Sunday, November 29, 2009

From Idan Raichel to Thanksgiving

I'm sorry that I have not written a blog posting in a very long time. As you will see I have been keeping myself very busy and therefore have had very little time to write, however I figured I would try my best to catch everyone up with what has been happening since Simchat Torah.

At the end of October MASA which is an organization that helps Jewish youth spend various amounts of time in Israel held their annual opening event which is an Idan Raichel concert at the Binyanei HaUma. It was a great concert because I enjoy Idan Raichel's music but I have never heard him live in concert. It was a wonderful evening and I even got to see some of my friends on other gap-year programs.

That weekend some of my friends and I decided to finally get out of Jerusalem for a weekend so we went down to Eilat. After a 4 hour bus ride, we arrived, found our hostel and had lunch before heading down to the boardwalk to walk around before Shabbat and do some shopping.  Friday night we had in improvised Shabbat dinner of wacky mac, challah and grape juice and then just chilled out for the rest of the evening. Saturday we spent the whole day at the beach relaxing, swimming and working on our tans and after Shabbat was over we headed back home.

The following weekend we had a seminar on Conservative Judaism with Jules Gutin. We had two very interesting sessions with him, one about The Revelation at Mt. Sinai and one about the different options regarding adding the Imahot in the Amidah.  Regarding the Imahot I still don't believe that they should be added but I'm glad that I got more information about this sensitive topic.  That Saturday we had to optional programs, either a memorial to Yitzchak Rabin in Tel Aviv or a memorial concert for Shlomo Carlebach at the Binyanei HaUma.  I decided to go to the concert and its theme was L'chvod Shabbat (in honor of Shabbat) which meant that various artists sung Shlomo Carlebach tunes for various Shabbat tiffilot starting with Kabbalat Shabbat and going all the way to the end of Shabbat. It was an ok concert due to at times we did not understand the Hebrew or the music was to slow. After about 2 hours in they were only on Shabbat morning and we were tired so we left.

On Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan and each following Sunday before Rosh Chodesh our female staff decided to have a girl program because there are many explanations on Rosh Chodesh being a women's holiday. Therefore the first time we talked about our female role model and the next time we made chocolate balls (which were amazing) and talked what we liked about being a Jewish woman.

In the evenings there are various optional evening programs and I have taken a part in some of them. On Monday nights there is cafe Ivrit where we go to a local cafe where we get the menus in Hebrew and have to order and speak only in Hebrew. This is a very fun way to work on my Hebrew without even realizing it.

Tuesday nights are still Erev Nativ which means each week we have a different program either with all of Nativ or just with Kibbutz. A couple of weeks ago we probably had one of the most interesting Erev Nativ. Yossi (the director) told us that we were going to learn about dealing with anti-Semitism, missionaries and the like on campus and therefore he had brought in someone from Jews for Jesus named Mitch and then afterwards we would have Rabbi Tovia Singer come speak to us because the two would not be in the room. We all just sat there shocked and thought maybe Yossi was joking but in walks someone with a t-shirt on that says Jews for Jesus and that's when we knew it was real. He started off bringing in quotes from the Tanach that state Jesus is the Messiah and kept saying that because we did not believe in X or Y we were going to go to Hell and therefore he asked if could pray for us and if we take Jesus as our savior we will be ok. He even said to one of my friends that he will become the next Messianic Rabbi.  After a 1/2 an hour of him bashing Judaism and telling us to take Jesus as our savior and our rebuttals we thought the evening was over. However after Mitch leaves Yossi gets up and says he owes us an apology but Rabbi Singer was here to speak to us but 'Mitch'. Most of us could not believe our eyes seeing the same man who moments before was telling us about Jesus was actually Rabbi Singer. He went on to explain to us and analyze what methods 'Mitch' used with us and how on campus next year we can use what we learned to deal with people like 'Mitch'. I'm very glad we had this program and I feel like I'm more prepared for want I might face next year on campus.

