Tuesday, December 26, 2006

this place, where I live.

Underpinning Israeli culture is Hebrew as a modern language for daily thinking and functioning and for accessing a rich Jewish heritage. The modern Israeli culture favors change, espouses the Protestant ethics, and values education and exposure to mass media. Its values also include informal interpersonal relations, bad manners, agressiveness, disrespect of privacy, and the view of law as a bending and negotiable norm. Israeli culture is familistic, nationalistic, and materialistic. Although formed by Ashkenazim, this culture is a new product that does not resemble Ashkenazi or Mizrahi cultures of the Diaspora. Neither is it Western despite its Western orientation and pretension to be Western.1

(my thoughts to be added, but please share yours!)

1Smooha, Sammy. "Jewish Ethnicity in Israel: Symbolic or Real?" in Jews in Israel, Uzi Rebhun and Chaim I Waxman, Editors. Hanover: Brandeis University Press.

Monday, December 11, 2006

sunday, bloody sunday.

In the mood for a good book, my bed, and a cup of tea.

alas, finals week approaches.

Monday, December 04, 2006

there she goes, just a walking down the street.


read a text/learned new vocabulary about a single mother who disappeared and her child, who was adopted and is now a woman, is seeking to find out about her family history. sat in a circle and received a petek (note) describing our role, from which we make up a story about our character.
my note: I was romantically involved with ruth (the mum) in 1945.
my story: I was ruth's math teacher in high school. I was in love with her so so much. I couldn't do anything when she was a student, but when she graduated, we really feel in love and lived together for a year in a hamlet in southern germany.

Interview with MASA Ombudsman-
us: these questions are pretty irrelevant to our experience at Hebrew U.
ombudswoman: tell me more.
us: MASA is super disorganized and you should work on that.
ombudswoman: this is unimportant.

Yoel*, later: this is so stupid!

The Emergence of the Modern Middle East-
Dr Nisan: Saddam Hussein has a predilection towards violence. He loves violence. He loves wars. Or he did, until just recently.

The Bible and English Literature-
discussion on the Song of Songs.
to ponder: who wrote it? what is it about? why is it included in the Hebrew canon?
it's pretty beautiful. good ol' king j.
the song of songs- so sensual, physical, detailed- describes the ultimate combination of man's physicality and spirituality. it is man at his essence. the epitome of life.

I like this idea. I mean, I thought of it, but maybe other people would like to think on it as well.

The Walk Home-
the sun was setting. I was wearing a pashmera scarf I bought in the muslim quarter a month ago, my mary jane crocs, and other unimportant clothing. these facts are not so relevant, but I do like these two pieces (nb: future reference). it was cold outside. I walked home with my hands in my pockets.
sometimes I don't use the washroom when I finish class and I am walking home because then I have to walk home much quicker. I told Tamara this and she laughed at me. so I didn't use the washroom today and I really needed to. (thanks for caring, loves.)
there is a huge line of traffic leaving the university at this time of day, and there is only one road to the center of town/huge highway, which is also the road I walk on to get back home. traffic is basically stopped or moving uber slowly, so I feel that I walk home additionally fast on these days because I am passing so many cars. (could it be that I just like competition and walking home fast? perhaps.)
I was walking on the back-new-road behind the new dorms. it is a pretty dusty road with lots of inconvenient patches of sandiness and stones strewn around, which is especially inconvenient (an inconvenient truth?) if one is wearing crocs. the man (ie, the powers that be) has placed a guard booth halfway-up the road for no apparent reason- there is no traffic, nor is that entrance open. regardless, there stands a blue and yellow guard booth. standing at the guard booth is a group of about three arab construction workers. (they don't seem to be doing much work.)
so, there I was, just walking down the street, with my brown mary janes and blue north face back pack, and the three arab construction workers say "erev tov" (good evening).
maybe they want to start a conversation?
I say erev tov in return.
they say something else, but then I realize that I am not in the mood for a conversation with three arab construction workers who aren't doing any work at the blue and yellow guard booth, and continue on my way.

this was not the end of the day,
but it is the end of the account of the day.

*Yoel Nesson, director of undergraduate studies at rothberg. (oh let me count the ways)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jealous of the Moon

I thought you may be entertained with my schedule. As least, I thought I might like to know what I did with myself in Israel when I look back on my blog five years from now. Regardless, here begins the "how I spend my time" blog entry typical of students studying abroad.

