Monday, 4 July 2011

And so it ends, my final post of a year of trouble, tribulation and triumph!

The weekend after Northern Tiyul was the 'World Movement Seminar'. Originally we were supposed to talk to Netzer Olim but for some reason that fell through so it ended up being a seminar predominantly on Aliyah. Either way my incoming wisdom teeth decided it was a good time to get infected so after an emergency trip to a very nice dentist on Hillel Street, and a prescription for antibiotics I spent most of the weekend in bed trying to distract myself from my extremely painful inflamed cheek.

By Monday morning and Josh's Israel update class I was feeling a lot better. Thus began our final two weeks of full schedule classes. That evening we headed to our final MASA event which nobody was especially looking forward to however after some dubiously interesting sessions, a panel discussion from Danny Gillerman, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN and Alon Pinkas, former Consul General of Israel in New York. The discussion surrounded the de-legitimisation of Israel in the Diaspora. Following this we then we had a talk from some of the innovators of the hi-tech appliances in Israel, featuring a flying robot and a bicycle clock. The part that really made the evening worthwhile and was truly incredible, probably the very best thing we have formally attended on Shnat, a performance from the all singing all dancing all beat-boxing troupe Mayumana.

On Tuesday we went back to full day normal lessons and had yom tnua in the evening. We had the standard netzer platform peulah run by Sivan and Ethan which was focused on activism and was about what we could do in Netzer to be active when we get back home. Then we had a ma’amad written by Becky and Nikki which was a self-reflective journey using a pack they had produced which was really appropriate and calming for the timing.

On Wednesday we had lessons and then did our meoravut (volunteering). As a continuation of what I have previously talked about , my Israel Activism group was now focusing on raising money and awareness for LGBT rights in Israel. On this specific session we were the first group ever to be allowed to go to visit 'Beit Dror' the shelter we were raising money for and meet some of the teenagers and talk to them. The shelter is for Israeli kids who have been kicked out or have run away from home for their sexual orientation. We decided on several strategies to raise money, the first being a club night which half the pre-sold ticket money goes to the shelter, the second volunteering at Gay Pride in Tel Aviv to give out flags and collect money.

The Thursday was our penultimate Yom Yisrael. We spent the day on a tour around the Supreme Court (of which the most interesting part was the architecture) and a brief talk outside the Kineset. Our Sikkum consisted of a government simulation where we had to decide on a set of personal 'beliefs' and then form parties using a point system and comparing your point values. After this you had to agree on party beliefs and policies and this of course caused splits which was all very interesting to analyse at the end.

On Friday morning Miriam, Relf, Rio, Tamara and I headed back to Karmiel to visit our host families for the weekend. It was such a lovely weekend of chilling, chatting, watching movies, eating yummy food and seeing people we hadn't seen for a while. We even had an ice cream and waffle at Aldo with Galit. On our way back to Machon we stopped in 'Crack Square' to watch the football alongside hundreds of other people on big screens outside the bars.

Sunday was a fairly boring and uneventful day except for being the first day of our last week of classes on Machon. Monday began with our final Israel Update in which our political knowledge really was put to the test. We simulated peace process discussions between the Palestinians and the Israelis over key issues such as Water, Jerusalem, Borders, Security and Refugee. The Simulation consisted of two classes, each representing a different side and each split into mini groups to focus on specific topics. Our class was representing the Palestinian side of the negotiations and so to make matters even more interesting, myself and a few others were instructed in secret to represent Hamas in the discussions without telling the rest of our group. Needless to say very few group came up with any substantial conclusions, further illustrating the depth and complicating (if we didn't already see it) of the conflict. The day continued with vastly less interesting occurrences such a a Hebrew test, Judaism class and lots of Hadracha.

Tuesday consisted of my final morning of Jeremy Leigh classes, sad times, despite the 8 o'clock start with a Holocaust elective by far one of my most interesting mornings of lessons. In the afternoon, aside from a usual set of Yom Tnua events we also had a rehearsal for the CD some of us are making of a a bunch of songs, tunes and harmonies we have sung during shnat to take back to our individual sniffim.

Wednesday was Yom Yerushaliym (something that previously to Shnat I had never even heard of). As Netzer has an undecided view on this, whilst for others the day was one of celebration, we took a tour round parts of the green line and East Jerusalem with Mark Lazar to discuss the implications of Jerusalems borders. That evening I went out for dinner with my room mates as a farewell dinner all together before the end of Shnat.

Thursday was long and unnecessary and everyone was exhausted for most of it. In the afternoon I went to sleep for a 10 minute power nap and woke up five hours later when everyone was getting ready to go out. It was our fireworks themed club night raising money for Beit Dror and went extremely well.

On Friday morning I got up at six to go to Women of the Wall. To explain further who they are I will insert their mission statement : 'As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall'. The concept many people have issues with, of using prayer as protest was something I also wasn't totally sure about. Having said this I felt I should go along any way at least once to make up my mind based on fact. It was actually very pleasant and quite powerful and genuinely felt like it was simply a group of people coming together to pray. Apparently there was a lot less controversy than in the past and we didn’t get yelled or spat at by anybody. Interestingly there always had to be at least two people outside holding the Torah as we weren't slowed to bring it in. Rachel and I didn’t stay for the Torah service as we had many missions for the day to complete. We jumped onto what we are still not quite sure if it was a Haredi bus and made our way to Yad Vashem as we had both missed the Machon trip there. It was really important to both of us, though we had independently been there before, to revisit, post our year in Israel and with a completely different outlook. After Yad Vashem we headed to Machane Yehuda for lunch at Pasta Basta before heading home for shluf time.

