Friday, November 16, 2007

4 Missed Shabbats, Cry Babies, Jewish Trailor Parks, and One Hour in an Elevator

I'm done apologizing for not updating more. This is a pain in the ass to keep but I do feel an obligation to family and friends who read this so I keep it going. I love to hate this blog. Because in the end its a list of things I do more than a journal since I feel I have to edit certain strong feelings out of it for the sake of it being OK for everyone to read.

Soooo several shabbats ago (19.10.07) I was on the MASA Security Issues Shabbaton. Basically a bunch of students here for the year/semester on various programs and getting grants from MASA stayed in a hostile for shabbat. We had a professor from Bar Ilan speak with us on Iran, the top military analyst and reporter for Ha'aretz speak about Israel in general, a Palestinian-Christian speak with us about future peace, and four IDF soldiers who had a Q&A session and just generally hung out with us over the weekend. With regard to the Palestinian-Christian, it was on the one hand very nice and very hard/sad. Its exciting because it gives one one hope that there can be dialogue and progress. On the other hand the man spoke for some time about nothing. He talked about nice things like the need to talk and listen and want peace - all of which are certainly important. But the longer I am here and see news, the same news all the time, and the same raids, actions, speeches, conferences, and nonsense I feel like I realize more and more. That there is a lot of the same all the time. There are plenty of people read to talk, listen, etc. The main problem is groups of crazies on either side (not to say I think they are equally crazy or equally a threat, i don't). More than that the problem is a non-Western approach to conflict resolution which is to say that the solution is only one way or the other, no such thing as give-and-take. I think that people like those that lead Hamas in Gaza have very little chance of changing, maybe on an individual level but not as a movement, which means there cant be peace. I don't care if that wasn't clear, I should have written it three and a half weeks ago. Sitting and talking with one of soldiers on our shabbaton was interesting as well. She is an officer in the air force and works with Patriot missile batteries/missile defense. What struck me was she was not a religious Jew and from Northern Tel Aviv (associated with the heights of Israeli liberalism and draft-dodging) so it was nice to see that good things can come out of Northern TA and get her thoughts on changes needed in Israeli society. One of those people with whom I will try to stay in touch.

The next Shabbat (because nothing particularly interesting happens during the week) was in Katamon - a pleasant neighborhood of Jerusalem, with my chevruta's family. Friday night we went to the Breslev Synagogue were I experienced the greatest L'cha Dodi. It was really something, a packed shul, everyone singing in the strongest voice they could muster, with a fantastic tune that I've not heard before. Dinner was good. Three interesting things. One there was a woman there, a friend of the family, who had been on here way to the family's house a few years back during the mass terrorist attacks called the second intifada and had asked what she could pick up for shabbat. My chevruta's wife had told her not to worry and to just come for dinner. The woman responded that she would pick up rugelach from the very well know Marzipan Bakery because "they are to die for". Long story short she didn't show up that night because in picking up the to die for rugelach she was badly hurt in a suicide bombing at the bus stop next to the bakery. Her sight and hearing were damaged. She knew almost no one in the country (having just made aliyah) and was recognized in the hospital by her roommate only because they had matching nail polish, having had manicures earlier that day, since her head was wrapped in that for a downer. Anywho, interesting thing two. There were three guests who were going on the Alyn Bike Ride with my chevruta. One of them was on his first trip to Israel. He remarked that his wife didn't want to come with him because, though he was "a big Zionist," his wife saw a trip to Israel as equal to a trip to Italy, or Britain. She knew it would mean a lot to him and didn't want to interfere with that or something. BAM. Really, that is so sad. As in, I felt genuinely sad when he was talking about it. ...

....I didn't know what the Jewish people was before I came to Israel and before I started learning a bit of our history. Too many Jewish people don't know who they are, the amazing places they come from, the people they are descended from, what they have endured by virtue of being Jewish, and the possibilities that they have because of it. Too many people don't know the depth their lives can have by getting in touch with who they are as Jews. I'm not talking about Judaism that is an abbreviated Pesach (Passover) seder and presents on Chanukkah (which are certainly important ;) but about how we lived and struggled in Israel under Rome; how we were dispersed to not just Europe and the States but also Africa and India; how Jews fought in the Ghetto and the forests of Europe; how after the Holocaust we have a chance to stand up higher - not yelling "How could Gd let this have been?" but spitting in the face of people that tried to kill us by reconnecting to our long history and religious rites that bind us and being proud and public with who we are. Stop trying to be an Italian gangster like Corleone or a thug like 2Pac. Why should we be like other people when we can be like ourselves. We can be like every Biblical figure, learned Medieval scholar (secularly as well as religiously), and any variety of modern day Jewish figure. The more I realize how great a Jew can be as a Jew it makes it harder to hear about Jews who want to be great as something else. Hopefully it will also drive me more to show the Jewish people what they have .

