Friday, April 30, 2010

Touring Dimona with the Parents


Yesterday morning, Ima and Abba came down to Yeruham and picked me up.  We went to “Al HaGrill” for lunch and then drove up to Dimona to see a couple of things there. Abba is on a committee for the JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America) and they oversee a couple of things there, I believe.  Both things were very interesting.

The first thing we saw was Yad LaBanim of Dimona.  Yad LaBanim, which I learned exists in every Israeli city, is a memorial for all soldiers of a particular city that have fallen in war.  Downstairs was a museum that documented the history of Dimona.  The docent there explained how Dimona used to be a bunch of tents and then huts for immigrants from both Europe and Middle Eastern countries, and workers lived there and commuted to factories and whatnot.  Many of these people were strong Zionists and wanted Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, so when the immigrants arrived and asked what Dimon was, the response was “Dimona? It’s 15 minutes from Jerusalem,” or “Dimona? It’s like Tel Aviv!”  Eventually it got turned into a city, and David Ben-Gurion endorsed it as the “wonder of wonders” of Israeli cities, praising how well it was developing as a town in the Negev.  Slowly, motels, hotels, movie theaters, a train station, etc. were developed into the city and now it looks legitimate.  I enjoyed that tour.

Even more amazing, however, is what we saw after.  We went to the Partnership 2000 office, where we met with a guy named Yisrael, now in charge of Partnership programs in Dimona but used to teach at Belevav Shalem in Yeruham, the yeshiva high school where I do my volunteering.  He explained the Lunch ‘n Learn program, geared towards kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds whose parents aren’t really equipped to help them with their schoolwork.  It works to empower kids to lead good lives with a good education and good values.  Kids stay after school until around 5 p.m. and do their homework as well as other enrichment activities.  Then we saw one public school where this takes place, called Neve Amram.  We were greeted outside by a group of kids drumming outside, specifically for our visit, and they were great.  After their performance went inside the school and a choir and a mandolin orchestra sang/performed for us.  Following those performances, we met with Vela, the principal, and she described the school and their lunch ‘n learn program for us.  She believes that every child should receive a music education, and she received funding for music classes that take place during the day.  As a result, she receives requests from families outside of the neighborhood zone who want their children to attend that school and none other.  The teachers at the school are very dedicated and have close relationships with the students.  Vela described the Lunch ‘n Learn program, which with 50 students (out of 400) is a very successful program at Neve Amram.  Many families, she reported, decline to enroll their children in the program in 1st grade when it starts, and then comes 4th grade and they realize its benefits, and once enrolled, the families say “wow, we wish our child had started this in first grade.”  We were told the numerous stories of individual children whose grades soared after enrolling in the program, as they receive homework help there.  Vela explained that she only allows teachers from her school who know the kids to participate in the Lunch ‘n Learn.  At any rate, they also have other activities such as art enrichment; we visited a class that was making jewelry, and one of the students made a necklace for Ima.  When we visited the various classrooms, Yisrael would ask the kids if they love the enrichment program and their teachers, and the enthusiastically shouted “yes.”  Though the program is geared towards families of lower economic backgrounds, it is considered by the school and students alike as a prestigious program and a great opportunity, and all of the students were extremely happy to be there.  After hearing about all of the atrocities of Israeli education, it was amazing to see a school that’s doing well and promising a bright future for its students.  I was extremely impressed with the environment they’ve created.

I’ll go into more detail later, but we hung out on the lowest point on Earth last night and this morning, and we’re spending Shabbat in Jerusalem .

Kol Tuv,


Israel Advocacy Seminar - Hasbara - with Neil Lazarus


Our final educational seminar (official seminar at least) took place this week in Be’er Sheva, at the Leonardo Hotel.  The intensive two days consisted of building tools to properly advocate for Israel on college campuses.  Yossi’s shpeil was that we can choose to involve ourselves or distance ourselves as much as we want from Israel activity, but like it or not we will be in positions where we are put on the spot to defend Israel.

