30 September 2007

Vignettes from a Bus Ride

Today, I worked on my JTS class (yes, those HAVE started and I HAVE been doing work), by half-composing a paper and talking to the teacher on Skype. I'm having Lingo phone issues, but Skype is pretty cool.

Anyway, after Curriculum & Instruction Gone Wild (You Try It! OK, that's an Interlaken joke.), Allison and I went to downtown to chase some paper, snack and eventually join up with the Conservative Yeshiva (literally "to sit," a yeshiva is a traditional Jewish learning environment characterized by chevruta, or paired, study) kids. We were joining them on the bus to the house and sukkah of the Yeshiva Director (OK, I can't remember her title offhand.) and her family. The bus ride was looooong, considering we were going out to a suburb that could have been 20 minutes away. The 4:15 departure time wasn't, apparently, a hard 4:15, as we pulled out closer to 4:50. The driver wasn't, apparently, familiar with the city of Jerusalem, as he took us in a 30-minute circle to the Yeshiva before we went on a very roundabout route to the suburban home and sukkah. The sukkah meal was great, and Rafi and his roommate even joined in on the fun for part of the time.

In an effort to remind you, my dear readers, that Israel is a complex country, filled not just with Israeli dancing and falafel, but humorous ironies as well, I make sure to point out the varied hilarities I encounter in this fair land, such as Sara Beth = not religious, or Tel Aviv = Not Kosher (more on that in vignette #2 below), Allison and I noticed a few things during our bus ride, thanks to a little magazine called Time Out ISRAEL and a potentially loudly braying animal known as a donkey.

The gentle handler leads his donkey to SuperSol, a grocery store. In downtown Jerusalem, it is apparently not uncommon to be exposed to a biblical ass (heh)...

...although this one was not (ostensibly) preventing the cursing of the people Israel. (Parshat Chukat-Balak, Numbers 22-25...Oh, yeah, that's right. I AM a Torah Scholar.)

Vignette #1: I was just meeting Allison's Yeshiva friends, before we boarded the bus, when I pointed out the donkey found on every corner in Jerusalem. (No, seriously. OK, not seriously about donkeys on every corner. But there really was a donkey at Agron and King George, although at first glance, I thought it was once of those tiny ponies.) This donkey, allegedly, was being taken to Netanya. This did not stop the cops from questioning the boy with a stick who was leading the donkey down Agron Street. (Pictures courtesy of Allison B.)

Vignette #2: Time Out ISRAEL seems like it will be handy if we ever snag a current issue. We still read through it to see what restaurants and hot spots our fair city has to offer. The Jerusalem restaurant page was filled with KOSHER stamps after restaurant names. The Tel Aviv restaurant page had one on two full pages of restaurants (this does not include Ye Olde Neighborhood Falafel Shoppe). After I noticed that, I pointed out to Allison that all the ads for restaurants in Tel Aviv featured treif (nonkosher/deadly to SBB) food -- the delectable oyster, the pearly pink shrimp. What did I learn from Time Out ISRAEL? I must bring my Epi Pen to Tel Aviv!

In other news, people keep on telling me they're reading my beelog. I want to say hi to Michelle, and welcome the rest of you SBB-loving readers (who can blame you?) to leave comments saying hi! Let's have a contest...let's see who can leave me the funniest note. Just please sign your name or initials, so I can check you off on my naughty/nice lists.

29 September 2007

Chiloni in Dati Clothing

From the second I checked through security at JFK with a cadre of ultra-Orthodox Jews, easily identified by their white shirts, black suits and coats, and black hats, I realized how different this year in Israel was going to be for me. After years of being the most religious girl around…

Elementary school = The girl who misses school for Jewish holidays.
Middle school = The girl with 3 bar/bat mitzvahs per weekend.
High school = The “Orthodox girl” / USY nerd.
College = The girl who leads services / “This one time, at USY on Wheels camp.”
Penguin = The girl who worked part-time during the Jewish holidays (all of October) / The girl that nearly died from something non-Kosher.
JTS = Less religious than the rabbinical students, but dating one anyway.

…I was going to be seen as secular. Me? Secular? Who are we kidding?? Yes, I wear tank tops. Yes, I read Torah. But I READ TORAH, keep kosher (hot dairy, as per the Conservative movement) and I study to be a Jewish educator. I work very hard to bring Jewish experiences to learners of all ages. I identify almost exclusively in my Judaism. I study the Bible and Skills for Teaching. I am working on Israel education in the Diaspora. I am a Jew, and a supporter of the state of Israel.

This weekend, my roommate Allison (hello, loyal, Allison-related readers) and I spent Shabbat with my cousins (Dad’s first cousin and his wife, to be exact) in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof (literally, mountain view). While most of my (Masorti / Conservative) friends looked concerned, or outright expressed their concern that I had to take a trip to this exclusively religious neighborhood, I was excited. Not only are my cousins really nice, welcoming and fun, they always give me insight to my complicated family history, of which I only get a chunk from my dad, grandparents and uncles.

Yes, I will admit that putting on a long skirt and long sleeves, when it is easily 80 degrees Farenheit, desert-style, is very difficult for a girl from Florida. I will admit that I agonized over the shoes I wanted to wear (closed-toed are better for shul in Har Nof). I will admit that I worried about my elbows showing (no matter how much I joke, I care to be modest, whatever that means in the place I am staying). But as Allison and I made my way to Har Nof, I was happy, if not a little shvitzy (sweaty).

We went to shul with cousin David at a Breslov (branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism) synagogue across the street. Being in the Women’s Section, divided from the men by a mechitza (a separating barrier, in this case, made out of wood and with lace curtains at the top), we davened with the men. The women don’t lead the services, but at this shul, I was happy to hear that we were allowed to sing along. The service was lovely and not too crowded, and watching the men dance after services, peering through the lace curtain, I learned that Breslavers always dance in a circle after services. It was really cool…and so were the furry, round hats some of the men wore.