Thursday, November 23
Morning at Har Herzl, Israel's military cemetary (think: Arlington) with From Zionist Idea to Israeli Society. Har Herzl is a physical manifestation of Israel's civil religion, ie, the dimensions that create solidarity within society. We discussed who should be buried on Har Herzl, meaning, who represents Israeli society and ideas that deserves a place in the national cemetary. Theodor Herzl, the political Zionist credited with the ideas and actions leading to the creation of the modern state of Israel, requested to be buried in the Jewish state (if and when it was created) in his grave, so he is one of the earlier visionaires to be buried there and his grave is at the top of the mountain. Surrounding Herzl's grave is a huge plaza where Independence Day celebrations are. While my class was sitting by his grave a group of soldiers walked by, on a tiyul of Har Herzl with their commander.

Har Herzl (lit. Mount Herzl) has a significant layout. Herzl himself is buried at the top of the hill, then a bit down are heads of state and Knesset members, then still lower down is the military cemetary, and then at the bottom of the hill is Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial. Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua has a concept of the Wall vs. the Mountain. At the Wall (ie, Kotel- Western Wall), you are locked into history, whereas at the Mountain (is, Har Herzl), there is open space, and you are free to look around you and think.

We walked by Golda Meir's grave, one of my favorite Israeli politicians. ("To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don't be." New York Times 1974.)

Pausing at Rabin' grave, we saw the Norwegian ambassadors lay a wreath of flowers down. It was a big delegation, and the ladies had to use the washroom, so their guide asked our professor (in Hebrew) where the washroom was and then the ladies walked off, leaving the men behind to mill around on the grass. The ambassador had three security guys, and one talked into his watch. We read "Shir L'Shalom", the song that Yitzhak Rabin sang at the peace rally before he was assasinated. The end is beautiful:

Let the sun pierce through to the flowers
Don't look backwards, leave the past alone
Lift up your eyes in hope, not through gunsights
Sing a song to love and not to wars
Don't say the day will come, bring that day for it is no dream
And in all the city squares, shout for peace
Rabin had a copy of the song in his breast pocket at the rally, now bloodstained.

The class than moved onto the more recent graves of soldiers killed in Lebanon, then left the cemetary, washing our hands on the way out.

Back at Rothberg, I had my Hebrew midterm (got 88%), had a sandwich, and then walked with Kate back to the dorms. I was planning on going up to my room to freshen up before leaving to help set up for Thanksgiving dinner, but, alas, I live on the 8th floor (ie, 9 floors up) and the elevators were not working for a few days. So, instead I went to Kate's room on the 3rd floor and had some of her food while her French roommate Elisa gave me jewelry. Then I went back to campus (the dorms we live in, Kfar Studentim- The Student Village, are about a 15-20 minute walk from campus) and went to the Hillel building to help gather things and set up for the Thanksgiving dinner at a hotel downtown.

An American Thanksgiving in Israel is nothing like an American Thanksgiving in America. There were about 140 students and Rothberg/Hillel staffers present in the banquet hall of the hotel. Salads were Middle Eastern, mimes handed out flowers at the door, and Boom Pa, an "Israeli ethnic beat" band, performed. Turkey was cut by one of the hotel workers, who did a surprisingly good job, because I do not know how often turkey is eaten in Israel. I recieved Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories in Hebrew for being a fabulous person and help set up for dinner, and then Thanksgiving turned into a dance party.

Back at the dorms that night, my family called and passed the phone around the table so that I was able to talk to everyone which was fabulous. Danny Fuks, a friend from Pittsburgh, stopped by in the middle of the conversation and had tea with Zohar from across the hall, whom he had been at a different Thanksgiving dinner with. In Israel, everyone is connected. Danny made aliyah and is currently in a mechina- prepatory- program before joining the army. Danny had just gotten back from a five-day טיול (tiyul- hike/journey) in the Negev without showering, so he took a shower in the boys' room downstairs and we all hung out for an hour or so before going to bed.

