Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Weekend...In my favorite place...ירושלים

So on Thursday night I got a random phone call from my friend Suzy. "HARRY! (Suzy has no inside voice.) YOU MUST COME SEE ME IN JERUSALEM!" Well after a few hours of frantic searching for a place to sleep in Jerusalem I came up empty handed. It was sad...but I decided not to let that deter me in any way. I then received another phone call from Suzy. "HARRY! (She still hasn't developed an inside voice.) BRETT IS COMING TO JERUSALEM! STAY WITH HIM!" That is exactly what I did.

The bus ride from Be'er Sheva to Israel is actually quiet interesting. You get to watch the country side gradually turn from desert scrub into lush green and from flat hills and sand dunes into the Judean Hills. Its quite incredible. Unfortunately my camera was out of batteries so there were no pictures taken this weekend. Never fear...this will not be my last trip to Jerusalem.

Upon arriving at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem I heard the Shofar sound telling me it was Shabbat. It also told me that the whole city (minus the non-kosher restaurants) was closed. So I called Brett and we met up to hop a cab to his friend Eugene's apartment. We hung out and discussed what was going on in our lives. For me that is basically class and not much else. For Brett and his friend Zach that was the Army. There's really nothing else to talk about. We ordered dinner (hamburgers) and went off to hangout at the bars in Jerusalem. We ended up at Egon and finally got to hang out with Suzy! Good times were had and a chill evening followed.

Brett and I crashed at his friend Zach's apartment and didn't wake up until around noon. We got up and made delicious pasta for lunch and watched the movie "Shooter." The movie is actually a pretty good one...very accurate and also very scary. Conspiracy movies always scare me more than most other people.

I ended up catching a 7:00pm bus back to Be'er Sheva which got me in 5 minutes before the last bus to Revivim. All in all a good weekend. Very relaxing and very nice to see some friends and be in Jerusalem.

Till next time...


P.S. No pictures from Jerusalem, but finally the last of my Ein Hashofet Pictures and some other new ones. Check them out!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Living on a Kibbutz in Israel we tend to forget there is an outside world. However, today is the day in which Jews all across America will be eating Chinese food and watching movies. Here it is just another day on the Kibbutz. I wouldn't quite call it a culture shock for me but it is strange. Today is just another day. Even the Volunteers who aren't Jewish are working today.

Last night we had a small Christmas celebration organized by the Korean girls. The celebration came complete with a tree, cards, and even Christmas carols. The pictures from this even will be posted up tomorrow...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sorry for the lateness...

Sorry that this post has taken so long to get off to all of you. Over the last week the internet connection here has been iffy at best. Here goes...

Here I am...Starting the next phase of my Adventure/Journey. As I write this post I'm sitting in the Ulpan/Volunteer Moadon (מועדון) of Kibbutz Revivm (קיבוץ רביבים). This is a completely different and new place. It is nothing like Ein Hashofet and I'll be explaining why over the next few posts.

To begin with this Kibbutz seems to be less organized that Ein Hashofet was. A prime example of this is the laundry. At Ein Hashofet the laundry went out Tuesday morning and came back Tuesday afternoon. Here the laundry goes in whenever you feel like and comes back whenever they feel like doing that particular type of laundry. Another example of the organization here is the work schedule. Every day we must check the office door to find out where we will be working tomorrow.

I now have two different types of days to cope with as far as scheduling is concerned.

Class Days begin at 8am. I don't eat breakfast on class days to get a few extra minutes of sleep. Class goes until about 11am when we get a break for a half an hour. Then we finish up class at 12:45 or 1pm. That's the whole day. It seems short, but the class works non-stop. I'm in the advanced class or כיתה ב. We've been spending a lot of time on verbs. Its mostly review for me, but its nice to have the review. I'm not the most advanced in the class right now, but the guy who is (Uri) and I are always grouped together for difficult exercises. I've been attempting to read the Ulpanist newspaper and a few books written for ulpan students. Its difficult, but also rewarding.

On my work days I begin at 7:30am with a light breakfast. Then its off to whatever my work is for the day. That can vary with each passing day. The past few days I've been working in the kitchen, preparing the food for the dining hall. However, I've also worked in the olive groves and will probably have other work later. The lunch break is determined by what your work is and so is the ending time. The kitchen generally lets me go around 2:30 or 3pm.

As for other things to do on the kibbutz, this place is nothing like Ein Hashofet. There is no order to when and where we are allowed to be. The sports fields are always open. There are two pubs here and one is always open. There's even a bus station on the kibbutz which takes us to Beer Sheva for 10 NIS (New Israeli Shekel.) All in all this is a pretty nice place to spend a handful of months.

Post again soon....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

להיתרות עין השופת (Goodbye Ein Hasofet)

Well its time to say goodbye to Ein Hashofet (עין השופת). Its been a wonderful place to get acclimated to this country, but its time for me to be moving on.

For those of you on Facebook, and I apologize to the rest of you, my counter is nearing the zero mark as my Ulpan starts on Sunday December 16th. I have mixed emotions about leaving this place. First I love the people here. Not necessarily the Kibbutznikim, but the Ulpanists and other volunteers are great people. However, I do not like the way the Kibbutz has been treating us. Why have a volunteer program if you're going to constantly look down on us. I guess that its just the way it is.

