Today, I was working with Or again in class, for the second time this year. She is a vivacious, beautiful 11th grade Israeli. During tests, she needs the texts to be read to her, and for the most part, she understands. Halfway through the test today, she said, "Yardena, what are you doing after school?" She asked for my number because she wants me to tutor her at home, in exchange for food! She told me that she understands me when I try to explain things to her. Wow-I can't believe I only have one more class with her. She made it all worth it.
Whew!!! I have had quite the past few days. When I last wrote I was obsessing over twitta and social networking, now I have a new obsession: avoiding the lice infestation in my apartment! More to come on that later.
I spent Wednesday and Thursday night on Kibbutz Ein Tzurim and had quite a splendid time, save for the pesty mosquitoes who made me their breakfast, lunch, dinner, and aruchat eser (Israelis eat an additional meal around ten in the morning and so do Israeli mosquitoes, apparently). I enjoyed ice cream from the Kol Bo (the kibbutz corner store, if you will), I twittered, I slept in, and I worked on the Nativ Yearbook. As an added bonus, I got to see a premier showing of "Gang Bangers of Catan" an all male "porno" (you don't see anything, don't worry) made by some of the Nativers on the kibbutz, based off the popular cult board game, Settlers of Catan. It is really funny. If you don't believe me, I think you can see it on Youtube soon and I will link it to my blog!
From the kibbutz, Meir and I traveled to Jerusalem by bus. I needed some fresh air once we arrived at the bus station in Jlem, so I suggested we walk a little bit. After we had walked a little bit and purchased some sweets from the shuk, Meir suggested we walk a little bit more. We ended up crossing the entire length of Jerusalem (from the central bus station to Derech Hevron in Talpiyot) which totaled almost 6 miles. It was all made possible by the clutch backpack switch made 2/3 of the way there which entailed me switching to a lighter backpack. Thanks, Meir!!
We prepared for Shabbat and had an amazing dinner at JJ's house with Meir's brother David, his girlfriend Yael, the whole Jonah family, and even Shira's grandmother, who is 91 years old and used to live in Russia and then Shanghai and moved to Israel in 1948! She spoke perfect English and it was so amazing to hear her story. She was also a star track athlete in Israel, and it was so weird to see a frail 91 year old woman in front of me, mostly blind, mostly deaf, the works, and hear that she once medaled in sporting events. It was a great dinner table!
Saturday morning we slept in and then set off for Rehavia. We decided to take a short cut without really knowing the short cut, so that was another hour or so of walking. It was a fun adventure though, and it ended with a beautiful apartment in Rehavia, a nice family from Los Angeles feeding us delicious food, two socially awkward seminary girls, and a really, really cute dog. The lunch lasted a long time, but it was worth it because we got proper directions to get back to Talpiyot so it didn't take as long. My feet hurt afterward.
We ended Shabbat at JJ's with a USY alumni reunion, complete with the USY Central Shaliach, Nahum Binder. There was a little tension after Shabbat when I needed to catch a bus and I really needed to not be late for that bus, but everything turned out fine and I made my bus and got home to Yerucham by midnight. When I arrived home, I walked past a dozen bonfires because it was LAG BA'OMER!! So exciting! Israelis really go all out for this holiday and burn a lot of fires and stay out until all hours!
That same night, I arrived home to the LICE APARTMENT! I really don't want to get it! I really don't! I don't know what to do. Everyone is using shampoo and washing things but they are so close to me! It is really freaking me out. Four out of nine girls in the apartment....AAHHHHH!
This morning, we cleaned up bonfire garbage around Yerucham as a group (Sarah made this analogy: it was like going to someone's house after they had a party and washing the dishes for them) which was not the best use of my time, but I was with a fun group of boys so at least I had a good time. Right after the clean up, I showered and got on a bus to Be'er Sheva with the other volunteers from the high school, and from there, a bus to Arad. Our favorite teacher, Karen (also a Nativer on Nativ 2!!!) picked us up from the bus stop and brought us to her GORGEOUS home for a barbecue! It was delicious, we met her family, we saw a beautiful view of the Dead Sea and the mountains beyond, we reminisced about Nativ, we learned about her Nativ experience, we vented about education in Israel, and we generally just had an amazing time. Karen is an exceptional person and my connection with her has really made the difference working at school.
