28 October 2007

HeDegelim (The Flags)

I've been out of commission for a while...here's a post I started writing in a word document last Monday:

Today was my second day of school (Yes, I finally started Hebrew U and neglected to write about it.).

So far, my Hebrew class has been all sorts of easy (that’s what she said). Many of my classmates in Ramah Aleph (read: complete and utter unfamiliarity with the letters, sounds and language of Hebrew) are newbies that don’t even speak English, let alone Hebrew. My discomfort in getting around Jerusalem is lessened when I think of my classmates. Thanks, Schadenfreude!

My extremely limited vocabulary is proving useful, and by useful, I mean I’m bored to tears. Not really bored. More like insulted and angry, because I know that while this class is too easy, Ramah Bet (Level 2) would prove to challenging for me, because I don’t know how to talk. At all. (THANKS JTS / Hebrew High / Anybody else who wants their chip resting on my shoulder)

Today, one of the exercises we did fulfilled the following big ideas (thanks UBD):
1. Students will become familiar with their fellow classmates.
2. Students will be able to use these words in a sentence: דגל (degel/flag), של (shel/of).
3. Students will represent themselves in a unique way (though drawing/coloring).

In case you hadn’t caught on yet, here is the sequence of instruction for this segment of class today:
1. Introduction / Grabber – meet the new kids in class! (5 minutes)
2. Review of yesterday’s vocabulary (15 minutes)
a. Yayyin = wine, Matana = Gift, Degel = flag, etc....
b. Read dialogues on page 21 in groups of two or three.
c. Complete flag-identifying exercise on page 26.
3. Introduce new word (5 minutes)
a. Shel = of
b. Have students use the word in a sentence. (Zeh hadegel shel America / Ireland / etc. = this is the flag of America / Ireland / etc.)
4. Activity (10 minutes)
a. Distribute half-sheets of plain, white paper.
b. Distribute pastel crayons
c. Instruct students to draw their home country’s flag on the sheet of paper.
d. After 5 minutes of drawing time, collect flags and stand students in a circle. Have students identify the flags as they are held up by the instructor.
e. And so on and so forth.

I took a little license with my flag-drawing, because the red pastel crayon was very popular (There are some Chinese students in my class, and their entire flag, save the yellow stars, is red! Austria, Poland, France...lots of red in the flags, so I got creative.). My American flag had grey stars on a blue background and orange stripes. (If only I was not in Ramah Aleph, I could have said, “The University of Florida is in Gainesville, but the Gator Nation is Everywhere.” I could have even supplemented it with an orange flag with a blue Star of David in the middle, with a horizontal blue stripe on both the top and the bottom.)

We identified the flags – Korea, China, Austria (OK, I didn’t identify Austria. I suck at flag identification.). Then there was a flag that I for sure couldn’t place. And I wasn’t alone. Not a single classmate could identify the flag. The girl who drew it piped up, “Zeh ha-degel shel Palesteen.” (This is the flag of Palestine.) My heart caught in my throat, and I thought, disdainfully: “Why is there a Palestinian in my Hebrew class?”

I hated myself for thinking that. My father always jokes that I am an empty-headed Liberal, and I agree, at least, that I am liberal. I mull the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, and I imagine a two-state solution. But even with all of my education, with the liberal mind that comes from a TON of reading, I was still scared. And confused. And like an empty-headed conservative, I thought to myself: “There is NO Palestine.”

Please allow me to quote my boyfriend's pontifications on the subject: "Hebrew U is one of the few places where there is a real model for coexistance, with Israelis and Palestinians learning in the same classrooms and preparing their minds for the complexities of our very troubled world, and hopefully, learning techniques through which the very deep wounds can be healed." (Yes, this was transcribed word for word. Thanks, Raf, for speaking slowly.)

And the next day, I made a point. I made a point to talk with the girl from Palestine. Because, after all, I believe in coexistance and I believe in peace. And that peace is going to start with me, shoving the conservative biases out of my head, and connecting over what I know best: a really cute pair of shoes.

Miss me?

I know it's ridiculous to think that my sbbblog is a place where people can keep up with what I'm doing in Israel. I wonder how many people read it, I wonder if they're wondering about me, I wonder why they don't comment more.

So now, just in case there's anybody out there, I want to let you know that just because I haven't been writing, doesn't mean I am not ok. I am. Everybody else, also, is ok.

I have been building up stuff to write about, trust me. But time escapes me as, we all know, you can't write a blog if you don't have a life to blog about. Therefore, I am living that life. Well, I guess you could, but that would be entirely boring and stupid and that sort of blog gets deleted off of my google reader lickity split.

I have also been collecting a large vocabulary of Hebrew words most people don't learn until Ulpan level Vav (6).

20 October 2007

Being A Naughty, Naughty Girl

This past Friday, Allison and I decided, after lunch downtown, that we wanted to go into the Old City to wander.

Since I'm going to write about doing things that some could construe as dangerous, I am going to go all out. In this post, MOM, I will RIDE A PUBLIC BUS, visit the MUSLIM QUARTER of the Old City and walk out into EAST JERUSALEM.

