Winter Trip 2010: Post #5

Currently, I am sitting in David Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel-Aviv waiting for my flight through Berlin to London. 

Last night I slept in Jerusalem at the Romm’s.  The past two days have flown by.  And I was basically flying – as in the weather has been crazy all over Israel.  The storms and huge wind gusts were especially bad in Tel-Aviv and worse where I was staying near the Mediterranean Sea.  I would have ended up in the road one time if a light pole had not gotten in my way.  The past two days in Tel-Aviv were really good, but went by quickly.  I also could have done more if the weather had cooperated.  Oh well, Israel needs the rain.

Sunday

I left for Tel-Aviv and made my way to my hostel (including navigating through Tel-Aviv’s crazy complex central bus station).  I was staying at Hayarkon 48 Hostel, one block from the beach.  I met a guy from Sweden in the hostel and he came with me as we tried to make it to the Eretz Yisrael Museum.  On the way, we went by the beach to look at the huge waves and see the damage.  After getting to the museum, we tried to make it between buildings without getting destroyed by the weather.  It was more difficult than it sounds.  Back at the hostel, I met another guy from Sweden and a guy from Canada.  We went across the street to a building/mall with restaurants and a cinema.  On the way across the street, we got completely soaked and I have been at least damp since then.  We ate dinner, with a good special from Burger Ranch, and then saw Eat Pray Love – a good movie.  Now I think I need to find the word of who I am… (see the movie).  Back at the hostel, I met a number of people with whom I discussed Israel, the weather, Tel-Aviv clubs, World War II, and other random topics.  I had wanted to go out and do something exciting, but the weather basically prevented that from happening.

Monday

I woke up early (i.e. before my alarm) and then waited for a few other people to wake up.  I ate breakfast in the hostel while talking to some people from Germany.  I then went with the two Swedish guys to the Diaspora Museum.  We took a cab because it was raining and on the way, I had a conversation with the driver in Hebrew!  He said my Hebrew was good, but I know the truth.  It was fun anyway.  The museum was very interesting recounting the history of Jewish exile and return to Israel.  We then went to lunch in a cafeteria in Tel-Aviv University (the museum was on the university campus).  The two Swedish guys went back to the hostel and I went to the Palmach Museum where I waited for Ella and then we went on a tour.  It was a Hebrew tour so we had English audio guides.  The museum is rather untraditional – more of an interactive theatre experience.  Very interesting.  After the museum, we went to the hostel to get my bags and then to the bus station and I returned to Jerusalem. 

I had hoped to see more in Tel-Aviv but the weather did not cooperate.  I planned on walking up the beach and visiting the flea market in Yaffo (Jaffa), perhaps visiting some small museums, and checking out Disengoff I spent the night at the Romm’s.

Tuesday – Part 1

Today, I got up early and got ready for my flight.  I then went to the Fuschberg Center, where Rabbi Romm works.  I was to get picked up there by a sheirut, a shared taxi.  While I waited, I walked around the center of Jerusalem.  I visited Ben Yehuda Street and read historical markers on buildings.  I then said goodbye to Rabbi Romm (The Romms are my adopted family in Israel.  I will miss them all very much.) and got on the sheirut.  We picked several other people up in Jerusalem and drove to the airport.  On the way we seemed to be following much of the security wall around the West Bank and I saw several check points.  There were two other people on the sheirut who had the same flight as me so when we got to the airport, I waited with them since we were two early to check in, after going through the first security.  I am now checked in and have eaten lunch.  My flight to Berlin has already been delayed twice though.  I hope not to miss my flight from Berlin to London.  My layover was not very long to begin with.  My luggage is tagged to go on without me picking it up.  I still have to get my boarding pass though since they could not check me in in Tel-Aviv.

Israel has been a great experience.  I knew it would be, however much I worried at the beginning of my trip.  These two weeks have flown by and I hope to return soon.  I now look forward to the next leg of my trip – a week in Europe.

Advertisements

Winter Trip 2010: Post #4

There is a lot to update here.  The past (almost) week has been busy and a lot of fun.  I’ve really been enjoying myself.  Right now, there is a major storm in Israel with high winds and rain.  It seems that winter has finally arrived (very late and after a long drought) and did so almost over night.