We got home around 7:30 pm and Rachel and I were welcomed by a fantastic apartment dinner! I love coming home to those. The evening ended with Nativ yearbook and blogging. Great day!!!
We just had a two day Israel Advocacy Seminar in Beer Sheva led by Neil Lazarus. Neil was great as always, and we were also given presentations by Michelle from StandWithUs (she was soooo cool! spunky young woman from Astoria and totally smart), Itamar from Palestinian Media Watch, and a social media guru!!!
I'VE BEEN INSPIRED.
Because of the social media guru (founder of jewlicious.com), I am going to use my blog, facebook, and NEW TWITTA ACCOUNT (twitter.com/jordanagilman) to promote Israel in a positive light. Why not! I've spent time here, it's changed my life, I know what a beautiful and amazing country it is. So I will tell others about my experiences!!!!!!
First things first: follow me on twitter, pleeeeeease!
Second: keep reading this blog! Comment, talk to me about it, send me emails, anything. I am always looking for feedback and conversation.
Third: Watch this video of a Palestinian kid's show! It is SCARY SHIT.
I hope this reaches someone. I was totally taken aback by all of the Palestinian Media clips I saw today (Palestinian Media Watch-palwatch.org) and I urge everyone who reads this to inform himself about the hatred being taught to children less than an hour's drive from the kibbutz where I am staying tonight. Give peace a chance, people.
The rest of Thursday evening was chill and fun. On Friday, we woke up early, promptly realized our grave mistake, and slept for another hour and a half. Then we were ready to plan our weekend camping excursion, do some creative grocery shopping, pack, eat Wacky Mac, and run to catch our bus on the other side of Yerucham (you can see the bus passing from one direction and if you hurry, you can get on it at the last stop because it winds through neighborhoods).
We got a bus to Ashkelon from Beer Sheva. We decided to walk to the beach and on the way, stopped at the hospital to get Meir's foot checked out again. While he was checking in, I was at my post guarding the bags in the waiting room. I happened to sit down next to a rather bedraggled looking woman, red lipstick smeared around her face and frizzy brass colored hair in a mess on her head. Needless to say, when she asked in Hebrew for my cell phone, I felt like this would be a good time to Pay it Forward. I understood enough of her hasty phone conversation to get that she was calling her son...and then I saw the handcuffs. On her wrists. Around her ankles. And then the two armed guards standing around her started yelling at her, and at me, and Meir noticed the commotion and told them that he's sorry but I don't understand Hebrew (or life, apparently). The man guard confiscated my phone from the lady and handed it back to me and escorted me to a new seat. I wiped off the face of the phone many times before making my pre-Shabbat calls.
Having enough excitement for one day, we decided it would be nice to camp on the beach next to LeeAnn, Sarah, and Lainie. We pitched a beautiful tent, courtesy of the best host family in Yerucham, collected firewood, took a few pictures, and welcomed Shabbat. The fire never happened, but by the looks of it, it would have been great.
Saturday was a beach day. I slept a lot, swam a bit, played with my friends. Pretty much an ideal day. The food we packed was great too! I made salad for Friday night and we put chicken bits with it and then for lunch we had challah pizza by spreading tomato sauce and cheese on pieces of challah. So delicious!
We all walked back together to the bus station in Ashkelon, and since I was taking Sunday off, I went back to Kibbutz Ein Tzurim with Meir. We camped again that night, but this time, on the soccer field at the kibbutz. I was a little scared we would get in trouble but everything ended up being fine. I was cold for a lot of the night and woke up really really hot, but besides that, nothing went wrong. I embarked on a long and strenuous journey after lunch that involved tremping with a nice American woman from a neighborhood near the kibbutz, waiting for 40 minutes for a bus that was so crowded no one could get on it, finally getting on a bus to Beer Sheva and then getting to Yerucham without time to even get a 3 shekel ice cream at McDonalds. Which one second thought was probably a good thing. I came home to an amazing apartment dinner prepared by Adina, Rachel, and Becky. It was really yummy kugel and spinach squares and salad and even rice crispy treats!!
