Monday, May 25, 2009

"The Story Goes On"...Part 1

Hey All,
I know I have not been very good at updating my blog, but a lot has been going on in the holy land. For the next week I am up to my neck in studying for finals, and writing papers, while trying to also experience as much Israel as I can before I leave. I go home in a week and I want to do everything that I possibly can so that I can come back to the states and write two blogs about my last couple weeks in Israel.
So no worries, I am still alive and well and having an absolutely amazing time. If you can't wait for the new blogs in a week I suggest checking out my pics on facebook (if you have a facebook that is).
I hope everyone is having an amazing beginning of their summer or end of the school year, and I will see you all VERY VERY soon!!!

Much love, and Blessings,

Monday, May 11, 2009

"By the Sea"

Hey All,
So all last week I had crazy class stuff, papers to start writing, and an oral presentation to start preparing for. I feel like all my fun stuff happens at the end of the week, it a bit weird, but interesting at the same time. I work really hard during the week, and keep myself awake long enough to realize that I don't have anymore homework, or things to study for. I realize I stay awake really late during the week because I can't make myself fall asleep any other time. I guess that means that I have gotten used to a new time schedule in Israel, I wonder how that is going to work out when I have to go home in 3 weeks!!!.
Thursday, Shaina and I had a field trip to the north with our Biblical Figures and Stories in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Art class. We joined another class that was learning about some of the same themes as our group. We got up at 5am and packed our breakfast and lunches for the day (and 2 LARGE bottles of water) and headed to the bus. Everyone was absolutely exhausted, so much so that some of us were even laying on the sidewalk while we waited for our bus to pick us up. When the bus finally got there we got on and snagged our own seats before anyone could sit with us, we all wanted to be able to sprawl out on the seats and sleep on the way. The bus was completely silent, and I feel asleep so fast that when I woke up we were at our first destination, Bet Alpha. Bet Alpha is an ancient synagogue that has the most amazing mosaic floor built by the Romans, hence the amazing combination of Greek/Roman and Jewish art. The center was of the Zodiac which is a Greek ideology, but the seasons and the actual zodiac names were in Hebrew. We then headed to Tiberias to see another ancient synagogue with the same mosaic as Bet Alpha. Then we went to a church that had another set of amazing mosaic art, which was all Jewish depictions, which was kind of interesting. After that we went to Tzippori where we saw again the same kind of mosaics as before, however, we were told that this particular mosaic was thought to be the "Mona Lisa" of mosaic art in the north. By this time we were all so exhausted. Shaina and I even turned to each other and compared this trip to being on Birthright because we just keep on moving with no time to rest, and that we were being filled with so much information that we were not only physically drained but mentally drained. Our last stop was Bet She'arim, which is a place that I had been to with my family when I was in Israel in August, so I already know what was going on in this place but it was still fun to be there and remember how much fun I had with my family. We then all slowly got back onto the bus and passed out hoping that we would also sleep the entire ride back, I was wrong. I woke have to go the bathroom. I walked to the professor and the driver and asked how long it would be until we got back to school and they said not for another HOUR!!! I then asked if there was any way that we could pull over or if there was a rest stop coming up. They then told me that we were on the main highway and that there was no rest stop for another half hour, and that we were not allowed to pull the bus over because the driver could get a fine. I then told them that I could try an hold it until we got to a rest area, but that we needed to think of something quickly because I was about to pee my pants. I tried holding it for a bit, and the professor came to me to ask how I was doing, I told her that we have two choices right now; either I pee in a bush on the side of the road, or I pee on the bus. I think that the driver over heard me because he immediately pulled over and I asked if any one else needed to go to the bathroom, thank god we stopped because another girl on the bus had to pee as well. We ran off the bus and went down a small hill and took turns shielding each other so that we could take a "nature pee." It was absolutely hilarious, we got back on the bus and everyone was congratulated us for our amazing "nature pee" experience. We then spent the rest of the ride back to school talking about other "nature pee" experiences. When Shaina and I got back to our room we put all of our stuff away, and then went straight to bed.
