Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pesach Cleaning Day!



Today was our big opportunity for Pesach cleaning!  A couple of apartments started cleaning a day or two ago, but we did all of our cleaning today.  We cleaned our rooms – sweeping, dusting things off, and I emptied out my drawers as well.  And then after that came cleaning out the common room and kashering the kitchen.  We accomplished the task throughout the day.  At around 2:30 Gelb and I went for haircuts, and while we were waiting, we went over to the girls' house to pay for yesterday's lunch and chill with them.  Gelb's hair is shorter than it's ever been before, supposedly, but it looks good.  Mine also came out very short, especially considering that I also just shaved on Friday.  I should be good to go for the Omer, though.  The other break I took in the middle of the day was when Jesse decided to embark on a hunt for a Hebrew-English haggadah that just frankly would not exist in Yeruham.  We took a detour to the girls' apartment and the staff apartment; we had a fun adventure.  Tonight we ate pizza in the park.  No thanks to Jesse, we ordered three pies when we really only needed two and the best we could do was to get Sarah to eat one slice, since we couldn't take it home.  I wish we could have.  Anyway, I'm not sure if I feel that our apartment is legitimately cleaner than it was before, but it must be, and we fulfilled our mitzvah.


I'm excited for Pesach in Israel, and I'm glad that Nativ keeps everyone in Israel, unlike other programs.  Last year, at the end of Seder, singing "l'shannah ha-ba'ah birushalayim habnuya" took a whole new meaning, since I knew that I would be spending Pesach in Israel.  It will be nice to get the Jerusalem glimpse all the way back to Yeruham of how Pesach works in this country.  Here's a rough itinerary:

*Monday-Wednesday – Jerusalem!  Seder with Aunt Judy, Uncle Steve, Abby, and Michelle, and Ally's joining us.

*Wednesday-Thursday – Ashkelon with Gelb – beach and water park and sleeping outdoors!

*Shabbat Chol Ha-Mo'ed – settlement called Elkana near Petach Tikvah with a former colleague of my mom's

*Last Yom Tov – Yeruham!  Hopefully a low-key but festive chag.


חג כשר ושמח לכולם!


Kol Tuv,


Finally, a Shabbat in Yeruham


For the first time since our closed Shabbat here, I spent the Shabbat here in Yeruham.  It was really nice just to be home and not have to worry about getting out of here and getting back.  I’ve also wanted to be more a part of the Afikim community on Shabbat, which is hard to do when I travel a lot.  Also, what was really nice is that now that the clock has been turned forward, I had a lot of time before Shabbat to relax and do whatever I needed.  Oh, and I shaved Friday afternoon.  And now I realize that I have not put pictures on the blog the way I had planned, but here’s a picture of me clean shaven:

Friday night, I davened at Afikim.  Afterwards I went to my host family, the Strausslers.  Adina wasn’t in town, so it was just me; they had another family as well.  The meal was very good, but I was a bit too tired to completely focus on all of the Hebrew conversation, so I caught what I could.  I played Taki with Amir (the 8 year old) before dinner; he’s a character.  After dinner I walked back with the other family and went up to the girls’ apartment to see Brenna and ended up also seeing Ariella, which was great.  I hung out there, talked to Sarah for a bit, it was fun.  I got home around midnight (keeping in mind that I didn’t leave the Strausslers until 10:15, 10:30 probably) and chilled with Gelb and Mosko (who was staying with us this weekend).

Shabbat morning I woke up at 8 and davening started at 8:30.  David and I were the only Nativers there for the most part.  I davened Shacharit – nothing too special (not being sarcastic!).  We were out by 10:30 and I went home, made Kiddush and had a snack and read/fell asleep.  It poured close to noon; the streets flooded and the roads were disgusting once it got sunny.  Lunch was at the girls’ house at 2 (hence the early snack) – 15 (I think?) people were there and it was nice.  I went over to the girls’ apartment, played Bananagrams, and then Brenna and I went on a walk around Yeruham.  Mincha after that, se’udat shlishit at home, and then I went back for Ma’ariv.

Next round of holy days is YOM TOV!