Tuesday

Tuesday I woke up in Jerusalem and then got on a bus to Be’er Sheva. (I feel like I did something in the morning that I cannot currently remember.)  While waiting for the bus , I met some Israeli kids who started asking me about American movies.  It was pretty amusing.  After getting to Be’er Sheva, I met my friend Ella (from Denver and on the Overseas Program at BGU) and we caught up.  I went to a class with her on collective memory and then we went to dinner at a new shwarma/falafel place nearby.  After dinner, we went to a Chanukah Party held by the Overseas Student Program where we lit candles, sang songs, ate food, played dreidle, etc.  After the party I moved my bags into a room in the dorms that they had arranged for me and then went to meet Na’ama who was a counselor on my USY program when I was in Israel in 2005.  We had 5.5 years of catching up to do.

Wednesday

My 23rd Birthday!  It was a good one.  In the morning, I went and saw Ora, my Hebrew teacher from my time at BGU.  I then went to a class with Ella on Talmud stories in which we discussed Chanukah.  Then, we went to lunch at Lemongrass, a Kosher Chinese food restaurant on campus.  After lunch, I checked a few emails and then in the afternoon we explored the Old City of Be’er Sheva and went grocery shopping.  We made latkes (from scratch) and had them with animal shaped shnitzel for dinner.  It was not fancy, but was great fun – especially when this nice lady argued with the person at the checkout to give us a sale price on the shnitzel.  It was a good dinner next to the menorah for the last night of Chanukah.  After dinner, I walked to the BIG and ONE Plaza, malls in Be’er Sheva to explore and then came back to meet Ella.  We had pie and then went out to some of the pubs around campus for a little while.

Thursday

Thursday morning Ella and I went to the Beduin Shuk where we explored everything we didn’t need.  When she left for class, I walked over to the regular shuk and explored there as well as the Canyon HaNegev (The Negev Mall – Be’er Sheva’s big indoor mall).  I then met Ella for lunch and we got bagel toast.  After lunch, I explored the university – they made several changes.  I went back to the Old City and went to The Negev Museum, which I figured was about the desert.  Indeed, that was not the case.  Rather it was a small art museum, but the people were extraordinarilly nice.  I got frozen yogurt at Glida Be’er Sheva and headed back to the university.  I left Ella and went with Inbal, who was the dorms counselor when Iwas at Ben-Gurion.  She now works for Ayalim and I went with her as she showed a potential donor some of the villages in Be’er Sheva.  I saw areas of the city I never knew existed.  She then bought a sofa chair from some guy on the side of the street (pretty awesome) and we went to Ashalim, where she lives in a student village in the middle of the desert.  We made dinner, she showed me around, and I met some pretty cool people.

Friday

We woke up pretty early and explored a bit more.  Inbal then brought me to the bus station in Be’er Sheva and I fought the madness of tons of soldiers to force my way onto a bus to Jerusalem.  On the way back to Be’er Sheva, we passed several Beduin villages and I saw horses, camels, donkeys, and sheep.  Once in Jerusalem, I made my way to French Hill and the Romms where I relaxed, tried to catch up on email, and helped get ready for Shabbat (including making challah!).  We went to some great Kabbalat Shabbat services, came back to a good dinner, talked, and went to bed.

Saturday

We went to services in the morning and then returned to the apartment for lunch.  There is always so much food!  After lunch, we chatted, I read The Jerusalem Post, and took a nap.  When Shabbat was over, the computers came out for a bit and I tried to make some plans for Tel-Aviv.  We then picked up Dvora and Yair from his parents house.  I went along for the ride and had never realized how large Jerusalem really was.  My experiences seem to have always been limited to a few areas of the city.  When we got back, the table was set for a big dinner and apparently it was to celebrate my birthday all together!  They had even made a cake!  I was surprised and very happy.  We talked for a while and went to bed.

Winter Trip 2010: Post #3

I feel like I am settling in now to my trip.  It has now been one week since I arrived and I am enjoying myself.  I still find some of the uncertainties to be stressful, but I have been fortunate in that I have connected or reconnected with people who have certainly helped me out.

I was having a lot of trouble sleeping almost every night.  Last night, I finally slept well and hopefully that will continue from here on out.  I also had several days of bus troubles that I will share below.