Today I had a great day of work and I worked with two students that I know but usually don't tutor, and they were very receptive!! It made me feel great. I came home and squandered about the apartment for a while, worked on Nativ YB (I will never escape!!), ate cereal for lunch, went for a run, went for a picture taking/explorative bike ride, made a really good salad (thank youuuuu host mommy!) and secretly ate some of whatever batter was left on the table. Now I am blogging and Seffi and I are chatting and it seems like it's going to be a good night : )
So to explain, first of all, why I used the ridiculous expression "veritable plethora," let me take you back to 9th grade Biology ES with Mr. Bonadonna. He used to write in shorthand on the board and use the same abbreviation for several different things and then he would veritable plethora all the time and I thought it was pretty funny. So that's why.
It is an accurate description of my last week and a half, though. I left off blogging about the Yad Mordechai (a kibbutz named after Mordechai Anielewicz, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising) Ceremony. It was a really lovely ceremony but there were way way way too many long speeches in Hebrew. The best parts were definitely the singing numbers and an incredible group of children playing harmonicas. They sounded like a mix between recorders, flutes, clarinets, saxophones, and ghostly voices, and it was very haunting and beuatiful. It was hard to stay focused during the presentations but worth it for the musical numbers and torch lighting ceremonies.
The next day, we changed gears completely and had the ultimate battle between the Nativ tracks of Yerucham and Kibbutz!!! Yom Sport was a huge success and a lot of work (I was on the planning committee). We competed in basketball, frisbee, football, a relay race, Jewish Jeopardy, sports trivia, sudokus, banners, and cheers. I was getting really nervous at the end that Yerucham was going to lose!!! But we won, in the end, because the good guys always win in the end.
I went back that night to kibbutz and hung out with the wild animals in Caravan 1, slept in the next day, and then headed off to Jerusalem for the MASA leadership seminar with Marc and Haley. We met the rest of the BFL crew, minus a few, outside the central bus station and together we traveled to the outskirts of the world, otherwise known as the Judaean Youth Hostel--a place where NO BUSES MAY GO! Once I was feeling significantly cut off from humanity, I discovered a miracle of God: the place had internet access! Even though I used it for only about an hour total between Wednesday and Saturday, just knowing that facebook was only a click away immediately calmed my nerves.
The seminar was pretty cool. We had great speakers come talk to us-Gil Troy from McGill, Neil Lazarus, Jessica Kosmin (who campaigned in England during her university years for Israel and is actually the most amazing person ever), and a few other really good ones. Some/most of the workshops were kind of a waste of time, but it was worth it for the speakers because I really feel like I have a better handle on how to advocate for Israel next year at school. I also spent about 20 minutes on the phone with Rabbi Kate from the Cornell Hillel, which was sups fun and made me excited for school next year. On Friday night, we played fun improv games like Taxi (someone gets into a taxi and assumes a strange persona and everyone else in the taxi starts acting like them too) and Train (you sit down next to someone and do weird things to try to make them get up) and another one where silly lines from the seminar were integrated into a turf debate between male prostitutes and a CSI episode in Mea Shearim. The games were most successful when funny people were playing, naturally, but even unfunny people were still laugh at-able.
It took me about 4 hours to get back home to Yerucham on Saturday night, which was not excellent. I was actually looking so despondent at the bus stop in Beer Sheva that a few soldiers checked to see if I was okay. I made it home all right though, don't worry.
Sunday was a regular day at work, but it was pretty fun. My horrible/terrible/very bad eighth grade class was totally bearable because Michal (the only girl) finally decided she likes me! Too bad she's two and a half months late. Then I had my 12th graders who are actually almost like real people and I'm friends with them, and then I had the two cutest baby aarsim in the 9th grade class, and we watched the first hour or so of Chronicles of Narnia. It was a good day!
I worked on the Nativ Yearbook (yes, I still haven't escaped yb!!) after school and also a few other projects. Then Sunday night we had a group wide Yom HaZikaron program to remember Israel's fallen. It was a pretty good program, or at least as good as those kinds of things can be, because it's really sad. A bit on the long side for Nativ programs, but good.
The Yom HaZikaron memorials continued the next day with a trip to Jerusalem. We went to Har Herzl for the official ceremony and put flowers on graves and watched the thousands of family members, friends, strangers, tourists do the same. It was a really moving and overwhelming event. I felt kind of on the outside of the sadness, and kind of undeserving to even be taking up space. It was a weird experience. I stuck with Laura and Leeann the whole time which was nice because they are very appropriate people about that kind of stuff.