At this point everything got slightly crazy so I created a massive backlog in my blog which is why the next bit is just a brief recounting. On Saturday I spent most of the afternoon in the Arab Shuk with Miriam collecting all the bits and bobs we hadn't managed to get yet. Sunday and Monday were a 'Special Seminar' which was largely exceedingly boring and a lot about Aliyah and taking things back to the movements. On Tuesday morning my Chavura had our Shavuot peula, a three part peula based on a song, an interactive museum and a tikkun session. That evening everyone headed out to various study sessions before all congregating at four in the morning to go to the Kottel for the sunrise. As a result of this most of Wednesday was spent sleeping and in a CD rehearsal. On Thursday morning Etgar had their last day of classes so Miriam, Bec, Helen and I went to Herzliya to spend a chilled out day tanning on the beach. We awoke early on Friday morning to jump in a shirut to Tel Aviv to spend the day volunteering at Gay Pride, raising money for Beit Dror shelter (over 8000 shekel in the end). On Saturday morning, the last day of chofesh, a bunch of Netzer-niks congregated at Yellow Submarine bar which also has a recording studio. We spent about 8 hours recording 11 of our favourite most used and different songs we had sung during Shnat. Sunday and Monday was Sikkum Tiyul starting we a 'Great Race' from Jerusalem ending in Netanya, followed by lots of beach, sea, swimming, games, reflection, paint balling, archery, rock climbing and chatting. Tuesday and Wednesday consisted of Sikkum sessions, feedback, packing and our Final Dinner. They set it up like prom so all the boys were given girls to ask in the most romantic way they could think of. (most boys had two girls due to gender imbalance). Thursdayy was the saddest day of all, a day of Closing Tekkes, yearbooks, tears and hugging as we said goodbye to ourAustraliann and South African friends who had become as much a part of out shnat as our fellow Netzer-niks and most of whom we would probably never see again.

After leaving Machon we met up with Etgar, said goodbye to the Netzer Southerners and went on our way to Shvaiim to begin our Sikkum Seminar and final four days of Shnat. A weekend of sadness, reminiscing and saying goodbye.

I write this sitting in Ben Gurion airport as we are waiting to board the plane home. It has most definitely been a year of discovery, a year of struggle, a year of joy, happiness and new experiences.
When I think about the decision I made to come here, maybe it was for the wrong reasons but when I look at the experience I had, I know it was the right decision. I never knew even half the things I would get out of Shnat and I feel so lucky to have somehow stumbled upon exactly the right way to spend my year. My biggest worry now is how to readjust to life at home, and make sure I don't waste all that I have gained this past year.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Northern Tiyul

The way I recorded tiyul was writing up day-to-day on my ipod touch so it's a slightly different style entry but I’m going to copy them straight as they are.

Sunday 15th May
Sunday morning dawned and so did northern tiyul! One thing shnat has definitely taught me is that I am most definitely not a mooring person and the highly unnecessary 5:15 wake up in the morning was  not very impressive. Also, after somehow managing to defeat my childhood coach sickness on long journeys for the first seven months of Shnat, it returned with full vengeance on my trip to the Golan and has remained ever since. Anyhow, the first morning of northern tiyul consisted of clearing undergrowth in the Carmel forest to prevent more forest fires (this volunteering with the JNF apparently rewarded us with free accommodation). For lunch we headed to a Druze village in the Carmel mountains which was yummy of course and also heard about many of the bizarre Druze customs. The afternoon consisted of a short hike, or should I say amble, before heading to our campsite in  the forest for a very machonesque dinner and an Olympic themed peula which my group 'Afula' won!

Monday 16th May
I have a feeling that my Northern tiyul blog will be rather brief as I am exhausted 24/7. On Monday morning we went on a hike in Nahal Amun which started off as a short hike and ended with Haggai saying that we had seven minutes left and half an hour later we still weren't there! The hike involved a water pool stop and Tamara and I were the only girls that ventured in. After the hike we had lunch and headed to Safed for yet another two hour tour followed by free time at which point I somehow ended up hiking up hundreds of stairs...voluntarily!

Tuesday 17th May
After being bitten to death all night once again we awoke at 6.30 for breakfast and a coach trip to kibbutz misgav am, a Lebanon look-out point. From where we were sitting we could see the border itself and directly into Lebanon. One of the kibbutz 'security force' who had also fought as a paratrooper in four of Israel’s wars, a guy called Arieh, talked to us about the kibbutz and it's history. We happened to be sitting at the very same point we visited on tour, a place that was fixed in my mind as my tour memory of he Golan but I didn't actually remember anything about it. Afterwards we headed to something that had previously been described as tobogganing but was a form of alpine-coaster, effectively a theme park ride in the mountains. It was fun if a little bit scary. When we finished they told us that we were no longer going water rafting in the Jordan river, something we were all massively looking forward to. Instead we went to a shitty leisure centre to have lunch in the oppressive heat and swim in the yucky pool. Luckily there was also an ice rink which was mamash kef.
We returned home for dinner, an intriguing questions peula and a bonfire with marshmallows, sweet tea and baked potatoes.

