Thursday, February 25, 2010

What there is to Love about Yeruham So Far




(I wrote this a while ago but decided to wait until later to post this)


Yeruham is a special place – while its perception by Israelis is a __-hole in the middle of nowhere, people who've been here love it, and I've enjoyed it so far.  So what's good?


1.     People here are friendly – they TALK TO YOU!  When we moved in on Wednesday night, there was an old woman who was walking up or downstairs as we were moving things in, and she said hi, introduced herself, and asked about us.  People in general say hi when you see them in the apartment building.  On Thursday, when we went for pizza, there were kids from the yeshiva there who were very friendly as well.  Walking down the street, people say hi to you.  Even in SuperSol, when we clearly look and talk differently and don't look like residents, people are friendly.  Yesterday when I went to the hardware store, the guy wasn't there but the person working next door said he'd be back soon and invited me to sit down while I was waiting in the meantime.  That's an advantage of a small town.

2.     Nothing's too far.  Most necessary trips are 10 minutes walking, some might be 20 minutes, but with a bike it's great.

3.     It's quiet – I don't have cars honking their horns outside my window, traffic doesn't create much noise, and it's a slow pace city.


No, there's not much to do here, but we're having a good time – a lot of good comes from being in a place like Yeruham.


To be continued…

MLIY (My Life is Yeruham)



A woman shows up at our door this afternoon.  We open it, and she asks us for the phone number of a madrich.  She explains herself by saying that we are causing a lot of noise, both now and at 12:30 in the morning.  A bit dumbfounded, we tell her to call Yoram. Meanwhile, Jesse calls Yoram to give him a heads up about this phone call.  Yoram's response: "she complained about you guys before you even got here."  MLIY.

It’s Adar? Ok, school doesn’t matter!




Here's an update on the work I did this week in Yeruham:


Sunday I worked at Koach l'tet.  It looks to me like a donation center, where people donate old items to the organization and they distribute them to people in need.  We spent a total of 3 hours (in two intervals) moving furniture around.  A lot of the challenges there, more than the weight of objects (and my lack of humongous strength), were thinking about how we can move things around other things.  The lady we worked with is an old, Russian lady who was very sweet and very appreciative of our work.  Do I look cut for manual labor?  I enjoyed having that experience – but I can't say I would do it more than a couple of more times.


Given the Adar/Purim craziness, school this week sort of didn't exist.  On Monday, there was a Tiyyul, and we went with 10th graders to a spring.  We spent the time there getting to know a lot of the kids, who are absolutely ridiculous and crazy, but they're nice and we spoke a lot of English with them.  Some of the things we were able to talk about, just in terms of things in common, were music (they know a lot of American stuff), sports, movies, technology… it took an hour and a half for a bus to show up to take us back, which was kind of annoying, especially since it was cold.  We had a nice time, but a long day.  On Wednesday, there were classes, but not really.  It sort of reminded me of Weber – when there's festivity in the air, nobody wants to learn, and the extent of English classes was doing Purim-related activities.  The time is still worth it to experience the school culture though.  Oh, and Tuesday was Yom Sport – after Purim, when they have to do Bagrut preparation, it will be great for them.


Tuesday was Yom Battle of the Sexes for Yom Nativ.  We had a nice woman, Tami, speak about a psalm comparing Esther and D'vorah and the different feminine roles.  We had a food competition, spoke about gender issues in Israel, Gender Feud, and an Apache Relay.  I have to go soon so I'll just comment that we had a nice time.


I have a bike now!  It's nice to ride it around here.


Kol Tuv,


Monday, February 22, 2010

B’yachad Shabbaton – Mifgash with Mishlahat


This year, something I have been doing with my time in Israel is participating in a seminar that is about brining my Israel experiences to camp this summer.  During B'yachad seminars, we discuss topics both directly and indirectly relevant to camp; things directly related to camp in that we do an activity about brining Israel to camp and things indirectly related to camp in that we discuss subjects about Israel (with the mindset of being in Israel for the year) that will impact our relationship to Israel and how we relate to campers and shlichim, the staff that comes from Israel.  Until now, the seminars were just Nativers from different camps.  This weekend, however, our seminar included the Israeli staff.