Kol Tuv,

Friday, March 26, 2010

Work Diaries of This Week




Many schools started their Pesach vacation this week, and as a result, many of us didn't have our normal jobs this week.  Each day they gave us something to do, so I'll go day by day on what I did this week:


*Sunday – we were given the task of cleaning Yeruham's youth hostel for Pesach.  A student at the hesder yeshiva (his name is also Yehuda) did a half-hour limmud with us on Pesach, and then we started cleaning rooms.  They didn't have enough cleaning supplies for us so it was kinda difficult, but we tried to help out wherever we could.  At one point, our madrichim showed up because we were apparently "refusing to work" but it just came down to us not having supplies.  One girl who was supervising us understood the situation and didn't even think the job was appropriate for us, especially for the girls who were told to show up in skirts.  Razie, Ilana, Rebecca K, and I ended up just cleaning up the cafeteria.


*Monday – We cleaned the sanctuary of the Afikim synagogue and did it in just over an hour.


*Tuesday – Yom Nativ, as usual.  It was my va'ad's day; we were the Pesach Va'ad.  Everything went well – people learned and had fun.  The limmudim that I planned went smoothly and people got a lot from them, so I was happy.  In the afternoon, I stood outside of SuperSol with LeeAnn and Rachel handing out flyers for an organization called "Latet," asking shoppers to buy one extra item that can be donated to the poor.  For more than half of my shift, there was an Indian man standing outside of SuperSol, not really sure why, who was preaching to us about how bad English is and we should all be speaking Hebrew all the time.  And then he tried to convince me that there are no more good American basketball players, which I disagree with.  I went in after my shift to buy myself some dinner and spent a good 20-25 minutes on line; it was crazy!  They need an express line for sure.


*Wednesday and Thursday – we were cleaning up the park at the lake because there's a big festival there towards the end of Pesach and want a clean area.  Wednesday we were shuttled there, but that took forever, so we walked on Thursday.  All in all, we spent some time cleaning and also some time hanging out since it was nice and there's only so much time you can clean up.  It's sad how much trash is there, though!


Shabbat in Yeruham coming up soon!


Kol Tuv,


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Bit Late, but a Couple of Great Shabbatot



It's a bit late, but I did want to share a bit about the past two Shabbatot that I've had.  The first one was spent up north, right by Har Meron, which has the 2nd highest peak in all of Israel (the first being Har Hermon); for the second Shabbat, I was in Jerusalem at a MASA-hosted shabbaton dealing with security issues in Israel.  Both were wonderful weekends.


My trip to the north happened fairly spontaneously, from my perspective.  I was planning on staying in Yeruham for Shabbat, but then Thursday afternoon, my friend Josh convinced me to join him, Adina, and Jesse T. as the embark on their excursion to the north.  Thursday night, we stayed in Jerusalem at the Year Course apartments and went out to the Crack Square area.


We left early Friday morning to buy food at the shuk and catch the 982 bus up to the Meron-Tzfat area.  While we were waiting for the bus, we met a guy from Nachlaot who was, well, very interesting, to say the least.  He grew up in Queens (New York) (he claims to have known my grandfather alav hashalom and great-uncle) and was an intense Carlebach groupie, spent years as a hippie in solitude, and immigrated to Israel many years ago.  He now resides in Nachlaot (a neighborhood in Jerusalem, or as he would say, "the most magical place on earth").  He's all about meaningful experiences in Israel and vehemently against life in the diaspora; he does a lot of kiruv.  He also believes that Nazi Germany, 1939 is happening in America and the Jews need to come to Israel now and bring about the Mashiach.  Yaddi yadda.  I didn't mind talking to him because all of those crazy people you meet around here, they do in fact represent the diverse ideology that comprises of Israel.  We made it up to Meron and were going to try to tremp/walk to where we were planning on camping, but both became less than ideal situations quickly, so we found a taxi that took us.  Very good thing we didn't walk.  The guy at the Field School where we stayed was very nice and helped us settle in.  I didn't have any cash on me and they wouldn't take my American Visa (only Israeli) so they let me stay for free.  We camped outside – we had sleeping bags, and they provided mattresses.  We walked around for a little while and then started a fire to cook food for Shabbat.  Hot dogs in pita made a great dinner and we enjoyed sitting around the fire.  We went to bed by 9 and had some pillow talk and fell asleep.


