Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Hat It Has No Corners

My second post of the year is now up at TCJewfolk.

Since I have gotten to Israel I have been trying new things. On the list are things like; wrapping T'fillin, praying three times a day and a variety of others. One of the easiest on my list to try out was wearing a kippah at all times. I have experimented with all the time, only when studying or only taking it off when we go out for a night on the town.

Check out the new post here.


Coffee Snob

For those of you that know me well, you will know that I am basically addicted to coffee. Not that I'm complaining about that. I love coffee. I love the flavor, I love the varieties and I love the experience of sitting and enjoying a good cuppa. In fact, one of my best memories from when I was traveling in Spain is from having a good cup of espresso, poured over ice with a little milk and sugar over the top. I was hoping to find a place to have that same experience here in Israel. So far, I don't know that is going to happen.

The standard coffee here is just a cup of boiled water with instant coffee mixed in. This is very hard for me to grasp.

Instant Coffee
For my apartment, I bought a cheap brand, Elite. I have been told there is better so I will have to try again, but this coffee is really really bad. It really is coffee flavored water with caffeine. The only way that I can begin to enjoy it is to "ruin" it with sugar and milk. I know, it's a coffee snob sin to add milk to a cup of coffee. But that's the only way it is tolerable.

Beit Shmuel
Attached to the HUC - JIR Campus is a hotel called Beit Shmuel. Inside they have a coffee and sandwich shop. Although the food is great, it's really a hit and run place to grab a cup and run. The only time I have bought something from them I wanted to have something substantial to drink. I had them prepare me an Americano. I was really unimpressed. The espresso didn't taste that good and even watered down with hot water there was a sharpness to the taste. It was also very expensive as a cup of coffee, especially for how mediocre it was.

The Moadon
At school there is a Moadon that is operated by adults with special needs. I completely support the operation and the other day I found out that they make a double espresso for only 5 shek. Great price and not to mention that the espresso was pretty drinkable. Not fantastic but the best I've had so far. Especially because it's at school and supports a good cause, I think this is where I'm going to be getting a kick when I need it.

Cafe Joe
This place is very similar to Starbucks. I really liked the atmosphere, an outdoor seating area that has some large tables. The Americano that I got there was pretty good. Not the best price in the world, but I noticed on the menu that they sell a pot of filtered coffee. I was there with Leah to study for our Hebrew test Tuesday afternoon. Not bad, but not great. Today I did have an iced mocha. I will say again, it is very Starbucks-esque. But not terrible.

Between the Moadon and Cafe Joe, I think I found the places that I will enjoy, but I don't think it's going to be anything close to the experience I had in Spain. I just can't wait to get home to have a well brewed cup of coffee.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Three Quick Strikes

Strike One - Foul Tip
Pazgaz is a pain in the butt. Today the service guy came over. I had to miss a lot of class to wait for him to come and check out our gas lines since the company hadn't been to our house for a while. It took us a long time to figure out where exactly our ballonim (gas tanks) were located. When we found the ones that were ours, I learned yes they were empty and although the lines were okay, he couldn't fill them. The problem? They are in a bad place AND they do not have a cover. It looks like they used to have a cover, but now those look trampled and on the side of the apartment.

Instead, I need to miss class for part of the morning to wait for him between 8:00 and 12:00 again to come install new tanks. I don't know if that means that we will have gas then too or if I need to set up a third appointment for them to deliver gas. Ugh.

Strike Two - Swinging for the Fences Like Babe Ruth
I didn't think peer-pressure would be an issue in Rabbinical School. It is, but not in the way you're probably thinking. Since we are all starting a very cool journey a lot of the other students are buying new Tallitot. There is even a group that are planning on making their own. It is really hard to resist the urge to run out and get a new one since I haven't had a new Talis since my bar-mitzvah.

Why am I resisting? Because I have been thinking that a new Tallis should be for a life-cycle event. The next one on the list for me would be marriage. No, I don't think that's happening in the next year or so. I'm not sure. Maybe I can get something else to mark the start of Rabbinical School.

Strike Three - Looking
I've been doing a lot more looking than swinging right now. Yes, I have been walking around a lot. It has been about four weeks since I've seen the inside of a gym though. I paid for a gym membership for the year today, so hopefully I will be hitting the weights tomorrow after Trope class. Maybe.

Here's the best part though. The gym at school is actually the bomb shelter. From what I've heard from other students, it's basically a place to go and get the job done. Nothing glamorous, just a place to try to stay in shape. Since it the exact opposite of Lifetime, the price reflects that. It is 150 for the year. Now before you get all excited and say, "$150?!?! That's so cheap!!!" It get's better. It's actually ִִ₪150 (that's the symbol for New Israeli Shekels). For those of you keeping score at home, the exchange rate today makes that the equivalent to $39.27 for the year. Not for the month, for the year.

Instead of striking out looking, maybe after hitting the gym I'll be able to power the ball out of the park!

