Friday, December 31, 2010

Finals

So that happened.

Two tests every day from Sunday through Thursday. My brain is absolutely drained and I don't think I can fit anymore information into it. Then there is the fact that I still need to finish up the Israel Seminar essay that's due at the end of our break.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the work load we have here. I expected this to be tough. But I've never had 8 exams and a paper in the course of a four days. Uufdah.

I learned a few things during finals week;

I write too much in my notes. When there is too much information it's hard to study it.
I need to take notes on my readings. The chicken scratch I jot down doesn't do a whole lot of good.
Start preparing study guides earlier. You never know how long they might take.
Freeing brain space for a few hours each day us a great idea. Sometimes you just need to do nothing. (Finally watching the West Wing is a great way to do that).

The good part about being so slammed with work is that the last two weeks have flown by faster than anything I can imagine. At the same time that I spent at a minimum of 12 hours a day on campus working on study guides and exams, that was 12 hours out of each day that I wasn't thinking about how soon it is that Kaitlin will be on the ground in Israel.

It's today.

Finals are over and now I need to wait for grades to come in. And that's the end of that chapter!

(Stay tuned to read about my travels with Kaitlin. She's bringing me a replacement camera so pictures will start coming along with these posts again)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fantasy Football Champion!

I think it was Bill Simmons who said, one thing nobody cares about, but loves to talk about is their own Fantasy Football team. Therefore I will keep this short.

I love sports and I love tracking stats during the year. It gives me a reason to keep caring about football when the Vikings have a year like the one they've had this year. When the opportunity to play fantasy football with some of the other Year in Israel participants this year, I was all over that.

I'm glad I had something to take up some of the few empty spaces in my brain in between classes and everything else. That's all for now, since nobody really cares about my team, as nobody should.

But on the way out I need to boast the fact that I won the season by a narrow margin. Shout out to Ricky who put up a great matchup in the finals.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Not For A While

I just wanted to post quickly that I probably won't be writing much until finals are over. Today is a reading day and tomorrow we begin exams.

Look for something Thursday afternoon (IST) as a recap of everything.

Until then,
Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Last night, being Christmas Eve, a bunch of us thought it would be a once in a lifetime experience to go into Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity to see it on Christmas Eve. It made for a long, long night.

We took a fifteen minute walk from school to the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. There were tons of cabs lined up on the side of the road waiting to take all of the pilgrims who were on their way. After a little negotiating, we got into three cabs, two cars and a bus, and headed towards the Bethlehem Border Crossing. Our unmarked cab took us right up to the crossing, but dropped us off there. There are some laws that require certain licenses to cross the border into the West Bank (or as our driver called it, Palestine).

Since it was a pilgrimage holiday, the crossing was very easy. We showed our passports and crossed in a few minutes. Really not a big deal. Once on the other side of the border, we hired another cab from the border towards The Church of the Nativity. It was strange sitting in the front of the cab and hearing the drive saying, "Shit!" when we ran into traffic. I asked him what was wrong and he started to complain about the police and that they were blocking off roads that were open a few hours earlier.

We got let out a five minute walk away from Manger Square because there were road blocks all over the place and guys with big guns told the car to stop. After a few minutes of walking, suddenly the place was packed with people. Shops and restaurants had people spilling out onto the street and we heard Christmas Music in English playing from some of the stores as we passed them.

Finally at the square, we needed to regroup with all of the people we came with. As we were wandering there was a guy with a large coffee warmer so two of us went to get some coffee, it was pretty chilly. It turns out that he was selling something called "Sachlav." It's heated, sweet-milk, with some herbs and other things mixed into it and put on the top. Super sweet and super tasty. Apparently Cup 'o Joe or Cafe Cafe sells that around Jerusalem. I need to check it out.

We toured the square and looked at all of the people. It wasn't possible to get close to the church because there were barricades all over the place and very large police presence. We kept walking.

There were little kids trying to sell us things all over the place. I felt bad telling them no, but after being asked seven or eight times by the same child, I was getting a little annoyed. But as long as we kept walking, we weren't hassled by them.

Wandering around we found a few other Churches, but I have no idea what was special about them. We didn't get the opportunity to go into any of them because Mass was starting soon. Not that we cared too much, but it would have been cool to see what all the churches we for.

On the way back to the square, we stopped in a shop that had a bunch of olive wood carvings. They were beautiful pieces of art. One that really struck my eye, as well as the eyes of a few other people in our group, was a large carving of "The Last Supper." It was really beautiful. Of course none of us were looking to buy anything, we only wanted to look at the artwork. After a few moments we left the shop and met with the larger chunk of our group that we had come with.

At this point a few of them wanted to leave. Not all of did though. A group of six of us wanted to stay to see Mass.

There was a very large screen that had the service inside the church being broadcast on the side of the building. It started a little bit before midnight and we hung around until about 12:30 in the morning. It was interesting hearing the service in Latin translated into Arabic. This meant that none of us really understood a word. The mass of people standing outside the church was incredible. So many people absolutely fixated on the screen listening to the service.

A few people were pushing through the crowd selling coffee, tea and these paper lanterns. You are supposed to light the lantern and let it rise into the air. A few of them were set off and I liked seeing them rise over the people. Looking around the crowd I liked seeing the lights decorating the entire plaza, complete with a large green tree decorated like Christmas Trees back home. Blue lights strung as icicles made me miss winter.

We left the square around 12:30 in the morning to head back to Jerusalem. Our driver that took us to the border told us that the extra security was because the President of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, was inside the church. That was probably the man they kept focusing on at the front of the congregation, but I couldn't tell who it was initially. This was also the reason that we needed to walk five minutes to get to his taxi.

Another friendly cab ride later we got to the crossing again. This time it was a little longer of a process to get through. There were more people and we needed to cue in a long line. The guard let four people into the screening area at a time and everyone set off the metal detector. When I got through and remembered that I had a ring on my finger, I was surprised that I didn't continue to set off the alarm. It took me three tries to get through without a beep.

In the large cab, we ran into a group of HUC students that had walked to the church starting at 6:30 that evening. It took them about three hours to get there.

It was a pretty cool experience to have here. I'm really glad I took the time to go, especially because I don't know if I will ever have the opportunity to do it again.

My camera is still broken, so I don't have any pictures until I'm able to take the ones my friends let me shoot.

For those who spend today as a celebration, Merry Christmas from Jerusalem.

Friday, December 24, 2010

One Week From NOW

From the moment this post goes up, it will be exactly one week until Kaitlin gets to Israel. Most of our relationship has been over a long distance. By that I mean two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours away, and I never went more than six weeks without seeing her. Now it has been almost six months.

Six months is a long, long time and I can't wait to see her.

We have some tentative plans in place. Since she has never been to Israel, we're going to get a car and go to the Dead Sea and climb Masada in the morning to watch the sunrise from the top of the mountain (I really wanted to do that when I was here on Taglit, but y group decided they didn't want to do that). Kaitlin also wants to check out Eilat, but instead, I think we're going to keep going south into the Sinai. This way we can get into Egypt, something we both want to do, and check out some really cool places some of my friends told me about when they took trips down there.

There are a bunch of things we want to do around Jerusalem. Check out the Dome of the Rock/Temple Mount, museum hopping, you know I'm going to take her to the shuk, restaurants, campus and many other things. She really wants to head to Tel Aviv for a day or two to check out that city and we might find a way to take a day trip or two.

I'm really excited to show her the city I've been living in for the last six months and to introduce her to my friends. I think it will be good for her to meet some of the people that I will be studying with for the next four years.

Anyway,
It's Christmas Eve. It's strange to not be in the cities. It's strange to not have snow all over the ground. It's strange to not hear a ton of Christmas Music and Christmas commercials on the radio. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I like that I don't feel overloaded, but I strangely miss some of the normal signs of the season.

For anyone who is celebrating Christmas tonight and tomorrow, "Merry Christmas!" I hope you have a meaningful holiday and spend some good time with family.

For everyone else, I'm probably going to search out some Chinese Food here. I'm not sure if any of it is any good, but it may be worth a shot.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Quarter Tones

Today our Israel Seminar class took us to a really interesting synagogue in the Nachlaot neighborhood. We got to sit and listen to a Piyyutan (someone who sings piyyutim. Piyyutim are songs/prayers that are part of a service, part of a celebration or other various times). He spoke to us about the revitalization of the piyyut singing, which was an Arabic-Jewish tradition.

The music uses a lot of Arabic melodies and often they are actually popular Arabic Songs from countries of origin. He sang us a few melodies from Spain, Iraq and the city the tradition is from. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of this city. Honestly, it was beautiful to listen to.

Imagine floating melodies in interesting modes and scales that are used. They sound like minor-keys but they also use half-tones and quarter-tones. The pitches are not something that is normal for us to hear in western music and it was beautiful to hear him sing.

One of the other things he spoke to us about was how he learned to sing like that. It was something that he started to learn as a small child. When he was a teen, like most teens, he backed out for a while until he was in the army when he realized that he missed it. The way he learned everything is by going to services and listening to someone else perform the songs. The issue is that there are about 100 different modes/scales. One for each week as well as others for specific services. Yes, there are people that can tell the difference between the scales and the melodies.

This is an incredible kind of music and I would be really excited to go and check one of the services out, especially the winter piyyut singing. However, this takes place only on Shabbat mornings at 0300. That's not a typo, it's only at 3:00AM and lasts until 0700. It would be incredible, but I don't think this is something I will be able to get up for on a Shabbat morning.

