Monday, April 26, 2010

יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה ויום העצמאות

Sunday night began the Yom Hazikaron, the 2nd of three special and different days in Israel. Due to me being on the va'ad for Yom Hazikaron, I spent all day Sunday after work doing last minute preparation and setting up the Moadon for the evening. That evening a little bit before 8 we started with ma'ariv and then our tekas began with poems, a movie about Alex Singer, an American lone solider killed in Lebanon and songs relating to the day. At 8 PM the 1st siren for the day went off and some of the feelings that I had felt a week ago on Yom HaShoah came back. We also included in our tekas a round robin program and I taught about heroism and told the stories of Eli Cohen and Hannah Senesh. Once these sessions were finished, we concluded the evening with everyone reading the brief information we found on just 42 of the 22,684 soldiers killed since the beginning of the state and lit a candle. This part was very emotional especially since Nadiv and Elkana knew three of the soldiers personally. Once our tekas was over I went back to my room, checked out the TV, which just like Yom HaShoah, had either programming for Yom Hazikaron or saying that programming will resume the next day.


Monday began a crazy 36 hours with little sleep. After tiffilot, we drove to Jerusalem and went straight to Har Herzl and it was really hard to get there due to the traffic, but the bus was able to drop us off close by. We then started our walk to the cemetery and on the way students from various programs and soldiers were handing out flowers to put on graves, water and books of tehillim to say. Once I got into the actually cemetery we had the time to go where ever we wanted so I chose to walk with some friends towards the graves for soldiers killed in 1948 and for a lot of soldiers there was just a mass grave because their bodies were never found. At 11 AM the 2nd siren of the day went off, and it was pretty amazing to see the thousands of families, friends and soldiers come to a stand still for the 2 minutes. Once the siren was over, a ceremony started and you were able to hear it over the loudspeaker but it was hard to hear and it was also all in Hebrew. Therefore I spent the time walking around seeing all the graves and because I stuck to the section for the earlier years of the state there was not as many people, but still a lot. I think that being able to go to Har Herzl really allowed me to see how much Israel comes together as a nation on this day due to almost everyone knowing someone who was killed. As well, when the ceremony was over and we were leaving I was able to see how around the graves in the newer sections were packed with no room to move.

Once we left the cemetery we went to Beit Nativ for an uneventful lunch followed by an afternoon of various speakers. We started by hearing from Elkana and him talking to us about him being a tank commander and some of the soldiers that he had trained where killed in the 2nd Lebanon war; he also played a song for us that he had composed the tune to. We then heard from Michael Levin (z"l) parents about him and his story and told us both the good and the bad. I won't go into detail about exactly what we were told but it was quite moving. We then watched the movie "As If Nothing Happened", about the terrorist bombing at the Beit Lid Junction and the movie focused on a family that was sitting in limbo not knowing if their son had been killed or not and the tension surround this event. To conclude the Nativ portion of Yom Hazikaron, Yossi talked to us about the contrasting effects of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut being one after another and little bit about some events going on that evening.


Since there was not much to do until we were heading to tiffilot later, I took a nap downstairs in -3 because all the room were being used by March of the Living. At around 6 we headed out, made a quick stop at Cup O'Joe and then continued on to Shira Hadasha for services. Services began with Minch and then there was a tekas to move from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha'atzmaut. This tekas included poems, speeches and songs and also people stood up and said names if they knew someone killed in a war or terrorist attack. It was quite moving and was a nice way to end such a somber day. Ma'ariv was then began with instruments since it was a weekday and Hallel was also said and since this was such a festive occasion Hallel took quite a long time but with the instruments and everyone being a great mood I enjoyed it immensely. We then headed out to Emek Refaim to grab something for dinner and then went back to Beit Nativ to put things away, and change for the rest of the evening. We then headed out for the rest of the evening and when we were walking towards Ben Yehudah St. there were people selling various toys and such for the holiday and everyone was in a crazy festive mood. When we got to Ben Yehudah, it was packed to the max with people celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut and there was music, food and dancing all along the street. While I had wanted to stay out all night and celebrate Israel's birthday, I had a really bad cold so I chose to go back to Beit Nativ and try and sleep. However, due to Nativers coming back at all hours I did not get much sleep.