The last few days at Ein Hashofet were basically a blur. The last two days of work were both half days. Thursday because of a Druze/Muslim holiday called Chag haChorban. It is essentially a holiday commemorating the Akkada or binding of Issac in the Torah. However, their celebration was a gigantic barbecue. Almost 70% of Mivrag's employees are Druze which meant the factory shut down early. It was amazing food, good music, and an interesting cultural experience. My last day of work was a Friday. Normally a half day, this day was my last of work and also the last day of two Mexican girls: Karina and Nicole. We didn't have a party because there was too much work to be done. However, they did give us all presents...a coaster set and a beautiful key chain. Both were labeled with the Mivrag logo. Nice people working in the factory, but I'm quite glad that portion of my life is over now.

The last night I spent at Ein Hashofet was another Barbecue. This one was put on by the Ulpanists in honor of the Volunteers who were leaving. It was a great party and there will be pictures soon on my Google Web Albums. Basically what I can tell you is that Brazilians know how to make a barbecue. After the party wound down there were more festivities. The Mexican girls and I stayed up until 7:30 AM when we all caught a cab to Yoknam and a bus to Tel Aviv. From there we parted ways...they went to Istanbul for 5 days and I hopped the train to Be'er Sheva. Time for Ulpan.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Zionism, Hannukah, and much more Randomness

Sorry to all that I haven't been posting a lot recently. Life's just pretty boring around here right now. Anyway....

So tonight is the last night of Hannukah and its been a fairly eventful Hannukah around here, and by that I mean not really at all. The Kibbutz commemorates Hannukah by dishing out a few jelly doughnuts and there was a Latke dinner on Monday night. Otherwise we've pretty much been fending for ourselves. I've made it a point to light the candles every night with my friends.

It occurred to me a few days ago that my summer vacation is coming to a close. School let out for me in June and its now December. This period of time represents the longest period of my life without school to date. Kinda weird to think that in a few days I'll be back at it. Yet I'm very excited to be starting my Ulpan. I know that my Hebrew has already improved, but I'm sure that in 5 months I'll be pretty close to fluent. That's the goal anyway. The first phase of my journey is nearing a close and the second leg is up ahead.

I've been pondering a lot of things while staring at screws falling into boxes all day. Can I be a better Zionist living in the diaspora than living in Israel? Its a strange notion to think about since I have always been taught that Aliyah is the highest form of Zionism. However, I think that I can do more productive for the state of Israel by working for the Jewish community in America and teaching Zionism to the community. Yet on the other hand...who knows. Life is complex and I've only been here for about 50 days. These are thoughts and I'm not planing on doing anything drastic. Just some things I'd like to share with my loyal readership.


Till next time...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Golan and Hannukah (or is it Channukah)

So its been a few days and I'll update you all on the happenings in my life here in Eretz Yisroel.

This past weekend Ofri and I decided to take a little trip to the Golan Heights for some camping and hiking. To say it was fun would be an understatement. We camped, we ate, we drank beer at the Golan Brewery, and we hiked a gorgeous trail. The pictures say what my words cannot. We held close to the maxim of camping in the States: "Pack in, Pack out. Take only pictures, leave only footprints." Overall it was a great way to spend a weekend.

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah and it has made me realize a few things about this Kibbutz. First, while they claim to be 100% secular, they still celebrate Jewish holidays. Their level of observance is not what anyone would call high, but there is acknowledgment of all the major holidays. (Hannukah being the most recent I have observed.) The dining hall has a Giant Hanukiah and I'm told we will be lighting a candle every night.

Tomorrow night is the second night of Channukah and thus my Hebrew birthday! I'm kind of excited to spend my first holiday here in Israel. Hopefully this weekend I will go to Jerusalem to see some of the HUC kids and maybe the Klein-Katzes.

On a more personal note...I arrived at a few decisions regarding my life recently. I've decided to keep a kosher style diet from now on. I'm wholly unconcerned as to whether a rabbi tells me that meat is or isn't kosher. However, I'll attempt to buy only kosher cuts of meat and stay away from those animals that cannot be kosher. I'm also no longer mixing milk and meat. While I'll probably miss cheeseburgers, making each moment Jewish seems more important. To continue with that theme...I've also decided to again wear a Yarmulke all the time. I'm sure this will make Dad happy as he sent me off with a large number of them. I'm convinced that these personal decisions will be good for me in the long run.

Hope you all have a wonderful Hannukah!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Randomness Update

So its become more difficult to post to the blog recently. This is because my time on the internet has been cut much shorter. The Kibbutz has installed a new computer in the lab and eliminated the only free internet cable. While the cable was still here I always could plug my lap top in and post. Now I must wait in line to use the computers that they have here. They're horrible and barely worth the time you wait, but at least there's internet. Anyway...here's the update.

Last weekend I had a great time hanging out with Brett in Tel-Aviv. It was probably one of the most fun weekends I've had here, mostly because I was with Brett. He's going into the army in about 18 days. While I know it'll be at least a year before he even gets close to combat, its still a cause for worry. The army is what it is here and its part of his citizenship. I've been speaking with many new immigrants recently. There are a handful like Brett who consider it a duty to The State, while there are, in my opinion, too many others who see it as a different opportunity. For the latter, the army here is a way to prove something to themselves and others. Its too bad, but that is the way it is here.

During the weekend in Tel-Aviv I bought a pair of Crocs. For those of you who don't know what they are, check out the link. For those of you who are currently emailing me to rub it in my face that I bought them...stop. Since when have I ever cared about what people thought of my footwear? Anyway, they're some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever own. Also they're perfect for kibbutz life. They go from the shower to hanging out and everywhere in between.

After the Tel-Aviv trip, the volunteers from Ein Hashofet went on a trip to Akko. Unlike the last volunteer trip, this one was incredibly fascinating. Akko is an almost completely Israeli Arab city. The food, the clothing, the language, and all aspects of life reflect that. For instance, everywhere in Israel has cable tv. In Akko you can see satellite dishes on every house...why you ask? The only way to get Arabic language tv in Israel is through satellite tv. A subtle reminder that while we don't think about it, there is still an Arab minority in Israel.