Since I highly doubt I will have that chance, I really appreciated hearing him sing today.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sushi Rehavia

Derekch Azza is just outside of the neighborhood Rehavia. I think it is actually the border between Rehavia and the neighborhood I live in, Kriat Shmuel. On Azza is a sushi place, called Sushi Rehavia. I know it's an inventive name.

I wish I had some pictures to show you, because when I moved in here there was one location on Azza (as well as a few others throughout the city). Next door to this location there was a building under construction with a sign saying that Sushi Rehavia would be coming soon. A little while back, the old location locked it's doors and the tables were picked up and moved next door to the new Sushi Rehavia in Rehavia.

Last week I went with my friend Dusty to get a little sushi.

The "patio" section was a little chilly, even with the large torches they have set up, so we sat inside, near the sushi bar and fish tanks they have. We both ordered the same entrée, salmon sushi sandwiches. I had never had a sushi sandwich before coming to Israel and I can't quite figure out how to eat them. They are these little sandwich halves of sushi. Since they are about four bites worth, at least, you can't stuff the entire thing in your mouth. But they're not as held together as a sushi roll, so they tend to fall completely apart after the first or second bite.

That doesn't affect the taste. They have good fish at Rehavia. At some of the other places, the sushi is sometimes a little crunchy, leading me to think it's kept a little too cold. Here it was really good. Very flavorful. I really like the presentation too. Your sushi comes on a wood plank that looks like a little table.

In addition to the sandwich I ordered, I got a mushroom roll. I thought it was going to be fish with mushrooms, but I guess it was just sliced mushrooms in rice with a seaweed wrap. The mushrooms were really good, but not exactly what I was expecting.

Neither of us was in the mood for desert, but I was excited to see what looked like a molten-chocolate cake. It made me think of my little brother (he learned how to make those last summer). Jake, I'm expecting to have one of those shortly after I get home.

There are three locations that I know for Sushi Rehavia. I had a good experience there. Nothing extraordinary, but pretty darn good.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Flag Football: Game 3

While the game was over a week ago, I have no idea what the score was. I know we got stomped pretty badly, but we managed to get three touchdowns and I caught one of them!

Thanks to a great turnover caused by one of my teammates Dana, we had the ball in great field position. I was getting tired of running the end around and I told Brian, the Quarterback at the time, that I wanted to go out for a pass. Starting from the left side of the field, I ran in underneath after Steven cleared a nice space for me to move through. Wide open, Brian hit me with a perfect pass where it needed to be and I hopped over the line into the end zone! Touchdown!

Yep, I threw another interception. As I stepped back to launch a deep pass, I felt the ball come out of my had poorly. The wounded duck flopped all over the place and Brian had no chance to get back under the ball. My bad.

But this was quite possibly the most fun I'd had since we started playing. When the game started I was really frustrated with the attitude of the other team. They had this guy who played ball for the Texas Longhorns, and in a fun, Tuesday Night Flag Football League, he was taking it way to seriously. There were a bunch of guys on their team that took themselves too seriously. In every game we have played so far, we usually just keep one ball on the field and play with it the whole game. Apparently they refused to use our ball and refused to let us use theirs.

The redeeming factor was that a few guys on their team knew that this was just for fun and didn't act like this was a professional game. One guy especially looked like he was having a good time. But the bad attitude of the rest of the team made the fact that we were having so much fun even better!

I especially liked the fact that at the end of the game, I was walking to put the flags away and I heard their "coach" reaming out a few of his guys. I even caught one of them asking if the game was at the same time next week. The classic response was, "I don't know, I'll call you and let you know." Which I interpreted to mean, "I'm not sure if I want to use you again." On the way out of Kraft Stadium I heard the two guys complaining about how they let us score and how they let us have too much time to let plays develop.

We're having fun, and that's the point. It's not about winning or losing, we come to run, to have fun and to play a game. Whether it's the pre-game speech, (this week's was "There's no crying in baseball", a-la A League of Their Own) or our cheering section that was as packed as usual, it was fantastic!

I'm still sending a massive shout-out to Marina, who every time I make a play screams, "That's my roommate!"

My injury status this week is listed as questionable, we'll see how I feel recovering from this cold. If I feel good, you know I'll be out there running around and enjoying every second of it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Finally Better

It's actually amazing what 10 to 13 hours of sleep per night can do for you.

My normal daily routine here gets me up around 6:30 in the morning so I can get a little stretching and if I'm lucky some Yoga in before I cook breakfast and shower. As the year has gone on, it's been easy to not get up for all of that, and instead pop up around 6:30 so I can go over some notes, a reading or polish a homework assignment before running to school. Trying to get there early so I can have some coffee, organize my stuff or what have you before class starts.

That's the plan every day. What complicates this is the fact that I'm usually up until at least midnight working on homework or talking to people back in the states. Thus, waking up at 6:30 is difficult and my great morning plans don't usually work out the way I want them to and I end up wandering into class about two minutes early since I "speed-walked" my way to school to get there on time.

However, I started to get a cold last week and I found myself missing the services and my first class on Thursday, sleeping in through the bus to go to Qumran on Friday, sleeping late on Saturday and again not getting up until after 11:00 this morning. Not a good way to start the week before exams, right?

I guess I needed it.

I'm not a person who likes to takes medication unless I need to in order to make life happen. I'm glad i've been medicating myself with rest and about a gallon of herbal tea. I finally feel good for the first time since Tuesday last week. Maybe I've been running myself too hard, maybe I need a little more sleep on a regular basis. Maybe I just finally caught the cold/sickness/mono/crud/exhaustion that's been going around our program.

I've honestly spent a total of an hour outside my apartment since Thursday night. That includes a trip to the grocery store so I could make myself soup for dinner, lunch and dinner. I'm going to keep resting today, working on assignments for classes this week and towards finals.

Who knows, maybe next semester I can keep my normal schedule better.

Friday, December 17, 2010

That Time of the Year

Every year in college, right around finals, I would start to get a bit of a cold. I would chalk it up to the fact that I tend to run myself ragged. The weather changes for the colder and I usually catch a nice little cold. Once finals are finished I usually crash into a bed with a nice little cold and take a few days away from the world.

Nothing is different this year, except one thing. I'm not to the end of finals week yet. I'm still two weeks away from starting them. And being that this whole grad-school thing is a little tougher than working on my undergraduate degree, I have been trying to get a jump start of studying for exams. Here is where everything get's a little bit more complicated.

I've got a cold now. Yeah, yeah. A common cold is nothing that should knock me down, and I'm not looking for pity from anyone. But I've had an excruciating headache and have been incredibly sensitive to light. The last few days, I've been unable to get out of bed before 10:00 AM. It's been nice getting a fuller night's sleep each night, but I'm not a fan of being sick like this.

I'm hoping the soup I had for dinner, mixed with glasses upon glasses of tea will help get this crud out of my system and I can take on finals at full force as soon as possible. Ugh.

I wish there was better stuff going on right now to write about. But it is what it is.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In Joshua's Shoes: Happy Hanukah

With the singing of the Maccabeats, "Candelight", Matisyahu's "Miracle", and Adam Sandler's "Hannukah Song" ringing in my ears, I can't believe Hanukah is already over. I know, I know, it's not that big of a deal. It's a really minor holiday. But that doesn't mean I couldn't have a great experience. And I made sure that happened.

Whether it was unfortunately missing the incredible opportunity to join the "Parallel Lives" soldiers at their base (which I'm still bummed I missed), the latke eating contest at HUC, Kabbalat Shabbat complete with Hanukah melodies for the opening psalms, trying sufganiyot from various bakeries or just having some time off, I had a fantastic Hanukah. Check out my experiences on my new TC Jewfolk post, In Joshua's Shoes: Hanukah in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mamilla Deli

Very close to HUC, on Shlomitziyon HaMalkah, is a great place to grab lunch, Mamilla Deli. Get the image of a New York Deli out of your head, this is still Jerusalem.

Unlike other experiences I've had in Jerusalem, the customer service here is great! The guy behind the counter the last two times I've been there is in a good mood, very friendly and jokes around. When I was ordering my sandwich, I asked which sauces they had. He responded, "You can't read?" and pointed, with his knife, to the board behind him that listed their sauces.

Chili Sauce and BBQ Sauce on my sandwich was fantastic. Along with that, I added some garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, onions and mixed greens. Yum! For a few shekels more, I got fries and a drink. Nothing too special going on there. But one of my friends ordered these crispy potato things. They were interesting. Little chunks of potato that were battered. Interesting...

The first time I went there, we went for their wings. Yep, that's right. A deli that makes wings. Our wine-infused sauce was great. I hadn't thought of sweet-wine wings. The only issue is that they take a little while to make, so you have to have some time that you are willing to spend waiting for them. But if you have the time it's worth the wait.

I don't have too much else to say, it's a solid restaurant a few blocks away from school and is a nice change of pace from the sandwiches at Beit Shmuel (the cafe in the hotel attached to HUC), or the Moadon at school. It's a good, quiet place to have a lunch and talk, or maybe to even do some homework.

B'tayavon,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Another Weather Post

I might not be in Minnesota, but I guess you can't make me stop talking about the weather.