After Har Herzl, all of Nativ met up for lunch at Agron and a program to conclude the day. Michael Levin's (check out his memorial fund online) parents actually came to speak to us about their experiences and tragedy (their son went on Nativ 22, made alliyah to join an elite paratroopers unit, and was killed in Lebanon) and they were amazing. They were so selfless about their loss, and they shared so much with us. Amazing. You could see where Michael had gotten his Zionist ideas and determination. They were great. Then we watched "As If Nothing Happened" about a bombing in Beit Lyd. It was not well made but the actors and story were really moving, because it is about a true event. It's forty five straight minutes of a dysfunctional family trying to get in touch with their son, who was at Beit Lyd junction at the time of the bombing, the whole time blaming each other and fighting and thinking their son is dead. Then at the end, he comes home, and it is as if nothing happened. Really a great movie, and typical of great Israeli movies: not perfect filming or editing or what have you, but heartfelt acting and true to life kinds of stories.
Then Yossi and Elkana shared personal stories with us and Elkana sang us a song that he made up a melody for and it was beautiful. It was all a lot to handle and before transitioning into the happiest day of the Israeli calendar, we decided to nap for a bit in negative two and a half. Then it was off to Burgers Bar on Emek Refaim and Shira Hadasha for services. Services were sooo crowded and longer than expected and it was nice that there is such a cute community at Shira Hadasha but not cute that we are on the outside of it. Then we went downtown for a night of crazy partying and Israeli dancing. The Israeli dancing at City Hall was AMAZING! So many thousands of people and they were doing dances I know from home!
We slept in the basement of the old building on couches pushed together until Tzippi came in at 11am and told us we should leave, which was fine, and she was pretty chill about it. Then we had a Nativ barbecue in Gan Haatzmaut and saw lots of cool fighter planes! We enjoyed the sun and the food until four, took a bus home, and then had a fun night in Yeruru.
Wednesday, I met with Debbie Golan about nativyerucham.weebly.com, got the best haircut of my life, cleaned the kitchen, worked on Nativ YB, went grocery shopping, hung out with my host family and got a Hebrew lesson, and hung out with my apartment mates and Meir who came to visit!
Now I am recovering from a nice day of school by eating Yerucham pizza and RC cola and blogging while Josh and Seffi and Meir play Settlers of Catan. I'm about to leave to check to make sure my apartment is locked but I just put on some really good music so I'll stay for the end of the song!
Last night, today at school, and tonight at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai--three ceremonies to commemorate the Holocaust. I will write about the one at Yad Mordechai when I get back. Last night, which I already talked about, was our Nativ program. Leading the discussions was really cool because I got to prompt people with questions and when they shared stories, they mostly looked at me. Afterward, too, people came up to me and kept telling me stories, which I liked a lot, because I felt like those people wanted me to listen to them. It's hard to deal with the Holocaust and if I could make it easier for someone by listening to them, I was more than glad to do that.
Today, we had first period at school in class and then a break before the school ceremony. Everyone went into the concert hall auditorium for it and it was dark and there were candles and the 12th graders led the whole thing. There was a slide show with music behind it and the pictures were really graphic; at one point I just thought, "No." I couldn't understand it or believe what I was seeing, so I just thought no, no, this can't be right. It was very powerful. The students are people I work with on a regular basis and I know them to be rambunctious, crazy, irreverent people with quite a zest for life. They totally shifted gears for today though, and put on a really beautiful ceremony. I was amazed. Everything was practiced, choreographed, thought out. It really changed the way I see the kids, and it made me happy to know that they really care about something.
Thursday was a fun day at school because I have my favorite students in each class on Sunday and we got out a little early and we playedbananagrams in Karen's class. Then a whole crew boarded a bus to BeerSheva and then on to Tel Aviv. We taxied to our APARTMENT which was a top floor/balcony included/spiral staircase/view of the beach fun zone!!! I went out with some boys to search for some food and drank and then when I got back the kibbutz people had arrived and the party began. I watched the first half of Prince of Egypt with Meir and then we all got ready for a night on the town. We walked to the Port and tried to get into a lot of clubs meant for people older than us and finally we found a club that would give us a private room and everyone was very excited.
The next day, we slept in, lounged, relaxed, chilled out, noshed a little, and finally dressed for the day. We walked though Tel Aviv, which really grew on me this time, on cool shopping streets and to a place where Aaron got dreds. Rachel actually also got one dred, which is really cool. The dredding process was taking a long time though, so Josh and Meir and I found the beach and we found our friends who were on the beach and then we went in the water and swam to the rocks and had some adventures.
