Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A startling trip back to reality

This morning was a normal morning of triple Zionism which was as fascinating and informative as it is each week. When sitting in my volunteering session I suddenly received a stream of 'are you okay' texts followed eventually by a text from someone who actually explained what had happened. Unbeknownst to us, just 20 minutes from where we live a bomb had gone off in central Jerusalem near the CBS. It was an explosive placed in a rucksack by a bus stop which exploded hitting two buses and even more people. I could regurgitate all the facts and figures being spewed out by the media but no doubt that will vastly change within the next 24 hours. It was a startling reality hit to realise that the peaceful and lulled Israel we have been living in for the last six months was in fact a lie and deceptively had led us to believe life in Israel was actually getting better than as is being reported across the diaspora. When faced with this situation the machon-niks were shaken and upset whereas our Israeli madrichim slightly nonchalantly referred to going on with life as normal, and being almost desensitised to this kind of thing. But that is what we will all do. Life goes on. The what ifs of the two girls who should have been there but didn't happen to go to volunteering today, the fact that we are spending a week on tiyul in the south next week, despite the missiles, the fact that there is no guarantee that this is an isolated attack, are almost all irrelevant. If you live your life in fear you live no life at all.  

Raise the Bar for Japan

I get so frustrated because I fall behind on this so ridiculously quickly because time on machon passes so unbelievably fast. I can't believe I’ve already missed almost two weeks but because I want to write about today and recent events I’m going to do that and later backtrack to the last two weeks.

Like I said before, each person on machon has to take part in a meoravut afternoon and I chose social activism. The different options involve a range of things from volunteering to visit and spend time with old people to travelling around Jerusalem or learning more ivrit. After a few frustrating futile sessions of attempting to do something about the abundant food waste at machon, we moved onto a more present topic. During our meeting last Wednesday we decided that as a social activism group we really should do something to help provide relief for Japan. Someone suggested a bar night and within quite literally hours solid plans were in place. We spent a few hours discussing the viability of the plan, numbers, what we wanted to achieve etc. then we went out and did it. After previously calling and making a few plans, myself and two others along with Nic Schlagmann our co-ordinator went around town speaking to bar owners and trying to find an appropriate location. After many, not so appropriate, if extremely bizarre places, we found a pretty perfect one on shammai street called Canaan. The manager agreed to let us rent it out for free, charge and entrance 'donation' and even name a specific drink of which half the proceeds went to Japan.

The second, parallel part of our plan was to team up with nu . They make these amazing t-shirts for different causes and agreed to dedicate three of their t-shirts (pink parachutes, declaration of independence and israeli pioneers)which didn't have specific causes to helping provide aid for Japan. You can look them up but each of the t-shirts has a specific story or stories behind it which is printed on the inside of the shirt. Obviously some of the money has to go to production but they generously agreed to give half of all the 60 shek t-shirts we sold to Japan via Isra-aid. We arranged for them to come in and explain about and sell the t-shirts in the lunch break where we managed to sell 35 which is pretty impressive for a bunch of machonniks on shnat budgets. Although we were charging a 15 shek entry fee we marketed that if you were wearing the t-shirt you got in for free. We sold a further 7 t-shirts in the early hours of the event this evening. We also had all of netzer spend about an hour making friendship bracelets with red and white string during out closed weekend which we sold for 5 shek each.

The event came off pretty well, I think we probably reached around 100 people (the unfortunate after effects of a long weekend of Purim celebrations) and made well over 2000 shekels. This was only supposed to be our mini project so we most likely have a fair amount of feed-back and analysis to do before our big event planning.

If someone scans it in I want to later add in the poster design we used for advertising.

That's all for now, I just got back from the bar so am more than ready for bed, night all and much excited for the family visit next week :)

S x  

Monday, 7 March 2011

The weekend we survived The Flood

On Thursday we had a pretty standard ivrit class followed by Chavura before hopping on the bus and heading to a secular yeshiva to learn about what, how and why they do the things they do. That evening we made a last minute to go to Ashkelon in the evening instead of the next morning so dashed around packing and eating before heading off to meet Aaron at the central bus station. After a ninety minute bus ride and some convoluted bargaining with two different cab drivers at the other end, the five of us arrived at Raya's Ashkelon apartment for two.

