Thursday, January 28, 2010

You Seriously Want to Date a Stone Wall-Week 2 in Ελλάδα (Greece)

Sunday we started by visiting Syntagma metro station to view some artifacts that where found while excavating for the subway. Some things that were found were bones in grave and roman aqueducts. We then went to Syntagma square to watch the changing of the Evzone guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The whole routine was quite comical especially with their very funny outfits. However probably one of the funniest things is at one point someone went to take a picture with one of the guards and he started laughing and so did we all.  Now these guards are supposed to stand still for their allotted time and not move or smile so seeing him laugh was just hilarious and he had to take a breather in his post box.  After an amusing morning we went to grab lunch and something hot to drink because it was cold and rainy (lox sandwich and hot chocolate).  We then went to the new Acropolis museum which houses all the artifacts that were found while excavating the area as well as showcasing an Athenian village that was discovered during construction. The museum was very crowded because it is so new but we still got to see everything that we wanted which was amazing. I couldn't believe the vast amount of artifacts found and how grand some of the statuses are. We then did some shopping before continuing on to see Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Both were amazing and it was interesting to see how elaborate they were building thousands of years ago. We then went to the Panathinaiko Stadium where sports for both the ancient and modern Olympics were held.  Afterwards we took a stroll back to the Plaka to look around before heading to the hotel to rest. For dinner we went to this very good restaurant where I had fried eggplant with feta and tomatoes.

Here are the 5 videos of the changing of the guards: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Monday morning we started by visiting Mt. Lycabettus. This mountain is the highest in Athens and from it you can see all of Athens and even sometimes the island of Aegina. We took a steep cable car ride up to the top of the mountain and then looked at the amazing view. It was nice to see from high above the whole city as well as all the sites that we had seen. After the cable car ride down we went to this vegetarian friendly restaurant and it was so nice to have lots of options; I chose a sundried tomato and mozzarella sandwich which was great. We then walked to the National Archeological Museum which is both the largest archaeological museum in Greece and houses some of the most important artifacts from all over Greece.  It was a great museum seeing all the artifacts and it was a great way to end our 2nd to last day in Athens. Afterwards we headed to the hotel to rest and then went for dinner (spaghetti with tomato sauce, vegetables and tuna fish).

Tuesday we woke up early to go the island of Aegina. After a short (45 minutes) hydrofoil ride we arrived on the island and started exploring. Our first stop was the Temple of Aphaia on the other side of the island.  After figuring out which bus we needed to take (it was hard because everyone only spoke Greek and we spoke none), we arrived at the remnants of this temple.  This temple was nothing real special because we had seen so many but the surrounding view was amazing. After we got back to the main town we stopped to get some hot chocolate because it was so cold outside as well as some pistachios which this island is famous for.  After we went to the local archeological museum and also saw the acropolis of Aegina and part of the ancient town of Aegina. One of the coolest things we saw though was a mosaic floor from the local synagogue, so it was nice to see that there once was an active Jewish community here. Due to us having some to time to kill before we caught the next ferry back, Ari and I decided to be kids again and play in the local playground which was a blast.  After the ferry ride back and arriving back at the hotel, we decided to save money and have a picnic dinner of the food that we had left.

Wednesday was our last day in Athens and Greece, so we took it easy. After we woke up, we took a double decker bus sightseeing tour of Athens. The bus was a nice ending to our time here and it was great to sit back and learn some more information about the sites we saw and to see them one last time. Afterwards we headed to the Plaka to do souvenir shopping and Ari and I both got some great stuff for ourselves and our family and friends back home. We then went back to the hotel to pack and relax before dinner. Tonight for dinner we went back to one of the places that we went to last week because it was so good; tonight I got a Caesar salad with salmon which was amazing. We then went back to finish packing and get to bed early because we were leaving early for Israel Thursday.

Thursday we flew back to Israel mid-morning. The flight was uneventful but most of the flight contained a Greek Orthodox pilgrimage group, so I sat next to this nice Greek couple. When we got back to Israel and Beit Nativ, we got out rooms back, unpacked and settled down. It was great to see all my friends that I had missed.

Greece as you can tell was an amazing trip! I saw so much s well as learning a lot. Food wise I survived but I don't know if I want to eat another Greek salad for a while!

Until February 10th when we arrive on Kibbutz, we will spent Sunday-Tuesday experiencing Israel through a various lenses during Israel Today Seminar. Wednesday will be spent packing, saying goodbye to Jerusalem and having orientation for the 2nd semester. Thursday we leave for Negev Tiyul where we will be hiking, spending time in Eilat and more. I can't believe though that it's almost February which means Nativ is half over but I will be taking every opportunity that I have to enjoy the time that I have left.