Dinner was with my cousins and their neighbors, and took place in the sukkah on the balcony of the apartment. It was really cool. The husband of the guests, a ba’al teshuvah (a term for somebody who “comes back” to religion, becoming more religious), quizzed Allison and me on our views as Conservative Jews in a slightly uncomfortable way. I explained my goals as a student, and was careful in my wording, as I respect his found happiness and meaning in Orthodoxy. Even with the slightly uncomfortable feeling of different views at the same table, there was plenty of singing and discussion of Torah and other important bodies of Jewish writings flowing around the table like the RC Cola with Cherry Heering (I FOUND IT, ZAYDE! Dad, tell Zayde!)…and the food was awesome!

After dinner, my cousins apologized for their guests making us uncomfortable. As I brushed this off, saying that I wasn’t really offended, I secretly added this to my arsenal of cool things about my cousins – they have such kavod (respect) for others, and didn’t want us to feel uncomfortable as guests. They are also from the Midwest, and with that comes not only a calm and collected way of interacting with poeple, but a background in the less-religious reality of growing up in a (more) secular town (than Jerusalem).

The rest of Shabbat was nice. I slept through services because of an early-morning stomach ache, only to enjoy a beautiful lunch in the sukkah. I read over a hundred pages in my book (currently, Kavalier and Clay), and concluded the Sabbath, and visit, with a special havdallah (separation ceremony between Shabbat and the week) in the Sukkah. Gloria and I talked about my whole family, from my grandparents all the way to my brothers and the minutiae of their daily lives in DC and FL. I learned a lot about my cousins, their children and their lives, and basked in the glow of the proud grandparents, checking out pictures of the grandkids, and enjoying the newest album of their latest Kohen (descended from the priestly tribe of Jews from the time of the Bible), who is just 1 month old.

While enjoying this weekend, it hit me again. Because of the way I dress (jeans and tank tops), the way that I choose to daven (egalitarian), and other lifestyle choices (like not getting married early), I am the secular other in the state of Israel. I may not feel secular, but in comparison to the religious right, I guess I am. I, Sara Beth B, little miss super-Jew of Coral Springs, Gainesville, even the Upper West Side, am a chiloni (secular Jew) in dati (religious) clothing.

28 September 2007

Oh, my Ghosh!

Today was Sukkot in Jerusalem. In the States, I spend two days celebrating the holiday parts (Chag) of Sukkot, but when you’re living in Israel, one of the perks is only one day of Chag, and more of Chol (regular day during the middle of a Chag).

I started off by attending a quick service and an equally lovely meal at the sukkah built by my friend Robbie (aka, Rafi's roommate). The food was ridiculously good and the people were fun. This morning, I attended services at Shira Chadasha (A New Song), a Torah-Egalitarian (They let women read Torah and lead many parts of the service. This is revolutionary for the Orthodox movement.) Modern Orthodox synagogue about 8 minutes from my apartment. I wanted to go to Shira Chadash because I knew I would be one of many women with a lulav and etrog, and I also knew that it would be a scene. Sure enough, I couldn’t shuffle a few feet in any direction without running into someone from Ramah Darom, someone from JTS, or someone from Cornerstone 2007! And that was just in the women’s section.

After shul, I made my way to the Rafi/Robbie apartment for another decadent meal in the sukkah. The only problem was the heat – I was so exhausted from being hot and sweaty that after lunch I passed out until the sun had set and the Chag part of Sukkot was over. I slept three hours of my afternoon away!

After a quick shower and a meeting of the minds at my apartment, Rafi suggested that we go to Abu Ghosh for dinner, because, hey, our friends have a car! For those of you who are worried (Mom), don’t be. Abu Ghosh is an Arab-Israeli Village outside of Jerusalem, but it is inside of Israel and the Green Line. The people in this city are Israeli citizens. They are “our brothers,” to quote our illustrious driver.

The only thing you may have to worry about in Abu Ghosh is overeating. We went to a restaurant and ordered a vegetarian selection of delicacies…hummus im tznubarim (Cheryl, I remembered!), olive oil so cloudy and so decadent that you could cure a new baseball glove with it, salatim (Israeli salads: babaghanoush, taboule, cucumber/tomato/parsley), falafel, cheeeeps (chips = French fries) and warm, sweet pita bread. I didn't NEED to top off my meal with thick, heavy coffee with cardamom…so I had only a little shot glass of it. The restaurant was filled with Israelis, and the Israelis were full.

After the meal, we did a quick drive around to see the famous Abu Ghosh church (couldn’t find it) and we ended up getting some ridiculous baklawa from a Arab-Israeli-New Jerseyan. We ate it back at Rafi’s, in the Sukkah, as we are commanded to dwell (ok, I may interpret “dwell” in this case solely as “eat”) in the Sukkah on Sukkot.

Shabbat Shalom!

25 September 2007

The Perfect...Pick Up Trip

The girls and I went today to the Sukkot Shuk (Feast of Tabernacles Market) outside of the regular shuk, Mahane Yehuda, to purchase lulav and etrog sets for ourselves, our friend Ita and my boyfriend Rafi.

Growing up, I loved Sukkot. I loved the one day, during Hebrew School, when we would all go to the Sukkah (temporary hut with palm fronds for a roof), cover it with our decorations -- paper chains, pictures of fruit, plastic fake fruit, streamers and glitter -- and then we'd have dinner there. Hot dogs, chips, and apples were always the menu. To this day, I have a love of hot dogs that stems from Sukkot at Temple Beth Am in Margate, FL. Until very recently, in fact, I associated hot dogs 100% with my childhood synagogue and would only eat them once a year, on Sukkot. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the reason I like glitter and art projects (like AEPhi's clue week) is because of the sukkot decorations. Wow, pretty much everything I do is 100% Jewy.