Shabbat morning, I woke up close to 7, not realizing how early it was, and davened.  In the morning, we hiked up a mountain adjacent to Meron and then Meron itself.  The first bit was hard in terms of the incline, but then it was fine and the views were gorgeous.  We could see Lebanon, Hermon, the Kineret, and more… there was a beautiful poem that was engraved on a stone on the way up, but I don't remember it exactly.  When we got back from that excursion, we wanted to go to a Wadi, but the one we tried out didn't seem to have any water and there wasn't much hope, so we gave up on that.  We had a taxi take us to Tzfat, and we caught a bus from there to Jerusalem and then took the midnight bus back to Yeruham.  It was good to be home.



This past Shabbat, I participated in a shabbaton run by MASA, covering security issues.  There were 30 or so people form Nativ at the shabbaton, and another 50 people from other American, British, South African, and Australian programs.  We left Yeruham at 7 a.m. on Friday, picked up people from kibbutz, and got to Jerusalem at around 9:40.  Immediately, we got on two other buses to kick-off the shabbaton.  The first thing lined up was a tour of the security barrier.  Two different tours were offered: one from B'tselem, a left-wing organization checking Israeli's treatment of human rights, and one from Stand With Us, which tries to eliminate misperceptions about Israel and educate what's really going on.  I went with the guy from Stand with Us, with the hopes that I'd be able to better defend the barrier when needed.  Our tour guide did a great tour.  Afterwards, both tour guides sat on a panel to discuss the issue.  We also had a group activity before Shabbat started.


Nativ held its own tefillot over Shabbat, and Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma'ariv were nice.  We had Shabbat dinner all together, which was also nice.  Before that, Ariella and I studied a bit of hilchot Pesach (the laws of Pesach).  After dinner, we had a lecture by a guy named Elliot Chodoff.  He's an analyst of the Middle East and also very involved in the military.  He talked about Hamas and Israel.  After the official session finished, he stayed to answer more questions.  I went to learn a Torah reading and came back down 45 minutes later to see where people were, and people were glued to him still.  I stayed for a little while, until a little while turned into 12:30 a.m., and he apparently stayed until 1:30.  The session started no later than 9 p.m.!  He was very effective, though, because he has inside understandings and cleared up many misconceptions; he went against conventional wisdom, which people always are fascinated to hear.


On Shabbat during the day, we heard from an Arab-Israeli who distances himself from "Palestinians" and strongly supports the State of Israel.  He has an interesting story and philosophy; he's very progressive.  We also heard more from Elliot and had another group activity.


Shabbatot continue to be special here, and I'm looking forward to making the most of what I have left!


Kol Tuv,


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Committing to a Daily Minyan


Before I got a car, I thought that once I start driving and have full access to a car, I'd daven at schul and make minyan there on a regular basis.  Needless to say, I didn't end up doing that, with the exception of Wacky Wednesday.  Of course, I couldn't make mornings because of school but I thought evening's I'd do that.


Here in Yeruham, I daven as an individual five days a week, since minyanim here take place at around 6 in the morning, and considering how late I go to bed and how late I can wake up, I'm not too down for that.  But Yoram did put the challenge before us to start a nightly minyan at the Afikim schul, with hopes that it's something that would stick even after we leave.  We convene at nine o'clock every night (minus Shabbat).  It is just now that I believe I have learned what it means to commit to a minyan; I literally drop what I'm doing and work my schedule around ma'ariv.  We have a core group of Nativers who also do the same, and except when a couple of people have conflicts at the same time, we usually have little problems making a minyan.  Because the schul is Orthodox (there are no Conservative in Yeruham), we do not count women, but two-three girls make a regular appearance.  I hope more locals will end up joining us, but it's great that every night I fulfill the obligation to daven with a minyan.  The Talmud says that one who chooses not to daven with a minyan when one is available is a "bad neighbor."  We all have our different reasons for choosing to daven individually, but it's great to fulfill this mitzvah every night.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Work Diaries




I unfortunately have been very busy making bad use of my time when I'm home, so I haven't updated this in a week.  Here's a lowdown of what I've done for work over the past week:

*Thursday – I started my contributions towards the Nativ Yeruham website.  Nothing is up yet (that I have done).  It's coming along well, though; I know Jordana and Rachel have done some great work on it.  I went to the Kol Yaakov School and a gan to take pictures of Nativers in action and talk to people who work with Nativers to put some good rep up on the web.  It was great to spend time at those places and see other Nativers in action, see how my friends spend their days.