OK, now that that is off my chest...

We took a tiny bus that is tiny so it can fit in between the walls of the Old City (the number 38). The bus's marquee declared proudly "The Jewish Quarter" in Hebrew, which I was able to translate. It was SO cool to turn into the Old City, and ride in this bus to the entrance to the Jewish Quarter inside the walls. These buses were probably created for the sole purpose of driving this route, as Allison and I sat with wonder, watching as the walls of the bus came within inches, on either side, of the city walls.

We found a Smart Car parked inside the walls, and took pictures because, in Israel or in Newton (where I saw one first), they're hilarious.
Let's giggle at the smart car!

After the Smart Car, Allison and I enjoyed the jewelery styles of Hadaya. I even found out that the grammatical error on the necklace I ordered in January can be fixed by Hadaya* himself (if I can get to the Old City early enough during the week). Fans of the Sh'vah Merachef (I'm not going to translate this, because I maintain that this grammar stuff is a waste of time) can rest easy, as Dar-Kay gets transformed to Dar-KHay.

*The best part of this link is the caveat by the picture of the dime.

Hadaya was fun, but then we decided to walk through the Cardo, to the entrance of the Shuk (marketplace) in the Old City. Eventually, my desire to find soda cans labeled in Arabic took us into the Muslim Quarter. Following strict instructions (from previous visits) not to use any Hebrew, Allison and I modified our chatting about her "chevruta" to "learning partner" and the "Conservative Yeshiva" to "the CY", although a little later, I joked that it's the "Conservative Sit" (Yeshiva comes from the Hebrew verg "to sit"). I mentioned the "Feast of Weeks" (Shavuot) and we generally passed, unperturbed, through the mazes of the different quarters.

Beautiful display of spices in the Muslim quarter.

After the explorations, we emerged from the Damascus Gate...and right into East Jerusalem. This is the Arab part of town. Keeping up our best tourist fronts (and my Southern accent), we simply passed through a courtyard, back into West Jerusalem, no harm, no foul.

Allison and I are right outside the Damascus Gate, and about to hurry our little tushes back to West Jerusalem.

The Old City, a view from the bottom of Yaffo Street, West Jerusalem, where it meets Kvish Echad (Highway One).

17 October 2007

The Real Israel With A Real Israeli

Yesterday, I had a chance to get out of the house and hang out with a real, live Israeli! Eliav is a friend of Rafi's, and he and I made a playdate so we could become friend independently of Raf.

Eliav was raised in a house speaking English with his parents, but was born and raised in Jerusalem. He served in the army and had plenty to show me around town, and is all about the experiential education. First, he took me to Pinati ("my corner"), which serves some serious hummus im basar (hummus with ground meat on top), amazing! He made me order, in Hebrew, and when we paid the bill, the guy at the register told me only to talk in Hebrew. He said he'd read my nameplate necklace (Hebrew first name: שרה/Sarah, contained in a little heart). I have to start matching my decorations to my talents. How about a hat that says "Snarky, Highly Literate English Speaker"? I'm still working out the details...

After lunch, we wandered to Ammunition Hill, a vital battleground from the 6-day war in 1967. This is the war where Israeli forces finally reclaimed the Western Wall, and united Eastern parts of Jerusalem with the rest of the city. It was amazing to be there with Eliav, who knows so much Jerusalem/Israel/Army history. He pointed out things in pictures that I would never have seen, and then we roamed the dug out trenches of the hill, until...

Ammunition Hill! I'm hiding in one of the trenches.

Eliav and I block the cool background of weaving, maze-like trenches.

SURPRISE! There was an army tekes (ceremony) going on at Ammunition Hill. Since this landmark is especially important for the paratroopers, this is where the paratrooper trainees, after 8 months of training, get their red paratrooper berets in a public ceremony at AH. This tekes didn't have a live band, but a DISC TEKESIM (CD for Tekes Ceremonies. Really.), and I started to understand the (Hebrew) song they played on repeat during the beret ceremony! Eliav and I stayed to check out the ceremony, and were delighted to run into his family, there to see his cousin get his red beret. A lovely coincidence, and I took some pictures of the set up.

Tekes Banner.

More Tekes Signage.

Soldiers, waiting to get their red, paratrooper berets. The song said, "Paratropper, you're always ready to go, to save the world." Or something like that.

I continue to be amazed at how young these soldiers look. I remember that the majority of the counselors I worked with this past summer, and summers past, are the same age as these kids, who wearing army greens, little red berets, and an automatic machine gun, slung over the shoulder.

On the way home, Eliav and I made a quick stop in Geula, which is the super-religious main drag just off of downtown Jerusalem. I was wearing a tank top and jeans. It was an experience where I was the ONLY person not only not in a skirt, but with not just my elbows, my shoulders uncovered as well. I like to refer to it as "tossing my goodies in Geula."