Another good Erev Nativ was a night photography lesson in Yemin Moshe and some reflection on Jerusalem and our time here so far near the Jaffa Gate. Here are some pictures from the evening:

Wednesday nights I decided to participate in an 8 week Jewish educators training program with Mark Lazar who is the crazy hippie with really long hair and says lots of inappropriate things so it's lots of fun. Mark has been involved in formal and informal education since 1973 and runs seminars and programs on various topics and uses various methods throughout the world; and he was the same guy who came one of our first Erev Nativ's and did some crazy ice breakers with us. Throughout the weeks I have learned many new methods and techniques that I can use in any classroom as well some games and lesson plans that I can use if I teach in a Hebrew school or the like.  I'm very happy I decided to do this program because I feel like it has definitely helped me become a better and more confident teacher.

Thursday nights I look forward to each week because it's Disney b'Ivrit. Each week we watch a different Disney or Pixar movie in Hebrew with English subtitles and I have learnt lots of new words. Over the weeks we have watched Tarzan, Toy Story, Hercules and many more.

Two weeks ago on Thursday afternoon/evening a few friends and I volunteered at a kid run soup kitchen out of their high school. It was nice to finally be volunteering and giving back to Israel which has given so much to me. While it was nice experience I have not gone back.

As well, two weeks ago I went to Yad LaKashish with some friends and bought myself a new tallit which I have fallen in love with and very happy that I finally got around to buying it. And as you can see by the pictures below I have gone with the pomegranate seeds theme.

This past Tuesday some friends and I were going to go to the Biblical Zoo but due to the rain we went to the Malcha mall which is a gigantic mall with lots of American and Israeli stores. However the following week we did end up going to the zoo which was a lot of fun to walk around and see all the animals some of which are mentioned in the bible. There was even a big replica of Noah's Ark.

Thursday night we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, mashed sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin and apple pie. Besides for Nativ, Bogrei Nativ (Nativ alumni) who made Aliyah, in the army or are just living in Israel and various other guests and staff joined us for dinner.   After Mariv, a wonderful performance by Kol Nativ ( the Nativ a cappella group) and a video showing what we have been up to on Nativ for the past 3 months we were split up by tracks and so where the Bogrei Nativ for dinner. When we were walking into the chedar ochel we each picked up an envelope and inside was a surprise which were letters from home (I got ones from Ima and Abba, Gabriel, Grandma Jeannette and Aunt Linda and Uncle Bob) and it was so nice to read them but at the same time it made me realize how much I do miss home and how much is going on. Thursday night began the 1st of the 3 weekends that are part of Hamshushalayim which is a collection of various cultural events and more throughout Jerusalem.  Therefore after dinner and a video some of the Nativers made asking us various Thanksgiving questions, we headed to the Bible Lands Museum which was one of the museums which was open later and free. It was an interesting museum looking at all the ancient artifacts and how the bible was incorporated but I'm glad I did not have to pay. Next week we hope to go to The Israel Museum to see the museum and enjoy a free a cappella concert.

This past Shabbat I traveled through the West Bank to Kibbutz Ein HaNatziv near Beit She'an where my friend Yardena is studying at the Midrasha there. Kibbutz Ein HaNatziv is a religious Kibbutz of about approximately 150 families and the main export is palziv (rubber foam) and dairy. After arriving and putting my stuff down in her room she took me on a tour of the Kibbutz and showed me around and also the main hangout place, the maayan where a got a lovely surprise from a bird on my arm. We then headed back to her room to relax before Shabbat started. Once Shabbat started we headed down to the Beit Midrash to light candles and daven Kabbalat Shabbat and Mariv which was nothing special but I did get a beautiful view of the sun setting. After tiffilot we headed to the chedar ochel for dinner which was ok and then to one of the classrooms for a sicha (which we did not stay for the whole thing because we were tired and I was having trouble understanding the Hebrew) and a tisch and then it was back to the room for bed. However throughout all of this the Kibbutz was having electrical problems and therefore there were periods throughout the night where Yardena and to guide me through the blackness. After a restful night sleep we woke up at around 8 for tiffilot which were in the Kibbutz's Beit Keenest which was big and beautiful. Tiffilot were quick (done by 10) and then we headed over to Yardena's friend adoptive Kibbutz family for lunch but it felt more like brunch because it was so early. Lunch/brunch consisted of salads, kugel, burekas and much more. After lunch was over around noonish it was back to the room for rest before another tisch and havdalah. After Shabbat I packed up my stuff and Yardena and I headed to the playground for a bit before we had to head to the bus stop. So all in all it was great seeing Yardena and I enjoyed seeing a bit what a Kibbutz is like before I live on one in a few months.