Wednesday 18th May
A five thirty wake up for a for a six hour hike. Down a mountain, through an ice cold pool, clambering across rocks, abseiling down a waterfall, through another freezing cold pool fully clothed, across some more rocks and up the most horrendous vertical cliff face in history. It was fun and completed the first tiyul in which I have fully completed every single hike so I was rather proud of myself. Afterwards we just about had the energy for pizzur lunch and a brief visit to the Syrian look out point before heading home for showers and dinner and a 'party' at a nearby kibbutz club (where Romy and I played the boys at pool and won!).

Thursday 19th May
I largely slept through (or rather sleepwalked through) the mornings events, a trip to an army bunker lookout point into ___ and to the Kineret graveyard. We all woke up drastically however when we arrived at the chocolate factory at Deganya kibbutz where we participated in a all you can it chocolate decoration workshop leaving some people to clearly out-eat their limits. Afterwards we headed to about the tenth 'oh I came here on tour but had no idea where it was at the time' place for lunch and a swim in the kineret. This concluded Tiyul and with a final play of the Northern Tiyul rap we fell asleep on the buses and headed back to Jerusalem. 

Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atmaut

My trip home was comforting, crazy, peaceful, hectic and most of all not nearly long enough. The minute I landed I felt as if I was already running out of time before I had to leave again and I feel like this made me put enormous pressure on myself to do all the things I wanted to do and get the most out of a very short space of time. The very second I heard Dylan had been born I knew I had made the right decision to go home. There was no way I was prepared to miss out on being there for the beginning of my gorgeous nephew's life. Writing this on Erev Yom HaZikaron I realise that he has already changed my perspective on many of the things I am experience in this place so near and yet in many ways so very far away from home.

I flew back to Israel the evening before Yom HaShoah (obviously on a flight of screaming babies) and after only 2 hours of waiting around and dropping other people off I arrived back at the Machon L'Madrachei Chutz L'Aretz. To my dismay I discovered I had missed not only the groups trip to Yad Vashem the previous week but also the Holocaust Survivor Speaker who people clearly felt was a very powerful speaker.

The next morning we had a Shoah Tekkes planned and run by a group of the Machoniks. It was well planned and sensitively written but the thing that I felt like I really connected to was when one of the girls stood up and told her grandmother's testimony. I think I've always felt some disconnection to Yom HaShoah, not in the sense that obviously I wasn't there but more to do with the personal nature of the connection many people have. Listening to this testimony, being told by a friend of mine about a family member of hers, made it much easier to even begin to comprehend what we were actually commemorating.

In the afternoon/evening we went to a big Yom HaShoah Tekkes at Yad Mordechai which I think we were all fairly disappointed at because the entire three hour ceremony took place in hebrew and was not at all what we expected it to be-in a bad way. I appreciate the validity of joining with Israeli society to celebrate and commemorate days alongside them but I distinctly felt like this was an impenetrable barrier for so many of us that we simply didn't connect.

Tuesday was my Jeremy Leigh morning starting with the elective 'Holocaust: Between Memory and Meaning' and followed by double 'Story of the Jewish People'. We also put to Jeremy the idea of a Netzer Bogrim trip to Poland in 2011 which is now in the process of developing as a potentially feasible idea. The afternoon was a pretty standard Tnua Time taking place at machon. The peula was on Israel and the Diaspora and to my dismay, as I completely forgot when I went home, it was my peula to plan alongside with two other people, one from Spanish Machon and one from Etgar. As it turned out the two of us (Hannah and myself) wrote the entire peulot the night before. This was our very brief outline but we ad-libbed a fair bit aswell, hence the missing content.

T'nua Time Peula: Israel and the Diaspora
Tuesday 3rd May 2011

  1. Does one need the other more
  2. Should the diaspora have a voice in Israeli Politics
  3. What can we actually DO to support/help Israel

Lior's Trigger 20mins
Leads into discussion about 'Does one need the other more?'

Split into 7 groups of 5: Look at statements (below) about events in Israel's history and if they think it is right or not
3 x 5 min discussions plus 3 x 3mins for explanations 24 mins

Together for group discussion on:
-How 'relevant' their opinions are considering they're not Israeli 10 mins
-Whether israel should listen to the 'Voice of the Diaspora'
-If not how can we be expected to defend them/support them
-Just because we are Jews does that give us a 'divine right' to interfere in Israel and the lives of Israelis

Operation Cast Lead
In response to a sharp increase in the number and frequency of rocket attacks into Israel prior to and following the expiration of Hamas' agreed period of "calm" on December 19, 2008, the Israeli Air Force launched Operation Cast Lead, consisting initially of airstrikes on December 27 against Hamas security installations, personnel, and other facilities in the Gaza Strip, followed on January 3 by ground operations. Hostilities between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters continued through January 18, and the Israeli withdrawal of troops was completed on 21 January 2009

Gaza Flotilla Raid
The Gaza flotilla raid also known as the flotilla incident of 31 May 2010,[5] was a military operation by Israel against six ships of the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla" on May 31, 2010 in international waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), was carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials,with the intention of breaking Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.On 31 May 2010, Israeli Shayetet 13 naval commandos boarded the ships from speedboats and helicopters. On the MV Mavi Marmara, clashes broke out after activists violently resisted. Nine activists were killed (Eight Turkishnationals and a Turkish-American), and dozens of activists and seven Israeli commandos were wounded. On three other ships, activists showed passive resistance, which was suppressed by Israeli forces without deaths or severe injuries, and two others were taken without incident. The activists were subsequently arrested and detained in Israel before being deported. Widespreadinternational condemnation of the raid followed, Israel-Turkey relations were strained, and Israel subsequently eased its blockade.