Group Separation Anxiety

Remember that time we graduated? (UF, 2004)

Each time I graduated, I left whatever school or group knowing that I would never see some percent of the people I was leaving. But it wasn't until USY that I really thought about what the groups I left behind would be like when I was gone. Would Margate USY be OK? Would there be leaders in my sub-region when I was out of college? The answers to both of these questions ended up being "Yes." I even went on to staff USY events and a summer program through my college graduation in 2004 to ensure my legacy.

When I graduated from UF (GO GATORS), I wasn't so concerned about leaving behind the sports teams (I just KNEW they'd be fabulous), or even the girls in the sorority. (Yeah, I know, I was in a sorority. Please don't stop reading. I did it for the food, the glitter, and a select group of people with whom I consumed the food and the glitter.) Years later, I still get informed (ahem, GGGGGGGGlittles) of who the new little ones are, and I will always have an unresolved urge to purchase stuffed giraffe regalia wherever I see it. But I know that the traditions and tachlis (practical details, work that has to get done) live on, just like I know somebody is distributing payroll perfectly well at Penguin, and just like I know that the newest FJC interns will think up some cool stuff for Cornerstone 2008.

Orange and Blue, Let's Go Gators!

GK 2002 + proof that this blog is 50% an excuse for me to post pictures of me dressed up like it's the 80s (or, if you look at the leggings and the miniskirt, like it's 2007).

But, when I left to come to Israel this year, I knew that I was leaving possibly the coolest class that JTS has ever seen. There was no completion ceremony, as I didn't graduate, and won't until 2009...godwillingly. I know that the school is fine without me for sure, but I still sit here, nostalgic for the cheese and bagels of Wednesday-morning mifgash (meeting).

So, last night, and over the past couple of weeks, when I was watching, oh, 6 episodes of WEEDS (amazing show), I received a variety of messages, mainly Facebook-style, from my classmates. I can't believe they're in midterms (and I can't believe I'm NOT). I can't believe that the Davidson Chevre goes on without me...not because I'm the greatest person ever, but because this group is one of best with which I've been lucky enough to associate.

I got to thinking about my classmates, and I'm thinking that I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for them. I hope that this year is a success, and that I can go back and provide a framework for future Davidson students to study in Israel for the year. Jewish Educators should be spending a semester or a year here, anyway, in preparation for their jobs in educating the Diaspora, post-masters.

I miss my classmates. But I know I'm doing something important here. So, I'll just say l'hitraot (see you later).

Shout out to my classmates! I miss you! This is from our visit last year to Robinson's Arch, sponsored by Uncle Bill.

PS -- Another sorority picture. I can't resist. Yeah, that is a crimped hairdo. This is just for you to enjoy. (GK 2003, minus Linds)

16 October 2007

Life of the Idle(ish)

I haven't written since post-Shabbat. It's been an interesting experience this week. My friends have headed off to Rabbinical School and Ulpan, and I sit, waiting somewhat patiently for my own semester at Hebrew U to start. I have gotten a lot of work done for my distance learning class for JTS, so that's a good thing. But as my friends sit in classrooms, discussing bride prices, and taking Hebrew exams, I feel a little lost. Good thing that I know it's only because I am not in school yet.

In a week, I am going to take back anything I said about missing school.

What has been going on, other than my obsession with downloading American TV and creative recookings of leftover Shabbat meal parts? Well, I had Burgers Bar with Anya, which was fun. First, it's always great to see Anya. Secondly, whenever I'm at the Burgers Bar on Emek, I see friends! Anya's staffing a gap-year program, so it was intesting to hear about her schedule and her life, living in a hotel with a small horde of 18-year-olds.

Yesterday, I had coffee (well, orange juice) with an FJC friend who works at the Jewish Agency. It was very intersting to hear what is going on with the 2nd-year Shlichim (Israeli delegates to summer camps) program, and I am looking forward to working with the returning shlichim, before they go back, in Israel this year. Bouncing names and ideas around was fun, and gave me a few more ideas that I can incorporate into my thesis.

By the way, if you are an American living in Israel, reading my sbbblog, and interested in working with 2nd-year returning shlichim, let's talk.

Now I'm off to Hebrew U, where I can hopefully find more information for my thesis in one of the many libraries they cleverly have spread out all over campus.

12 October 2007

There's Gonna Be A Floody, Floody

Shabbat Parashat Noach (Torah Portion about Noah and the Great Flood) Report:

It seems we are incapable of hosting a meal for fewer than 12 people, and Friday night was a dairy-filled celebration of Noah and his ark. Rachel just wrote about the themed dishes created in honor of this week's torah portion, Noa(c)h.

There was a rainbow salad, with red peppers, carrots, yellow peppers, avocado, pomagranate seeds and raisins.

There was also a Noah's ark, constructed out of biscuit cookies, on a base of blue-pudding water, and surrounded by pairs of gummy animals (in Israel, gummies are KOSHER!). The ark had a rainbow of M&Ms on top.

Other bits of the meal included the delightful pairing of cheese and veggies, floating in a sea of red sauce on little pasta-sheets of ark, otherwise known as a veggie lasagna. There was another fine pairing of sweet potato and spices. Challah and fruit salad, wine and water, old friends and new, completed the meal.