Friday was amazing as well. I slept in until 11am, and then did some work on my computer. Then I got a phone call from my friend Margot who was at the shuk getting food for shabbat. She called me to see if I wanted to have a laundry party with her (aka do our laundry together) and then stay at her apartment at the student village for shabbat dinner with some of our Israeli friends. Right away I said YES, not just because I did need to do my laundry, but I also had yet to have some alone time with Margot for so long. I scrounged around my room looking for food to bring to her apartment that I could make for dinner, then I put an insane amount of laundry in my rolling suit case and headed over to the student village to meet Margot in the laundry room. I think this was the most fun that I have had doing my laundry, I plugged in my computer, and we blasted my music through the entire laundry room, people were walking past and just staring at us. When we got towards putting our wet clothes in the dryer we found that the machine that is supposed to take our money in order to start the dryers was not working. It was crazy, we called the maintenance people at least 5 times before anybody actually came. We then put our wet clothes into our bags and walked to the dorms that were around the corner in order to dry our clothes. Margot decided to make the most of our adventure though, and brought colored sharpies so that we could decorate her laundry bag while we were waiting. After our clothes were good and dry we went back to Margot's apartment and watched some T.V. shows on her computer while cooking dinner and waiting for our friends to come. When our Israeli friends (Uri, Ofer, and Shai) , and Sarah got to the apartment we started eating right away, we were all so hungry, and everyone brought something that looked so good. The entire dinner was filled with Israeli humor, American humor, and just all around craziness. I don't think there was a point in our dinner where we were not holding our stomachs in laughing pains. After dinner, Margot and I cleaned up and we all sat in the "living room" to watch Wall-e, which was so much fun because none of our Israeli friends had ever seen it so it was great to see their reactions to every little part of the movie that Margot and I absolutely loved. By this time it was about 1am, and we were so tired. I packed up my stuff and Uri insisted that he take both of my bags, I argued with him about it but he just kept on telling me that I was being silly and that I shouldn't have to carry two heavy bags back to my room by myself. So Uri, Ofer, and I went back to my room and hung out for a little bit. They ended up staying until about 3am and realized that going to sleep was a really good idea. The boys left, and I stayed up for a little bit longer to put my clothes away, and talk to some friends online. I then got a phone call at around 4am from my cousin Julia. Julia's Bat Mitzvah was that Saturday, and my entire family was at her home in Baltimore the Friday before to get ready. It was so exciting to talk to Julia before her Bat Mitzvah, I was so upset that I couldn't be there, but all the people that passed the phone around to talk to me said that I was there in spirit, and that they are counting down the days until I come home.
Saturday was a very relaxing day. I slept in, and then got some homework done. I then went to hang out with my friend Sarah Nager at the student village. We sat around listening to music and drinking cranberry tea. It was really nice to relax with Sarah for a bit because we barely get to spend time together because our classes are all at different times. It started getting dark and a bit cold outside so I headed back to my room to get some more work done. I ended up sitting at my computer playing more music and playing games. I feel like I have no motivation to do any work at this point. I just want to be finished with school so that I can travel Israel more, and make the most of my last 3 weeks here.