Here are the pictures from the first week, enjoy!

Until next time,

με αγάπη, (with love in Greek)


A Bug Flew Into My Mouth-Week 1 in Ελλάδα (Greece)

From January 14th-28th we had off to do what we wanted to; some went home, some stayed in Israel, while others traveled to Italy and Greece. I headed to Greece with two of my friends, Ari and Ethan. We did not leave until the Sunday though because I was spending the weekend with my Abba. Thursday evening I finally got to see Abba which was very exciting. Friday we went on a bit of a shopping spree for various gifts before getting ready for Shabbat. Shabbat was really great because I was spending it with Abba, as well as eating meals at various friends' houses. Motzei Shabbat well finishing packing Abba took a couple of my friends and me for dinner at Café Hillel which was a great way to end my time in Jerusalem. It was then time to say goodbye to Abba because in a few hours I was heading to Greece.

Sunday very early in the morning (2:45 AM), we headed to the airport to catch our flight. Due to being there early we had enough time to go to the Kosher McDonalds and I got a hamburger.  After a short but early flight we landed in Athens and we then took a taxi by a very nice and helpful taxi driver to our hotel which is quite nice. Due to our lack of sleep we spent much of the day sleeping but we did walk around the Plaka which is the main square. We checked out many of the cool stores and had an early dinner (Greek salad and tzatziki) before heading back to the hotel.

Monday after a restful night's sleep we headed out to start seeing the sights that Athens has to offer. We started off at the Kerameikos of Ancient Athens. Here was one of the largest districts in Ancient Athens but this area is most known as being a very important cemetery with tombs dating back to the Bronze Age. Next we headed to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike, The Beulé Gate and The Propyalea.  We found out that for a lot of the sites we are able to get in for free because we are under 19 and don't have to pay 12€. It was really amazing to see these sites which are so old and also very rich in history. As well because I have learned about Ancient Greece a lot in school it was cool to see what I've learned about in person. Next we went to the Ancient Agora (market place) and saw a temple and a stoa. The agora was both a place of business as well as a place of assembly. We then headed back to the Plaka to grab a quick bite to eat (Greek salad) and then it was back to the hotel to rest because most of the sites and museums close at 3. In the evening we headed back to the Plaka for dinner (spaghetti with tomatoes, basil and cheese) and after exploring the area a bit more we went to Haagen Dazs for fondue which was amazing. The fondue consisted of little balls of ice cream of different flavors, fruit, cookies, brownies and nuts and we dipped this all in good. It was then an early night to bed because we were waking up at 5:45 to go to Delphi.

Tuesday was our first day trip out of Athens which was to Delphi. Delphi is most well known for its oracle. After a 3 hour bus ride through the beautiful mountains and the surrounding area, we arrived and walked to see the sites. We started off at the archeological museum seeing lots of the artifacts from the excavation of the area. Next we saw the Sanctuary of Athena, the Tholos and gymnasium. Then we went to the main area of Ancient Delphi and saw such sites as the Treasury of the Athenians and the Temple of Apollo. It was really cool to see all these sites and to think what it would have been like to see it active. It then started hailing and raining so we caught the next bus back to Athens. When we got back we grabbed dinner to eat at the hotel (spaghetti again) before heading to bed early.

Wednesday we toured some of the local museums. We started at the War Museum which was pretty neat. I was a bit lost though because some of the information was only in Greek and I also did not fully know Greece's history. Despite this I enjoyed looking at the weapons, outfits and more.  The best part was probably when one of the soldiers gave each of us 4 postcards of various soldiers for free. We then went to the Jewish Museum of Athens which was an amazing museum and it felt great supporting a community that is not as strong as others in the world. In the museum we saw artifacts and costumes for holidays and other events that were a bit different then what we are used to. Afterwards we tried to find a vegetarian restaurant but it did not exist so we got lunch at this small family run restaurant and I got guess what, a Greek salad! We then went to the Greek Popular Musical Instruments museum which was not that great. It was very small and just not that interesting or captivating. It was then back to the area around the Plaka for some more shopping and just strolling in this beautiful country. After heading to the hotel for a bit of a rest we went to the Hard Rock Café for dinner. It was so good and I had salmon with broccoli and mashed potatoes so it was great to have some variety. It was then back to the hotel because we realized that most of the shops close around 6 so unless you want to eat or stay up until 11ish when the bars and clubs open there is not much to do.