The Disengagement
2005 - Israel's unilateral disengagement
The Israel Defence Forces left the Gaza Strip on 1 September 2005 as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, and all Israeli citizens were evicted from the area. An 'Agreement on Movement and Access' between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was brokered by Condaleezza Ricein November 2005 to improve Palestinian freedom of movement and economic activity in the Gaza Strip. Under its terms, the Rafah crossing with Egypt was to be reopened, with transits monitored by the Palestinian National Authority and the European Union. Only people with Palestinian ID, or foreign nationals, by exception, in certain categories, subject to Israeli oversight, were permitted to cross in and out. All goods, vehicles and trucks to and from Egypt had to pass through the Israeli crossing at Kerem Shalom, under full Israeli supervision. Goods were also permitted transit at the Karni crossing in the north.

Gilad Shalit's Capture
Gilad Shalitגלעד שליטborn 28 August 1986 is an Israeli soldier who was captured on 25 June 2006 by Hamas in a cross-border raid. He was captured near the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel and has been held as a hostage at an unknown location in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since then.
-In this specific on-going situation what should Israel's response be?

Netzer Ideology platform (give one to each person) 5 mins
What's our role when we go home?

I found this particular hadracha experience extremely frustrating as despite the fact that we were dealing with a group of our friends and the supposed future leaders of the movement,certain people spent the entire peulot on their phone or doing a crossword whilst making rude comments, it just felt very contradictory.

Wednesday was a morning of Zionism and Israel and I found my core class much more interesting that usual which was good. In the afternoon we had Israel Activism Meoravut Session. This week Nick had brought in a speaker Avi Soffer to talk to us on our chosen topic for our big upcoming project. After much debate and controversy we decided on LGBT in Israel and so Avi came to speak to us as someone who runs 'Adam L'Adam' the social action branch of LGBT. It was a truly fascinating session and gave us lots to think about for our project including a participation and machon continingent at the massive Gay Pride March in Tel Aviv on May 10. no more details to be given away as our plan is forming to be quite interesting.

The evening was an erev peula run by Matan's Chavura based on a government conference setting which was very confusing but fun.

For the next bit I am going to insert my parents report for the week as, although it is less detailed and personal than I would like for my blog, I simply don't have the time or energy to write a description for the exact same week twice.

“Our week began (or should I say ended) last Thursday with a Yom Yisrael entitled 'Over the Green Line'. It began with a talk by Paul Liptz a Social Historian. He gave us a detailed history on Israel's relationship with the occupied territories from 1948 until today, touching on the major wars and the peace process. Afterwards we drove to the outskirts of Gilo (a settlement in on the outskirts of Jerusalem, over the Green Line but within the boundaries of the Municipality) and stood at a view point, effectively in no-man's-land, surveying the area that encompassed both Bethlehem and Beit Jala on one side of the security barrier and the barrier itself. Behind where we stood was a house belonging to an Arab who was not an Israeli citizen. Many machon-niks struggled to make sense of this situation where people had to travel several hours through a checkpoint to buy groceries in a supermarket in Bethlehem instead of one five minutes away in Gilo. At this observation point a woman from Machson watch spoke to us about the situation. She explained how the organisation surveys the checkpoints along the border and takes shifts to observe the behaviour of the soldiers and use their presence to put pressure on the soldiers to behave correctly when stopping people.. They also help people trying to gain Israeli citizenship who may have been previously 'black listed' for whatever reason. The next place we visited was Efrat, a Jewish settlement in the Judean Hills. Although Efrat has a totally Jewish and mainly religious population, it is unusual in its relations with its Arab neighbours. The Mayor, Mr Oded Ravivi, spoke to us about the area and the current political situation. He believed in the notion of one Jewish state, with Jews and Arabs living side by side peacefully, and claimed Efrat was a perfect example of how to achieve this. After lunch we headed to Hebron for the afternoon. We started our visit at the Cave of the Patriarchs (which we were surprised to discover didn't actually allow us to see the cave itself as it was below ground and after a few initial excavations, all exploration of the area was banned as it was so sacred). Following this, we walked to Shavey Hebron Yeshiva along the main road in the Jewish area of Hebron (H2) where there are currently 850 Jews, 250 of which live and study at the yeshiva. It was a very surreal experience and there was mixed emotion among the group – it felt like we were walking through a scene in the movie 'The Hurtlocker'. The area was entirely deserted, with all former Arab shops boarded up and abandoned, yet patrolled and guarded by soldiers from the IDF and observers from international human rights organisations. Once at the yeshiva, we had a fascinating opportunity to discuss with and question some of the Yeshiva boys on their views and decisions about studying in Hebron. All in all, the day was truly fascinating and presented a number of issues that we have been grappling with over the course of Shnat; For the northerners in particular, it was a very significant visit as we had begun discussing the issue of Jewish settlers in Hebron in a session on Kibbutz at the beginning of Shnat.Ever since, we have longed to visit and become better informed on and challenged by the complex situation at hand. Despite leaving the day with more questions and confusion than answers, it was a valuable and truly memorable day that I'm sure will remain with us for a long time in the future.

