Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No Lines In Israel

I've said before, one of the interesting things about Israel is the lack of lines. At shops, kiosks and many similar places lines just do not exist. It's the person closest to the shop keeper that gets served first. One place I thought this would be different were stores that have clearly defined registers and lanes. Alas, this is not so.

I've heard it from other people, but I had never experienced the lack of a line in a grocery store. This morning while I was at Mister Zol (Mister Cheap), there were a lot of people shopping because there is another holiday tonight and I think stores are closed tomorrow. I fight my way through the store, gathering all of my groceries and then get towards the front of the store. Apparently leaving a cart in line marks your spot enough to go get more things and return to have moved up in line.

As I approached the line, the woman in the line next to me pointed out that the abandoned cart actually had an owner who would be returning. Since my "on the spot" vocabulary is not that great, I didn't know how to explain to this woman that I understood what she was saying and that the owner could have their spot if they returned before the belt was cleared so I could put my stuff down. I responded with, "okay." Apparently this is not the appropriate response and I got a great eye-roll and look from this woman.

When the "owner" returned to her place in line, I of course let her have her place in line. This was when she realized that she had forgotten something else and told me that I could move in front of her and she would return. I guess this was her saying that I needed to guard her place. I told her that I wasn't the last in line and that she would need to talk to the person after me (I was able to explain this in Hebrew on the spot).

My purchase was finished and I was putting my groceries in my bag when the woman returned. Surprising to her, the customer after me had started unloading her groceries and a man had moved in with his few items behind her. The first customer (the woman that let me go in front of her) was upset and had a brief, frustrated discussion with this man. In disgust she moved in behind him.

This is so strange to me and probably is to people back in the USA. Apparently the man's decision to move forward is a faux pas, even in a place with distinct lines. I'm getting better at this culture, but there are still some things that just don't make sense to me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


About a 2 minute walk from my apartment there is this little falafel shop that I've been grabbing food at since the first day I got to Israel. The first thing I like about this spot is that the owner works there almost every day. I see him sitting talking to customers, reading his paper, prepping everything. There seem to be only two or three other employees that I see working there on a regular basis. He's really friendly and almost always makes fresh falafel for you.

If I needed to rank the falafel here, I can't rank it as the best I've had, but it's really good food and you can't be the location in relation to my place. The falafel is seasoned really well. There is something spicy to the falafel itself. When you add to that the spicy sauce that I always add, it's the right level of heat for me.

The hummus is standard and the chips are pretty good as a topper. They're the best when they're fresh out of the fryer. On the whole, I'd say the falafel here is solid, but not incredible. You really can't beat the location for me and the atmosphere is very neighborhood-ish. They also added a clever sukkah for the holiday that's going on right now. Just another testament to the owner.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

HUC Campus

Since very few of my family and friends will be able to actually visit HUC while I'm here, I thought I'd give you a virtual tour of campus. I didn't take a lot of pictures inside buildings since they're pretty standard rooms. Join me on a walk through HUC-JIR Jerusalem.

On my way to school, I come to King David, this is HUC from across the street.

Looking up the stairs is the Administration Building. To your left, after the first staircase, is an entrance that is only open when services are open to the public.

If you go in through the synagogue entrance, you walk into the back of the Mustein Synagogue.

Leaving the Administration building there are some stairs that take you down to the main courtyard. Across the courtyard on the right is the Abramov Library, straight ahead is the Archeology Building and in between the two the Skirball Museum. Follow the video into the courtyard.

This is the main courtyard, after you go down the stairs towards our library, this is our view.

From the museum you walk down a long hallway towards the academic courtyard where the majority of the classrooms and offices for our professors are.

On the left and right are the rooms. You can see a pretty nice fountain in the middle. When the weather was nicer they had water flowing through it.

From the left of the picture, there is a staircase that takes you down to what they call the student's courtyard. It's a nice spot that most of us sit in our shorter breaks.

On the right side in the student's courtyard is the Moadon, the cafe and all purpose room that we use all the time. The courtyard is really nice though.

To get to this spot, you have to walk a decent way up from the Student's Courtyard and head towards the main courtyard. Instead of going back up to the Administration building though, take a right and you find yourself in another little garden behind the Admin Building.

From that garden, you take these steps back up. You can see the Admin Building towards the back of the picture.

That about does it for campus. I hope that's enough so you can get a feel for what the place is like.

I hope you liked school!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Scooter Ride & Matkot - מטקות

Friday was a great day! I got up early in the morning to clean up a bit and get ready to head up to Tel Aviv. I was really excited to meet up with a friend that I had met while on Taglit that I hadn't seen since 2007. I caught a ride with some friends who were heading up to Tel Aviv to chill on the beach and spend some of their break from there.

The ride was great and on the way, I called my friend. Instead of heading to the beach we went to last time we were in Tel Aviv, she suggested one short distance away. We picked up a Sheirut that took us to a point a few blocks away from the beach.

