Saturday, July 17, 2010

Walking on a Tightrope

I spent some time this afternoon sitting in Gan Ha'Atzmaut (Independence Park). Two Israeli guys had somehow rigged a tightrope between two trees in the middle of the park. I sat and watched as they repeatedly attempted to cross. Haredi children came by and were given their turns, and the same for a large group of Arab children hanging out nearby. It seems like everyone in this society is walking on some sort of tightrope... the problem being, of course, that it's nearly impossible NOT to fall.

This week, at many times, left me feeling like I was hanging out on some [figurative] tightrope of my own. Orientation was long (really long) and oftentimes felt like being back in undergrad orientation. Having been on the other side, leading these sorts of programs, I can understand why... but it doesn't necessarily make it more enjoyable. More practical information, less ice-breaking, more time on our own to process (rather than "forced" processing time, scheduled into brief pockets) --- all things that would've been nice to have. We are adults, after all, something that's been repeated to us many times.

So, somewhat overwhelmed by all the group time taking up my time to deal with some other quite major things going on in my life (not at ALL related to orientation), I made an adult decision: I took Thursday afternoon off and spent it with two different friends, both of whom helped me find perspective on things, to remain grounded. While I know the group trip to the Mount of Olives would've been really interesting to me (truly), hanging onto my sanity was a bit more important.

I'm not trying to be a complainer; my energy and mood have been a bit low this week, dealing with all of the drama. There were actually some really good programs as part of orientation. The highlight? Easy: Yossi Klein Halevi was our keynote speaker. One of my goals for the year was to figure out a way to meet him (figuring it would somehow happen through a friend's father who happens to work with him). Imagine my excitement when I saw his name on my schedule! Halevi's book At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden was one of the only books I read cover-to-cover last year. I couldn't put it down, and it left me utterly inspired (and challenged, and confused, and...). So did his speech during orientation, essentially about why he thinks it's crucial for Jewish leaders in the diaspora to spend time living here as well, the challenges we face, the challenges Israel faces, the challenges Israelis face. (Speaking of a tightrope...)

Anyway, it's been a challenging week. Our last official orientation event was Erev Shabbat, services and dinner. It was enjoyable enough, great to have everyone together... but it was frustrating, too. I definitely hoped for a fuller service (I miss a full Kabbalat Shabbat), and, well, while the camp-like song session after dinner was fun, it also left me and some others feeling left out. It's hard to connect to those experiences (and memories of them) when we never had them, to be one of a few present NOT singing (as a cantorial student). Tightrope moment? Definitely... the one strung over the pit of "Do I belong here? Reform? What?" Even though I'm here, I still have a hard time calling myself Reform. I can deal with Progressive. Actually, I can embrace Progressive. But to be put in situations where I'm expected to answer questions about how I knew that I was Reform and to be the only one without an answer? It makes me question... and it should... Oy, well, here's to an interesting year.

Classes start tomorrow... ulpan, and "musicianship" (we were told it's not music theory). I'm hoping to get to skip the summer session of the latter, and there's no way I can skip the former. I somehow managed to test into the 4th of 5 Hebrew levels (gulp), which, according to my Israeli friends, was no surprise. (מה?! אתם משוגעים!) To me? Uh, yeah, surprise. We'll see how long I can hang in there, especially since my speaking/comprehension level is far lower than my reading and writing level. But considering I couldn't even read last fall, whatever level I end up in is בסדר גמור (completely ok). I have my work cut out for me...

Let's just hope I can find the right balance to remain on the tightrope. I might wobble. I might wobble a lot, but I'd rather not fall. I hear the medical system is really fun to deal with here...

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