This past month I have continued to enjoy all the classes that I take at Yeshiva but I can't believe that my time there is coming to a close in almost a month. Throughout my time there I have made many friends and I even went to one of their apartments for a delicious Friday night dinner. I have realized how glad I am that choose Yeshiva because I have been able to hone the skills that I have learned at CHAT.

Some things that are coming up that I'm looking forward to are:
• Visiting Kibbutz Hanaton for Shabbat
• Volunteering for Chanukah in Jerusalem
• Gabriel and Abba visiting Israel in December and January
• doing an archeological dig in northern Israel or volunteering in Haifa in January
• my winter break trip to Greece (any information or tips would be greatly appreciated)

So as you can see I've been quite busy but also have a lot to look forward to. I will also try to be better at updating my blog.

Until next time, 



Saturday, October 17, 2009

How you get money for your Shul (Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah)

After a very restful couple of days off it was time to get ready for our last Jewish holiday until Hanukkah in December.


After much debate I decided to go to Kol Rina for Erev Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. Kol Rina is a small little shul in a bomb shelter in Nachlaot. When we got there they were starting the abbreviated Kabbalat Shabbat and after a quick davening we got ready to start the hakafot. However, what was most surprising was that instead of starting the Rabbi got up on a chair on the men's side of the mechitza and started to auction off the different hakafot. My friends and I started looking at each other like he was crazy or something. We were also wondering whether it was halakhaic to be asking for money on Shabbat/Chag. After about 3 minutes of this going on we thought it would stop because no one was bidding, nonetheless he went on until all of them were auctioned off. Once the hakafot started it was crazy but still really good and better then back home. Once the dancing got intense the mechitza was covered with a tallis so that the males could not see us dancing and dancing with a Torah nonetheless. After only 1 hakafah we left to head back to Beit Nativ for dinner and another wonderful Tisch before heading to bed.


Shabbat morning I decided to try out Yedidya which Gabriel has raved to me about. After a 30 minute walk we arrived around 8:45 and they were already on the 2nd hakafah because they had stated davening at 7:30. We all jumped into the intense dancing that was going on and I enjoyed it immensely; and we even went outside for the last 2 hakafot. After hakafot we went back inside for a separate male and female Torah and Haftorah reading and then we all came back to together for the end of tiffilot. After shul was over I got the chance to have an aliyah and then we walked bake to base for lunch and chill time until Shabbat was over.


Since there is only one day here, Saturday night in Gan Hapamon there were hakafot once more but this time it was with music because Shabbat/Chag was over. It was nice but due to the fact that I had already done hakafot twice already I did not stay for that long.


Through this one day I have realized that Simchat Torah was so much better in Israel because everyone was participating and everyone was into the dancing and all. Almost no one was sitting down. As well only in Israel during the chagim do the busses wish you a Chag Sameach.


Sunday was my last day of break from the Yeshiva so I spent it doing some errands and seeing my friend Yardena.


Monday it was back to Yeshiva and the beginning of starting new topics in certain classes. For example in Talmud we are starting to learn the 8th chapter of Baba Kama which deals with personal injury and damages. We looked this past week at pre-biblical law codes as well as the Mishna. Monday evening we had a speaker come talk to us about drug and alcohol use and abuse.


Tuesday night's Erev Nativ was an orientation to the semester that starts on Sunday was Hebrew University starts. This means that mini-mester will be over but we will now have more freedom and also will be receiving stipend which means that better food will be on its way. Also now that the semester is starting there will be various evening programs such as Flag football and a Jewish Educators training program.