The next day all the Netzer Machoniks piled onto a bus with all the Etgarniks and headed to the Reform Mechina in Yafo. We spent the weekend discussing the preceeding and coming days of Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut, finally getting a real opportunity to talk to Israelis our age, from a similar religious background and on a similar programme to us. The discussions taking place across the weekend followed a number of topics including joining the army, the Diaspora's voice in Israeli politics, the rights of Jews around the world and many, many other things. It was a fantastic weekend which we all thoroughly enjoyed and really gained insight into an Israeli perspective many of us could identify with. Throughout the weekend, as well as the peulot run by the Shnattie Tzevet, we had a lovely kabbalat shabbat service on the beach, with an extremely surprising number of similar tunes and songs between the two groups and some great opportunities for those of us who hadn't spent much time in Yafo to wander round. To top off the weekend, those of us on RSY found out our tsvatim for Shemesh this summer and we're all looking forward with great excitement to what the fast approaching summer after Shnat holds.

We returned to Kiryat Moriah and started classes again for the new week on Sunday morning. Sunday evening was the start of Yom HaZikaron, the day when Israel remembers, commemorates and honours its 22,867 fallen soldiers and 2,443 terror attack victims. In preparation for this we visited a Haredi Seminary in Jerusalem to talk to girls (and a Yeshiva for the boys) our own age about a variety of topics. At the Seminary everyone was extremely open to explain things about themselves and their beliefs and question others. In my group specifically the topics ranged from the 'dating' and marriage process, to what the Haredi girls wear to the gym, to G-d's existence when bad things happen to the acceptance (or lack thereof) of Progressive Jews in Israel. The Mifgash (encounter) went so well that many of the girls swapped email addresses to continue discussions later on. Afterwards we headed to Ammunition Hill for a Yom HaZikaron Tekkes put on by MASA in English for Gap Year students in Israel. The ceremony began with the siren ringing out across Israel at 8pm marking a one-minute silence and the beginning of the commemorative day – Remembrance Day. It was an extremely powerful tekkes, telling the individual stories of both civilians and soldiers who had lost their lives in the conflict. Clearly a ceremony intended to reach out to Jews from the diaspora and specific programs, a particularly poignant story to the machon-niks in particular was that of Nir Cohen, an israeli soldier who was a Rakaz at the Machon in Feb-June 2006 just before he was killed in the 2nd Lebanon War. On the morning of Monday 9th May we went to the National Yom HaZikaron Tekkes at the Military Cemetery on Har Herzl (Mount Herzl). Although many of us understood little of the ceremony itself, the sheer number of people present and the atmosphere was powerful enough. Being present at the site, which we had already visited earlier on Machon, made us feel more connected with the reality of the situation in Israel as the statistics were brought to life and we could see the number of people that each individual soldier had touched during their short lives. The day certainly had a great emotional impact on us.
Yom HaZikaron ended at 8pm on Monday night marking the beginning of Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day. Israeli Independence Day is a national holiday in which Israelis celebrate the declaration of Independence by David Ben Gurion on May 14th 1948, the day before the British Mandate officially ended. This year Israel celebrates 63 years of independence. That evening many of us piled onto buses and headed to Tel Aviv, specifically to Florentine, to celebrate in true Israeli style at one of the biggest Independence day street parties. There were fireworks, flags and for some reason a great deal of white foam being sprayed around but it was a great night and fantastic experience.

The transition between the sobriety of Yom HaZikaron and the joyousness of Yom Ha'atzmaut is difficult for us to understand and cope with emotionally– despite experiencing it. The decision for the two days to run in succession was a deliberate one so as to ensure that before the nation celebrates the people first stop to remember and commemorate victims of terror and those who gave their lives to defend the state, its independence and its freedom.”

Although this past week has been challenging and emotionally draining, it is an integral part of facing life in Israel, a very complex state, and therefore a pivotal part of our Shnat journeys. We're looking forward to next week, not returning to classes but embarking on a new journey... Northern Tiyul!!”

The weekend previously to Tiyul Aaron and I spent relaxing in Herzliya ending when I met up with Pops as he arrived in Israel on the Saturday night and we went to dinner at the most bizarre French restaurant ever.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Pesach Chofesh

The Sunday chofesh started began with a morning of classes. A 'Big Burning Issues' Hadracha elective followed by Sunday Selection which for me involved a tour around Emek Refaim from the perspective of a person with disabilities. In the afternoon we packed up and people headed off in all directions, many in fact staying somewhere in Jerusalem for Seder, but others to destinations far and wide (as much as is possible in Israel anyway) across the country. I headed to Ben Yehuda street with Romy (one of my crazy and amazing Aussie friends from Machon) to do some last minute Pesach gift shopping, bagel eating and smoothie drinking after which we parted ways and I headed to the Etgar flat where I planned to spend the first few days of Chofesh.

