Monday, December 21, 2009

Bat Yam 2

Hey everyone!

Okay well I'm getting ready to go out with the girls to Mike's Place. Mike's Place is the famous American Bar in Tel Aviv that was bombed a few years back...

Bat Yam has been incredible...the beach is just beautiful. Okay so whats been going on here...We had our 1st apartment meeting--we passed! Since it was Chanukah we didn't have volunteering, instead we had different events taking place. We had an amazing hike in the Carmel. It was beautiful and slippery, it had rained the day and morning before. We were very muddy and it was probably one of my favorite hikes to this day. Afterwards we went to a Druse Village and walked around their for a little bit. It looked like any other small main street to be honest. I did by a pair of cozy socks.

The next day, Tuesday, all of Shevet went to Mevoh Modi'in to experience Chanukah. Its a moshav, which is kind of like a kibbutz but the people own their own homes and they just share the equipment. This moshav is famous for the music that has come out of it. Yes, The Moshav Band is from here. We didn't hear them, but we did hear a moshav band perform. Katie Jessica and I of course made fools of ourselves dancing but it was lots of fun. We davened mincha and then had a relaxation section with our tour guide and soufganiot. I always hated these back in the States, but they are delicious in Israel. (You can get them with chocolate!) Earlier that day we took a tour of the Macabean graves and a monument of fallen soldiers. Strangely enough it is now confirmed that these are not the graves of the Macabees but people still go there at this time of year.

On Wednesday, Shevet went to a hospital to give out gifts and play with children. Luckily there werent many children in the hospital, which meant that there wasn't much for us to do. Thursday evening the Tsofim created a chanukah mini carnival with games and fun. There was musical chairs, guess how much gelt can fit in the jar, sufganiot competition of fitting it in your mouth in 5, 4, 3, 2, and finally 1 bite. We made some candle melting art, which i love considering i love playing with fire, and i might have made a whole in the plate that i was working on...ooops.

And on Friday Shevet headed to Yishuv Keshet in the Golan for the weekend. But first Jessica Nicola and I had to walk to the Ulpan building in the rain! And at the bus stop we ran into a Birthright group where I saw Talia Schecter and Naomi ran into her bestfriend, Heather. It is a very small country! Keshet was lots of fun. It was cold and kind of yucky out Friday night but we had a nice dinner all together. Lots of singing, some drinking, and many laughs. I roomed with Jessica, Katie, and Naomi. Saturday i missed davening, i'm sorry but israelis daven wayyyyy tooo early for what i'm used to. We made it to lunch though! And then we went on a walk/tour with Ami, our madrich, who lived at Keshet for a year when he first made Aliyah. We got to see beautiful views of the Golan and Syria in the distance. We walked through Syrian bunkers that are now Israeli. Someone talked to us about making Aliyah and our views of why we are hesitant. Keshet has programs for new Aliyot to become accustomed to Army life and israeli life. It is a religious Yishuv. Also at the Yishuv were some people who are trying out the army to see if they want to convert to Judaism. I don't really understand their program but it sounded interesting I guess.

Yesterday we had our first classes. I'm taking a class on King David and then the David Project. The King David class is taught by an American from Jersey who made Aliyah 3 years ago. It should be interesting, it was just about background information leading up to why the Jews needed a King. The David Project is an Israeli Advocacy aimed towards educating highschoolers and college kids so that they are able to fight the inaccuracy and issues on college campuses. And last night, we had a bonfire with S'mores. It was really nice and a fundraiser for Garin Tsedik, which is an organization that Year Coursers has adopted teaching english to Ethiopian refugees.