Neil, of course, did not have us bored from the first second.  He “angrily” called individuals out, made them stand up, and demanded that they justify something about something or another related to Israel.  We later learned that all scenarios that he used have been used on him before (including one about how Israeli government could endorse the massacre of gays at a bar… referencing the isolated incident when a hate crime against gays was executed at a bar in Tel Aviv, which the government completely condemned).  He then showed us a video called Crossing the Line, which documents the dire situation on the college campuses.  We went through many of his defense tactics and different advocacy tools he had to offer for us.  I have some notes written down but not in front of me at the moment.  In the afternoon, a woman in her mid-twenties named Michelle, a New York native who’s now the director of Diaspora relations for Stand With Us, did a presentation as well and talked about things we can do to be active on college campuses.  They showed us the Alan Dershowitz documentary Case for Israel; I should probably read the book.  That was all Tuesday – we went home in the evening.

On Wednesday, we returned and started with a presentation from Itamar Marcus who’s high up in the Palestinian Media Watched.  He showed us some of the most appalling TV clips from Palestinian TV that indoctrinate hatred into children (including my favorite, Farfur), as well as examples of schools, sports arenas, and street names named after Palestinian “martyrs.”  After that, a founder of Jewlicious online magazine did a presentation about the importance of using technology such as Facebook and Twitter to our advantage in promoting Israel.  In the end, it was a presentation that had a message that could have been conveyed in five minutes, but not terrible.  The afternoon was extremely intense, though.  Neil planned a simulation activity in which we were all assigned to different student groups – hugs for peace, Palestinian groups, an Israel group, a sports club, an Indian group, and a Black group.  We had to plan programs for freshman week to promote ourselves, join together with other groups, and then we had to call different arms of the university to actually book rooms, security, catering, etc. (those were madrichim).  Making those calls was an extreme pain because having five groups calling one phone all at one time just doesn’t work.  I was in the Israel group, and of course part of the simulation was that there were increasing security issues the whole time because of an attack on a Muslim blamed on Jews and death threats to Zionists.  It got intense but Neil was impressed in the end of the way we got into it (especially the Indian group).  What was stressed throughout the entire seminar was that if someone is not comfortable speaking in public, they should focus on technology or planning programs or demonstrating Israeli culture in public (he gave an example of someone who used fashion to portray Israel) – the political stuff is not always the most necessary.

I’m still yet to put the Israel advocacy skills I’ve learned into use, but I still gained a lot from reinforcing tools and facts, and this time around I also learned a couple of new things.

Kol Tuv,


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kibbutz Galuyot - Ingathering of the Exiles



(This piece is not necessarily meant to persuade others, but rather the points here have persuaded me, myself.)


A certain b'racha warrants much of my kavanna as I say the Amidah these days:


תקע בשופר גדול לחרותנו ושא נס לקבץ גלויותנו וקבצנו יחד מארבע כנפות הארץ. ברוך אתה ה' מקבץ נדחי עמו ישראל.


Sound the great shofar for our freedom; raise a banner to gather our exiles, and bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our land. Blessed are You Lord, who gathers the dispersed of His people Israel. ( translation – first site on Google)


Over the past year, I've become more and more convinced that a spiritual priority for the Jewish people has to be the ingathering of the exiles.  It's not that there's anything terribly wrong with America; it's just not Israel.  True, to each his/her own and there are many legitimate reasons for people staying in America.  But I feel personally obligated to contribute my person to the Jewish shift towards the Land of Israel.


What are we waiting for?  We have prayed for years to emerge from exile and once again return to the homeland and holy land of the Jewish people.  For the first time in two millennia, we exercise self-autonomy in our own sovereign state.  The State of Israel, in my mind, is not just around for those in need of refuge; we risk not taking full advantage of its presence by staying in the Diaspora.  Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut helped me realize even more that this is not just the state of the Israelis, but rather the state of the Jewish people as a whole.  Sure, we can send our youth here for short periods of time and send our money here, and that can be considered Jewish unity, but it is impossible for the soul itself to experience the holiness of the Land of Israel with just that alone.  Redemption, as it seems from Jewish sources, will only be completed when the Jewish people comes together physically in the Land of Israel.