*Sunday and Wednesday – I spent at the soup kitchen in Dimona.  It's somewhat hard labor and can be hard to get through the 4-hour day there.  But the work there is very important – feeding the poor is an important aspect of Jewish tradition.  The people there are very interesting, and it's a good exposure to Israeli society (as is much of this semester).


That's all for now, I think.  IY"H I will talk about Shabbat in my next post – we had a great time at Har Meron.


Kol Tuv,


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Tales of a Long Day



I rode to work this morning and arrived at around 11.  When I got there, there were a few kids sitting around who asked if I know "Rav Artscroll" – but it took me a few minutes to understand what they were saying.  Anyway, the first class I had was 9th grade.  They had a test this morning; apparently, it was a first that the whole class showed up to a class period.  Not to say that they did much productive work; a lot of the kids spent a lot of time complaining and causing balagan before they started working.  Almost an hour in, we noticed one of the kids who messes around with us staring into space, and I went over and helped him with the first question… meanwhile, a USY friend close with Gabe visiting Israel and Yeruham (Ezra) sat in on our class and it was amusing to see him laugh so hard at the way the kids go about their business in class.


Lunch today was decent.  Gabe and I agree that the lack of star-shaped chicken nuggets was a disappointment.  Towards the end of lunch, I met some kids who wanted to set up a shidach for me.  They were trying for a woman present in the cafeteria's daughter.  I guess it was flattering, but shidach conversations can be fairly awkward.  One of the guys decided to play the "Have You Met Ted?" game from How I Met Your Mother; that was funy.


The next class I had we once again observed kids take a mock Bagrut practice.  The articles they have to read always amuse us… we chilled.  That was 10th grade, and then we had 11th grade.  Their teacher is intense and has high expectations.  We helped them write informal letters; they also like a lot of balagan.


Life was not so clear after the 11th graders in terms of what we were supposed to do next.  As we sat trying to figure that out, the head honcho of the English department walked in with a bunch of seniors that needed to have some last preparation for their oral bagrut that's tomorrow.  Now this was good work – we sat with the kids one-on-one and had a conversation with them in English, and then they had a speech memorized.  One kid I worked with really did a great job practicing and it was great to see him improve each time he tried.  This was my favorite part of the day.


Tonight we had Wacky Mac for dinner, and I chilled, we went to Ma'ariv, I watched some Weeds with Becca and Mazakas, Yeruham Assassin is getting intense, and I had some quality time with Joey in the late night.


I'd really love a fan here… our apartment boils tremendously.


Kol Tuv,


Monday, March 8, 2010

Prolonging Departure from Jerusalem



Since I was already in Jerusalem, I had a few good options for spending Shabbat, since it's easy to get around from Jerusalem.  But I figured, while there, the best option would just be to stay in Jerusalem!  So that's what I did.


Thursday afternoon, I met up with Brenna for lunch.  You know we're best friends because we both had the same place in mind, so we ate at Holy Bagel.  A little later, Josh and I went to try to pick up his Diva la Viva (Viva la Vida) kippah from Ann, but it wasn't ready yet.  Meanwhile, he wanted the pocket Koren siddur, so went to Pomeranz and got that, and I learned while we were there that my Rambam would be delivered before Shabbat.  The Pomeranz trip was especially exciting for Josh.  Soon after we took a bus out to Baka, with LeeAnn and Jesse T, to the YJ Year Course apartments, where we were staying Thursday night (minus Jesse).  We stayed with Josh and LeeAnn's friend Arielle.  At around 5, we went to the Shuk, where I got my first taste of Marzipan rugelach in the longest time (plus a really good pizza bureka).  From there we headed to Japanica for dinner, and Tyler and Shira met up with us.  The service there sucked, but I guess that happens.  It was a little early to do too much at the time we finished, so we went to Beit Shmuel to hang out for a bit, then came back out to Rechov Yafo and had Aldo's sorbet.  We hung out in that area for a bit, and we went to a place I hadn't been before called Pundak, off of Crack Square, and it was a cozy little café with an open mic.  Then we went back to Baka and went to bed.