Well I'm heading out now with girls,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bat Yam 1

1st week in Bat Yam:

I’m in love with Bat Yam. I have been to the beach almost everyday to read, run, or just walk around. Today Jessica Katie benji and I actually went in. it was nice once we actually got in to the water. Our tops might not have actually stayed on…

I found out my placement for volunteering—Yad Mordechai, an elementary school literally right behind where I live so I have a tiny walking commute. We, Anna and I, only went for one day because now everyone is on their Chanukah break. Simon who had gone home for something will also be volunteering with us. For our first day of volunteering we helped the children, 5th and 6th graders, learn about Chanukah in English. It’s weird because back home in the states the holidays were always an excuse to learn about something in Hebrew. Alona, the English teacher, and our advisor is really nice and showed us around and where the teachers lounge is.

This past Shabbat was a Shabbat Biyachad, it was relaxing and different from Jerusalem. One of my observations about the difference between Shabbat here and Jerusalem was that more people take the buses in Bat Yam and because the buses don’t run on Shabbat they are forced to keep Shabbat. I don’t know if they want to or not. We had a few peulahs on Chanukah and an Israeli update all led by the madrichim. We have four madrichim, two female and two male. The females are Israeli and the two male are American. I haven’t really formed opinions on them yet. But Noa, our madrchia, is really nice and helpful. We had our first apartment meeting this morning and we passed our cleaning inspection!

Tel Aviv is about a 30-40 min bus ride. I went once with Shir and Jessica to go read in a park that was down town. There was a dog park there, so we spent most of the time watching the dogs. There are many more dogs here than in Jerusalem. It was a beautiful day out. I love just walking the streets. We ran into the fashion track girls on their way home from their internship. Instead of volunteering they have an internship with a famous designer. We also went out Thursday night for David and Stephanie’s birthday. It was fun.

Tel Aviv and Bat Yam is definitely different from Jerusalem but it is lots of fun. And the ocean is very calming to be around.

Happy Chanukah everyone! Chanukah has been the first time that I’ve felt a little homesick. I miss Seth’s latkas, playing poker with gelt with my cousins, and all the other family traditions. The kids are all out from school and you can see chanukiot in the windows of most families. Lighting candles has been a little bit of a challenge because no one smokes in my apartment. Hahah

We are living with Tsofim, Israeli Scouts (similar to Boy and Girl Scouts in the States but much more popular here and its coed). They are our age, and this is their gap year program before they head off to the Army. They are volunteering the whole time and they stay in Bat Yam. There are 16 of them. It is really nice being with them so that we have a more authentic Israeli experience. Shir is our Tsofa. She and her parents are really nice. Her parents brought us some plates and extra tupperware.

It has been very interesting....can't wait to experience the rest of Bat Yam.

Okay well hope all is well,

And see I can write more often.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Last Jerusalem Post

Hey everyone,
Wow, I'm really sorry for not posting like at all. I am really going to try to blog more often, b/c I want to be just like Jessica. hahah.
So I am leaving for Bat Yam tomorrow. I cannot believe that my time in Jerusalem is coming to an end. It has been three amazing months. I am going to miss this place, not so much the living with 15 other girls but everything else i will. i am ready for the change.
So let me catch you all up with everything since Oct 1, hahah. So my birthday was Oct 9th. I went out for Sushi (saki bombs in a glass that doesn't fit the shot glass leads to a giant mess) with friends from home, Chelsea and Shawna, and friends from here, Jessica, Katie, and Britty, and then of course my brother. Seth was still pretty hung over (it was during Succot and apparently you have to have a buzz every time you sit in the sukkah). We went out after that, and it was lots of fun.
My family came in November-parents were here for 3 weeks, and the sisters were here for 2 weeks, and other family was here for other amounts of time. My cousin Raanan got married to the lovely Sharon. The wedding and festivities was so much fun. It was crazy when everyone was here trying to juggle my classes and volunteering and also the family stuff. I was practically never home. My roommate, Jessica, joked that she never saw me for like a month and that it was finally nice when everyone left. Adventures with the family--seeing my parents' kibbutzim when they were here when they were my age. It was so nice meeting everyone. I wonder if I'll be in contact with the people I meet at this age. If you know my parents you know how influential their year in Israel was for them. This was my mother's first trip back since she was my age--37 years ago. We went to a kibbutz in the north, Maayan Baruch, and practically took a tour of Lebanon and a base up there because of a friend of my father's who is a police officer on that kibbutz. We went rafting in the Jordan (wish I will be doing again with my friends in the spring when the water level is higher). We toured Haifa. and just lots of good family bonding..... Oh and one night my parents took out me and some of my friends for Talya's SWEET SIXTEEN at the Tico house, that place is so much fun... And then others joined and we went out of dessert at Rimon. Yes, James, I know that Tali is fit. That night was the last time that Seth slept over at our place b/c he left later in the week to go visit his girlfriend in Baltimore before heading home and then to Colorado. My roommates were very sad to see him go. It was very nice having my family here but it was really weird how they all came in at different times and then boom, they all leave. and i was left all alone again. However, since they were here and getting tours of everywhere I got to sneak on, and since I'm kinda like living here I know my way around and can show them stuff which was pretty cool. OH, and so we went to a Henna party for a family friends' (the Haimovitchs) niece who was getting married. It was a crazy Moroccan party with lots of food, drinks, dancing and costumes. I later went to the wedding, which was also lots of fun. Two weddings in two weeks. lots of fun, i must say.

