Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Spatula and a Wooden Spoon

Last night I left the apartment and on my way out noticed that there was a piece of mail at the bottom of our mailbox. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a problem except our mailbox key does not work. Typically bills are propped just through the slot so they are easily accessible, but now we had a problem. I decided to get all McGuiver and grabbed a piece of cardboard. I took the cardboard, chewed up a piece of gum fixing it on the end tried to fish out the piece of mail. Unfortunately I dropped the piece of cardboard and was S.O.L. I decided to forget aboout it and just give it another go in the morning. I woke up with a mission and headed down to the mail box with a spatula, a wooden spoon and my trusty assistant Jay. We thought that if we menuevered the spatula just so we may manage to drag up the cardboard and then the piece of mail up the side. But alas we were unable to get them. Then we tried the wooden spoon, not as flexible as the spatula and worked just as poorly. In the back of the mailbox (where you are supposed to open it with the key) there was some space on the side lining the box, just enough to slide in the spatula. A little jiggle opened! who needs a mailbox key when you have a spatula??

Out and about this afternoon I bumped into Zac Johnson who is in town for a couple of weeks. Have I mentioned that I love bumping into random people on the street? Have I mentioned that I like bumping into random people on the street that I actually know more?

Tonight I met up with Esty Altschul and we went to the "Soundscapes" exhibit at the Tower of David. SO FREAKIN' COOL!! The only other exhibit I have seen there was the Chihuly Exhibit with Mom in the winter of 2000. Similar to that exhibit there were many different peices but they all tied together as well. I forgot to bring my camera and was kicking myself the whole time. The following images are off the Tower of David website:

It was one of those exhibits that captures all of your senses (well maybe not smell). Visually there beautiful colors that light up each piece which themselves are independently colorful. The light is reflective of the beats and sounds the instruments included a harp, basses, drums, plucky things, chimes, and a few other undefinable instruments. Controlled by computer timers they start off slowly and individually and end up synthesizing into a symphonic sound. COOL. You can also go up and touch the 4 Basses which are located between arch ways. The exhibit runs for a couple more weeks and I hope to go back again (when I WILL take photos).

We decided to walk from the exhibit into town and maybe get a drink. As we walked on Yaffo we passed City Hall which looked like it was getting ready for a concert. We asked one of the security guards and in about 20 minutes there was going to be a free latin concert. So we went and grabbed some food and made our way back. We spent the next hour salsa dancing on the open plaza. As the concert was winding down we decided it was time to take off and began to walk back through Gan Ha'Atzmaut (Independence Park). Turns out each year before the new school year begins the Israeli government puts on a free concert for the Israeli youth. Who was playing and where was it held you may ask?? Aviv Gefen in Gan Ha'Atzmaut!

Maybe I should start each morning with a spatula and a wooden spoon!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I don't like wide ruled paper

Well the countdown time to the start of school has begun and I am excited! My life here is starting to feel like a life, I am meeting more and more people and getting ready for school to begin. I picked up my bank card today and I won't lie, it is by far the coolest bank card I have ever and may ever own.Apparently though the bank saw it necessary to add an extra Hebrew letter in my last name. Instead of Rosin being spelled Reish Zayin Yud Nun (a family invention when I believe my sister was entering the third grade and had to spell her full name in Hebrew) Rosin is now Reish Vav Zayin Yud Nun (thank you Bank Mizrahi).

On the way to the bank I came across Blue Meanie grafitti. It reminded me of the Yellow Submarine mural I used to pass in the alley on my way to school in London.