Anyway, I still love sukkot. Another tradition at my shul is that they would purchase about 8 sets of lulav (a bound palm frond with myrtle and willow branches) and etrog (a yellow citron with a special stem-like tip called a "pitom.") for the congregation to use during the holiday (there's a prescribed way to shake the lulav and etrog (really)). I never got my own set, never felt like I needed it. In NY, I did feel a little left out, but always managed to share with my friends. But when you live about 10 minutes from the sukkot shuk, you go to get your own set. Because we got 5 sets, we got a crazy deal: 5 sets for 400 sheqels, and a little extra for the carrying cases. $10 a person! (Kudos to Rachel, read her blog entry on the Sukkot shuk here.)

But buying your lulav in the Sukkot Shuk isn't like getting the pretty, complete set in NYC. Oh, no. You pick out your individual myrtle branches, your preferred willows, your perfect palm frond. You handle and sniff a table of etrogim (plural for etrog) until you find the right one. It's a lot like JDate for religious items...the dati men in the shuk (we were the only three women I saw in the place, and we were told not to try the most religious neighborhood because women aren't allowed in the store there.) were inspecting every single myrtle leaf. I guess the holiest of myrtle branches must be picked from the rough, but I was happy with anything that was cut from the tree. I'm not picky...a lulav, for example, is not as important as a backpack, or a boyfriend.

Welcome to the Sukkot Shuk!

Nice shot of a table of Etrogim.

Ita teaches Rachel and me how to tie our lulavim correctly. Thanks, Ita!

Speaking of picking out a boyfriend, I went to Tel Aviv today to pick myself up a boyfriend. There was quite a selection at the Arrivals entrance, but I found myself a nice rabbinical student. Not too tall, not too religious, not too secular, this one's got red hair, is ridiculously smart and has an amazing smile.

Rafi eats the Shwarma he promised to enjoy for a family friend, who loves Adir Falafel/Schwarma on Emek Refaim. Rafi says, "Hi, Art!"

And best of all, like the perfect lulav, he arrived just in time...and just for me.

(I know that was cheesy. Try to clean up your barf and let me be cutesy for once. I'll go back to being snarky soon. I promise.)

Ouch! That Hertzaliya!

Rachel and I finally (after 2 weeks in Israel, it seems like forever) made it to Tel Aviv to visit Shiran and her family! We met her after work in Givat Shmuel (just outside of TA, close to Bnei Brak and across the street from Bar Ilan Univeristy) to hang out, watch the incredible (Israelis are funny) American show "Jack V'Jill" (Jack and Jill), and eat an incredible Israeli dinner, courtesy of Shiran's mom. Her sister is just out of high school and working in a bakery, and it's fun to talk about American TV with her. Her dad is from South America, and we butcher English, Hebrew, Spanish and a little American Sign Language (ok, that was just me) together. He's a happy, communicating man, and a rocking good time. Shiran's mom doesn't like to speak English, but she gets everything I say in Hebrew and English.

They're like my Israeli host family. I feel at home with Shiran and her mishpacha.

After dinner, we went to Hertzeliya, a port city close to Tel Aviv, to walk on the boardwalk and just hang out. There was an incredible art show on display -- big, painted flowers (like the Chicago cows) that were all done by high school students at an area high school. We had fun taking pictures of the flowers. It was a lovely night!

Rach and I (after a hilarious mad car chase) caught the bus from Bnei Brak back to Jerusalem. The bus was GROSS -- it was dirty and smelly and the AC didn't work. Rach and I were also 2 of very few people not dressed "modestly" on the bus. I wonder if, sociologically, the buses that run from poorer neighborhood (BB) are not kept up as well? The bus from Jerusalem Central Bus Station to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station is always very nice, with a mix of dati (religious) and chiloni (secular), and it's clean. Maybe it was because it was 9:45 at night. Maybe I should be doing my thesis on the sociology of inter-city buses in Israel.

Gotta go -- we're buying Lulav and Etrog today for Sukkot (I'll explain on the next post) and then RAFI will be here! Wheeee!

I love my Shiran!

We make a great team! Rachel, Shiran and I enjoy Hertzeliya!

For a girl with wanderlust, the greatest fixture on the boardwalk -- where to go next?!

Political messages from high schoolers -- very cool.

Wishes for all of the fine things in life in Chamsas, hand charms that are meant to protect the wearer or bearer from the evil eye.

24 September 2007

Not Even Kidding...

"I don't have the time or the energy to make [stuff] like this up anymore."
--paraphrased from a Lewis Black standup routine.

True Story:

I went to Hebrew U today to try to pay my bill (I was thwarted. Fine, I'll keep my thousands of dollars.) and turn in my Health Insurance forms (that worked, phew.). I was also pleasantly surprised to see that they had my student ID ready for me.

The name on the ID? Sara Bet B*****. Ehh, how do you say...Sara Bet? As Lewis Black said it best, I don't have the time or the energy to make [stuff] like this up anymore.

I had my Financial Officer Lady Pal change my name in the computer to Sara Beth and to spell out my name in Hebrew correctly: 'שרה בת. Ah, the valuable chipchuck.

23 September 2007

Ha-Keter Ha-Kachol

Ha-Kater Ha-Kachol (The Crown of Blue)

OK, three quick things:

1. I will not be blogging like this when school starts.

2. I wanted you to see a picture of the Shanah Tovah Diet Coke (which, when you buy it in a six-pack, is called a shi-shi-ya.)