Classes & Volunteering and then just me talking - Both are over now since we are leaving tomorrow morning, bright and early. I will miss volunteering at Yad LaKashish a lot. I won't miss how much money I spent there. But how could i resist when the work that they do there is so amazing! seriously, you should come on by and see it. Stevie, our teacher for Genesis Parables, has been amazing. His class has influenced me more than probably anything else I've ever experienced. Looking at the Torah as a figurative piece of literature has really changed how I view Judaism. Also he is an amazing, odd, eccentric, funny teacher. Avi's class on Jewish Art history will also be missed, mostly because he is just an amazing person and can teach us about anything. my favorite class with him was this past week when we went to the Ethiopian Church, Tico House, and Museum of the Psalms.

Jerusalem has just so much to offer, and i'm a slightly disappointed that i haven't experienced everything. This week I've certainly made up for that--I ate out a lot and some very interesting establishments. A small bookstore/cafe that you would miss off of Ben Yehuda if you didn't know about it and Arcadia, an Ethiopian place, that again you would miss if you didn't know about it.....all with the lovely Leah. oh and thursday night was Marakia, soup with Shawna and Chelsea. My apartment is going there tonight with our Madricha, Moran. Moran is awesome, and i'm going to miss her so much. she answers all of our questions and i might be closer with some of the madrichim than i am with some of the others on the program. There was also Sushi this week...but it was my last week in Jerusalem so I had to make it count. i also got a hair cut this week. yay!

I am probably going to miss just walking the streets the most. Walking with friends, and laughing has been the majority of our three months here. and trust me we have laughed a lot.....

Shevet had a weekend in Efrat. So that was very interesting. Jessica and I were lucky and we were set up with a great family. The wife was from England and went on a gap year program and made Aliyah after that. They are settlers. When I've thought about settlements before I thought of small villages with like shacks as houses. Boy was I naive. these houses and communities are beautiful. People move to Efrat for different reasons--space and luxury, ensuring that the Arabs cant live there, and many other reasons. Efrat has more doctors per capita than any other city in Israel. A lot of the people work and commute in Jerusalem. The family that Jessica and I were with, the wife is a teacher in the art college by where we live, and the daughter that is our age, volunteers where Jessica teaches English. It is a very complicated and interesting issue. Some of our friends were in really uncomfortable and racists houses. Efrat was definitely an experience, and the future home of Britty.