Tuesday morning, once I got back and got my things together, I hung out with some of my friends who were up and then began to help prepare for our huge Nativ Mangal (BBQ) which is the Israeli thing to do and after being in Israel for so long, it was only fitting. We began by skewering and marinating vegetables, steak, turkey and more and then I helped BBQ for the afternoon. Of what I did eat, the food was amazing and it was great being outside and party with everyone else; we also saw a few fly-bys which were really cool. The afternoon before heading back to kibbutz was spent hanging out and enjoying being outside and in Jerusalem for Yom Ha'atzmaut.


One thing I noticed was that when Hatikvah was played Monday, it had a whole new meaning for me after being in Israel for the past 8 month and realizing how special Israel is as a country and a homeland. I was so glad that I was able to finally celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut in Israel and despite being sick still had a great time.


Tuesday and Wednesday will be spent in Be'er Sheva learning about how to advocate for Israel and I will report back later in the week.


Until then,



Friday, April 23, 2010

יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה

Sunday night began Yom HaShoah and as Yossi told us, Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut will be a totally different experience in Israel that back home. So, Sunday after another great day in the Gan and in the afternoon doing some work, we started at 7:30 our program/tekas (ceremony). It began with Mariv followed by lighting candles in memory of the victims, Yossi talking to us, and various people reading Megillat HaShoah, a Megillat created by the Conservative Movement, discussed suffering, stories from the Holocaust and the final chapter discussed the future of Jewish life post Holocaust. Personally, I thought the Megillat was very well done and probably one of the best things the Conservative Movement has done in a long time. Afterwards we had a round robin consisting of 3 sessions where we learned about how various countries are teaching/or not teaching the Holocaust, how Israel helps Holocaust survivors and finally we talked about reactions to visiting Poland. After the sessions we had to the option to watch Defiance (a movie about the Bielski brothers and the partisans in Poland), due to work that needed to get done for Yom Hazikaron, I did not watch, but I still want to see the movie when I get chance.


Monday was for the most part a regular work day in the Gan and due to the kids being so young we did not tell them anything about the day except for that there will be a siren later morning. At 10 AM that morning that siren went off but due to clocks being seconds off I could hear the sirens in the area start and end a few seconds apart. While the siren went off I stood in silence and though about those who were killed, as well I got the chills from actually hearing the siren. Some of the kids continued playing during the siren, while others chose to stand with me or one of the other teachers.


Monday evening we drove to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai (a kibbutz named in memory of Mordechai Anielwicz, the commander of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising). This ceremony was one of the official closing ceremonies for Yom HaShoah and I'm glad that we had the chance to experience this. A majority of the ceremony consisted of a lot of very long speeches in Hebrew and I was only able to understand bits and pieces of what they were saying, but I was able to get the gist (also thanks to Nadiv explaining afterwards) that they were generally saying never again, and they won't hesitate to act against those who see the Jewish peoples downfall. There were also some very beautiful and moving musical numbers which I thoroughly enjoyed and at the end some people from one of the local youth groups lit torches for some of the destroyed communities.


One more thing, Sunday night on the TV and radio all programming was related to Yom HaShoah and if a channel was not showing anything, it said that programming will resume Monday night. This was something that made me realize how special of a place Israel is.


Being in Israel was for sure different then being home, but it is hard to put in words how. Though due to this feeling, I was looking forward to Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut the following week.




Sunday, April 11, 2010

לשנה הזאת בירושלים

Last year at the end of the Seder the words: "לשנה הבאה בירושלים" took on a whole new meaning because I knew that I would be spending the following Pesach in Israel and I was looking forward to that so much.

In Gan the week before Pesach we got the chance to make matzah which was really fun to do with them and then on Sunday we had a little Seder including the typical Seder fixings (egg, lettuce, charoset etc.). Both were really good and I'm glad that I got to help them and participate with them.
Here is a link to photos of the kids in the Gan.

Sunday after coming back from Gan it was time to start cleaning and kashering our caravan for Pesach. Therefore we swept, washed, wiped, lined counters and kashered the microwave for the afternoon. In the evening we had pizza for dinner, did bedkiat hamatez and watched The Prince of Egypt.

