Sunday, June 27, 2010

אין לי מילים - I have no words

I just returned to Jerusalem from a weekend in Tzfat. My friend and I spent some time speaking about how there were simply no words to describe the experience of being there. Any attempt to put the time into words would never do it justice. I mean, one could try; if an article had to be written, it could be. But really the only people who would understand would be those who'd been there, for whom one wouldn't even need words. All I could come up with while there, when I would try and compose something in my head, was a series of moments.

My friend's look of surprise when I walked onto Livnot's campus, wishing her "שבת שלום, לא בפלפון, לא בסקאיף..." (Shabbat Shalom, not on a cell phone, not on Skype...).

"Welcome Home," from one of the staff members, with whom I share a web of connections. My whole body slightly trembling from the emotion of being there.

The breeze on the roof. The sunset on the roof. The full moon on the roof. Sleeping under the stars on the roof. Sunrise on the roof. The roof.

Waking up to the sound of davening from the many surrounding synagogues.

Chevre. Happy niggun. All of the "Livnot songs."

The "baby on campus" climbing onto a chev's back, riding him like a donkey.

Being able to introduce a friend to Tzfat, to Livnot.

Inspired conversations. Heschel.

The most overwhelming compliments I think I have ever received.

Have I mentioned the breeze? The air in Tzfat is simply different.

Thank you to Livnot 240 for welcoming me, and my friend, into your group for your final shabbat together. It was lovely to meet all of you.

To my friend who came along, thank you for... well... אין לי מילים.

And now? Well, now I am off to a reunion for which I've yearned since leaving last August... every time I went "to Carolina in my mind," in part, I went to see him too...

Shavua tov, u'lehitraot...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Week

Yesterday marked the end of my first week back in Israel. I feel like I just got here and feel like I never left... I immediately settled in, remembered how to get around (sans maps, mind you!), really had my bearings. I walked these streets in my mind so many times in the past year; they're simply ingrained.

I've spent some of the past week meeting the Year-in-Israel students who are here for pre-Ulpan (intensive Hebrew study), and a few who are just here, but more of it seeing my Israeli friends. That was ostensibly my reason for coming over a month before orientation, so I plan to make the most of it! I keep running into people I know on the streets, something that happened all last summer. I knew it would continue here, but it still is a little thrill every time it happens. Given, one friend from New York lives around the corner so it's bound to happen, but even still my thought process tends to be along the lines of, "Hey... what is s/he... I mean what am I... uh... this is weird." And cool.

Israel is small. Very small. Occurences like that are a constant reminder. Example: I went to Tel Aviv for the past two days and stayed with a friend from New York who is there for the summer. We went out for falafel and she was talking about her roommate. Well, apparently he normally lives there with his girlfriend; my friend's room is the girlfriend's writing studio, but she's away for the summer at a writer's retreat of sorts. Put two and two together from some messages online... she's a good friend of one of my Israeli friends from New York. That's how it rolls here... and I love it.

Other things I love:
- the produce from the shuk: so tasty, so cheap (no, really... today's loot included about a kilo of tomatoes for ₪3.5 (just under a dollar), 6 cucumbers and an onion for ₪3, and so forth...)
- being able to walk into a store or restaurant, and to order everything in Hebrew
- going to concerts: the tally for this week is three -- flamenco, hazzanut, and chamber music (eclectic enough for you?)
- that I might be a published photographer here -- more on that if it happens
- singing Shir HaMa'alot to Pachabel's Canon after shabbat lunch with a friend and some of her crew from Pardes
- Havdalah in Gan Ha'Atzma'ut with HUC chevre
- lazy mornings on my mirpeset with coffee and my guitar
- HAVING MY VIOLIN! (Toda raba to A and A...)
- being able to hunt down a childhood friend here on Taglit, and secretly dragging her from her group to my apartment and back in the span of about 25 minutes
- 730am on the beach in Tel Aviv
- evening on the beach just north of Yaffo, listening to the waves of the sea blending with the waves of the call to prayer coming from multiple mosques
- deja vu everywhere I go
- the amazing cool breeze in my apartment at night; who needs AC?!

And not so much:
- the mosquitoes: I forgot how bad they are, and how sweet I must be... or something... ::scratch scratch scratch::
- finding open bags of food in my kitchen, and containers of food crawling with maggots... yeah, that was nice... um...