After Akko we traveled to a nearby Baha'i Garden. It was a beautifully tended garden surrounding the burial place of the faith's most important teacher. The Baha'i faith is a very interesting one. There is no clergy at all. This is because every member of the religion is supposed to teach the faith in their own way. They study the many hundreds of books written by the Baha'i scholars and pray three times daily. They believe that the world's monotheistic religions are simply different paths to the same place. The simplicity of that belief is astounding and also quite beautiful at the same time. All of the workers tending the garden and doing security there were members of the faith. They all volunteered a year of service to the faith's holy places. We met a guard from Atlanta, Georiga and another from Sydney, Australia. Very interesting how they were doing something quite similar to me: volunteering for something they believed deeply in.

After the trip to the gardens we headed straight for Rosh HaNikra. There we climbed through the caves to see the one of the most gorgeous rock formations I've seen in awhile. Other than the rocks though, its not that exciting. There was a cable car ride down to the bottom, but that was pretty much it.

Check out the pictures, I took about 110 between the three sites.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bedouin Hospitality

So I bet you're all wondering about the title of this post...

Brett decided to meet me in Haifa on Tuesday night. For me that's a quick trip to the mall (about 20 minutes,) but for him its about a 2 hour trip. So he decided that he'd stay the night at my place just to be closer to Tel Aviv, which is where he wanted to end up on Wednesday. However, after spending the night at Ein Hashofet, Brett decided to take me up on my offer of Bedouin hospitality. For those unfamiliar with the term, a Bedouin is required to give a guest all the comforts of home for at least three nights. So Brett and I have been hanging out since then.

This weekend I'm off to Tel Aviv for some fun. I've taken Sunday off work to avoid the Saturday evening bus traffic and spend a little bit more time with Brett.

I'll update you all on the weekend's happenings soon...Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hail?!

So after about a month of absolutely perfect weather here at Ein Hashofet (עין השופט) something truly amazing happened. Not only did it rain in buckets today...it Hailed...a lot...huge pieces. I looked out the window at work and saw it start. I turned to my Israeli co-worker and asked him how to say hail in Hebrew(ברד.) It took him a few moments to process because he'd not seen hail in so long. Turns out its an incredibly rare thing to happen around here. I snapped some photos as soon as I got home from work. Most of the guys from South America were stunned. One of the Brazilian guys joked: "We not have in Brazil...our country is very poor, can't afford like the US."

Anyway check out the photos...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Shabbat Hike

Today was Shabbat and therefore pretty boring around the Kibbutz. The factories are all closed and so is pretty much everything else.

To contend with boredom, we decided to go on a short nature hike. It turned into a few hours of good conversations, great views, and an amazing sunset. I took a few photos and have posted them up on my web albums. Check them out and be sure to look at the map feature. It'll show you where exactly we hiked around. The pictures really speak for themselves, but I do have one thing to say. This country is really beautiful. It takes my breath away how much beauty there is here.


Until next time...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Shabbat/Day 28

So now I have been in Israel for a month. I know that most month's are 30-31 days...but everyone discounts February. It is still a month and yet only 28 days...29 on a good year. Well a lunar month is roughly 28 days and that's how long I've been here.

Its Shabbat once again and I've decided not to go anywhere this weekend. I've been out and about all over the country, except for the south. I think that this weekend I'd rather get some extra sleep and be bored for awhile. Who knows I might even stay up till 3am and listen/watch the Gopher Hockey Game on my computer.

For some reason this week has been pretty hard on me. It might have something to do with work...the monotony is starting to get to me. Also the Communism thing is getting to me as well. We all assume, in America and other capitalist economies, that hard work will be rewarded. This week I learned that this is not necessarily so in Communism. Since the pay is the same no matter how fast the work is done, everyone works slowly. On Wednesday there was no work in the factory except for 2 stations. Everyone quickly volunteered themselves for trivial tasks, but I asked to work at one of the 2 stations doing something useful. I assumed that this might win me some points and get me home early. Instead my boss ended up sending home the other workers early and I had to stay until the end of the day. Pretty annoying but not a mistake I'll make again in the near future.

This week has also got me thinking about Zionism and Aliyah. Many of the Ulpan students have made Aliyah and the reasons for doing so are wide and varied. The South Africans are escaping crime and low economy. The Russians are escaping...well Russia and its awfulness. The South Americans are also escaping from the bad economic situations there. Essentially everyone is escaping to Israel. This people haven't made Aliyah because they feel an intense urge to fulfill the Zionist dream. They are searching for a better life. I hope they find it here, but it makes me think about Brett's Aliyah. His sole reason for making Aliyah is to fulfill his Zionism. His army service comes as part of the package and not as the reason for coming. Its made me wonder about my Zionism. My thoughts are not yet coherent enough for a post, but rest assured with so much mindless labor in the factory I'm sure I'll be able to find the words eventually. Just something for you all to think about this Shabbat: What is your Zionism and what does it mean to you?

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Weekend At Yiftah (יפתה)

What a weekend I had at Kibbutz Yiftah (יפתה.) First of all the Israeli Army has now decided that Brett will not be drafted until December 18th. Craziness, but he's go six whole weeks of absolutely nothing to do on Kibbutz Yiftah.