The next day we awoke to sunshine streaming in through to windows so we gobbled down some of the cheerios and milk we'd bought the night before and headed down to the beach to chill in the sun (and so Aaron could dig a big hole). We headed home by about four so we could shower and change in time to walk to the conservative synagogue nearby that Raya's husband is the rabbi of. Outside the synagogue we were met by an Israeli guy on his Shnat Shirut who introduced us to his fellow shinshins and invited us to meet up with them later. The service was interesting, if a little bizarre considering we hadn't quite realised conservative synagogues repeat the kaddish around seven times (no exaggeration) in a variety of different tunes. We returned home after shul to eat our shabbat dinner of pizza and ice cream only to find a strange man with his ear pressed to our door. He hurriedly ushered us over and indicated for us to open the door with some urgency. Lizzie happened to be the keeper of the key as it were so we all waited frantically while she got off the phone and rummaged around before finally producing the key and opening the door. What we saw when we stepped into the flat was something that can only be described as something out of a movie. One of what I am pretty sure is currently the worst moments of my life was setting eyes upon the waterfall that had once been a bathroom. Not only was there surely going to be extensive damage, but we had absolutely no idea how to stop the ongoing cascade of water. Luckily Mr Russian Man who spoke absolutely no English from not one but two floors down (who'd come upstairs upon the water having leaked down two entire levels of the building) found the source of the waterfall (a burst pipe attached to the boiler in the ceiling) and managed to turn the water off at the mains. According to mother the very first question one should ask when staying in someone elses house is how to turn the water off in case of an emergency but in actual fact mother dearest, Raya didn't have a clue!. After that drama nobody had the energy to go out so we ate out pizza in rather subdued silence and decided on a chilled night in.

Saturday was originally intended as a exploring day, until we realised there really wasn't much to explore in Ashkelon, so off we toddled to the beach again, until returning home to clean up and head for the bus station and back to Jerusalem. The cute thing about Shnat is that if you go away for the weekend and don't see people, everyone feels like they haven't seen each other in ages and missed a major part of your life so there are lots of little catch ups going on every Saturday night. This is of course largely due to the fact that most of the time we are with each other twenty-four/seven so it's rare to have done something that people don't already know about.

Sunday began with Hadracha (with Colin), Ivrit and Chavura. Following this we had our very first 'Open House' afternoon which consists of a selection of speakers and sessions of which you chose to attend two. The first I went to was a session on 'Playback Theatre' which was an intense and quite emotional experience of sharing experiences, leaving me with a raw and vulnerable feeling at the end (in a good way). My second session was vastly less interestng on Israeli Identity and Liberal Judaism which was a less interesting version of a conversation I recently had with Dad about the need of greater exposure of progressive Judaism to secular Israelis. The evening peula was a massive activity with Machon Amlat (South American Machon) which was somewhat of a disaster as to be expected with two hundred seventeen to nineteen year-olds who speak different languages participating in a peula in central Jerusalem at night together.

This morning began with Israel Update with Josh which was, as usual, fantastic. I feel like I learn and understand so much from each session and not only that but I retain the information from session to session. Hebrew and Judaism were both pretty standard and if I'm honest, boring. Hadracha with Colin was split into two sessions, the second was peer led hadracha practise which we will all have to do eventually but the first session was fascinating. It was a ninety minute role play with half the group participating and half observing. It was bizarre and fascinating to analyse afterwards.

That's all for now, I'm trying not to leave each entry for quite as long as I did last time.

S x

Side note: I want to add here a little paragraph I had to write in my very first Israel and Zionism class which was on the 23rd February but I forgot to put it in earlier.