Plaaaaaaaayyyy Baaaaallllllllll!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hummus: Round 1

The next food I decided to tackle was hummus. The recipe that I used I found searching online. I was directed to a site called Hummus Blog

My issue was that I read the recipe over a week before I meant to make it so I didn't really remember the details when I started to get everything ready. In the end, I changed the recipe provided a little bit.

1 cup - Dried Chickpeas
Rinse three times in water
Let soak overnight

In the morning, rinse again and soak for another 8 hours. The chick peas will swell back to a normal size.
Cook the chickpeas until they are soft.

2/3 cup - Tahini
1/2 - Juiced Lemon
2 tsp - Salt
1 tsp - Cumin
1 tsp - Garlic Salt
1/2 bunch - Italian Parsley, Chopped
3 TBSP - Olive Oil

With a food processor, blend the chickpeas to a pulp.
Add Tahini and all other ingredients and continue to blend.
Blend into a fine pulp.

I made a few mistakes on this one. We don't have gas in our apartment now so I cooked the chickpeas in the microwave. They were not cooked as well as possible. I also didn't know that we were out of baking soda. The consistency was a little bit off as it was a little grainy. Again I will be doing some of this slightly different. Look for Hummus: Round 2 to come when I try it again when we have gas.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tel Aviv

After a very long week of class a bunch of us were headed up to Tel Aviv. One of the Israeli Rabbinical Students is a part of a community near Tel Aviv that leads Kabbalat Shabbat services at the Port during the summer. I had a fantastic experience at services, but that will come to the end of this post. In the morning we caught at Shirut to Tel Aviv. When we got there Ashley took us towards an art fair that is on the street every Friday during the summer. Brian A and I decided to check out the food Shuk before looking at the art.

That was a great idea since it was covered near the food Shuk. We found a great place to grab Falafel. It was pretty cheap and really good. There was a great Charif (spicy) sauce that he put in with our falafel and when they're made fresh as you order, it's hard to beat that taste. After a quick perusal through the art section, we decided to grab a coke and play some backgammon before meeting up with the women we came up with.

When we met up with them we went to chill on the beach. First of all, the beach was burning hot. Not just the sun on our backs, but also the sand. I guess there was a reason that they have the spouts of water near the beach. You're supposed to spray off your feet before you step on the sand. That helps get to your towel without frying the soles of your feet. A little bit of sunscreen and we were off to the water. I hadn't swam in the sea since last summer on Long Island and I have to say that was really different than the Mediterranean. The waves were awesome to float in and I know I had a great time just chilling in the water.

We spend a good three hours on the beach just relaxing, playing backgammon and every once in a while hopping in the water. I learned an important lesson though. Just because it feels like you put sunscreen on your back doesn't mean it actually rubbed into your skin. Ouch. I definitely didn't get enough on enough times. The good thing is that although I burned, it already doesn't hurt and I'm expecting some nice tan to show through in a few days.

A small group of us that were there walked down to the port to check out services. We were a little late, but it was worth it. Listening to a large group of people singing and praying together on the shores of the sea was fantastic. I know there were some other people in our group that didn't have as good of an experience. I think part of why it was so great for us at the back was that there was a small group of HUC students (April, Brian, Dana, Dusty, Gila, Ricky and April's wife Emily) clearly praying together at the back as we could hear the music from the leaders at the front lead a very large group of people. Some were singing and dancing, some praying and others just being a part of the services at sunset. I really liked some of the melodies they used and even heard for the first time that I heard someone sing "What a Wonderful World" in Hebrew. I am still looking for the lyrics in Hebrew, so if anyone knows where I can find them online that would be fantastic.

After T'fillah we hung around the port for a while. I really enjoyed watching another of the students' daughter run around and play. We saw a ton of people just our and being together. This was a very different shabbat experience than what we have back in Jerusalem. Tel Aviv was still bustling as we left the city. When we returned to Jerusalem it was quiet. Almost silent. I really want to go back up sometime to experience that Kabbalat Shabbat again. Look at the pictures below for a small sampling of what I was able to shoot. As always, there will shortly be updates on my facebook account.

It has been a great end to the first week of class and now there is homework to do today since class is tomorrow morning. I can't wait for Havdallah again tonight.


Sunset over the Mediterranean Sea during Kabbalat Shabbat Services

A large group of people dancing during some of the prayers

This sunset was amazing!

Friday, July 23, 2010

No Place Like Jerusalem

An interesting part of our Year In Israel Program is that on Thursdays during Ulpan we have the chance to learn information about Israel and Jerusalem. Yesterday we got to pick a group and explore a certain part of Jerusalem. Some people were in the group that got to explore Jerusalem with an art student, some people toured with Rabbis for Human Rights and went into east Jerusalem and many other options.

The group I was in got to learn about urban planning with someone that works for the municipality. He had a cool opportunity to check out a working, scale model of Jerusalem that had literally the entire city with new projects and planned projects placed to see how they would affect the skyline and sight lines. While Benny, our guide, was showing us the model, he also talked to us about some of the history of the city. It was really interesting how close to the Biblical narrative he told us about, but at the same time it was much more anthropological and made a lot of sense the way he was describing it.