And just when you were sure that you were totally full from reading this? Dairy dessert extravaganza at Rafi's apartment for his post-birthday party (someone seems to be celebrating himself for days at a time...it's almost like I've influenced him a little too much.). Many people stopped by, and the cakes and trifles were really spectacular.

The weather is getting cooler, and I very much appreciate it. Here I am, sitting on my couch, in the great city of Jerusalem. I'm sure that some day soon, it will start raining, but before the "floody floody" it's certainly delightful to be in Jerusalem in the fall.

11 October 2007

I want COFFEE...and so on and so forth.

Rafi's birthday has been good for him, but there’s some stuff about Israel is getting to me. I will elaborate.

So, two days ago, I went back to Hebrew U to pay my bill, and I was fuming. I had logged in to see that they had added on a daily charge of $25 for no reason. I was ready to fight -- but my friend from Finance logged into the screen with my name on it (it was very bizarro-HR for me to be on the other side of the paycheck, or in this case, bill review.), looked quizzically at the screen, said, "No, that's not right," and deleted the charges without a peep from little-miss-almost-a-lawyer. I was ready to fight, but Finance Friend took care of it, without a PEEP from me. A miracle! The first non-frustrating interaction with Hebrew U to date!

On the way back, I went to Aroma (like Starbucks) to pick up coffee-oid drinks for Rafi and me. This time, I got one frappachino-thing, the Ice Aroma, and, after some coaching from Rafi, I even ordered a Caffe Kar Im Kerach, Im Sucar v' Chalav. (Iced coffee WITH ICE, with sugar and milk.) For the love of all that is holy, I just wanted to get coffee with ice in it. I really don't understand what Aroma's problem is. The girl at the counter was like, "so you want cappuchino?" She even had another customer translate her Hebrew (which I, for once, understood) and I was like, "I want COFFEE with pieces of ICE floating in it." She looked at me like I was crazy, and then had apparently hilarious conversations with other Aroma-workers about the crazy order with the coffee and the ice without coming from a blender, and WITH cubes!?! I don't really know why this was so funny...I am trying to think of a scene from a movie or TV that would accurately depict the scene, but I am coming up dry. (Brother Mark, any thoughts? Arrested Development, maybe?) They should spend a day on any street in NYC and THEN try to get one of their precious blended drinks from the guy in the little silvery booth, and then come back and make fun of my order. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

Later that day, I went to dinner with a friend from UF, who confirmed for me that I am, indeed, just like my younger brother Mark. It was great to catch up with him, to know I had another ally in Gator-game watching (Many of my Jerusalem Gators are named David, apparently), and to gorge on Burgers Bar. You can't get an order wrong at Burgers Bar, thankfully.

Irritating news continues with the story of today, aka, the world’s most frustrating day EVER. While Rafi was “celebrating” his birthday by traveling in the north of Israel with his rabbinical school classmates, Allison and I had some work to get done for our JTS Distance learning class, so we went to Hebrew U today with Robbie, Rafi’s roommate and my friend.

At school, I filled out the rest of my MASA grant information, which went well, and then everything else was sooo annoying. First, they didn’t have my insurance card yet. Not so annoying, except they said it’d be there for me on the 10th. It’s the 11th. Secondly, the printing in the computer lab was 100 times (literally) more than I thought it would be (0.20 agarot and 20 agarot? Totally separate things.*), and just as irritating. One printer with a hole for one printer card at a time? And it jams? Oh, for the love of God.
*Agarot (singular = agarah) : sheqels :: pennies : dollars. If you divide the shequel by 100, there are 100 agarot. A sheqel is approximately 25 cents, so an agara is approximately 0.25 cents. 20 agarot = 5 cents per page. 0.20 agarot = 0.05 cents per page. That amounts to a big difference when you are printing out an entire textbook.

I could rant about my JTS class, but that is not in the spirit of my ranting about Hebrew U. In this particular case, the printing for my JTS class and everything else from Hebrew U will be considered separate but equal.

By the way, did you know that Hebrew U is like THE most sponsored school I’ve ever been to? Sure, at UF we had the Marsden science library, and dorms named after people like Sledd, Murphree and Jennings, but at Hebrew U, everything is sponsored by friends of Hebrew U from Tarrytown, NY to Mexico to Australia (there is a whole center just called Australia, actually. Still can’t figure out why the country wanted to name a Hebrew U computer lab after itself, but whatever.). There is, actually, a hallway sponsored by some people from Tarrytown, shown here.
A HALLWAY? I have a better idea…How about, the charitable Cohens from Kansas City, Missouri, or the giving Goldsteins from Genoa, Italy, sponsor free printing at Hebrew U? Maybe just in the Rothberg school? Remove the hassle for the students? No? Yeah, you’re right…then it wouldn’t be Hebrew U.

This makes me miss JTS and its free, double-sided printing in the computer lab. Also, at JTS, they speak English. I cannot believe I am enrolled full time in more than one graduate school this year. I am nutso.