What does Israel mean to me?
A home? A connection? An escape? A place to feel both more and less accepted that I do at home. Somewhere I have both a responsibility and a duty to which sometimes I love and sometimes I hate. Somewhere that confuses me. Somewhere that throws all my thoughts upside down and inside out. Somewhere that makes me both comfortable and uncomfortable, hopeful and hopeless, happy and sad and most of all conflicted.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The time since my hiccup to's a little bit long I do apologise

After a 5 o'clock trip to the airport, a plane ride, the shirut ride from hell to Jerusalem, a taxi to the bus station the next day, a 3 hour bus to Karmiel and then a number two bus back to lilac I arrived at my home for the last 3 months. I was greeted by a mass of sleepy smiles (at 3 in the afternoon) and hugs all round. After a few moments of lazing around we came upon the idea to pick every orange on the tree in our garden (a tree we hadn't quite clocked existed up until that point.) We then proceed to squeeze each and every one...well almost, and made about 4 jugs full of pure fresh squeezed orange juice. We also decided at around the same time that we needed to use up ingredients from the house and so we made 2 massive batches of peanut butter cookies. After our productive day we were all used up and collapsed in front of a movie.

On Saturday morning we pretty much all slept throughout the vast majority of the day. By about 3 in the afternoon some of us were going to start packing and then got 'distracted' by a movie. We eventually got ourselves dressed and out the house for a finali dinner at Spagettim with was yummy, but far out of our budgets..oops.

Sunday morning began as every Sunday had for the last three months, with a meeting with Galit followed by a Hebrew lesson with Rivkah. Later that afternoon I got to go to the kindergarten for the final time. As I think I may have actually missed out writing about this last time I’ll say it now. After lots of huffing and puffing and pissing around I finally found an afternoon volunteering I enjoyed. I started working at a Kindergarten for kids with autism. Its six little boys with varying degrees of difficulties and with a varying need for help. It's interesting because not only to I get to sit in on and help with their different therapy sessions, they really need an extra pair of hands when I volunteer and I feel like they really need me and I found something I am genuinely good at and enjoy. It's just such a shame that I only found it so near to the end of my time in Karmiel. On Sunday evening we had a really cute leaving dinner with all our host families and teachers and people we had worked with throughout our time there.

Monday was pretty much a packing and feedback day , as was most of Tuesday morning. We had some really cute closing tekkes throughout the last couple of days before packing up the house for good and heading back to Jerusalem for the closing options seminar. We met up with the shvil-niks and kibbutz-niks for some memory sharing and re-bonding time at the youth hostel (Beit Ben Yehuda) were it all began.

On Thursday we went out for Sophie Dorfman's leaving lunch (full of many tears and hugs) and moved our stuff back to beit shmuel for the b'yachad seminar with the new Netzer southerners. We found ourselves with a surprising (although it probably shouldn't have been) number of songs and tunes in common and sooner than we knew it had formed once massive group of 44 Netzer-niks from worldwide. That night, or I should say the next morning, Kyla, Emily, Relf and I got up at 5 in the morning to see Dorfman off. It was probably one of the most difficult bits of shnat so far and made us all fairly terrified for the end of shnat, not to mentioned exhausted and upset for the entire next day.

On Sunday morning the Etgar-niks left Beit Shmuel for their tiyul in the south whilst the rest of us gathered together our stuff to move to machon later that day. The rummer that we couldn’t chose our rooms this year was completely unfounded apparently so Kyla and I ended up sharing with two girls from Hineni in Australia called Danii and Ari. The first night was a little odd and generally intimidating given that there were 20 Netzer-niks and about 70 Southerners.

