28 May 2008

Am I Still Here?

I bet you thought you wouldn't be hearing from me in Israel again...but you thought wrong.

My plane is broken, so I'm sitting in Ben Gurion Airport. It's a real Zionism-killer, I'll tell you. Below is an excerpt from an email I sent to the camp travel guy:
I am writing to let you know that my plane (ELAL 001 out of TLV) is broken, and I'm now, in theory, either leaving at 5AM or 7AM (Israel time) to get to JFK. This gets me into JFK, earliest, at noon tomorrow (NY time). There is no chance I will make my flight out of EWR. ELAL also refused to book me into EWR, ATL, Miami, Delta to ATL or any flight that goes through Europe and ends up in ATL... Thoughts? Comments? Soothing suggestions? Please advise!

So this has been fun.

The sign now says it is boarding...we'll see about this...

Leaving Town...

"Paint your nails and put on your lipstick,
You don't wanna miss your ticket out...
Cause I remember how we drank time together,
And how ya used to say that the stars are forever,
And you would dream about how to make life better by leaving town,
Leaving town..."
-- Dexter Freebish obediently popped up on Meredith's iPod today!

Today was my last day in Israel. I did the penultimate packing (toiletries I dealt with today) last night, and then I was too wound up to sleep. I went to school from 9 until 5, the whole reason I stayed until now. I wanted to only miss 3 weeks of Wednesday classes, not 4. So, I had fun in Day School and I survived both my ulpan final and Classics.

The end result: I don't think I overpacked, do you?

As I walked to the bus this morning at the ripe hour of 7:45, I tried to call Nesher, the taxi-sherut service that goes from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv – Yaffo Ben Gurion International Airport. I was told the number wasn’t in service, even though I’d used it to go to London just a few months ago.

I wasn’t deterred. I just called back, at an alternate number, during my halfway break in my Day School class. I was on hold for 7 minutes. They picked up and hung up on me. They did the same to Elie, Rafi’s brother and saintly friend-of-SBB. Great boys from that family. I'm a big fan!

After class, I went to get my favorite thing to eat, a pizza meshulash, at Vitamin Café. Sadly, It was not to be, as they didn’t have any out of the oven and I had to report back to take my ulpan final in just a few minutes. I was left with no meshulash, but at least I got to spend a little more time with my friends Jo and Mel. Jo (aka Joelle) also called Nesher and I FINALLY got a stupid sherut reservation. You’d think I asked them to gold-plate my luggage they were so rude about it.

I will miss you, meshulash.

After my three hours in the ulpan final, (Three? I meant two. Why do they give so much time?) I was off to Classics. And then it was over, it was off to classics, then to print a boarding pass, and then home. I paused to appreciate the beautiful rimonim / pomagranates blooming on the neighbor’s tree, then I showered, stuffed my toiletries into my suitcase, and I was off to the airport.
I'm holding a nascent Rimon!


I was met by my love Shiran at the airport, and we hung out (she suggested CDs and I bought them like an obedient, supposedly rich American). Her dad called to say goodbye to me. I'm really going to miss my (real) family and my (Shiran) family! I returned my cell phone, showed her pictures of my nephew and then I went through security.

People keep on asking me what I’m going to miss about Israel. That’ll have to be another post. For now, I’m going to do some work, as my flight is DELAYED and I’m marooned at Ben Gurion until 1:30, instead of just 1AM.

I love Shiran! And frankly, it's not a flight out of Israel if I don't have one of her family members escort me...

That advertisement is made out of GRASS!

I love this ad. Mainly b/c of the mullet.

27 May 2008

I Should...

I should be working on my finals. I have read for my Day School class, I have written reaction papers to the classes I'm missing, I've scanned Classics and I'm reviewing my Hebrew vocabulary and grammar.

I should also be packing. I have the world's largest suitcase packed. I have the world's second largest and probably most beaten up suitcase waiting for me to throw my beloved pillow (purchased from WalMart in Gainesville, probably in 2002) and stuff into it.

I should be showering. I walked around Tel Aviv today for a few hours. I love me my Tel Aviv Tuesdays.