The Weekend:

I arrived at Koah Junction from Egged Bus line 500. I proceeded to hitch hike up the mountain to Kibbutz Yiftah. The bus runs through the Hulah Valley to Qyirat Shmona and stops at every road crossing. The only way up the mountain to Brett's Kibbutz was to hitch. Its not as dangerous or illegal to hitch hike in Israel as it is to in the US.

After arriving I realized that this Kibbutz was much different from Ein Hashofet. First off it is almost 100% privatized. The companies are owned by the Kibbutz, but everything else is not communally owned. The three pubs are owned separately by various Kibbutz members. The rental houses for tourists are owned by members. Basically none of the communal facilities except the dining hall are owned independently. The companies which the Kibbutz owns however are communal in their shareholdings. Very strange dichotomy of socialist and capitalist ideals within one small community.

It was a great weekend with lots of partying and even a quick trip to Qyriat Shmona. I have some amazing photos of the Golan Heights and Lebanon from Brett's Kibbutz.

That's all for now....

Friday, November 9, 2007

Quick Shabbat Note

Another week has passed and its Shabbat once again. This weekend I am heading north to visit my best friend Brett on Kibbutz Yiftach. He's made Alyiah and is leaving for the Army in about two weeks. This will be my last chance to see him until his basic training is complete. He's joining a Kibbutz unit called Nahal (נח"ל). If you read the link he will be in the 50th Airborne Brigade. Yes my best friend will have wings on his uniform. Crazy to think of how we met at OSRUI all those years ago.

Well I'm off to catch a bus for points north. Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Some Randomness

So for this post I'll update you on all the random things that I haven't bothered to tell you all about yet.


Living Situation
Last week Thursday I finally got a roomate. He's a serious hippie from the Washington DC area. By serious hippie, I mean he doesn't wear shoes except at work where it is required. I'm not talking about sandals or flip-flops here...completely barefoot. He's a pretty nice guy regardless of the footwear thing. (If I comment on the footwear that's pretty wierd.)


Work Stuff
Work has become very strange. As soon as I become good at one job on the floor they send me to do another. I guess its nice to have different jobs, but I never know what to expect from work. Its rather strange also that I'm always the last volunteer to leave work. This is not just leaving at the end of the day. I'm also always the last one to leave for any breaks. Damn my work ethic...its not getting me anywhere here.


Communism/Socialism
So there are two types of Kibbutzim in Israel today. The first is the kind in which socialism has given way to a more market based economy. Its sort of like an extremely close knit town. There's a dining hall and shared facilities, but no actual shared property. The second kind of Kibbutz is a truly socialist commune type setting. Everything is owned collectively by the kibbutz and is shared. Wages are equal no matter the job. Ein Hashofet is the second type of kibbutz.

There are people who live on Ein Hashofet who have never left for a significant period of time other than their Army service. That service was as part of a Kibbutz unit as well. These people don't have bank accounts and don't seem to live in a modern world and yet enjoy the conveniences of one. Its a strange dichotomy which I'm still exploring.

I had an epiphany at work the other day. The life here is strangely comforting to those who live and work here. They don't have to imagine what job they will do or when to do anything. Their lives are planned because the Kibbutz needs them for something. The community is paramount over the individual. The only other community I can think of where this type of control is exerted over its members is that of the Ultra Orthodox community. Their lives are also planned out and have little free will of decisions. Strange that two communities on completely opposite sides of the social coin can be so similar.

Immigrating/Aliyah
All my life I have heard amazing stories of going to Israel and making the Zionist dream come true. Now that I've been here for awhile I know that I can't make Aliyah. Why you ask, with only a three week stay can I confidently say that? This country is a Jewish State, that we have all been taught since childhood. However, as a Reform Jew from America I crave Jewish Community. Israel, from what I have seen, is a community of Jews. While everyone here is Jewish, there is a serious lack of middle ground on anything religious or spiritual. The kibbutz where I live actively puts down anything religious. I've only seen 2 קיפות (Yarlmukes) the entire time I've been on the Kibbutz. I know they are around, but I have yet to see a synagogue of any denomination. Strange that in a Jewish State, I am yearning for a truly Jewish experience. The people who live on the Kibbutz can't understand why I would 'waste' my life on being a rabbi. They don't do anything but study and drain society. I seek Jewish Community not just a community filled with people who say they are Jews. I hope that I am eventually proven wrong and find that spirituality when I leave this kibbutz.

Until next time...

P.S. New camera today! Lots of pictures soon! :D

Monday, November 5, 2007

Yitzhak Rabin

"We are embarking today on a war in which there are no fallen and injured, and not blood nor suffer. And it is the only war in which it is a pleasure to participate - the war for peace." - Yitzahk Rabin (Upon signing the Oslo Peace Accords)

These words were spoken by, in my opinion, one of Israel's greatest heroes. Of course there are many heroes throughout Israel's history, but Yitzhak Rabin will always be known for his work towards peace, something which seems to be in short supply around the world these days. I truly feel that if Rabin had not been assassinated on November 4th, 1995 the world would be a very different place. It is because he truly believed that the time for fighting with Israel's neighbors was through. The what ifs are endless, but I believe that only good could come from having such a great man alive.

Why this post about Yitzahk Rabin? On Saturday evening I attended the Memorial Ceremony for Yitzahk Rabin on Rabin Square. I was joined by over 150,000 Israelis from all over the country. Kibbutzim bussed in their youth and old alike. It was my reason for being in Tel-Aviv this past weekend and honestly I'm very glad I decided to go and my friends were equally glad I dragged them.

The ceremony was all in Hebrew, and my friends (all Ulpan students) were lost. I followed the spirit of each speech if not word for word. The music was truly inspiring to me. The songs were also all in Hebrew and I even found myself singing along to many of them. It finally culminated with a singing of Hatikvah. By the end of the song I was in tears. Its hard to believe I spend more than two weeks here without hearing it.