Not every place in this country bares the holiness I wish there was, and the things I relish most – tranquility of Shabbat, abundance of Kosher restaurants, number of people walking around wearing kippot – are not to be found in every place.  Yet as I speak the lashon kodesh (holy language) and walk around with something very fundamental in common with almost every person I pass on the street, I find a sincere calling here to fulfill God's promise to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov.  It won't be a perfect transition, and it also won't be happening immediately, as I do plan on completing college in the States.  But I hope one day to embody the full ideal of Zionism so that when I leave in less than a month, it will only be an extended leave from home, just to return soon.


Those are my feelings in a nutshell.


Kol Tuv,



Monday, April 26, 2010

Meet Conservative Yeshiva Students and Faculty

I visited on Sunday and will report on that soon, but I wanted to post this video, as the CY has been an integral part of my Nativ experience and I appreciate the learning that took place there.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Recent Shabbat Escapades


I believe I have a few Shabbatot to touch on, so here it goes:

Weekend of 4/10
Tel Aviv for Ally’s birthday! And Jonny’s too!  Both rented apartments on Ben Yehuda Street (not too far from the beach) and invited people to stay with them, and I was in Ally’s apartment.  Thursday night we hung out in the port area and eventually went into a club.  Friday we had breakfast and then went to the beach for most of the afternoon.  I played paddleball with some old man who wanted someone to play with; it was legit.  I also finished The Thurber Carnival.  Ten of us did Kabbalat Shabbat together on the balcony, and then we had a pizza Shabbat dinner.  For dessert, we had cupcakes for Ally’s birthday, and they all had different flavors (I don’t know what to call them) – there was red velvet, lemon, Crembo, Oreo, and other good stuff that I don’t remember. For the rest of the night we basically chilled at the beach.  I went on a walk with Ariella and we had a deep conversation about the things we feel like we lack in our current lives.  And then I got a good night sleep.

Shabbat morning I went to a Yakar schul.  Not the same as Jerusalem, but they were friendly and it was a nice davening.  After schul I met up with everyone on the beach and read, played Bananagrams (which we did a lot of that weekend), went into the water with Ally, got burned... It was hard not being in the most Shabbosdik of environments, but I like being on the beach for Shabbat.

Weekend of 4/17
I stayed in Yeruham for Shabbat.  As usual, I had dinner with the Strausslers (my host family) after schul.  Pini, the teacher I work with at the high school, was also there with his family.  Time flew – I left at 11:25 almost!  But it was a great dinner.  Pini and I talked a bit about Hassidut (that’s his area of interest in life) and we also sang a bit.  The walk back went by fast since I sang a niggun the whole time.

I overslept in the morning – David did not succeed in waking me up, plus my Shabbat alarm clock was still set on Standard Time, and I slept through the alarm I had set anyway.  So that was aggravating, getting there mid-Torah reading.  I was sha”tz for Mussaf.  For lunch David and I went to Tzachi, one of the MADA drivers, and I actually know his wife from the high school.  They have two cute little kids.  They were a very sweet, hospitable family and it was very homey being there.  I basically napped through the rest of the afternoon.

Weekend of 4/24
I was planning on going to the MASA Shabbaton for people potentially interested in Aliyah, but I instead went to Yossi.  Rebeeca K, Josh O, Ilana, and Laura also went.  We had a really nice time – Yossi’s kids are adorable and it nice spending Shabbat with them.  We went to schul, which is Torah egalitarian with a mechitza, and had a nice meal.  I learned how to eat an artichoke.  The group dynamic was great and it was far from dull.  At dessert we had a Muscato that we brought with us and it ended up being great. In the morning of course we went to schul and I ended up being sha”tz for Shacharit.  Josh (my Talmud teacher who also goes to that schul) said it’s not too often that a guest, especially an English speaker davens so it was a nice honor.  I had Bailey’s for Kiddush, which I had never had before, and it was tasty.  Laura and Ilana brought a Marzipan cake made of chocolate rolls, which we also had for Kiddush and it was good.  After lunch we napped, I got up and played Chess and Checkers with Nadav, wnet to Mincha, and Shabbat ended shortly after.  Fun weekend!

