined. But something was very wrong. It was a ghost town. I was on time, but no one else was there. I figured it was just Israelis being their lovely unscheduled selves, and walked on. But when I got to the Midrasha itself, I knew without a doubt that it wasn't that everyone else was late -- it was that I was early. By 24 hours.

The madrichim (organizers, counselors, administrators) were very kind, offering me drinks and strawberries, and telling me that, well, at least I got to figure out how to get there on my own! (Yeah, yeah. Ugh). So I turned around and went back. I hitched a ride to French Hill and from there I took two buses to get back to Baqa. Sigh.

But I was not deterred! No no! My pioneering spirit prevailed! And I went back yesterday (Thursday) -- meeting people as I went. Turns out there are going to be not two, but FOUR Chutznikim ("out of towners") in our group of sixty! I met one of them my first day in Israel and one more yesterday. Only thirty or so showed up for our Pioneer Day, so I have yet to meet about half the clan. Or commune. Or kibbutz. Or yeshiva. Or whatever we are. Anyway, its all very exciting, and I do love meeting people.

Sipping Pause
My tea is a goodly temperature now, and I do feel a bit better for drinking it, but I still can't help glancing at the clock and wondering when the Terem (clinic) at Tzomet HaBankim opens. Do we think it might open at 7? Is that possible?

Right! Back to the Yom Chilutz! So basically all we did was try and pretend like we were going learn each other's names, and then clean. The first two hours I spent mostly organizing the Moadon Studentim or "student office" which had been ransacked by the bogrim (alumni) that had come to Ein Prat for their Purim Party this past weekend. I also helped move chairs, which was fun. We assembly-lined it. And there was music blasting, which helped matters. Then we ate falafel. Scrumptious and clearly homemade, it came in a big pickle-jar like canister and the techina was poured from recycled plastic water bottles. And then we were put into teams of three to scour the caravanim, or trailers, where we will all be living for the next 4 months.

Caravan #17
Now, I visited this place before I signed my name in blood and agreed to come. I checked out the caravanim. Indeed, I slept in one! And I had though it a pleasant enough place, pretty, sedate, with a nice view of Jericho on one side and the Dead Sea on the other. But I hadn't seen ALL of the caravanim. Oh no. I hadn't seen the ones situated within the houses (can I even call them that?) of Alon. But I was assigned to clean one. Caravan #17.

It was NASTY. It had likewise been flipped upside down (pardon the Purim pun) by the party that had gone down last weekend -- but the chain-smoked cigarette butts in the coffee mugs and the sticky double deck of playing cards were not the real the problem. The real problem was that walking inside of it was like walking into a cabin at Camp Long. It was walking into a dirtier, nastier version of outside. Living there would be like camping all the time. I won't get into details, but I swept, scrubbed, and then waited as the two Israeli girls I was with did their thing with the squeegees and water that I'll never understand, and then we went back to join the others. I really hope I'm not forced to live in Caravan #17.

In a pathetic attempt at good cheer this morning, my ipod touch (which I have, in the interim, named Sweet Jimmy) has brought to my shuffle's attention the Belle and Sebastian gem, "Women's Realm". I hope it warms your the cuticles of your heart the way it has mine and brings serenity to the aches of your throat. Merry Sabbath.