We had Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv on the balcony which was a really beautiful and spiritual experience. Then we had really bad, cold pizza which was not. Then we rested some more and headed to the beach for some circle time by the water. Classic. I slept outside on the balcony on Friday night until I woke up and realized I was really cold and the tile was painful. It was gorgeous under the stars though.
Saturday morning was another lazy wake up, and then after brunch we headed to the beach again. There were books to be read (I don't think I ever blogged about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which was excellent, or my failed attempt at reading short stories by JD Salinger which failed because the stories were just too weird even for me); now I'm reading Snuff by the same author as Fight Club and it's totally messed up but a really good read. It's about an aging porn star trying to make a comeback and I wouldn't recommend it to the faint of heart. But very a very interesting social commentary, nonetheless.
Shabbat wrapped up around 8 and we got on a bus headed home. It was great to be back in Yerucham, back on a bed (the floor can only be comfy for so long) and back to routine. Today at work was great--I got out a little early, had good students, and even got through to one of the students written off as hopeless.
After work, the stress began. I am on three Nativ Va'adot (committees) responsible for planning Holocaust Remembrance, Color War, and Yearbook. These are intense jobs! The delegation and time management went to shit on the first two already, and I ended up picking up the slack with a few people. In between planning programs, making handouts, and sending innumerable emails, I also went grocery shopping, made dinner, washed my face, and took my vitamins. I know because I made a to-do list.
Also I think I got stung by a little jellyfish in Tel Aviv. I will read up on this on some internet medical site and report back later.
The Yom HaShoah program was a success tonight, although it was long. We lit candles (I lit mine for righteous gentiles-you can read the quote by Anne Frank at the end of this post), shared personal stories or connections, discussed different media expressions of the Holocaust (Adon Olam Ad Matai-a hip hop song by Subliminal, The Pianist, Maus by Art Spiegelmann, Night by Elie Wiesel, Jew Digging His Own Grave by Naftali Bezem, Falling Leaves by Menashe Kadishman), which, as a va'ad member, I selected for the program. Finally, we heard some words from Elkana, wise and sensitive as always, and then concluded with some prayers. I stayed on for maariv with some people because they were short for a minyan and then I came home and wrote this blog. Good night, and remember the Holocaust tomorrow.
"The best example of this is our own helpers, who have managed to pull us through so far and will hopefully bring us safely to shore, because otherwise they'll find themselves sharing the fate of those they're trying to protect. Never have they uttered a single word about the burden we must be, never have they complained that we're too much trouble. They come upstairs every day and talk to the men about business and politics, to the women about food and wartime difficulties and to the children about books and newspapers. They put on their most cheerful expressions, bring flowers and gifts for birthdays and holidays and are always ready to do what they can. That's something we should never forget; while others display their heroism in battle or against the Germans, our helpers prove theirs every day by their good spirits and affection."
On Monday morning, Meir and his dad came to Yerucham and I showed them a good time--we walked to the lake and the forest! After experiencing some good old Yeruru hospitality in the form of carrots and water in my newly koshered apartment, we picked up David at his base outside Yerucham and we were on our way to Saad. We stopped at a different kibbutz before we got there, which was surprisingly even closer to Gaza, and we met one of the soldiers guarding the kibbutz because he is a friend of the Landau family. This soldier, David (also), is stationed at this kibbutz with seven other soldiers and they guard it and watch Gaza and shoot anyone who tries to climb the fence, but no one can get past all the other fences between Gaza and the kibbutz, so they don't have to shoot anyone.
We arrived at Saad in the afternoon and got cleaned up for Seder. At 6:30 pm, we headed to the lovely Beit Knesset there for services (sadly, the first time I've been to Pesach services, I think, but still better late than never) and from there, to the Yemenite Seder! Ronit, who is also on Nativ, was also there, and her brother and her brother's friend, so there were a lot of young English speakers there, and it was really fun. Also, we READ THE WHOLE HAGADA in HEBREW which was pretty crazy. I found the only Hagada there with English translation and Meir helped me understand the discussions going on. The food was delicious, needless to say, and that Yemenite soup is to die for! We finished up around midnight as we were all falling into a food coma.