After the printing fiasco, and its accompanying trips to amazon.germany and amazon.uk, and a little lesson about her royal highness’s royal mail strike, we ended up getting stuff printed, front-and-back, in triplicate, in the Hebrew U print shop. The technicians there smoke cigarettes CONSTANTLY around the equipment, by the way. It reminded me of heated (heh) fire-related arguments this past summer at CIL.

Good times. The smoking by the machines, in the indoors room, is gross, but hilarious, and only in Israel!

Robbie then escorted me to pick up a student card thingie, only to find that AFTER I waited for 10 minutes, I had to take my student ID to photocopy it in a machine downstairs. Guess where the neariest copy machine was located? That’s right, just BEHIND the guys at the desk. I made the copy, paid for it, and then waited on line for another 10 minutes. I was at the end of my string…

Allison and I finally left Hebrew U, and traveled to Yaffo Street so I could attempt to return a skirt that didn’t survive its first washing after purchase. Even though I hadn’t put it in the dryer, they wouldn’t exchange it, or give me a refund. And I thought I left the ridiculousness of my day when I left Hebrew U.

Goodness, Gracious! Great Gluttony in Gerusalem!

Ahh, October 10th. Erev Yom Rafi (The eve before Rafi’s birthday.) Allison and I woke early to take a trip to the Israel Museum…and we took the right bus, but in the wrong direction. The driver yelled at us to get off at the Malcha Mall, so we got off at the mall. We ended up running a bevy of errands and seeing a movie, “License to Wed,” of which my favorite part was the appearances from many of the cast of “The Office.”

After our day at the mall, we came home for a brief rest before the gluttony. Rafi had been planning to have a birthday dinner at Vaquiero, since, um, he got into Rabbinical school. Sadly, he had a full-day trip on the 11th, his actual birthday, so we decided to have the big meal-party the night before.

Vaquiero is a meat restaurant. And when I say meat, I mean MEAT. Vegetarians (Mel, sorry), avert your eyes...Vaquiero serves 10 courses of meat. TEN! ESER! DIEZ! [Insert fist with thumb pointing up, shaking left and right -- the ASL word for ten -- here.] I wasn’t so excited, because when I went in December, three of the courses were turkey, and I hate turkey. But, after inviting rabbinical students east and west, rounding up two only-Davidsons, and completing the 11-person meaty minyan + 1 with an Israeli, we sat down for a lovely meal together. This meal was better than the one we had for my birthday. Here is a list of the ten courses:

1. Chicken wings – I dedicate these wings to Rafi’s early childhood.
2. Empanadas – I dedicate these meat pies to Rafi’s extensive travel in Latin America. (JK, he’s never traveled to SA.)
3. Chorizo – I dedicate this sausage to Rafi’s awkward teenage years.
4. Veal Finger (I called it Kufta kabob!) – I dedicate this veal finger to something something (he made me stop the dedications.)
5. Corned beef.
6. Goose drumstick.
7. Entrecote.
8. Veal wrapped around cinnamon-spiced apricots.
9. Beef stew.
10. Something else that I can’t remember, as I seem to be in a meat-induced stupor, one day after.

There was also lots of salad, bread, and some really sexy potatoes, but we all psyched ourselves up to consume all of the meat with gusto. We did swimmingly, with everybody enjoying seconds of this meat and that meat. Some of us even enjoyed a warm chocolate cake after all of the food! I want to wish Rafi a happy 26th birthday, with many returns of the day. Thanks to everybody who joined us for dinner, and put out for the hefty price tag of a gluttonous meat meal.

Rafi and I smile because of all of the food. Note the shirt I am wearing. I always wear it the day Rafi wears his green polo. Because dressing alike, is, well, not my thing.

Robbie and Rachel didn’t do all-you-can-eat, but they still are totally fabulous!

Eliav and Jeremy are both smiling because Jeremy has REALLY fallen off of the vegetarian derech. Welcome to the club, Jeremy! This dinner is like going from being a teetotaler to doing kegstands before class.

Dan and I love Rafi and stuffing our faces!

Gideon is the champ of the meal, putting away the last little chunk of chorizo.

Allison, Ita and Gideon all smile wide for the terrific dinner.

Alon and Sarah sincerely enjoy their hot (and spicy) meals!

Rafi totally blows (out the sparkler). Happy birthday, Raf!

08 October 2007

Adventures in Literacy

I went to Hebrew U today, once again to bang my head against the walls and see what falls out of either the walls or my head. Today's adventure was a visit to the Library. After I got my "old-school driver's license-looking ID card" (that's a direct quote from my days of running orientation for Penguin) up and running in the library system, I battled with the computers to search the database for articles, books, or anything remotely related to my thesis topic, Israel Education in the Diaspora. The library wouldn't let me search in English all the time, I don't really know how to type anything useful in Hebrew, and the searching system isn't friendly when you switch to English format from Hebrew. Listings of, oh, the LOCATION of the book are LITERALLY covered up by translations. It took a whole lot of surfing to get some leads, but I wrote down about 9 books or journals to snag, and then I went looking.