Kol Tuv,


Saturday, April 24, 2010

The “Yom” Triumvirate – Yom Ha’Shoah, Yom Ha’Zikaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut


I lament my lack of blogging these days – just a lot going on and it’s hard to sit down to write.  Here I’m going to reflect on the experiences I gained commemorating three important events of Modern Jewish History, all of which are significant when commemorated in Israel.

Yom Ha’Shoah
Holocaust Remembrance Day is becoming more and more irrelevant to people of this generation because survivors are dwindling in numbers and we don’t see the effect of the Holocaust and its implications.  Yet it still has plenty of prominence in Israeli society.  In the evening, streets are clear of cars and arsim, and people commemorate the Holocaust in one form or another.

Nativ had its own program in the evening.  I believe it was well executed.  It included Megillat Ha’Shoah – the liturgy published by the Conservative Movement for Yom Ha’Shoah* - as well as discussion groups and a presentation of Holocaust in media such as music, graphic literature (Maus by Art Spiegelman), art and sculpture, and a movie clip.  Each mode of expression had its own merits, and some were more controversial than others.  Without detailing each mode of expression, people shared interesting perspectives on the way different types were effective or appropriate or did justice to the things up for comparison.  We all had a Yizkor candle to have at home in the end.

In the morning, I went to minyan early.  I was of the philosophy over the course of the Yom that as we cry out to God on behalf of those who were murdered, it’s important to have unity and daven with a minyan and make sure our voices are truly heard.  At around 10 a.m., per Elkana’s recommendation, I went over to the yeshiva high school to hear the siren, which was followed by speeches and discussion of heroism.  While most people expressed sincerity during the morning, overall I did not see an entirely different mood there.

To conclude Yom HaShoah, we traveled to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, near Ashkelon, for the ceremony that took place there.  It’s one of two official closing ceremonies of the State of Israel for Yom HaShoah (the other is in the north).  Yad Mordechai is named after Mordechai Anielewicz, a martyr of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  The speeches included personal anecdotes and praise of heroism – Ehud Barak was among the speakers.  Also there were dances, videos, song (Shlomo Gronich sang), and though a bit long, the ceremony was definitely an important Israel experience.

Yom Hazikaron
Unlike Yom Ha’Shoah, Yom Hazikaron for Israelis is not about the past, but rather about the present.  What makes this remembrance day different from the one from the week before is that it this day marks present realities, as just about every Israeli knows someone who has fallen on behalf of the State of Israel.  The total number of fallen soldiers has reached over 22,600.  Because it is such an emotional day for Israelis, we did not participate in Yeruham’s ceremony (tekes) Sunday night.  A Nativ va’ad planned a tekes for us, which included Yizkor and candle lighting, learning about different soldiers and heroes, and discussing our relationship to Yom Hazikaron.

Monday morning, we departed to Jerusalem for a 36-hour stay to include the commemoration of Yom Hazikaron and the celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut.  In the morning, we went to the tekes at Har Herzl, the big military cemetery in Jerusalem, which was packed with over 10,000 people.  I walked around with Ariella and Elkana in the 1948 section, and we were near a lot of areas with names on tombstones but the bodies were in unknown locations.  It was expected that the newer areas would have lots of people remembering, but not that many people have direct connections to people who were killed in the beginnings of the state.  While being at Har Herzl gave us an opportunity to witness Israeli society commemorate Yom Hazikaron and to be a part of that commemoration, it’s hard as Americans to relate personally to the ceremony.  Yet, my feeling is that these are the fallen soldiers of the Jewish people, fighting for the army of the Jewish people, and we have a place standing in solidarity with the Israelis as well.  The ceremony included a speech by Bibi Netanyahu.  We ate lunch at Beit Nativ, and following that we heard from Michael Levin’s parents (z”l) about the impact of the heroism of their son and the experience they’ve been through since his death.  I won’t detail it here, but it was a touching story.  He has become an icon of not just American Jewish Zionists, but of the Israeli army as a whole, and lone soldiers as well.  After that speech, we heard from Elkana about a soldier who had worked under him that was killed in the Lebanon War and was in the same tank as Gilad Shalit (but that was after Elkana left the army).  We watched a movie afterwards that was documents family whose son was near Beit Lyd at the time of an explosion and their waiting to hear news about his status.  I had seen it once before in Hebrew class.