After chilling for a while she arrived and it was great playing catch up for a "few" (read, "four-and-a-half") hours. Not only was it a lot of fun to catch up with her and meet her boyfriend, who was a lot of fun too, I finally got a chance to play that paddle game that Israelis seem to always be playing on the beach.

Matkot is a lot of fun. The ball doesn't react the way that you would think it does, which makes the game a little harder than you would expect. I loved playing this game. Here are the rules;

1) Stand a few feet away from each other.
2) Hit the ball.
3) Wait for your partner to hit the ball back.
4) Hit it back to your friend.
5) Try to keep a good rally going.
6) The winners are anyone playing!

I need to find a set of these Matkot and bring them home. It's really a great game and you can make it a lot harder if you want to add some finesse or stand further apart.

I was heading back to Jerusalem and she offered to give me a ride on her motorcycle to the Central Bus Station. Even though I had watched these things whip around the city, I graciously took her offer. Now I know why so many Israelis use these things.

Aside from the fact that they are a lot cheeper than a car, and use less gas. In Israel, the scooters don't really need to follow all of the traffic laws. For example, they can squeeze between two cars and make their way to the front of the stoplight. It was also pretty fun riding. Even though I was wearing a helmet, I could feel the wind rushing through my hair (all 20 of them). I'm not sure where I'm going to be going to school next year yet, but if I end up in Los Angeles I may need to pick one of these things up to get around out there. Tons of fun.

I can't wait to go back up there to meet up with them again. Apparently her boyfriend is a musician. I may need to go up to listen to him play some time.

We also talked a lot about Israel and about religion. Surprise, surprise. I'm still working out how I feel about it. But the more I come to understand how "Judaism" is implemented as a national religion, the more in understand why there are so many secular Israelis. I'm going to think on this more before I completely sort out my thoughts.

Taglit - Also known as Birthright. This is a 10 day trip that is completely subsidized for young Jews ages 18 - 26 to go to Israel and in a whirlwind tour see a lot of the country. This was my first experience in Israel and as you may come to find out, was a little influential on my life since then.

Sheirut Moniyot - They can also be called by their shorter name, sheirut, but don't pluralize them as Shirutiyym -that means bathroom. They're a combination between Taxis and busses. For a set price per person they will take you from one set location to another established location. It is possible to get off at stops on the way, but you need to tell your driver where you want to go. You can also call a sheirut and have them pick you up to take you to a place. They're great all purpose transportation options if you need to use them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Place In Judaism

We have these smaller reflection groups that meet once a month on Mondays. My group met for the first time this past Monday and our first topic of conversation was about the role that place should play in Judaism. What changes for a lot of us is exactly this role.

This year, being in Israel, we are in a new place. This is something completely new to me. I have never been outside my communities in Minneapolis, especially for some of the important Holy Days. I think a large part of this has to do with the unfamiliarity here. What we talked about in our group was that sometimes community can create a place for you. One of my colleagues brought up the example of the Israelites building a the place for God to reside in the community while they were wandering in the wilderness.

I started to think about this a little more. Without looking back at the text, I remember that the people needed to make a holy home for God to reside among the people. Another part of this command was that the people needed to make themselves a holy community as well. In this case, then you don't need a specific location to be special for you, but you need the community to also create this holiness.

Arguing the other side of the argument, there are specific locations that I feel like I can connect to God. Although I am very frustrated with some of the things that have been happening at the Kotel lately, it is still a special place to me. The Kotel represents the closest place that we are allowed to pray to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Although the worship offered historically at the Temple was animal sacrifice, something I do not agree with in today's culture, there is something special about this place. When we wandered over there during Yom Kippur, I couldn't help but offer more prayers and another recitation of Vidui (Confession) at the one of the most important sites to Judaism.

There are other places that are special to me too. Thinking about them helps me focus my thoughts. I remember sitting at Camp TEKO in the little chapel that overlooks Lake Minnetonka. Listening to the wind blow through the trees and hearing the boats motoring around the lake is a place that I have found a connection.

At times, I have thought about what Judaism would look like without Israel - the country. Yet I keep coming back to the fact that Israel is incredibly important. Not only are there holy sites, but this is the only place in the world that Jewish traditions affect the entire country.

For example, during Yom Kippur, the country shuts down. I was able to walk down the middle of the wrong side of the road because there were almost now cars. The streets were so quiet! Kids were riding on their bikes and people were out in force. I didn't even wear a watch because time didn't really matter.

It isn't even near Pesach yet, but I have been told that you can go get food at almost any restaurant because they are almost all Kosher for Pesach. Israeli summer is effected by the Holy Day cycle and even the time change is effected -we moved our clocks back the Sunday after Rosh HaShanah to make Yom Kippur easier.