Matter of fact would be a great way to describe the rest of the day. After leaving the municipality, we got a very cool walking tour of Jerusalem with Benny explaining so of the utilitarian uses for each of the building. He explained that some of the buildings were built in certain places because they effected how the numerous wars were fought in the city. Some buildings were built to a certain height to obstruct the views in case of sniper fire. Other buildings were destroyed to use as a blockade to stop convoys, after war they were built up and used for the same purpose in later wars.

We made our way into the old city and down the the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This place is a allegory for the entire city. Built as a level on another level, the deeper you get into the church, the older it gets. At the same time, many different groups had different claims to different parts of the church. They each get a certain part of the building that they all find important. They also turned the keys over to a Muslim authority to be in charge of the keys to the church. We need to find a way to use that working model for the rest of the city and not just the church.

After being in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher we want to a Hospice building because it had a fantastic view of the city. Look for pictures on facebook later in the weekend. It was fantastic to look on the whole city. Especially when Benny was pointing out places that technically were illegally built on. Although everyone knows that it is against the law, it is just let go because the situation is frustrating and there are so many competing groups fighting for space. As we were on the building, a bunch of local people were setting off fireworks. The teenagers are done with school now and they were setting off fireworks to blow off steam and also to annoy anyone in the old city. I loved learning about the city this way, it was a much different view of Jerusalem.

When we got back together as a large group we heard a lot about what the other groups had done. We all seemed to have a great chance to learn a lot about the city we are living in now. I don't think we would have had the opportunity to do this outside our Year in Israel Program. The day got rather long as we had a speaker afterwards. The organization she was talking about was very cool and I want to see about working with them as part of the Trumah Project we are going to be a part of, it was just very hard to listen to after the draining morning. All in all, it was a very solid start to this first weekend of being a graduate/rabbinic student.

That's all for now, I need to run to catch a bus to Tel Aviv for services on the beach!

Shabbat Shalom M'Yerushalayim,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Israeli Salad

I love to cook. I don't know if you knew that. I'm not great, but I think I'm serviceable. Appendix A will be my cooking adventures in Israel.

One of the first things I made here was Salat Israeli, Israeli Salad. This one turned out really well. Especially because I was able to make everything fresh a few hours before we ate it. The only problem was that I ended up eating a lemon seed. Since nobody else mentioned anything I will assume nobody else had a problem.

Here was the recipe that I used;

2 red peppers
2 green peppers
1 yellow pepper
5 small tomatoes
6 small cucumbers
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/2 bunch of green onions (scallions)
3-4 table spoons (literally our spoons for our table) of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lemon

The directions are as follows;
Chop up all of the peppers, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro and green onions. Put them in a large bowl.
Take the lemon, cut it in half and juice the lemon.
Pour the lemon juice onto the salad mixture.
Pour the olive oil over the salad.

Throughly mix the entire salad so the ingredients are evenly dispersed.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve as promptly as possible. As the salad sits, the juices gather at the bottom and get soggy the longer it sits. I have managed to save some to eat four or five days later if it is refrigerated.

You can make any numerous changes to this recipe. Feel free to add different vegetables like carrots, onions or anything for that matter. The cilantro can be replaced with Italian Parsley. The salt and pepper doesn't need to be there and can be replaced with other spices. Personally I liked adding Zatar.

TV in Israel

For those of you who know me from further back, you will be surprised to know that I have started watching Le Tour De France. The first summer I was dating Kaitlin she told me that the only way I could hang out with her after camp during Le Tour was to learn to love it. I like sports, I like competition and as of that summer, I love cycling. It may be a throwback to when I used to bike a little and I started biking again since I started dating Kaitlin. Her family is pretty into the sport and it was easy to get back into it. I mean, it's just like riding a bike.

Since I've been in Israel since Le Tour de France started, I have actually been having some summer withdrawal from it. I miss having dinner and sitting down to watch the tour with them and enjoying a Buster Bar from Dairy Queen. Although I don't think I can get the Buster Bars over here, I was able to find a stream of the Tour, in English, that I can watch for the rest of this year's race. I guess you know I've started to become a fan when I give in to watching the tour on a grainy split screen with the progress map on the other side of the screen.

There was no homework today, so it was an added bonus that I got to watch the exciting end to the race today. I can't wait for Thursday night when the riders take on a massive alpine finish. I got to watch them climb this last year and I'm pumped to watch it again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tisha B'Av

Tonight is the beginning of Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av. It has a religious and historical significance for many reasons. Throughout the history of the Jewish people, many tragedies have befallen Jews on this day in history. It has developed a Religious significance as a day that many Jews mourn the loss of the Second Temple is Jerusalem and is a general day of mourning and sadness for us Jews.

I'm not going to teach history in this blog tonight. If you were worried, you can keep reading. As part of the ritual for this holy day, we heard from the Book of Lamentations. I had never heard that book read aloud before. What an awesome experience (read as an experience full of awe, not an awesome concert) to hear a group of the HUC students chant the eerie, sorrowful melody as we looked out of HUC's Persian Garden onto the old city.