Other random sightings--I had dinner with my mother's cousin, Helen, which was really nice at the Tico House. I hadn't seen her since my bat mitzvah, 5 years ago, and she was on a tour here and finally called me. I went with Jessica to a family friends' sister who lives here. Rochelle's sister, Debbie who lives just outside of Jerusalem. Her son, Noam, picked us up and we had a lovely evening. Debbie's daughter, Talia had been to Young Judaea camps and knows a lot of the Brits that are on my program...small world. Oh and I've also seen an old friend that I met on the March of the Living when we were staying at the Judaean Youth Hostel, who was on Year Course last year. he has made Aliyah and is in the army. and catching up with him was nice.

Last shabbat in Jerusalem-friday night dinner, Britty, Katie, Jessica, Julia, Ale, one of Britty's friends from Nativ, and I went to one of the Shevet teacher's house for dinner--Rabbi Eli Deutsch--it was very interesting and relaxing. We had many questions to begin with and now we have even more, they were answered but they just lead to others. By learning you just begin to realize that you don't know anything and that there is just so much more out there. Israel has matured all of us. Some of us more than others, and hopefully with others it will finally hit them and they will grow up as well.

so just a wrap up--Jerusalem is lots of fun, but Ben Yehuda and being around the American bubble has begun to get old. However, I have learned that there is more than just that area, but finding it was difficult but i want to experience more. Learning never ends. I can't wait for Bat Yam. oh I just found out that Jordan is going to come visit me in the Spring, I CANT WAIT!!!!!

oh and Thank you to the Madrichim for being runner up for biggest party animal--"But we only kissed." and thank you to my new perspective on life. hahahah. And I will be blogging more often, i know that i said that in my last blog, a month ago, but i really am going to. i see that it is important to write down what is happening.

love always,

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Jerusalem 3

Shana Tova Everyone!

First off I hope that everyone had an easy fast.

Sorry that it has been so long since I last blogged. I've been veryyy busy. I'll give a recap but things will not be in order, but that is life.

Rosh Hashanah - the new year - new years resolutions, apologizing to friends and family, taking account of sins, and pretty much just an over view of the last year. Taking a look back on this past year was very much needed, in order to just account and realize how different my life is right now. Last year I was able to say "Next Year in Jerusalem" and here I am saying it again, but this time I probably won't be in Jerusalem next year. For the chag, I went with my friend, Ale, to her family in Afula. It was a very relaxing Rosh Hashanah filled with laughter, good food, and family.

Yom Kippur - ahhh, Yom Kippur in Jerusalem. This was amazing. Hands down the best Yom Kippur experience of my life. Sunday, I went with some of my roommates to buy food for the meal before and after the fast. We cook, eat and get ready for the synagogue. The fast started at 4 something so it was a very early dinner. I drank sooooo much water that day, 4 liters in probably about 4 hours, since that was about how long i was up before the fast started that i could barely zipper my dress. As the evening progressed I became more comfortable. hahah. okay so We, most of my section go to Kol Nedray (spelling?) services at Yedidiya, a synagogue around the corner from us. Services were very nice and they were very accommodating to a bunch of teenagers just showing up. We returned home and changed into comfier clothing and go for a walk. I'm with Britty and Jessica and we meet up with Benji, Nicola, Orly, Ale, and Adam and just walk along Derek Hebron, a main street by our apartments. Everyone is out on the streets just hanging out. No one is driving (except for a few cop cars that we saw). We lay down in the middle of the street and just goof off. Kids are racing their bikes and its a lot of fun. We return home and people decide that it is a good time to go to the Kotel. So we race up stairs and change back into skirts. I walk with Britty and Jessica along Emek Refaim, another main street by us, and a similar experience is taking place here as well. It is less family orientated though--mostly teenagers just hanging out. It is about a 45ish min walk to the Kotel. The weather is perfect and as always we run into people we know on the way. We get to the Kotel and meet up with everyone else. Simon says (hahah) "It's the holiest day of the year and we are at the holiest place in the world!" We all just sit on the ground after we pray or go touch the wall and just hang out for a couple of hours. We walk home, and people are still out on the streets. Walking in Jerusalem and not worrying about cars or street lights is very nice. Jessica and I sleep most of the day while Britty and all the boys + Emma (a madricha) go to services. I am actually up, I was reading. We all get dressed and I make three bagels for us. Spreading the cream cheese and not licking my fingers after was the most difficult part of my day. (The bagels are for the break fast). We walk back to the Kotel. We were planning on going to Niela (spelling?) services at Aish but the women's side was full so we head back over to the kotel to say our own Amidah and just listen to the services. I do run into my brother at the Aish service for the minute that we are there. Once again we are sitting on the ground at the Kotel and my brother eventually joins us when he wants to get some air. He convinces Britty, Jessica and I to climb back up the stairs to listen to the shofar being blown and the break fast. Eventually we agree and we walk up the stairs very slowly. There is about 15 mins left of the fast at this point. The shofar is being blown and the three of us get to eat our bagels. Many, many people mention how smart we are for bringing something to eat, yes it was my idea. My friend, Chelsea, from back home meets up with us, she was in the services at Aish. We go over to Jeff Sidel's (spelling?) for more Break Fast and just hang out. Eventually we split from each other. Britty, Jessica and I wait a long time for the bus but eventually we make it home.
Since a lot of Year Course kids from other sections came to Jerusalem for Yom Kippur there is a party of course. So we all go out to Ben Yehuda to a club. And it is a very interesting change from the spirituality that was not so long ago.