What role does place play in Judaism? I still don't know actually know a full answer. Part of it is memory, part of it creates community. A place can inspire thoughts and prayers, and a place can make you so incredibly frustrated that you just want to shout. Places can connect us to our history. Yet it is that history that also causes problems. I think this is going to be a lifelong process of figuring out how Israel, the country, should play into my life as a Jew. But I'm glad this course is making me start to think about it.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

In Joshua’s Shoes: High Holy Days In Jerusalem

I had a interesting and difficult experience during the High Holy Days. At times I was frustrated with services and had a hard time because it didn't feel familiar to me. I really missed being at Adath for N'eilah and Kol Neidre. Something just didn't feel great about not being there for it.

Nevertheless, Yom Kippur was a a much better Holy Day than Rosh HaShanah was for me. Today my post is up and running at TCJewfolk. You can either access it directly through the link; In Joshua's Shoes: High Holy Days in Jerusalem. Or if you chose to go through their site at TCJewfolk you can find it on the right side under the Voices section.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Done, done, and I'm on to the next one

Although we just started the actual school year, today is the first day of break. This is the first year that I've had a fall break and this is great! It's not so much because the work load is stressing me out already, but the Holiday load has been exhausting.

First there was Slichot to get us in the mood for the High Holy Days. Then there was Rosh HaShanah for two days. Rosh HaShanah butted up against shabbat this year, so it was a three day weekend that wasn't terribly restful, although there were some meaningful experiences.

A week later was Yom Kippur. Although I didn't really get anything done for school, that didn't matter for Yom Kippur. I really took a lot from that Holy Day this year. But starting that night, people around here have been getting ready for Sukkot, a large, week long festival that culminates in another Holiday; Simchat Torah and Shmini Atzeret.

Then it will be back to school, back to the books, after one more shabbat. Pfew!

I'm excited to have some time off here though. I have some things I want to catch up on. And some people that I would like to catch up with. I'm not planning on any major trips this week off, which makes me very happy to have a relaxing break. It is going to be filled with guitar, reading a little homework and friends. Yea!

Chag Sameach!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Timul Simshon

Since last Friday was the start of Yom Kippur, I needed to get a little grub in my stomach to hold me over for the day. My mom had mentioned checking out this place near Ben Yehudah Street called Timul Shimshon. I went with a small group of my classmates to check it out and to get a good brunch in.

The atmosphere was great. You need to duck into a dark, smelly alley, but when you walk out into the light you find a really nice outdoor patio. From what I was told, the inside is really cozy too. Apparently they let you read and buy random books off their shelves. We sat in the sun and just hung out. It was a great relaxing vibe for brunch.

I ordered their Shakshuka with spinach. They served it with a good cheese, I don't remember what it was called exactly, but it mixed with the heavy dose of tomato and eggs. I ordered it extra spicy, as I love my food. It was great! Then I started eating the shakshuka with their fresh baked bread. It crumbled so nicely, but also was firm enough to scoop up some of the "stew-ish" thing that I had.

The shakshuka came served with an Israeli Salad, which was good, but not great. I think it's getting to the end of the season that the veggies are perfect. The salad improved when I added their t'china to the mixture. The sesame added another layer to the flavor.

Initially I had some orange juice to drink, but I noticed that some of my friends had very tasty coffees. I ordered an espresso that comes with your meal. Very sweet creme on the top that finished with a smooth and slightly bitter espresso. I really liked the brunch and it was great to share with a good group of friends.

The only downside was that it made me miss Kaitllin. Brunch was something that she did a lot with her family and since I've been together with her, it's kinda become a bit of a thing to do. I can't wait to take her there this winter and I highly recommend you check it out if you're in Jerusalem.

Late is Better Than Never

This is in regards to post one of my classmates put on her facebook last night. So first off, shout out to Rae and feel free to check out her blog. She brought to my attention that there is a blog that collects blogs from people writing about Israel.

Apparently some other people have picked up the blog I wrote about my experience at Women of the Wall back in Rosh Chodesh Elul. I'm not sure what to exactly think about the fact that people actually read what I'm writing here.

If you're at all interested in what they put out, you can check out, Religion and State in Israel. My post is about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way down the page.

Sitting here wishing that I had known about this earlier, but late is better than never.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Football?!?

Tonight I decided to get back to my American roots and went to the Lion's Den Bar to watch some games. The time difference means that the afternoon games in the states start at 1900 here, perfect for some food and drinks.

The bar was a great spot for us to be. A bunch of TVs indoors and outdoors showing the four "big" games was a lot of fun. Lots of cheering, lots of shouting and they even had internet access so we could keep checking our fantasy teams. I'm currently winning this week, but a lot can change. Since nobody really wants to hear about my fantasy football team, I'll stop right here.

Something interesting that I noticed was how much everybody dislikes Brett Favre. So much booing and jeering when he made a mistake. And yep, the Vikings are sitting at the bottom of the NFC North. I was also watching with a bunch of Bears fans, I can't help it that I have friends from Chicago.

It felt really at home though sitting with a group of people that I don't know all sharing in the stereotypical American experience. It was a lot of fun and I'll probably be stopping into this place every once in a while to catch a game. This time difference is a pain though.