Wednesday afternoon we went to the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel) memorial ceremony. AACI helps new olim to Israel and this memorial was to remember those where were killed in the past year. It was a somewhat moving ceremony but the most moving part is that since pre-Israel more than 300 olim have fallen in war or terrorist attacks fulfilling their dreams of living in Eretz Yisrael.


Thursday was one of the best days this past week. This was because it was my one month anniversary with Ethan. After getting dressed up thanks to the help of some of friends Ethan gave me a pair of earrings by Michal Negrin and then we went to dinner at Caffit and then for ice cream. It was a delicious dinner and wonderful evening. However this also means that I have already been in Israel for over 6 weeks which I cannot believe.


This past Shabbat was another wonderful relaxing weekend. Shabbat morning I went to the Beit Yisrael, the Ashkenazi shul in Yemin Moshe. It was a nice quick service which was done by 10:45 and there was a filling Kiddush afterwards with lasagna, crepes, cakes and more.


Now that the chagim are over and school and life is picking up I will not have as much time to blog but when I get a chance.


Until then,



Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sukkot and Survival

Wednesday began our Nativ preparation for the upcoming Holiday of Sukkot. That afternoon almost all 80 of us built and decorated the 2 Sukkot that we (Nativ) and the Fuchsberg center will be using throughout the Chag. Thursday after a study session on Sukkot prepared by us Yeshiva students it was off to the Shuk Arba Minim to find the perfect to use for the week. When we arrived at the shuk it was very overwhelming because there were so many different vendors to buy from and also so many people there from many different backgrounds. For example there was a large group of Ultra Orthodox Jews there with their magnify glasses to check etrogrim to make sure that they were perfect. After a search around I ended up buying the whole set plus a Lulav bag for only 40 Shekels (aprox. $11). Friday night was the start of Chag and I decided to go next door to Moreshet Yisrael for an OK service. It was not the best but it was close and quick. It was then back to Beit Nativ for dinner in the Sukkah and hanging out time. Shabbat morning I tried to get up to go to Shul but due to the lack of sleep during the week I did not wake up in time. When I did wake up it was time for lunch in the Sukkah followed by more relaxing and hanging out time and then before I knew it Shabbat was over and so was Yom Tov because Israel only celebrates one day. Motzei Shabbat was spent packing and getting ready for our 3 day desert survival tiyul.


Sunday morning began our 3 days in the desert which meant being dirty and no showers for those days but it was well worth it. We first drove down to the Ein Gedi Youth Hostel that I stayed at for the Yeshiva Shabbaton, to daven Shacharit and breakfast. It was then off to Sapir to began our hike which started with a very bumpy jeep ride to the start of our hiking trail. Once we all were there we started our adventure into the desert. The first day of hiking was mostly flat except for a hill/mountain our two and at the end of the day a really steep downhill. Out of the 3 days this was the worst one for me because I'm not used to hiking and also we started the hike when the sun was the highest so combine all these factors and you get really bad dehydration. Thankfully I had my friend Ari to help me get through the aprox. 8 km we walked that day as well as conversations and sing-a-longs to help pass the time. After about 6 hours after hiking we reached our campsite for the first night and had a delicious dinner and a campfire before heading to bed under the stars. Monday morning we woke up at 4:30 AM in order to daven, pack up and eat so we could start hiking before the sun rose too much. The 2nd day's hike was much longer, aprox. 15 km, and much rougher/harder. There were a lot of mountains that we had to overcome that day and one of them felt like I was rock climbing. We also met up with the Kehillah group midway through the day and it was nice to see the other half of Nativ. The really nice part of Monday was that because we were such fast hikers we got to our campsite earlier then expected which allowed for lots of rest and relaxation before another delicious dinner and another campfire which included marshmallows. As well by the end of Monday we had made it into the makhtesh (crater) and got to start seeing its vastness and beauty. Tuesday morning was the same deal as Monday morning and the hike was not that bad except for this REALLY steep mountain that we had to climb. However my friend Sami helped me up to the top and it was worth it due to the amazing view overlooking the whole makhtesh. In addition form the top I was able to see just a bit how much land we had hiked in the past days. After a somewhat steep and rocky walk down to the bottom we reached the end of our hike which was in total aprox. 35 K or so (aprox. 20 mi). I know for me when I saw the end I was so proud of myself for completing the whole hike despite my non athletic abilities and my prone to dehydration. Photos from the Tiuyl can be seen here.