We woke up on the later side (or at least late for me) Friday morning and went out to meet Tyler and Shira at Ben Yehuda for lunch.  I can't remember the place we were going to go to, but it was closed, so we had HaShamen instead, which I had never had.  It was tasty.  Then we went to the shuk, and I bought a couple of bottles of wine and a babka as gifts for people I was eating with/staying with that weekend, and we went to buy gummies.  As a rule, I will no longer be buying gummies from any place besides the shuk because my hefty bag cost me 8 shekel!!! It was unreal and nice… and eventually tasty.  We then headed back to Baka, and I got my stuff together and headed out to David Singer's place for Shabbat.  It was a bit of a schlep… too close for a bus and not worth the money for a taxi, so I was mad sweating by the time I got there and up his 11 floor apartment building, but whatever.


Friday Night, I davened at Yakar upstairs.  I've really missed it there – great ruach of course and it's a lot of fun and inspiration.  Josh and I had dinner with the Genehovskis, a couple that hosted my mom 30 years ago when she was on the one-year program at Hebrew U, and the family has stayed friends since.  They had some of their children and grandchildren there, and it was a lovely meal.  My hatred for whiskey remains, but that's fine.  Josh and I had a nice walk back.


I really enjoyed the Tefillah on Shabbat morning at Shira Hadasha.  It was long because of a bat mitzvah and an aufuf, but I thought the singing was especially nice.  The tunes were great.  We got out later than expected, and basically headed straight out to lunch, to Elan's.  There were a bunch of people there, and it was a nice meal.  We got a kick out of reading the English version of the kids' picture book of the 39 Melachot.  The thought of little Haredi kids knowing more about laws of Shabbat from that picture book than I know from life experience is kinda scary.  Then I went over to Josh Goldberg's apartment; David was there for a good two minutes and left.  But I enjoyed the afternoon there playing Frisbee and chilling out.  Shabbat ended, I went back to David (Singer)'s, and headed to Binyanei Ha-Uma to catch a bus back to Yeruham.  I did a whole circle around the block to find the right bus stop; it wasn't pretty.  I did get a seat though, and got home at a reasonable hour.


Back to life…


Kol Tuv,


Leadership Week - Post-Purim



Continuing on from the last post, an improv story-telling group came in on Sunday night.  People told stories from Nativ, and then the performers acted them out.  A few were funny, a couple of them were more serious, and there was the combination.  Most of the actors were good; it was a good performance and a good way to end Purim.  Afterwards, a lot of people watched the U.S.-Canada hockey game.  I didn't.


We left Ma'ale HaHamisha on Monday and headed to Caesarea for the day.  There is a center there for outdoor team building activities.  No bus showed up for an hour and a half to pick us up (that's never happened before… sarcasm much?), so we left late and couldn't do as many activities.  For us, that meant paintball.  The activities we did do, though, included archery/blow darts, rock climbing, those activities where you have to get the whole group to accomplish "x," and maybe something else.  We headed back to Yerushalayim, to Beit Nativ, and we were all mixed up in different rooms.  It didn't take us long to start playing the "who's old room and bed are you in?" game.  So, I roomed with Joey, Seffi, and Ethan in the room that once belonged to Debbie, Laura, and Sophie, and I was in Laura's bed.  That would be on the top floor of the old building.  Dinner at Beit Nativ sucked (surprised?) so I picked up some pizza from Pizza Panini, where we used to get pizza now and then.  At around 7:30, we headed to the David Citadel to see the light show.  It was very cool and I definitely can't fathom the lengths they must have gone to in order to produce such a show like that.  I didn't learn all that much, which may not have been the purpose of the program anyway, but it was a fun watch.  Right as I got back to Beit Nativ, Brenna called me and I turned around to meet her for hot chocolate at Aroma and then we had gelato at Aldo's.  We then headed towards Crack Square to meet up with more people.  I don't think I've discussed Crack Square here before, so for those of you who don't know, it's downtown Jerusalem's land of the free nights and home of the drunk.  Gabe and I went home after about 10 minutes.