Monday began our week of for Pesach, so that meant after eating breakfast and our last bit of hamatez I caught a bus to Jerusalem. Once in Jerusalem I picked up some flowers and then on a bus to Kfar Adumim where along the way on almost every street corner there was a bonfire with people burning their hamatez.  Once in Kfar Adumim Josh Goldsmith picked me up and took me back to their house on Yishuv Alon. The Goldsmith ( Debbie, Josh and their kids- Yael (7), Kerem (4) and Shai ( 1 1/2) lived in Cleveland where I was born before they made alyiah so we have known them and Debbie's parents for a very long time. Once we got back to the house and meeting every one, I spent the afternoon relaxing, playing with the kids and helping around the house. Once chag came in and we lit candles we went over to shul and got their in time for Mariv. Tiffilot where nothing special but I was a bit lost because the shul is both Ashkenazic and Sephardic (depends on whose leading) and also they said hallel which I guess might be because they don't have the extra day at the end of the chag.

For Seder we were with 3 other very nice families from the Yishuv (one of them even went to Ramah Canada and has a cousin at McGill). For the 1st part of the Seder we were at one of the families houses sitting on pillows, mattresses and chairs around a low table. This part was nothing special and towards the end people where getting hungry so we read through it very quickly. However there were some funny things that some people/families did; a quiz about Pesach, a song about the plagues, a song about the exodus and probably the funniest (even though I only understood parts) was a list of things that happen only in Israel during Pesach for example- only on Pesach is Israel sold to the Arabs where the rest of the year we give it to them in war. Once we finished with the second cup we all walked over to one of the other families' house for the rest of the Seder around a long table. Dinner was delicious but because it was 11 I did not eat that much. Due to it being late we finished the end of the Seder quite quickly (around 1) and walked back to the Goldsmiths and went to bed.

Tuesday morning I got up, had breakfast and Debbie told me that due to certain situations we were probably not going to make to shul but there was a baby naming that morning and Yael wanted to go so she and I headed off to shul. When we got there were on hallel and the rest of shul was done quickly and we were finished by 11:30. When we got back home, we had lunch and I took a nap. When I woke up Debbie, Josh, Shai and I went on a walk to see where Kerem and Yael where because they had gone to a friend's house earlier in the day and we found them playing in the park. A little while later we went back home minus Yael to have some dinner (matzah lasagna), relax and start winding down. Afterwards Josh went out with the kids to get Yael and Debbie and I had a very interesting talk because she is a Nativ alumni, for the past 10 years she was the co-director of Year Course and in February she switched jobs and co-founded Aardvark Israel ( a new gap-year program); so we talked about the pros and cons of each program and I got some insight into her programs and I realized that each program has certain things the others don't and each person should find the one that suits them best. After Chag was over (loved the 1 Seder and 1 day of chag) we just relaxed for the evening.

Wednesday after packing me things and helping to get the kids ready Debbie drove me to a bus stop in Ma'aleh Adumim to catch a bus back to Jerusalem where I then caught a bus back to Kibbutz. Once a got back to Kibbutz (a bit later due to Pesach traffic) I repacked for the rest of chag and got some work done on some things I needed to do. Later in the evening I met up with Gillian Haber and her husband, Shimon and we want out to dinner at Aroma (got a tuna salad) and I got some things that Ima had sent (including her wonderful Passover cookies and brownies that I'm still eating and everyone is raving over). When I got back I hung out with some of my friends who were on Kibbutz before heading to bed.

Thursday begin a very long day of travelling. After getting up, finishing packing and getting some breakfast, I caught a bus to Tel Aviv and once there I walked over to the train station to meet Becca and Sami who I would be spending the rest of Pesach with. We then all took the train (which was very nice and relaxing) to Nahariya and then a sherut to Ma'alot where Elkana's parents live to spend the evening. Once we got to Ma'alot we took a nice walking tour while trying to find the house but once we found it we put our stuff and headed to the "Stone in the Galilee" International Sculpture Symposium, festival that is held each year during Chol Hamo'ed Pesach down at the lake. So we walked down, saw the sculptures as well as all the other vendors that were selling various good. The nice thing about being in Israel during Pesach is that all food that is sold is kosher for Passover; you just have to worry about kitniyot. Once we were done hanging out we headed back to the house to have dinner (matzah lasagna and other goodies) and then in the evening Elkana took us on a driving tour of Ma'alot and the surrounding area and we saw some amazing views.