Thursday was our 2nd out of Athens trip which was to Cape Sounion. The ride both ways was beautiful because the route was along the coast so seeing the clear, blue sea against the mountains and tiny villages was stunning. In Cape Sounion we saw the Temple of Poseidon which is perched atop a cliff so besides for seeing the temple there are breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Due to the time of the year there was nothing else to do so we caught the next bus to Athens. When we got back, due to it being 5 we went to the hotel to put down our stuff before heading for dinner. Tonight due to the rain we went to a restaurant right down the street from the hotel which was really good and I got cheese ravioli with pesto and parmesan. For desert I had chocolate mousse with strawberries and they gave us free appletinis.

Friday we slept in and then got ready for Shabbat. Before we left Israel I had organized with the Chabad here in Athens to have Shabbat dinner and lunch with them. Friday after resting for the day we got ready for Shabbat and walked over to the main Shul in Athens. It was a quick walk and once we got there Ari and I were ushered upstairs onto the balcony for tiffilot. Friday night tiffilot were quite short because there was no minyan and they also did everything out load. While we were up there we were able to look around and admire how beautiful the synagogue is as well as admire the dress of the rabbis (black kitels with gold stripes and a black hat). After tiffilot we walked back to Rabbi Hendel's house for dinner where we met his lovely wife and his 3 adorable children, as well as a very nice family from New York who were visiting Athens on their way to Israel. While talking to Rabbi Hendel and his wife, Nehama were told that they have been in Athens for 9 years and while there are around 3000 Jews in Athens they are spread out all over the city so it is very hard to bring everyone together which is why it is hard at times to get a minyan.  Dinner was very delicious and it was great to have a home cooked meal as well as some meat. After dinner we walked back to the hotel to relax.

Shabbat morning we got up and headed back to shul. Once again it was a quick service with parts that we did not understand because it is a Sephardic shul. We also were able to realize that the average age was around 80 and the shul seemed like a tourist attraction because there lots of people in pants and there were some cell phone ringing. As well we saw that despite being a Sephardic shul they had Ashkenazi torahs and Rabbi Hendel told us he torahs were ones that where rescued from the war. After shul we went back to Rabbi Hendel's house for lunch which was once again delicious and then it was back to the hotel to rest. After Shabbat we headed out for dinner (Greek salad and we shared tzatziki and fried cheese) and then walked around a bit.

Here are the pictures from the first week, enjoy!

Until next time,

με αγάπη, (with love in Greek)


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Digging in the Dirt

This past week was Israel Experience week and we had four different options: Poland (for those who had never been), volunteering in Haifa, Gadna (army simulation), or an archaeological dig which is what I chose to do. For the week in the morning we were working under the Israel Antiquity Association and were digging in ancient Tibereias and dug up part of the roman theater and in the afternoon we toured and hiked around the area. The great thing about this dig is that it is an active dig site meaning that only archaeologists and others who are working on the site are allowed, no visitors or tourists. So this is a rare opportunity that we had.   


Sunday after a longish drive up we arrived where we would be digging for the week. There we had lunch and took a brief tour of where will be digging and the surrounding area. The theatre that will be excavating was underground completely and when they started the excavation they found an Arab house but removed it to start excavating the theatre. We also saw the remnants of an earthquake in 749 CE and the damage can still be seen. As well we saw a roman bath house that was excavated previously.  We then went to our hostel, Karei Deshe, which was more like a resort to unwind. Sunday afternoon/evening we hung out at the beach, went into Tibereas for some free time and after a great dinner we headed to bed by 8:30 so we were rested for the long days ahead of us. 


Monday after a very early wake up (6:00), we headed off to the site and started the day seeing the southern gate and entrance to roman tiberias. Afterwards we walked to the theater but we could not dig because a camera blimp was taking an aerial shot of the site in an hour or so, so in the mean time we swept the area and cleared away buckets of dirt and rocks. After a bit of doing that we headed to Migdal to do some excavation of the site there and get our anxious hands on some ancient artifacts. In Migdal we helped with the excavation of a 2nd temple period synagogue and this is only the 7th found from this period outside of Jerusalem. One of the most important artifacts found from this synagogue was the oldest picture of a Menorah outside of Jerusalem. As well the synagogues in this time period were used mostly for study because pray was done only in Jerusalem in the Beit HaMikdash. When we were digging we found lots of pottery and even some almost whole pieces. It was a lot of fun to finally be able to start digging and thinking that we are one of the first people to be touching these artifacts in thousands of years. 