Yom Ha’atzmaut
I’ve been to a few ceremonies before that mark the transition between Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, but here it was different.  The in-thing among the religious crowd is to go to schul.  They have a tekes to mark the end of Yom Hazikaron but then transitions into a festive Ma’ariv, done in the festival prayer melody.  I’ve never been to schul before on Yom Ha’atzmaut in the evening.  I went to Shira Hadasha, where one could not move due to the large crowd of worshippers.  Here is the description I wrote at B’yachad about Hallel, which was one of the longest ever:

The piano and flute roar as people lift their voices to the heavens, the most festive Hallel I had ever seen.  Almost all psalms were sung out loud, sometimes continuing on and on, in praise of the miracle of the State of Israel.  A couple of things were done to the melody of Hatikva, connecting the saying of Hallel to the reason why we say it.

After schul, I saw Brenna and we headed towards downtown.  Rechov Ben Yehuda was packed as ever.  Music blared, and people were going around bopping each other with inflatable hammers and spraying foam on each other.  I bought a hammer for the heck of it for 10 shekel.  The atmosphere was of course very festive, and we had a good time walking around.  People of all ages were out.  After a while, though, it became just sort of a big party, a Thursday night at Crack Square magnified, with lots of drunken people and hip-hop music and that was disappointing.  But in the morning I went to schul at Yakar, which was also festive in its davening when it came to Hallel, and then we had a mangal (BBQ) at Independence Park for the sunny afternoon.  That’s an extremely Israeli thing to do – after all, after eight months of being here, we should act somewhat like Israelis.

Kol Tuv,


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shvi'i shel Pesach (7th Day of Pesach)



Here's the last post related to Pesach:


I came back to Yeruham on Sunday, the last day of Hol HaMoed.  In reality, even though there's way more Hol HaMoed here than in the Diaspora, the close proximity of Shabbat to the last day of Pesach made it seem like a short Hol HaMoed.  In the end, I didn't end up feeling that Pesach was all that long.


After having a few hours to chill out before chag started, I went to schul, and then had a dinner with Asaf, Gabe, and Robbie.  This came about when Gabe and I hadn't made any other plans so we decided to do something simple.  Asaf brought back some BBQ chicken from Ketura, so we ate that.  And then I learned to play Settlers of Catan, currently the most popular game on Nativ.  Wasn't that addicting for me; in fact, I haven't played since.


I made it to schul in the morning, and Tyler joined me.  It was a fast davening, and I was very happy that they sit for Shirat HaYam.  More than half of the schul left during Yizkor.  After services, the husband of the CEO of Atid BaMidbar invited us to lunch.  They were very hospitable and served us great food, especially the chicken.  Tyler learned to juggle.  We were very glad we got that invitation.  When I got home, I went to the park to read for a bit, and shortly after Ally, Miri, Becky, and a girl in Becky's host family came to the park, too, so I hung out with them.  We eventually went back to their apartment to play Bananagrams.  I think I took a nap after, but I woke up to make Matzah Pizza – the second and last time I had it.  Shortly after came Mincha, Ma'ariv, and Pesach was over.


At the end of chag, I participated in Mimuna – a Moroccan custom that accompanies the end of Pesach.  The explanations I've heard is that the first chametz to be eaten should be sweet.  The name "mimuna" could come from the Rambam's father, Maimon, whose yartzheit falls at this time, or also from "emuna," faith, that we have faith that Mashiach will come next year even though it didn't come at Pesach this year.  Several families have open houses, and people come and eat mufletas – it's like fried dough and you put things like chocolate spread, honey, etc. inside.  It was really good.  We had a nice time bouncing around, and then we ended up at one house where I knew a bunch of kids from the high school as well as my host family.  They drove us home, at which point I finished watching the Braves kill the Cubs.