Out of nowhere the temperature dropped and if you read my last few posts, we've started getting rain. When we got back to Jerusalem last night it was cold and windy. On the walk home it was nice and blustery. When I woke up this morning it was cold. I know it's nothing compared to the tsnownami that Minneapolis just got, but considering last week I was wearing shorts and sandals and this week I kept my fall jacket on all day, I'd say that was a ridiculous turn around.

Then I stepped out of my front door this morning. I haven't felt wind this strong since walking around Fargo. But here's the real issue. We haven't had a lot of rain here. That means the dirt is loose on the surface. After at least two days of pummeling winds, the dirt and dust is no longer on the ground, it's in the air. Looking down the road, there was a distinct haze hovering over the city. For a mental image, think of the haze of Los Angeles but yellow and dusty, not gray.

On my walk home, I could taste the dirt in my mouth and as I passed the Gilad Shalit protest tent, the two portable toilets that were tipped over across the street were still across the street, but they were at least turned back the right way. The one that had been thrown ten feet and stuck under a sign had been moved backed to where it belonged.

I really wish I had my camera to show you the craziness of the dust in the air. And then there was my little issue this afternoon. I was sitting in my room and I heard a loud creaking sound outside our window. My first thought was that it was the same tree that was whipping back and forth last night. After the creaking, there was loud crack!

I immediately looked up and saw blue, green and yellow flashes of light. A loud buzzing sound accompanied it. As the buzzing got louder, the flashes continued. When they stopped I looked and there was a large chunk of the tree down on top of the power lines. I wish I had a working camera to show some pictures of it (it's kinda bugging me to not be able to take photos, but soon enough).

I called the police and they weren't unhelpful, which is more than I can say about other bureaucracies here. But I don't think they ever stopped by. If they came by, I have no idea what they did.Nothing looks different about it. But what are you gonna do.

I guess this is what happens when we add the prayer, משיב הרוח ומריד הגשם (makes the wind blow and the rain fall). I kid, but seriously. The wind here is crazy!

That's all for now. Hey guess what? We don't need to be at school until 11:00 AM tomorrow. That means I'm going to get breakfast and do some reading in the morning. I will feel like a real person for a little while!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Unwanted But Much Needed

Friday morning, our day off, I needed to be at school by 7:20 in the morning (meaning that I need to leave my apartment before 7:00) to go on a retreat to Kibbutz Hannaton. I have to say that heading into the retreat, I didn't want to head out of town so close to the end of our semester. I was honestly feeling a little stressed looking at everything that is on our schedule as we come to the end of the year.

It was so much better than I could have anticipated. I went on a hike for about 3 hours of hiking. I wish I could remember the hills we climbed, but it was a lot of fun. At the start is seemed pretty easy. Then we took on the actual hilly part of the climb. It was great! There was nothing that we needed to scale, but some of the hiking was pretty tough at times. When we got to the top, the view was incredible.

The way down was actually harder than the way up. I'm a lot more nervous about dropping down, but it was great.

Exhausted, we got to the Kibbutz, showered and had a really nice Shabbat together as a program. Some z'mirot (songs) after dinner and even a tish (table, song session and study session) with one of the community's rabbis. A bunch of melodies, a few discussions and constant interruption of two dogs chasing each other around the tent. After relaxing for a while, I got a decent night's sleep and woke up to go get some meditation in.

I had never do that before and it was a great experience. I'm not sure what it exactly was about focusing on nothing but the pace of my breath. The session was guided and she asked us to concentrate on the the four letter word of God's Name. Each letter represents a part of the cycle of breathing. I felt so much better after that.

Sitting around the kibbutz the rain hit. Yep, that's right. The rain hit hard!

We actually got a nice downpour off and on all day. Complete with thunder and lightning, it was a fantastic show. I had forgotten how much I missed storms. There was really only one more thing that could have made it better was to have a certain special someone sitting on the couch next to me. I love storms and I haven't had a chance to see anything like this since getting to Israel.

It was great to have a little time off somewhere away from Jerusalem. Although I have to see that I am still a little worried about all of the stuff I have coming up and the days that I don't really have to get it all done in. But with that said, I need to get a little sleep. It's going to be a long three weeks until Kaitlin gets here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Illuminated Manuscripts

We had a few days off at the start of this week, so this was a perfect time to get some culture in. The Israel museum is really close to my house and at the suggestion of one of my classmates, I thought this would be a great experience. They have a Braginsky collection of Illuminated Manuscripts.

The largest selection were K'tubot, marriage contracts. I was so excited that I could read many of them, but I would have appreciated translations so I wouldn't have needed to work as hard. I was stuck by the drawings on them. Many had symbols of the months, Adam and Chava (Eve) and more. I was really surprised at the number that had a depiction of the binding of Isaac.

Another section of the display had Migilot Esther, scrolls of the Book of Esther. Some were incredibly beautiful with pictures of the events in the story. Others had really ornate drawings in the margins. They came in amazingly ornate casings. Some of them were made of silver, wood and even ivory. Some of the scrolls were clearly just for possession and were not meant to be used, the writing was really tiny.

Speaking of tiny writing, the third section contained various books, many of them prayer books, psalms or Bibles. There were two examples of micrography. This is the use of minute writing so small that I couldn't even see which language they were written in. One of these texts had 7 psalms that made a picture of King David playing a harp. Amazing!

Other books were some amazing Haggadot (books for the Passover Seder) which depictions of the Exodus from Egypt. There were also incredible prayer books including one by HaAri that had suggestions for ways to heighten your prayer experience, kavaanot. But here's the best part of they day, I joined the museum!

It really just made a lot of sense. For 100 NIS, a little more than 25 USD, I can go as often as I want this year. Instead of paying 36 NIS each time, this made perfect sense. After the entire conversation in Hebrew, with a little help from Micah, I had signed up and also received a free gift because it's Hanukah. I have a great new mug for my nescafe (read: terrible, terrible, terrible morning coffee) that is big enough for me to get a full cup of coffee before I leave for school.

After looking at the manuscripts, we wandered the museum a little bit. There was a really cool photograph that we looked at. Well, really it's a ton of photographs that were staged to look like an updated version of an old picture. It was really cool and I didn't read the information explaining how it was done until later. It shifted my perspective on the piece. I wish I could have bought it off the museum. I really liked this picture.

Then we went towards the Modern Art wing. In the Modern Art section there is a very thin table that is constantly in motion. It just wobbles, all the time. Then there is another room dedicated to the progression of furniture and in another room is a large mobile that has full sized musical instruments hanging from it. I guess I just don't understand modern art. Things like this just don't resonate with me and it might be that I just haven't studied it. The two other people I was with had similar feelings. One of them decided to ask the security guard what he thought. He essentially said that he didn't get it either. The paintings, the pottery and things on the lower floors were art to him, he didn't really get it.

Maybe someone can help me? I really think I haven't learned how to appreciate Modern or Post-Modern Art.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

And Thou Shalt Love

Our Israel Seminar class is taking us on a strange journey through many layers of Israeli society and Israel itself. On Wednesday, this week, we visited a very interesting film school, Ma'ale. From what was explained to us, this is a film school for Orthodox Jews in Israel.

We were given a short introduction by one of their directors/writers, Chaim Elbaum. He explained some of the ways they deal with issues of modesty, yet still teach film creation. Apparently the school only shows certain films in class, and then leaves it up to the students that decide for themselves, what else they want to be exposed to.

The goal of the school is to put another view of the "Orthodox World" on screen. They want to show that there is more to "Orthodoxy" in Israel that HaUshpizin. However, they are not without controversy, I mean, what kind of a film school would it be if they didn't have some. As it turns out, the man we got to meet was responsible for creating and directing this film.

The film, ואהבת (And Thou Shalt Love), was incredible. Chaim Elbaum told a great story about a young man, who is gay and orthodox. The main character struggles with these two identities because they are supposedly mutually exclusive. Many ways of dealing with this situation are explored in the movie, and I don't want to spoil if for you. I will only recommend that you take the time to watch it. It should be available at Ma'ale's website.

I wish we would have had more time to talk with Elbaum, he had a very interesting story to tell us. Instead we also got to screen two other movies. But there was something so personal about watching someone's work with them in the room. Especially when the story is so moving and deals with such a difficult topic.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In Joshua's Shoes: 5-Minute Drash

I know I've already posted my drash in video and printed form on this blog. But are you curious about the process?

Check out my new post at TC Jewfolk.

You can see the new talit I bought a few weeks ago.

In Joshua's Shoes: 5-Minute Drash

Summer Job

Well, it's official. I have my summer job. I was planning on going back to Minneapolis for the summer to work at Camp TEKO one last time. Before I tell you what my job is going to be, I will quickly recap what I've done there so far.

In four years, I have had more than four different positions. Counselor, Sports Specialist, Overnight Staff, Avodah Unit Head (this is the pre-Counselor-In-Training program for entering 9th and 10th graders), Overnight Unit Head. Additionally, I've been a Bus Captain, Yom Yafeh (Judaic Programming) Co-Programmer, Assistant Song Leader, Camp Photographer and I'm sure I left something out, somewhere. No, I'm not going back to run camp. Tracy does an amazing job and I'm excited to work for her one last time. I don't think Temple Israel would want me to do that. Plus, there's that little thing that I'm involved in for the next four and a half years.

Why am I so excited about this?

