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!
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