Friday, December 31, 2010


So that happened.

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

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

I learned a few things during finals week;

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

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

It's today.

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

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fantasy Football Champion!

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Not For A While

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

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

Until then,
Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Jerusalem and Bethlehem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 24, 2010

One Week From NOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Quarter Tones

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sushi Rehavia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

Flag Football: Game 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Finally Better

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

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

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

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

I guess I needed it.

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

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

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

That Time of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In Joshua's Shoes: Happy Hanukah

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mamilla Deli

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Another Weather Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Unwanted But Much Needed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Illuminated Manuscripts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 9, 2010

And Thou Shalt Love

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In Joshua's Shoes: 5-Minute Drash

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

Check out my new post at TC Jewfolk.

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

In Joshua's Shoes: 5-Minute Drash

Summer Job

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

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

Why am I so excited about this?

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Can You Learn Creativity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Sira Hummus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's absolutely worth it.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Fire and Rain

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Training Day

Wait, we have a few days off?


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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the homework,
Happy Hanukah

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ride4Reform Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turkey At Last

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

HUC Flag Football Game 2: 49 - 0

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

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

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

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

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