The seminar began in Ma'ale HaHamisha on Thursday night.  We were supposed to leave Yeruham at 2:30, but the bus didn't pick us up until almost 3:30, and then we had to pick up the Kibbutzniks on the way up.  We arrived at around dinnertime, though, which was good because we were hungry and Ma'ale HaHamisha food has a good reputation for being delicious.  Shortly after I arrived, I saw the mishlachat from Ramah Darom that were participating in the weekend – Hanan, David, Hagar, Mor, Hila, and Hannah – Yossi, my co from last summer, arrived on Friday.  Having felt bad that I hadn't seen too much mishlachat this year, I was glad to see them and spend some time with them.  Of course, no surprises, the Ramah Darom mishlachat was the loudest and most-spirited delegation at the shabbaton.  So on Thursday night, we just did some icebreakers and talked about family origins around the world.  The latter program, while dealing with a common topic, was conducted creatively and I liked it.  If the meeting room was a globe, we started by standing where we were at the moment, then where we are this year, then branching out to where we were born, where parents were born, and then where grandparents were born.  People had interesting stories about how they got where.  We then discussed in smaller groups if we agree with the decisions our ancestors made.  My answer was yes – but I feel compelled to continue the decision-making in terms of the destiny of my descendents.


On Friday, our main activity was visiting the Museum on the Seam in Jerusalem.  The museum changes exhibits every now and then, so people who have seen it in the past would have seen a different exhibit than we saw.  While the theme of the exhibit was about home and homelessness, and while we were supposed to concentrate on our personal relationships to "home," most of the art seemed to be dealing with political issues in a very leftist fashion.  In many ways, the art portrayed the victim/refugee as being right and the powerful ones as being oppressive – it didn't put Israel and sometimes America in a very favorable light.  Many people felt that the biases were excessive in the museum.  Then after that we drove to Nordia for Shabbat – not such a great youth hostel but that's the only one they could find – and we didn't do too much from there.


To bring in Shabbat, there were two davening options: Masorti and Alternative.  I was on the committee for the Masorti – we just did an activity related to Shabbat objects and how we relate to them and then David gave a d'var Torah on the parasha.  We had a nice service.  Following that was a festive Shabbat dinner with lots of camp ruach and such.  As usual, I will comment on the food, and it was fantastic.  We had some icebreakers after that weren't so great and then I just hung out with people and learned a Torah reading for Shabbat morning.


Tefillot were not originally on the schedule for Shabbat morning.  People complained about that a bit (it's very annoying actually), and things were in the works to get a davening together.  We ended up joining another group there.  The basic highlight of that was young Sephardim boys (I'm guessing 9th graders) breaking out into random song in between each aliyah of the Torah reading… it was one of those amusing "what the hell are they doing?" moments.  While we were davening, the text sessions about Shabbat started, and we showed up midway through.  We had excerpts from Heschel and Bialik in front of us, and while the main goal was to comment on the texts themselves, we spent a lot of time talking about the influence of American texts on Israelis and vice versa.  Following that was Kiddush, and then a game called "B'seder or Lo b'seder "(lit. "ok or not ok").  A subject was thrown out, and everyone would go around the circle saying "b'sder" or "lo b'seder," and after a few rounds, we would discuss the different issues.  The topics of course started light, like cell phones, but hot button issues came up – Arab Prime Minister, Goldstone Report, Gay Marriage, Abortion… and Harry Potter.  We had lunch, mincha, and that basically took up most of free time.  The program afterwards had to do with Israel-Diaspora relationships, and then summation of the seminar.