Because my job is going to be, Music Specialist! That's right. Monday through Friday for eight or so hours a day, I will get to play and teach music to campers. I'm so glad I've been compiling so many variations of different songs and different melodies this year. I'm excited to teach all of this great Jewish music to campers! It's going to be great! I mean, I can't imagine doing something else with my summer this year!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Can You Learn Creativity?

Last Wednesday our Israel Seminar class started discussing the idea of what it means to be a "secular" Israeli. At some other point, when I have fleshed out my thoughts on this, I will post something about the different relationships to Judaism that exist in Israel. This time I want to talk about our speaker.

To give the secular view we heard a discussion from Etgar Keret, a great Israeli author. He showed us one of his movies and read from one of his stories. Some of the other students had already purchased some of his books, and I have had the chance to read more of his stories. He also took the chance to sign some of these books. Included with his signatures were little drawings. All I have to say is that I wish I could be THAT creative.

His little drawings were of two or three completely random things combined to make really interesting pictures. In listening to him talk about how he creates his stories was fascinating. A part of his writing process is to focus on a situation or a sentence that doesn't sit well in his head. Around that, a story develops. Sometimes it is incredibly short. Other times, the stories end up longer. In any event, they are fascinating stories.

I don't see my mind working in the same way. I'm left thinking, is it possible to learn creativity? Is there a way that I can train my mind to spin that way?

When I have free time, I can't wait to add some of his work to my reading list. They were great stories.

What about Secular Israelis? More to come as I let my feelings on this steep a little.

Ben Sira Hummus

Located on Rechov Ben Sira, near Mamilla, there is a little hole in the wall hummus shop, appropriately named Ben Sira.

There aren't many seats in the restaurant, a few at the bar and a couple of tables with a few tables outside, until the weather gets bad. When you walk in you can smell the hummus and falafel and it smells great!

One of my favorite things about the hummus is that it comes to you still a little warm and the bring you warm pita, pickles, onions and tomatoes on the side. The texture is perfect. They serve a smooth, creamy hummus that has some whole chick peas on the top as well. At a very reasonable cost, you can also get a fresh side of Salat Israeli.

Not only that, but the meal also includes a few falafel balls. The most recent time I ate at Ben Sira, it took me a while to get to the falafel, so it was a little cold. The taste was still great though. Crunchy but not flakey, with a good mixture of seasoning.

You might be asking, "What is so exceptional about the hummus here?"

Well, aside from the hummus itself being very tasty and smooth, they put various toppings on the hummus. I have only ever had their Hummus Basar (Hummus with Meat). They take ground beef and brown it on a griddle. Then put it on top of the hummus adding another texture to the hummus. Off the top of my head, I know they have a mushroom one that is really good, so I've been told. Unfortunately I do not remember what some of the other ones are.

In the end, you get way too much food for just one person. Yeah, it is possible to finish off a bowl of it yourself. Or you can get the food lakakchat (to take away), and it keeps really well for a day or two. Instead, I like to bring a friend. Hummus and a salad is more than enough for a light lunch and it tastes fantastic! If you're headed towards Mamilla, headed in the direction of Ben Yehuda, or even making your way towards Yamin Moshe, Ben Sira is a good place to stop in for lunch. However, get your "Israeli attitude" ready. When it's busy, the space is cramped and you need to make it to the front to be served.

It's absolutely worth it.

B'tayavon,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fire and Rain

In case you hadn't heard, there had been a massive fire raging on Mount Carmel in northern Israel. Finally, after 82 hours, Ynet News was reporting that the fire had been contained. There have been 41 reported deaths, many homes and acres of land destroyed. Including the artist's colony of Ein Hood, somewhere I almost visited when I was up in Haifa.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those that lost loved ones. And I am thankful for the firefighters who fought to contain it.

Which brings me to the other side of this coin. Rain. In Jerusalem we finally received some more rain this morning. This winter has been one of the driest in a long time. Hopefully we get a consistent amount of rain over the next week or so to soak the ground and prevent something else like this from happening this year.

I have a friend who lives in Haifa and goes to school there. Last I heard from her, they were evacuated from school, but it was difficult to breathe outside her home. I hope they are alright and they can soon return to normalcy.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Training Day

Wait, we have a few days off?

Yes!

For Chanukah HUC gave us a four-day-weekend! That means I actually had a lot of free time and a Sunday like I was used to.

So instead of sitting around all day on Saturday doing homework, I joined a a few of the other riders for Ride4Reform this year on a training ride. Dan took us on a short route towards Yad Vashem. But instead of going to the museum, we took a left down a sweet hill into Ya'ar Yerushalayim (the Jerusalem Forrest). It was a nice ride complete with some hills both up and down. I hadn't been out on a bike for a few weeks so it felt great getting out there on the road and feeling the pavement pass beneath me.

The is something rewarding about climbing a hill for five minutes. Winded and fighting for breath climbing over the crest and seeing a steep decline. Whipping down it as wind rushes past your face to the point that you can no longer hear the traffic. There is nothing better for a Shabbat afternoon.

Why on Shabbat? Because most of the city of Jerusalem doesn't drive on that day. Fewer cars means that we all feel much safer.

It's also great going in a group. For me, I do like sitting on a bike at the Yimkah (spelled in English YMCA), and listening to music to keep my legs churning as hard as I can. But it's so much better to go out with a group of friends. Today there were only five of us, which is a good start to the group we have riding in March. I missed a few of the earlier rides, so I am a bit behind.

On the bad news side of things, my brakes were squeaking. Every time I squeezed it, a high pitched whine came from the front wheel. Then, as we were riding, I could hear the brakes rubbing while we were out. That means tomorrow, when I still don't have school, I'm going to head down to the bike shop and see if they can fix that. I would take care of it myself, but there are two issues.
1) I don't own the right tools here.
2) I've never had disc-brakes on a bike and I'd rather not break them.

Back to the homework,
Happy Hanukah

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ride4Reform Update

As a group, we have been doing a lot of fundraising already. We've had two bake sales, which have been going well. Last night was a ton of fun; the Latke Eating Contest.

The Year in Israel Program was challenged by the Los Angeles campus of HUC-JIR to a latke eating contest. The rules were, eat as many latkes as possible in 7 minutes. After our Chanukah celebration last night, the contest was on. I decided that I didn't really want to risk throwing off my "intense training regimen" (read; casual workouts) by piling on tons of latkes. Instead there were six competitors that ate as many as possible. Guess who won? Yeah, my roommate. Apparently she is the latke eating champ! And she beat the highest number put up by LA by eating 25 or 26 latkes.

I wish I had pictures to put up, but my camera is in transit to the states to get fixed. Hopefully that will be back with Kaitin when she gets here so I can resume taking an obnoxious number of pictures.

There are also a few quick updates about the Ride4Reform this year;

Check out the page I created on Facebook at the link here.

Or if you would like to check out their page, they have a Facebook Fan-Page, complete with some photos from a recent ride on part of the route for this spring.

Finally, the last place you can check out if you need to get your fix of ride4reform information, Marina and Dusty put together a wordpress site that will be the main way the group will put information out, read bios about everyone who is riding with our team this year, and look at some of the videos from the latke eating contest.

And last but not least, I will shortly be finally registered for the ride. Once I have taken care of that, I will let you know how you can donate to the cause if you are able to. Honestly, every little bit will help!

Off to the gym, I'm going to try to sit on the bike for a little while this afternoon.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turkey At Last

This is a new tradition in my family. About as long standing as my Mom's marriage to my Step-Dad. I don't remember why or when he started it, but he would buy solid chocolate turkeys for thanksgiving. One for each of his kids. I think it was something started by an aunt of his. I'm sorry I don't really remember where it came from.

Since my Mom and Joe were married. This has become something fun to look forward to during the run up to Thanksgiving.
Yes I know Thanksgiving was a week ago, but there is a point to me writing about this for today.

As you hopefully know by now, I'm in Jerusalem. For some strange reason, Israel does not celebrate Thanksgiving. I was going to go to the Thanksgiving dinner that was put together by some of the students this year, but at the last minute, I just needed to stay home instead. So my Thanksgiving this year was pretty bland. I was talking to my Mom and she said that there was something in the mail for me.

It took only two weeks for it to get here, which is really quick by Israeli mail standards, and I got my package on my way out the door from school today. Yea! Chocolate Turkey! It's strange how a little thing like a chocolate turkey can excite me so much, but it was a great reminder of home. Something familiar to bring me back to Minneapolis.

That's really all I've got for now, just something exciting that happened to me yesterday.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

HUC Flag Football Game 2: 49 - 0

Yep. We got killed again. As expected, the other team clicked really well with each other. They had crisp route running, and good communication and were all incredibly athletic. Yep, we got destroyed. None of us feel too badly about it though, because after the game we learned that the women on the team we played against are currently the 5th best Women's Flag Football Team in the world.

You read that correctly. They are the 5th best in the world and we held them to only 49 points. We even made a few 4th and goal stops. Including one that I stopped on the two yard line. Let's not talk too much about my personal performance. Apparently I'm not that good at football. I made a completion or so, and caught a pass for a decent amount of yards. Then there were the lapses, like the interception I threw when I overthrew the receiver... my bad.

Our team is getting better at working together. We actually put together some drives and it felt like we were clicking. It's getting more fun as we are starting to play with each other more. That's why we're playing, to have fun.