I was thwarted on all accounts, only to be told, after a half hour of frustrated browsing, that the books I had written in my little notebook were in the Education library. Apparently, when the books are listed as "Education: 4th Floor" that means they're on the 4th floor of the Education library, which is in a different building, and is its own library, and of course, is a rather far walk from the main library.

I was frustrated, so I went and checked in on the status of my course signup stuff, and then went to the Academon (The School Bookstore). Ever-aware of my illiteracy, I purchased a few books to help me with my Hebrew:

The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Seuss (Shout out to Things 1, 2 and 4 -- My brothers!)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Hi to his Editor!)

AAAAAAAAAAand Where The Wild Things Are (Jerusalem, CLEARLY!)

I also got a dictionary called Rav Milon (the one recommended by every Hebrew/Ulpan teacher ever).

Photo credit: Amazon.com.

I even got a Yoman (day planner, pronounced Yom-man) that matches my backpack...Here's an upclose of the Yoman's cover. It's so cute!

See how it matches!?!

After forking over the (magnetic) cash for the new books and a Kif-Kef (it's an Israeli KitKat) bar, I ice skated my way (my shoes have no traction left, and everything in this city is made of smooth stone) to the Education library and found some of what I sought.

After Hebrew U, I finally got my Ulpan refund and an ice cream cone (Ice cream? Kif-Kef? Nice lunch, Sara Beth!) before going to a barbeque for Rafi, Rachel, and all the other rabbinical students in my life.

Time to practice my Hebrew reading...bye!

07 October 2007

When This Thing Hits 88 [Kilometers]PH...

...We're Going To See Some Serious [Stuff].

-Doc Brown, Back to the Future. Please pardon my Israeli/Youth-oriented editorial and censoring.

Somehow, Allison convinced me today to go on the Jerusalem Time Elevator. So, for just a little over $10, I took a journey through time. Complete with moving rows of seats, fiery photography and misty special effects, it was a rocking, rolling, jolting-at-points good time.

I'm not going to lie. I enjoyed the ride. But it is unclear as to whether I enjoyed the ride because of the history lesson, because it was kind of funny, or because it simply reminded me of a very old friend, who spent a fair amount of time as one of Doc Brown's Time Travel Technicians.

06 October 2007

Functional Literacy

As the majority of my friends head back to school tomorrow, I find myself still in a state of limbo. The Rabbinical Students begin their third year with a field trip to the Davidson Kotel (where, if you're in my program, the money from "Uncle Bill" pays "Uncle Bill"'s Israel bureau, so that you can daven at "Uncle Bill's Kotel" and take pictures that say "William Davidson."). I will probably sleep through their morning services, because, hey, Hebrew U doesn't start for like another week!

Currently, I'm feeling a functionally illiterate in Israel. As my friends are off to their place of higher learning (which, btw, is ALL in Hebrew), I sit at home, waiting patiently for my turn at being a student at Rothberg. I consistently score better than most at Scrabble, and I read so much as a child my friends from elementary school remind me of how I used to always read THROUGH lunch, only picking my face up from reading when there was an opportunity to talk about camp (true story). But all of this is/was in English. Hebrew eludes me...for now.

Until I start my classes, I continue to conduct myself through telegraphic conversations. I sincerely miss talking here the way I do in New York. Consider this vignette:

SBB in the States: Hello, cabbie. 63rd between Central Park West and Broadway. I would prefer it if you drove down Columbus from here, then merge into Broadway at 66th. At 64th, make a left, and then a right on CPW. My driveway is on 63rd, halfway down the block. You make a left and drive all the way through. That is my lobby. Thanks....Can I please get $7 back?

SBB in Israel: Shalom. Efshar l'Rechov HaTzfira. B'vakasha l'Rachel Immeinu, v'yemina l'rechov Ruth. S'mola l'HaTzfira. OK. Po. Lo, Sham. Sham. OK, Po. Todah.

Please to go to HaTzfira Street [At this point, I don't yet sound so stupid.] Please to Rachel Immeinu Street and right to Ruth Street. Left to HaTzfira. OK, here. No, there. There. OK, here. [At this point I give up and walk the rest of the way home.]

To be fair, most cabbies in NY understand my English even less than the taxi drivers in Israel understand my English. But as I embark on my (somewhat embarrasing) experiment of living in Israel, I'm annoyed that when I talk to cabbies, I cannot even give directions to the house where I live. And my accent? ForGET it. I have a knack for imitating patterns of speech to such a degree that I SOUND like I know what I'm saying, but the second the cabbie says, in Hebrew "So, do you want me to take this street or that street?" or "What is this lovely new bag that you are carrying? Did you buy it today?" I sit there like a slack-jawed yokel. Damn you, stupid accent-imitating talent.

I am really looking forward to the start of school. I need me some pretty basic Hebrew schools. Until then, I will haunt the hallowed halls of the Rothberg school and the Hebrew U library, reading what I can in English and signing up for classes.

Oh, and FYI -- Shabbat was nice. Really great meals and great hosts.