Lila Tov,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

He'll Have the Decafe

Today was Yom Kippur and I fasted the whole day. No water, no food and a splitting headache. I know I go over this all the time, but I have a coffee/caffeine problem. The bigger problem is that I like the taste of coffee too much.

The hardest part of this fast was that I was fighting with my brain to keep it from jumping out the front of my skull. I know it's a little too late for Jew Years' Resolutions, but I think it's high time I try to cut down on the coffee here. Maybe for a week or two, until I no longer get headaches when I go for a day without it. Maybe I'll switch to decafe, or just pop instead, you know, enough to get rid of the headache. We'll see.

For those of you still fasting, may it be an easy rest of the day, and may you be sealed into the book of life for a great 5771.

Friday, September 17, 2010

We're Gonna Win Twins!

As I'm still trying to put something up every day, this is going to be my post for tomorrow, for during Yom Kippur, although it has nothing to do with the Holy Day.

Instead, it is more about my other fall ritual; September Baseball!

It is really difficult to follow the Twins Baseball Club from Israel. I have been listening to ESPN's Baseball Today, occasional podcasts from KFAN, and checking the Minnesota Twins website. But it's not the same as being home, I just miss the atmosphere of people caring about baseball.

It's also hard to track their magic number. Right now, it's sitting at 8. This means that any combination of 8 Twins wins and/or 8 White Sox losses and the Twins will have clinched winning the American League Central Division. They're chasing the Yankees and the Rays for the best record in the American League which would give them the Home Field Advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Don't get me wrong, Israel is great and I'm loving classes. I've got great friends here, but this is just a fall event that I really miss. Then, today I got an email from Kaitlin's mom with a bunch of pictures. Back in August, Kaitin, Judy and my mom all went to a ball game. It put a huge smile on my face to get this picture!

Mom and Kaitlin at Target Field - courtesy of Judy Saltzman

I miss you guys,

Yom Kippur

Tonight is the start of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. For 25 hours I will not be eating or drinking to prove to myself that it is possible to overcome physical limitations, to prove that it is possible to break from natural desires. This demonstrates that we can change. For anyone that I have hurt or offended in the last year, I'm sorry. I hope you can forgive me.

We all get the chance to return to who we really are and to change things that we don't like about ourselves.

For anyone fasting and observing Yom Kippur, I hope you have an meaningful day and an easy fast.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pizza Panini

Before I even start this blog, I will say that the pizza here is nothing like a good slice from Mesa or a from a random pizza place on a NYC corner. As far as an Israeli pizza place though, Panini is awesome! They don't use a lot of sauce on the pizzas, but they always have a bunch of random toppings on their ready to go pizzas.

Tonight I had the regular cheese and a green olive slice. They could use a little more cheese to pull out the flavor, but it's a great blend of cheeses. To go on top of their standard toppings, they have a good selection of spices that you can put on top, zatar and panini spices are some of the random ones that I've thrown on the top a few times. They also have a great spicey sauce that you can drizzle on your pizza too.

The bad part is that the place is on my way home from just about anywhere, it's on Derech Azza at the corner of Ramban, actually just a few minutes walk from my house. I actually haven't stopped there to many times, but I'm always tempted.

One of the "owners", Yaakov, is awesome! He likes to deliver to people and chat them up. He mentioned casually that he works in real estate. What a great way to check out other people's apartments, right? I think he's an ex-Pat American and he seems to like the HUC students. He was telling us one night, the night before our Ulpan final, that he had delivered to a few other study parties. I'm definitely a fan on this spot. If you come visit me, we're stopping here for sure.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Class Lists

Not only is this first year of Rabbinic School about being in Israel and experiencing everything that there is to see here, but it is also part of an academic program. As such, we have a pretty full course load and I love it so far.

For anyone from HUC reading my blog, this is going to be all about school. Thanks for reading, but if you want to know my schedule, I'll see you tomorrow morning.

0830 Modern Hebrew
1015 Liturgy Lecture
1130 Liturgy Discussion
1330 Biblical History

0830 Modern Hebrew
1015 Shachrit
1130 Rabbinic Texts
1400 2nd Temple History
1545 All Student Forum or HaEmek D'var

0830 Modern Hebrew
1015 Modern Hebrew
1200 Biblical Grammar
1330 Book of Legends Elective
1430 Mincha
1645 History of the Zionist Movement

Israel Seminar Day

0830 Shachrit
1000 Modern Hebrew
1145 Bible
1330 History Tiyyul (as needed)

Modern Hebrew
This is just a class that we study Modern Hebrew. My class got to keep the fantastic teacher we had for summer ulpan and it's great.

Liturgy Lecture and Discussion
The lecture portion of this class we study the history of prayer and look into how liturgy was developed. Aside from the location of the class (we're having lectures in the synagogue on campus) this is really interesting to me. We also have an hour long discussion section immediately after the lecture which helps us work out some of the trick parts we're studying.