Hatikvah is literally translated as "The Hope." It is a song that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I sang it even before I knew its meaning. I sang it even before I knew or understood the American National Anthem. It was written as a hope for the rebirth of Israel. Today I sing it as a hope for the rebirth of Israel in a region of peace. This was The Hope of Yitzahk Rabin. התקוה של יצחק רבין

Just remember The Hope...

כל עוד בלבב פנימה
נפש יהודי הומיה,
ולפאתי מזרח קדימה,
עין לציון צופיה,
Kol od baleivav p'nimah
Nefesh y'hudi homiyah
Ulfa'atei mizrach kadimah
Ayin l'tziyon tzofiyah
As long as in the heart, within,
A Jewish soul is yearning,
And to the edges of the East, forward,
An eye watches towards Zion,
עוד לא אבדה תקוותנו,
התקווה בת שנות אלפים,
להיות עם חופשי בארצנו,
ארץ ציון וירושלים.
Od lo avdah tikvateinu
Hatikvah bat sh'not alpayim
Lihyot am chofshi b'artzeinu
Eretz tziyon viyrushalayim
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our own land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Shabbat...

Wow, it seems like only yesterday I was writing a post about Shabbat. This past week has been what I would call eventful.

The week seemed pretty boring at first with only work to look forward to. That all changed when I learned that I wouldn't have to work Wednesday. The Kibbutz had planned a trip to Tel-Aviv for the volunteers. So Wednesday morning we woke up at 8am...that's right we slept in. We got on a mini-bus and headed for Tel-Aviv. The tour guide was hired because he spoke Hebrew and Spanish. The whole tour on the bus was Spanish and was quite annoying to me. Why not do the tour in Hebrew or English, you know the two languages that are common to everyone. The tour was quite boring even to the Spanish speakers. We drove around all the fun parts of Tel-Aviv and didn't leave the bus until Yafo.

When we arrived in Yafo the guide took us to some Christian historical sites and explained that Yafo was very culturally important to both Christians and Jews. I guess I missed the part of the tour about the Jewish parts of Yafo. Regardless the small town is quite pretty with its stone houses and great plazas. After the tour we went to the Shuk in Yafo where I bought nothing. It was interesting to test my Hebrew skills in bargaining for others. I actually talked a merchant from 80 NIS to 20 NIS on a scarf for a friend. After the Shuk we had lunch in a beautiful restaurant in Yafo. Falafel and all the fixings. We devoured with reckless abandon as the food far surpassed anything we ate at the Kibbutz.

It was in Yafo that tragedy struck me personally. My camera, already malfunctioning, was handed to our tour guide to snap a group photo overlooking Tel-Aviv from Yafo. Great picture on everyone else's camera. However, the guide dropped the camera just after snapping the picture. I examined it and noted that it seemed fine. That is until I started taking pictures with it after the tour was over. The camera now doesn't even turn on or take pictures. I'm supremely pissed and can't seem to find anywhere in Israel that can fix it. Sending it home will cost the same as a new camera because of taxes and import duties. I'm truly at a loss.

To top off the horror of my personal tragedy the rest of the tour of Tel-Aviv was going to the Shuk in Tel-Aviv. Seems to me like a wasted tour when there is so much more to the city than the silly tourist trap of a market. Anyway I won't dwell on it.

On Thursday work was suddenly shut down for about an hour when someone drilled a hole into a wall of our kitchenette. Water began spewing out of the pipe he had just drilled through. It was probably the funniest thing I've ever seen in a work setting. It took 20 minutes to figure out which pipe the water was coming from and to turn it off. At which point the whole side of our workshop was covered in water. Almost a centimeter of water accumulated on the floor and had to be squeegeed out before work could resume. Funny way to take a break huh?

Today the kibbutz will be losing power for maintenance purposes at around 11:30. This means that my day ended around 10:00 Am after the breakfast break. It was lovely to have such a short day before Shabbat.

This weekend we're going into Tel-Aviv for the Yitzak Rabin Memorial ceremony on Rabin square. It should be an incredible experience. But that's what I love about Israel. This country blends the Ancient, the new, the religious, and the secular into one amazing place. My two choices this weekend were the Rabin Ceremony and a party in Tel-Aviv or a Shabbaton in Jerusalem. How does one pick between those two strange choices in this amazing land.

Have a good Shabbat everyone, post more next week!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Typical Kibbutz Day

Since life around here has gotten fairly routine I thought I'd share exactly how I fill the hours of the day I'm awake with you...

Every morning I awaken to the same familiar sound I have been waking up to for the last 4 years: " It's been one week since you looked at me
Cocked your head to the side and said 'I'm angry'
Five days since you laughed at me saying
"Get that together come back and see me"
Three days since the living room
I realized it's all my fault, but couldn't tell you
Yesterday you'd forgiven me
but it'll still be two days till I say I'm sorry"
Its a song by the Barenaked Ladies and if you've never heard it before I suggest trying to find a copy. It starts out loud and stays that way which is why it has been my alarm clock song for so long. Anyway I digress...

I wake up every morning at 6:15 AM. From there I generally do my morning routine. I get dressed in true work clothing provided by the kibbutz. Since its blue collar work we do they issue blue t-shirts and blue work pants. Work boots are also provided, but they're not blue.

By the time I'm ready for work I grab my ipod and walk the 15 or so minutes it takes to get to the factory. There I really wake up as I get my first cup of coffee. We stand around for awhile waiting for the foreman to come in and tell us what to do. Then its time work. We work from around 7:00 AM until 8:30ish when we stop for a break.