This morning I went to the Southern Wall excavations with my friend Gary. Gary and I met in El Salvador in March and bumped into each other earlier this week at the Little House in Baka. The Southern Wall excavations is by far one of my most favorite places in Israel. I love the history of it all as well as the architecture itself. While there we met up with a tourning boys group who had just picked fresh figs from a fig tree growing near the base of the the Hudla steps. So there we were eating fresh figs (an already mentioned favorite) at the base of the stairs to the temple mount. It was a pretty cool feeling. Below is a photo of Gary with our figs:

This trip was my first trip to the Old City since June. I have been harvesting negative energy towards the actual Western Wall for a while seeing it just as a wall. Why pray to a wall? It's a wall. I don't mean to knock it for anyone who has had an emotional experience there before. But for me Judaism is more than a physical structure. If you are going to lament over the destruction of the temple why not look further than just the Kotel Plaza? Its often not widely known that all 4 walls of the Temple are still in existence. We choose the Western Wall because its the closest to where the Holy of Holies stood, but a building is a building and God is everywhere. For me its not a connector. It is different being here this time around. I am not concerned over anyone's well being but my own, sometimes its easier to take care of other people. It forces me to ask myself the hard stuff. Its not the question asking but the answers that I have trouble figuring out.

It seems to be a theme, question asking, in a good way. I would sum up most of my evenings as being spent over glasses of wine or beer and engaged in conversation about Judaism at large or Torah Talk. Here are two of my friends Daniella and Jay doing just that at my apartment this afternoon:

After the Old City adventure I made my way to Office Depot to buy school supplies. I was bummed that there was no college ruled paper in sight and compromised between a mix of wide ruled and graph--ok I'm odd, I like taking notes on graph paper. Now I am all geared up and ready to go.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Day 11: Lefty Films and Brown Cafe's

Last night I went with the roommates and their friends Ethan and Meno. We began the evening at a viewing of an artistic montage about the Lebanon war (no official name yet, but check out the cartoon if you can read Hebrew).

Although I could appreciate the artistic value of the film the messages really angered me, almost to the point of walking out. It was a consensus among us that the loss of a human life is tragic no matter what, but this film completely neglected the actual facts of the war and promoted the message that the war isn't about terrorism, but about power and THAT pissed me off.

So after our emotions were a bit riled up we headed over to what Meno called a Brown Cafe'. Meno is from the Netherlands and has been in Israel/Palestinian territories doing conflict managment training as well as teen programs between Israeli and Palestinian youth. According to him, a brown cafe' is your hole in the wall, earthy, organic, cheap, hang out. What an accurate description. We sat at this long wooden table and you half expected someone to jump up and start singing 'Lavi Bohem'. Some ate soup, others bread platters and there was plenty of wine and beer to go around. One of the nice things about long wooden tables is that there are constantly new people sitting down. Although one might see this an encrouching on one's space, we just kept engaging in new conversations with new people.

It ended up being a great night with some Rosh Chodesh singing, jazz music playing, and GOOD chocolate cake. Here are some photos from the night. If you are interested in seeing more you can check out the Brown Cafe' album on my snapfish account. Just visit snapfish. Login name: Password: shirah112

The Sarahs and I before the Lefty Film

At the Brown Cafe'

Bassin and Tasman

Tomorrow we are hosting a Shabbat picnic in the park. I just returned from the shuk and have stocked up on berekahs, rugalach, and pitot. Other food will be brought by the other folks: Tali Golan, David Bernay, Jay Rosen, my new friend Daniella whoes last name I do not know, Tali's friend Eric and possibly Amy Born and her mysterious boyfriend who arrive sometime during the day. The weather has been beautiful here but HOT!! perhaps we may even sneak in a game of scrabble or two...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Day 8: Tiehnim Taaiim

I have decided that fresh figs top my list of the seven species. Then grapes, then wheat, followed by barley, pomegranates, dates and finally olives. If you have ever tasted fresh figs, you understand why.

I must have walked around today for several hours and miles. Had a nice chat with the man in the makolet (corner market type place--like Mr. Hooper's on Sesame St.), hung out at the harware store, and got a tremendous amount of fruits and vegetables for under 15NIS!!! Produce like that alone would have been upwards to $15 easy. I'm still baffled by it all.