While it's not on the schedule for the future, many people expressed interest in having more sessions with the mishlachat in the future.  It was worth having these discussions with Israeli points-of-view.  The seminar definitely gave me a lot to think about, as well as the people there.


Kol Tuv,


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Day of Work... Let's be Useful Here


Before I go off to my second day of work, I thought I'd share my thoughts about my first day of volunteering.  I've spent a bit of time over the past few days watching addicting TV shows like Weeds and Heroes… so now it's time to write.


We're here in Yeruham to gain something, but even more we're here to give to the community.  Already, when the teacher whom I work with Pini was giving us an overview of what we'll be doing, he said that we're a gift to the students – fluent English speakers – and they're excited for us.  The kids that I work with on Mondays and Wednesdays have a very low level of English, and while they may have an overall high motivation to learn, it's hard for them to be on top of the task.  Why is this so important? Because by the time we leave, they will be taking their Bagrut tests, the standardized tests they have to take to move on to each grade.  They can't fail English.  That's just an overview of my purpose.


While we remembered a couple of different times that the yeshiva wanted us to be at school, we got there at around 12:30 p.m.  I had just eaten lunch, which was a big mistake because it turns out that 12:30 is lunchtime, and it looked very good.  I was told just now that they in fact would love for us to eat there even on days when we don't work so that we have more interaction with the students and befriend them more.  Mincha follows lunch, and then it's work time.


9th and 10th grades have English on Monday.  There are two teachers: Yonina and Pini.  Pini is the host father of my friends Ally and Kowler, so I had already met him Friday night.  Yonina teaches the high classes, and Pini teaches the low classes.  I'm working with Pini, and the kids he teaches have very minimal English.  As was true in my language classes in high school, they wish for us to really only speak English, as if we don't know Hebrew.  Of course I'd be capable of speaking with them in Hebrew with very little issue; yet even for those who don't have much fluency in Hebrew, speaking only English is an obstacle.  The most basic things in English that they don't know are very hard to express in other English terms, so I try my best until sometimes I resort to Hebrew.  One thing that Pini also warned us about is that because of Rosh Hodesh Adar, kids are starting to get rowdy out of excitement and that may continue all the way through Purim.


My first class was the 10th grade class.  I'm not going to use names as I describe the students.  The student I worked with in this class is a very nice, friendly guy and wants to succeed.  What we're doing is of course very difficult for him.  They have passages in English with questions following as would be on the Bagrut.  Part of the issue is not only knowing the words in English, but also being able to determine what are the important pieces of information and good strategies for being efficient.  Students may use dictionaries on the exam, and so he has an English-Hebrew dictionary, but it's not easy for him to find things.  It's also a pain in the butt – I can empathize with that, having had to scramble through the Jastrow dictionary to find different Aramaic words when I study Talmud.  I look forward to seeing him work hard to succeed.


I then worked with two kids in the 9th grade class.  They have a book they use and started a new unit.  At the beginning of the unit are vocabulary words they have to translate.  Then they had an exercise, which to get them to understand the task itself wasn't easy, and I felt bad because it was frustrating for me to have very few outlets for expressing myself in English.  They're also nice kids – one has better English than the other.  In the end, I did not have too much time with them.  We'll see what happens from here.


While it's in some ways a bit overwhelming, I see the sort of impact I can have on the students and the ways I can go a bit above and beyond.  As each day goes by, I hope each one ends having accomplished something greater that had not been achieved the time before.