Biblical History
This will be a fascinating class for me. We are looking at the history of the Bible. The story, not the written Bible itself. From what I understand, we are going to examine Jewish history through time using the bible as the jumping off point. We haven't gotten too much beyond the intro and a brief discovery of Biblical Geography. I'm pumped to be learning more about this though.

Rabbinic Texts
Just as it sounds, this class is the analysis, translation and understanding of Rabbinic texts. Mishnah, Talmud and things of that sort.

2nd Temple History
Aptly named, we are going to study Jewish history in the 2nd Temple Period. Hey, I majored in history, for some reason I think I will like this class!

All Student Forum
We actually haven't had one of these yet, so I'm not really sure what this as all about.

HaEmek D'var
So far this class was a discussion about the class. From what I understand, we will work in smaller groups to talk about big issues relating to Israel. The group I'm in will be facilitated by the dean, so I'm excited about that. We also get off campus for this class and get to have our discussions in people's homes.

Biblical Grammar
Not only does this class make a lot of sense to me because it's logical, but our professor is amazing. She's hilarious, she's excited. She pronounces the guttural letters exactly as they are supposed to be. I didn't think it was possible to be this fired up to learn Biblical Grammar, but I look forward to this class every week.

Book of Legends Elective
This is an elective with the Director of our Program, Mah Tovu's Rabbi Josh Zweiback. We are looking at legendary stories from a book called, Sefer Aggadah. It's another opportunity to learn text and work on my Hebrew Skills.

History of the Zionist Movement
Another aptly titled class. This is the history of the modern Zionist Movement. Not much else to be said about it.

Israel Seminar
Wednesdays are dedicated to learning about Israel through a variety of lenses. Every week will be different, but this is the formal way we will be learning about Israel and Israeli culture. Sweet!

Last time we had this class, we spent the whole day studying the first chapter of Genesis. Through the rest of the course, we will be looking at the Bible and focusing on women and their role. I have the same teacher for this as I do for Biblical History. This is really exciting to learn.

So as you can see, I have a pretty full schedule. All of the classes are really interesting and I'm really excited to be learning about all of these topics this year.

I need to run though. Choir rehearsal...

G'mar Chatimah Tovah!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Winter in Israel... Already

Early on the first Sunday morning after Rosh HaShanah Israel switches back to standard time. From what has been explained to me, this is to make the fast day on Yom Kippur easier since the sun goes down earlier, the fast day will end earlier on Saturday night. Aside from royally destroying the rhythm I had going with being able to skype with people back home, this means it is winter in Israel... kind of.

In the daily liturgy, we haven't switched over to the traditional prayers for wind and rain, but the mood has changed. The nights seem cooler. I have slowly noticed the change since getting back from Haifa two whole weeks ago. Something was different in the air this Sunday though.

Part of this may have been the feeling I got on the roof of Rabbi N. Kalman's apartment Saturday night while we met for Havdallah. Some of it may have something to do with the fact that back in the states we just had the first week of the NFL season. Yet another piece could be connected to the Gophers' Football team getting there first loss (under Brewster I'm surprised it took them two weeks to lose their first game).

Another piece could be the fact that I was rained on a little on the way to school and noticed that there were clouds in the sky the last few days. There is just a different feeling in the air right now and it feels like it should be fall. The problem is that I'm not used to there still being so much green in the fall. The leaves should be changing colors. I should smell the crisp fall air.

As a final note, I'm still wondering whether or not I want to see snow in Jerusalem this year. I know it would be beautiful, but I'm torn between the aesthetic aspects and the fact that I would love to have a year without snow.We shall see.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rosh HaNikrah

This is coming in very late, I know. I hadn't had the chance to sit down and write out everything from Rosh HaNikrah. For those of you that don't know me very well I am a little bit obsessed with water. Lakes or rivers or whatever body of water. I could just sit and listen to the water lap at the shore of anything for hours on end.

In the north, at the border between Lebanon and Israel, there is a special place where the mountains literally run into the sea. The way that the water works slowly at the rock has created some of the most beautiful grottos I have even seen. As we first descended into the grottos, we came to an observation point that you can see into the bright turquoise water. In the dark of the grotto you can barely see the color of the water, but you can still see the bottom. Then as you stare out into the open water, the vibrant greens and blues pierce into the darkness with the help of the sun.

As I meandered through the grottos there was a place that the water was still slowly working it's way through the rock formation still. I stood for about 10 minutes watching the tide rise and fall through the hole that was slowly being bored through rocks. I really could have watched the tide rush through for hours.

Further through the grottos I stepped out into a bright light. In the distance I could just make out the shapes of islands in the distance, along with the Navy Ships patrolling the water. Looking back up the sharp angle of the mountain, I could see hundreds of flint-stones and fossils jutting out in their dark color contrasting to the bright white of the rock.