3. I got a Keter set of drawers and they are blue. It's not so exciting, except that I sat with them in a backseat of a tiny Israeli cab AFTER carrying them into a Castro (think Gap) to look at headbands.


Not Even Heavy Dew...

"It never rains at Interlaken, there's only heavy dew." - Little Howie W

When the director of Interlaken sent me an email before my summer in Wisconsin, I thought for a bit that he meant it really doesn't rain in Wisconsin. I thought, how nice, we don't have to do any rain plans for programs, and I don't have to pack my super-heavy boots. A few seconds later, reasonable thought set in, and I realized that heavy dew is the CIL euphemism for any sort of precipitation, from drizzle to hurricane.

In Israel, it just DOES NOT RAIN during the summer (very much like 2nd session at Interlaken, actually). In fact, there are prayers for rain that are included in Jewish liturgy during the winter, the only time that there is even a chance for so-called heavy dew. So, for the time being, I'm enjoying the weather, which is perfect. Every day.

Some of you know that I don't trust weather.com (this may be due to the stand-up comedy of Lewis Black), but sometimes, I just expect them to get it right, with a rather large margin of error (5 inches of snow and 3 feet are just not in the same ballpark). Even so, in the states, I check the weather all the time. In Israel, I've stopped my daily, obsessive, weather.com Jerusalem page visits, because I know it's a high of 80, and a low of 60.

But today, there are clouds outside of my window. I find this suspect. What is going on in the Holy Land? It's not supposed to rain until after Shemini Atzeret -- so I have like 10 days of rain-free weather. Or do I?

22 September 2007

Hungry and Tired in the Holy Land

I wish I could say that my Yom Kippur was extra meaningful, because I was in Israel. But in reality, I faced YK as I faced every other fast day. Overburdened with dread, oozing worry and twitching from Nalgene withdrawl, I took to Kehillat Kedem for Kol Nidre (YK Eve), morning and Neilah (the closing service).

The services were pretty good. My new ArtScroll? Filled with fun facts and Rashi (really famous Jewish commentary). My attempts at mostly-white outfits? Pretty successful. Waking up with a headache? Not a good start to a fast day. The fast ending at 630? Pretty fabulous.

Friday night was pretty good. Hot in the room where we had services (a ballet / gym / multipurpose area for a school on Emek Refaim), but cool outside. Roommates and I took to the streets after Kol Nidre, where there was a Simchat-Torah- (Jewish Mardi Gras-esque celebration of the Torah) in-New-York quality. Everyone was out, everyone was taking to everyone else. But, unlike NYC, where you are contained to sanctuaries and sidewalks, on Yom Kippur, Israel stops. The one police car out patrolling struggled to avoid the people who were filling Emek Refaim. Kids rode rampant on their bicycles on the one day a year when they're not going to get in trouble for it. They may, however, get hurt: approximately 200 bike accidents are reported every year when kids take over the streets on YK. No cars, except for the errant police cruiser, are on the streets. Even the most secular of Israelis sit and relax, and wear white next to their religious friends.

Saturday morning, I looked around services. Things aren't so bad from the back row of Kedem, because there is a ballet barre to hold up your droopy head. I knew some of the songs, and while I was too tired to sing along, I hummed and mouthed the words. Services weren't as long as they had been in NYC (still too long for my tastes without a sermon, but I'm a very straightforward kind of girl when there is no food in my belly), and I got to napping at approximately 2PM. Allison and I returned to shul at 550PM for the closing of services, and immediately proceeded to a lovely breakfast at soon-to-be-Rafi's apartment. Robbie's dairy fest was delightful!

Every year, at the end of the fast on YK, and at the end of the Passover seders, we sing the words "Next Year in Jerusalem." Now, last YK, I wasn't thinking I'd be in Israel. I figure next year I'll be back in NY, where I belong. But it was interesting to utter those words in a service, not really believing them the way I did when we said it on Passover.

I've added some feeds to the beelog, as you can see on the sidebar. The first is a link to my roommate Rachel's blog. For some Israel observations, I choose not to repeat myself. Rachel, in this case, speaks for me.

I also added links to Haaretz.com and Jpost.com, because if you're not getting enough news from me, you can see what's going on in my new town.

I leave with you a few pictures (for more, see my roommate Rachel's blog.)

Here is what the cable box fed into our TV just an hour before Yom Kippur:

Here is the Israeli cable channel wishing us an easy fast and an inscription in the Book of Life:

And, my pre-YK purchase: my delightful new backpack that holds my laptop!

20 September 2007

A Visit of Biblical...Proportions

Today we went to the Biblical Zoo. It's located near Malcha, a neighborhood I know because I spent a lovely Friday night at a house there in January. Getting there took forever, but when we arrived, the student rate (33 sheqels / $8.25) gave us admission to my favorite activity. No, not seeing wild animals. Hilarious pictures with SBB!

After the zoo, Rachel and I visited another mall, where I continued my search for the perfect backpack. I, once again, came up with nothing. We did find success in the mall, however, in the form of a chocolate croissant and Shoko Cham (hot chocolate). Also, we visited the grocery store, which of COURSE is located in the ground floor of the mall (where else would it be?), where I bought some Shanah Tovah Diet Coke for Allison and me. I also got "Gevinah Krem" which I hope translates literally to "cream cheese," otherwise there's going to be some gross stuff to put on bagels at break the fast on Saturday night.

Big and lazy...and there's a tortise in the picture, too!

Keeping cool with the lady on the ice cream truck!

Thinking about a Maplewood Elementary School Owl / Being Wise in Nivonim 2006 / Harry Potter's pet owl, Hedwig.