We also have the greatest cheering section ever. I want to give a huge shout-out to our friends that pack the stands and an even bigger shout-out to the administrators that continue to show up to watch us.

Next week is a bye (apparently there are a few that we get). But we get our jersey's at our next game! Woohoo!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Drash on Parshat Mikeitz

This is the video of my D'var Torah from Monday on Parshat Mikeitz. I've included the text that I wrote as well.


video

Boker Tov,
Whatever happened to that cousin you used to be close with? What about
your neighbor you spent so many summers with? What is going on in the
life of that guy you sat next to in Biology 101 Freshman year? As our lives
progress, it is easy to lose track of these people. Thanks to websites like
Facebook, it is easy to think that you are still connected to these people,
but are you really?

Imagine what your “Year In Israel” would have been like 10 years ago?
What about 20 years ago? With our hectic course load, field trips, trumah
projects, committee meetings, and additional responsibilities ON TOP OF
being thousands of miles away from home would have been very stressful.
Especially without reliable contact back home. What about before phones,
telegrams or post?

Joseph finds himself miles away from home with a completely new life. He
has a wife, two kids and on top of that, the stressful job of providing food for
all of Egypt during massive famine! He has no contact with his family and
claims to not remember them at all.

I hate to admit it, but earlier this year I fell into a similar trap. I’m not
comparing the stresses of HUC to the stresses of being in charge of
Pharaoh’s household and foodstuffs in all of Egypt, but it was easy to
quickly catch up with people back home. I would just chat with people
on facebook for a few minutes and then rush back to homework. I got
pretty good at typing, “We’ll catch up more later,” or “Can I talk to you next
week?”

Then, two weeks ago I realized I needed to make a change.

After Havdallah, I was on the phone with my mom. She told me that she
had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is the first time in my adult
life that I have been forced to face the mortality of someone I love. While
thinking about the possibility of losing someone at any moment, I realized
that I need to be better at staying in touch with people stateside. The good
news is that I have a second chance. The prognosis is that eventually she
will be healthy.

Since then, I have been making a conscious effort to keep up on people’s
lives. This was an tough way to learn this lesson, although often it takes
a shock to wake us up to something that is wrong. Instead of waiting for
something like this to happen to you, you can learn from Joseph.

But how?

After more than 20 years without seeing his family, nine of Joseph’s
brothers arrive at his doorstep. The Torah describes reunion from Joseph’s
perspective,


“Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them.”

This should be enough, he sees his brothers and recognizes them. It’s not.
The very next passuk says again;


“And Joseph knew his brothers.”

Why does Joseph see and then recognize his brothers AND LATER know
them?

Ibn Ezra attempts to explain this,
“From the start he recognized that they were his brothers, and afterwards
he looked at each one and recognized him…’”

Joseph saw the men and very quickly recognized them as his brothers. But
it was only after taking the time to closely look at each one that he was able
to remember who they truly were. It takes a lot of work to establish a close
relationship, but even more to repair a broken one.

As you can imagine, Joseph is shaken by this experience, and he notices
that his full brother, Benjamin, is missing. In order that rest will bring
Benjamin to Egypt, Joseph devises a plan, imprisons his brother Simeon
and tells the rest that they are never to return without their youngest
brother.

The nine brothers return to Canaan with their food. But the famine persists
and they are hungry again. After a long discussion, Israel allows them to go
to Egypt with Benjamin. When they arrive to Joseph, he sees Benjamin and
asks,

“‘Is this your youngest brother you told me about?’
And he said, ‘God be gracious to you, my son!’

“Then Joseph hurried (from them) because he was stirred by his
compassion for his brother that he wanted to weep, and he went to his
chamber and wept there.”

I believe that Joseph is not only weeping in compassion for his brother.
There is more to it than that. He is also weeping because he regrets
not being there for Benjamin as he grew up, and because Joseph is
overwhelmed with happiness for the opportunity to connect with him at this
point.

Remembering to stay connected is important, especially when you are
busy. This is also something we need to keep in mind. We have all chosen
a career path that, like Joseph’s, will take us far away from our families and
friends. It has the potential to use every last ounce of our energy and every
second of our time. We will need to remember to make time for our friends
and family. Even though, as Ibn Ezra points out, it takes time and effort to
do so. It is easy to think that “Stop ‘n chats”, or a quick Facebook message
are enough, but they really are not.
If you do not put forth the effort, you might not be as lucky as Joseph.
There might not be a day, 20 years later, when you can reconnect with
someone. They might not be there. So why let them drift from your life in
the first place?

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Guess This Means I Need A Tie

One of the best parts about having a major role in services at HUC today is that I needed to dress up. Slacks, button down shirt, dress shoes and a tie. I was a little bummed that I didn't bring a sport coat to Israel with me. What was I doing today? Today was delivering a D'var Torah. I'm not going to spoil too much of the process since there will be a post up on TC Jewfolk later this week. It was exciting, nerve-wreaking and fun all at the same time. The hardest part, though, was watching myself afterwards.

HUC records the D'var Torah that we deliver so we can learn from it. As my advisor said, it's more about the process this time. Clearly there were things that I didn't do the way that I wanted to. And there were little things that I wish I hadn't done, like go too far off what I wrote out and lose myself.

On the whole, it was a great experience. I'm trying to not dwell on some of the little things and remember that this is still a learning process. And now it's on to working on my service that I get to lead in late January. I probably don't need two months for it, but I love leading services. I'm going to have fun working on that!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Summer On My Mind

It's not even December yet, but summer is already on my mind. I'm planning for getting back to the USA at the end of May and rushing into a summer job to make a little money before heading out to school.

I'm moving, finally. I'm both excited and not excited to be leaving Minneapolis. I love the area. I love the cities. I love the lakes. I love the shops. I love the people. My family is mostly in Minneapolis and the surrounding area. I will be heading to school in Cincinnati (or maybe New York, there is a chance I may appeal my placement and end up in the big city). The hard part is going to be finding a place to live from Minneapolis during the summer.

I won't announce anything, because I haven't been officially hired yet, but I will probably be doing a job that has pretty a standard 8:00 - 4:00, Monday through Friday hours. Probably not a whole lot of time that I can take off either. Immediately after the summer job ends, I need to be in Cincy for orientation (August 15th-ish). Back to Minneapolis the next weekend for my step-brother's wedding. And class starts on August 22nd, the next day. Pffffew!

It's busy enough to make my head spin, and I'm not even through my first semester here!

This is not complaining in any way, shape, or form. It's just starting to set in. This summer is going to be crazy busy, but at least I will be home for a little while. I will get a chance to see family and friends. I will have a chance to have a good time and then get back to the books.

But for now, back to the school work.

Shabbat Shalom,

Friday, November 26, 2010

Harry Potter 7, pt 1

Last Saturday night, after havdallah, I tried to go see Harry Potter 7, pt 1. What we underestimated was the large amount of people interested in seeing the movie in Israel.

The theatre was absolutely packed and even though there were two showings at 9:00 and 9:30, and another one at 10:30, we couldn't find six seats in a theater. So we bought tickets for the next day we were all free (we had already discussed it because one of my classmates had called us to warn of this possibility). Wednesday night it was.

We got there just before the movie was to start and got to our seats. The theater was packed. Last time I saw a movie, I had waited a few months before I had a chance to go see it. The theater was empty at that point, this was my first, real, "Israeli" movie experience. Culture Shock strikes again!

First of all, the movie just started and people were still filling the theater. Not normally a problem except that seats are assigned. Which meant that people had to continue kicking other people out of their seats for the first ten minutes of the showing. Then they wouldn't stop talking.

Even better was when there were scenes that were "racy". I put that in quotes because they weren't really racy, but the reaction from some of the people in the theater made it seem like this was over the line. This one kid kept whistling until people laughed and clapped for him. Then it took another 30 seconds for people to stop talking about his whistling, and then another 10 seconds for people to stop shushing each other.

This shouldn't have been an problem, but it happened a few different times during the movie.

Surprise intermission! I think I talked about this last time, when I wrote about seeing Inception.

At almost the midpoint of the movie, it doesn't really matter what was happening, the lights turn on and movie stops. The intermission lasts about 5 minutes. I'm not sure what it is supposed to accomplish any more. I have a feeling that it is something that has been happening for years.

After the last movie I saw, I talked to some classmates about it. The best idea we could come up with is that this was instituted a long, long time ago, when people could still smoke in theaters. It seems like just the right amount of time for someone who would have wanted to dig in their bags and light a cigarette. Fortunately, you cannot smoke in theaters. But like many things, this is something that is just too ingrained in the culture here to get rid of it.

You might be thinking, "Maybe it has to do with letting people go buy more snacks or go to the bathroom." I thought that too. But the break is not long enough for one person to really get to the bathroom and back. Even more so, for half a theater to get downstairs to buy some food or hit the bathrooms. Any other ideas? I can't think of a good reason for it.

Anyway,
The movie is still really new, so I won't spoil any of the story. I've been a Harry Potter fan since the fourth book came out. I can't wait to see the second half of this movie, and I'll probably re-read some of the books before that. This summer will give me a little free time! The good part is that I will be back in the states to watch the end of this series with Kait.

HUC Flag Football; 59 - 6

Nope. We did not manage to get 59 points. Our team was torn apart by our opponents. I don't think they had more than one possession that they didn't score on. Although we didn't play well at all, it was a lot of fun!