After a chilled Sunday evening and Monday morning, Aaron and I headed over to Jeremy's for Seder. Although in many ways very unlike our Seder, the welcoming and buzzing atmosphere made us both feel completely at home and comfortable. The many bizarre and fabulous new traditions we experienced involved a sea complete with plastic bugs in the middle of the table, whacking each other with spring onions, eating jelly, playing 'just a minute', costumes, and VEGGIE soup! All in all it was a wonderful night that we both thoroughly enjoyed and it was fantastic to finally have a 'this year in Jerusalem'

After Seder in Jerusalem we headed to Herzliya for one night just to dump out stuff before packing up and heading off to the Golan for our Pesach tiyul camping trip. I won't disgust you all with the details but lets just say it was a rather unpleasant bus ride up North. We arrived at Kiryat Sh'mona and jumped in a taxi to our camp site, only they took us to the restaurant not the camp site, so some dude who worked there gave us a lift to the actual camp site. The camp site was beautiful so we chilled, munched, rafted and hiked (a tad) and met some lovely people. We had dessert, true Israeli style, with a couple we met, the guy was Israeli and the girl was a South African volunteer who had made Aliyah a few years ago. It was really sweet actually, we bumped into them and then later they came over and invited us to join them for their dessert which involved some really interesting conversations, mainly with him, about his claim that Israel didn't need volunteers and how he didn't like it that people went home with the impression that Israel needed help or was vulnerable. We had an extremely eventful couple of days and went rafting just the two of us down a precariously treacherous course on the Jordan River. The gas station, which was the only place to buy food, was a tantalising 10 metres on the opposite side of the river which involved a forty minute walk around...each get any food.

After our adventurous experience we shlepped ourselves back to Herzliya to chill and shluf for the rest of Chofesh. This involved much sleep, munch and a lovely day with Gavi and Mike when they came to stay. The boys cooked us Spanish omelette while we 'supervised''. Chofesh was concluded with a lovely dinner out to celebrate mine and Aaron's six month anniversary.

This afternoon I headed back to pack and sort myself out in preparation to head home at three thirty in the morning to meet the gorgeous Dylan Joseph Grabiner!!!

Lots of love

S x

P.s. photos to come

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The last week before Pesach Chofesh

Friday 1st April: After a lovely long nights sleep in mama's room we woke early-ish to enjoy the hotel breakfast and set off for our day together. First stop was the 'museum on the seam' the co-existence museum on what used to be the border of east and west Jerusalem. The cutter theme was 'the right to protest' and though slightly 'trippy' the exhibition was fantastic.

After this (and a rather unpleasant taxi driver) we found ourselves (obviously totally by accident) at the American Colony Hotel for drinks which turned into lunch. We went home pretty much just to shluf and shower before returning there for dinner with papa later that evening.

On saturday morning we, being mum,
אבא, Aaron and I, headed up north a bit to visit Ardin and Osnat in Pardes Hanna. We had a what can only be described as scrumptious breakfast and really nice morning with them after which we continued on to Caesaria for a walk on the beach and lunch. The story of how we found somewhere to eat dinner is rather amusing to say the least. Pops decided he knew of a perfect restaurant only he didn't know what it was called, exactly where it was or what kind of food they served. Miraculously somehow the hotel found the resteraunt he was talking about and off we went for dinner in a lovely French resteraunt just off King George street.

On Sunday morning I had lessons as usual, hadracha specialisation followed by ivrit and chavura before off I went to spend an afternoon with mamma on Ben Yehuda, pottering around and eating the best veggie meal ever at T'mol shilshom. At about five o'clock pingu and yonni met us there for a coffee. Our dinner restaurant was a magnificent reservation and a place called machanyuda near the shook where they served  amazing food in a very loud and buzzing atmosphere.

Monday I decided to take off as a chofesh day to spend with benny. For some bizarre reason it was decided that  a museum was the nest place to spend the morning. Lets just say it wasn't all too successful and leave it at that.

Tuesday was a morning of five hours of Jeremy class. First holocaust elective and then story of the Jewish people. In the afternoon we had as usual yom t'nua which though slightly better than usual was still pretty boring. The evening was the spurs match, I had beer spilt over me right at the beginning at let's just say that was the best bit of the night.

Wednesday morning is Zionism, Zionism and a little bit of in-depth Zionism. Followed by social action where we had somewhat of a controversy and lost one of our members.

Thursday morning saw my very first and hopefully last ivrit test on machon. Not such a pleasant experience. I felt like I was back at school when I had tests in subjects I was just truly abysmal at. It was especially frustrating because I know I know more than will come across through a test. After that joyful experience we had chavura followed by yom israel which was themed Israeli culture and encompassed (for my group anyway) a visit to house and then a group trip to the cinematheque where machon had rented out a screen to show us clips from movies throughout israel's history. From here I took three buses and a short walk and 30shek later met Ben and yoni for dinner at 'Orna and Ella' in TA. We had a really lovely meal and then met Arieh for a drink at a chilled bar on the beach. That night I had the long missed experience of going to sleep with absolute silence around me.

I awoke early on Friday morning to get to Alozoroff station to meet the B'nei Akiva bus that I was hitching a ride with to Keshet Seminar. Unfortunately the bus was late and we were subjected to a brief evacuation of the station whilst there was a contained explosion to presumably deal with a bomb threat.
After that we met with the B'nei lot who had just run 10k of the marathon and were very proud of themselves and all headed off to the Beit Yehuda Hostel for the Keshet Seminar which is a seminar organised by Masa for all the British Youth Movements and this particular one was themed on University Life.