05 October 2007


Hoe-Shee-Aah-Nah is part of the Simchat Torah prayer/celebration singing.

While you Diaspora fools are nursing your Simchat Torah-related hangovers, here in Israel I have (part) of a day off between the end of Sukkot and Shabbat. What do I mean? Let me explain...

In the Diaspora, Jewish holidays are 2 days long. That means the chag/holiday parts at the beginning and end of long holidays like Sukkot are two days long, each. In Israel, chag is only one day long at either end. Annnd, when it's Sukkot, the closing Chag days of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are hybridized into one fun day.

Things for Simchat Torah in Israel are a little different than in the States. The getting-drunk-for-the-Torah parties aren't in huge abundance, but the getting-sweaty-while-dancing-and-singing services are in full force. My friend Shiran came to visit, and we all went to Shira Chadasha for the evening Hakafot (that means something like dancing in circles with the Torah). Shirah Chadash was NUTS! I saw everyone I've known, ever. Really. There was my Nivo '04 waterskiing camper, my Wheels Bus D '02 camper, my supervisor from Skills for Teaching and her daughter, a colleague from the Foundation for Jewish Camping. There was also the crowd of JTS and A-Jew (they go by "Ziegler" or "AJU") kids, of course. To round things out, I spent some time talking with my friend Jordana, with whom I went on USY on Wheels '97, and Baylene, from Pilgrimage 99, and pretty much everything from high school.

There were other people there I was excited to see, too. It felt like Simchat Torah on the Upper West Side, more than I'd expected. Next time, I'm getting my eyebrows waxed BEFORE the social scene, not after. I thought it was going to be (relatively) low-key.

After Hakafot, we had dinner at my apartment, which ended up including 12 people! Food was good, and we all had a good time. After dinner, a bunch of the guests stayed up until the wee hours, but I went to sleep. I figured I needed my strength for services the following morning, at Kedem. They were pretty fun and great.

Shiran, Allison and I hung out all afternoon, eating the (amazing) baked stuff from Shiran's sister's bakery job, and enjoying Nurit's visit, late in the afternoon. When the holiday ended at dark, Rafi and I went to a really cute restaurant, where I learned to stop ordering Israeli ravioli (Disappoint me once, shame on you. Disappoint me twice, Israeli ravioli, shame on me.). After dinner, we celebrated our friends housewarming (quite literally across the street), and went to be relatively early, considering the hard-partying nature of my friends.

Today, I prepared for Shabbat...partially by buying challot at the neighborhood amazing bakery, and partially by getting my eyebrows pruned. It was all-in-all an exciting start to Shabbat. And to think, I could have spent today in shul for Simchat Torah...instead of yesterday.

02 October 2007

Mixed Bag

Today was pretty uneventful, so I have a bunch of little things to write about that didn't fit into a day trip summation...

1. SuperSol Deal: Today we went to another supermarket in Jerusalem. Our friend Adam attempted to guide us through the supermarket, wising us up to the "secret" stash of nuts by the last register, and showing us which stuff we wanted to buy. Today was my first experience EVER buying chicken from a butcher counter at a grocery store. It was pretty intense...and I felt like a real, normal citizen. Also, I noticed that there were about 5 (yes, five) aisles, featuring Elite Chocolate (you remember this if I've ever given you poprox chocolate).

Things we purchased at SuperSol Deal include a sh'moniyah (that's an 8-pack of Diet Coke. We're moving on up.), schnitzel-grade chicken (proof that there is a God, if you can't find God at the Kotel), diet yogurt (in weird flavors like passionfruit), a wide variety of pretzel/cookie/snacky things, and tomatoes. Tomato-shopping, by the way, is INTENSE here. There was like 4 times the normal supermarket display of tomatoes, and people were sifting through them to find the PERFECT complement to their cucumbers for Israeli Salad.

2. My Dramatic Flair: Allison pointed out that I interrupted her reading of Frommer's to show her (and Rafi) the sign about the Dead Sea being the lowest point on Earth. She's not nearly as stupid as I made her look. But much like the work of James Frey, let's remember that it still made for a good read. (I'm a big fan of James Frey, so if my beelog isn't as accurate as you would like, well, you're just going to have to suck it up and deal.)

3. Lifeguards: The Dead Sea has lifeguards, even though it's virtually impossible to submerge your head in that buoyant, fabulous water. As an on-again, off-again Lifeguard (recertified this past summer), I know that you can drown in only 2 inches of water. I also know that I've never seen a lifeguard smoking on the job. That's right. The ultimate Israeli experience includes a dip in the Dead Sea, and being yelled at by a lifeguard who sports sunglasses, a megaphone, and a half-smoked cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth.
4. Lines: Are you all queued up? Ready to take your place in front of the register at Aroma? Well, don't let the 80-year-old grandma with the cart of vegetables stomp on your foot to get her Ice Aroma first. Israelis are p-u-s-h-y. Allison and I enjoy our fought-for coffees. (She had to stand up for her place in line because of a pushy Israeli. Really.)