I had a nice chat with a friend last night, discussing adjustments over a couple of pints of beer. He, having spent all his time here in Israel with Israelis knows all the Israeli hang outs, opposed to me who has spent most my trips here with Americans. In fact I believe we were the only English speakers in the bar. What has been most apparent to me is that unlike a Taglit-birthright israel trip (or a similar peer trip) that keeps your days insanely busy with only the plane ride home to reflect, this experience is almost the opposite. I have a lot of down time but everything I do brings new reflections at the moment. Nothing is simple enough to just do and be done with. Everything comes along with another poised question for me to answer. We were also discussing the pros and cons of living within the 'Jerusalem bubble'. Meaning, spending most of our time with English speakers of Anglo decent and that it will be a challenge for both of us to really break outside the mold. But heres to challenges!

Monday, August 21, 2006

day 7: doomsday tomorrow??

i got shocked for the first time today since my trip to israel in the winter of 2001. symbol or stupidity? I'll let you decide.

I just finished writing a really long post when my internet suddenly quit on me. So instead of typing it all out again I will give you the synopsis:
1. I am still getting used to being here. Small things like getting replacement keys and cellphone (which were stolen on night three) in Hebrew. Medium things like getting more situated, budgeting time and money. And BIG things like where am I in my Judaism and what my lifestyle is going to look like this year.

2. I spent last Shabbat in Neve Daniel, a Yishuv (settlement) in Gush Etzion with my friend Bridgette, her husband Jon and their two kids Boaz and Moriah. Bumped into another former Harovah alum on the way there and compared 'what have you been up to' stories. Me: UMD, Seattle and lots of travelling in between. Her: Married, divorced, almost finished with school, aliyah. Also got to see Darren and Sarah Schneider and meet their new baby girl. Their new to the community and their kids are about the same age as Bridgette and Jon's so maybe I may have even made a shidduch there--everyone can use a new friend!

3. Went to the HUC Beit Cafe tzedakah open mic night light night with the roomates. Sarah Tasman was both a performer and a jewelry saleswoman (see photos below!). The event raised over 4000NIS for families in the north and was coordinated by the students. Jessy Gross and Helaine Hasmall were both there, both of whom I have not gotten to see much of since our Maryland days.

4. Although no one has really been talking about it I am a wee bit nervous about the lurking 22nd of August. I guess I will just have to hang tight and see what happens.

5. See photos of the apartment below. Includes my bedroom--which has two doors and connects to the mirpeset (porch/balcony); our common area; our dining room (don't mind the paper mache' mexico); and the kitchen. Bathroom looks like your typical bathroom and my roomates are taking naps so I thought best to not distrub them.

Friday, August 18, 2006

New Sounds

On the plane ride over I sat between an embedded Israeli security agent and a woman holding her 13th child on her pregnant belly. The security agent did not say a word the entire flight and disappeared for hours at a time. The woman, a born and bred child of Yeshiva Lane Baltimore, chatted with me and kept talking about her excitement to get back to 'Eres YisROel'. When we arrived at Ben Gurion we were the only flight in the terminal and if you closed your eyes for a moment to exclude the pushing it was actually quite serene. Within my first hour on the ground I must have had 2-3 conversations about Pardes, including the Sherut ride to Jerusalem where I sat down next to a Woman who studied there in 1978! Jerusalem greeted me with screaming taxi drivers new construction and finally my new home. Just across the street from the Dan Panorama Hotel, my apartment-a 4 floor walk up-is actually quite spacious, although could use a major cleaning/renovation. The roommates area great, both named Sarah and both first year rabbinical students at the Hebrew Union College. Like all new places it takes a bit for all your senses to become familiar to your new surroundings. New traffic noises, slamming doors, breezes, etc...

I have spent the last few days getting settled, conquering jet-lag, and starting to take care of life's details. I ordered and received a cellphone yesterday only to have it stolen along with my keys last night. I went through the process of waiting in the bank only to be told that I am unable to open a bank account as a foreigner unless I have $25,000. $25,000 I don't have, bank account I need. I bought new linens after addressing a bed bug problem only to find that apparently I don't know the difference between a sheet set and a duvet cover in Hebrew (but I will give myself a point for at least getting the right size for my mattress). So to a good start. BUT sometimes the best adventures in life start out with rocky beginnings. 4 rocky days down, 10.5 months of exciting times to come.