Instead of going home to work on homework, I thought it would be a better idea to learn by checking out the Kotel on Tisha B'Av. When I got up to the wall it didn't have the same feel that it did the last time I was there. I wasn't flooded with emotion this time. I was thinking about the fact that today, most of the Jewish world is looking longingly towards Jerusalem and missing the Temple. But I was remembering something that one of our interns said. Without quoting him, he expressed the idea that if it wasn't for the destruction of the Temple, Judaism would not have been born as a religion. Do we really want a third Temple?

I will leave that question hanging because I'm thinking about it still and move on to the other observation I had tonight. At the Kotel, the Western Wall, the extend the Micheitzah (barrier separating men and women) further towards the back of the courtyard. I will say now, I don't not like, appreciate or even understand the Micheitzah. The picture that I saw perfectly illustrates why I dislike the Micheitzah.

After being up by the wall, which was a very cool experience, we walked back up to the back of the courtyard. From a large group of people we hear the reading of the Book of Lamentations. One man sitting in the middle reading, the group of men sitting up against and around the Micheitzah. Towards the end of each phrase, the group of men would sing loudly with the leader. Our group stopped to listen for a while because one of the Cantorial Students stopped and we thought it would be a good idea. As we were listening I noticed that part of the group sitting there was not singing. Guess who they were.

If you said to yourselves, the women, you would be right. Not only were the women sitting in silent excitement, they weren't sitting next to the men. This must have been a progressive group because the women were sitting near the men, but if you would have followed end of the Micheitzah and drew a line straight back, only one female was on the man's side and that was a small girl sitting next to her father. To me this is a travesty. Coming on the heals of Anat Hoffman's arrest on Rosh Chodesh Av (the first day of the month of Av) for having a Torah at the Kotel it just impresses on me further my disgust for the way women are treated in the Torah and in "Orthodox" Judaism. I was hurt seeing these women accepting their "role" in Judaism as being able to be near the men and to hear the words being read. They could not even look like they were singing.

This was an interesting way to end the night. Going from being awestruck by the beautiful voices of some of the men and women in my Year In Israel class to watching these men pray and their wives sit in silence was an interesting experience. On the whole, I think this was a better use of my time than sitting at home reading Hebrew. Now it's back to the books and maybe some sleep before school and learning tomorrow.

Until we can be together in a happier time,

Immersion Is Rough

Unlike the summer school that students need to take to make up classes in high school, summer school this year is awesome if anything. The immersion into Hebrew is intense and difficult. I continually run into the issue of not understanding what our teacher is talking about. But she is speaking about 95% in Hebrew the entire time. We get the benefit of a few words thrown in here and there when it seems as though we don't really know what's going on.

The issue I keep having is that about 75% of the time, I don't know what she's talking about. I'm really glad that Renana taught us to just go with the flow though. I talked with Marina about it and it really seems beneficial to just try to understand most of that she is saying while teaching grammar or reading a story in class. It is great knowing that the majority of what is going on I'm able to keep up with. It means that this has all been worthwhile getting up to speed.

I also really like the makeup of our class. It seems like a really good mix of students and most of us seem to be in the same boat. Hopefully we will get our books tomorrow and we can start to learn out of them. We've been doing stuff that is all out of photocopies right now. I'm still trying to get used to the idea of spending from 8:30 - 1:00 each day on the same subject. We do get about 45 minutes of breaks but it's a long time to then head home and do some homework.

I haven't been only learning Hebrew though for the last two days. Yesterday, after Hebrew class, the Cantillation classes were started. I was so excited to learn that I took both classes! Well, that's not exactly why I sat in for both.

I've read Torah a long time ago, but the past few years, teaching sixth grade, I've had the chance to be in the room while the B'nei Mitzvah students start learning trope. Yes, osmosis works for this. Just by being in the room and looking over their shoulders I have been able to pick up quite a bit of trope. So after sitting in three-hours of Torah Chanting class, I think I found where I fit. I just need to get my voice back into the shape it was during the session that I took my singing class at the University of Minnesota. I guess that one was such a slouch of a class after all.

After the first day of class we had the chance to learn by "Walking the Psalms through Jerusalem." Rabbi Wilfond lead a cool tour of the city interspersed with various text studies that we read or sang as we learned about the area we were in. This city is really starting to grow on me for all of it's problems.

Before I run off to Tisha B'Av services, I wanted to quickly note one of Israel's most famous problems; bureaucracy. Most things around here take talking to four of five people and even then you need to shout and make yourself heard. I was told this would be especially hard at the Misrad HaPanim, the Ministry that is in charge of handing out visas. I was told to go through their motions and expect nothing to get done until I show up and wait outside the office. Sometimes people actually do what they are supposed to, so you can believe my surprise when I got an email from school telling me that the Ministry called to set up my appointment. YEA!

As I'm signing off for now, I want to leave you with a picture that is here only because Kaitlin asked me for it. As you look at the picture below just imagine Adam Sandler singing,
"I've got my lunch packed up,
My boots tied tight,
I hope I don't get in a fight,
Back to school,
Back to school,
Back to school."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shabbat Minucha?