...Anywho, on a lighter chevruta has very different ideas of child discipline than I was brought up with. His twin 6 year olds and 8 year old spent a good amount of Shabbat time crying and screaming without being told to stop. His 6 year old hated shul Friday night and cried and screamed in shul about it (in front of everyone), then cried and screamed home about how he hates shul and its bad. Then at dinner sat with a liter tub of chumus and cried and screamed while 5 guests tried to carry on normal conversation as if nothing was happening two seats over with chumus flying overhead. The whole time I felt like I needed tell the kid to shut up and drag him to his room where he could cry by himself and not disturb dinner. Don't worry I didn't.

Shabbat Three (2.11.07) was in Ariel. My roommates A, who set things up for Shabbat, somehow got us to be three for three having meals at houses where no English was spoken. It was good practice for us....or for me since he generally sat in silence and let me frantically try to keep things from being awkward by using the same questions/topics at every meal since my vocabulary is still a bit limited. The more interesting thing was that we stayed in what was a Jewish trailer park. We stayed in a part of Ariel that was a neighborhood for people who had been living in Netzarim in Gaza before being evacuated by the Israeli government in 2005. I was all for the pull-out in '05 but that said, this gave my a whole new perspective on the situation. The fact that the pull-out hasn't meant peace in the area for Israel (on the contrary) is not something I'll discuss here. The thing is, the government pulled citizens out of their homes, citizens who they told to go there, who farmed land that no one had been able to before, and then hasn't even taken care of them. A family with 7 kids with whom we ate Seudah Shlisheet (third meal of Shabbat) was living in a trailer and a half or so. It was quite difficult to deal with.

Shabbat last week (9.11.07) was in Tzfat with Hillel. It was fantastic. Its hard to comment on it too much since a big part of it was the scenery which is hard to talk about. Shabbat day I took a walk up to the highest point in Tzfat with some people. You could see Ramat HaGolan (Golan Heights), the Kinneret (Sea of Galillee), the hills of the Galilee, and clear blue skies. I davened one of the best mincha (midday prayers) of my life by myself on the balcony of the hostile we stayed on, overlooking Har Meron (Mt. Meron) where Shimon Bar Yochai is buried. There are things I could complain about like the Hasidim who wouldn't dance with us at Havdallah but I'm running out of patience with this entry.

FINALLY - Shabbat of 17/11/07. My cousin is working at a yeshiva in the Old City and invited me there. Turns out the yeshiva was closed for Shabbat (i.e. was not serving meals, and most students were away). So after getting there around 3:45 Friday we walked over to Katamon, neighborhood of Jerusalem, and had dinner at the apartment of a friends of his, passed out there instead of walking back to the yeshiva, Shabbat day ate somewhere else, went back to the yeshiva and finished up Shabbat in the old city. ..
....I'm disappointed to say it was something of a difficult Shabbat. Despite the fact the meals and company and all that were good, through a combination of my surroundings and already existing insecurity about my religious identity - or more specifically my outlook -I finished up Shabbat nice and frustrated if not depressed. This brings me back to my love-hate relationship with this blog where I get to edit what I write and therefore not really let things out so that I can write so that anyone can read it. In short I kept having hearing things in regard to religious observance and how to approach it that are hard for me to think about since I have next to no formal education and haven't totally formulated my feelings on everything. That was a crap description of my problem but what can i tell you. Ask me about it if you're interested.

In other news B, my friend from school, finally was drafted. He just finished his second week of army. He is at a base up north for soldiers who came from other countries and need some background. They get lectured on history, Zionism, etc. Do a bit of light physical training. He spent a night in the field learning how to maneuver at night. He complained a bit about the Americans being the most annoying and the Russians wanting to leave and maybe move to Canada. The French on the other hand got only praise. In a week and a half or so he'll go back to BAKUM - the main induction base - and be redrafted with other Israelis into a regular unit

School is going OK. Its basically high school. Small classes, all in the same building - same two floors actually. I have classes two classes that are mostly freshman which means a lot of stupid questions and kids not knowing how to sit through a college class.

I was stuck in one of the two elevators in my building on Wednesday for an hour. Long story short is that after making a joke that involved me jumping in a moving elevator (very very stupid - agreed) it stopped and a friend and I sat there for an hour because A. the police call button didn't work....B. the intercom button didn't work.....C. there is no cell phone reception to call anyone....D. Sitting on the alarm button only served to annoy residents who for some sick reason came out, banged on the elevator doors (thinking someone was just playing around) then went back into their apartments. In the end a nice British girl called someone and we got out. Good job me!

OK, I have to figure out what I'm doing the rest of the evening - ideally work, more likely screwing around till its too late for me to be able to get up early and do more work.

שבוע טוב לכם -Shavua tov l'khem - A good week to you (pl.)

1 comment:

Eric G. said...

The elevator thing was hilarious. I can say that it's funny now that it's over, right? That was pure sitcom material (consider this whole statement retracted if you're sore about it).

I am, indeed, curious to know what's up with your uncertainties regarding religious observance. I guess I'm guilty of assuming you had been having a pretty smooth and wonderful time exploring that, but seeing as that's not the case, I definitely want to talk to you about it.

In other news--in case you don't know this already--you are an exceptional person. The insight you have regarding your experiences, along with your general honesty and humility (on and off the blog) are really admirable. I'm so glad that you've taken such advantage of your opportunities here; your experiences, both good and bad, already seem to be paying off in a big way.