Time for a tangent. Shanah Tovah Diet Coke is one of the best things I've seen thus far in Israel. The spirit of the Jewish New Year (it started last week) is very similar to the Christmas spirit in the states. The Diet Coke labels are adorned with icons of metallic ribbons and shiny rimonim (pomagranates) and they visually sing out "Shanah Tovah!" (Happy New Year!) In stores -- from the hippie skirt store to the massive grocery store -- and in movie theaters, from OFFICE DEPOT to Burger King, from cabs rides to chats with the cell phone company, everyone wishes you "Shanah Tovah!" The holiday spirit is alive and well here in Ha'aretz! (The Land).

As I go into Yom Kippur, I know I should be looking forward to feeling holy and renewed for a year of life and happiness. But to be honest, as good as it's going to be, I am just really excited that after YK, Rafi will get to Israel. Yay!

This is what will be awaiting Rafi at the airport:

PS-This is me at the Palmach Museum, looking scandalous in my tube top!

19 September 2007

SB Plans and God Laughs

To quote the good old mothertongue, Yiddush:

א מענטש טראכט און גאט לאכט / A mentsh trakht un got lakht / People (men) plan and God laughs.*

*Translation courtesy of a Newton Center Rav.

So I worked out all of the kinks, and got to Israel, excited to start ulpan and go to Hebrew U and find a grammar tutor (ok, I wasn't so excited about that.). I couldn't wait to do all of the other fun things that a year in the Holy Land could bring me.

Then I had to petition my part-time status at Hebrew U. During the process I realized a few things:

1. Hebrew U (and by Hebrew U, I mean a variety of offices and officers, but most specifically, the NY recruiter who handled my case) never realized / communicated / completed the process necessary to make me part-time.
2. Hebrew U DOES have ulpan-style classes through the school year. (NY recruiter told me to go to an outside ulpan.)
3. Hebrew U MAY be able to tutor me in "Academic Hebrew Grammar and Rabbinical Text Analysis." (That was the best working title we could come up with after looking at my handouts from JTS. The best I could come up with on my own was "Ick.")
4. Israelis, including the finest academics in the country of Israel, home of the native Hebrew speaker and the Hebrew academics, thinks that JTS's Hebrew program is (wait for it...it's a shocker...) a little ridiculous, difficult and not useful at all. (There's a song called Vindicated. That is what I am.)

So, long story short: I was vindicated by a professional who deals in actual Hebrew language instruction, signed up for Ramah Aleph graduate Hebrew classes, and changed my enrollment to Full-Time. That's right, SBB is a full-time student at Hebrew U! I'm going to drop my ulpan enrollment and spend more time at Hebrew U up on yofi-tofi (pretty-mitty) Mount Scopus. Yes, I'm pissed that I was pretty much misguided up the wazoo about my time at Hebrew U, but it's ok, because I'm a Rothberg girl now!

Also, today, I ran into Jordana, one of my closest friends from USY on Wheels Bus D 1997. We may have lost touch after Wheels, but running into her not once, not twice, but three times today in Jerusalem, the city she now permanently calls home, was awesome! I also saw "Roach," one of Rafi's campers from Darom, Baylene, and old friend of mine from USY and Pilgrimage Group 7 '99, and hung out with my friend / Rafi's roommate-to-be Robbie.

Things are slowly and falling into place, although it's not how I thought it would be. Rafi will get here soon. This is good because now that I have a cell phone, I have been spending harbeh dolarim (many dollars) calling his NY number. We're also almost set with planning a trip to Egypt and Jordan, and I am researching where else I will wander from my starting post in the Middle East.

Yom Kippur is rapidly approaching...tomorrow I hope I get to the shuk to see kapara (a different way of getting rid of your sins.) and the girls and I are hoping we get to the Biblical Zoo, too. Jerusalem is FUN!

18 September 2007

I Wanna Tel You Something...

Today, the girls and I went to Tel Aviv. We didn't take a lot of pictures (any), but we had a great time. I introduced them to the store that my friend Shiran showed me in January, we visited the craft fair at Nachalat Binyamin, and delighted in the Palmach museum. The museum was intense and fabulous, a wonderful experiential education experience. If you're in Tel Aviv, make the call and reserve a spot on the guided experience! You'll love it!

Other highlights of Tel Aviv: shoe shopping (And not buying anything! I know my parents don't believe me, but it's true.), feeling comfortable in a tube top (I ditched the bikini idea for something MORE revealing!), getting fisherman pants (and figuring their name because I deciphered the Hebrew tag on their shelf.) and having dinner with my Sackler School of Medicine friends in Ramat Aviv!

Tomorrow I go back into the land of red tape -- except this time, I'm taking my figurative, ceremonial, ribbon-cutting shears. I say figurative, of course, because I have to get checked by no fewer than 3 Bitachon (security) people, walk through a metal detector, flash my student visa and passport, and, of course, announce once again that "No, I am not carrying a gun."

In other news: This link makes me slightly homesick for my old apartment.

17 September 2007

The Art(Scroll) of Complaining

Cellcom Shalom! Ladies and gentlemen, I have a cellphone! If you would like to talk, please ask politely via email for my number. This proves, by the way, my theory that complaining is an Art.

Other things I would like to complain about:

Firstly, my dad wrote that he hopes it is easier to maneuver academically in Israel than it has been to get a phone. Of course, when I go to Hebrew U they don't have my a TON of stuff that they need from me. Thanks, Dad, for jinxing me. Updates on my successes (no failures allowed!) at Hebrew U will come soon, I hope.