The next day perfect: wake up late for a walk around the kibbutz with friends and little children, eat a great lunch at the Yemenite place, read and nap, wake up for Seudah Shlishit at Yael's family's house, watch The Great Race, go to sleep again. I love days when the only activities are eating, sleeping, and being friends with other people. That's the best.
Wednesday, we set out for adventures in the south. First, we explored Mamshit, which is an ancient Nebotian fortress/village outside Dimona. Since it was Pesach and the entire country was on vacation, there were a lot of visitors and there was a arts festival inside the ruins where the real market used to be. That was really cool, to see it come alive. It was also a really interesting place, because it was a pagan/Christian settlement, not a Jewish one, which we don't see as often. Then we (Fred, Meir, Yael, and I) hiked Ein Avdat in Sde Boker, a hike I did with the Yerucham group when we visited in December, but it was still gorgeous and exciting. We saw a family of ibexes!! We concluded the day with a quick stop at the Ben Gurion graves, a supermarket stop, and the second half of The Great Race!
Thursday, we ate breakfast again at the Saad dining hall and then we were off to Ashkelon. After walking the midrachon (I think that's what it's called-it's a pedestrian mall) in Ashkelon and getting a little bit lost, we ended up at the train station just in time to get a train to Tel Aviv. It was the most delightful of train rides, and once in Tel Aviv, we picnicked in the park, walked a few blocks around the center of town, and then I met up with my Italy Reunion Tour friends (Adina, Rachel, Debbie, Ariella) for our camping/hiking adventure!
First, we trained to Naharriya. Success. Then we bought a few supplies and wine for our host family that coming Shabbat. Stress, but success. Then we took a sherut to our campsite, Achsiv. Also a success. Then we pitched tents, ate our food, enjoyed the sunset, told stories. Major success. Then we tried to sleep as it got colder and colder and colder out. Some succeeded, some boarded the failboat. Then we woke up at 6:15 am, took down our tents, packed our stuff, ate some matzah, dressed, and got our sherut to take us to the trail. Success. Then we hiked FOREVER-on the green trail (Nachal Kziv), along a river, up a mountain, to a fortress, around the fortress (it's called Monfort and it was built by French crusaders, bought by Germans, and destroyed by Mamluks and now it is just the coolest thing ever and there were a group of photographers there and I modeled for them!!), down the mountain, across a river, along the river, across the river back and forth twenty more times (there are no bridges, mind you, just some wobbly and wet stepping stones that completely failed us), with an Israeli youth group, up another mountain, and finally into the welcoming arms of ELKANA our savior. Success, because we survived, failboat, because there was never a moment when someone was hoping another wouldn't.
The following is all success: Elkana drove Rachel to the train station so she could make a family engagement party, then he picked us up and brought us to his family's house in Ma'alot. We were told that there were so many guests that weekend the house was overflowing, so naturally we were given the keys to the neighbors' house, where we stayed for all of Shabbat. We went to services and meals with Elkana's whole family, and everything was taim m'od and everyone was super friendly and welcoming. On Shabbat afternoon, we walked with Elkana and his wife down to a manmade lake in Ma'alot where there is a sculpture festival and lots and lots of things going on. Everyone was out enjoying the art and the nature and the festivities!
Motzei Shabbat, Elkana drove us to the train station and on the way he totally inspired us because he was talking about Judaism and observance and religion and synagogue and everything he said was amazing! We were all sitting with our mouths hanging open. The train ride back to Tel Aviv was nice and smooth, and we were able to find a bus right away to Jerusalem, and from there, a bus to Talpiyot, where we stayed with Young Judaeans for the night. The next day, we all met up in the center for some shopping and lunching (which is absurdly easy in Israel-every restaurant is kosher for Passover!), and then we parted again for second Chag. The Landau contingent picked me up and we went to JJ's for dinner and I slept at Josh's and everyone was just on their most hospitable and lovable behavior. I even went to shul again on Sunday night! On Monday, we all went to JJ's friend's house for lunch and it was another young family who invited even more families over and there were so many families and children everywhere, and it was fantastic. We barbequed and ate the barbeque and it was fantastic.
Monday night we were out late for an adventure with many friends in the center of town, and then again on Tuesday we explored the city, the shuk, and the Old City. We saw the new and improved Chorva synagogue and it was very beautiful, and we walked until our feet were screaming.