There are so many pictures from this week that I can't choose the ones that I want to put in this blog. If you have facebook you can see all of them, if you don't hopefully I can send pics out to people if they really want them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Power of Two"

Hey all,
So last week was really boring. Class after class again. At the moment we have been getting ready got a bunch of field trips. One fore my Judaism course, and one for my Biblical Art class. They are supposed to be really exciting, so we have just been going over things that we should know about the places that we are going, and what to expect.

This past weekend however, was soooo much fun!!!!

My friend Larissa, and our Israeli friend Amit (from camp), took a road trip to the Jordan Valley and the Kenneret (a really big lake) to visit our other camp friend Ruvik. He lives with his wife in Kibbutz Degania Bet which is one of the first Kibbutzim in Israel. Just to give a quick idea of what a kibbutz is, it is a community where everyone lives together in a closed off area. Everyone in the community works together, eats together, everything together. It is a communal community, the job that you have on the kibbutz is for the community, and the things you earn you share with everyone. People sometimes share clothing, food, water, heat, name it...they share it. It is sometimes compared to a camp, where your goal is to truly be an enriched, and loving community.
When Amit, Larissa and I got to the kibbutz Ruvik greeted us with open arms. He right away took us on a tour of the school that he works at, where he teaches sailing, and P.E. He then took us to the gym that he couches basketball. It was really wonderful, all of the basketball players are in the army, and they get together every shabbat to play, and hang out with Ruvik. He is clearly very popular in his community, because there was not one person that he didn't know. Ruvik reminds me a lot of my grandfather, which made be feel completely relaxed when I was with him.
When we got back to the kibbutz we put our things in his home, and met his wife. We then hopped on some bikes and took a tour of the kibbutz. We first went to the cemetery, which I immediately thought, why here, there are so many better places to go, this is so sad. Then Ruvik took us to a line of graves, and we realized that is was his family. His great-grandmother, great-grandfather, grandmother, grandfather, an father. He told us that he is a fourth generation living at the kibbutz. This was absolutely amazing, his family had been living here for years, and now he had children of his own, and grandchildren, that is 6 generations. Larissa and I were completely taken back.
After the cemetery, we rode our bikes to the farm, and got to look at the huge cow barn that they had there. We then got to pet the baby calves which was so much fun, Larissa and I were squealing the entire time. Amit and Ruvik were laughing at us, and were most likely thinking; "mmmmm, meat." When we got back to Ruvik's home, we washed up and got ready to go to dinner. We walked together to the dining hall where everyone was headed for a communal shabbat dinner. When we entered the building there were so many families sitting together, some of the kids we realized were 7th and 8th generation in the kibbutz. The meal was buffet style; chicken, fish, rice, veggies, salad, soup. It was amazing, we sat at a table with Ruvik's mother, sister, niece, and her new born baby girl. The entire dinner was filled with laughter, and kibbutz stories, and I think the best part was that most of it was in Hebrew, so I got a chance to practice what I had been learning for the past couple of months. After dinner, we walked around the kibbutz for a little bit, then spent the night in eating fresh fruit and watching a movie on the television.
The next morning, Ruvik, Amit, Larissa, and I took a long road trip up to the Golan. It was absolutely amazing, it felt like we were going up a million mountains (mostly because my ears were popping the entire time), then when we started getting closer to the top of one of the mountains, Ruvik told Larissa and I to close our eyes, and not open them until they told us to. The car stopped, and Ruvik took my hand (Amit took Larissa) and led me out of the car and what felt like the edge of a cliff. I was right, Ruvik told me to open my eyes and I realized I was on the top of a mountain over looking the Kenneret. It was so amazing, I could breathe for a minute because I was so taken back by what I was seeing. I felt like I was on the top of the world, and I could see until forever. We then started down the mountain, and headed to a town close to Mt. Hermon.
Ruvik had told us before that he wanted to take us to a very special restaurant for lunch, where we were going to have the best fallafel in the world. It truly was amazing, they gave you 4 fallafels' about the size of my fist. Then give you 6 hot out of the oven pitas', and every topping imaginable; salad, hummus with beans, eggplant, tehina, pickles, olives, peppers, cheese. It was amazing, we just dug right in and completely destroyed our meal, nothing was left. We then sat at the table for a little bit just chit-chatting about this coming summer (we are all working at camp again), and Larissa and I talked a bit about our amazing time in Israel so far.
After lunch, we got back into the car and started driving back to the Jordan Valley. On our way however, we stopped at this mountain/monument place where you had the most amazing view of Mount Hermon, you could see the snow that was on the very top, which was kind of funny because where we were was warm and sunny, and Mount Hermon is cold and windy. It was beautiful, we walked around for a bit and Ruvik and Amit gave us a quick history lesson on where we were. I wish I had listened more carefully, but I just could not get over the scenery. There was also a part where you could go underground and see the living quarters of the soldiers at the time. After we got out of the tunnel we headed back to the Kibbutz. We decided to have a quick ice cream break before going back to Jerusalem, so Ruvik took us to a chocolate place that was actually on the kibbutz, he then told us the people come from all over to eat their chocolate treats and ice cream. He was right, I had some amazing ice cream, it really hit the spot and made a great ending of an already wonderful day.
After ice cream we said our goodbyes to Ruvik, and headed back to Jerusalem. The ride back was very relaxing, we listened to music and talked about some activities that we wanted to do at camp, and got started with planning them actually. It was really nice to spend the weekend with Larissa because we don't get to see each other too much during the week. Plus, Amit and I have been wanting to get together since I got to Israel, but it had been really hard because of all the work I had been doing for school. Now we are going to be hanging out more before I leave. Then we get to hang out for the whole summer.

Blessings to my loves!!!