Friday, November 24
Woke up around eleven worried that it was so late and that I have so much to do because it is Friday, meaning Shabbat starts in five hours and the world must be saved before then, but then opened my eyes and re
alized that I did not really have so much to do. Went to Mister Zol's, the neighborhood grocery store in French Hill (lit: Mr. Cheap sic not true) to buy things to cook for Shabbos. Tamara gave Kate and I the list as she went off to do her laundry. Kate and I were having a breakdown when we came to "chicken"-- we have no idea how to order fresh chicken in Hebrew, let alone already quartered! Thankfully, like a beacon of light on a rainy day, Tamara arrived and took care of the butcher business.

After completing our journey in Mister Zol's, I bought flowers from the nice old French guy in the plaza. He has pretty sweet flowers and he is very complementaive. I think he complemented me on my smile this time. Before, he wanted to know where my mother was so he could complement her on what a beautiful daughter she has. Anyways, I like to buy flowers from him. Tamara made dinner, Avi and I looked on, etc, and then it was 3:45pm and I still had not taken a shower yet for shabbat which began at 4:00pm.

We blessed the candles, welcomed Shabbat, and then Kate, Amy, Danny and I left for shul. We went to a new Carlebach minyan down the street at the Kollel, filled with lots of young married couples and single people. Women on the left, men on the right, separated by a makeshift mehitsa of tablecloths thrown over a line. It was a really good service, great davening, but it was really awkward because I am taller than the mehitsa so whenever there was a standing prayer I felt like I was practically in the lap of the guy on the other side of the mehitsa. I don't mind davening with men, but when in situations when there is supposed to be a separation, and the men that are praying do so with a separation, it is just mamash lo tov. Really not good. But yeah, services were good.
The hevrah (group of friends) then walked next door, to the Jeff Seidel Student Center, where they were having a free shabbat dinner. We made kiddush, motzei over the challah, and had the salad course when a group of fifteen people arrived, late. The room was already pretty tight, which is awkward enough, but especially when some of the people don't touch people of the opposite sex but such a thing is near impossible to avoid in such a setting so with such an understanding and with the knowledge that there might not be enough food f
or everyone (and such a thing is not such a good thing, esp on shabbat), Kate and I decided to head back to my apartment to eat the dinner that Avi and Tamara were having with Tamara's friend Jess, who stayed for Shabbos. ess,> The girls had barely eaten any food, which was nice for Kate and I. Danny had stayed for the dinner at Jeff's, and I decided that I would read some more of Atlas Shrugged while staying up to wait for him, but by 8:30 I was falling asleep on the couch (everyone else in my apartment had already gone to sleep) and decided that Danny would have to figure out I was done for and devise his own entertainment for the night. Which he did, and I went to sleep.

But, the thing is, when you go to sleep at 8:30pm it is very difficult to sleep through the night. So I didn't. I woke up for sure at 8:00am, excited that I could go to services, and dressed and had breakfast and everything, and then realized that I actually don't like Saturday morning services and that I would much rather be reading Rand. So I did. Deli wraps for lunch with Tamara, Avi, Jess, Danny, and Talia, a girl from dinner at Jeff's who is from Sweden but made aliyah and now studies at Hebrew U. Walk with Danny and Talia around French Hi
ll discussing the army and what unit Danny should serve in, then more Rand, and then Shabbos ended.

Jess's friends were having a concert Saturday night in Nachalot, so kidnapped Kate, and Keren Danny Talia and I all took the number 19 bus to town. Had some time before the show (costing 25 shekels) started, so stopped by Jess' apartment, which is pretty much a cave. And huge. And ridiculously cheap. Concert was fun. Lots of hippy frum Jews were there, which is an interesting scene. Each trying to be more hippy, ye
t frum, than the other. The music was quite good. Left the show early because the smoke was bothering Keren and walking to Ben Yehuda, meeting up with Tamir, Talia's brother, who was on leave for the night . Tamir has a great accent, a gun, and a kippah! Mah l'asot? Went to Cafe Rimon, split a pizza with Kate, was joined by Eli, Tamir's British friend who now works for AOL/IDT, and discussed how Keren is a prostitute in her free time. Not really, but it makes for interesting conversation. Took a cab back (25 shekels), wasted time, and went to sleep.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sun's Gonna Rise

The last days of the voyage are always the most hopeful ones, with everyone vowing to return home and change their ways of life. This is easy to articulate and hard to live. Because inevitably, days only have 24 hours and eventually one has to lie down and consider just whether or not they are living differently. I contend that I am, yet there is a whole lot more that I could be doing.

