Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shabbat in Givat Shmuel, Matching the Ideal to the Real, the Jerusalem Running Club, and a Sweet New Year

I spent Shabbat with one of best friends from school who came to Israel about two weeks ago and will be drafted, if all goes according to plan, in November through a program called Machal. I packed quickly, bussed it over to the Tachanat Mercazit (Central Bus Station), then took bus 400 to him. The bus stop I needed was basically a small area on the highway that the bus can pull over to. I'm glad I didn't miss the stop or I would have found myself in Bnai Brak. Met up with B, nice apartment! Messy enough to remind of his place back at school but with a considerably nicer view of Tel Aviv. I tried quietly sneaking off to write an essay for ulpan but thats hard when there are a three people in the apartment. We spent some time preparing a salad which was supposed to be made exotic by going heavy on the craisins and then adding doritos (which, added to early, become soggy and ruin an exotic salad). We went to shul, had dinner, and just hung around. It was good to talk with him since our first man-date had been spent with an 18 year seminary girl/sister of a common friend. He is basically looking forward to the army though reading though the Lemon Tree put a bit of a damper on his being so excited. He is concerned about having to confront Arabs in a violent setting and being in a situation where he might accidentally hurt someone who is innocent. I told him, in my infinite wisdom, that I thought those were really legit concerns to be having and that I hope he wouldn't have to be put in any violent situation at all, and especially one in which innocent people could be hurt, but that in the end I felt that he could say he would be doing difficult work for the safety of Israeli citizens: Arab, Bedouin, Christian, Druze, and Jew alike. Long story short he decided to read Exodus to get himself amped again and he claims its working. Saturday we went to shul, came back, made another salad, brought it to the lunch he had gotten us invited to, came back read/slept. Ended shabbat and he saw me off with two of the guys we had lunch with back to Jtown.

I traveled back by Sherut aka communal taxi with Ya'akov, one of the guys. We got to talking and he had an interesting story that relates to the whole experience here for a year (and to most experiences). Having finished college and worked for two years he wasn't sure where he was going and decided to come on Taglit-Birthright since he was getting older and had nothing going on anyway. He came here and felt that he was home, after extending a bit he traveled Europe and said that it was there he realized he needed to go back to Israel. Walking around a former death camp in Germany that was in the middle of a neighborhood, part of which had been converted for use as an office for a business, he felt the need for the New Jew. This is an interesting idea that one finds many many young Jews, especially men, attracted to. As Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua discusses it: The concept of a “New Jew” has been a part of the Zionist enterprise since its inception and became one of the fundamentals of Zionist rhetoric. "The idea was that the Land and State of Israel would engender a “New Jew,” one different from the Diaspora Jew, who for the purpose of this discussion will be called the “Old Jew”...The “New Jew” would bear arms and defend himself and would never have to be dependent on the mercy of non-Jewish authorities. He would be proud and direct and clear about his identity." After working a few year in the states to make some money, he came here, went to ulpan on a kibbutz for 6 months, and is now working for a technology company in Jerusalem. It turns out his parents had made aliyah, he had been born here, and they had all returned to the states when he was only months old. This whole process was not as direct as some people do. He spent a lot of time thinking, didn't move right away, worked a few years to earn money, etc. He talked about balancing the ideal: the desire to live according to an ideal, make impacts, build the Jewish people, be a New Jew, with the real: the need to be patient, pay for all these dreams, and do boring and mundane things like laundry and open bank accounts. I think this is a really solid idea, and we often forget it to our loss. I wanted to come study here, have an amazing time, take in culture, learn a language, travel, dance, take beautiful pictures, find myself more and more. I've already done a lot of that and plan much more but sometimes I would feel depressed in the in-between, when I had to sit and do homework, laundry, buy milk, anytime I wasn't having a blast. Being aware has helped though. Part of experiencing the country, and living here -even for a year- is doing mundane things, after all Israelis wash there clothing (even if some not as often as they should). The Zionist dream is not just draining swamps, planting crops, and building cities. It's waiting for the bus, deciding between cereals, and sitting around wasting time (occasionally). Keeping this in mind will help me elevate my experience here. The ideal is impossible without grappling with the real and the more we plan for the real the easier and more successful the ideal is.

Finally we have yet another Israel moment. I called a friend to go running and she told me she was going to go to Givat Ram, another Hebrew U campus in Jerusalem, to run with the Jerusalem Running Club. I left myself good and plenty time to wait for the bus, which in this country - if you cant operate the egged site - is a guessing game and after walking around campus for 20 minutes found the track. There is only one track in Jerusalem and so everyone who wants to use it has to share. So there I was running with this club, another running club for faster runners, a group of Ethiopian kids aged 9-17 in an after school program, the second best women's distance runner in Israel, one of Israel's best sprinters, and a few other school teams. The best was after the workout (warm-up, 4x400s, 2x600s, 2x800s) we had a kiddush for Rosh HaShana. Then my friend and I were driven home by one of the members and he was kind enough to tolerate our Hebrew and give us a mini-ulpan session. Only in Israel.

I'm off to Maale Adumim for Rosh HaShana so that will run Wednesday night until Friday and then go straight into Shabbat. So I'll be hard to reach, you know, I have to try to be sorry and all.

If I've offended or hurt you in the last year now would be a fantastic time to bring it up so I can apologize and we can grow. I wish you a Shana Tova U'Metuka (Sweet and Good Year) and hope the year to come is one of real happiness, meaning, learning, love, and deeper relationships.

An early Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova.


Benji Lovitt said...

So this is Johnny Kosher...nice blog! Shana tovah!

Eric G. said...

Jeez, man, you are on the go. Glad you got to spend some time with people you love.

Absolutely practical thinking with the real vs. ideal stuff. Props to really looking to what it would take to actually live here someday, if you choose to do so.

Shana Tova, Johnny K. You deserve the best.


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Anonymous said...


I'm teaching two Sunday school fifth grade classes and a high school Writing Jewish Tolerance class and I feel like I'm at no liberty to teach these things. Yom Kippur meant more to me this year than it ever has, and it was the first time I didn't go to synagogue. I did a lot of reflecting and writing and it feels really good. I hope yours was good for you as well, and that the fast was not difficult. I'm eating pasta and cucumbers now. =) I just fixed my bike and it's blue and yellow and very cute. My world is unraveling, but for the first time in my life, it's because I need it to, not because it's out of my control. I will explain more when we can hear each other's voices. When can we skype? I love you, miss you, and think of you often.