After the bus ride back to Beit Nativ, I had a quick dinner and then it was off to a 20 minute shower to wash off the 3 days of dirt and who knows what that was on me. That shower though was probably one of the most refreshing ones after 3 days of not showering. Wednesday and Thursday were days off which meant sleep and resting. Thursday though, there was a blood drive at the King David Hotel and a few of my friends and I decided to go save a life. The actual donation took almost no time and I can now say that I have donated in two different countries, one of which is Israel.


Friday will be spent getting ready for Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah which is only one day here in Israel and I will let you all after the chag.




Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The 25 hours that Israel sleeps

This past week has been pretty much the regular (classes, sleeping, eating and relaxing). In Talmud we studied from Masecht Yoma and learned about different cases regarding fasting such as a pregnant women or a sick person. Thursday though was a very interesting afternoon due to the fact that we had the opportunity to do Kapparot. Kapparot is the practice of taking a chicken, swinging it over your head and all your sins are transferred to the chicken. The chicken is then slaughtered (right before your eyes) and then given to the poor. So I figured why not go and see what this is all about even though I had the mindset that I probably was not going to do this. After a brief walk to a parking lot near the shuk (where you could smell the chickens from the road) we approached the tent area where Kapparot was taking place. It was then that I and along with most of the group started freaking out because there were chickens being slaughtered right there and there where chickens being swung and there were tons of chickens that were sitting in crates waiting for their 'turn'. Most people who thought that they might do it backed out, however there were about 10 or so guys who decided to be brave enough and do Kapparot.  So in the end while I did not do Kapparot and get rid of my sins, my boyfriend Ethan did do it, so he partially got rid of some of my sins for me. It was then off to the shuk for some pre-Shabbat shopping and then back to Beit Nativ. If you are seating and reading this and thinking how cruel this practice is then take a look at this article: "Masorti movement joins fight against 'kapparot'"


Shabbat and the weekend were very relaxing due to the fact that lots of sleeping was done along with just hanging out with friends and more. Saturday night we changed the clocks back an hour so we can start and therefore end the fast earlier it was time to start preparing for Yom Kippur. This included study sessions once again, lunch at 11:30 and dinner at 3:30 due to the fast starting at 4:50. This left just enough time to rest and shower before it all began.


Now, Yom Kippur is THE holiest day in Israel. Even if you are not that religious Yom Kippur is the one day that 90% of Jews are in shul. Israel therefore literally shuts done due to this very holy day; Israeli airspace is closed, TV and radio go off air, and there are no cars on the streets. Yom Kippur is also one of the days that bike rental shops get most of their business because no one uses cars.


For Kol Nidre/Mariv a bunch of my friends and I decided to head to Leader's Minyan. Leader's Minyan is a very upbeat, ecstatic, spiritual and long experience. For example Shabbat services last until 1:30ish PM. So when we walked to where we thought it was it turns out that they daven about 30 minutes away on Yom Kippur. So with sunset quickly approaching about half of us decided that instead of walking the ½ hour we would go to a closer shul called Kedem where I went for Shabbat and 1st day Rosh Hashana. It was another very beautiful service and I continued to feel connected the High Holidays far better than I have at home. After services where over 2 of my really good friends from Philadelphia, Sara Z. and Shuli came over and it was a nice surprise to see them after about 5 years. After a bit of catch up we started our walk back to Beit Nativ but walking on very busy Israeli streets free from fear of getting killed due to the chag which was very exciting because if anyone has been to Israel before you know Israeli drivers are crazy. As well, all the lights were flashing yellow so that if there were any cars (and I did see about 5 or so) they slowed down. As we approached home I started hearing singing and when we came upon our intersection (which is rather busy on a daily basis and full of honking and sirens) we saw almost all of Nativ sitting in a circle singing a wide variety of Jewish songs. We joined the circle and the singing at it was so amazing to see everyone coming home from the nearby Orthodox, Conservative and Reform shuls stop and take in our community and our love for Judaism. During the course of our evening we even had some of them join us in song and dance. We even got written about in the Jerusalem Post (scroll down to where it says: "Some Sixty"). After the fun was over it was time for a bit more hanging out in the streets and then off to bed to get a good night sleep.