I should be doing laundry. I need to do laundry so I can throw in my sheets in the morning, before school.

I should be going...and I will be. At this time tomorrow, I will be at Tel Aviv-Yaffo Ben Gurion International Airport, waiting to board my plane to JFK.

For now, I review Hebrew, and think about the last Israeli snackage I will experience. Rafi chose the Avatiach / Watermelon popsicle (well, I chose it for him) for the night before he left. Rafi would make aliyah for these popsicles. Me? Well...I don't really like watermelon-flavored things. But the watermelon in Israel? Amazing.

Rafi's at camp already. This picture is from LAST Tuesday.

26 May 2008

The “Dude”

I would like to sing you a little ditty about the most important guy in Israel...the Dude!


For the last year, I have been living my life, my existence, tied to a small piece of machinery that ruled my evenings. Those of you living an America take hot water for granted. Some try to save energy by wrapping you house’s water heater in insulation, or try to conserve space by storing brooms and other miscellany in the same closet, or maybe shoving in a washing machine and dryer in the same closet.

Here in Israel, they harness the power of the sun with something called the “dude.” A Dude Shemesh (sun water-heater) utilizes solar panels to heat the water, usually in a tank on top of the building. At night, when there’s no hot water left, you flip on the dude’s switch, wait 30 minutes or so, and the electrical water heater heats up some scarce Israeli water for your shower.

The solar panels all face the same way, like how Jews face the Kotel / Western Wall to pray, and the Muslims face Mecca.
I think hot showers are a religious experience, so this little analogy makes sense to me.

Let’s say you’re coming home from a Gainesville club, circa 2003 (before the cigarette ban that wasn’t enforced in my day), and you smell. You reek. There is cigarette stench in your hair, your jeans, and you’re pretty sure that even your toenails are exuding the disgusting odor of cancer-facilitation. Those of us who played the role of designated driver often came home reeking thusly, and the lack of an alcohol-induced sleepiness meant one thing: straight into the 2:15 AM shower. (I miss the 2 AM bar closings, not going to lie.) Similarly, in Israel, you can simply grab a taxi at any hour and come home smelling the same, as the taxi drivers often smoke in their cabs (ick). The difference? Chances that the dude is still hot that late in the day are slim to none. You flip the switch and sit down for a half hour of computer games and crappy late-night television. (At least there are subtitles in Hebrew!)

More dudes, more solar panels.
Much like sorority girls on spring break, they are all facing the same direction, where the sun is coming from. Except for me. I never faced the sun. I hid from the sun under sheets, towels and SPF 50.

Sometimes, when it’s nice and sunny out, the switch is off, but the water is hot. When cooking for Shabbat with Elie, before Rafi went back to the States (yes, he left before I did), the dude was enjoying the beautiful sunshine, like everyone in the neighborhood, and the pre-Shabbat showering (for three people over the course of maybe an hour) required no dude. An anomaly!

A large collection of dudes, close to Malcha, close to the Jerusalem soccer stadium.

Interestingly, there is a political statement to be made with the dude. In fact, Israeli Jews have white dudes. Arabs have black dudes. You can tell what sort of neighborhood you’re looking at, just by checking out the roofs of the apartment buildings. Black dudes, I think, make more sense, because that’ll keep in the heat and warm the water faster. But my dude is white, as dictated by careful political rules.

A grey dude. Maybe its owners are Palestinian-sympathizers, or maybe their dude is just old and busted.

I appreciate the power of the dude. I am a fan of solar power, and recently, as gas prices rise all over the world, I find myself turning greener and greener, reusing plastic bags, and carrying my canvas bags to shop for groceries. I really hate waiting for a hot shower (since I usually shower at midnight), although I haven’t forgotten how, during shower time at camp (all of them), the showers can run out of hot water during heavily-trafficked periods of use. But I have to say, I’m really looking forward to getting hot water whenever I want it.

25 May 2008

Ir Amitit / Genuine City

(Title from the David Broza song "Haifa." It's on one of the new Israeli music CDs I just uploaded. Happiness, David Broza is thy name.)

