Monday, February 28, 2011

Batteries Are Weird...

Now I'm confused.

Before I came to Israel, my computer battery started to get weak. Not staying charged for long periods of time. Luckily I had the Best Buy "accidental damage plan". They set me up with a new battery at no cost to me and it was great. I had two batteries that were all charged up and ready to go.

Within a few weeks of being here, the "new" battery stopped working. Ugh. The good news is that I had another one, so no biggie.

Under Kaitlin's advice, I've been using my charger to mostly charge my computer instead of using it to keep my computer running at all times. Apparently that's bad for the battery. So when I started to have issues on Sunday, I was shocked and glad that I had my charger.

When I took out my computer to use it during Liturgy class for notes it said that there was only 90 minutes of battery left. What?!?! The day before it had lasted over three hours while doing a wide variety of things, downloading a podcasts, watching YouTube or whatever.

So I drained the battery two or three times yesterday, realizing that it took almost twice as long to charge as it did to drain, I thought I did a pretty good job. I shut it down all the way before coming to class this morning and was surprised when I got to Bible class and turned it on.

It said I had over three hours of battery life again! I'm not complaining, I'm just shocked.

Batteries are weird...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Unintentional Naps

I'm writing now because I have no motivation to do any homework. I was having a snack this afternoon with my heater blasting in my room watching a little TV on my computer and the next thing I know my phone is going off. It's two hours later and I need to get my shoes on to go to dinner. What happened?!?!

No, seriously. I don't know what happened. I'm not big on the napping. I sleep at night and I have stuff to do during the day. The only exception being when I'm sick. I'm not going to complain because it felt great. I woke up with a lot of energy. But there goes my afternoon plans to get some homework done.

Now I'm back from a great dinner with great people and I have a lot of homework to do. It's 10pm and I have absolutely no motivation. I just don't want to do anything. Arrgh! What happened to my motivation? This is why I don't take naps usually.

Hopefully I get some sleep tonight and don't start off a bad cycle the week before I have to bike 300km from Modi'in to Masada on the Ride for Reform.

By the way, I'm still working on raising money for the ride. Any support you can donate is greatly appreciated. Visit their site to donate online.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kibbutzim in the Aravah

While down in the Aravah, we stayed on Kibbutz Yahel. It's a reform, religious kibbutz, that still functions as a kibbutz on some levels. They still have a community pool of money, and each member of the community has responsibilities at different times. But they have privatized to a great extent. There is actually a very small number of members that live on the Kibbutz.

But it was incredible. The guest houses we stayed in are very dorm like, but they were pretty nice. It was cool to be staying so close to so many people, but in very small groups. It didn't feel like a hotel at all, unlike the last time we went on a tiyyul.

We got to meet their rabbi, who had a very interesting take on his job as a rabbi in the region. One of our instructors used to be the rabbi there in the past. I don't know that I can see her doing what he does, but I think it's cool that she still has a good relationship with the community.

The place was quiet, and it was really nice to be there. It was almost like an oasis in the desert with a surprising amount of trees and covered spaces. It was really great!

On their large property, they have access to a bunch of different pieces of desert. On the first night we were there we had an outdoor meal and a campfire. It was a lot of fun! The food was fantastic and the energy was incredible. A great way to start the trip. Although I was a little surprised at the fact that the fire was basically large pallets just tossed on a budding fire.

In the same area is another Reform Kibbutz. Kibbutz Lotan has a much more clear mission. We didn't spend much time there, but there was less of an open feel and a much more of a strict adherence to ideology. They are still in the early kibbutz idea that all decisions are made by the community and affect the community.

This is a very interesting way to live, and I don't know that I would like to spend my life living on a kibbutz like that.

They are doing some really good things there. In the Kaki Classroom we learned about their flushless toilets. Yep that's right, a toilet that doesn't flush.

The first images that pop into my head is either a port-a-potty, or their joking sign they have in front of the stalls with plants growing out of the toilet. The latter is closer to the truth.

The waste gathers in bins behind the bathroom. With other material, an interesting process and about six months of waiting, the human waste is turned into soil. Usable soil and fertilizer that is derived from human waste. They don't use it on the gardens because it weirds people out, but they use the soil on the trees. Interesting...