Secondly, my Hebrew rant of the decade: Thanks to a marvelous education in the ways of Sh'vaim Na'aim, Dagesh Chazak and the binyanim of the Hebrew verb (These are all nitpicky grammar terms that are not entirely necessary in life. Israelis hear what I know and say, "Why are you learning this, it's stupid." I see what I know and cry a little inside.), I am not really equipped to enter an ulpan (Hebrew language intensive) level higher than Aleph. Aleph, for those of us unfamiliar with the Hebrew alphabet/number system, is the lowest level possible. That's right, I am barely fit to study Hebrew with those who have NEVER SEEN IT IN THEIR LIVES.

So I visited ulpan today, and attempted to negotiate my options: do I sign up for a morning ulpan with the kindergarten-level people, or do I attempt to struggle my way into Hebrew lessons with the slightly more advanced Aleph-plus group? The jury's still out. Once I bust through the red tape and attend classes as a student at Hebrew U, will my classes be in the morning or in the afternoon?

Finally, I would just like to put it out there that I wished the Conservative movement (I am, after all, picked on as a Conservative expert.) would put out ArtScroll-esque commentary Machzorim. Siddurim, too. That's right. I caved. In an effort to apply spiritual salve to my I-just-wanna-learn-but-nobody-seems-to-be-able-to-teach-me wounds, I purchased a few books today. Two of them (please don't judge me, my cherished Rabbi and Erev-Ravs from Newton Center) were ArtScroll machzorim (prayer books for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). I also bought a small, Would-You-Rather-sized book of Hebrew conversational terms and a Ramah Aleph (Level 1) Hebrew textbook.

Why, you may ask, did I go for ArtScroll, when I have a perfectly good Birnbaum and a passable purple-paged Conservative book? Well, I'll tell you.

1. ArtScroll is filling a market that has yet to be tackled completely by the Conservative movement. Gay ordination was approved, kids, so let's get to reaching your congregants. Go ahead, reach me. I dare you.

2. ArtScroll has interpretations. They may not mesh with my theology, but that's flexible AND I'm smart enough to make my own decisions. Besides, after studying theology, I am always looking for more answers to reject.

3. ArtScroll has translations. They aren't filled with thee/thou and they aren't poetic responsive readings when the Hebrew isn't poetic or responsivle. They're just s'tam (plain) translations. And, as we have seen from above, I don't know Hebrew. So I need translations. If I want poetry, I'll struggle to translate the Hebrew (On the bright side, this will take me all of Yom Kippur, and then I wouldn't know that I'm fasting.).

4. My disagreements with ArtScroll commentary keep me entertained and mentally stimulated during long piyyutim and hot minyanim. I love few things more than a good argument, even when that argument is in my head. (This may or may not be a continuation of #2.)

5. Gillman made me get an ArtScroll siddur for theology class. We never used it, but if Gillman made me get it, it can't be THAT bad.

To compensate for my purchase of the ArtScrolls, I will be found tomorrow roaming Tel Aviv, in a bikini, tank top, and shpants. I will also continue to daven on Shabbat and weekdays with my Sim Shalom siddur, which I love. This siddur, by the way, is covered with drawings and stickers up the wazoo. Take that, ArtScroll!

16 September 2007

SB [can't] Phone Home

A small rant, in roll call format:

Her name is SB,
She's in the Moshava Germanit,
To get a cell phone,
Apparently, it is a feat.


Her name is SB,
It frustrates her,
She ordered her phone,
For the 10th of September.


Her name's SB,
She's all alone,
Can't call her boyfriend,
On the cell phone.


Her name's SB,
Chag for 3 days,
Rosh Hashanah, then Shabbat,
Means no cell phone plays.


Her name's SB,
She's kind of pissed,
Maybe the phone delivery,
She just missed?


What Israel Phones should send in addition to my cell phone (Picture taken on Dec 28th, when I received flowers and was talking on my IsraelPhones cell phone that incidentially was delivered when it was supposed to be):

(Thank you to Rafi and Rachel for making this picture possible.)

What I'll settle for at this point:

15 September 2007

Take Me To Your Leader...

So, I just completed my first Rosh Hashanah in Israel. Thanks to my roommate Rachel , I was booked for lunch and dinner for the two days of RH and the immediately following Shabbat.

We had meals with JTS students and AJU students (that's the Conservative Rabbinical school in California), Brandeis grads and Tel Aviv med students, newlyweds and parents-to-be.

We davened (prayed) at a variety of places around Jerusalem. The first night, we went to the traditional egalitarian minyan in Jerusalem that is similar to Manhattan's Hadar. The following morning, Allison (other roommate, remember?) and I intended to daven at the Leader minyan. The Leader (name of the founding family) minyan, is a place for some serious spiritual prayer. Singing and dancing can take a service and expand it joyfully to two, three times its original length. (That's what she said.) Anywho, Allison and I got the address, found it on our map of Jerusalem, and set out to 27 Ben Zakkai Street, just a short(ish) walk from our apartment.

We walked to 27 Ben Zakkai, and heard singing, so we walked into the first building we saw. We went upstairs, and enjoyed an interesting prayer experience. It was, however, quick, and not so full of singing. The surroundings were cool: blue ceiling, comfortable women's balcony seating, neon Jewish star above the ark (no, really), and lit displays of the Torah blessings on the Torah table. We were pretty sure we were in the wrong place, except how COULD we be? We had walked to the right address, and followed the voices. We stayed through the end of services and got back to our apartment at 11:30. The Leader minyan, we had been told, got out at 2PM at the earliest.

Our service riddle was solved at dinner, when Rafi's roommate pointed out that the Leader minyan was in the building off of the small walkway BEFORE the Sephardic shul we had actually attended. Problem solved, Allison and I went to the minyan on Friday morning. It was long and spiritual, but we were hot and tired. When the Amidah (personal prayers, pretty early in the service) ended, I could hear, through the outside window, the shofar (ram's horn) blow coming from the shul from the day before. Their services were over. Leader minyan transitioned soon after to the Torah service, and then they had a kiddush. Allison and I enjoyed the kiddush but left before the Torah service ended, because it was getting late. Leader minyan was great. I have a feeling I'll like it even more on a few more hours sleep and when it's cooler out.