I had the chance to play one series at quarterback, and threw a completion! I only had one ball thrown my way and lost it in the lights... But the bottom line is that we had a ton of fun getting run all over. There there was the defense. Personally, I think I did a decent enough job staying on the people I needed to cover.

It was fun trying to adjust to the game as we played. The good news is that we will get to play again next week on Tuesday. When there are some good pictures available, I'll stick some of them up here.


I know I haven't written much this week, apparently I haven't had so much free time. If I get a chance this weekend, I will put up an update about the last week.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kid A & Winter

I don't understand why I have this association, but Kid A, by Radiohead will always have an association with winter for me. It could be that the first time I heard the album was in the winter. Maybe it was the number of times I played it while driving to and from Fargo, thanks to Kaitlin for that high number of drives, many of which were in the winter. It might have something to do with the album cover, or just the quiet, calm sounds of the first tracks. I really have no idea the real reason, and maybe it is a combination of all of them.

I'm sitting here in Jerusalem with a nice warm cup of coffee reading an assignment or two for class tomorrow and one of those songs popped up on my iTunes. It felt very out of place to me. I looked out the window to a bright sunny day, and realized that I still have all the windows open wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The current temperature is 68 and it's supposed to get a lot warmer today. I'm left wondering, where is winter? What happened to Jerusalem being freezing? All I heard about the winters here, before I came, was that it gets much colder than you will anticipate. Be prepared. The houses don't keep heat during the winter because they are designed to stay cooler in the summer. What is going on?

From what I've heard floating around, this winter is abnormal. It's actually getting dangerous for the agriculture of Israel because there hasn't been any rain yet. I was really excited the first time I was poured on, because it hasn't really since I arrived. I'm sad to say that it hasn't really rained here since then either. The drought is so bad that for last Thursday, the Chief Rabbi of Israel made it a fast day, for those who listen to him, and told people to say additional prayers for rain. I take that with a grain of salt, or two, since I don't really follow much of what he says, but it demonstrates the nature of this problem.

There was a story in the Jerusalem post this week that blamed the recent butter shortage (yeah, there is a butter shortage right now) on the heat. Apparently, according to the story, in heat like this the dairy cows do not produce as much milk, or the right byproducts to create butter. I guess that explains why the butter was so expensive for me to buy to bake blondies last week.

Now before my friends and family back in Minnesota start complaining about the fact that I'm sitting here in a comfortable climate and they're stuck in a freezer with a potential snowstorm for Thanksgiving, (although I'm not sure how the weathermen could predict that over a week away) I miss the snow. I miss the cold. I miss the seasons changing. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that I'm still wearing sandals and I'm going to go play football outside this afternoon. I just feel strange not bundling up to leave the house.

Until the "bone-chilling" rains set in, I guess I will just have to listen to a different album while I do my homework.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Midterms-Schmidterms

It is well past the middle of the term, but Thursday just about marked the end of the mid-terms period. I have to say that I really liked having these as take-homes.

Some of the assignments we worked on to prove our knowledge include; Creating three new Mishnayot (verses of Mishnah) in the same style of Pirkei Avot (Wisdom of the Fathers), answering questions and working through translations in Liturgy, another short quiz in both Hebrew and Biblical History, the Duma project for the history of Zionism, another take-home test for Grammar and finally, Thursday large take home exam for 2nd Temple History and Literature.

The difficulty is that most of these didn't take up much/any class time. As a result, the professors keep plugging away at all of the normal classwork. In the end that was a little stressful, but I managed. Until Wednesday when we received our email about our finals schedule. Two-a-days for the week. B-R-U-T-A-L.

I've got a feelin' that this is not going to be the same experience as in my undergrad career when I enjoyed finals. I like them because there was not class, and you have four or maybe five tests and the occasional paper at the same time. 9 finals in 5 days. That'll be fun!

I'm not complaining, just not sure about what to expect. I know, I know. This is grad school. Midterms weren't so bad, so maybe finals will be okay too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In Joshua's Shoes: Then The Army Stopped Us

A few weeks ago I joined a group of volunteers from Rabbis for Human Rights to help farmers in the Occupied Territories harvest olives. My experience was posted on TCJewfolk.com or follow the direct link at Then The Army Stopped Us.

I have many other posts at their website. You can find everything in my archive page.

Shameless Plug for Apple pt.1

This is part 1 because I'm sure I will be a shameless shill for more Apple products in the future. But I love their products and I decided I wanted to write about it.

Now that we have the ground rules covered let me tell you about the best iPhone/iTouch app I've purchased. I don't remember exactly what it cost to buy. I can guarantee it cost less than $5.00. The amount of money I have spent on flash cards and note cards in the last 4 years I have been studying Hebrew, I have spent a good deal more than $5.

This application lets you make sets of flash cards with up to three sides. There is a way to use pictures and even sounds for study aides, but I have not tried that yet. There are settings to run the cards ordered or random, and there is even a function that allows you to tell it if you got the word/question correct or not. If you were wrong, it is possible to have it repeat until you get them all. Then, you can pick the other side to start from.

Honestly, this is one of the best purchases I've made on my iPod since I bought it almost two years ago. I need to give a huge shout out to Sharon for telling me about this program. It's a great study tool. And unfortunately (לרוע המזל as I have learned while practicing words for my next exam), since I have my iPod with me at almost all times I can run words whenever I'm waiting for someone or something. Talk about productivity?!?!?

Not only can you create your flash cards on your iPod or iPhone itself, but you can also create them on your computer and upload them to the server. Then you can put them on your phone or iPod. You can also share the deck name or deck code with other people who have the app and they can use the cards you've made!

The app is called Flashcards Deluxe. To me it was worth the less than $5 I spent on it. If you're going to download it make sure you have the right app by looking at the icon you can find at this website, http://www.orangeorapple.com/Flashcards/Default.aspx

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Occupy My Mind

A large chunk of my family started doing one of those, "15 random songs from your iTunes library" notes on Facebook. Since I'm looking for a way to occupy my mind for a little bit, I decided to do one on here.

The first 15 songs, on random, that came up on my iTunes are;

Artist, Song Title, Album Title

blink-182, Apple Shampoo, Dude Ranch

The Beatles, For No One, Revolver

The Offspring, Gotta Get Away, Smash

Led Zeppelin, The Lemon Song, Led Zeppelin II

Spacehog, I Want To Live, The Hogyssey

Godsmack, Voodoo, Godsmack

The Arctic Monkeys, Brainstorm, Favorite Worst Nightmare

weezer, Dope Nose, maladroit

Synergia, Lekchbek Otakch, Tzoakim Al Ahavah

Dispatch, Prince of Spades, Who Are We Living For?

The Beach Boys, I Get Around, All Summer Long

Sublime, Caress Me Down, Sublime

Third Eye Blind, How's It Going To Be, A Collection

Fuel, Empty Spaces, Something Like Human

Flogging Molly, The Ol' Beggars Bush, Swagger

I'm not sure what the point of this is, but I found some songs I hadn't listened to in a long time...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tsunami

I was in the mood for sushi tonight. Actually, I've been in the mood for sushi for a week or two. So tonight when some of my friends asked if I wanted to join them for all you can eat sushi for 90 sheck, I was all-in on that.

I have to say that the sushi at Tsunami was pretty, pretty good. In no way, shape or form am I a sushi snob or aficionado. But I love to eat it. Since it was all you can eat I ordered four of five rolls. I don't remember what they all were. I remember there was a Rainbow Salmon Roll that was decent. I like avocado, but wasn't a big fan of the strips of avocado that were on top of the rice, next to the salmon. It was interesting, but not my favorite.

Spicy Tuna and Spicy Salmon are always good standby choices. I was really happy with those two. The Spicy Tuna Roll was interesting because the rice was crispy, not fried like the last roll I will get to, but crispy. It was a good idea, and I really liked it.

The last roll I had was a Hot Salmon Roll. It was hot because the fish was cooked very quickly in a tempura. Although the Salmon was a little more cooked than I would have liked, but I'm not going to complain about that. It was a good change of pace as a third roll into dinner.

The deal is only available on Tuesday nights and right now I feel like I'm growing gills. I'm THAT full of fish. I have no idea what their prices run every night, but if you're looking for a spot to get some Kosher Sushi, stop by Tsunami. I don't actually know what street it is on. I think it's on Shlomitziyon HaMalkah or maybe it's Ben Sira. If you're standing at the Mamilla Mall on David HaMelech, you can almost see the restaurant from there. It's right next to the "W. Bush Plaza".

Sorry I can't give better directions right now.

Just Too Far Away

Although Jerusalem is great, and school is fantastic (even though I'm working on the last of the midterms due later this week). There are some things that are just impossible to deal with being so far away. I know that things happen and there is nothing that I can do about it. Even if I was back in Minneapolis, there is little I would be able to do help. Yet I keep thinking about the fact that if I were home, at least I would be home. If I were in the States, at least I would be closer to home and that would be comforting.

Then there is the side of me that looks for the message in every situation. Maybe I am supposed to learn something from the difficulties that are going on back home. I've always had this mentality that I can help resolve almost any situation. Don't take it literally, but if you've seen Pulp Fiction, I've always wanted to be that guy you can call when you need help with something and I would have the answer. Or for those Lord of the Rings nerds, I have this picture in my head that I will be like Gandalf and know exactly the right thing to do in every situation. I'm learning that I can't fix everything. In fact, there are situations in life you have absolutely no control over.