After a restful night I got up around 9 to head back to Kedem for Tiffilot and I once again enjoyed being able to walk down such busy streets without a care in the world. Tiffilot were pretty much uneventful but I continued to feel connected and enjoy services and not look at my watch every 5 seconds. When shul was over at around 2 (it started at 8) I headed back to base to relax and rest before Mincha and Neilah. It ended up that because I was so tired and not feeling too well that I slept through Mincha but I got up in time for Neilah and went next door to Moreshet Yisrael. It was an ordinary Neilah but not my favorite due to the predominately older crowd. At 6:05 the fast was over and I could not wait to eat and drink. After some snacks and a really bad break-fast meal, Ethan and I went to Ben Yehudah Street for Pizza and dessert crepes which were delicious and very tasty after a day of fasting.


Tuesday night, Rabbi Joel Roth spoke to us about Conservative Judaism which was defiantly a very interesting and controversial evening. Wednesday afternoon Nativ came together to build and decorate the 2 sukkot that we will be using next week which was a lot of fun.


Yom Kippur was defiantly the wake up point for me. This was when it almost finally hit me that Israel is my home because where else does a state shut down for a Jewish holiday because it was not like this on Rosh Hashana. Where else does everyone even the most secular Jews go to shul and therefore some shuls only have standing room on Yom Kippur. I know that back in Toronto I could not walk down Bathurst Street on Yom Kippur because I would end up in a hospital.


Next Sunday-Tuesday I will be on a survival tiyul and if I survive and will have lots to write about then.





Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Rainy Rosh Hashana in Israel

Spending Rosh Hashana in Israel was truly a once in a lifetime experience and was very different from Rosh Hashana in Canada or America. The week leading up to the chag everyone in the stores and along the streets were wishing each other a Shana Tova and you could just tell that everyone was getting ready for the Chag and ready to start a new page for the new year.


Friday morning after Tiffilot we had sichot about Rosh Hashana to learn more about the upcoming Chag and to also get us in the mood. I chose to go to sessions about Akadet Yitzchak, customs done on Rosh Hashana, and about Utana Tokef. They were all wonderful sessions and after they were finished some friends and I decided to be a bit crazy and head to the shuk. While it was a wonderful experience to see the shuk so busy and full of life due to the fact that it was just a few hours before the sunset, it was hard to move and it smelt so bad from all the fish and more. After the return from the shuk I finished getting ready and then headed down to -3 where we all davened together for a powerful and moving service. Personally, I shed a couple of tears due to the fact that it really was starting to hit me that Israel will be home for the next 9 months and therefore I will not be spending almost any Chagim or Shabatot with my family for a long time. Nonetheless Nativ has already started to become my family for the year. After services, we all headed upstairs for a delicious (yes, delicious and fulfilling food at Beit Nativ) dinner complete with fish heads. Then after dinner a bunch of my friends said that they were going to head to the Kotel and I figured that what better time to go take my first visit to the Kotel this time in Israel then Rosh Hashana. After a relaxing walk there and once again seeing the Rosh Hashana atmosphere in the streets we arrived there. While I thought that it would be crowded considering the holiday it was quite empty and I was able to walk right up to the wall and I was very happy that I made the choice to go.


After a great night sleep, it was up and out of Beit Nativ very early (7:30ish) in order to get to services on time. I along with some friends decided to head to Kedem which is an egalitarian service. It was a very beautiful service with lots of great tunes and it really felt like I was part of the service as opposed to at home where I felt it was more like a show and I was just a spectator. After a pretty quick service (done by 12:00) it was back to Beit Nativ for lunch and rest time. However in the middle of the afternoon I looked outside and it was legit raining, yes, raining in September in Israel. Even though the rain did not last that long it was still exciting. That evening my boyfriend (yes, I have a boyfriend now, questions can be asked later) and I headed to Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein's in-laws house for another delicious dinner (including eating a quince which is a cross between an apple and a pear) with all their family and friends.  When we got back it was straight to bed because Sunday was also an early morning.