And speaking of gardening, we got a chance to plant a garden, Jewishly. There are sections of the Talmud and the Mishnah (collections of Jewish texts that Jewish legal code is derived from) that describe the appropriate way to plant a garden. What seeds can be planted how closely, and how you should divide the field so you can sow differing varieties of plants.

That was a really fun experience. I learned how to grow garlic, and you better believe I plan on having a small herb garden next year.

Another cool thing that happens at Kibbutz Lotan is the use of straw and mud brick construction to make homes for people to live in. The domes are built around a metal framework so they are slightly more stable. THey are covered in straw/mud bricks and then lacquered so they don't dissolve in the rain.

They aren't bad places either. I don't know that I would want to live in one of them for a large point in my life, but if I was here while I was in college, I would have loved to get down there and volunteer for a semester or so to help out and live in one of these eco-domes.

The kibbutzim were really interesting to visit. And they are very different from each other. Totally worth checking out if you're around here and want a cool experience.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bedowin Experience

During our Tiyyul to the Aravah we stopped and met with a Bedowin woman who talked to us about her life and experiences living in Israel. Since she isn't affected by Israel in any way, she only had positive things to say. She even pointed out that Israel has given her so much, what right does she have to complain. This seemed to surprise some of the people in my group because they had just heard a completely different narrative from a different group of Bedowin people closer to Jerusalem.

We heard about Salima's life, her aspirations and a lot about education.

Some of the striking things to take away from the discussion was that she will not tell her kids to either join or not join the Israeli Army, but she would prefer them to do National Service. She did not like the idea of her kids being put in a position where they may need to kill other Muslims.

She also expressed a hope that her daughters could grow up and continue to learn, especially Hebrew. It is really hard for them to work in Israeli society without knowing Hebrew. Salima had a very tough time trying to learn Hebrew and achieve education because her society doesn't see it as important, especially for women.

While we were talking with her, her husband came into the building and served us tea. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but let me paint a picture here for a second. The typical, traditional Bedowin society does not want a woman to be educated at all. The fact that she was sitting with a large group of foreigners and having a conversation in Hebrew was a special circumstance and is fairly rare.

Even more incredible was the fact that her husband came in and served us. During our conversation she told us how lucky she is to have a husband that allows that to happen. He not only is okay with what she does, but supports her doing so.

The entire time we were there, I sat and thought about the"Bedowin" group we met on Taglit. The version and story we are presented in that encounter is incredibly fake. It's a show! For an example, the best I can think of is the Wild West shows you can find all over South Dakota in the Bad Lands. It is a very glorified version of their life and doesn't accurately portray what they are really like.

I don't think we got the "real" Bedowin experience talking to Salima in her "reception hall tent". But looking at the surrounding camp, it was a very different picture than the one I saw on Taglit.

This experience was awesome though. It's good to know that there are people working towards an understanding between different groups of people. It further affirms that in order to exist together, people need to sit down with each other and talk. Not judge, leave loaded language at the door. Have a real conversation. Learn about the other person's aspirations. Understand their history. Ideally this would involve sharing cultures as well. This instance, we shared tea.

Bedowin tea is incredible. Before I come home I want to find out what herbs they use for brewing. I believe they add a bunch of sugar to the mixture too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chicken Rub

It's been a while since I've had the time to sit down and cook much of anything. I've taken advantage of the fact that the last two days I've been feeling to gross to go anywhere as an opportunity to get into the kitchen for myself.

I had a bunch of chicken sitting in the freezer so I started throwing spices and herbs together to make a rub. I'm still working on the right proportions, but I found a great rub that I want to duplicate. It involves a mixture of Zatar, garlic powder, parsley, oregano, salt and little bit of ground black pepper.

I've been playing around with more Zatar than anything else, but that makes it a little too strong. I've put too much black pepper in, and that is obvious when that happens. The garlic is tough, and might not be necessary.

The first time I made the chicken, it was great with a little cheese on the top. I tried making it as a sandwich and in a pita. I'll keep playing around and maybe eventually it will come together as a perfect mixture.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fear of Heights? What Fear of Heights?!