Kol Tuv,


Monday, February 15, 2010

First Shabbat as Yeruham Residents


We began Shabbat by lighting candles in the apartment together and then davening at the Afikim schul.  When I walked into schul I did not know that I would be the sha"tz… but that ended up happening.  I did both Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma'ariv – it's nice to go all the way.  And I like doing Nusach S'fard (many Ashkenazi schuls in Israel use Nusach S'phard).  So that went pretty well, except I had to adjust to a couple of customs I wasn't quite used to.  Then, we had dinner with our host families whom we are assigned to for the next few months.  They live about a 20 minute walk from where we are.  I'm with Adina; we both speak Hebrew pretty decently.  The husband is Ashkenazi, the wife is Yemenite, and they have four kids – a daughter in the army slightly older than us, a daughter a couple of years younger than us, a son at the yeshiva high school (he wasn't home), and an 8-year-old son.  Amir, the youngest one, has ADHD and is pretty hilarious, but he crashed after going wild for about 20 minutes.  The conversation at the table was pretty lively, and language was not too much a barrier.  We talked about ourselves and they shared about their lifestyle.  They found it remarkable that our parents are okay with shipping us off for a year in Israel and four years of college.  The food was good – at first they said that it was Yemenite and if we don't like, there's a lot of bread, but I enjoyed it a lot.  The chicken soup was a good starter, and the rest of the food was abundant and tasty.  We had a nice time and hope to keep up the relationship, which we hear really depends on the Nativers making an effort.  After dinner, we went over to the family hosting Ally and Kowler; the two families are good friends.  We had a d'var Torah, singing, and tea there.  The husband there worked at Ramah Berkshires, which was a good connection.  He really liked it there.  I then went over to the girls' apartment with Adina to see that (I had already seen the other guys' apartments by then) and hang out there for a little bit before going to bed.

On Shabbat morning, we split off to different synagogues because there was a bat mitzvah at Afikim and they couldn't accommodate all of us.  The options were two Moroccan synagogues, an Indian synagogue, and a Persian synagogue.  I went to the Indian synagogue.  It in the end wasn't too different from other Sephardic synagogues I've been to.  Highlights included Tyler getting an aliyah, and at the Mi Shebeirach they asked him if he was married, and then they blessed that he should find a wife (I think).  There was also a full out argument during the Torah service because a woman opened the curtain of the mechitza to ask for a Mi Shebeirach and there was some shouting involved.  If only schul were that lively in America… the one disappointing thing was no Kiddush.  Anyway, after schul, we met in the park with Shlomo Chertok, who holds a PhD in Jewish thought, held a shiur and will be offering one for those who want every Wednesday night.  He used a text from the Talmud in Berachot, which discusses the two reasons why/when prayer was instituted, to make a point about how both opinions don't disagree but rather offer to vantage points for the importance of prayer in respect to keva (routine) vs. kavannah (spontaneous feeling).  He was a very good presenter; he also has an American background, so his English is excellent.  We then had lunch at Afikim – good chicken and rice.  I went over to the girls' house to teach Rebecca K. mussaf and then went home to nap.  We davened mincha with the congregation, and then we met with a serious mayoral candidate for Yeruham, Michael Bitton, who was born and raised in Yeruham (he has staffed USY on Wheels).  He was very interesting (great stories) and witty, and half of the time was spent with us going around and introducing ourselves – I thought it was good that he was interested in knowing who we are and that he cares about our work.  He talked about an article called "Stop Volunteering" written about Yeruham or development towns in general, and we discussed why just from that people wouldn't want volunteers in development towns like Yeruham.  He left us with the letters MMRS – mutuality, motivation, responsibility, and seriousness – that we must take into account in our volunteering.  We then had a so-called seudat shlishit and singing and ended Shabbat.

We were supposed to watch a movie after Shabbat but instead we just talked about volunteering details for the upcoming day.  I went to bed late – had a good talk with Jesse late at night.

I'll give the story about Sunday very quickly: my main job only requires two days a week from me, so while I will probably be working in a soup kitchen in Dimona on Sundays, I had yesterday off.  It was a chill day – I davened, read/ate, was supposed to watch TV with TSilvs but he went to kibbutz but hung out at their apartment for a bit, picked up my shelves, listened to a lecture, began my chavruta with David, did a ShuferSal run, pasta dinner with the guys (Happy Valentine's Day!), ma'ariv at Afikim, and I fell asleep with my laptop on my lap in bed.  Story: on my run to SuperSol, I heard music blasting and I was thinking "wow, what's going on in Yeruham?!"  A truck turned the corner, followed by a chuppah; it was a Hachnasat Sefer Torah (bringing in of a new Torah).  It could be heard everywhere near the main street and blocked lots of traffic.  But exciting things do happen!