Sunday was a very long day due to the fact that we walking to Talpiyot (which is about an hour walk) to go to two different Masorti Synagogues and get hosted by families there for lunch.  When we got to the city after a rainy walk, some of the group went to Mayanot
and I along with the part of the group went to Moreshet Avraham. It was another beautiful service. I then went to lunch at the Friedgut's for a tasty lunch and some down time from the long walk.  It was then off to the Tayellet (a scenic strip that overlooks the Jerusalem and the old city) to daven Mincha and do Tashlich (which consisted of throwing rocks and bread over the Tayellet). It was then time to walk back to Beit Nativ to relax and bit and then end this first wonderful Chag in Eretz Yisrael. 


The rest of this week has been pretty much normal just classes, relaxing and hanging out with friends. Monday though was the first Disney b'Ivrit evening on Nativ. This week we watched Shrek (which is not exactly Disney) but it was still a great evening of learning new Hebrew words, learning new parts to Shrek that I did not know about and hearing some of the great song in Hebrew.


My next blog posting will tell all of you about the holiest holiday of the year, Yom Kippur and also about Kapparot.




Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Wave

Just as a wave goes up and down so has my past week. Last week was a very full and packed week. Sunday was the first day of Yeshiva which was very exciting but is still taking some time getting used to the long days and having school on Sundays. So here is an update on some of my classes so far:


Talmud (Rabbi Joel Levy): Until the end of the chagim we are studying Masecht Brachot and learning about what Brachot to say for various objects such as rain or good/bad news etc. After the chagim we will be learning from Masecht Baba Kama which deals with damages.
Chumash from Midrash to Middle Ages (Dr. Shaiya Rothberg): This year we are studying Sefer B'reishit and at the moment we are learning about Breit Ben Habitarim (Chapter 15) and looking at Rashi and other commentators to help us understand this Breit and the story surrounding it.
Contemporary Issues in Halacha (Rabbi Shlomo Zachrow): This is one of two classes just for Nativ students. This past week we studied about Pidyon Shvuim (Redeeming Captives) and looked at various sources to help us understand this Mitzvah. We also discussed Gilad Shalit.
Bekiut Mishna (Dr. Josh Kulp): This year we are studying from Masecht Chullin from Seder Kodashim. Chullin deals with the laws of slaughtering and eating meat. I will not go into details about what we are specifically learning as to not loose anyone's appetite; however I might be able to possibly become a part-time shochet.


So these classes along with 4 others are what take up my days, Sunday-Thursday, 8:45-6:15 with some breaks. After Yeshiva, I figure out what my adventure will be for the evening. For example, most evenings have consisted of going out to get dinner or something to supplement the not filling Beit Nativ food and at the same time taking time to explore my home. Also, every Tuesday night is Erev Nativ which means various programming with our entire group, so last week we had a speaker from this organization called Tav Chevrati. This organization gives restaurants and other buildings this seal if they respect they legal rights that each employee has, is handicap accessible, has Braille menu and more. Now, if you have been to Israel before, you probably know that if you are in a wheelchair or something similar it is very hard to get around the city. Therefore it was comforting to see that someone is doing something about this.


Last Wednesday during my 3 hour break a bunch of us decided to head to the shuk which was lots of fun and eye-opening. While I did not purchase anything, there was such a wide variety of produce and goods. For example I could have gotten a fish head for Rosh Hashana.

Thursday night we had a memorial service for 9/11 which was the following day. We had a brief talk and then we watched the movie United 93. Considering I was only 10 when the attacks took place and I had not seen the towers fall and more it was a very moving and powerful movie. There was not a dry eye in the room when the movie finished and it also gave the rest of the evening a very somber mood.