Classes - Due to the chaggim we haven't been having some of our regular classes. I haven't had my Visual Arts class in two weeks. And classes this evening were canceled so we haven't had ulpan or my favorite class with Dr. Copeland in a week. And with Succot next week we won't be having classes for the first half of the week. Just because there aren't classes doesn't mean that there is free time. We have had other classes about the holidays and field trip to 100 shearim, which I will talk about later. And tonight we had a very long apartment meeting with our Madricha, Moran. It was very much needed, to say the least.

Volunteering - So I got like the best compliment today and yesterday. Yesterday, Rivka, who is kind of like my Tiffany, office manager of the gift shop, and she called me efficient. And I love efficiency and I love it when people get things down quickly and they don't bitch about it! And today Rivka and Ani, another volunteer, asked if they could adopt me. I am really enjoying working in the gift shop. I like administrative things and when I'm organizing the storage rooms it is the only time I have to myself of the day so it is really nice and very much needed, considering I'm living with 15 other people and there is always people sleeping over and others in the apartment. It is awesome having people over but I need my alone time and I love to get lost in work, so it is a perfect balance.

Siyurim - So I believe that the last time I blogged I mentioned the Jewish Quarter siyyur. So I wasn't feeling well that day, so I can't recall everything. But we did a lot of walking that day and learned about the old city. Last Tues, we went on a water hike by Tiberias, and then did tashlich (throwing our sins via bread to the fish) in the kinneret. The hike was lots of fun and then we got to walk around Tiberias for a little bit. Some of the kids decided to go on a banana boat, and they left their clothing and shoes on the dock. Others decided to go get their clothing. When the boaters returned they only had their shoes. The pictures are priceless. This past Tuesday, I was on a hike in an ancient winery, HaSataf. It was a nice hike.

Random Adventures & Notes - One day last week, Britty Jessica and I went to the Promenade. We had all been there before with tour groups. It is like a look out over Jerusalem and its a good view of the security fence. We are sitting and reading when a glass bottles comes within feet of hitting us. We leave.
Running into friends, and friends of friends on Ben Yehuda is always entertaining. Pretending to be frum, is fun too.