I have wanted to go to Haifa since I got to Israel. After months and months of “let’s go to Haifa” and “I wanna go to Haifa” and “I am going to leave Israel without going to Haifa,” Rafi decided a few weeks ago that we were going to Haifa for Shabbat! Rafi, it should be said here, is the best.

We did a little research, and then I talked to the people at ISSTA, the travel agency at school, and ended up at a nice place on the Haifa tayelet / promenade. We were off to Haifa in the morning, enjoying the view of highway 6, before getting to the city. We dropped off our bags, and started with a sweet lunch special at El Gaucho, a kosher Argentinean steakhouse. We ordered the standard, and we were left with so much leftover food that we were set for Shabbat lunch. Then we walked into the downtown, where they have a subway, and we just wandered the streets. After shopping, and buying some snacks for the rest of Shabbat, and a few pairs of really Israeli socks (with English words like “sporty!” and “summer!” decorating the socks), we made our way to University of Haifa. I had my heart set on visiting the University of Haifa tayelet, one of the places I remembered from my USY Israel trip in 1999. I had wanted to go back, to just sit and enjoy the view, since the second I left the tayelet that day when I was a teenager. I was so happy to bring Rafi there. It took quite a while to get to the view, because of construction and because the bus stopped kind of far away from where we meant to get off, but we finally got to the tayelet. Rafi and I had a great time checking out the view, although it was too windy to sit and really enjoy. On our way back to the road outside of University of Haifa, we stopped in a building and found a bust of Herzl. That was pretty great.

Im tirtzu, Iiiiiiim tirtzu, Ain Zo Aggadah, Ain Zo Aggadah, la-la-la, Liyot Am Chofshi B'Artzeinu. V'Eretz - Eretz! Tziyon - Tziyon! Yerushalayim!
(If you will it, it is not a dream...and so on and so forth. -- Theodore Herzl)

I love U of Haifa's tayelet. Soooo much!

"Everyone knows it's windy..."
I am happy Rafi and I went to the U of Haifa tayelet.
It was one of my favorite places in Israel when I visited in 1999.

Rafi enjoyed the walk, I think...

It's really hard to see, but there was a HUGE dandelion and I was trying to blow the seeds away. I think I look fabulous, though, so the picture gets posted...

What you see when you get to Haifa. This is the Bay (port? seashore? chof-hayam?) of Haifa.

Their Electric Company building. Pretty cool-looking.

Somebody fabulous went to Haifa!

I still haven't given up my whole one-armed-picture thing.
And I wasn't alone in Haifa, just stubborn.

Haifa has a subway. I think it has 5 stops (100% SBB-speculation).

We also went to check out the Baha’i temple, which I’d wanted to do since my trip with grad school last year. We drove by the Baha’i temple for a few days in a row in Dec 2006, and it looked amazing. Sadly, Rafi and I went to check out the temple and walk all the way down from the Promenade, but it was closed for the Baha’i international convention. All I got were these sad-faced pictures. I guess I’ll visit the Baha’i temple on my next trip to Israel.

From the top of the tayelet, looking down at the Baha'i temple, the German Colony of Haifa (as opposed to the one I live in in Jerusalem) and the port.

Me being sad that the Baha'i convention kept me from the hike down to the bottom of the slope.

Shabbat started and Rafi and I went to dinner in the hotel. The view in the dining room, just like in the rest of Haifa, was breathtaking. I know everybody is all about living in Jerusalem, but I really REALLY love Haifa. The next day, Rafi and I did a lot of walking around Haifa. I read a whole book, we went to the pool, we walked around by the Baha’i temple, checking out the international convention delegations (ok, really, their buses, since we couldn't see them inside the compound). We sat on the tayelet for a while, watching as the sun slowly set over Haifa, and Shabbat went out.

These flowers are all over Jerusalem, but this is one of the best shots I've gotten of them. I like them because they're a combination of the loud colors I enjoy so much.

Cue the Simpsons theme music -- these stacks light up at night -- bright green!

The view to the North of the U of Haifa tayelet.

It was really beautiful. I love Haifa. And I was really happy to finally get in some Haifa-time before I get out of Israel.