Last night's Kabbalat Shabbat was awesome. We had a study session followed by very energetic services. I really enjoyed the song leader/rabbinical student that helped lead T'fillah. I don't remember his name, but he had a lot of energy and was a fantastic guitar player. After our services we all went into one of the courtyards for Shabbat dinner. It was really cool to have the entire school together eating at school.

After dinner we all sang Birkat HaMazon. I really liked that we did the whole blessing for after the meal and there was a lot of energy with us praying together after we were done eating. Once we finished the Birkat HaMazon and some Zmirot, a few of us who had been asked, got up and lead some songs in Shabbat Shira style. Some of the songs worked really well and I had a lot of fun helping to lead the songs. It has been a long time since I've lead songs like that.

Marina and I went back to our apartment and cleaned for a little bit and had some people over to our house. It was very chill and relaxing. We had maybe 10 people hang out and we just chatted for a while. I stayed up a little too late because we got up really early so I could talk to Kaitlin and then go to Shabbat Shachrit. There were some things that I really liked about T'fillah this morning, and some other things that I'm still learning.

They invited up the entire first year class to come up on the Bimah for an Aliyah. It was really cool to hear all of the voices singing the blessing together from the Bimah. I really like our class and I really liked us together. Once services were over, we had a Shabbat Kiddush in another courtyard. After a little bit of talking to people, I went home to relax and drink some water.

For the early afternoon I went to Gan Sacher with Brian to play some Ultimate Frisbee. It was a lot of fun to toss the disc around and once a few of this other guy's friends came, we got a pick up game going. It had been a very long time since I had played with anyone my age and I felt really out of shape. The other mistake that I made was to play without shoes. You see, I haven't been wearing real shoes since I got here and today I think that streak needs to come to an end.

I ended up getting huge blisters on my big toes and the game ended because I tore one of them open. Seriously, it was a brutal looking blister at the bottom of my foot. I'm annoyed with the fact that my streak is at an end but it's all good.
יהיה בסדר (It will be okay)

We still have Havdallah tonight and that should bring this chapter to it's conclusion because I start school tomorrow. Hebrew Ulpan at 8:30 in the morning.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Orientation or Disorientation Week

After listening to four days worth of discussions, information and questions I think we have all become thoroughly disoriented. On Monday we started this process of getting to know each other with mixers and started to look at some basic texts. On Tuesday the discussion was framed about why am I here? We heard some speakers and learned a little about the college and our program. In breakout groups we talked a lot about our own personal journeys that led us to Hebrew Union College and why did we want to be here.

Wednesday was more interesting than orienting. After a series of discussions, the school wanted us to start tackling the questions of, "Why did you bring us here?"
For myself, this has never been a hard question. It would only make sense that we should spend time in Israel to learn the history of the country and immerse ourselves in Israeli culture. I guess this has been harder for other people and a much more difficult question for them.

Why has it been so easy for me to come to Israel? One of the skills that I believe we all need is a command of the Hebrew language. Understanding the history of Reform Judaism and knowing that historically Hebrew has not been an integral part of the movement. However, the times are changing and there is a sense that the early reformers missed something in throwing out that aspect. Logically, it would seem that we need to learn Hebrew in this new phase of the reform movement and it is only possible to truly get a handle on a language by being in the land that it is spoken.

As a historian, I also believe that in order for us as the future leaders of the Reform Movement to understand the past of Israel as a land and as a country. Many people in the United States have questions and frustrations with the country of Israel and already I have been asked by people to defend the country's actions. Again, there is no better place than in the land that it happens to study it.

We had a little Tiyul (hike/trip) to look at Jerusalem from a different view. We looked at it from the side that you can completely see the different parts of the city, new old and then there is the wall or border or fence that cuts through the country.

Yesterday was focused on community and understanding peoplehood. We had some more fantastic speakers talk to us and then we went on a Tiyul again. We looked into Jerusalem from Mount Scopus and from the Mount of Olives. It was incredible. Despite the dirt and grime, this country is so beautiful. I couldn't imagine better places to start to learn. I haven't put pictures on my computer yet, so when they are up, you can look at them on Facebook.

It is starting to hit me that school is really just about to start. We've already started to learn Torah and Talmud and it's fantastic, although we don't really delve into that until September. We do get to start to work on Hebrew on Sunday morning. Class starts at 8:30AM! On that note, we also learned our placement for Ulpan. I was surprised to learn that I am going to be in the 4th level out of 5. I don't know how I feel about that. I'm glad that I was placed high, but I don't know that my Hebrew is that good.

We will have to wait and see on Sunday.

It's almost Shabbat and I have a lot to do. So with that,

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blogging at TCJewfolk

I mentioned in a blog a few posts back that I had been approached to write every so often for a Minneapolis website that tied together local, twenty-something, Jews. I sent in my first post to them a few days ago and they ran it today. I am excited to see the response that it receives. After looking through it a few times I realized that there are some minute errors in my writing, but I hope that people enjoy what I'm writing and that I will have a chance to continue to write for them through the rest of the year and maybe even into the future.