Kol Tuv,

Nope, Nothing's Broken!


Our second semester in Yeruham has kicked off quite eventfully, which, while maybe a little bit stressful, has been very exciting for everyone.  We arrived at around 6 p.m. on Wednesday, after our booster shot adventure in Be'er Sheva, quite a few hours later than planned (also much darker than planned).  The bus dropped everybody at their respective residences, and the truck, which had been waiting for us for a few hours as well, came by, and we unloaded and brought everything upstairs.  Our apartment number is 11, and we're either three or four flights of stairs up – I can't remember which one but I think the former.  When we entered, things were chaos – we immediately identified a broken table, there was a table awkwardly positioned behind a couch, and things quickly ended up all over the place.  One of the first moves we made in my room (which is Seth, Jesse Lender, Ethan (MoMo) and me) was to move a bunk bed against a different wall to create a more open area in the room.


We didn't do too much when we arrived at the apartments.  At around 8, we went to the Afikim schul right down the block from my apartment for Ma'ariv, pizza, and a quick orientation.  The pizza came from right next door, and we were happy to know that there is some good pizza in town.  I don't remember too much what I did for the rest of the night – I was definitely tired, didn't unpack too much, and we also didn't have our laptops because while Yossi was planning on bringing them with him from Jerusalem, he didn't want them in the car while we were all in Be'er Sheva with the mumps issue.  We had an apartment meeting to discuss shopping lists and general apartment issues (the other room in the apartment is Gelb, David, and Seffi).


A little bit about the apartment: not the nicest living accommodations in the world.  A medium size living room, a small but decent size kitchen, small rooms (though other apartments have smaller rooms), and cheap bathrooms.  With a bit of decorating and cleaning up, however, it's much better.


Thursday was a good day in accomplishing stuff.  We all davened together in the morning, and then we had most of the day off from then on.  Yoram, our Yeruham liaison, brought us around to our worksites.  I'm working in the Yeshiva high school in the English department; other people are working in other schools doing English, as well as in a graveyard, soup kitchen, kindergarten, Magen David Adom… I feel like I'm forgetting something.  We basically saw the school, met a couple of people there, and left – and of course learned the way to get there.  I'm hoping to have a bike to get around, especially for work.  I unpacked, bought more drawers for my clothes (I had very little shelf space), had some pizza, Cori came to talk to us about kashrut, and we did our first shop (including grilled cheese/waffle maker, cereal, bread, pasta, eggs, mac 'n cheese, chicken, other essentials – 700 bill).  Our first dinner was chicken breasts in pita with BBQ sauce and was delicious.  Yoram and Moshe stopped by at various points throughout the day to check out the issues in the apartment, of which included: minimal hot water, a broken refrigerator, a broken table that I already mentioned, not working lights…


Friday morning, we met at the park (about a minute walk from my apartment) to flesh out some details about the upcoming days.  Shortly after that, Yoram took us to a storage place to pick up a new refrigerator.  We loaded it onto the truck and rode with it back to the apartment.  I'd like to keep this blog as politically correct as possible, so I won't mention the connotations apparent to us as we road in the back of the truck.  It was a bit crazy back there – we were flying everywhere (we includes the refrigerator, too) and we caught a few good bumps in the road.  Crazy fun in Yeruham.  Getting it up to the apartment wasn't any easier.  We cleaned things up and made grilled cheese for lunch.


I'll end this post here, for length's sake.


Kol Tuv,


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Southern Tiyyul... is cancelled!