Yaaaachad Lev l'lev...

I was sitting on the couch, uploading some of my new Israeli / Hebrew music CDs, and watching TV, when suddenly some music starts playing noisily over Gilmore Girls (subtitles!). I got annoyed at my iTunes, again, for starting to play the songs while they’re uploading.

Two seconds passed, and the music started again. This time, however, it was not emanating from my lap. I turned down the volume on the TV, and Rachel and I confirmed that it was our landlord’s son playing the flute / recorder / some woodwind. And he was playing “Yachad,” a song that is in every USY / Camp / Israel experience mix / video yearbook / promotional video EVER.

I never heard my neighbors practicing their instruments -- in Coral Springs, in Gainesville, or in NYC. And when I did, they certainly weren’t playing Yachad.


OMG Shoes

My cousin Gloria was surprised that I hadn’t purchased sandals in Israel (she doesn’t know about my shoe collection here, and in the states…). So, after talking to her about my Naot collection (still going strong since 1999), I ended up buying shoes last week with my friend Dena (she's an enabler).

The shoes are green. And pink. And yellow. And orange. They are crazy and Israeli and they are beautiful.

This picture is what love looks like.

I love them so much that as soon as Shabbat started the shoes went on, and they didn’t come off until late Saturday night. I walked all over my neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods. I walked around downtown. I walked a LOT. This was not the wisest way to break in my new shoes, but whatever. The shoes are really, amazingly cool, even if my feet are KILLING me now.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go rebandage my blisters.

Where blisters come from...

15 May 2008

Happy Birthday, Israel! Again! From NYC!

I just saw the video embedded below on Gawker. This Gawker writer, whose pieces I generally enjoy, and who just yesterday did a post about Obama and the Jews, found the below item on JPost, who got it from Heeb. The digital world is truly tiny. (And I'm sure there's something I can use for my thesis in this little exercise of digital chain-identification.)

The moral of the story? Writing breaks are F-U-N. Alternatively, one could say that I simply spend too much time messing around on my Google Reader.

Also, happy birthday, still, Israel! Yesterday was the official English calendar date of Israeli Independence Day.

Where are the accents? And this music would NEVER fly in Israel, even on Galgalatz!

This post is brought to you by my need to self-distract during large chunks of work.

14 May 2008


So, it takes a lot to get me to sit down and do school work. I did well on one of my JTS classes, and I just submitted my second, and last, Spring final for JTS. While I am still -- ok, perpetually -- thesisizing, I am now ready to start working on Hebrew U finals, because I am leaving in two weeks.

In order to prepare myself, I have to sometimes resort to desperate measures (aka, the return of the helmet). Enjoy!

Sometimes, you just need to put on a helmet, grab a bopper, and write some pages...

I am flipping out here...

Listen, brain. Produce another curricular unit, or this laptop gets it.

13 May 2008

Yom Ha'atzmaut / יום העצמאות

Yom Ha'atzmaut / יום העצמאות is the holiday commemorating the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. It's a huge party, and while the Fourth of July is celebrated exuberantly in the USA, there is something in the air here, a pervasive sense of happiness, wonderment and amazement that here we are, in Israel, after 60 years! Indeed, the recent establishment of the state means that a large part of the population was alive and around when Israel was born. Yom Ha'atzmaut follows Yom HaZikaron immediately, meaning that as soon as the sun set on Memorial Day, a big, country-wide party started.

Roommate Lisa and I were discussing how heavy it is that Yom HaZikaron leads right into Yom Ha'atzmaut. One of the explanations is that we spend one day remembering the soldiers, citizens and other victims that enabled the creation of the state, and then, we celebrate the result the day later. The whole Yom HaShoah to Yom HaZikaron to Yom Ha'atzmaut progression is depressing to saddening and then joyous. Israel certainly knows how to put people on an emotional rollercoaster.

There was plenty to do on Yom Ha'atzmaut, so (read and view) on...

Two days earlier, they were setting up the stage for the big concert and light show on Yaffo. This is just where Ben Yehuda Street meets Yaffo at Kikar Tzion.