The seminar involved a ridiculous group bonding experience including herding sheep, a couple of contorversial services, lots of shabbaty esque things, a couple of sessions on 'Anti-semitism in the UK' and 'Student Politics' (my particular choices) and a fantastic key-note speech by Josh. We were split into university groups so myself, steph, debs and two other netzer girls, the Cambridge contingent were in the 'Smaller J-Socs' group which meant there wasn’t actually anyone from cambridge for us to speak to unfortunately.

The week followed a extremerly normal week of classes with the distinct end-of-term-it's-nearly-holiday feeling going around and lots of people sleeping a lot of the time. I spent most of the evenings with Aaron and his family as both his parents and younger twin brothers were out here for the week.

This weekend was Shabbat B'YAchad, a closed weekend on machon. It was actually really lovely and it massively feels like we have finally bonded as a machzor and everyone is getting on so much better and closer. The weather was beautiful so we spent a lot of time chilling on the grass, signing songs and reading. It's really nice to feel like the amazingness of the education and the building of friendships and a community has finally come together to start to create what machon is actually all about.

Speaking of chilling, after being berated by my darling brother for my lack of inspiration and artistic creativity this year, I finally made myself pick up the not so proverbial pen once again and here it is, not my best but a start.

Chag Sameach all x 

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Southern Tiyul

I used my ipod touch to take notes on tiyul as I didn't have access to a computer. This has resulted in a slightly different format for the blog of this particular week.

Sunday 27th March

Music blasting and 17 year old boys running round yelling at the top of their voices. Not a pretty sight? Indeed not. To my utter dismay this was in fact the scene in the machon dormitorys at six o'clock on Sunday morning. We stumbled onto buses with bags packed for the week and fell asleep almost immediately only to be awoken two hours later for breakfast in a field somewhere. After breakfast we were given a brief explanation of the disengagement to prepare us for later in the day. After that we headed to Nitzan which is a temporary town for the settlers who were expelled from גוש כתיף. Five years later these people are still in temporary housing without proper bomb shelters and having had to completely rebuild their lives. It seems so bizarre that all this was given up without the compromise that went with the Sinai land agreements and the peace that was (albeit temporarily) constructed with Egypt. Unsurprisingly many of the teenagers who were due to enter the army at the time of the disengagement from these settlements refused to.

Many of the settlers wanted their homes to be left in tact, largely due to their dream of one day returning to their homes however almost everything was distorted by either the government or the Palestinians. The government argued that if no agreement was to be formed including a purchasing of the previously developed buildings, there was a limit on the amount they were willing to give up for free so they demolished all the houses, only leaving the synagogues (as it's against halachah to destroy them), they even moved the cemeteries and reburied people so families had to sit shiva for a previously unheard of second time.

What does Palestine actually mean. Many Israelis today will happily say that they lived in Palestine when it was part of the british mandate. So what it means today is something completely different. But does that even matter? Surely it's what a word stands for today that's important, rendering what it meant previously irrelevant.

כפר דרום settlement in gush katif
Gush katif was previously only sand dunes which the settlers cultivated and built on. They developed land people previously thought it would be impossible to do.

After being spoken to by one of the displaced settlers we went on a tour around the 'temporary' village. We were then taken into a room to be shown three rather propaganda esque movies about the settlement and how wonderful It had been, about the whole process through the eyes of one of the youth and about the way the settlement looked after the disengagement. The first two were fairly interesting and full of information I didn't know but at the same time I was constantly aware of the context and purpose behind us and other people watching them. They were clearly very one sided. From all the different people we are taken to speak to, it seems as if they've all been screwed over, most oftenly by the israeli government but then I find myself thinking about the necessity of certain actions and the convoluted decision making process behind everything that happens. It is just yet another dimension of the confusion in my mind surrounding many issues linked to Israel, Judaism and zionism.

I feel like in Israel there is a constant conflict between the people and the future, as there has indeed also been in other countries throughout history. For whatever reason it is just more present and aggressive when demonstrated by Israel.

We then (somewhat controversially in many of our opinions) moved on to Sderot. We were met by a guy called אלירן. He began his talk with of course a safety warning and telling us what to do in the event of a red siren. Interestingly he decided to tell us that there weren't at the moment actually rockets being fired into Sderot, only the surrounding area. Having said that he then told us that more than 12 000 rockets have hit Sderot and surrounding areas, sometimes more than 50 in one day. Every single bus stop is a bomb shelter, every house including every single individual apartment has it's own bomb shelter. People in Sderot have as little as 15 seconds of warning when a rocket is heading their way. We saw only a small percentage of the exploded rocket shells gathered outside the police station and one of the leaders explained about how most of the damage was actually done by the shrapnel that dispersed when the rocket exploded. We were taken to see a playground with a caterpillar style bomb shelter and also a fully protected and armoured school. Then we were taken to a viewpoint that allowed you to see Sderot on one side and the ghaza strip on the other.

I guess the thing people found most difficult about today was the stark contrast with the challenging and mind boggling events of last week. The combination of first the close proximity of the bomb and then the discussions with the Arab Israelis left a lot of people questioning things they'd previously been so sure of and taken for granted. Many people struggled with what they believed to be the treatment of the Arabs in Israel. In feedback in chavurot at the end of Thursday I tried to explain how important I thought it was to definitely question what you have been taught and believe in whilst at the same time remembering we see a very specific group of people on the program and it's very easy to arrive here from whatever country you come from having been fed 'Zionist drivel' all your life and so immediately deciding to jump ship and defend what you suddenly feel morally obligated to. I think the way I responded to the discussion with the Arab Israelis was vastly different to how it would have been six months ago. I feel like now i am much more able to sit back and absorb the information presented to me, in however a controversial style, and retain it to later compare and contrast with other narratives and make an informed decision based on my understanding as opposed to being always ruled by how I emotionally feel in a situation.