There are plenty of situations on Nativ where I could write a skeleton blog post about a specific event and describe what will happen pretty accurately, and maybe personal reflections and specific details could come afterwords.  Not so with Southern Tiyyul.  Almost no day on the tiyyul went as planned.  By Tuesday it became a joke to our staff when our activity was cancelled due to weather.  So I’ll start from the beginning.

On Thursday 2/4, we departed for the South.  As hard as it was raining in Jerusalem, rain drenched the south just as much, and we knew when we got on the buses that only one hiking option would be available due to the dangers associated with flooding.  We waited a while on the buses to finally leave Jerusalem, and then we did.  Upon reaching Ein Gedi, we learned that the hike we thought we’d be able to pull off was closed as well.  Two options remained just to get through the day: go to the Dead Sea spa at Ein Gedi or hike Masada.  Since I’ve done Masada and have no desire to go back any time soon, I hung out at the spa and read and listened to music.  Later in the afternoon, we went to the Bedouin Tents.  Most people took a camel ride, but I chose not to.  The few of us that opted out of that hung out in the warm tent (it was very cold outside) until we met with our Bedouin host, wear we were served coffee and tea.  I remember learning stuff this time that I hadn’t learned before.  He spoke a lot about marriage in the Bedouin world, and sure enough many of the questions were focused on the number of wives and how the man decides whom he sleeps with which night and bachelors and stuff like that.  He also spoke about the Bedouin attitude to the modern world, which they partake in but he does not like.  We had a delicious dinner, had a bonfire, and we were in bed by 9 something.  I ended up sleeping well.

Friday there were two options: colored sands or hike.  I opted for the hike, and we hiked up a mountain (the only hike available in the area).  There we saw greenery and flowers budding, something very rare and only made possible by the downpour of rain during the preceding days.  I had a bit of a hard time that morning, but Razie helped me make it through.  We got to good old Kibbutz Ketura, the most American kibbutz in town, that afternoon.  Upon arriving, we were welcomed and taught how to use keys and the remote control and got ready for Shabbat.   I roomed with Jesse Lender, David, and Seth. After candle-lighting, we got a small tour of the kibbutz that included the cow barn.  We saw a five-hour-old cow, which was cute I guess, but after having just showered and being in my Shabbat clothes, I felt sort of gross.  Kabbalat Shabbat was nice; we davened with the kibbutz and David was the sha”tz (shaliach tzibbur = leader of the service) for Ma’ariv.  Dinner was BBQ chicken and was good.  We had a lively discussion about why Joshy should be a bunk counselor this summer and not a specialist – all but Gabe C (ask me which one) were in agreement (or as MoMo would say, agreeence [sp?]).  Then came a lively tisch, with a lot more Nativers than normal, and I gave a D’var Torah there.  After that, we chilled in the room and had a good time, and sometime that night, long story short, a received a totally unexpected slap from Lainie.

Shabbat morning we were basically the schul, with like 10 other kibbutzniks, and I davened Shacharit.  It had been a very long time since I had been the sha”tz for Shabbat Shacharit, so I enjoyed getting back into that and I incorporated many things I’ve learned in Israel this year.  I think I did a decent job.   After davening, we had a few options before lunch – most of us did a walk to the experimental orchards.  Can’t say I paid attention too much.  We saw a bunch of donkeys.  Woot.  We had a quick Shabbat lunch, Mincha, and then I napped, and we had “seudat shlishit” but mostly just singing, Ma’ariv, and Havdalah.  Shortly after that was dinner, which sucked, so I hung out in the room.  The evening program was either Shiatzu at Kibbutz Lotan or a soccer game against the teens at Ketura.  I went to the game and brought my book, Heart Like Water by Joshua Clark, and finished it that night.  Even though I was back in my room by 9:30, I went to bed around midnight – we were watching American Idol auditions (icky).