This past weekend was our first open weekend which means that we do not have to stay on base. Therefore I went on the Yeshiva Shabbaton in Ein Gedi. We started off on Friday with a hike seeing the springs and streams and also getting a chance to swim and see the ancient Synagogue there. We also got a chance to go the Dead Sea which was fun but I forgot my sunscreen in Jerusalem and therefore my punishment was a nice red back. Shaba bat with the Yeshiva was such a great experience and I can't wait for the next one. There was so much ruach the whole weekend and everyone was into the tiffilot which gave them a whole new meaning. By the end of Shabbat, I got the feeling that Yeshiva is going to be incredible because of the amazing people here.

Motzei Shabbat we got a chance to choose which synagogue we wanted to for Slichot. Slichot is a set of tiffilot which we say leading up to Rosh Hashana asking God for forgiveness. I along with some of my friends decided to go and experience the Great Synagogue. It was defiantly an experience. From the women's balcony above I got to take a look around and I saw so many different types of Jews. There were some wearing streimels, some with black hats, some wearing jeans etc. which shows that all of Israel can come together no matter ones background. Now at the Great Synagogue there was an amazing choir in the front all wearing tallitot. While it was very nice to hear the choir chant Ashrei for example took almost 10 minutes. After about an hour we decided to leave because we were all falling asleep and we had to get up for class in the morning.

Monday evening I got the chance to purchase Machzorim and Siddurim and I bought the Koren edition of both. I'm very excited to use the siddur because I have been using Sim Shalom since who knows when. Afterwards my friends and I decided to head down to the Emek Refaim street fair. This meant that a large portion of the street was blocked off and all along the street there were many vendors selling their goods such as jewelry, clocks and more. It was very crowded but it was for sure the place to be last night.

Next week I will fill you all in on the excitement of celebrating Rosh Hashana in Jerusalem but until then you can take a look at the pictures that I have taken so far.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I have returned home

On the flight from Toronto to Frankfurt, when the pilot announced to fasten seatbelts for takeoff I started tearing up. It finally started to hit me that I was leaving behind 18 years of living at home, 18 years of relying on my parents and 18 years of amazing memories. However I also realized that in front of me was 9 months of finding out who I am as a person, 9 months of amazing adventures and memories and friends waiting to be made.


When we landed in Tel Aviv and everyone got their luggage we drove to a look out on the way to Beit Nativ where we could see the old city of Jerusalem and the new modern of city of Tel Aviv and more. It was nice to see the big picture of where my home was going to be for the next 9 months. After a light dinner it was time to unpack and try and get a good night sleep.


Thursday was a day of getting to know the area around Beit Nativ with a 1 ½ hour walking tour and icebreakers. That evening we had an orientation for Yeshiva and got to pick our classes and had a BBQ in a nearby park.


Friday was pretty intense with a 2 hour hike around the area in and around Jerusalem. It was a really nice hike seeing the natural caves and waterfalls. At times it was hard but my friends helped me through and we were 'rewarded' with lunch at the Harel Mall. It was then back to Beit Nativ to get ready for our first Shabbat in Israel. For Kabbalat Shabbat we walked over to Yemin Moshe and davened overlooking the old city which I felt was a beautiful way to start Shabbat and the year ahead of us.


Shabbat morning I davened at Shira Hadasha which is an Orthodox minyan in the sense that there is a Mehitzah, however women are allowed to have aliyot, lead the Torah service and more. It was defiantly a very interesting service but for sure one that I would love to go back to. Motzei Shabbat, we got to a soccer game- Israel vs. Latvia for the FIFA 2010 World cup qualifying round. Despite it being a great experience seeing an Israeli soccer game Israel lost 1-0.


Sunday was the first day of classes at Yeshiva. Until December I will be taking: Talmud, Mishna, Midrash, Pirki Avot, Chumash, Contemporary Issues in Halacha, Ulpan, and Modern Jewish Thought. The first was good, got to meet lots of new people but at the same time it was very exhausting being back at school especially on a Sunday. I cannot wait to start the rest of my classes at the Yeshiva and the Shabbaton this weekend.


So this has been just the beginning of an amazing time and I want to hear from all of you back home about what has been going on in your lives.





P.S. I have not been that good about taking pictures but I will try and put some up soon when I do take some.