Today, Allison and I went to the DiscKotel to daven before meeting Rachel and our friend Ethan outside of the Jaffa gate. We had a lovely date to walk to French Hill. Our friends Eytan and Rebecca live up there (past Hebrew U) and they had invited us for Shabbat lunch. The walk took 1 hour and 45 minutes. It was 80 degrees, and I very quickly removed the skirt I wore over my leggings so that my outfit was passably Shabbat-appropriate and wall-acceptable. I ended up spending most of the day in black leggings and a black shirt. I looked like Sandy at the end of Grease! Anyway, we had a great time with the crew at their house, and closed Shabbat with Havdallah and watching the boys move furniture around the apartment.

So, Rosh Hashanah was terrific. I got to wear the usual skirts and shirts I wear at home on regular Shabbats (no suits!) and I got to eat a lot of great food, and walk it all off when I roamed up and down the unmarked streets and intersections. Other highlights included french-toasted honey cake, the new and old friends in Jerusalem, and the life and spirit of Israel during the high holidays.

Finally, I learned that I will never, ever, be walking to and from class at Hebrew U.

More later! G'mar Tov!

12 September 2007

Lucky Number 17

Now that I’ve arrived in Jerusalem and am living in my huge apartment, I find myself in a rush to get acclimated. I also am not on editor mode, and I am putting way too much detail in my postings. Enjoy. It’s good for you.

I took a Sherut (shared taxi/van) to my apartment with my massive amount of luggage, struggling to give directions in Hebrew to the driver. A pal I met on the sherut helped me guide the driver to my driveway. Thank goodness for the handful of Hebrew word I do know, as I requested “Sha’ar Kachol” (blue gate), since, of course, my apartment, #21, is not actually at #21. It’s a few doors down, and back from the street. And up a flight of stairs.

Rachel, roommate extraordinaire, helped me drag my fat bags up to the first floor of our apartment. I unpacked them bit by bit so as not to carry the fat bags upstairs. Upon opening my bags, I realized that my joke to the primary security guard at El-Al check-in was actually true. My bags turned out to, indeed, contain mostly shoes. Seventeen pairs, to be exact. I have a problem, clearly, but having a choice of footwear is not the problem.

Rachel and I went out after I arrived, to a great bookstore with a huge selection. She exchanged her Sephardic (Spanish) Machzor (High Holiday prayer book) set for the Ashkenazic (northern Europe) version (they are different in terms of liturgy and tunes), and off we went in search of apartment-things. This led us to Burgers Bar with Allison, other roommate extraordinaire, to consume mass quantities of burgers with pesto on them as a dressing. This may or may not be a sign of a much more advanced civilization than I’m used to in the States. I haven’t fully decided.

Allison and I parted with Rachel and we went shopping at a grocery store and a home goods store in a mall. Israeli check-out counters can be interesting, because those rolling countertops that make checking out at a store easier can be covered in the last-minute discards of customers, and so can the spaces in front of registers without rolling countertops. The cabbie on our ride back spoke no English and was endlessly confused by my telegraphic Hebrew, as I sound like a toddler: “Me home.” “Left Road Ruth.” “Blue gate!” I’m surprised I don’t just say “Wa-wa” and “’Ghetti” and expect a dinner that includes pasta, sauce, and a nice glass of cold ice water. Ulpan starts in a few weeks -- it's a good thing!

On Tuesday, September 11th, I learned more about our neighborhood, walking to our friend’s new apartment, and visiting the local hardware store. Mindful of the historical day, it was not really part of the daily life in Israel, and we went on with our lives. Rachel and I went to Mahane Yehuda, the shuk (huge, open-air market) to get Marzipan, which is a rugelach brand, and is not made of almond paste. This is good because almond paste is gross. We also got challah (5 different loaves; 2 are round and 3 are braided) for Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat, candy, some apples and a pomegranate. Our neighbors on the other side of our walkway have a pomegranate tree, but we haven’t been invited to take their fruit, so we got our own. A pomegranate tree in my front walkway, kids! How cool is THAT?! Eat your heart out, backyard citrus trees of Coral Springs, FL!

Other highlights of the day include ordering in Hebrew off of a café menu (at a kosher restaurant, faulty ordering will NEVER produce allergy-inducing shellfish, so my epi-pen sits idle in my apartment.), Allison’s building of furniture for her room, dinner at kosher Sbarro’s (where you find girls with their knees showing eating next to men with payot (men’s side-curls that aren’t cut for religious reasons)). We got some art to hang in the apartment and bathroom decorations. Rachel and I share the upstairs bathroom, and our new rainbow of fish shower curtain, orange soap dispenser and orange pom-pom bath mat are really cute. It sounds cheesy, but look at how cute the picture is (coming soon)!

It’s time to celebrate some Jewish Holidays! Rosh Hashanah (the head of the year) starts tonight, runs for two days, and ends with Shabbat. Three days of chaggim (holidays)! Before I even got to Israel, Rachel planned all three days out, and we are going to services at the local Conservative-esque minyan (minyan means quorum for praying. This one is like Hadar without English), a rocking spiritual and song-filled minyan that starts much to early, potentially the Kotel (Western Wall) and hopefully the beautiful singing minyan at Kol HaNeshama. We are having a dinner here tonight, and lunch on Friday, and are eating at friends’ apartments all over Jerusalem. Lots of walking is in our future, but luckily, I have plenty of shoes to choose from.

L’shanah tovah tikateivu u’metukah – have a happy and sweet new year, and may you be inscribed in the book of life. I’m off to cut up the salad.