Daron Christoper
November 15, 2005
The Pitt News

Saturday, November 11, 2006

to the land of your soul

Return to who you are,
Return to what you are,
Return to where you are born and reborn again.

Return again,
Return again,
Return to the land of your soul.

most times-
I wish that I knew what I am
doing here
and what it is all meant to

in the meantime, enjoy 21

on my mind again

somehow, there is never enough time.

a list:
-read Arab Awakening and Islamic Revolution, write critical review (due Wednesday at noon)
-go over Hebrew tests, figure out why I am failing and relearn material
-do Hebrew homework, learn new vocabulary (Monday, 8am)
-do readings for Zionist Idea (Sunday, 4:30)
-readings for Emergence of the Modern Middle East (Monday, noon)
-read I Samuel for Bible and English Lit (Monday, 2:30pm)
-buy leggings?
-buy winter shoes to wear with skirts
-get my winter coat from home
-call Bubby
-study for midterms (NEXT WEEK!)
-buy vegetables from the shuk
-find some rice milk, and buy out the store
-figure out my winter break plans (Eastern Europe, anyone? seriously.)
-buy a new siddur
-fix my computer/get a new computer
-plans for this summer?
-housing for next year in pittsburgh?
-find shlomo katz (he lives in nahlaot)
-get alexi murdoch cd
-get itunes to work on my computer before i freak
-buy rechargeable battery thingy
-send out mass emails
-call mom and dad
-drink more water
-go to sleep at a normal hour.

Monday, November 06, 2006

to hang up before the other person answers

winter started this week, ushering in cold air, cups of tea, haredi riots, sunday morning rain, a gay pride parade, and stress over midterms.

my first paper is due thursday (november 9, a significant day in the history of the world) on different responses to Herzl's zionism. critical review due next week on The Arab Awakening and Islamic Revival. I really need to buy a rechargeable battery thing and rechargeable batteries. Hebrew tests every day but I switched back down to Bet so things are more bearable.

this is my favorite view from Hebrew U. I love the orange house.

in Jerusalem, everything is white stone upon white stone, built up and up and so many stairs and apartments, all of white stone.

here, color exists.

The Jerusalem Pride Parade is scheduled for this Friday. Ultra-Orthodox Haredim in the city have been protesting vehemently for the past few weeks. Trash is littered throughout Mea Sheariim, a Haredi neighborhood, trash cans are lit on fire in the middle of the street, rocks are thrown at policemen, and buses take a different route around the neighborhood. Is marching as a gay the greatest of sins? When seven year-olds, ten year-olds, fourteen year-olds throw in more trash to the flame, do they know what they are protesting against? Do they know what gay means? Are they enticed by the heat of the orange flames or by the pushing of their fathers?

It saddens me to see the haredim litter, desecrate, and destroy their own neighborhood.
It saddens me that Israel claims to be a free, democratic country - but not all citizens are treated equally.
It saddens me that 12,000 policemen and women have to be called in to stand guard as free citizens of Israel walk by.
It saddens me that I am afraid to go to the parade because of the violence.
It saddens me to see such hatred, animosity, and utter lack of understanding or will to understand of Jews towards their fellow Jews.

We must think differently, look at things in a different way. Peace requires a world of new concepts, new definitions.

The 11th yarhzeit, anniversary, of Yitzhak Rabin's z"l death was earlier this week. Author David Grossman spoke at the memorial service in Tel Aviv.
It is impressive how much times passes yet how little progress is made.

This is a course which is fraught with difficulties and pain. For Israel, there is no path without pain. But the path of peace is preferable to the path of war.

in close, an insight into modern israeli culture through a vocabulary lesson.
l'zelzel: to ring
l'natek: to finish a conversation
new hebrew word-
l'zentek: to hang up before the other person answers.
taking eight grade prank calls to a whole new level.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

on me, here.

classes started- taking
Hebrew Gimel (ie how to fail hebrew)
From Zionist Idea to Israeli Society with Mendelsson
The Emergence of the Modern Middle East with Nisan
The Bible and English Literature with Besserman
Learn How to be a Canadian with Shira, Avi, Tamara, and Keren in 581

and doing some other things-
Shatil internship
Beit Midrash program
Sunday night learning and lectures
Living in Israel

so, I am in Israel. How do I relate?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What is Lovely

We return to our permanent dwellings, our daily lives
Sukkot passes by and another year begins
with chilly air and a feeling of fall
and light early morning rain that doesn't last long enough to rinse the dust off the window,
but still it rains.
The first day of class is tomorrow (today),
what should I wear?