Between 8:30 and 9:15 we eat breakfast in the factory's own cafeteria. I usually eat hardboiled eggs, cheese, toast, yogurt (different fruit flavor everyday), and some more coffee. They serve all kinds of what Israelis call breakfast salads, but seriously when was the last time you saw me eat a salad?

After breakfast we head back to work, but its not long before its 11:15 and we take a break for about 10 minutes. I'm not entirely sure why we take this break, but then again I've spent the last 3 and a half years working in Minnesota where the protestant work ethic is king.

Anyway the break is quickly followed by the lunch break at 12:30. We get a whole hour break, but we have to eat in the main dining hall on the other side of the Kibbutz. Lunch is different everyday. Today I had schnitzel, with rice, chickpeas, jello, and water. Who knows what they'll have tomorrow. The food's not been terrible, but it is strange to see a completely non-kosher dining hall in Israel. They even serve pork here...seems weird to me, but secular kibbutznikim don't seem to care.

After lunch its back to the grind. Speaking of which its time to tell you exactly what I do at this crazy screw factory. I essentially box screws for shipping. We use some pretty sophisticated scales to measure out numbers of screws. Every box is packed and then labeled with all of the important information. Every time I refill the hopper on my machine it offers a new challenge. Will these be the screws that well...screw me? Anyway today the hopper actually was filled with nuts, which was a nice change of pace. (Commence with the jokes here.)

From the end of lunch to the end of the work day we have one more break coming usually around 2:45. Once again it seems like a strange time for me to break because we close up shop at 4:00 PM.

After work I generally shower an hangout with my friends. I usually help them study their ulpan materials, which in turn helps me study a bit too. Sometimes we smoke hookah, sometimes we play futbol. (No one calls it soccer.)

Dinner is at 6:45 but it is by far the worst meal of the day at the dining hall. It is the leftovers from lunch and the previous day's lunch. Its usually way over cooked from sitting in under the heat lamps. I usually opt for a sandwich and some yogurt. Many people in the kibbutz take extra from lunch home to eat for dinner.

After dinner is when the day varies. Being a socialist institution, the kibbutz dictates what goes on and when to everyone. For the Volunteers and Ulpanists, the schedule is especially strict.

Monday Night: 8-9PM Gym time. Its only one hour and no chance of getting more time.

Tuesday Night: 9:30PM-? Pub is open to all Kibbutz residents, volunteers, and Ulpanists. Its a halfway decent bar, but strange hours.

Wednesday Night: has nothing special during it. This is because the volunteer trips happen on Wednesdays. They're not every week, but this week we do have one. We're going into Tel-Aviv and for what I'm not entirely sure yet.

Thursday Night: 8-9PM Gym time. Its only one hour and no chance of getting more time. That's right only two nights a week are gym nights...good luck staying in shape or lifting weights if you are a volunteer or ulpan member.

Friday Night: 9:30PM Movie is played in the cinema. Just one showing and just one choice for movies. The pub is also open on Friday nights, same story, but a few more people come on Fridays.

Saturday Night: With the end of Shabbat, the factories start up again and work resumes. Strange, but the weekend here is only one day. This means that the factories are closed from around 1pm on Friday until about 6-7pm on Saturday. The same movie from Friday is also shown on Saturday, but at 8:30 not 9:30.

Sunday is the first day of the week and back to work. Not much happens Sunday night...its sorta like Monday night in the states...everyone's tired from work and the previous weekend.

So that's my day and week in a nutshell. Hope to have pictures soon for you all...the camera is not cooperating with me right now.

Friday, October 26, 2007

First Full Day/Second Shabbat

So I have had my first full day on the Kibbutz. While its only 11:54 AM here my day is theoretically already complete. I've been assigned a job in one of the kibbutz three factories. The one I work in is owned by the kibbutz company called Mivrag (מיברג.) There they make screws of all different kinds. My job is in the packaging part of the factory. I sort screws into boxes using pretty sophisticated scales. The whole process is quite fascinating to me as I have never worked in a factory before. Today I sorted and packed three different types types of screws. The piece of the factory I work in is quite small for how much work we accomplished in today's half day of work. I also learned how to say a few new words in Hebrew. Most notably the word for screw (בורג.)

On another note...The people here are from so many different backgrounds and places. Its so interesting to see who is here and why. The girl sitting next to me is named Ofri (עפרי) and she's from California. She decided to put off school for a semester at Berkley to live on a kibbutz with some distant relatives. She proclaimed to me last night that she was Ein HaShofet's dairy maid. Which of course sparked a heated debate about whether or not cows actually are happier in California. It ended with me reminding her that while they (California) make more we (Wisconsin) make it better.

There are also two brothers from South Africa. While they're not exactly refugees, their story reminds me that all is not well in Africa. Even what we think of as the 'civilized' parts. Apparently it is a horrible place to live right now. Rampant crime and little job prospects have forced many South African Jews to make עלייה (Aliyah). There is a guy here from Amsterdam who is just looking for new experiences and figured Ulpan was a great way to see Israel.

In the factory today one of my co-workers is a recent repatriate of Israel. While he grew up in Brooklyn and even served in the US military, his heart has always been with Israel (ארץ ישראל.) His family originally is a hybrid of two very distinct Jewish communities off the beaten path. His mother is and Indian Jew and his Father an Iraqi. He and I discussed the state of Israel's current foreign affairs and the possibilities of the future. I can only describe his views as ardently Zionist. To him it is always Israel first.

