Sunday, February 8, 2009

"In Your Eyes"

Hey All, my last post we ended with me going on a tour of Pisgat Zeev, and the community center. Then making Shabbat dinner for my girlfriends in the Kfar Ha'Studentim (Student Apartments).

The tour of Pisgat Zeev was wonderful!!...Karen Kalif, the coordinator of the Pisgat Zeev Community Council, picked me up at my dorm early in the morning and took me and a man from the Staten Island JCC, Alan (he was here with a group, and broke off from his tour to see Pisgat Zeev and the center), to the Community Center. Karen took us on a quick outside tour of the center before going on a driving/walking tour of the different areas of Pisgat Zeev. We met up with some men from the Center who drove us up to the top of P.Z. When we got out of the car we went up a path covered in what will soon be an immense amount of flowers, some were already bloomed, but it was mostly just some green, and buds. At the top was a park, and one of the most beautiful views that I have seen since I have been here. The man that was giving the tour was telling us about how Pisgat Zeev came to be, and how it is one of the largest communities in Jerusalem. We then went to "the fence," which is the border between Pisgat Zeev and the Arab village that surrounds the entire community. The wall of the fence was very high, and we were told that it was originally very small, and a lot closer to some of the houses, and apartments belonging to Pisgat Zeev. It had to be moves back and made higher because the people of the Arab community would throw things at the homes, breaking windows and sometimes injuring the people that lived in them.

We were then taken back to the Community Center where we had a quick tour of the building. It had about 5 levels, all being used for different reasons. The floor that I enjoyed the most was the arts floor. there were rooms for arts and crafts, music rooms, and a dance studio (it was so nice for a community center; marly floors, ballet bars, mirrors, and a piano.) After the tour of the center, we were taken down to the pre-school to celebrate Kabbalat Shabbat with the 2 year olds. They were all so very sweet, and one of the little girls was looking at me the entire time, she was so adorable, and I wished that I didn't have to leave. We then met Yoel and some other people at the mall that was across the street from the Center to have lunch. It was lovely, I met two women, one named Dee who is part of the centers community, and Nanette who's mother and father live on Staten Island, right down the street from Wagner College. Nanette was very sweet, and invited me and my roommate to spend Shabbat weekend with her.

After lunch I rushed back to my dorm to get Shaina and our friend Sarah to walk to the Kfar Ha'Studentim. We walked over and went right up to my friend Ariana's apartment, where we rested for a little bit, and then made Shabbat dinner; Lemon chicken, pasta, vegy's, garlic bread, and wine. It was nice to send Shabbat with my girls, we just hung out, listened to music while I cooked. I think they were a bit scared to get in the way of my creative dinner. After dinner, we cleaned up, sat around and chit chat, then Shaina, Sarah, and I went back to our dorm and went to bed. The rest of the weekend was relaxing, Shaina and I slept in, did out homework, and ordered pizza after Shabbat was "Over," and watched "Across the Universe."

The the then concisted of Ulpan classes everyday, and then trying to figure out our Internet situation. Since Shaina and I had gotten to Israel we didnt have internet in our room. So we had been carrying our laptops to and from school almost everyday (ouch my back!!). It had been and entire 3 weeks of trying to contact the Internet company in Israel; Bezeq, and in true Israeli fashion they ignored our phone calls or just didnt give us the information that we needed, it was very frusturating. Thank god however that I had a mole helping me along the way. My cousins Alon and Debbie have been helping me the entire time, trying to use their own contacts to figure everything out. We finally got a good deal on a modem/internet connection, but we had to travel to the Tachanah Mirkazeet (The Centeral Bus Station) to go to the Bezeq store to pick up our modem. So Shaina and I apprehencivly got onto bus number 28 and payed the 5.90 shekels ($1.50) to ride it. When we got there however (at 6:15pm) it was closed, and we were told that the store closes at 6pm...UGH!!! was aweful. We were told that we had to come back the next day, and earlier, so Shaina and I made use of our surroundings and went to the mall that was in the same area. We were with our friend Nicole and we decided to walk around the mall, check out the stores, and get dinner at the GREAT food court that was in there. I got Shwarma on laffa bread (shaven lamb meat on large doughie bread, with your choice of toppings), Shaina got a crepe with nutela (hazelnut chocolate spread) and bananas, and Nicole got Yogurt and a crepe as well. It turned out to be a really great night, and I fugured if all went well the next day we finally have internet. I was wrong...we went back right after our Ulpan class with Ariana and Sarah and got the modem, but the women that gave it to me said that it was just for me, and that I couldnt get a splitter or anything to share the internet connection with Shaina. This was so very frusterating, and Shaina was pretty upset as well, but we figured she could just use my computer until we worked somthing else out. The four of us shopped around the mall, and celebrated Ariana's final papers to finish high school early (she is 17 and graduated early, she is insanly smart...she got into M.I.T.!!!). We ate dinner, walked around, and then headed back to Hebrew U. When we got back we tried setting up the modem and it didnt work, Bezeq didnt tell us that we needed a phone line in the room because the sytem that I was given was dial up...OY!! we then called everyone we could and finally got in touch with the right people who were told to come to our dorm in the morning to set up the phone line connection for us.