I'm sure you're wondering, "Why should I read something else you're writing?" There will be subtle differences between this blog and the one on TCJewfolk. The blog I will be writing for them will focus on what it is like as a twenty-something from Minneapolis to pickup and move to Jerusalem and start rabbinic school. This blog will continue to focus more on my daily happenings and the other one will focus on how my Minnesota background and my development as a Reform Jew.

I also want to thank TCJewfolk for asking me to write for them and I hope you check out their site for information about Jews around Minneapolis.

Post number one "Born in Minneapolis, Blogging from Jerusalem" is up already.


Student Visa

I learned a valuable lesson this morning, the Visa Office is a pain in the butt and I need to be there earlier. I heard the lessons from other people that went before me to get an appointment and it took me too long to get out of the house this morning. That means that by the time we got to the office, the woman had been working hard for 10 minutes and she was done making appointments. I guess that means we get to go back tomorrow to try again. We will see how many tries it will take to get the appointment. If I don't get one set up, then I guess I need to take a vacation sometime before October 3rd to reset my tourist visa.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Happy Place

Tonight starts our orientation process. All of the students are to have arrived in Israel by now and we are supposed to start learning all about our program this year and what we are going to accomplish during our year in Israel. Yesterday I decided that I was going to do a little exploring. My mom has been telling me about this garden that she liked while she was in Jerusalem and I saw that it wasn't very far from school, so after turning in the rest of my registration materials I decided to find Yamin Moshe.

As it turns out, it is very close to school. A few minutes walk from the campus down David HaMelech. She was not kidding, the garden is fantastic. Not only is it actually green, a surprise in the desert of Israel, but there is a beautiful fountain surrounded by trees and some flowers and other plants.

Not only is this a lovely shaded area, but as I wandered the garden more I stumbled upon a larger garden and a fantastic view of the city and the sprawling suburban area near by.

I spent almost an hour walking through here just taking everything in. This is one of those moments when you are just in awe of what you are surrounded by. Since I like to have my own spot that I can go and relax if need be, I think I found my place. There are benches and sprawling lawns to relax on, or to sit and read. I also saw a sign that shows a route into the old city past an artists area. Some time I want to walk that way into the old city and see what that route is all about.

I have found my personal happy place! The only thing that was missing was a special someone to walk through the garden with me, Chubbs playing the piano and a good cup of coffee, not the "Elite Instant Caffeine Supplement" I was drinking (that will be a subject covered at a later date).

If you would like to see more pictures, I put an album up on my facebook account.

Shalom M'Yerushalayim,
(Peace from Jerusalem),

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Shoe-less and A New Toy

For those of you that know me well, you will know that I don't like shoes, especially shoes that require socks too. This is a bit strange considering I grew up somewhere that it is freezing for 3 - 6 months out of the year, but maybe that has something to do with it. This is one of my favorite parts of being in Jerusalem so far. I have not worn "shoes" since last Monday. It is fantastic! Even to services last night and to services this morning, I was able to pull off wearing Teva sandals and I haven't put real shoes on my feel. I am getting a fantastic tan-line, and that little triangle where the straps come together has already started to form. Not too bad for the first week in Israel. I've started to wonder if I will be able to pull this off through the winter. I know it may get cold enough for there to be snow, but I'm holding out hope.

The other story I wanted to share today comes from the Shuk, which I visited on Thursday. I am not good at haggling with people. It's part of my Minnesota Nice attitude, someone put a fair price on the object and I'm willing to pay it. On the way out of the shuk, I saw a lemon juicer, something I had just commented on to Ari that I could use so I wouldn't need to buy lemon juice from a store. I stopped and checked out the little plastic lemon that was sitting at one of the stands. After asking,"Cama zeh oleh?" (How much does this cost?) The salesperson told me, 15 shekles. Although this is something like $4.00, I thought to myself, nah I don't need this. I put it down and started to walk away. This was the salesman's cue to cut the price to 12 NIS (New Israeli Shekel). When I told him, "No, not today." Miraculously, the price dropped more down to 10 NIS.

At this point I thought to myself, "meh, that's good enough." So I bought it. Success! Then I got home and used this juicer. I had no idea that a lemon had this much juice inside it! Enough for the massive salad that I made last night. This little thing is one of the coolest purchases that I've made so far this year and even better that I managed to successfully drop the price. I know I really did nothing to get the price down, but it was a lot more successful than the last time I was in Israel and failed miserably each time I tried. What is even more amusing is that now that I think about it, I really saved myself something in the order of $1.50. Again, not a big deal, but don't harsh my mellow!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Shabbos In Israel

Tonight is Shabbat, the end of my first week in Jerusalem. Since Marina knows a bunch of people in the area from camp, she wanted to have an OSRUI shabbat dinner. A bunch of her friends in the program and Israelis that she knows from camp came over and we made dinner in our apartment. A great excuse for us to clean out the kitchen and rearrange the apartment (I know I've been promising them, pictures will be up soon).