Friday morning we got up at 5:30 to walk back down to the festival for a Meir Banai concert. Despite it being early and cold out I still enjoyed the concert and it was a great way to start the day and weekend. Once it was over, we went back to the house where Elkana made us great matzah brei and then he drove us to the bus stop to catch the bus to Tzfat. About half way there, the bus stopped for a ½ hour or so and we soon realized that the bus had broken down so we transferred to another bus and made it the rest of the way with no problems. Once we arrived we walked to Ascent Chabad where we were staying for the weekend. So we checked in, put our stuff down and showered before heading out to the candle factory (which was closed), walking around Tzfat (where we met up with some friends from Nativ who were hiking in the area and were staying in Tzfat for the weekend) and also picking up some snacks. We then went back to Ascent to rest and relax and Becca went to meet Brittany (who was coming from Yerucham) at the bus station. To start off Shabbat we met to light candles and then we had a meet and greet and also were told who our host families (Becca, Sami, Brittany and I got the Storch family) for dinner were. Afterwards we davened Kabbalat Shabbat where there was a lot of singing and dancing but it did not end until around 8. We then all walked over to the area where the families live and were dropped off at their homes which was around 9. When we arrived we met the family but realized that the table was not set and we were a bit confused and we were told in order to not have the matzah not touch water and therefore become hamatez, the table will set after Kiddush and motzi. So we did both and when we walked into the kitchen to wash our hands, the kitchen was covered floor to ceiling in foil and the taps were covered in gauze- like a sterile environment. We then all sat back down at the table to do motzi and we were then each handed a plastic trash bag with matzah in it and was clearly instructed not to get matzah crumbs on the table and one of the kids got yelled at for getting a few crumbs on the table. Once we were done with the matzah and made sure there were no crumbs on table the plates and silverware was brought out and we helped to set the table. For dinner we had salad, soup, chicken, vegetables and a baked apple for desert, and due to their strictness about hamatez they do not eat any processed foods. Over the course of evening had some very interesting discussions about  him becoming a ba'al teshuva, Conservative Judaism, vegetarianism, females roles in Judaism and of course a large dose of Chasidic and Rebbe tales- let's just say that we were then until almost 12.

Shabbat morning we got up and headed over to the Ashkenazi Ha'Ari synagogue for tiffilot which were short but there was a lot of Ashkenazic pronunciation so it was hard to understand but none the less it was still enjoyable. We then walked back to Ascent and napped and read until lunch, because the davening at Ascent was still going on. When we went downstairs for the lunch the session that was happing before was not over but one of the other teachers sat down us and taught us a bit about the parsha and spirituality. Lunch was quite interesting; first off the food was not that good and I probably at the most amount of matzah since the beginning of Pesach. Secondly during lunch the rabbi talked about how the only thing you should fear is god and any other fears are disorders and anxiety is related to your ego. I did not really agree with him but it was still interesting to hear his opinion. After lunch we went outside to read for a bit before taking another nap. Later in the afternoon we went on a mystical walking tour of Tzfat and I saw and learnt about some new places. When we got back to Ascent we had Seudah Shleshit (which was not that great once again) but the rabbi that spoke to us (a different one from lunch) about Pesach and Shabbat regarding spirituality and elevation. We decided that because we were all tired and we had to get up relatively the next morning that we were not going to go the musical Havdalah or the 2 concerts. Therefore we went back to the room to pack and just relax and due to the music being so loud we could hear it in our room so we felt like we were there.