Sunday – we had the option of creative arts stuff related to the desert or a hike around Ketura.  I went on the hike and we had a great time.  It wasn’t very difficult by any means.  Lunch was leftovers from Shabbat, and we had a bit of down time before and after.  In the afternoon we went to the Sand Dunes.  We had lots of fun with that, tackling anyone in sight.  The night treated us to a nice BBQ dinner and some sleep before the SUPERBOWL!  We watched it on Middle Eastern TV, and I could recite all of the commercials by heart – they were random commercials provided by METV and they sucked.  It was just sad by the end.  We had a good time, as it was a great game.

Even though I went to bed at 5 and woke up at 6:30 (plus a few hours before), I woke up feeling pretty good Monday morning.  There was a hike and a trip to Timna Park; I chose the latter.  It was interesting but not necessarily a highlight for me.  At that point we had departed from Ketura and were on our way to Eilat, the worse city ever.  The plan was to go on a boat, but there were strong winds on the sea so that was cancelled.  After Yossi had told us about how horrible this place was and how year after year things got cancelled in Eilat and he was resorted to this, we went to an “amusement park” called Kings City.  The place had one ride and three other attractions.  We were there for not even an hour and a half and were ready to go.  The ride was a joke, and while the magnet room and the mirror maze were cool, that was just about it.  From that point we chilled at the hotel and went out for the night.  We were given money for dinner.  Eilat doesn’t have many kosher options, and I wanted milchig but I have a hashgacha-only policy in Israel.  After 45 minutes of searching, I found no viable option for milchig so I settled for Burgers Bar, which isn’t really settling since it’s good.  I went back to the hotel after dinner because I was doing an early hike in the morning and wanted to be well rested, especially after the Super Bowl.  There wasn’t much else to do anyway.

Once again, there were two options for the hike Tuesday morning: an easy hike and a hard hike.  While I’m not the most passionate of hikers, I heard the hard hike is very rewarding and the easy hike isn’t really much to begin with, so I tried it out.   It was at Har Shlomo.  Yossi described a lot of it Monday night – 25 minutes around the base, a nice incline, during which there are a couple of times you get to the top and realize it’s not the top.  Coming down, there are staples and lots of drop-offs that aren’t easy and takes a long time.  The ascent, to my surprise, wasn’t too hard, and the descent had its challenges but wasn’t too daunting.  The real challenge involved is that one of the girls broke her leg coming down and nobody was too sure of what to do.  A couple of people went ahead to get a stretcher from the bus, a couple of people came down with her slowly, and the rest of us continued on.  I could never trust myself to assist someone with an injury in a difficult situation like this.  The bus almost didn’t want to take us back immediately, while the gang with the stretcher finished the hike, but we eventually left and made it to the Halleluyah restaurant for lunch.  We went on Pilgrimage, and while I remember the food being great (and the pita was in fact very good), the schnitzel I got wasn’t extraordinary.  But whatever, I went back and took a nap (water sports was cancelled – Elkana laughed when he told us) and read before dinner, and then we had another night out.  We started at the mall, where Jesse and Mosko needed shoes, and I bought a new pair of Naot.  We walked around the boardwalk for a while, and then Mosko, Gelb, and I had a drink on the beach.  I forgot to mention that Monday night, on the way back from dinner, we did find Kosher pizza, which was annoying, but we hit that up after the beach, and Tyler, Sender, and Shira met us there.  The pizza was ok, not great.  We went back to the mall, since they wanted ice cream (I think), but I had already had some, so Mosko, Gelb, and I went to Castro and I bought a new shirt there – pink and white stripes and thin blue stripes.  I locked myself out of the room, so I made it back in and went to bed.

Wednesday we departed for Yeruham! But not so fast – someone in our group was diagnosed with the mumps Tuesday night and we had to go to Be’er Sheva to get a booster shot, said the government.  So we moved in around 7 p.m., no big deal.

Tiyyul wasn’t my favorite part of Nativ but it has some worthwhile memories.  Next post be’ezrat Hashem I’ll talk about our adventures that started off Yeruham!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In Yeruham!