In the afternoon we headed Beit She'an National Park to see the remnants of Roman and Byzantine Beit She'an that was uncovered over various periods of time.  We saw the ancient theater (which is what the one in Tiberias might look like), bath houses, public toilets, whore houses and more; And it was pretty cool to see a whole site excavated and get a better idea what goes into excavating a whole site.  We also got a better picture of the damage from the earthquake and we were told that when they were excavating they found a women's arm of someone who was probably escaping.  All in all it was a long and exhausting but I'm looking forward to the days ahead. When we got back to our 'resort' we chilled and had dinner and it was another early night to bed. 


Tuesday we headed to the theatre to start our work there. I was excited to improve the skills I used yesterday, to get dirty and see how much work we could get done in 3 days. After splitting into groups of 4 we were assigned our area that we would be digging in for the next days. My group was assigned to a section behind the stage right on the edge of where one can see the earthquakes effect. Our task was to dig and see what effect the earthquake had on this section and we were very excited that we got assigned this part. Over the course of the day we did not dig that deep but over the 4 hours we did make a decent dent and found lots of pottery (jug handles, iron, glass, and various sizes of pottery that was part of jugs and pots). We even saw that some of the pieces were burnt which meant they were used way back when. We were also told by Gilad, our guide for the week at the site, that some of the pieces were burnt because of the Arab houses that were on top so we are finding artifacts from both periods. It was lots of fun and I could not wait to get back the next day and see what else we could find but we were all pleased with our days work.      

In the afternoon we took a hike around Nahal Tavor and the surrounding area. It was a nice hike but due to all of us being tired from digging it was a bit hard. I'm glad though that we got to see this beautiful area that was so lush, green and looked a bit like Ireland; and it is not every day that you get to see something like this in Israel.   Once again when we got back we chilled, took showers and had dinner and then it was another early night to bed. 


Wednesday we left our hostel because Wednesday night we were staying at a surprise location. It was back to the dig site to continue our work that we had started yesterday. Due to the fact that we already had dug yesterday it was a lot easier today and we were able to get more done. We did not find as much as yesterday but we did find lots of bones probably from a small animal.     

In the afternoon we headed to the ancient city of Gamla. Gamla in 66 CE joined the revolt against the Romans but it was first breached in 67 CE by the Romans but the Jews who lived there would not go down easily and killed most of the Roman soldiers. However a few days later the Roman successfully breached the walls of the Gamla and killed over 9 thousand Jews, both inhabitants and those from surrounding areas who find refuge here during the revolt. After this Gamla was lost for 1900 years until 1968 when it was rediscovered. Over the next 20 years it was excavated and lots of evidence was found that proved that this site was in fact the lost city of Gamla as well as a fierce battle (arrow heads and ballista balls) between the Jews and Romans. It was interesting to see especially because our guide was one of the archaeologists who helped excavate the site.  It was then off to our surprise location for the evening, The King Solomon Hotel. It was such a nice treat and I even got to take a nice long bath and which helped relieve some of my sore muscles. Once again it was an early night so we could get some sleep and energy for our final day     


Thursday was our last day of digging which was quite sad but we were very motivated to get as much done as possible. Throughout the morning we got a lot of digging done and even found part of a wall and some lots of pottery; some of the pottery was even wedged into the wall. We even got hats with the Israel Antiquity Association symbol on it which was really nice of them. Looking back on the week, I'm so glad that I chose this option because it was so much fun and I had an amazing time. I'm hoping that maybe when we come on our Northern Tiyul we will be able to come back and see how much has been accomplished. 


This weekend I will be spending it with my Abba which I'm looking forward to so much. Then Sunday morning I will be heading to Greece until January 28th which should be an amazing trip and I will take lots of pictures.


Here are some pictures of the dig and the trips.


Until then,        




Friday, January 8, 2010

נס גדול היה פה (A Great Miracle Happened Here)

The first week in December for 3 days the Yeshiva held an Agents of Change program. The purpose of the program was to teach as about various social and political issues in Israel. Therefore there were two sessions where we looked at some issues such as refugees. Then that Sunday we travelled to Tel Aviv where we got to meet with some change makers and hear how they implemented change when they saw a problem such a hunger, or underprivileged and under-educated children and how they brought about change. In the afternoon we got a chance to go to one of the fields used by Table to Table and pick clementines which were given the next day to those in need. I found that I did not get much of the program but I did enjoy going to Tel Aviv and hearing from the speakers and the picking.