I stood at The Heritage House, a Jewish youth hostel in the Old City (although, I was probably the youngest person there and several of the people had been there for months) Friday night and Saturday night.  It was a nice place, but loud at night (especially with the guy under me snoring extremely loudly.  Last night and tonight I am spending with the Romm’s in French Hill.  They are some of the nicest people I know and I have very lucky to have been invited to stay with them.

Tomorrow I head to Be’er Sheva.  I’ll be back in Jerusalem for Shabbat and then after Shabbat, I plan to head to Tel-Aviv for a few days until I fly to London.

Below is a summary of the past several days:

Friday

Friday I woke up at the Romm’s and was going to go to the Bible Lands Museum.  I was told to take a bus from a nearby stop, but the bus wasn’t available there so I asked around and found out from a nearby hotel that the bus didn’t come there so I would have to transfer buses.  I did not think I would have time to do so and visit the museum before heading back to get my bag and head to the hostel in the Old City for Jerusalem so I just went back to the Romms.  I thought I would leave and head to the Shuk before going to the hostel, but had to wait for the third bus (about an hour) because buses were full, did not stop, etc.

When I made it to the Old City, I checked into the hostel and got ready for Shabbat.  We lit Chanukah and Shabbat candles before heading to the Kotel (Western Wall) for Kabbalat Shabbat.  I prayed and danced (which was a lot of fun) there with a group from a yeshiva and a few soldiers.  Then I got set up for a dinner with a family in Mea Shearim (known as one of the most “traditional” super religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem.  I had dinner with a Breslav Hassidic family which was a lot of fun and quite the experience.

Saturday

I woke up later Saturday after having difficulty sleeping and went to the Kotel for a little bit.  I then got set up with a family for lunch.  We waited until it was time to go and then went to an apartment inside the Old City itself for lunch with a Rabbi and his family.  It was a good experience.  After lunch, I walked around the Jewish Quarter and the Kotel a bit before going back to The Heritage House for an early dinner and speaker.  We then lit Chanukah candles and I walked around the Jewish Quarter again to see all of the menorahs everywhere.  I also walked around Mamilla, a newly built upscale mall, right outside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City.  I met a guy from Brazil who joined me for the meals and we walked around together.  I also met people from Singapore, France, Argentina, England, etc.

Sunday

I got up super early (before 5:00 a.m.) and walked to the David Citadel Hotel to meet a tour group that I had signed up for to Beit She’an and the Golan Heights.  We got picked up late (typical Israeli) and taken to Tel-Aviv where we met another bus and our guide.  We went to Beit She’an a huge Roman city that had been excavated in Israel.  We then drove through the Galilee into the Golan Heights and went to an overlook of the Kineret (Sea of the Galilee).  Later we went to an overlook on a mountain of the Syrian, Lebanese, and Israeli borders and talked about the area, its history, and its importance.  We ate lunch there.  We then went to Katzrin where we walked around an excavated city from Talmudic periods which was followed by a drive around the modern city of Katzrin, when of course, our bus started problems.  We went to an olive oil factory (very popular in the Golan) and learned about the process of making olive oil and other fun things.  I finally made it back (via rented bus) to Jerusalem around 9:30 p.m. and stayed with the Romm’s.  A good, although long, day.

Today/Monday

I finally slept last night!  I got up later and went to the Bible Lands Museum where I saw archeological objects from 4400+ years ago and newer objects!  It was really cool.  I wasn’t there for a full two hours, but definitely worth it.  I went then to the Old City for a Free Tour that was three hours long and covered all four quarters: Armenian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian.  There was a lot I had not seen or learned about before (with a little repeat).  It was very good.  I also had my first frozen yogurt on this trip (frozen fruit with yogurt = tasty).  I then went to the Mahane Yehuda Market (shuk) and walked around and got shwarma for dinner (they also gave me a falafel).  I bought a pita with spices and pinapple and mint juice – an interesting mix that turned out to be very good.  After the Shuk, I went to the Fuschberg Center for Conservative Judaism where Rabbi Romm was teaching a class on Chanukah.  Now I am back at the Romms.  Another good day.