For t'fillah we went to Kol HaNishamah. I liked parts of their service and other parts were a bit too much for me. I really liked the different melodies that they used. There were ones that I didn't know and I was a bit lost, there were some standard melodies, some NFTY/camp melodies and even some conservative melodies that I haven't sung in a long time. I did like the service overall because it touched a lot of what I remember from my childhood at Adath, but also feels very Reform at the same time. I have some mixed feelings about it. I want to keep looking around Jerusalem for a place that I want to continue to go for services.

Tomorrow morning is a service at HUC. They're early and I want to go, but I'm not sure if I will be up in time. I've still been struggling with getting up in the morning when I need to. I will try the whole idea closing the window and not the shade. It will reduce the airflow, but I think it could help in the morning. We shall see.

We got back to the apartment and got dinner ready. I made my standard salad again. I have to say that it is a lot better with fresh vegetables from the Shuk in place of the ones from Trader Joe's that I used last time. I mean, Trader Joe's has great produce, but there is nothing better than the produce you can get fresh from a market.

Dinner was great. I like this whole pot luck thing. We all had little things ready and it turned out really well. It was a great way to break in the apartment as a small shabbat get together. Even though I didn't understand all of the inside jokes about OSRUI, I liked the community feel. Maybe I should find a way to work there next summer. It could be fun.

It's late and I want to get to services. We shall see how that works out.
Shabbat Shalom M'Yerushalayim!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

You Really Shuk Me

I just got back from the Shuk. That is an interesting experience. First of all, it is a pretty long walk from school, which is 25 minutes from the apartment. You see, with the hills of Jerusalem, everything takes a lot longer than anticipated. Since I had yet to actually go grocery shopping, I went to the Shuk, market, so I can get vegetables for the salad that I'm making tomorrow.

If you have never been there, it is complete organized chaos. Little stands lining both sides of a covered street. Fans blowing, people pushing and shop keepers screaming at the top of their lungs about what they are selling. It is so crowded that at least twice my toes got rolled over by someone's shuk cart. For all of the people waddling and pushing their way through the street, it is well worth a visit. The prices are fantastic. 6 sheckels for 100g of spices, 10 pitot for 5 sheckels. The food is incredibly cheap and incredibly fresh. I have no idea how much I spent, but I got a lot of food, herbs and olive oil for pretty cheap.

The downside was walking back. Since I hadn't planned on going to the shuk today, I didn't bring our shuk cart. Mistake. Walking back to our apartment at 2:30 in the afternoon with a backpack full of food and water was a little tough. But this was totally worth it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Story So Far

The first four days in Jerusalem have been amazing!

I've been into the old city to wander around for a while, up to Ben Yehudah street and out to Talpiyot to do some shopping. It is fantastic to not need to drive ever. In fact, the walking is probably the best part once you get past the fact that it is very hot and you need to drink three or four liters of water each day to stay fully hydrated. I can't begin to imagine how much it will take once I start to work out, maybe I will hold off on that until the summer breaks into fall.

I need to complain a bit about the dirt. My feet get dirty every day kicking a bunch of dirt up around myself as I walk. The cats too are annoying. On the whole, these are pretty minor complaints and this city is fantastic. It is still strange playing with the monopoly looking money that we have here. The fact that the half-sheckel and 1/10 of a sheckel are bigger than the 1, 2, 5 or 10 sheckle piece is just odd to me. I'm also still getting used to needing to carry all of these coins in my pocket.

I have been using a lot of Hebrew lately. In fact, there have been many times that I have made purchases, asked for help and given help to people on the street entirely in Hebrew. I probably sound like an American, but that doesn't really matter to me right now.

Speaking of Hebrew, we need to take a Hebrew placement test to set us into the correct group for Ulpan, which starts a week from Monday. The first page of this exam was pretty easy. Then I started working on the second page and so on. I have never worked on an exam that has gotten so hard so quickly. I want to do well on it because it determines what level we start at, but there are parts where I have just plain forgot some of the Hebrew words I should know.

One thing I have noticed around here that I like a lot is Israeli Standard Time. Things just work slowly here, unless you are in a car. For example when you order food at a shop. The person working at the stand could get you your food in about a minute or it may take 10 minutes to get your bagel ready (bagel is a term loosely used to describe bread cut in the shape of a bagel).

The people have been great so far. I have been meeting other students from the other campuses and it looks like our class is really interesting, especially the class that I will be with in Cincinnati for the four years after Israel. I hope to have more pictures to put up and be blogging more often that once every four days.

L'Shalom M'Yerushalayim,
(in peace from Jerusalem)

Packing Fail Leads To A Terrible Haircut

In an effort to pack light, I chose to bring my portable beard trimmer to also use as a head shaver. Not a good idea to skimp on that item. I went to give myself a shave today and about 2/3 of the way through, it died. Completely died. It wouldn't work at all and I needed to charge it. As I had very little time I had two other choices for the day. Choosing between wearing a hood for the night or shaving my head bald was an easy choice.