The scorching sun was soothed as I walked around the edge of the "open to the public" area with a strong, cool breeze. Coming out of a musty grotto into the sun, the breeze felt incredible on my face. Fighting the glare of the sun, I wanted to look out onto the sea and not leave. But I was not the only person there, and we needed to head back to Acho.

As we got back into the car, I couldn't help but notice the contrast between the rough rock and the lush green Kibbutz within 1km of the border. The stark contrast between the end of the line and harvestable land sticks out in my mind. I'm not exactly sure why I was so hung up on this. There was just something impressive about how much people were able to get out of the space so close to nothingness.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Although I already learned how to make Challah, I decided it was high time to add another carby food to add to my arsenal. Enter one of the simplest forms of bread; the Pita.

This is a very easy recipe to make, but it does take more than three hours to make properly. I found the recipe here.

Since it is baking, I figured I'd stick pretty close to the recipe.

1 package of yeast (2.33 tsp)
1/2 cup of warm water
1 tsp of white sugar

3 cups of flour
1 1/4 tsp of salt
1 cup of lukewarm water

vegetable oil

Start by adding the sugar and yeast to 1/2 cup of warm water.
Let it sit for about 10 minutes or until the mixture is foamy.

Add the salt to your flour in a medium sized bowl and mix it together.
Then slowly add the yeast and 1 cup of lukewarm water to the flour/salt and stir with a wooden spoon.
Knead until the the mixture is not sticky anymore. This should take about 10 minutes.
Coat the edges of a large mixing bowl with vegetable oil and flip the dough over in the bowl so the entire dough ball has been "kissed" by the oil.
Set the dough aside for about three hours. In this time it should double in size.

3 hours later you need to turn on your over to about 500 fahrenheit, make sure your baking pan is in the oven while you're doing this.
Take the dough and roll it out into a long rope.
Depending on the size pita you want, break the dough off into pieces and put on a floured surface.
Let them sit for 10 minutes
Roll the pieces out with a rolling pin. If you don't have one, yo can also knead the pieces into the size and shape you want.
This recipe, for me, made rather small sized pitot (Hebrew plural of pita), maybe 3 inches in diameter.

To bake them, put them on your baking sheet towards the bottom of the oven for 4 - 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, flip them over for not more than another 2 - 3 minutes.
Just know that the longer they sit in the oven, the greater risk of burning. If you're shooting for the 7 - 8 minute range, watch them closely.

They will have bubbled up while baking. Take the pitot out and squash them down before they cool.

I took the opportunity to serve these pitot with some freshly made hummus from scratch. Feel free to check out the recipe I used for that on an earlier blog post.

This time the hummus was a little different because I used canned chickpeas and they were wetter than I anticipated. The mixture was a lot smoother, but the taste is still there.

On the whole, baking pita was a lot of work and I'm not quite sure how worth it they were to make. It was a great way to spend the second half of my shabbat though. I can't wait to play with the recipe a little bit more though add spices and what have you.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

In Joshua’s Shoes: The Long and Short of It

Not only am I blogging here this year, but I am also writing occasional pieces for the Minneapolis Based website TCJewfolk.

A new post of mine went up on Thursday. It's all about the little adventure I had with Brian A, Leah and Dusty walking down the side of Mount Carmel on the way to the beach during our break. You can link right to the post here or go to their site and peruse. There are some interesting articles and some great information about things happening in Twin Cities.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hey There 5771

Today is the second full day of Rosh HaShanah, a very important Holy Day in Judaism. An important aspect of Rosh HaShanah is that at the restart of the year, we are supposed to ask forgiveness from anyone and everyone we have wronged in the last year. Interestingly, we are supposed to ask for forgiveness after the start of the year before the second of the High Holy Days, Yom Kippur.

According to our tradition, the period of 10 days between the two Holy Days are the days in which God decides if we will have a good life or even if we will die in the next year. Although I don't believe that God sits on high deciding our fate, I do believe that our tradition has a great idea here.

At the start of the year, we bring ourselves to the bottom. We admit our faults, we publicly shame ourselves by admitting all of the things we have done wrong in the last year. Now, we have a chance to build ourselves up over the course of the year. We can build ourselves up as a better, stronger improved person.

It would be very hard for me from Israel to contact everyone that I may have hurt in the last year. So from here, I acknowledge that I have faults. I acknowledge that I have made errors in judgment. I have said things I should not have and I have done things that I should not have. If I have done anything to hurt or offend anyone in the last year, I truly am sorry. If I have hurt you and didn't even realize it, I'm sorry.

Let this new year be a year in which I improve myself and strengthen my relationships with everyone that I love and care about.
Let this new year be a year of blessings and happiness for everyone.
Let this new year be a year of peace between all humankind.
Let this new year be a year of peace within ourselves.

Let anything from the past year be in the past, and allow anyone who wishes a fresh start to have one.