I don't work tomorrow as it is Shabbat (יום שבת.) On Sunday (יום רישון) I hope to take some pictures inside the factory to show you where I am working. Shabbat Shalom שבת שלום.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Life on the Kibbutz

Well I'm not actually sure of what life on the kibbutz is like yet...so far its pretty boring.

This morning I woke early and went to the Tel-Aviv bus station and caught a bus to Yokneam (יקנעם.) It was my first time riding a bus alone, let alone a regional bus! Anyway the ride was pretty boring. I quite frankly was so bored by the scenery that I fell asleep. When I reached Yokneam I called the volunteer coordinator at Ein Hashofet and he came to pick me up. After about a half hour of rules and what not they basically told me to go hangout for the day. No work today because I'm new.

The kibbutz is very modern. Along with my keys, work cloths, and sheets they issued me a swipe card. No money is used on the kibbutz. Its all done on a credit based system. The volunteers are given 400 NIS to use in the dining hall. The prices in the dining hall are so low its almost funny that they charge. My large plate of cous cous, chickpeas, schnitzel, bread and jello was only 2.50 NIS. Crazy to think because that meal in Tel-Aviv was probably 25-30 NIS! There is a small market here and the only way to purchase anything is with the swipe card. However, the money to buy from the market must come from me. You deposit a certain number of shekels and then you spend. There is also a pub here but its only open on Tuesday and Friday nights. The pub requires a third system of payment called a pub card. I was only told this after I had already deposited my last 100 NIS into the market account. I guess I'll have to go to Yokneam and get more money if I want to go to the pub.

The people here are very different from Tel-Aviv. First of all I haven't met a single Israeli yet. That is not including the ones who work with the volunteers. I am the only volunteer from America and most of the others are from Mexico. I never knew there was a significant Jewish population in Mexico City. After a large group of Mexicans there are a few from South Africa, Ecuador, and Russia. The ulpan group has a handful of Americans and they've been helpful in showing me around. I'll post up some pictures as soon as I have a chance to take some.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Here We Go

Today I was finally placed on a Kibbutz for volunteering. It took some string pulling but I'm finally on my way. I will be on Kibbutz Ein Hashofet (עין השופט) until December 16th. The Kibbutz is located about 30 minutes south east of Haifa. They are known for their manufacturing of electronics but also have a significant amount of agriculture. I'm very excited to get my grand adventure past the waiting step.

Over the last few days I've been staying with my friend Gali and she has mostly been at work during the days. This has given me time to wander around Tel-Aviv and get a feel for the city myself. Its been fun but boring at the same time. I've spent a lot of time at the beautiful beach and in and around Rabin Square (כיכר רבין.) Tel-Aviv is a gorgeous city with lots of interesting things going on. While its not tourist season here there are still plenty to be found at the beach.

On another note, I met up with a somewhat long lost friends from my NFTY days. Last night we hung out for awhile and talked about old times. Its a small Jewish world and it only gets smaller here in Israel.

Tomorrow onto the Kibbutz and the next phase of this adventure. More pictures will be posted as soon as there's some time away from work on the Kibbutz. L'hitraot.

Monday, October 22, 2007

First Post Here

Well I'm finally here. I've now been in Israel since Friday at around 9am but today is the first day I found internet for free. Trying to write a blog from an Internet cafe was not really on my mind...

The last few days have been a whirl but I'll try to catch everyone up.

Friday night-

After checking into the Hostel Brett and I hit the beach and relaxed until shabbos started. We had dinner at an American style pub called Mike's place which was just off the beach. It was nice to see familiar food but even better to see a familiar face.

Later that evening we went to a pool hall in Tel-Aviv with our friend Gali Hefetz. She was the Shlecha of St. Paul last year and now lives back in Tel-Aviv. Its nice to know an Israeli around the area so well. She's been helping me a lot with my hebrew by forcing me to listen to her and order food in hebrew.

Saturday-

Shabbat in Israel and i truly made it one to remember. The beach in Tel-Aviv is gorgeous and so are all the people who congregate there. It was crowded, but not too much so. It was great to just relax, people watch, and tan. The water was cool and even more relaxing than laying on the beach.

That night Gali decided not to come out with us but brett and I managed to make it a decent night. Our conversation over beers mostly focused on Israeli politics. Apparently Brett is one day going to be Prime Minister and will need me to be Minister of the Foreign Ministry. Who knows that just might be possible for Brett. Me, probably not, but you never know what life will bring!

Sunday-

A day in Jerusalem, the city which Brett seems to hate greatly. I finally went to the HUC campus and saw first hand where and how nice my school is. I met a few people, but Sunday's are 12-14 hour days of classes for the students so I couldn't even talk to the dean who was teaching a class.

Brett and I went through the old city and I got a decent tour from his knowledge of Israeli archeology. My second visit to the Kotel was just as breathtaking as the first but this time i saw and learned much more than the first. Pictures will be up soon of this amazing trip.

In the late afternoon, tired and thirsty Brett and I invested 50 NIS in three and half hours of hookah and a few glasses of Tea. The hookah bar was in a small back alley and was a great way to kill some time before the HUC students finished up with classes. Brett and I had dinner with a few students at a lovely little pasta restaurant in Jerusalem. Don't remember the name but they had amazing salmon ravioli in a white wine cream sauce.

After an exhausting bus ride back to Tel-Aviv we had lemonade and smoothies with Gali near her apartment. It capped an end to a very satisfying day in both the old and the new pieces of Israel.