With only a few scrapes against my scalp I was able to "fix" my haircut. Believe me, I am not happy about it. I was left with very little choice. In the end it is just hair and it will grow back. On the bright side, the Jerusalem summer will be cooler until I get a little hair on the top of my head and the new Kippah I got from the Kippah man on Ben Yehuda Street will go a ways to keeping some of the heat on my head.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Travel Log

This trip was very uneventful in comparison other flights I had. The trip between Minneapolis and Philadelphia was fast and pleasant. I merely read a lot and we were on the ground shortly. It took a long time for my guitar to come out from the gate check, but with a four-hour layover it's not like I was in much of a hurry. The time came in handy sine the airport is very large in Philadelphia. But there were a bunch of places that I could sit and eat and hang out to make some phone calls and read some more.

When we were about to take off, it was very pretty. The sun had just started to set and there was a dull orange splitting the night sky from the daytime. Then as we climbed higher in the sky, the colors separated into a bright rainbow. Being that it was the 3rd of July, of course there were fireworks. Not quite as cool as I would have thought, but it was still nice to see them going off celebrating the holiday.

On the ground, I got through customs and passport control without major issues and met up with a friend from camp TEKO, who gave me a ride down to Tel Aviv. It is really cool to see some of the history lining the side of the road to Jerusalem. We got to the apartment and unloaded all my stuff that I brought for the year. The place is a lot nicer than I thought, even after seeing it on Skype the other day.

I met a bunch of the other students and we hung out at someone's apartment before heading home. Right now I have most of my stuff put away. I'm exhausted and heading to bed. Maybe I won't have to deal with jet lag tomorrow.

Shalom from Jerusalem

Friday, July 2, 2010

No Day But Tomorrow!

I am almost done with all of my preparations. I'm looking at two fully packed bags, minus a couple of things that need to be tossed into them, a packed, tightened and locked guitar and a half packed backpack with items scattered around my bedroom that I will undoubtedly be tossing into my backpack at the last minute. Who could expect anything different from me.

But what is sinking in is that when I wake up, I will be almost 24 hours from leaving the United States of America for almost a year and be started on my way to becoming a rabbi. Today, my roommate got to our apartment in Jerusalem and through the brilliance of Skype (feel free to skype me at BNels2422) I got a quick tour of the apartment. Let me just say that it is well worth the rent we are paying for it.

It's strange though, I know I'm leaving. I have been anxiously awaiting this moment for the last four years when I decided this just may be my path in life. I have been excited about this moment for three years when I found out that my first year is in Jerusalem and that I was sure this was the path for my life. For the preceding two years, by the grace of my parents, I have been able to live at home and do youth work, building my resume and continuing to study so that in 37 hours, I will be sitting on a plane ready to take off to go back to Israel. It all leads up to this moment when I will really feel like I am on my way.

I have been rationing KFAN Podcasts this week so I have some good ones to listen too. No doubt that after the Twins game tomorrow there should be some good anger floating from the airwaves of 1130 AM in Minneapolis. I have some school reading and some enjoyment reading ready to be had on the flight. I also put some great movies on my computer and on my external hard drive so I will have plenty to listen to watch, listen to and read as well.

The past two weeks have been great. I have spent some time with great friends and family. My cousin got married, my sister announced that she is pregnant (due in January) I got to eat at some great restaurants, I finished the services I have been working on for Camp TEKO, saw my cousin play some soccer (watching 4 year-olds chase a ball around the field was really cute), went for a great bike ride out to Lake Minnetonka, found out that I will be making guest appearances on the website TCJewfolk about a rabbinic school (you will be alerted to posts coming on that site) and so much more that I'm sure I'm forgetting to mention. The last two weeks have been great, but I also cannot wait to get to Jerusalem.

There is still something that is missing though. I am really going to miss Kaitlin and my family. I have never gone for more than a few weeks without seeing Kaitlin and I have never lived further from Minnetonka than a 15 minute drive. I wouldn't say I'm nervous about it at all, but there are things that I know I will miss. The common thing I keep coming back to is that I will be in Israel. For those of you that have been, you know what I'm talking about. For those that have not, there aren't many words that can do it justice. The place somehow just grips you and doesn't want you to leave. I continue to console my worries with the fact that I will be in Jerusalem and that I will finally be on my way to becoming a rabbi.

I'm merely rambling at this point and I really should get some sleep tonight. I have one long 30 hour day until liftoff from MSP International Airport. I will not be making another post until I land, but if you have heard about my travel issues to New York City for my HUC-JIR interview or the return journey from Cincinnati from the College Colloquium back in 2008, I can only expect some marvelous adventure on Saturday.

This chapter comes to a close with me saying the following;

To everyone I was able to see in the last two weeks, "Thank you for making my last weeks in the USA fantastic. Some of the best weeks I have had in the last few years."

To everyone I wasn't able to see, "I'm sorry we didn't find a chance to meet up, hopefully we will find a time when I'm back in the states next May."

To everyone I that has helped me on getting to this point, "Thank you. I love you. I couldn't have made it to this point without you."

To anyone I know who will be in Jerusalem in the next 11 months, "Find me on facebook or skype and we'll meet up. It will be great to see another yankee over there."