Second Night Dinner & Apple Crisp

Last week Marina asked me if we could have a dinner for the second night of Rosh HaShanah. Since we always had two dinners when I was growing up, my answer was of course! We left if open to the entire class and even some American College students studying here this year. Small problem though, there were 30 people that RSVPed before the weekend. Our apartment could not contain that many people and the number kept growing.

Luckily, she was in a meeting at school and asked if we could use the space at school to host this dinner. HUC said that we could use the space and our number expanded even more. When we went to school to set up last night, we were setting places for 53 people that had RSVPed, and a few extra people came too! Insane!

It was a potluck style, because there was no way could we cook for that many people. So I needed something to bring. Who did I turn to for a recipe for desert? Mom.

I asked her to send me a message for an apple crisp.

Apple Crisp

I changed what she gave me as a recipe based on what I wanted for taste

14 Granny Smith Apples (peeled, sliced and cored)
1 1/4 cups of brown sugar

2 cups of flour
1 1/5 cups of white sugar
4 tbsp of cinnamon
4 eggs
4 tbsp of butter (113g)

Measure out the flour, white sugar and cinnamon. Combine in a large bowl and set aside.

Peel, cut and core the apples.
Mix together the apples and brown sugar until the apples are coated.
Lay out in a large baking pan.
Set this aside and preheat an over to 195 degrees C.

Beat 4 eggs.
Melt the butter.
Combine the eggs and butter in a small bowl.
Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix thoroughly.
Take this mixture and spread as evenly as possible over apples.
It does not need to cover everything, but cover most of the apples.

Bake in the over at 195 C for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, check back regularly to make sure the edges do not burn.
Bake until the crust is golden brown and a knife can be put in and taken out clean from the center.

As a final note, I want to give a massive shout out to Marina for getting the dinner together. Technically I was helping host too, but she did about 95% of the organizing and preparations. Also a massive thank you for everyone who brought fantastic food. Since it was much more Marina's night, if you want to check out here account, I'm sure one will be up on her blog shortly.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Are Movies An Educational Expense?

On Tuesday night, I went to see Inception with a couple of other students. The first thing is that the movie was great! I was completely sold on the idea, I loved watching it happen and the idea is far-fetched but it is also just plausible enough to draw me in and suspend any disbelief. Even the very slim premise for him taking the job. I'm not going to give you a spoiler alert because this is the last that I will talk about the movie.

The movie experience here is very similar to home with a few exceptions. The first one is intermission. Yeah, there is an intermission in the middle of the movie. And it is actually in Davkah the middle of the movie. In this case, it was right in the middle of a great action scene and the lights just turned on.

I also loved the subtitles. The movie was in English, but there were Hebrew subtitles. It was great! I while I was trying to watch the movie, I tried to follow the subtitles at the bottom of the screen. What a great way to test my Hebrew. I know the story, I know what is happening because the actual movie is in English. Yet I was learning real Hebrew words. It's not that I haven't been learning anything in Hebrew class or in Ulpan. It's just different to see words that people would understand and would use in day to day live.

I really enjoyed the fact that when the characters would yell out, "Jesus Christ!" The subtitle would read, "אלהים" (Elohim!). Not quite what I would expect, but something I would actually want to know about the day to day language.

So my question persists, if I start going to tons of movies to practice my Hebrew, does this count as an educational expense?

Davkah is a Hebrew word that in day to day language doesn't have a real meaning in English. From what I understand, it can be used to mean exactly. But if said with a sarcastic tone, it implies the exact opposite.

Elohim is the Hebrew word for God, in a specific sense, the God of the Jewish people. El is the term for god. Without going into a philosophical discussion, just take Elohim to mean God.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Over Two Months

Today is Labor Day.
Back home this marks the end of the Minnesota State Fair.
Minnesota schools start tomorrow.
Summer starts to feel like it is over.
As usual the Twins are making a run at the playoffs.
The Vikings are overly optimistic.
The Gopher football team is almost eliminated from Big 10 Championship contention.

In Jerusalem, we are getting ready for the High Holy Days.
The school year is almost a week old.
And I've been here for about two months.

All I can say is that this year has already been amazing. Between the great friendships I've been making with colleagues, the meaningful conversations and the great experiences I've had so far. I still miss things about home. I don't want to wish this year away, and I'm doing all I can to enjoy every moment of this year. But what I wouldn't give for a Chipotle Burrito Bowl or a jog around Lake Calhoun.

Now, back to the books.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

When Do I Get My Shabbat Minucha?

Something is not right the last few weeks. Getting ready for Shabbat has started to be more of a chore than something special. Then I've been spending a lot of Shabbat working and cleaning. Yes it is therapeutic and helpful to getting ready for the week, but I miss taking a break.

I was talking to a colleague on Friday night and I think she gave me a new idea. Just shift everything back a day. That means doing a lot more homework on Thursday and prep for Shabbat dinners. Thursday so I can do more homework on Fridays. If I'm able to do that, I could maybe get a break on Saturdays. Take some time to rest and relax. Get some exercise and whatnot.