Today-

Today has been eventful to say the least. After a few days of being incommunicado, I have buckled under and got a sim card for my cell phone. Call me anytime the incoming minutes are free: 052-500-1947 (From the states you must dial 011 before the number.) I bought the phone on my first trip to an Israeli mall. Very different from their American cousins, but still a capitalistic shopping extravaganza. Brett was less successful in finding what he needed, namely red shoe polish for his army boots.

After the mall Brett went back north to the kibbutz and I'm here in a coffee shop in Tel-Aviv. I can't go to where I am staying until about 8pm because Gali is at work until late tonight. The kibbutz office hasn't been able to place me quite yet but I'm confident that it will happen in a few days. Till then I'm trying not to spend too much money and still learning about how things work.

Delayed Part II (Leaving)

Written from the plane 10.18.2007 (8:04 pm CST)

After getting to the airport I found myself almost in a daze. Here it was, its really happening. I’m leaving my comfort zone big time. I’m venturing off into the unknown with nothing but some clothing and a guitar. I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by m situation. I’m really doing it…I’m really going to make this happen.

I’m sitting on the plane bound for Israel. The little screens on the plane tell me where somewhere over the South of France. We’re into our third movie of the voyage and I’m not interested in this one. Sorry Jack Black but Nacho Libre…I’ll pass.

Before they made me close the shutter on my window I snapped one shot of the horizon over the Atlantic Ocean. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in a long time. I can only think of a song written by a good friend of mine Danny Nichols.

As I watch the sun start to rise

From my seat 5 miles in the sky

I’m starring into a brand new day

For you its already fading away

Dan wrote that song on his way to Israel, probably on a flight similar to the one I’m on now. Some songwriters are able to truly write amazing songs that speak to people. No where is the truer than in Dan’s song “My Heart is in the East.” I first heard the song before I had ever been to Israel. Now I’m about to live there for at least two years. I almost can’t contain my excitement.

My heart truly is in the east…and soon so will the rest of me.

L’hitraot family and friends…next post in Israel!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Delayed Part I

Written 10.15.2007 and completed 10.16.2007

I’m not blogging this in the normal way because I don’t seem to have a wifi connection right now. Its not a big deal, I’ll just post this later when I do find some internet.

Here I am in New York City. I’m staying with my cousin David he lives in a gorgeous apartment right off the Hudson river. Because David is at work till late tonight so I’m pretty much on my own in the City. I decided to go out for a walk and see a bit of the city. I wandered aimlessly around lower Manhattan and ended up at the South Street Seaport. I’ve been there once before, but it was during the summer before junior year of high school. It was fun to relive those memories for a little while. As I walked past the shops I vividly remembered all of my friends from Kutz camp. As I write this I wonder what they would think of me now. We were all young and seemingly on top of the world then. After all, most of us were on regional board in NFTY and having the summer of our lives. Anyway I have digressed…

After wandering aimlessly through the streets of New York City, I returned to David’s apartment where I promptly fell asleep. Long flight, not enough sleep, and a host of other factors caused my need for sleep. When I awoke I was hungry and I wandered my way back to a pub I had passed earlier in the day. There I had what were my last two beers on American soil. I also watched my last NHL hockey game. I met a few New Jersey Devils fans. Nice folks, but not to happy with me having no opinion about the game at hand. Devils vs Penguins wasn’t exactly one where I cared the outcome. “Pick a side,” they yelled at me over the din of drunken businessmen in suits. I was just there to watch the game for its own sake. Meh, no one likes the Devils anyway.

After finding my way back to David’s place, he returned from his meeting. We stayed up chatting about life. We managed to cover almost every topic that seemed important to us: Family, business, friends, love, New York, divorce, and his awesome son Jack. By the time we knew it midnight approached and we decided to go to sleep. In the morning David and I walked Jack to his preschool. While I would have loved to spend more time with both of them, Israel beckons me. I hopped a cab for JFK airport shortly after David left for work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Leaving

Today is the day...

In about a half hour I will begin my long journey. The first stop on this trip into the unknown is actually a place I know quite well. Today my parents and I will spend the day in Highwood Illinois where my sister Phyllis lives. There I will get to say goodbye to my baby nice Yael (9 months old) and her two brothers Samuel (almost 2) and David (almost 6). I will also have to say goodbye to Jessica my girlfriend of almost a year. Needless to say today will probably be another day full of emotion. Who will it be most difficult to say goodbye to? I have no idea at this point, but I do know a few things. First, my niece Yael will be talking, walking, and so many other things. Samuel will be 4 and David will be 8. A lot will change in their lives while I'm off exploring the world. I will not only miss them, but also miss those events that will shape them. Who knows, maybe there will even be another kid crawling around my sister's house when I return. (Not that I know anything that you all don't.) It will be tough to say goodbye to Jessica. She and I have been practically attached at the hip for the last six months. I don't quite know how I'm going to stay in touch with everyone, but staying in touch with her will be more of a challenge because of how often we talk now. Its going to be difficult to say goodbye, that's pretty much the only thing I can say at this point.

My mom tells me its time to pack the car. I'll have my camera in a few hours so my words will no longer be the only thing to look at on this page.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Packing

After talking about it for a few months, I'm now in the final stage of packing for my great Israel Adventure. The number of emotions going through my head that its very hard to write what I feel, but that won't stop me from trying.

I'm sitting in my parents family room and watching what might be my last NHL hockey game for awhile. The Sabers and the Maple Leafs are deadlocked in a 4-4 tie. I should be zipping up my bags, but here I am. I'd love to show you the bags and the packing, but my camera is still not in my possession. I'll have it tomorrow and I'm sure there will be plenty of pictures.

I know this post isn't very long, but I really should be packing. I've got a little bit to go before I'm finally ready to get going.

L'hitraot
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