My brother/Shabbat/other adventures - so he hasn't even been here a week and some how I have seen him a lot. And some people think that he is part of my program. Late last thurs night he arrives and I meet up with him after walking home from Ben Yehuda (2 miles away by walking) with Saul. He sleeps over and then leaves for his place while Britty, Katie and I go shopping for Shabbat Dinner at Machena Yehuda. Seth returns and helps us cook. So we all thought that friday night services were only going to be about 40ish mins. So we left the chicken in the oven. It was 2 hours! Thank goodness two roomates stayed home and took the food out when they smelt it burning. It didn't burn and it was a very delicious meal. After dinner we go over to another's apartment and hang out there and play games. Seth tells his adventures and people keep saying how that is so something that Rachel would say. Which is funny b/c growing up people would always say to me that it is something that Seth would say. So finally the tables are turned. Saturday we sleep and just hang out. Seth leaves. And we all head out. Sunday we don't have volunteering b/c of Yom Kippur (see above). Sunday & Weds is the one day I don't see my brother. Tuesday I get a Facebook message from Sharon, my cousin Raanan's fiance, saying that she has left overs from break the fast and to bring friends to come eat! So Katie, Britty, Jess and I head over for a delicious meal. Seth is there again. Funny thing is Seth wants to go out for a beer after dinner. And being the good girls that we are we say no and go home. But first we must run after the bus to catch it. Yesterday, Weds, as I'm about to get on the bus after volunteering Seth calls me saying he wants to meet up for lunch. So I have an hour to kill till he is done with class and Mamilla is right by me. But I'm not allowed to go shopping right now. It is a little America there since it is all American and European stores there so it's pricey. So I read and then we go to Bar Burger, definitely one of the best burgers I've had. I wonder how I am going to go home, since they put amazing things on these burgers. Who puts pesto on a hamburger? me. So Seth misses his class trip to 100 Shearim to have lunch with me b/c he knows that Shevet, my specialty track, is going there later that night. So we go back to his place so that he can change into more kosher clothing. We head home, relax and then meet up with my group. We learn about the 4 hamanim (lulav and etrog) for Succot and daven maariv. We head to 100 Shearim. Oh and Seth is allowed to come with. And people are confused and think that he has joined Year Course.

100 Shearim - (I'll edit my views to say the least). We go to the shook to look at the lula and etrogs. Katie buys one for her mother, who is coming this weekend. The buying experience was very interesting and fun. Then we are supposed to walk through 100 shearim to just see what its like. We don't want to and try to head for a bus. We get lost and no one knows where the bus stops are since they never really leave this area. We then find our tour guide and she tells us that we have to walk through the main street to get to the bus stop. After others confirm this we decide that we have to do it. We walk very briskly.

We return home. Jordan, a friend from back home, is sick, so she is on skype! I was so happy to talk to her! And then I got to talk to my friend Jill, from the March of the Living on Skype. These conversations were very much needed.

We all get dressed and head out for a streetlight party at a bar on Ben Yehuda - Kings. The premises is that you wear green if you are single, yellow if its complicated and red if you are taken. I wear my black dress with the red, yellow, green, blue and pink polka dots on it. I can't be too obvious. Britty has a field day with some people that are wearing red. I don't stay long at the bar and end up walking home with a friend, and we stop and sit staring at Jerusalem. It is just so beautiful at night. and during the day. There are no words to describe her.

So sad to say only two more months in Jerusalem....
...I will blog more!

Hope all is well! Chag Sameach! Oh and as Seth has learned this week, every time you sit in a Succa you must become buzzed from wine. L'Chaim!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jerusalem 2