That night Shaina and I went to Debbie and Alon's home in Reut for the night to do our laundry, eat dinner, sleep over, and celebrate finally getting internet. It was really nice being able to spend more time with my cousins (even though I know that I will be spending time with them anyway while I am here). Shaina and I slept in REAL BEDS...and relaxed until Debbie drove us back to our dorm to get ready to go to our new destination for Shabbat weekend.

I had been in touch with Nanette during the week, and we decided to go to her Yishuv (settlement) called Kochav Vashachar which is translated as "Dawn Star." Shaina and I got onto a free bus that took you right to Kochav Vashachar (about a half hour north east of Jerusalem, on the border of the Jordan valley). What I was unnaware about was that Kochav Vashachar was an Orthodox community. I emmediatly thought, "Oh my goodness, this is going to be a VERY new experience." When we got there Nanette picked us up and drove us to her home that over looked millions of mountains and valleys that I could sware went on forever. Nanette set us up in the guest room, and we went to meet her children and husband. Avraham (Avi) is her husband, and she has 3 kids; Shallie who is 12 years old, Mayeer who is 7, and Leah who is 3. They were all very sweet, and spoke both in hebrew and english with us (Shaina and I got a little practice in...yay!!). After we settled in, we got dressed conservativly (leggings, boots, skirt, longsleepshirt, scarf) and walked to Friday night services.

Now, this was very new for me so I didnt know what to expect. Avi and Mayeer went into the mens door and Nanette, Shaina, Shallie, Leah, and I went through the womens door, in the back. We walked up a bunch of stairs and finally got to the top balcony, where all the women were praying. We sat in the back and followed along as much as we could ( Shaina is in the Reform movement, and I am in the Reconstructionist movement), and directly in front of the balcony was a curtain to sheild the view to the bottom section where the men were praying. Nanette told us that this is done because the men feel destracted by the women, and that it is easier for men to doven, while women are not as focused. This was very different for me, but I took the experience with a grane of salt, and tried to understand the traditions that I was being a part of for the first time. After services, we walked bakc to the house and have a lovely meal, prayed, sat and talked about the Torah portion of the week, then went to bed.

Shaina and I decied to sleep in on Saterday until everyone got back from morning services. When they all got back we had a nice lunch, and discussed again that weeks Torah portion. After we cleaned up Shaina, Nanette, Leah, and I went for a walk around the community and played with Leah on a small playground byt he house. When we were finished we walked back to the house and sat outside with the kids Nanette and Avi. Avi was asking me about the Reconstructionist movement, and it ended up turning into a discussion about the differneces and similarities of the Orthodox movement vs. Reconstructionist. I knew right away this was not going to go well. I tryed to explain my views and how I was brought up though the conservative movement and that it wasnt a good fit. Avi kept on telling me and Shaina about the Orthodox movement and how it is the "right way" of liveing as a Jew. I took in everything that he was saying, and tried to understand his veiws. I understood them, but I beleived in my Reconstructionist views. I also tried to explain to him that in every movement you are still learning the same Torah as every jew in the world. All of the rules, and ideals, and beleifs are the same, but each movement educates themselves differently in order to understand what they are learing, and finding a new way of connecting that information to your individual personality. He still dissagreed with me, and I figured that I ahd to choose my battles and that everyone in the world (especially if your Jewish) is going to have a different view and you can't change the minds of old traditions vs. new traditions.

It was a wonderful weekend no matter what. I left Kochav Vashachar with some wonderful experiences. I can got a closer look into a movement that I was almost scared for a long time, and realized that it was really a beautiful way of liveing. While I did not agree with some of the things that were going on I did find everyone to be very happy and loveing, and feeling a closer connection with G-d because of the way that they lived. I just hope that I can some day feel the same way that an Orthodox Community can feel, but with a Reconstructionist frame of mind.

Love and Blessings,

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