Rafi exalts that we are still here. Israel at 60. Amazing!

As Rafi and I walked up and down Ben Yehuda, before we met up with a variety of friends, we enjoyed checking out all of the different things for sale. Rafi and I had just eaten at Tmol Shilshom (I got shakshuka poisoning later that night, but that's another story), but that didn't stop him from marvelling over: hot dogs, candy apples, cotton candy, popcorn, corn on the cob, and, of course, waffles. He got cotton candy and waffles. Not bad.

My favorite Israeli! Shiran and I enjoy the concert crowd at Kikar Tzion.

Rafi and Noam are roommates. They are fabulous.

Arguably the best thing I learned this year: שערות סבתא / Sey-a-rote savta / Grandma's Hairs. This is Hebrew for Cotton Candy!

Up and down Ben Yehuda, and Yaffo, people were selling all sorts of junk. Note the blue-handled, yellow-bodied, pink-ended bopper (on the left). I bought one similar to this one, after years of wanting a bopper. Life = fulfilled.

Rafi also likes Grandma's hairs.

Round one at Babette's for waffles. I was too full to eat.

The flag of Jerusalem in front of the fireworks.

I turned to Shiran during the fireworks and said, "You know, if all of my Arnona money went into fireworks, then I'd be ok with it." It was so squishy and crowded during the fireworks-and-light show that if I had bent my knees and lifted my feet off of the ground, I wouldn't have moved at all.

The rest of the night was pretty good. Rafi had gone home so I could play with Shiran, but not before I found out that he's sneakily withheld from me the fact that I was missing Israeli Dancing at Kikar Safra (a 5-minute walk on a normal day). He didn't want to dance. I was kind of bummed, but I was hanging with Shiran, and she had a group of high schoolers from Houston who were doing an High School in Israel sponsored program before graduation. We even I ran into a whole host of people, from my friends staffing a Ramah spring program, to a variety of rabbinical students, to the special girls we met in Burgers Bar.

Ahhh, Burgers Bar. Shiran and I were looking for a place where we could use the bathroom, since public toilets are nonexistent in Jerusalem. We ended up in Burgers Bar, and we went downstairs to wait on the very long line for the bathroom. While waiting, we met (or, in reality, were forced to endure) a pair of girls who were typical "arsim" (Israeli categorization for club people). After standing in line with them, and then, washing our hands with them, I asked if I could take a picture of them, to document the Israeli Nicole Richie, and her evil twin. They ended up making a very obscene gesture at my camera. I'm scarred for life.

We hung around Ben Yehuda, getting a second serving of waffles, although I was still too full to eat much. We had to collect her kids, and then we walked back with them to Beit Gesher, where they were spending a few days, and where I spent 3 weeks of my high school Israel trip. It was a nice end to the night, because some of my fondest memories in Israel were based out of that very building.

11 May 2008

I'm Still Here...

FYI: I had a fun Yom Ha'atzmaut, a good Shabbat, and I'm doing a lot of work because I'm leaving in less than 3 weeks.

More soon. I promise. Pictures and everything! Really!

07 May 2008

Yom Ha'Atzmaut / Independence Day

Yom Ha'Atzmaut begins at sundown. Before I go out to get covered in sheleg (silly string-esque) and to get bopped on my head, I wanted to just say I'm excited for Israeli Independence Day. Israel is 60 years old tonight.

JTS had a Yom Ha'Atzmaut photo contest, and people submitted some pretty cool pictures. One of those people was me. I took my picture at a place I'm not really supposed to go, but you can see it, worry-free, here. By just holding your mouse over the picture, you can tell which is mine.

This video is about American Independence Day and fighting aliens. But, because I really like it, and this is MY blob, I'm posting it. Enjoy:

Today is OUR Independence Day!

Happy 60th Birthday, Israel. Many returns of the day!