Hey Everyone!
So I will start off with Thursday--my first real day, volunteering and class. On Weds we, me and the others that I am volunteering with, toured Yad Lakashish--Lifeline for the Elderly--a place where the the elderly can come, work, eat and create beautiful artwork that is then sold in a gift shop. Yad Lakashish reminds me a lot of my grandpa Chuck, OBM. There are many different workshops--embroidery, wood and metal work, jewelry, and book binding. I am working in the gift shop with a British girl also named Rachel. On Thursday, we took inventory and marked down prices on some jewelry.
This shabbat was really nice. Since a lot of the kids here went to Tel Aviv for the weekend, those of us who stayed in Jerusalem created a potluck shabbat meal. I made a kuggle, it didn't turn out that well since I couldn't find egg noodles and used pasta instead. It is okay though, everyone still ate it. Chelsea Wigle spend the weekend with me. It was so nice having her stay. She really clicked with my roommate, Jessica, it is very entertaining them sing and dance while I am reading or whatnot. Saturday, Jessica, Chelsea and I walked about an hr, mostly uphill (I live in the valley, so to go anywhere is uphill) to my cousin, Raanan's, fiance, Sharon. Sharon had a beautiful meal and it was really lovely talking and playing games.
Walking in Jerusalem is very amusing. So I had copied directions off of google maps. Can anyone tell me what a slight left is in a round about? We ended up meeting many people that were happy to give us short cuts.
The rest of shabbat we all rested and just hung out. Saturday night I went out with Chelsea and Shawna Dolinka to Ben Yehuda. We grabbed dinner and walked around. I had no clue that where I volunteer was so close to Ben Yehuda and the Mamilla shopping center. I am literally down town. I love having close friends here from home.
Today, Sunday, Chelsea left in the morning to return to seminary, and I left for volunteering. There were other (elderly) volunteers today in the gift shop. Previously, Rachel, and I thought that it was only the paid employees working in the gift shop and we were a little disappointed. So today I helped Divorah, one of the volunteers from NY, with lots of organizing and sorting. And then I got to work on a spread sheet! I was so excited. I have really missed excel. hahaha. After work, we took the bus back home and I took a nap after lunch. After my nap, Shevet, had shofar making. I made my very own shofar for rosh hashanah. We had to sand them down, shine them and polish them. The organizers cut the hole in them though. Hopefully I can pick out which one is mine. After shofar making, we had electives. I am taking a course on Jewish Art. It is really interesting. Today we looked at art from other religions b/c art and religion has always intermixed and due to the second commandment--graven images--we must discuss if Jews can even create art and what are the limits on depicting GOD, which are different for almost every religion.
Later tonight, we had our first apartment meeting with out madricha. since we are 16 girls it is tough to try and all sit down together and discuss things. We usually have small meetings and then tell each other. I think and hope the cleaning the regimen becomes a little more smoother.
Oh, so Ilan, another friend from back home has almost moved in here it seems. He is staying with the guys and it is really nice having people from home here.
Shanah Tova,