Pesach definitely felt shorter this year, having been only seven days and a short Hol HaMoed.  It was a good chill opportunity, and I'm happy with the way I spent vacation.  While I was sad that I wasn't at Ramah Darom for Pesach this year, I enjoyed celebrating Pesach in the Holy Land, observing how Israelis observe Pesach, and with God's help we will celebrate every Pesach to come in Jerusalem.


Kol Tuv,



Shabbat Hol HaMoed



As I mentioned in the ending of my last post, I went to Elkana for Shabbat.  The settlement is a 15-minute drive from Petach Tikva, just over the green line.  I've spent one Shabbat there beforehand and have written about it here, but just as a refresher: Yael worked with my mom when my mom was at Federation, and she has a husband and four children between the ages of 2-11.  Nitai (her husband)'s mother was also with them for Shabbat Hol HaMoed.  They live in a cute caravan and they have three dogs, a few chickens, and a few goats, too.  It's a very homey place to live.  Shabbat is quiet there – no cars on the street.


I'll highlight just a few things that I remember – like everything else over Pesach, Shabbat was relaxing:

*They have a nice custom when they light candles that for each candle, which represents one person in the family, Yael says something positive about that person's week.

*For lunch on Shabbat, we went to a neighboring settlement called Sha'arei Tikva, where Nitai's aunt lives.  She is married to a Canadian, and they lived in Canada for a few years after marriage, so everyone spoke English pretty well.


At this point I can't recall too many more details of the weekend, but I had a nice time, and it gave me an opportunity to practice some good Hebrew.  I stayed Motza'ei Shabbat as well and left Sunday morning for Yeruham for the last day of chag.

The Hol HaMoed Escapades




Like any good holiday should, Hol HaMoed gave me a lot of opportunities to relax and take things easy.  The short window of hol turned out to be fairly stress free and very vacation-friendly, as I sort of just said.  So here's what went on:



I woke up at around eight and walked to the Old City, to the Kotel, to find a holiday minyan at the very place to which our ancestors once did and hopefully our descendants once again will make pilgrimage.  The Kotel Plaza was packed, as people wrapped in tallitot filled almos the entirety of the davening area.  Even from the end of the Cardo, when still on high ground, one could see heads covered in the white of the tallit, hearts raised to the God above.  I entered, and having a hard time finding a new minyan, I joined a minyan that had just ended P'sukei D'zimra and caught up.  Things were normal and fairly uneventful until the end of the Torah service, right at the start of Musaf, when guards begin clearing an aisle in the men's section.  I was praying towards the left of the Kotel, and we were boxed in right there as the aisle separated us from almost all of the other worshippers.  Security guards are going haywire, trying to keep the area under control and a leather chair was set up near the wall.  I quickly learned that the Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the giant Haredi posek of today, was coming to visit the kotel.  We awaited his arrival for a long time; people were getting impatient and others pulled out their cameras.  Finally, a car arrives, and a horde of people chases it all the way up to the wall itself.  Security guards are trying to get people to move away, even pushing men in black in white, so that the rabbi can emerge from the car.  He never did.  They drove off, people were free to move, and I went back to Agron to check out.


After I got back, knowing I'd have a couple of free hours to spare, I went to Independence Park to read.  The sun shone bright, and I lay and peacefully read for an hour and a half.  Gelb and I agreed to meet at the Central Bus Station at 2 p.m., so I went to SuperSol to buy us some food, and then I made it out to the station to eat lunch.  We got a bus to Ashkelon, arrived, and took a bus out to the National Park, where we would be camping for the night.  The park was vast, very green, and people filled it, enjoying afternoon BBQs.  We walked over to the campground, put our stuff down, and strolled around the area, including the beach.  Shortly before dark, we ate and chilled and were sleeping by 9 p.m.



We played it chill in the morning – hung around the campsite, and I went to the beach to read for a little bit.  Checkout was at noon, so right around then we went back to the Ashkelon bus station.  Gelb went to Tel Aviv, and I had lunch at the mall before heading back to Jerusalem.  In Jerusalem, I stayed at the apartment of one of my B'yachad facilitators and a former USY shaliach, Moshe.  I hung out there, and made plans to meet a friend from home, Ilan, at a Moshav Band concert on Emek Refaim.  At that point, I called Michelle to find out what cheap restaurants are open on Emek, and she told me Schnitzi's was open.  Two seconds later she called and said that they were making matzah pizza at the apartment and I was invited over… so I got some cheap food on Emek Refaim that night J The concert was good – the band performed very well – just a little meshuga ba'rosh in certain ways.  By the time it was over it was late so I walked back.