Har Sholomo

A place like Israel has such a wide variety of terrain. HUC took us down to the south to show us a variety of different things. One of them being the vast expanses of deserts. The Negev and the Aravah. These spots are in the Syro-African Rift Valley, and on either side are large swaths of mountain ranges. During the tiyyul we had the choice to go on a hike at Timna or a more challenging hike up Har Shlomo (Mount Solomon).

It started out pretty easy. A long walk from the bus to the foot of the mountain. Our guide stopped and told us a story about a trip he took a group of high schoolers on. On an early morning hike they paused because he was shocked to find a family of Ibex living in near the foot of the mountain. Then about 25 meters later we spotted our own family of Ibex. It was really cool.

Ibex Family at the foot of Har Shlomo

They were eating and just wandering around a little bit. Someone said, "I wonder how close we can get before they get scared off?" A few seconds later, they got spooked and ran into the hills. They are so agile! It was awesome to see.

If I hadn't told you before, I have a slight fear of heights. I get a little shaky and my heart starts to race. The majority of the hike up wasn't so bad for me. There were some spots, though, that there were no footholds or handholds to scamper over. Instead, there was a large handrail that had been attached to the mountain so you can hang on. It was at that point my heart started to race a bit. It's hard to not look down, even when you know that you shouldn't.

In the end, it was worth it! The shakiness, the sore legs on the way to the top, but at the end, I want to quote my friend Beni, "Look at the view!"

The View Partway Up The Mountain

The view was incredible! Looking back at where we started, you could see two different shades of mountain, the furthest away were the hills of the Sinai mountains, Egypt. We looked down into the Gulf of Aqba and across the Red Sea, you can see Jordan. Gazing slightly further south, into the haze, we could see Saudi Arabia.

I wish my camera hadn't died on the climb up the mountain so I can share a picture from the top. It was spectacular.

The walk down took a few hours longer than the way up. We passed through a dry river bed and down a bunch of different waterfalls. They were challenging because you drop straight down, and use footholds to lower yourself.

I love getting out on the trails here. I want to learn more about how to navigate them, and more about hiking. I had a blast on the few that we've done here and can't wait to get out and do more, here and when I get back to the states.

A Break Partway Through the Hike

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ain't No Fun

Somethings I just don't understand and are just not fun at all. I'm sick again and I don't get it.

I've never been someone that gets sick that often and my body heals itself pretty well. But this is the third or fourth time this year that I'm sick. My throat is sore, and my nose is stuffy. It seems like every time I start to get better and go back to class, bam! I'm sick again.

I'm not sure if it's that I'm not sleeping enough, or that I've never warm here. But something is off and I just can't get healthy. I cannot wait until the temperature around here heats up and I feel warm in the mornings. I miss having a heating system that works well so I don't get cold overnight, waking up like I was hit in the face with a 2x4. Ugh.

I promise that soon I will have some good stories and pictures about our trip to the south. Aside from getting sick again, it was a great trip. I know they won't read it, but thanks to the faculty for putting together such a good trip. It was a lot of fun.

Friday, February 18, 2011

On Tiyyul

School sent us on a tiyyul really early this semester. Instead of us waiting until three months into the year to go away, we got to leave really quickly. It has been so great. On the way down we stopped in a little development town to learn about their area and talk to some people about what life is like in the Aravah.

We continued on to Kibbutz Yahel and got to hang out here. It's awesome so far. Yesterday I had the chance to hike up Mount Shlomo and look down into three different countries. So far today we went to Kibbutz Lotan and learn about their community too.

I don't have a lot of time right now. I'm sitting at their porch near their Moadon, downloading podcasts, checking emails quickly and figured I should put up a little post.

The trip has been really good so far. Look for more updates tomorrow and next week with pictures from my trip.

Shabbat Shalom,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another Training Ride & In Joshua's Shoes: Riding for Reform

I went out for a training ride with Dusty and Steven on Friday morning. What a way to start the day.

I was up at six in the morning to eat a little and warm up before getting on the bike. By 6:50 I was on the road and meeting up with the two of them. Then the skies opened up and started to rain on us. Only for the first hour of the ride did we have to deal with the water. We went out to the separation barrier, through Gilo, towards the old city of Jerusalem, up into the Jerusalem Forrest and back to my apartment.