Monday, September 7, 2009

Young Judaea Year Course - Jerusalem 1

Hi Everyone,
I've been in Israel for about a week and a half, and I am very happy to be here! I arrived earlier than my group so that I would be able to spend some time with my brother before he left for Europe. I spent my first Shabbat with family friends that used to live in San Diego, the Haimovitchs, my brother and Erin. We went off-roading along the northeaste border with Jordan. It was unbelievable to be so close to the fence (sorry mom). We went swimming in a natural spring and had lunch, it was my first Israeli day. Saturday night we met up with my cousin Raannan and his fiance, Sharon, and it was a really nice evening, (first legal beer, again sorry mom). Saturday night, we dropped Erin off at the airport, who, sadly, had to return to the real world back in the States. Seth was dropped off at the airport Sunday night, (we missed seeing Madona at the airport by about two hours). And on Monday I met up with my group - Young Judaea/FZY Year Course in Jerusalem. We are located in the neighborhood of Baka. Previous years we were located farther away from everything, in the Young Judaea youth hostel. This location is amazing! We are like a ten minute walk to Emec Refaim and maybe a 15 min bus ride to Ben Yehuda. Whenever there is free time, I have been walking around the neighborhood with some friends. So Monday, I meet most of the kids on our section. There are three sections, in this section we have all of FZY (England's version of Young Judaea), Shevet, and all of the art kids. Because we have all of the British kids, we only have like 5 American boys. It is very interesting with the cultural differences even just between us. Some of the Americans, including me, keep slipping and talking with a British accent.
So my room - I am in a suite with 15 other girls! We have two showers, three toilets, a kitchen, 5 different rooms, a balcony/patio area, and a dining room table. I am in the smallest room, so I only have one other roommate-Jessica-who I had met and roomed with when I was on the March of the Living, this past spring.
This week has been orientation so we haven't really gotten into the swing of things yet. And yes mom we learned where we can and cannot go and which buses are okay to take and whatnot.
Wednesday was our first evening that we were allowed out, and of course we all go to Ben Yehuda. Its really strange and comforting that everyone goes to Ben Yehuda, so people are always running into people that they know from back home.
Part of orientation was learning to go to the supermarket to buy food. Our stipends are split into two different groups for our apartment, 8 and 8. Everyone is really easy when it comes to pointing out where things are. My friend Jessica even met someone who used to live by her and they gave us her number so that we can come over for shabbat or whenever. I don't know if we will take her up on that. Jessica and I had an adventure returning the trollies (British for shopping carts) back to the store from our apartments.
Our first shabbat was a shabbat biyachad. We all walked to the Kotel, which was about a 45 min walk (it's faster in a smaller group). We danced, sang and got yelled at by one person. It was fascinating on how much time she spent on trying to make us be quite instead of doing her own thing. We weren't louder then the men and we were singing with our group. After the Kotel, we walked to the Agron House (home of Nativ's Year Course program) and had dinner with only Shevet. We had special guests this shabbat. FZY sent some of their leaders down to see the program and most of them were on Year Course when they were our age so it was really neat to see how much they care about the program that when they "grew up" they decided to work for the organization. Saturday we went to a synagogue that was close by. There are synagogues everywhere you look. We were assigned to host families to spend the day with. I went with Jessica and Britty (also an apartmentmate) to a family who made Aliyah about seven years ago from Chicago. They have three children--a daughter our age, Sarah, a daughter that is 16, Mechelle, and Coby, who is going to have his bar mitzvah this year. It was a very welcoming Shabbat for our first Shabbat in Jerusalem. After we returned, we took a Shabbat Menucha. All of the apartments were assigned to make something for a potluck for the Suda Shlishit (I have no idea how to spell hebrew words in english). We made a keish and a pasta salad. After the meal we davened Maariv and had havdalah. Most of us then went to the Israel/Latvia soccer game. Sadly, it was a very disappointing game and we lost 1 to 0. I had lots of fun though.
Sunday, yesterday, I walked around with some friends in the morning, did some errands and laundry and attended my first class. It is an elective about Jewish Art. It is taught by Dr. Avi Rose who seems like an amazing teacher and I'm very excited for his class.
I received my volunteering placement but I don't start until Weds. I will be working at Yad LaKashesh, a place where retired people have a place to work and make artsy items that are then sold in stores. It sounds interesting and since I will be working with older people they probably won't speak English as well as others, so I will be forced to use my Hebrew. I want to make sure I actually use my Hebrew here. It is really strange that when we ask someone in the street or at a store something in Hebrew and they reply in English, everyone just knows that we are American.
Today, Monday, I had nothing organized (some classes don't start till after the holidays), I went to Machena Yehuda with Jessica and Britty. We bought lots of fruit, veggies, and nuts. It was definitely an experience trying to barter and carrying everything home on the buses. Oh and I saw a guy wearing a Sun Diego shirt, it was nice seeing someone from home. We have bus passes for the three months that we are here, which is very handy.
Tomorrow is our first Siyur, I am going to explore the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. I'll write more after I have experienced it.
I haven't really seen any friends from home yet. But I plan on doing so. However, Ilan Dock came out with me and some of my friends last night for sushi. It was lovely to see him, again.
So far I am really enjoying my time here. I cannot wait for classes and volunteering to start.
And mom, we are all taking turns cooking and cleaning the apartment.
If anyone wants to chat they can call my Israeli phone number 052 6047691 or talk to me on Skype: rachherring. And there is Facebook. I will be putting up pictures eventually.