I went to a café on Rechov Aza in the morning to have breakfast and read, since I had some time.  It was more expensive than it was worth, oh well.  I saw Roni from yeshiva at the café.  Shortly after I went to the bus station to head to my Shabbat residence in Elkana, a settlement just over the green line.


To be continued…

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Pesach Escapades




There is a whole lot to write here about Pesach!  As I have done before, I will break it down into sections – something like Yom Tov/Seder, Hol Ha'Moed, Shabbat, and last Yom Tov.  This might take me a little while to finish up, as I have other things on my agenda, too, but I hope it will be done soon.


Erev Pesach and Yom Tov

Of course, we did bedikat chametz Sunday night right when it got dark.  After that we ordered a pizza and ate in the park.  By a pizza, I mean 3, and we only ate two of them; Jesse figured we'd all eat four slices, which just didn't happen, and Ethan only ate one.  Monday morning, I burned our chametz from the search.  Behind our apartment, in an open area, there were a couple of bonfires going.  I threw the crumbs in and recited the formula (or declaration, as Sarah likes to call it).  I also had a couple of other bags of bread that had to be disposed of, but they were moldy anyway so I just threw them in the dumpster; the fire wasn't that strong anyway.  Gelb and I got some food at the convenient store right by our apartment, next to the pizza place; Israel had a good selection of Kosher for Passover food and one thing that one could only see in Israel is half the store's shelves covered with aluminum foil, as the chametz had been sold.


We took a 1:15 bus to Jerusalem.  When I got to Jerusalem, it was hard to find a bus so I took a cab to Agron and I had some time before schul.  Ally and I left around six, and we reached the corner of Emek Refaim when we saw some flowers on sale when Ally realized she left the flowers for my aunt and uncle at Agron.  So she bought another small bouquet (and then gave the nicer one to them at lunch on Tuesday).  We met Uncle Steve, Abby, and Michelle at Shira Hadasha, and then Ally and Michelle went back to their apartment and the rest of us went to schul.  It was the longest Yom Tov ma'ariv I've ever been to!  Mincha was slow, followed by a 15 minute d'var Torah, a slow ma'ariv (lots of chazzanut), and they did Hallel as well (I saw in my Koren siddur that this is a practice on the first night of Pesach).


The seder was very nice.  It was the Kerbels, Ally, and another family whom Uncle Steve and Aunt Judy is friends with, I think from Uncle Steve's college days (and now they live in Israel).  We did a quick thing up until the food, and Uncle Steve does a nice job of doing the maggid plus a few inserted comments that were insightful.  Ally, Michelle, and I had our own fun at the end of the table (I think Aunt Judy told Michelle to stop talking like 15 times, and it was funny each time).  The food (and wine for that matter) was delicious (I don't think I've written about too many meals here that were not good); we had brisket.  And from that point there isn't too much to tell.  At the end of the seder we hung around for a little while but I was starting to fall asleep so we walked home.


I didn't have an alarm clock, so it was kind of difficult to wake up for schul on time the next morning.  Somehow, I managed to be up at 8:40, got dressed fast, and walked to Yakar and made it in time for the Amidah.  As usual, I enjoyed the davening and the singing.  I saw my Yeruham chavruta Aharon there – small country, isn't it?  I then headed over to the Kerbel apartment, and Michelle was there sitting on the porch, since it was a nice day outside.  The rest of the family was still at schul – Shira Hadasha isn't the fastest of synagogues.  Michelle had a couple of friends over for lunch, one of whom Ally knows from home.  We had a nice afternoon; we went to the park after lunch.  Michelle came back to Agron with us and we chilled there.  After Yom Tov I was the only Nativer still there, and I went to the Kikar Tzion area to find food.  Basically, the only not fancy restaurant open was Burgers' Bar, so I had that and went to bed.


To be continued…