We took a long time to get through the ride, a solid three hours, and went 23 miles. I think it was better that we took or time because it's been a while since I've rode for that long. Usually I ride hard, but for less time. This was much better and more similar to what we're going to do on the Ride for Reform in three weeks.

I had a little problem during the ride. There was a point that a car tried to cut me and Dusty off. It ended up pulling put after me, before Steven. I couldn't see him as we continued down the hill. So as we made a long left turn I spotted my line and tried to look back over my shoulder to see if I could pick him up behind us.

Apparently I didn't get my line correct and as I was looking back for him, I smacked into the curb. BOOM! Over the handlebars I went, scraping my knees up pretty nicely. Nothing deep, nothing bloody. Just some skinned knees. The problem I'm having is that I didn't realized that I hurt my shoulder when I went over the top.

It's killing me now. I don't have pain free range of motion and it's really bugging me. But there's nothing I can really do, just hope I heal before the next flag football game on Tuesday.

I have a running now at TCJewfolk about the Ride for Reform. I'm trying to raise money to help the IMPJ and the Reform Movement in Israel. If you are able to contribute, any donations help! For those of you in the states, it is a tax deductible donation and you can donate at their website.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stekiat Tzidkiyahu

Feeling hungry?
Then you need to check out Stekiyat Tzidikyahu.

Located near Talpiyot this place is a must do if you are in Jerusalem. My favorite thing to oder is their meal that comes with two skewers of a meat. I'm a big fan of the Kabob and the Chicken Breast skewers, but I've not heard anyone complain about the flavor of the food.

With your meal comes stacks upon stacks of salads and Laffa Bread. Usually we order a side of Hummus for good measure. I say you need to bring your appetite because the salads are bottomless. The servers continue to bring you more salads until it looks like you're done eating. The salads are incredible. There is a very acidic greens salad, cole slaw, tahini, babaganush, eggplant something or other, carrots, french fries and other salads that I don't even know what they are, but they taste really good!

For under 100 shekels per person, you get so much food and it is really really tasty. I would suppose that for a meat lover, you will really enjoy the experience.

To make the place even better, the server/host that has helped us every time I've eaten there is hilarious. He has a great attitude, and he is really friendly. He took pictures for us, cracked jokes and gave us a really hard time. But it was all in good fun.

Seriously, this place is awesome. Although slightly on the pricey side for a plate, it is absolutely worth it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

I've never been big on Valentine's Day. It's not that I didn't have someone to spend it with, or that I didn't get enough Valentine's as a kid. I've just never been a big fan of Hallmark Holidays. This one always seemed phony to me and I never liked it. Then I did something stupid, I started dating someone on August 14th, which meant that it had been 6 months on Valentine's Day a few years ago. It became a bit of a big deal for her.

I still wasn't convinced about Valentine's Day being a big deal. But something was different this year.

It's only been a month since the last time I saw her, but I really missed Kaitlin today. She loves Valentine's Day and I really wanted nothing more than to spend some time with her today. On top of that, I remembered something interesting I heard from one of my friends Yael, spoke during services this morning.

She said something that I thought about a lot today after services. It's not about the day itself. It's not about spending money on someone because Hallmark says that you need to. In the US, it has become a day that can remind you to say something you should say every day.

She's dead on.

It's not that I forget, or that I don't care on every other day. Valentine's Day can be a reminder to tell people that you care about them. So from someone that has finally found a way to care about Valentine's Day, I hope you had a good one, and are able to spend it with someone that you care about.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Black Swan

Have you even seen a movie that was suspenseful, intriguing, intense and at the end, you had no idea what to make of it?

I went with a group of people to see the Black Swan and I have no idea what happened at the end of the movie. I'm not going to give you any information about the story, since it is incredibly suspenseful I don't want to spoil it. As we stood up at the end of the movie we all looked at each other and asked, "What just happened?"

The story was tough at times, but I really enjoyed it and I want to go see it again. I want to try to better understand the twists and turns in the plot of the story. There were some issues with understanding some of the dialogue.