Winter Trip 2010: Post #1

I am currently sitting on a couch in an apartment in Jerusalem!  It’s been two years since I could say that.  I am very happy to be back.

I just got into Israel this afternoon (it is about 10:30 p.m. now.  Below is a basic outline of what’s happened so far:

  • I got to the St. Louis airport, later than planned of course, around 12:00 p.m. Monday.  I avoided the full body scanner and went through a metal detector while a Catholic Priest was being frisked in the line next to me.
  • I got into Philadelphia a bit early and did some last minute emails and phone calls.  In the middle of it, everyone in the gate area for the upcoming Israel flight was asked to leave so security could get it ready for the flight.  When I went back, they had put up a seperate wall.  We all had to go through a second line of bag screening and metal detectors to go to Israel.
  • My flight to Israel was long, but quite nice.  I sat by some interesting people, slept a bit, read, and watched two movies.  I was able to get Kosher meals, even though I had not requested them in advance.
  • I went through passport control, retrieved my bags from baggage claim, and tried to rent a cell phone.  Apparently you can no longer rent cell phones in Ben-Gurion Airport.  I wish I had known about that change in advance.
  • I took the train from the airport to Tel-Aviv Haganah train station.  In the station I tried to rent a phone, no luck.
  • I walked to the Tel-Aviv bus station down the street to catch a bus to Jerusalem.  I also tried to rent a phone there.  With no luck again, I bought a go phone.
  • I experienced the Tel-Aviv/Jerusalem evening traffic.
  • I went through the bus station in Jerusalem and got a bus to French Hill.  The bus was very busy.
  • In French Hill, I met the family I am spending the night with, had dinner, walked the dog, etc.

Tomorrow I plan to go to the newly renovated Israel Museum and who knows what else.  In the evening, I go to a wedding outside of Jerusalem and it is also the first night of Chanukah.  I’m excited!

Hopefully, I will be able to solidify more plans tomorrow.  I don’t know how often (or detailed) I will be writing, but there should be an update here in a few days or this weekend at the latest.

Eicha – Tisha B’Av

Tonight and tomorrow is Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.  It is a fast day, a day of mourning for the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem, the Bar Kochba revolt failing, the siege of Jerusalem, and more.

Two years ago when I was studying in Israel, I spent the eve of Tisha B’Av in Israel.  I went with a friend to Jerusalem and we visited the Kotel (Western Wall) before going to the City of David, the site of the original founding of Jerusalem by King David, to hear the Book of Lamentations, Megillat Eichah, read.  It was a deeply moving and spiritual experience.

Sitting on the ground by custom, thousands of Jews recited the Book of Lamentations in Jerusalem's Old City on Tisha B'Av to commemorate the destruction of the two Holy Temples in ancient Jerusalem, July 19, 2010. (Abir Sultan / Flash90 / JTA)

Tonight I went to Tisha B’Av services at my synagogue.  I was reflecting on the powerful and meaningful words and the thoughts shared by my rabbi.  I enjoyed thinking about some of the older members of my congregation and how they have shared with me as well as my friends and family.  I thought about how lucky I am not to be living through the horrors described by Jeremiah.

The short article below is from the JTA about Tisha B’Av and modern issues in Israel:

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis flocked to Jerusalem’s Old City to observe Tisha B’Av, the fast day that commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple.

A new poll released before Tisha B’Av showed that some 22 percent of Israelis would fast on the day and another 52 percent would refrain from going out with friends.

Israeli law requires that recreational spots be closed on Tisha B’Av; 18 percent of poll respondents called that “religious coercion.”

The Ynet-Gesher poll surveyed 505 Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Jewish tradition says that the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred; the poll asked which groups are the most hated in Israeli society. Fifty-four percent of respondents answered Arabs, 37 percent named the haredi Orthodox, 8 percent religious and 1 percent Tel Avivians.

Some 42 percent of respondents said they believed that the religious-secular issue is the worst source of tension in Israeli society, while 41 percent said it was the Jewish-Arab situation. Another 9 percent said the worst source of tension is between settlers and the rest of the country, while 8 percent said it was the tension between rich and poor.

“May it be Thy will that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days”.  Jews say this three times a day in prayers.  TIME offers some interesting thoughts on what it means with the modern State of Israel.

אני מתגעגע לישראל