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…