5. Nokia: Cellcom, Shalom, indeed. Israel is a world leader in technology. They INVENTED everything electronic (sorry, Al Gore). OK, not everything, but a lot of stuff. So why is it that 98% of cellphones here are the Nokias so coveted by me, pre-cellphone, in the year 2000? (Conan shout-out) I MISS MY SAMSUNG. These non-flip-phones are soooo Sophomore year.

6. My Own Illiteracy: I was talking recently about how if I were in the states, I would NEVER eat this much bread. If only I knew how to order a salad with the toppings that I want, I wouldn't have to get a sandwich. I also would be interested in buying cream cheese, or arguing with a bus driver or a talking to a person on the street, but I just don't know enough Hebrew to do that. My conversational inclination lies fallow, except for when I'm with the crowd from NY.

7. Israeli Soldiers: When I was on USY Poland/Israel Pilgrimage, in 1999, Israeli soldiers were THE hotties. Everyone wanted to hook up with a soldier, and why not, if they were maybe a year or two older than us? Now that I'm 25, I see these soldiers and think, "Oh, s/he's just a child!" These tiny little kids are defending this tiny little country. It's really quite unbelievable. This child-soldier was napping, cradling his machine gun like a baby sleeps with a teddy bear, while waiting for his bus in the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, just before we went off to the Dead Sea.

That's all for now. I'm sure I'll do something exciting soon. For now, just my little ramblings.

The Lowest Point on Earth

At some point during my loooong, windy bus ride to the Sukkah in the Suburbs, I mentioned to Allison that I wanted to go to the Dead Sea. Like many of my last-minute plans, it went something like this:

SBB: Let's go to the Dead Sea.
Allison: Oooh, sure. When do you want to go?
SBB: Tomorrow.
Allison: Do you have a plan?
SBB: Um. Bus?

It worked like a charm...and we convinced Rafi to come with us! Earlyish in the morning we set off for the Central Bus Station, stopped at Aroma (it's like Starbucks here), grabbed some coffees, like this:

SBB: Can I have an Ice Cafe and an Ice Aroma? (I said this in Hebrew.)
[in my head, I thought I was ordering a coffee with ice in it and a frappachino-thing]
Aroma Girl: You want what and what?
[in her mind, ice cafe and ice Aroma are the same thing -- a frappachino-thing.]
SBB: Ice Aroma. Ice Cafe. Thanks.
Aroma Girl: OK, it's [insert Starbuck-like price] sheqels.
SBB: What the hell? Did I stutter? (That was to myself, and in English.)
Aroma Girl (brings back two identical cups of frappachino-thing): Here you go!
SBB: Which is ice cafe and which is ice Aroma? (I thought maybe one had fun flavoring in it.)
Aroma Girl: This is cafe, and this aroma. (She said this with a straight face. Somehow. Later on, during her lunch break, she regaled her friends about the stupid American who ordered the same thing with two separate names.)

Moral of the story? Next time, order cafe im kerach (coffee with ice). After this fun time at Aroma, we got on the bus to Ein Gedi / the Dead Sea. Funny exchange from the bus ride:

Allison, peeking out from behind her Frommer's Israel Guide: Did you know that the Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth?
Rafi: Of course.
SBB: My life often feels like that.

We decided at some point on the way down to go to the Spa at Ein Gedi, which is also on the Dead Sea, and has nicer locker rooms than the public beach we had set out to patronize. Below you can see pictures from the fun we had during our day at the (blue-collar) spa. This is Rafi's name for the spa, because it's pretty cheap and most of the people there were wearing jellies. Remember jellies?

First thing we did was decorate ourselves in thick, black mud. We found our friend Anya as we were walking to the mud, and she graciously took pictures of us painting on the Bootz (mud). See Allison, Rafi and me playing in the following pictures:

Girls Gone Muddy.

Rafi gets in on the fun.

After we did the mud thing, and rinsed off the mud thing, we took the tram (don't forget, this is a SPA) down to the Dead Sea shore. It was hot, and there were plenty of people in the water. You can see as you walk down to the edge that this is not a normal body of water. Each person in the Dead Sea floats on top of the water like an ice cube in soda. The shore was different, too. It was like walking on top of a big, slick salty skating rink. Wading into the water, you're surprised at the warmth of the water, and the teeny, tiny stings on the cuts in your skin that you didn't even know you had. After going out a few feet, you can sit your tush down in the water, and watch as your feet pop up. Like the world's best synchronized swimmer on steroids, you can float on top of the water and look great doing it. I crossed my legs, then I did a split. I floated on my stomach and stretched my legs above my tush without ever getting my face wet. I had a great time and had little interest in getting out of the water, except I decided it was time for lunch.

Floating effortlessly. What a lady!

Sara Beth is a Ham.

Rafi tries desparately to not be a tourist as I mug for one of my many publicity shots.

The rest of the day was nice. We went in the (chlorinated) pool to rinse of the oily, mineral-rich Dead Sea water and changed into some dry clothes. After a late lunch we caught the bus back to Jerusalem, feeling all relaxed and vitalized from the beautiful spa.