Luckily there were the Hebrew subtitles that they always have at the bottom of the screen. I was excited because they helped me understand some of the things I missed. The only problem with the sub-titles was the fact that they disappeared to quickly. It's great that my Hebrew is getting better.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rabbinic Texts, I Miss You

My instructor for Rabbinic Texts gave us quite the break last semester. We weren't required to hand in our take-home final until this week. This means that I haven't thought to much about it since the end of the class.

The exam was pretty easy to work through, but I forgot how hard it is to work with tosefta and mishnah. It's organized in a way that is just strange to me. But as I was struggling to get through the topics, I realized something. I really missed that class. I miss translating the sections with one of my friends. I miss being completely wrong about my translation, but still getting a lot of information from the text.

I cannot wait to work on that more in the future.

Friday, February 11, 2011

In Joshua's Shoes: Debbie Friedman (z"l) Tribute

A month ago, the Reform Movement lost a power house of a musician, songwriter, leader, teacher and woman. The community here in Jerusalem came together to remember her life and her contributions to Judaism, the Reform Movement and my own life.

I have a new TCJewfolk post that ran recapping the evening. You can read that post at the following link.

In Joshua’s Shoes: A Tribute to Debbie Friedman (z”l)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Back is Killing Me

The following is a complaint session. If you don't want to read my complaints about back pain at 25, I understand.

I don't know what the problem is now. I've just got this unbearable backache at all times. I crack my back in class probably 10 times in each 90 minute class and it cannot be good for me. I can't stand to sit up straight and I think I'm starting to develop a hunch. Okay, maybe it's not that bad, but it feels like it.

The amount of time I need to spend reading for class is nothing new, and I've never had this as an issue before in my life. It seriously hasn't bee this bad since a few summers ago when before I finally bought a new bed. I'm sure the one I'm sleeping on now is not very helpful but I just don't know what to do.

I don't want to develop something that will be a life long issue. I'm trying to get in some yoga and stretching in whenever possible. But there just isn't enough time to do that every day. I feel better when I have the chance to do a little work in the gym. Here's the time problem again.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Service Project

A few weeks ago the Parallel Lives group I'm a part of this year went to a young adult center called GalGal. They are a place for young adults (18-26) to go to take a shower, get some food and connect with counseling if they want. We thought that it would be a good opportunity for us to give service to the community in Jerusalem.

The group of us went to the center and learned a little bit about the and the work that they do. Then we got started.

We were divided into groups and given different tasks for us to work on. I ended up in a group of people that were scrubbing the tiles in one of the bathrooms after they painted it. It took our entire two hours of service to clean up the room we worked on. Other groups were painting other rooms, cleaning out trash, moving tiles and sweeping out the dirt.

After the evening that we spent cleaning out the place, we broke into groups for a little discussion about service and how it plays a role in Judaism as well as our different cultures. We had a very meaningful discussion about it and I learned about a place that I can donate blood here and to continue to help the communities around here.

It was a great evening and I'm glad that I had the chance to donate my time to a worth project.

In addition to the Parallel Lives group I'm working with, I'm also working on the Ride4Reform to raise money for the IMPJ. If you are able to donate to that cause, please follow the link on the side of my blog.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


There are some very confusing intersections in Jerusalem and about 9 minutes away from my house is one of the craziest intersections I've seen. Azza, Rambam, Balfour, Ramban, King George V, Karen HaYesod and Gershon Agron all meet together within 50 feet of each other (not to mention the square that sits in the middle of all of that). So I can't really tell you where Restobar is, but if you can find that intersection, it's pretty hard to miss from there. I think it's officially on Azza... meh.

You need to know this because if you're in Jerusalem on Shabbat and want to go to a restaurant, this is one of the few places that I know are open. Aside from an interesting atmosphere, there is nothing THAT special about place. The food is really tasty, and there is a good variety.

I really enjoyed the hamburger I ate there. They grind their beef in house, so I felt comfortable asking them to cook it medium instead of medium well. Their salads are good and I had an awesome dessert while Kaitlin was here visiting me.

The prices are a little on the high side, but nothing outrageous for the taste of the food. What really like is the layout of the restaurant. It's a combination bar and restaurant (hence the name) and more often than not, I've eaten at the bar. And it doesn't feel like you're sitting at a dive-bar, it just works.