Sunday morning it was another early morning (6 am), so once we got up and made sure we did not leave anything behind we headed to the bus station where we caught a bus to the Aco train station. Once there we met up with Stasia, her grandmother and brother and we all took the train to Be 'ear Sheva (which once again was nice and so much better than the bus) and then we met up with other Nativers and we all took (an overcrowded bus) to Yerucham where I was spending the last day of chag. When we arrived in Yerucham, Sami and I walked over to the boy's apartment and hung out there before meeting the girls at Supersol to help them carry the groceries back to the house. We then just hung out there as well as preparing dinner and lunch ( 3 kugels, veggie burgers and vegetable soup with matzah balls that turned out more like matzah brei), as well as seeing Josh and Rhyan who were joining us.  Before I knew it was almost time for chag so I walked back to the apartment to shower and get ready for chag. By the time I was finished with everything I had missed shul so I helped get the table set and everything else ready for dinner. At around 9ish everyone came over with all the food and we sat down to a very nice dinner and by the time dinner was over we were all exhausted so we headed to bed.

Monday morning none of us woke up in time for shul so we just read, relaxed and played games until we had a late lunch which was leftovers from dinner. Later in the afternoon a bunch of the people from the girl's house came over to hang out for a while and when they left we had an hour or so until chag was over so we all just chilled. When chag was over (so great having one day at the end), we did Havdalah and a little while later we went over to the girls house to have a hamatez dinner (pasta, carrots and salad with croutons).

Tuesday was another lazy but relaxing day and in the late afternoon we made our way back to Kibbutz. Once back on Kibbutz we had dinner and then I unpacked and did some work. Wednesday and Thursday were regular work days and I was happy to be back in the Gan with the kids.

This past weekend a bunch of us (Sami, Josh, Rhyan, Kay, Ari, Sara, Adam, Brittany, Alex and I) decided to go camping in the Ein Gedi/Dead Sea area. Therefore Friday morning we took a bus to Jerusalem and then another bus to Ein Gedi. When we got to Ein Gedi we first found out some information for the weekend and waited for Brittany and Alex who were coming from Yerucham. Once they got there we went to the Ein Gedi National Park to buy our tickets for Saturday and get some other things that we needed. Afterwards we walked over to the campsite, put our stuff down and those who wanted to went swimming in the Dead Sea (due to lots of cuts and not being in the mood I did not go in but read and slept) and we also took in the amazing view.  When everyone came back we started to get wood and a fire going before Shabbat and once Shabbat started we spent the evening around the campfire eating and talking and enjoying being where we were. Soon enough we all were getting tired and headed to bed and when I finally fell asleep about an hour later ( around midnight) until who knows when, a bunch of Israelis decided to have a birthday party with a really loud DJ. At one point Josh and Sara went over to tell them to turn it down so the rest of the night I tried falling asleep despite the music, the wind blowing and not being able to get comfortable but one thing that made everything a bit better was looking up at the amazing night sky and the stars in the sky.

Shabbat morning when we finally all woke up, we got all our things and walked over to the park to hike there for the day. When we got there we put all our bags that we did not need in lockers and then began our hike. We hiked through some beautiful areas around Nachal (wadi) David and then we started to climb up towards a cave and spring but Sami, Sara and I for various reasons decided not to, so we walked back a bit and found a nice little pool of water and sat down and relaxed and read for a while. We then chose to go swimming since it was getting really hot so we walked over to one of the waterfalls and went swimming for a while ( which was very refreshing) before relaxing for the rest of the afternoon while waiting for the rest of the group to finish hiking and meet up with us. At around 4:15 we left the actual park and went to the entrance area to change and eat something and at 5:30 we had to leave the whole park because it was closing so we walked over to the bus stop and just sat, read and relaxed. Alex and Brittany caught a bus earlier then us so that they could catch their bus from Jerusalem to Yerucham. We took a later bus and because it was coming from Eilat it was packed so I sat on the floor. When we got to the central bus station we saw Alex and Brittany, who had just arrived, which was surprising since they left aprox. 40 min before us; we all went up to the food court and got some dinner before catching the bus back to kibbutz. Once we got back to kibbutz I took a quick shower and then it was off to bed to try and get a better night sleep.

Sunday night we will be holding a ceremony for Yom Hashoah and the following week we will be holding a ceremony for Yom Hazikaron and will then be going into Jerusalem for Yom Hatzmaut.

Until next time,