I cannot be awake for nothing looks to me as it did before,
Or else I am awake for the first time, and all before was a mean sleep.

(Walt Whitman)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

be here now

on sukkot, from dad:

Maybe if you get some time to spend in a sukkah while it is sleeping time here, our night-time freed spirits can pop in for a visit. I hear the sukkahs in Israel are all paved with golden floors and diamond and ruby and jewel bedecked roofs, and beautiful tables and the best of chairs, and the most excellent china and well-crafted silverware.

And that the estrogs have a wonderful vibrant and vitalizing scent that is found in hints of a whisper of a smell everywhere throughout Jerusalem.

Vanity, all is vanity, but for that whisper of the estrog and the whistling of the lulav, passing conversation in a temporary hut under the stars.

----more from me later.

Monday, October 02, 2006

duck duck CROC

things of note:

- I can only understand Hebrew when spoken by my Ulpan teachers,
- Ulpan is over,
- and I'm working on it.
- If you spend a Shabbat in the Old City, Then you will see everyone you didn't know you knew.
- Shabbat in the Old City is "hachi tov"- the most best.
- I am leaving for Tzfat tomorrow morning,
- Rebuilding bomb shelters, exploring the city, making candles, and singing lecha dodi.
- Ramah people are everywhere.
- My brothers seem to be incapable of calling me.
- I seem to be incapable of sending a mass email
- and this seems to upset my friends,
- who are also not capable of answering their phones when I call.
- I am addicted to buying scarves.
- Inevitably, every class I want to take will be scheduled for the same time.
- I miss Old Navy.
- When I was young, I thought that Old Navy was a thrift store, like Salvation Army (similar name, nu?). I was so confused as to why the clothes were in such neat piles and everything was clean.
- Todd is getting married in a year.
- I need to renew my visa in a month.
- Petra is a viable option.
- Jerusalem and Pittsburgh are both really hilly. Pittsburgh has a bit more bridges, but Jerusalem has its own syndrome.
- I don't think I'll ever get enough sleep.
- On Yom Kippur in Israel, most of the streets are closed down, and the Infamous Israeli Biker Gangs come out. It gets pretty dangerous out there.
- Crocs are the new black.

Friday, September 22, 2006

full stop.

Ulpan in the morning
Rosh Hashana party with new year greetings from students in their native tongues- at least 12 different languages
Exam on future tense conjugation of binyan piel
honey cake
new Israeli haircut
holiday shopping at Mister Zol's
ten minute nap
cab to Kikar Zion
Ilan's birthday dinner at Timol Shilshom
Eating "The Plot Thickens" off of Yehuda Amichai
desserts on the corner of Jaffo and King George
Israeli mocha with real chocolate

Hasidic breakdancing on Ben Yehuda.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

liberate us into life.

"Note that by studying in Israel you are subjecting yourself to risks from war and acts of terror including death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, and damage to your property."

University of Pittsburgh
University Center for International Studies, Study Abroad Office
August 30, 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006

boker tov, yisrael.

There is a rooster
across the lot
and it crows every minute, every morning
beginning at five.

The water in the shower
burns my feet.

I wear a scarf in my hair and a black skirt.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Saturday, September 02, 2006

City of Stone and Wind.

This city and this wind never leave me. Blowing strongly in your face, surrounding you, compounding all your senses.

Everything -- the smell of the zatar, the heat of the freshly baked pita, haerdi men and young female soldiers -- that enveloped me at the shuk is all that surrounds me now, in the dusk, sitting on this stone, at the British military cemetery.

At the rear of the cemetery stands a memorial to "MEN WITH NO KNOWN GRAVES." Their names carved in white Jerusalem stone, sons of the British Empire, privates and officers alike.

The wind is wearing away their names.

Jerusalem: the city of the stone and the wind.

Did these sons of the British Empire die to have their names emblazoned on this eternal stone in this ancient city, forever left far from home?

The air we breathe flows around the world, from Philadelphia to Rio and on again to Yerushalayim. Science tells us that one breath will make its way around the world in seven years.

Whose am I breathing now?