After an interesting but tiring day (six o'clock wake up remember!) we heading to Dimona to dump our stuff, eat some munch and shluf for a bit before the evening kef peula at eight thirty. The peula which in fact turned out to be a colour war themed around working together as a community on tiyul.

Monday 28th March

Monday morning began, once again with people who definitely shouldn't have been in my room, blasting music at seven in the morning. We packed up all our  stuff, headed to breakfast and climbed on the buses, one headed to Masada and one to נכל פרז. I was on the masada bus and on the way they explained to us a slightly convoluted version of mafia called southern tribes. As per usual I am a standard nomad which is one of the people who basically just sits by and gets to do nothing. I always get the crappy part!

When we arrived at masada and got the cable car to the top, I couldn't help but wonder what exactly we would be doing up there. Little did I know that despite having previously climbed Masada I clearly was so unaware and payed so little attention that I totally missed the whole really interesting Storting the history that took place there. We were explained King Herod's purpose and destruction of the initial palace there. We also had described to us the story of the sagicees and their final revolt. The educator Jamie (a Zionism teacher from machon) told the story from the perspective of one of the leaders and the different decisions that were made. At the end we discussed the legitimacy of what was effectively mass suicide to prove a point and weather or not this is what we thought they should have done.  We also discussed that although there is some archeological evidence of what happened and the story basically fits this evidence, we are not one hundred percent sure what happened. most people in our group agreed that it would have been more noble if they had died fighting rather than giving up to prove a point. We also talked about the Judaism implication of suicide and what was technically murder. Jamie then brought up the point that what we know and believe about suicide was from the Babylonian Talmud which was written only later as part of the creation of the diaspora. it really was fascinating for me but also exceedingly frustrating seeing as I'd clearly been taught all about it before but simply hadn't absorbed or really been interested in any if it.

After Masada we once again returned to the buses and were driven onwards and, well in this case, downwards, to the lowest point on the earth, Ein Bokek and the dead sea. After my tour experience, something I had little desire to repeat, I spent that hour munching lunch and sunbathing.

After a few hours shluffing on the bus we arrived at the very same Bedouin tent we stayed at on the Carmiel Chanukah tiyul. We then went for a casual camel ride followed by the 'Bedouin experience' all inclusive stories and dinner. For our evening activity we went to a slightly bizarre interpretive dance workshop followed by a performance and jam. During the workshop I had the pleasant experience of not being caught during the trust game and falling flat on the ground. Fun times. That evening was yet another fantastic nights sleep of sharing a tent with 50 other people.

Tuesday 29th March

Not only did I freeze practically all of the previous night, I also woke up mid way through, desperate to go to the loo but there was noway I was getting out of my warm sleeping bag and going all the way to the toilets all by myself in the middle of he night. We had a pretty good breakfast at seven fifteen in the morning (the same place we looked at in awe last time we were here and had to cook our own breakfast) before once again loading all of our stuff onto the bus and heading someplace new.

This someplace new was unfortunately not so new and turned out to be Sde Boker and Ben Gurions tomb once again.

After Ben Gurion's tomb was a small hike, lunch and then a bike ride through the desert mountains. The ride was difficult at points but beautiful scenery and great fun, I really enjoyed it. Afterwards we all headed to the campsite for epic soup followed by dinner, a really cute peula and a bonfire. part of the peula was sitting in a circle in our chavura groups with our eyes closed and different statements read out. Every few statements there were twompeople with their eyes open, taping the people they thought they most applied to. For the 'most likely to succeed in the movement' I got tapped twice in a row which was funny and quite sweet. We then got a semi early night in our oh so luxurious tents... The door of ours didn't close so we had the pleasure of waking up to a gale in our tent in the middle of the night.

Wednesday 30th March

On wednesday we woke at six. For those of us who didn't hike we sunbathed in the desert till about lunchtime at which point we met up with those on the short hike and headed to Eilat and the underwater sea oberbatory. Surprisingly I had a fantastic time and it made me desperate to dive again.

At about four o'clock we headed back to central Eilat and checked into our genuinely luxurious hotel to shower and shluf before dinner and a boat ride of terrible music and some even more terrible dancing on our part.

Thursday 31st March

On Thursday we had a much needed lie in till about 9 before heading down for a luxuriously relaxed breakfast of lots of yummy things. We went straight to the beach for watersports (repeated goes on the banana boat and pedalo on my part) and then pizzur and chill time in Eilat before waving goodbye to southern tiyul and embarking on the five hour coach return journey.

My return home was short lived as I quickly unpacked and repacked for my weekend with mamma and pops

Just a thought

At Tnua time on Tuesday (22nd March) I had a bizarre revelation, no doubt not entirely unexpected xonsiderin the type of classes I'm attending on machon. I decided that if I don't believe that the Torah came directly from G-d then why on earth do I believe in any of it. I'm in a incredibly confusing place of being pulled between wanting to be more religious/observant than I was pre shnat and not being sure I should follow any of it.