Tuesday night at the bus station, I spotted Reuben, Alex, and Eric, my fellow Yeruchamites. They saved me! I was planning on taking an 8:30 direct, but there WASN'T ONE! And they told me, and they told me which bus I should join them on, and when we had to transfer in Be'er Sheva, they helped me through the pushing and squeezing and cutting balagan that occurred at the entrance to the bus. I arrived safe and sound in Yerucham.
Today is Wednesday and I am working on the website and trying to make improvements, and tomorrow is work and then heading off to Tel Aviv for a birthday extravaganza!
PS. Rak po-counting the Omer on a restaurant receipt, right next to the date.
Rak po-a picture of the Lebuvavitch rabbi graffitied on a highway sign
Thursday morning I cleaned up around the Yerucham Lake and then headed off to Afula. I stopped in Be'er Sheva for an hour to get a connecting bus and I made best friends with a soldier girl and we sat next to each other on the bus and chatted the ride away. I got into Afula around five and Meir and his dad, Fred, picked me up. We spent the night with relatives of theirs in a gorgeous suburb overlooking the valley. Everything was green and healthy, you could see for miles and miles, and there was even a cat I could pet and play with!
On Friday, we explored Afula a lil bit, picked up Yael and David, visited Kibbutz Merhavia and saw where Golda Meir spent some of her younger years working and living, and made a quick stop at a shopping mall. After lunch, five of us packed into the compact car and piled it high with backpacks and suitcases. We drove along a very scenic route around the Kinneret and stopped in pretty places to take pictures. Finally we arrived at Moshav Yonatan, where Yael's sister's family lives, and we spent Shabbat there.
Everything was delicious, fun, friendly, comfortable, beautiful. The Golan is like a different country compared to Yerucham, and it was great to spend 24 hours immersed in greenery, fog, and heavy gray clouds. There were also four incredibly adorable children to play with, which is always fun.
The ride home motzei Shabbat was pretty crazy as far as Israel standards go--traveling from the Golan to Yerucham in one fell swoop is as far as you can get. We left at 8:23 pm and I stepped foot in the apartment around 1 am. Not far for upstate New Yorkers, but in terms of Israel, we saw half the country last night.
Today we all woke up around 11 and started vigorously cleaning the apartment for pesach and kashering countertops, sinks, tables, pots, stovetops, the whole shebang. It has been good for our apartment but it is difficult to evenly divide up work; everyone takes a break once in a while and says, someone else has to finish it, I've been doing the whole thing! Anyway, we're just about done now, and then we're going to have pizza in the park tonight. Tomorrow, I am off to Sa'ad for my first Yemenite seder and then I don't know what I'm doing for a few days and then I am hiking up north and then spending Shabbat with Elkana's parents, and then hiking again and spending second chag in Jerusalem at JJ's. Check back in a week to see how everything played out!
1. Health care for all in America!!!! That is a good thing!
2. I went on a run with LeeAnn yesterday and we found a MINI MASADA IN YERUCHAM!! Complete with ruins, archways, ovens (we think), and a mikvah!
3. The weather here is FANTASTIC!
4. I love my friends, and we are going to go on a hike together over Pesach!
5. Even though Adina wasn't with us for our amazing apartment dinner last Thursday, she made me really happy and did something to support me that I don't quite remember but I remember it was important.
6. Meir visited Yerucham and Ari was here visiting Rachel at the same time and both boys came to the apartment dinner that I COOKED with Ilana and it was delicious and we all dressed in costumes beginning with the letter P.
7. We went to a MASA Shabbat program in Jerusalem and learned lots of things and an Israeli Arab came to talk to us. He was a very charming young man and gave me hope for the peace process!! It begins with the people, not the politicians!!
8. I finished my book, Beaufort, the best book ever! And then I loaned it to Meir, who is reading it too!
9. I treated myself to two new songs by the Weepies! And I heard Rihanna's new song for the first time, RUDE BOY! And now I'm obsessed and I am euphoric whenever I hear it.
10. I worked at the soup kitchen in Dimona the last two days and I fed poor people and peeled lots of carrots!
11. I went to my host family tonight for dinner and a Hebrew lesson and reading with the five year old girl who is the cutest thing born to two humans on this planet and I am in love with my family! They are so nice to me and they make me so comfortable. Aliza taught me to make a cabbage salad by chopping the cabbage and adding vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic powder and it's so delish!!!!! They also let me borrow a sleeping bag for Pesach!
Wow, life is great.