I would say the good is definitely outweighing the bad at this point. By far. That should be readily apparent. And, speaking of good, one of the chevre arrived late last night and I owe him a swift kick in the... erm... well, ok, maybe I won't do that. But we've been awaiting an actual meeting for awhile, so I am going to head off to find him.

Lehitraot! V'ahava l'kulam b'Artzot ha'Brit!
(See you later! And love to everyone in the US!)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

For Father's Day...

... I told my dad that I made friends with an Arab man, Mahmoud, in the park near my house. Mahmoud thought I looked Arab (seems to be a theme here...), and also like his daughter.

Anyone who knows my father knows that this is the best present I could offer him from afar. Ok, maybe third best. The best would be news that I'm going to spend some time with a Palestinian family in Gaza, and second best would be time with a family in the West Bank. But I digress...

Rabbi Rick's response? "Coincidentally, I'm sitting here reading The Israel-Arab Reader."

Not surprised at all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I should write more...

... and I will later. But, for now, shalom from Jerusalem! I am here, safe and sound, post-jetlag and feeling wonderful. I don't really have the words to explain how it feels being back here. I've already seen some dear friends, met some HUC students who are here for pre-Ulpan, checked in at school (I now have health insurance, so I have the all-clear to be my usual klutzy self)... The head of student services commented that I seemed extremely comfortable, really at home here.

Yes, yes, I guess I do...

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I'm leaving tomorrow night. It feels like this day has been on the horizon for forever, so I almost don't even believe that it's real... but my stuff for the year is divided between two suitcases, so I suppose it must be. It has been a whirlwind month-and-a-half of packing, moving, hellos and goodbyes... one friend said that it seemed like I've been saying goodbye for awhile. I agree. It's time to make the move and start settling in. Right now, well, I feel like all that's around me is one huge blur. Moments, and intense emotions, stand out (not in chronological order by any stretch of the imagination, and far from a complete list):

- Coffee with a dear friend in Ohio, sun coming in through a wall of windows at the back of his house.
- Watching my grandmothers walk away...
- An inspiring conversation with a dear mentor.
- Being caught in downpours in three countries, multiple times...
- Being mistaken for an Israeli in Buenos Aires
- Being mistaken for an Arab in Montevideo
- Falling asleep to the whispered sounds of my friend saying the "Bedtime Shema"
- Endless waiting...
- The joy of reuniting with friends who I haven't seen in a long time
- The bittersweet-ness of saying goodbye
- Overwhelming gratitude for the kindness of some amazing friends. Beyond amazing, really.
- Favorite restaurants... favorite parks... favorite people...
- A bike ride through Brooklyn.
- Probably 10 different beds...
- The summer-in-NY deluge of Greenpeace, Children International, [insert-organization-here] staff guilting passers-by for money.
- The realization that I am missing yet another summer in NY, my favorite time of year here... save for the aforementioned deluge... ok, that and the extra tourists...
- Bringing a good friend to my favorite shul, her first time ever.
- Bringing my mother and godmother to the same place a few weeks prior, services ending with "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu" and the rabbi "dedicating" it to me in honor of my departure...
- Constant reminders of how small New York can be.
- "Cholomot paaaaaaaaz"
- "Falafa'melafaphon"
- A friend's goodbye strip-tease on 34th St. (No joke.) 

What I am excited for:
- Seeing dear friends in Israel, some of whom I have not seen since last summer.
- Having my own apartment for the first time ever, being in full control over making my home for the year.
- Floor squeegies.
- The shuk.
- The produce at the shuk. The produce in Israel in general.
- Fresh figs in the Golan in August.
- Tiyulim with my madrich from last summer.
- My friend's wedding in August...
- Late-night walks in The Old City.
- So much learning... being immersed...
- The Mediterranean Sea being my default swimming locale.
- Community --- Israeli and HUC.
- Being in Israel already so I can welcome a friend back home in July after her year away.
- ישראליות
- Shabbat in Jerusalem. Shabbat in Tzfat. Shabbat...
- Living by the rhythm of the Jewish calendar, amongst a majority of people who are doing the same.
- Milki... so bad, but so gooooood.
- Challenges, growth.

I could go on. And on. Instead, I'm going to get back out into the [rainy, of course] city. As I should. I only get it for one more day.

Next time from Jerusalem...