Tuesday and Wednesday was probably the core of leadership week's workshops.  We had signed up for sessions via Survey Monkey (I know, classic) in advance.  Before the sessions started on Tuesday morning, I went down to the yeshiva to say hi and also went back for Mincha that afternoon.  My session on Tuesday morning with a woman named Rachel Sklan was about discovering identity and inserting purpose into what we're doing in Israel and just in general.  Everyone who was in my session really enjoyed that.  In the afternoon, I took a session with Neil Lazarus about public speaking.  We knew that session would be entertaining because Neil has a classic British sense of humor.  Highly inappropriate at times, but all the better.  I also learned at that session, as we were watching video clips, that seeing George Bush make a fool of himself still doesn't get old.  We then prepared mock speeches to give and he gave us advice; that consisted a lot of laughing with each other and at ourselves.  After that session, I went to Pomeranz to buy a copy of Chayei Adam (a code of Halakha) and to see if I could get a copy of the first volume of my pocket-sized Rambam that I had lost.  Once again, I did not eat dinner at Beit Nativ, and instead went to a cheap yet nice sit-down fleishig restaurant near Zollie's called Eldad V'Zehu.  Nobody wanted to really do anything that night, so Josh and I watched most of Role Model's on my computer.  We still need to finish.


Our first session Wednesday morning was with an AIPAC employee in the Israel office.  It sucked.  He did basically the opposite of the techniques Neil taught us, and considering how effective Neil is, doing the opposite of his tips is not a good thing.  The area I was sitting in was fairly rude (including myself at some times), but even sadder that he didn't read his audience whatsoever.  It was a couple of hours of torture.  After that session I had a session with Elkana about learning to speak so others will listen, which was fairly fun.  Lunch was okay, I went to the Yeshiva for Mincha, got a haircut, and then came back to sit in on Poskim class.  This semester, they're covering the halakha of the madman/fool and deaf person.  After eating a quick dinner, an employee of the Foreign Ministry, Ido Aharoni, had a presentation for us about the branding of Israel.  Research they've done (plus obvious instincts) shows that the world only sees the image of Israel related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and even if they are on Israel's side of the cause, they don't see the active and vibrant culture of Israel.  Thus, Israel needs a new marketing image.  Unlike our friend from that morning, Aharoni was a great speaker and delivered a fascinating presentation.  That ended and it was out for a fun night.


Leadership Week culminated with a final session with Jules about Conservative Judaism.  Be'ezrat Hashem I will finish a piece I started writing earlier this year about my conflict with the denominations.  The session itself was good, but the same issues that get mentioned time and time again make me dizzy.  On a brighter note, after the session, Jules and I discussed some comments I sent him about IC a couple of months ago, and that was a productive discussion.  I then attended Reb Shmuel's sicha at the yeshiva about anger.  And thus ended leadership week.


What was Leadership Week?  Well, we are "Nativ: The College Leadership Program in Israel," so there obviously needs to be a leadership component.  One week obviously cannot turn one person into a leader, but that's the purpose of a whole year.  This week was a good opportunity to think about developing skills to properly convey the leadership qualities we may have developed throughout the year.


Kol Tuv,


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Leadership Week - Shabbat & Purim



My intent was to update this thing along the way during Leadership Week, so that I wouldn't have to do it all upon returning home.  However, that didn't happen.  So, I'm going to update this, segment by segment, and be'ezrat Hashem, by tomorrow I'll have caught up on everything.


Thursday, February 25

It was fast day, and I woke up at 5:50 a.m. to be able to catch a 6:05 a.m. minyan.  Gabe, LeeAnn, and I went.  After minyan, I came home, and since I don't have any regular work on Thursdays, I checked-in to see if there was anything to be done (this was about 8:00).  It turned out that a couple of extra hands were needed in the soup kitchen, and the guy picks the volunteers up at 8:15, so I ran out the door to catch the ride to Dimona.  I did some cleaning, lifting, delivering, and bagging (I think that covers it all); the work is very fast pace.  Most of the regular workers were very nice and spoke primarily Hebrew.  One of the workers with whom I talked a bit, Yohanan, is originally American and was once religious but no longer is.  I was offered food a couple of times, so at one point I explained that I was fasting, at which point Yohanan commended me and from there unfolded a conversation about why he is no longer religious.  At any rate, we got off a little early, took a cab back to Yeruham, and I packed up for the weekend.  I already posted about the lady that came and yelled at us…


Come the late afternoon and we took a bus up to Tel Aviv for some MASA events.  Of course, our bus driver had no clue where he was going, and we got really lost.  It was also extremely rainy.  I was too glad that I had brought food with me on the bus, because the food situation that night also wasn't that great.  The first event was a stomp/step event – creating beats using the body and other random utensils.  While the performers were extremely talented, some aspects of the routine were kind of corny.  During the show, some obnoxious Year Course kids were yelling stuff and then Kivunim kids told them to shut up, and a verbal fight erupted mid performance.  Despite all of this, though, the performers continued and ignored them completely.  After that event, we took a bus somewhere else in Tel Aviv – what I think was a club near the shore – and Subliminal put on a performance.  I was exhausted, I hate clubs and loud music, and I really didn't want to be there.  So Seffi and I sat a coffee shop and had a hot drink during the shindig.