We'll see how that works in a few weeks. With the High Holy Days getting kicked off last night with Slichot, this time of year is a little rough and I think I will be wearing down a little. But as of Sukkot break at the end of the month, I will be on this new schedule. Maybe then I can catch a breath of sweet Shabbat air on Saturdays.

Shavua Tov,

The Seasons They Are A Changin'

Two observations about this time of year.

It's back to school in Israel. All of the kids are back out in the street on the way to school. It was really cool on my first day of school to be passing students headed off the same way. Back in Minnesota, there is an issue with starting this early. It has to do with a holdover from agricultural times. Minnesota schools don't start until after Labor Day. From what I gather, this is not the norm in the rest of the USA. Israel is about the same. It's just that time of year, back to the books!

With all of the kids being back in school, tourism season is also over here. This means that when I went the shuk yesterday to get veggies for salad, it was pretty empty for a Friday at mid-day. It also means that the foods available are changing too. Yeah, I know that 8 NIS for a Kilo of cucumbers is still about a dollar per pound, but that's way up from 3 NIS. It also means that the apples have dropped from 15 NIS to 10 and under depending on your vendor. Pomegranates are cheap now too!

Even though I spent years working in the produce department at Byerly's, I never noticed just how crazy it is when you don't have complete access to vegetables across the world. We would deal with seasonal products and price changes. But being a large grocer it was possible to always get fresh produce from somewhere in the world.

I like this idea of only buying seasonally though. It really makes you think about the process it takes to produce what we eat.

One last thing that goes along with the change in season. The weather here has actually been pleasant. Although my fan is always running in my room (I'm trying to dry out the wet wall still, it's a slow process), I don't need it to be comfortable while I sleep. I actually didn't break into a dripping sweat on the way to school on Thursday. Wow!

Friday, September 3, 2010

So Right

This past week we had the first two days of classes. Wednesday was our Israel seminar day. Every week we are going to look into a different aspect of Israeli culture and Israeli history. From what it sounds like, we are not going to be examining Israel in only historic perspective, but also sociological and economic perspectives. It really is going to be like a crash course in Israeli Social Studies.

I really like the class grouping I'm in. It's going to be an interesting year.

Thursday morning, we started with student led morning services. This was the first one that two of our classmates lead and chanted from Torah. It was really cool to hear some of my peers and was a reminder of exactly why I'm here. Then there were the classes.

First was Hebrew which was a shorter version of what we were doing all summer. But now we're in a classroom! Before we had a classroom adjacent to the Library, but now we have a room up by all of the other classes. Yea!

My second class of the day was Bible. We learned about the class and how it will for for a little bit of the class. Then we started to get into it. We were instructed to look into at Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a; the days of creation. Although a little more guidance would have been helpful, it was so much fun just diving into the text. My Chevruta Partner (this refers to a style of learning Torah that is two people looking and discussing the text together) had actually written his BA Thesis on a few of the verses from this section. It was really cool talking with him about it.

The class opened into a discussion that we talked about what we found interesting, difficult or anything else. Some of my thoughts were echoed by other students and it was really fun talking about this text for the hour. This seems so basic, but this is really why I'm here. Learning these things are a lot of fun. After two days, I know this is the right place.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Since school started today, I don't know how much free time I will be having to write about random things that I'm doing. I'm not sure how exciting this whole semester is actually going to be. To spice things up a little bit I'm going to take pictures and write about some of the great places I've visited to eat. For those of you in Israel, this could be boring since you may have shown me this place or eaten there with me.

So here goes the first one;


Everyone on Ben Yehudah will tell you about Moshiko and how great their falafel is. One night I was wandering the area with Brian and Marina. This guy who works at Hamarosh stopped us with three fresh falafel balls and said to try it. Wow! I don't even know how many times I've been back to this place it is fantastic.

If they are not that busy, they will give you a taste of their falafel. It's the right kind of dry with really good spices. Their Charif (spicy) is really good and is not that spicy. For you Minnesotans, this is good news.

Their T'chinah is also very flavorful and adds so much to the hummus and charif. They have a multitude of salads that affect the flavor in different ways. At this point I can't tell you what is exactly in each of them since I have a hard time remembering their hebrew names. One is a cabbage, one is like a cole slaw and there are a few others.

My personal favorite is to always add the chamutzim (pickles) towards the top so I can have them with their freshly fried cheeps (french fries). I usually get it on Laffa bread, which is like a thinner pita that wraps like a burrito. It's thicker than a burrito and costs more than if you get just a pita. I say it's worth is because I like the doughy texture of the laffa over a dried pita taste. That's just me though and the pita is pretty good too.

If you're in Jerusalem, this is the best main-stream falafel I've had from a major place. You can probably find hole in the wall stuff that's better (like the random square in the old city that I might be able to find if you gave me a day), but for your money and time's sake, check out Hamarosh. It's at the bottom of Ben Yehudah Street, near Yaffo and Kikar Tzion (Zion Square).