That Shabbat I spent it with the Moshes in Talpiyot who are some very good family friends. It was a nice relaxing Shabbat and it was nice to have a homemade meal.


That Tuesday's Erev Nativ was devoted to making our own chanukkiot to be used over Chanukah. It was a lot of fun to make our own and it was nice to have my own to use for the first time.


Wednesday night marked our last session with Mark Lazar. I learned a lot from this program and I'm so happy that I did it. As well as Wednesday night there was a big protest right outside the guest house by the right-wing Israelis against the construction settlement freeze in the West Bank. It was kind of cool to have such a major even happening right outside of our windows despite the loud noises.


For our next closed weekend (December 4-7) we travelled up north to Kibbutz Hanaton to see what Kibbutz life is like before we head down south to Kibbutz Ein Tzurim in February. Hanaton is a Masorti kibbutz that is trying to revitalize after a long period of inactivity. Friday after a long bus ride we arrived right before Shabbat so we got ready quickly and then headed to light Chanukkah and Shabbat. It was so nice to see over 35 chanukkiot lit and light up the room along with the Shabbat candles. Over the course of Shabbat we got a tour of the kibbutz and learned about the kibbutz and the kibbutz movement and revival. Sunday on the way back to Jerusalem we stopped in Zichron Yaakov and visited the First Alyiah Museum and then had time to walk around this small town. Zichron Yaakov was one of the first settlements in Israel when the pioneers moved to Israel from Eastern Europe. After lunch we went to Tel Aviv and visited the Olympic Experience, a new museum dedicated to Israel and its role in the Olympics. It was a very cool museum and I recommend that if anyone is ever in Tel Aviv to visit it.


Chanukah was such an amazing holiday in Israel. Weeks before and during the Chag supermarkets and bakeries were selling sufganiyot of all flavors and I got to sample some such as halva, caramel and more. While walking through the streets at night you could see chanukkiot lit in all the store windows and see everyone in a cheerful mood. That Thursday we went to nursing home in Meah Shearim to sing to the residents there. It was wonderful to cheer up the residents for a couple of minutes. Chanukah was such a wonderful holiday and it was wonderful to lit Chanukah candles with everyone on Nativ throughout the holiday. On the seventh night I managed to light Chanukah candles with my parents and Joshua via Skype so for one night it felt like I was lighting candles with my family. As well the Erev Nativ we had Chanukah party which included watching Rugrats Chanukah.


Throughout the month of December while at home there is the feeling of Christmas in the air however in Israel, even on Christmas Eve and day it did not seem like that holiday. Despite this on Christmas Eve a few of my friends and I watched some Christmas movies such as "It's a Wonderful Life".


The end of December also marked the end of my time at the Yeshiva. Sitting here now I can't believe how quickly my time there flew by. It was such an amazing experience; I made so many friends and learned so much. Due to the fact that Yeshiva ended a week earlier then the Ulpan track we had an extra week of classes just for Nativers. These classes were also quite interesting and were taught by some of the 2nd year students. If you would like to know more about some of my classes just ask.


Other then finishing studying at Yeshiva I mostly have been relaxing and just hanging around. For the past two weeks Gabriel has been here visiting so I have been touring around with him. Last week we took a tour of the Knesset in Hebrew and despite some hesitation I understood almost all of the tour. It was an interesting tour and it was fascinating to learn about the Israeli government. We then went to Meah Shearim to buy some books and for me this was my first time in the heart of Meah Shearim so it was nice that Gabriel exposed me to this places that I have not yet been to. Otherwise then that we have just been hanging out and it's been great seeing him and enjoying a piece of home. As well two of my friends, Sarah Prince and Alex Rosenberg came to Israel and Birthright so I got the chance to see them which was nice.


As well the past two weeks for Erev Nativ we have had two interesting speakers; Rabbi Morris Allen who spoke to us about Hechsher Tzedek and Rabbi Steven Wernick who is the new executive vice-president of USCJ. Both of them were very captivating and enjoyed them very much.


This week besides for seeing Gabriel I've been busy packing up and enjoying my time in Jerusalem because next week I will be doing an archeological dig in Tiberias, then next Shabbat I will be spending it with Abba and then I'm off to Greece for 11 days. Then when I get back from that we have an Israel Today Seminar and Negev Tiyul and then February 10th we move to Kibbutz Ein Tzurim. So as you can see these next couple of weeks will be quite busy.


Here are some pictures of what I have been up to lately.


Until next time,