I don't have too much time to do a whole report at the moment, as it is almost 1:30 a.m. and I'm about to skype a friend, but I just wanted to give a general report that we are now in Yeruham!  We moved in last night, I unpacked today and shopped, and we're getting organized here at the apartment.  I know that I will be volunteering at the yeshiva high school in the English department and saw the school today.  It's great to be here, and while different can be hard, different is also great.  I look forward to updating you more soon.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Israel Today Seminar


After being locked out of my room for a few hours tonight, I didn't think I was going to blog about Israel Today Seminar until Yerucham if at all.  But now after taking a shower I decided it would be worthwhile to try to jot a few things down about these interesting past few days.  Some of what we did, and perhaps the idea behind the seminar as a whole, was not new to me, as I have learned and discussed a lot about Israeli society today in Hebrew classes, camp, and USY.  Yet there were certain things we did that were very unique.


The seminar began Sunday and kicked off with Jeff Barak, chief editor of the Jerusalem Post, who discussed issues in Israeli society today.  He talked about the economy in perspective of Israeli education, issues regarding Arabs and Haredim in their education, and that also brought up the issue of army service.  He also touched on the Goldstone Report, and possibly more things but I'm blanking.  In the afternoon, we went to the Menachem Begin Center, just a few minutes away from here, where we learned about the life and contributions of this fascinating leader who devoted his life to the State of Israel.  One thing I remember hearing discussed during last year's election season is that we lack leaders today that have the charisma of people like Begin (though of course his career did not end well) and the lack of passion that exists today.  Barak had actually addressed the lack of passion in Israeli society today, now that I come to think of it.  A few hours later we had a panel discussing the IDF, which included three of our Israeli staff and two other people, and all together three members of the panel are immigrants from America.  All had interesting stories about joining and their roles in the army, and the three immigrants had a role in Operation Cast Lead.  A few things emphasized were how service in the army is essential in Israeli society, the way it changes people, and what it's like to be an American in the army.


For Monday's shindig we had options, and I chose hi-tech.  The things we were supposed to do fell through, so we went to a science something in Jerusalem where they basically did these jaw-dropping (I say that with slight exaggeration) science demonstrations and there were cool toys (as I call them) to play with at the end.  We visited the Weizmann Science Center (or something like that) where they have a garden also of different things related to science – we had a great guide, so I enjoyed the tour there.  It would take too much to describe the things we saw there but we had fun.  After that we headed to a Cartoon Museum to look at cartoons in Israeli society and we learned to draw cartoons as well.  The political cartoons on display were fascinating.  Afterwards we went to Holon to a cinemateque to see a movie called "The Lost Islands" (if I remember correctly), but it wasn't my favorite – it was a lot of Israelis screaming at each other and tragedies coming left and right.  We had dinner at the Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv, and I enjoyed dining and walking around with Jesse.


Tuesday's seminar also had options, and I chose politics.  We toured the Supreme Court, which was interesting because the architecture had very deliberate messages related to Israeli views on justice.  Unfortunately, there weren't any court cases for us to sit in on, but I still enjoyed learning about the justice system.  From there we went to the Rabin Hostel to have a workshop on constitution in Israel.  Though there isn't a written "Constitution" like America has, there still is a constitution in place.  We discussed various issues that would need to be taken into account if Israel were to put together an actual "Constitution," and it's far from easy.  Two Jews, three opinions.  After that we went to the Gush Katif museum near Machane Yehuda – a resident of the area took us around and shared the story of the disengagement.  Very powerful.  Last but not least, we went to Yafo for a show put on by deaf-blinds called "lo al halechem l'vado" – not on bread alone.  The actors all shared their life stories, and while it starts with them making bread, the point of the show is that their life is not about survival and just eating daily, but that they have true human emotions just like anyone.  That may sound shallow but it's too easy to forget.


Today we had Yerucham orientation and packed.  I had my last Shnitzi sandwich and Tito Bravo pizza.  Tomorrow it's off to the South!


Kol Tuv.