Monday and Tuesday were tiyulim days but because of my knee and hip I wasn't allowed to go on the first day (and in hindsight I probably shouldn't have gone on the second day either). It was all pretty odd because we were obviously still trying to get to know lots of new people who appeared to already know each other pretty well.
Wednesday we went to Har Herzl to visit the graves of some of Israel's most valued leaders and also to the museum itself which I had infact been to during tour. In the afternoon we had a short peula in our chavura groups which was actually really good. We were taken into a room one by one and led to one of several sheets of corrugated cardboard which was curled into a upright cylinder large enough to be sat in. once sitting surrounded by cardboard you couldn't see out and nobody in the group could see in. we then had to fill in several sheets of paper in our own time about random stuff, thoughts, opinions and hopes which we put into an envelope and handed in when the peula had finished. The evening was a bit of a fail as it was meant to be a treasure hunt around this part of Jerusalem but it was torrential rain so everyone just hid in coffee shops till dinner time.

On Thursday we did yet another fantastic peula on community (I realise you can't hear the sarcasm in my voice but trust me it's there). However in the afternoon we visited the old city, participated in peulot about the value of the diaspora and the concept of America as a promised land for Jews amongst other things and then headed to the kottel for a truly (and this time i'm genuine) fascinating tour around the underground tunnels. It was amazing how there were all these areas of exposed Western Wall and yet they just weren't treated with the same sacredness as the exposed 'tourist' area.

The weekend I spent vastly immobile as the hiking I did previously caught up with my knee and hip and stuck me in the middle of Jerusalem on a Friday night with no neurofen. Sad times. Saturday evening Pops arrived and we went out for a lovely meal at Focacia under Aaron's recommendation.

On Sunday morning we were presented with and given the chance to chose our classes. It was kind of horrendous because there were so many things that sounded amazing but which would also depend vastly on the educator. I'm a little concerned that I focused a little too much on Zionism and Israel topics which may end up being a fairly heavy. I also unfortunately found out after handing in my form that I got one of the educators I don't exactly get along with. In the afternoon we had a similar thing to do with selecting the kind of Hadracha course we wanted to do in detail. That evening we had 'Sunday Selection' which is a different speaker, event, lecture each week. This week it was a guy called Sarel from an organisation called paying it forward in signs which raises awareness of the rights of the deaf community.

Monday morning I wander into my Israel Update class five minutes early and am confronted by a bald guy with glasses who tells me he'll give me few minutes to work it out. Work what out you may ask. As I'm sure you all have heard, It turned out my Israel Update: In-Depth teacher was non other than Josh Hantman, who decided to announce, during my very first class on machon, in front of 20 people I'd just met, that he knew me when I was six and blond and a nightmare. After that we had hebrew which was very uneventful as I was the first lesson followed by a similar uneventfullness in Judaism class. Thankfully I managed to switch out of '50 Ways to be Jewish' into a only slightly more interesting 'Intro to Tefilla'. There was a serious lack of choice in the Judaism class choices so it was a matter of chosing the lesser of five evils. The afternoon was hadracha which was actually fairly interesting but as a lot of the people in my group haven't led that much before it was a little too basic. I think overall I ended up switching about half my classes within the first week.

My Tuesday morning elective (at eight in the morning :s) was Jewish Bookclub. The guy running it has the most amazing storytelling voice and read us three storys by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Next on the tochnit was 'Story of the Jewish People' with Jeremy Lee. Enough said. It was crazy intense to keep up with but amazing. In the afternoon we had Yom Tnua which is time to spend with your movement and usually entails machon-nik netzer time followed by b'yached netzer time and peulot and ma'amadim that vary from week to week but focus on discussing the pillars of Netzer's ideology. That evening I went out for a really lovely meal with Aaron's parents at a veggie restaurant in Jerusalem.

Wednesday morning was my amazing morning of Israel and Zionism classes, the first, my 'core class' with a guy called Benji followed by my 'in depth' selection which also happened to be Israel/Zionism with Steve Israel. The second session especially was amazing and intense and was impossible to keep up with and we were writing notes like crazy but it was so interesting and I felt like I was learning an unbelievable amount. I felt more engaged than I have been in a long time. In the afternoon we picked our volunteering option and I chose Israel Activism with Nick Schlagman.