Let me say that again, there are things that you have absolutely NO control over.

I did receive a little inspiration from back home, a little Bob Marley sung in by my adorable little cousins. Yep, it's helping me too.

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun.
Three little birds,
Pitch by my doorstep,
Singin' sweet songs,
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', "This is my message to you-ou-ou"

Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blondies

For fundraising for Ride for Reform we are having a few bake sales. I guess this means I need to learn how to bake.

Mission 1; Blondies.

I was going to bake brownies for this first bake sale but the first three stores I checked out did not have brownie mixes. Strange. Apparently there are some stores you can find Betty Crocker mixes, but I since it was Friday at 1:30 and the stores start to close for Shabbat, I was out of luck. Retreating to a little shop near my apartment I grabbed a bunch of brown sugar, chocolate chips, butter and baking powder.

Before trying a recipe that I have never used before, I figured I'd make them for dessert for Shabbat. Good thing I tried them out first...

We don't have a great selection of baking pans or anything like that in our apartment, a big difference compared to the 25-pieces of cookware. So I used these little bread pans. 2 x 8 in. They cooked a lot faster than I anticipated and they were a little crispy. By crispy I mean rock hard. One of my friends here said we should save them for when we need to build a retaining wall. I could not disagree. They were pretty solid.

So I decided to try again and watch a lot more closely. The cook times I give at the bottom of the recipe are variable, watch your blondies if you try to make them.

Butter - 1 cup (melted)
Brown Sugar - 2 cups
Eggs - 2 (beaten slightly)
Vanilla - 2 tsp
Baking Powder - 1 tsp
Baking Soda - 1/4 tsp
Salt - 2 pinches
Flour - 2 cups
Chips (chocolate or other) - 2/3 - 3/4 cups

Turn on your oven and set it to 175 C or 350 F.
Melt the butter

Add the butter to brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir thoroughly.

Mix in eggs and vanilla.

Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and then the chocolate chips.

Grease a baking pan with butter, lightly floured. Whatever you have. I used two small bread pans and one larger baking pan each time I made them.

Bake in your over at 350 F for anywhere between 17 - 25 minutes. It totally depends on your oven or your pans. The important thing is to watch them.

They are done when the top is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.


I didn't make this recipe up myself. I followed one found at the Simply Recipes website.

I don't have pictures right now, since my camera is broken. Maybe I will add one on an update if I can get a friend to take a picture.


B'tayavon!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ride for Reform

Earlier this week I went to the first meeting for the Ride for Reform, the bike ride I am doing next spring. I'm really excited to be getting started on this. Then reality started to set it, I only have a few months to get ready for the ride.

They have posted the route on their website, and it doesn't look that intense, but I've never rode this far on back to back days before. But other than that, I think I can get my legs into shape to take care of that. Tomorrow I'm planing on joining Dan and Leah, and maybe others, on the road to take a little ride to the Jerusalem Forrest.

The route this year starts in Modiin, if you're familiar with the Channukah Story, it is said to have taken place here. By the end of five days we will be finishing at Masada and the Dead Sea. So I guess I have a way to get down there this year, it's just going to be on a bike and not a bus!

I am worried about one thing though, fundraising. I've never done fundraising for myself before. We're kicking it all off by having a bake sale on Sunday to see what we can start raising together. Adding in to my wariness is that I need to do this all from Israel with little "actual" contact with people in the states. I know this is the digital age, but I would feel more comfortable doing this face to face. ?מה לעשות (Mah La'asot). What to do?

If you are a facebook user, I have created a community page. Please follow along there as I post about my progress. I will probably be putting more on that page than on here.

But what organization is this fundraising going towards? The Ride4Reform collects donations that benefit the IMPJ (Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism). Reform Judaism in Israel is very different from back in the USA. The communities are smaller and there are not a ton of them. Part of the issue is that they are at a disadvantage because so many people in Israel see what many call Orthodoxy as the only way to be observant.

The IMPJ is the Israeli version of the URJ that helps support these communities, helps them with outreach and putting out information about being involved in the Progressive Movement here. They also support youth activities and so much more. This is an incredibly important cause to me, especially in light of some of the issues with the "Rotem Conversion Bill" that was in the forefront this summer. I am really excited to help the IMPJ and to have a lot of fun riding across Israel to do it.

If you're looking for more information about the IMPJ, you can visit the IMPJ website.

There is also plenty of information on the web about the Rotem Bill that still has not been defeated in the K'nesset.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Long Day

One thing I have found fascinating about Jerusalem is the fact that there are tons or arts activities, often. There is an Arts/Jazz event off Emek Rafayim that happened a few times each week this summer, there was the two week Art Fair and concert series near the Sultan's Pool and tons of others that I've missed.

Last night there was an arts fair on Emek Rafayim. They closed down a few blocks of the street and people set up booths all over the place. Personally, I didn't do any shopping at the booths selling earrings or scarves (surprise surprise). However, I was very much engaged by the various street performances. We stopped to watch some really cool fire dancers and some performance troupes putting on a few shows. We stopped to listen to a band performing, which was completed with a sweet fiddle solo, and paused to watch a "monkey" climbing around a tree.

I wish I had some pictures, but my camera is broken... bummer.

Tuesday was a really long day, and it was good to unwind after that.

In the morning, my Hebrew class took a little trip to one of the old neighborhoods in Jerusalem. It was one of the earliest ones to be built outside the walls of the old city. Today it is just off the edge of Ben Yehudah Street. There were some really cool buildings including the Ticho House, two Synagogues right across the street from each other, the old hospital that became Hadassa before Hadassa was moved across the city, Rav Kook's apartment building and many more awesome places. It was one of the first times I was able to spend time looking at the history of the area instead of running around trying to find a restaurant to meet people.

After the normal Biblical Grammar class we had a large group project. In my History of the Zionist Movement class we have been looking at Russian Zionism around the turn of the 20th Century. We were all assigned different parties to be apart of and prepare a song, posters, a speech and questions to challenge the other parties. Dressed up in costume we conducted a mock Duma. I was very skeptical at the start of the process, but it was really fun by the end.

Almost everyone embraced the project and it was pretty hilarious to hear some of the period-appropriate slurs being shouted at each other during the speeches and the question section. Someone in my group even had the great idea to bribe the party leaders and the other attendees of the Duma. The challenge was getting this all together in less than a week.

Yesterday was a pretty good day!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mitudellah

Yes, it is November. Yes I am going to write about Ice Cream. I do realize that my friends and family back in the USA are sitting in freezing weather. But here it is still warm enough to get ice cream on the way home, when the sun is still out.

There is this little shop that is, as you can guess, on my way home from school. There really are a lot of restaurants nearby. They sell frozen yogurt and ice cream. I have to admit, I haven't had their ice cream, but I have grabbed some frozen yogurt way to many times on the way home from school.

Being slightly sour, which mixes really well with sweet toppings. Oh geeze do they have sweet toppings. On your cup of frozen yogurt, you can put up to four toppings. Between gummies, all types of chocolate and other candies. They also have fruits, nuts and many other things. I will say, there is nothing too special about the food.

It is a cute little place though. A nice seating area outside that blends into the coffee shop next door. There is one thing that makes this place really unique. On the Azza side of the restaurant, there is an open section of wall that has a counter. Instead of having seats or stools, there are swings! Yep, that's right, swings that you sit on and eat your ice cream.

This is a nice little shop and a place you should stop at if you're nearby. I wouldn't make a trip across the world for it, but if you're in the neighborhood, stop in.

Monday, November 8, 2010

3 Hours in the Library

Yesterday I spent three hours in the library doing research. Not the same research that I had been doing for five years at the University of Minnesota with my nose deep in history books. Instead, by the end of the first two hours, I had a stack of five different editions of Torah translations, three different commentaries on the Torah portion and I had picked up and put down a handful to a half-dozen other commentaries, Midrash and more that I decided were not useful to my purposes.

What do I have to show for all of this work? More than two pages worth of notes and a bunch of different ideas about what I want to talk about. Now comes the hard part. Reducing all of this material into a 500-word D'var Torah. For those unfamiliar with this term, a D'var Torah is basically a short sermon but focuses more on the portion of the week and some of the commentaries related to it.

Much like making a sauce (something I'm still trying to figure out exactly how to do), you have to reduce and reduce and reduce until you get to the solid result. The advice I was given by my advisor is that this exercise is mostly about the process, and less about the product, although the product is important.

So my task for the next week? Make it relevant, and be ready to edit it.

The bottom line? This is so much fun! I could honestly have spent all day in the library doing this, but there are classes to get to.

Speaking of classes, back to homework.

Friday, November 5, 2010

In Joshua's Shoes: A Refresher

At first I was concerned that something had gone wrong with my post that I sent in to TCJewfolk. Usually they go up on Thursday, and when I checked before I went to bed, it still wasn't up. Since I had other things on my mind, I just went to bed. When I woke up in the morning, I had an email from one of the editors telling me that I had been held over a day and they are going to post it on Friday as a featured post!

The title doesn't give it away, but last week the Israeli Rabbinic Program held their ordination. It was incredible. They was just something amazing about the ceremony, the setting, everything. Please check it out at this link, In Joshua's Shoes: A Refresher. Their website is great and has blogs written by a variety of people around the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Feel compelled to browse around TCJewfolk too.