06 May 2008

Yom HaZikaron / יום הזיכרון

It's Yom HaZikaron / יום הזיכרון. I was just spewing some venom online about some sort of Israel-related injustice to my brother Mark when the 8PM siren went off. All of a sudden, it was Memorial Day. In the US, at least as far as I've experienced, Memorial Day is more about sales and a long weekend opportunity to host an out-of-town wedding than it is about the US soldiers that are buried in Arlington. My brother memorializes, quite brilliantly, the soldiers on a saddeningly regular basis. But, just like the rest of our society, when Memorial Day comes, Americans delight in a long weekend for what it is - a chance to travel or sleep in.

In Israel, Yom HaZikaron remembers the 23k+ (number from Rafi, feel free to confirm to disagree) soldiers, Zionists, and victims of terror who have fallen defending, or just living in, Israel. Tiny, little, Rhode Island-sized Israel is pushed right up against the Mediterranean, surrounded on all sides by. If Israel is a bunny, then it is a bunny surrounded by bears and hunters -- Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan have all had their share of conflicts with Israel. Things aren't looking so hot with Iran, and within the borders, "green lines" barely keep the Palestinians and Israelis at a quasi-truce. Since the 1880s, people have been dying for the Zionist dream to keep Israel alive.

More TV shots, for those of you who expect them from me.

Maybe my favorite Yom HaZikaron picture: even E! (as in Entertainment TV, yes we get it here, too) has special צה"ל / Tzahal / IDF - Israeli Defense Forces - programming.

Lots of flowers today for lots of graves.

Broadcasts will resume after Yom HaZikaron.

"The programming on this channel will resume after Yom HaZikaron."

Yom HaZikaron is not like Memorial Day in the USA. I'm sure there are ceremonies, but there's still regular programming on TV. There are still probably hordes of people flocking to visit graves of fallen family members. But a national siren, at night and in the morning? Open ceremonies at Har Herzl, the equivalent of Arlington National Cemetary, as well as city halls and plazas around the country? Not likely. And it's also really unlikely that every US citizen knows somebody who has fallen in battle. I have one friend from FL and NY who is currently serving in the US's JAG corps in Iraq. But every single Israeli has a friend, a family member, or a friend of a friend, who died in wars from Independence until today. In the war in 2006, the deaths in the Lebanon conflict included my co-counselor and roommate's best friend. At another Ramah, they lost a former camper, counselor and friend.

When the siren went off today, I was at the top of Ben Yehuda Street, where it meets King George. I timed my walk so that I'd be right at this active intersection at that time. I looked around me, realizing that Israelis and tourists were all checking their watches constantly, waiting for the siren. It's supposed to, in theory anyway, catch you off guard. People with cameras set up shop everywhere -- in medians, in HaMashbir Square (next to the buses), at Kikar Tzion (at the end of Ben Yehuda).

To my surprise, a minute or two before 11, the buses lined up and stopped on King George, usually honking wildly to get cabs out of their way and rushing to get away from the center of town's traffic. Bus drivers got out of their seats, and stood next to open doors, chatting until the start of the siren. Pedestrians paused on either sides of the very large crossing, ignoring green lights (usually, we ignore red lights) to go down Ben Yehuda.

When the the siren began to wail, taxi drivers got out of their already stopped cabs, cameramen took video and stills, I held my camera close to my chest, standing at attention and clicking the shutter about 20 times while rotating slightly. The traffic didn't really screech to a stop, as the whole group had been anticipating the sound. In front of me, I could see people stopped on Ben Yehuda. Behind me, I eyed a few people on the steps of a large outdoor staircase. A line of cars, froze on their ride down Betzalel. Every door was open, every person standing still. Two people bolted across the still street -- a women with a baby carriage and a man who looked sheepishly rushed.

The siren faded out after 2 minutes. A woman to my left wiped her cheeks and eyes. The buses roared to life, and the horns started honking again. Life was back to normal in a matter of seconds. But the tone for the day had been set.

Taxi driver, standing at attention on King George. Siren time may be the only time in Israel to see cab drivers on two feet.

Soldiers remember, too.

Cameraman is READY. And from the looks of that lens, his pictures will be in the paper tomorrow.

Bus drivers and pedestrians all take pause.

Facing the top of Ben Yehuda. What you cannot see is the high concentration of people paused down the street behind the construction.

May their memories be for a blessing, and may there be peace in this land and all others.