Thursday we had ivrit and chavura in the morning followed by a trip to tel dan and a number of other places I found it very difficult to pay attention to ending up at the mamilla mall. As a result of this I headed to etgar to meet up with the other RSY-niks to go out for dinner with Jonathan Romain and his wife. Later that evening we headed to machane yehuda for reggae night which was mildly terrifying but definitively Israeli.

Friday largely consisted of necessity supply shopping (washing powder and softener obviously) and spending a good three hours sitting in the washing room waiting for my stuff to wash and dry so nobody took it out. In the evening we went to the first reform synagogue in Israel, Harel. It was definitely an interesting experience and they were really welcoming but I still think I prefer the tunes and atmosphere at Kol Haneshamah.

On Saturday afternoon we made our way to the Israel museum which is fascinating but far to big to do all in one day. Later that evening we accidently on purpose wandered into the left wing rally in Zion square which was a fairly unforgettable Israeli Experience.

Sunday morning started off with hadracha which began by being frustrating because I didn’t have Colin as my teacher and he is continually raved about as a hadracha teacher, only to become more frustrating because we were covering fairly elementary stuff that most people work out when leading at shul for the first couple of years. My second session of ivrit was not vastly more engaging than my first, its a little frustrating because the class itself is too easy but the class above is to difficult so at the moment I'm stuck in a class that is covering the few thing I definitely already know. This weeks Sunday Selection was entitled 'through the eyes of a Haredi woman' and was amazing. It started off with a haredi women talking about her more and more controversial views (to a room of reform, pluralistic and modern orthodox Jews) until she said some things so outrageous that people walked out. At this point she pulled of her head covering and told us she was an actor and proceeded to play women from several different background with very different and believable backgrounds and giving their opinions on similar topics. At the end the vast majority of the audience was baffled. Simply baffled.

Monday was Israel Update, Hebrew, Judaism and Hadracha. Israel Update was once again amazing, I would try and describe what we talked about but it was basically Hamas, Gaza and the West Bank and Palestinian detail. So just a tad confusing. But amazing. Hebrew was a bit better this week, it still seems like a slightly too easy level but as I afterwards discovered most of us feel that way, maybe It will get more difficult fairly quickly. Judaism was again one of the few classes that I wasn't blown away by. Having said that it is one of the rotation classes so I only have it for half the time before we completely change classes. For the three hours of hadracha in the afternoon I somehow managed to switch into Colin's class which was AMAZING. It's much more theory based but we do such interesting stuff and he gives us fantastic resources to take for later use.

I stumbled out of bed and shlepped both myself and my duvet to book club on Tuesday morning. It's so cute, the guy who runs it makes us fresh baked cake each week at six in the morning so we have tea, coffee, cakes and stories every Tuesday morning. After that we had double 'Story of the Jewish People' which nearly made me cry. It's so frustrating because I have no trouble understand what Jeremy is actually saying but I feel like I seriously lack the necessary background Biblical Jewish History that a lot of other people have from going to Jewish Schools. It was frustrating but I spoke to him afterwards and I think he's going to give us some extra notes and stuff to read up on. The afternoon and evening was totally taken up with Tnua Time and this week Etgar came here so we made tehina, discussed spending time in Israel, talked about Netzer's values and did a ma'amad themed on childhood. Then a bunch of the Etgar-niks stayed at machon and we chilled here for the evening.

This morning began with core Zionism/Israel class. I unfortunately was really bored and disappointed as it was quite text based and not really how I anticipated. The last five minutes or so was discussion based and much more interesting and I realised I just want it all to be really passionate/vivid discussions about Zionism and in reality its much more theory based. Our In-depth Zionism class with Steve was cancelled as he wasn’t here so I went on a beauty trip with Miriam for various necessities. The afternoon was taken up with Israel Activism which was really interesting. We had some...controversial discussions to kick the session off and then brainstormed some initial ideas for a preliminary project to help us sort everything out before we start on out massive project which will consume the majority of our time here.