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.