I want to add a little nugget that I didn't mention in the post, there is this communal clapping thing that happens in Israel. It starts out as an "American" applause, sounding spontaneous. A few seconds into it, the clapping settles down into a rhythm and everyone claps on the same beat. It was strange to hear.

In Israel Seminar on Wednesday, someone asked one of our teachers about it. This Israeli phenomenon is a good thing. It is another way the the community shows that they are together. The communal response shows their appreciation. I'm not sure how I feel about it, it still felt strange.

Before I sign off I want to throw in one last shameless plug. One of my great friends from college (kind of an important person in my life) is writing for TCJewfolk too. Check out her author page here, or her blog, Tenaciously Yours.

Okay plugs are over, and so is this week! Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cafe Yehoshuah

Sorry, no picture this time. My camera is broken and I can't take any pictures for a while...

On Derekch Azza (Gaza Street), there is a restaurant that I have been walking past for the last few months. Cafe Yehoshuah. Every morning I walk past as they have some of their fresh fruits and vegetables being delivered and when I walk home at night, it is usually full of people. Finally, I stopped in for some dinner.

For dinner I had their gnocchi in a red cheese sauce, as recommended by Marina. Tasty! The cheese sauce was creamy with a little kick, just the way I like it. I don't know if I have ever had gnocchi before, but I liked it. Not too much else to say about the meal itself. It was everything I expected.

I was intrigued by the meal that two of my friends ate. They ordered a stereotypical Israeli Breakfast for dinner. It looked really good and I decided that I needed to go back, the next day.

For lunch after attending the Israeli Rabbinic Program Ordination Ceremony I grabbed lunch and split the "double" breakfast. Yum!
The brought us eggs, bread, tahini (cilantro and regular), Israeli Salad, apples, pears, tuna salad, chicken salad, a tomato puree, and muesli. I tasted some of the muesli that my friends had ordered last night and I have to say, that's a great breakfast food. It is similar to oatmeal, but it is served sitting at the bottom of a 1.5 oz glass mixed with honey, underneath yogurt. It worked really well with the turkish coffee as a way to finish off a great lunch.

That was something that surprised me. I hadn't intended to order Turkish coffee. All I wanted was just a cup of black coffee, but apparently the english word black is the same thing as Turkish. It was a really good cup of coffee, and I'm not complaining about it in any way, shape or form. Just now what I was expecting. It was also good to have some very fresh tasting orange juice to go along with it.

Basically, what I'm trying to get at, is that Cafe Yehoshuah is a place that you need to stop at if you can. Not only is the food good, but the atmosphere is really relaxed and is a nice restaurant/coffee shop/bar. I really liked the fact that when it is nice out, there are panels in their roof that they can pull back and let the sun come in. I spent a good deal of time watching the clouds pass.

Finally, they have internet. Free internet. I think I found a spot that I will go to do some homework.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

So THIS is Rabbinic School

Last was almost our first normal week in a long time, maybe all year. We still had Sunday off which was great to get some time to have a life outside of school and Holy Days. This was also one of the first times in a while that I have absolutely loved all of the classes and homework assignments.

We are still working through a variety of different sections of Rabbinic Literature. I can't even express how much fun it was for me to be picking apart texts and looking for meaning in the translations I come up with. I have found a great study partner for that class too. We usually get together to just work on translating and trying to come up with a translation and meaning of the text. that way when we get to the larger class (by larger I mean 12 -16 people), we work with other people and the whole class to piece it together with help from our instructor. Great!

Biblical Grammar is actually starting to make sense to me. It's not that I can actually remember how to use correct pronunciation of words while I am reading or speaking, but the concept makes a lot of sense. There are actual reasons for why words are said the way that they are. It is really cool to see how the language opens up when you take it apart from a logical point of attack.

All of the history classes are awesome. We are putting things together. I am starting to see a clear picture. Kind of. One thing that I am starting to understand is that we need to look even more at the various traditions in the area and how it was put together to present a semblance of a whole story. All of the information is wonderful to learn and it is really cool to see some of the stories presented in archeological evidence. Three classes come together for this topic. It is awesome!

The last class that I have been really enjoying is Bible. I should actually call the class Biblical Criticism, but we haven't gotten into the actual nit-picking yet. We are doing a lot of translation and a lot of questioning of other peoples' translations. It has become clear that when you make a translation, you are making an ideological or even theological statement about what the text says. It may be boring to some people, but I find it fascinating.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Read Torah!

It has been a very long time since I have read from the Torah for a service. I could be wrong, but it may have been since June 13, 1998. Why do I know this exact date? Because that was the date of my Bar Mitzvah. I don't think that I have read since then.

I've been working a little bit on the portion that I read for the last two or three weeks, but I finally put some serious effort in starting last week. All I can say is that it was a lot of fun to work towards that again. There were a few tricky parts that I needed to try to remember, and from what I have heard, I pretty much nailed it this morning. I know there were a few vowels that I pronounced to short, but aside from that, bam!

But I didn't just need to read/chant today. One skill that HUC-JIR wants us to learn how to do is to translate the Hebrew into English. It is really important to be able to read and translate the text since a many Jews in today's world do not understand Biblical Hebrew. This was actually the part of reading today that I was most worried about. There were some words that I needed to translate as a concept that were not the easiest to convey in a few words of English.

I think that went well too. I'm really glad I got one of those taken care of early in the year, we are required to chant twice during the school year, and I can't wait until I get the chance to do it again.

Not too much else has been going on this week. A lot of school and that's about it. Tomorrow is the ordination of the Israeli Rabbinic program. I'm excited to see how that goes. It will be all in Hebrew and I hope I can understand what is happening.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sometimes I Wish I Had a Tail

I know you Minnesotans reading this will think that I’m making this up, but I never thought I would miss the mosquitoes of the suburbs. Yeah, yeah, I know they’re a pain in summer, but until you are around these flies, oh geeze.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I seem to attract the flies around here. We’ve been taking a bunch of field trips and walks around the area and I can’t seem to escape them. They jump at my legs, they flay in my face. The only thing I can think of is that I want to have a tail.

Not in the Avatar sense, more in the sense that, like a horse, I would love to be able to flick these pesky flies away and not need to stop what I’m doing.

The problem with the flies is that they are faster that mosquitoes and they know you’re trying to swat them. So they take off and come back three seconds later to land on my legs again. And I’m still waiting for the satisfaction of squishing one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tiyyul to The Golan and Kineret

For the last three days I was on a little trip up to the north of Israel on a study trip. We focused a lot on what it mean to be a pioneer in the early part of the 1900's and even today when things like the Moshavim and Kibbutzim are struggling. We also learned about the reasons that these parts of the north are so crucial to Israel as a state for their safety. I'm going to write another blog later focusing on some of the politics associated with the trip, Rabin's Yartzeit (the anniversary of his death on the Jewish Calendar) and on the peace process. The focus of this post is more on what we did.

On the first day we actually got to leave Israel and go into Jordan. We were looking at the hydro-electric power plant that was build on the border between the two countries. The plant worked for a while, but in the end it fell apart. Very interesting though to see the different attempts at building the country.

We also checked out a moshav, like a kibbutz but everyone can have their own property, to learn about their history. In Kriat Shmoneh and Tel Hai we looked at some of the hard work that other pioneers had to do to set up their roots in different places on the outskirts of Israel. Interestingly, only about 8% of jobs are located in this periphery of the country.

One of the coolest places we visited was Tel Dan. The beautiful park reminded me of home so much. I really want to go for a hike somewhere with forests here. The was a rushing river and lots of trees. Man I miss Minnesota sometimes. In Tel Dan there is an excavation site where archeologists have found an ancient Israelite Temple. By Israelite I mean the Kingdom of Israel that existed after Solomon's successor caused a massive civil war and split the kingdom into Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

In the tel there is evidence of a temple that is a smaller version of the one that is in Jerusalem. It has space for an altar for sacrifices and is set up as a place for the people of Israel (the ones I was talking about earlier) to visit during the year. But the big find there is the arch that was been dated to the time that we think the patriarchs (Abraham and so on) were alive. This would have been the city of Laish and it was really cool to see the restoration of the mud-brick arch.

One of the nights we got to go on a night safari in the Hula Valley. Unfortunately we didn't see to many animals there. There was some kind of a cat that we couldn't identify, crabs, frogs, cranes and something that looked like a muskrat. Wednesday night finished with a bonfire and song session. I hadn't planned on playing anything, but Yoshi had brought the drum along so I volunteered to play with the song leaders. I really need to buy my own here sometime soon.

At one point in the trip we had the option to either go to the Naot shop on a kibbutz up north, or to go to the Golan Heights and look into Syria. I chose the Golan, which was a good idea for me. It was awesome to look towards Syria and Lebanon at the same time from up there. On the way up there were some really statues that were made of shrapnel and scrap metal. There are remnants of when the Bental post was used in military operations, and we got to learn some about the history of the place.

Towards the end of the trip we also got to hear about a really interesting group called Ayilim. They are a group of students at Tel Hai University that live in the community of K'riat Sh'moneh. They try to work to rebuild the community that was really run down and since they are near borders, they have been hit by bombs, especially during the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. They are a very interesting group that seems to being doing a lot for the community they are living in, and there are other communities throughout the country.

That's all for now. I will be writing a blog about this trip for TCJewfolk with a different focus. Be sure to check it out there when I get that up and running.