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.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Great post. So long... and detailed.

Realized that I actually don't like Saturday morning services -- I never realize this until around Torah reading. Last Shabbos, I made Bracha daven mussaf during haftarah and went home and took a nap. Smart thing to stay at home, even if it was with Ayn.