I slept to Ma'ale HaHamisha, where we stayed for four nights, and I got a room with Tyler and Mazakas.  I was definitely ready for bed once I hit the pillow…


Friday, February 26

We davened Shacharit at 7:15, though I recall being quite awake despite the short sleep hours.  The plan for the day was the Eretz Yisrael Museum, Palmach museum, and a street fair.  It rained on and off on Friday, so we didn't go to the fair.  I liked the Eretz Yisrael Museum, though I lost my group at one point, so I joined another Nativ group.  I bought a Sefer B'rachot from the gift shop there.  The Palmach museum was really cool – it was effective because you are taken through a story throughout the museum, and instead of looking at stuff and reading signs, the exhibit tells the story naturally.  I fell asleep during the last movie; we were in a dark room, so that happens.  We came back and had a good three hours of free time before Shabbat.



I had a pleasant Shabbat at Ma'ale HaHamisha.  We davened together and then had dinner.  There were several small tables in the dining room, and I sat a four-table with Josh, Sarah, and LeeAnn.  Two Kiddush drinks were on the table: Kedem Grape Juice and an Israeli wine.  For once, the grape juice was good; on the other hand, the wine was disgusting.  After dinner, we had an elective session.  The one I attended, led by Yossi, dealt with the future of American Jewry, and we read and discussed an email dialogue between Jack Wertheimer of JTS and Joey Kurtzman of Jewcy (a Jewish culture online magazine) regarding the future of American Jewry.  It was a very intriguing dialogue and triggered solid discussion; I personally identified with Wertheimer's arguments by far.  Then we had a tisch, which was well attended, and people picked songs that they learned better this year.  I then spent the night learning my Torah reading.


Not much to say about Shabbat morning, davening was good and normal.  Learning followed davening – I was going to go to Jules' session about Amalek, but since I had already learned this with him, I attended Joe's dad's session about the Oven of Akhnai, a famous story in the Talmud.  The great thing about that session was that his presentation reflected a different style and a different message.  His presentation was more literary – looking for symbols, themes, different literary elements.  The message, instead of being about the authority of rabbis, spoke about peace and morals in the way we disagree and interact with family.  I enjoyed.  So then we had lunch, Mincha, and I spent the afternoon learning my megillah readings (or rather doing a lot of practice).  Along the way, I found myself having some meaningful discussions with Nadiv as well as Joe's dad, about the good old Judaism thing.  I did not manage to find much rest before we had some snacks, singing, and Mavdil Bein Kodesh l'chol; since Ma'ariv and Havdalah need to be linked to megillah reading, we said this formula so that we could prepare for Purim beforehand.



People pulled off some very creative costumes this year.  There was a group of Barbies, a farming crew, a stud muffin and chic magnet, girlfriend and boyfriend dressed up as each other, and more.  I was Salach Shabati, the protagonist of Israel's most classic movie.  The megillah reading went very well – people were quiet and paid attention.  I read chapters 7-10 (with voices, as usual).  We booed Haman – that felt good.  Following Havdalah, we had dinner and then a dance party and karaoke.  I wasn't necessarily in the mood to dance around all night (I just don't really dance that much), but I did a little bit, and once the karaoke started, Josh, Seffi, and I sang "Stand by Me" and I went to bed.


As usual, our plans for Sunday got a little fudged because of the weather.  We were supposed to go to Holon for the huuuuge Adloyada parade, but that was cancelled.  Instead, a woman came to do laughing yoga and a guy did medical clowning (we chose one – I did medical clowning) followed by Israeli dancing.  Both were fun and those who participated had a good time.  Since we were supposed to be away, we were scheduled to have Seudat Purim in Bat Yam at a restaurant there, so we journeyed out there anyway.  The meal was average and there wasn't really much Purim content in the meal, so I was slightly disappointed.  But I did have fun at my table, which I think consisted of Laura, Robbie, David, Ally, and Shara.  Then we went home, and I watched my new favorite TV show Weeds.


Ad kan.  To be continued…