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).

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I got back to Israel in the middle of the night four days ago. A lot has happened. I will relate snippets:

I met a girl in the airport. She was dressed in a floppy hat, leggings, a sweater with holes that hung loosely from her slight figure, and boots -- all in black. She was in front of me in the security line. As we put on our shoes together we became friends. Her boots were lace-ups. All the way to the knee. I hope I see her again some day.

I met an Israeli woman currently living in Los Angeles on the flight from Paris to Tel Aviv. A talker. But I didn't mind. She talked in Hebrew. She talked about her children - she has five daughters - and how proud she is of them. She talked about her Moroccan friends (once it came to light that I had been in Morocco not long ago) and their delicious foods. She talked about her divorce some years ago. She talked about her new love interest in Paris. She talked about love and genius. She talked about life after death and about reincarnation. She talked about how she was raised with little religion and now, in her fifties, has begun to find it a fulfilling exercise. She talked about her desire to keep Shabbat. She talked about finally feeling "grown-up". It was an odd sort of conversation...or listening experience, lefachot (at least).

I met a guy in the sheirut (collective taxi) to Jerusalem. Turns out he's almost finished with medical school and doing his residency in Philly next year. "Oh, really!" said I. And then we chatted. What a small, small Jewish world this is.

Today we had "Sport Class". "Sport Class" consists of an hour and a half of hemshechistim (that's what they call us 'round here) running around like out-of-shape chickens with their heads still on. I enjoy this time. Really I do.

Also, I had my first Ein-Prat chug (educationally enriching activity -- yes, that's the translation my Ulpan [read: my chavruta] found on Babylon). Earlier this week we chose from a list of six or so options. I chose "Listening to Classical Music" as my chug. The chug-master is also our ancient Greek literature teacher and is - if I do say so - both classy and a classicist. It was a glorious chug.

When I got back to Ein Prat the first thing I wanted to do was go for a run. There is a path that circles Alon, said to be between 2.6 and 3 kilometers. It overlooks the hills that roll down to the Dead Sea to the southeast and dip and crest towards Jericho to the northeast. The songs of these runs are the soundtrack of my pesek zman at Ein Prat. Today I share with you one of those songs -- this one's a surprise...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Backtrack, Foretrack, and Presentrack

I am currently in Palm Springs. Sitting by the pool. My belly full from the kosher l'pesach lunch buffet we were treated to an hour or so ago. How I got here is the story of this blog post.

Yerida (Going Down) for the Regel (Holiday): A List
Our Kabbalat Shababt was done on the Mitzpe in the freezing wing, communal air, and confused veiw of the sunset.
I was on "Oneg Staff".
I gave a d'var torah about the word root "Kara" (it was Parashat Vayikra [the portion of the week]) at the Oneg.
I taught a song at the Oneg.
We sang the song in a round.
People really liked the song.
It was a really good song.
I was really happy that people really liked the song.
We spent Tuesday night "Doing Mishmar", which we usually do on Thursday night.
I say "Doing Mishmar" in quotation marks because we didn't "Learn" Mishmar. But it was a good (musical) time nevertheless.
Caught a ride to Tel Aviv the next day to meet with Zochrot, an organization that creates and sustains awareness around Palestinian villiages-that-were.
Zochrot was dissapointingly single-minded.
Hung out with friends.
Went to bookstores, drugstores, apartments, dorms, cafes, restaurants, bars.
Watched the Israeli superbowl. Rooted for Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv won.
The Israeli Army Chief of Staff was at the game. His son was the losing quarterback. Yikes.
Flew AirFrance through Paris to Boston.
Decided that AirFrance is a respectable airline with respectable food and respectable flight attendence and respectable movies. I fell asleep during the respectable French movie.
There were French-Moroccan Jews on my flight.
I learned my lesson and didn't bust out the Arabic. Successfully avoided a Shidduch.
I gave the last of my chametz (a Cliff Bar) to a woman in Boston. She was grateful.

Pesach: B List
Boston, family, scardydog, pouring rain.
"Ma Nishtana" in Yiddish.
Got to be the Water in "Chad Gad Ya".
Woke up at 4:30am.
Cancelled flight to LAX at 7:10am
Back into Boston and headed for the Jewish place of refuge: Hillel.
BU Hillel provided food, shelter, sleep, family, and made possible the observance of religoius ritual. Truly a refuge.
Flight out to Denver at 2pm. Turbulence was terrible.
Change planes in Denver.
As I booked it to Brookstone (new headphones!) apprecaited the West Coast chill: Bears, backpacks, hemp sweaters and ski-goggle tans.
Take off from Denver: Clouds like cotton, mountains like chocolate, snow like icing, sunset like straweberry-mango sorbet. For everything else, there's MasterCard.
Arrival in Palm Springs: The airport's outside. Every house has a pool. Our hotel is a mix of Chareidi (and some not-so-Chareidi) families from Brooklyn, Switzerland and Spain who spend their evenings listening to Sam Glaser and the Palm Springs regulars: women in bikinis and men in speedos. Torah U'Mada?

Musically - or, perhaps just emotionally - I'm confused. Which is why I leave you with this: Patrick Park's "Life is a Song".