There are some really fun, engaging staff and some that are all business. If you're looking for a change and somewhere nice-ish to sit down, check out Restobar. But especially on shabbat, call for a reservation.

Monday, February 7, 2011


I feel really comfortable behind an instrument. I enjoy leading prayers and services. I like making a connection with people. I loved preparing and leading services last Monday.

I opened services with a duet combination of the prayers Asher Yatzar and Elohai N'Shamah (the Debbie Friedman melodies) with one of my classmates and I had so much fun rehearsing with her. I added a few sections that I spoke a little bit during and had worked hard to perfect the nusach for some of the sections I chanted without the guitar.

It was one of those moments that I looked at myself when it was done and said, "I know I'm heading in the right direction." It felt really good when I was finished with the services and I can't wait until I get to lead them again.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Last week I needed to do some laundry. It was time. My roommate was home and watching a movie with one of her friends on her computer. My computer was plugged in to the wall, and my heater was warming my room. She turned on the heater in the large room so they could be warm too. Yes the internet was working, which involves three plugs.

I didn't think it would be a problem, but as soon as I turned on the laundry machine the fuse flipped. I went through the apartment unplugging things we weren't using, even the fridge was unplugged. Nothing was helping. After a few minutes I gave up on getting laundry done until later. But when we turned off just about everything we still couldn't turn on the laundry machine. So I started to search the entire apartment for something that could be a problem.

I found it! One of the outlets had an extension chording coming out of it that had four ports. Plugged into that was a two-meter extension chord that had five sockets. But that's not all. Plugged into one of those was another extension chord that had five more sockets that had the three internet pieces, the heater and the computer plugged into them.

Now before you go off the handle and tell me that we shouldn't have done that, we didn't. This was set up in the apartment before we got here, and didn't change anything in that room. This was all done by someone else and we just went along with it because I hadn't looked behind our bookshelf. I cannot believe how unsafe that was. It really blew my mind that I hadn't found it in the last seven months of living here.

We still cannot use two heaters and the water heater or the kum-kum (electric tea-kettle) at the same time. But I have noticed that we aren't taxing one socket as much. I also made some changes in my bedroom, trying to get some of the load off a single fuse. Here's to hoping we don't set the building on fire.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I know that I'm not going to get any sympathy from anyone reading this in North America. They're having a brutal winter. But I honestly miss it, this is not winter at all and I'm a bit sick of it.

In January we finally started to see the "fall foliage". Some of the trees were showing yellow and browns. Some of the trees were shedding their leaves and it felt a bit like fall. But it was a few months late.

We had a few days of rain but it hadn't been nearly enough at the start of the winter. This is a scary thought because it would ruin the Israeli agriculture for the next year. But in the last week or so the "real winter" hit us. By that I mean, here comes the rain. It rains just about every day and the soggy cold is just annoying.

I have a twenty minute walk to and from school and in the rain it is just miserable. Wind in my face half of the walk to school and half of the walk home. Yeah, the temperature is still a decent 50 something Fahrenheit, but in the rain and wind that's pretty miserable. And here is the kicker, these buildings are not made to hold heat.

Our apartment doesn't have central heating, most of them don't have that here. So the only way to get relief from the chill is to sit near a heater that is running. Luckily we have three space heaters in our apartment, one for each of the larger rooms in the place. The problem with that is our wiring. The wiring in this apartment seems to be pretty poorly done.

We can't have two heaters on and turn on the electric tea-kettle or the water heater in order to take a shower. We're not really using that much electricity at one time, except that the heaters are such an energy hole. More on that on a later post.

On top of that, I have a wicked cold that will not go away.

I don't get sick that often, so this is pretty annoying. I have a congested nose thing and a cough every morning. It takes a cup of tea along with my coffee to clear myself up in the morning. To say nothing for trying to get ride of the headache. Ugh. I just want the cold in my body to go away along with this disgusting chill outside.

Man I miss real winter.


I know it's been a long times since I've put an update on here. I apologize for that.

It's a combination of the semester just getting started and not too much going on as well as the weather being gross and me being a little under the weather.

Look for a bunch of updates coming in the next few days as I try to catch this site up on everything in the last two weeks.

Shabbat Shalom,