Much love from Jerusalem,

11 September 2007

Ohhh, Izmir!

I should've known why Izmir sounded vaguely familiar. Thanks to myjewishlearning.com's own Senior Editor, I have been reminded that it has a really old Jewish community. That also reminded me that I have an old friend (wheelnik/camper/whatever) who is living and working there this year.

10 September 2007

Way Up In The Sky...

As a new blogger and something of a narcissist, I just know that you’ve been waiting faithfully for my next bee-log post. I’m currently flying over, hmm, let me sound out the Hebrew on the map…it looks like we’re flying (bumpily, I might add) Iz-mir. I am not sure where this is, but from 37,000 feet (11,300 km) it seems to be filled with tiny pockets of air destined to make me irritated (or scared, not that I would admit it. Ever.). The English map translation informs me that we are flying over Turkey, maybe. Thanks, Bilingual Map System!

So I spent a lovely 5 hours at JFK (The CT-NY traffic did not live up to its reputation), checking in for my flight, passing through luggage security, paying for my fat bags (a small price to pay for my shoe selection), going through human and carry-on security and sitting around the terminal. My Zayde wanted me to buy Cherry Kijafa for our cousin in Jerusalem, so I searched the terminal’s disappointing duty-free where there was nary a bottle of the weird liquer to be found. I finally boarded the plane and we took off about an hour late.

El-Al has some plusses and minuses. Here is what I’ve found:

: Feeling awkward about being female when the dati (religious) boys ask you to switch seats. Feeling more awkward when you refuse to move. Asking constantly to get an English translation from everyone (this will become a pro when I learn to speak Hebrew and don’t have to ask anymore.). The really terrible movie selection.

Pro: All meals are kosher. Hummus is a standard side dish. When the dati boy gets a new seat leaving you with two whole seats to yourself. Learning the word for omelet (cha-vi-ta) from the very nice flight attendants who think I’m cute because I don’t know Hebrew yet. The radio selections are not half bad. Direct flight.

I was sitting in my two seats, shortly after takeoff and a fine meatball dinner (side of hummus and pita), reading a Thane Rosenbaum book my mom had signed for me back in the day. As I read the final vignette of Elijah Visible, I was tickled to discover that the bulk of the story takes place at JFK. In the El-Al terminal (#4). It was uncanny.

After EV, I took out a Cosmo for some light reading. A few of the boys that had asked me to move came and claimed his former seat for his travel suitcase. They were marveling over a CD Walkman and generally abusing the space they’d abandoned. A flight attendant told them to go away, which was nice, because I was about to tell them to go away and get an iPod (they do sell them in the in-flight magazine).

Holding the front of the magazine flat on the little table so as not to shock the dati folk with the “BLENDED ORGASMS! INSIDE!” headlines, I must have looked pretty sad, because a guy came over to me and asked if I wanted to play cards. A new friend! Looking about my dad’s age and of the more dati variety, I was shocked that he was going to sit in the seat next to me. Intrigued, I met my new friend Moshe, father of 5 and grandfather of 1, originally from Chicago. He taught me a card game, and over the game, he told me about his professional life and how he came to live in Israel, and I answered his questions about the Conservative movement (I am an expert?). Turns out, he thought I looked rejected and lonely, and told me not to feel badly that the religious boys wouldn’t sit next to me (I didn’t feel badly...I had two seats for the price of, well, two.).

When it was time for Shacharit (morning prayers), it was 2 AM in New York and 9 AM in Israel. Moshe went to daven (pray) and I attempted to sleep. I woke up with a bevy of people praying in the aisles by my seat. There was a tallit (prayer shawl) bag placed rather unceremoniously right next to my head, but I let it slide because one of the men praying blew the shofar (ram’s horn) to remind us that the New Year is coming this week. That was really awesome.

The plane ride ends with another 2 games with Moshe, a omelet breakfast, my rantings being input into a Word doc for later posting. I land in an hour, and I am torn between not wanting to move my luggage again and wanting to be in my apartment. I wonder what we’re going to eat for dinner?

When I post this, you will know that I am safe and happy in Jerusalem.

08 September 2007

Off to Israel!

As promised, I've decided to open a bee-log (blogs are too common) for my time in Israel. For now, it's simple and I'll probably develop an addiction to make my bee-log a happening place.

For the time being, this is what you get:

1. The Name: Sara Beth was taken. Therefore, I got SaraBethB.blogspot.com. I would like to remind some of my critics that this is because I am known by my full name, even if I won't be posting my last name on the bee-log.

2. The Title: I decided to title my bee-log "Ehh, How Do You Say...Sara Bet?" because in Hebrew, my name is confusing. There is no "th" sound in the Hebrew alphabet, and most Israelis, when they say my name, pause ("Ehh") and then ask how to pronounce Beth.
a. There is a grammatical operator known as the ChipChuk (please don't check my spelling on this one) that you put after the t-sounding letter to make a "th" sound. It fails miserably. Trust me, I've tried.
b. In addition, the Hebrew alphabet can be used for counting. Aleph is the 1st letter of the alphabet, and Bet is the 2nd. The second most common comment about my name is, "You are Sara Bet? The who is Sara Aleph?" Hahahaha, that's like asking me if my refrigerator is running. Never gets old.

3. Me: After my summer at camp, I am off to spend about 9 months in Israel. In America, JTS is teaching my Davidson classmates in person, a group of new kids are trying to be funny in Foundations, and New York City will survive without me. I want to be the best Jewish Educator I can be. So here I am...in Israel for 2007-2008.

My flight is at 7:55PM tomorrow from JFK. If I don't get bumped, I will be arriving at Ben-Gurion at 1:15PM.