After the ulpan ended on Friday, Alex, Efraim, and Efraim’s friend Tobias and I rented a car and drove to the North. We started off by dropping off my suitcases and picking up a sleeping bag and a tent at my cousin’s house in Netanya, and then we headed to Caesarea. The city was named after the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, and King Herod the great built a harbor, temples, baths, according to the Roman style. There is also a modern part of the city, where Israel’s only golf course is located. After we explored Caesarea and had a picnic lunch, we drove up toward Rosh Hanikra, near the border with Lebanon. We decided to find a place to camp on the beach, and head to the Rosh Hanikra cable car in the morning. After a bit of an adventure with the police checking us for drugs on the beach, we lit a nice campfire and Alex played his guitar. We stayed dry during the rainy night due to the tent, and in the cloudy morning, we took the cable car to the grottoes on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The grottoes at Rosh Hanikra were beautiful, and a surprise- check out the Picasa site for photos. Later, we visited some scenic overlooks and took a short hike. We also explored Kibbutz Dan, which is where the Israeli National Trail begins. Other highlights of the trip include taking the cable car to the top of Mt. Hermon at the ski resort, visiting the winery where Kibbutz Tzuba sells some of its grapes, visiting a baptismal site on the Jordan river, and eating a delicious meal in Tiberias. I stayed with my dad’s cousin Jason and his family for Pesach, so we traveled to Yafo for the seder. It was a fun experience, with the seder including more than enough Sephardic style food, singing into the early morning, and a bit of the hagadah. I returned to the U.S. on March 30th with many great memories; I will miss Israel, but I am happy to be home!
Agi and I walked to Abu Ghosh, one of the most ancient inhabited sites in Israel, about 5 kilometers away from the kibbutz, today. Many Israelis like to visit the Arab town because the restaurants there are open on Shabbat, and many tourists come to visit the Crusader church. Recently, it has been known for the Guinness Book record-breaking hummus, which was served in a satellite dish to hundreds.
To reach Abu Ghosh, we walked through a portion of the Israeli national trail, through some of the kibbutz’s vineyards, where the Thai workers were surprisingly working on this hot Shabbat day! We reached Ein Rafa, made our way through the small Arab town with fairly large white stone homes, and then passed Ein Hemed National Park, which was closing when we got there. Ein Hemed has a spring and stream running through it, and looked very inviting due to the extreme heat! We also randomly saw a camel grazing near the entrance, very much out of its natural habitat. After crossing the highway, we reached Abu Ghosh, which was crowded with cars. We had a chance to visit the Crusader church before it closed, and enjoyed the beautiful gardens and dark crypt.
We walked around the town a bit more to look at the houses and shops, and then we ate hummus served with pita, meat and salads. We were able to get a ride back to the kibbutz from a co-worker of Agi’s from the dining room, who lives in Abu Ghosh. It was interesting to visit a place in Israel that was not predominately Jewish; I am glad that I now speak some Hebrew, because a lot of the residents do not speak English. I hope to visit Ein Hemed before I return home- I now have less than 2 weeks left in the ulpan!
Purim was fun- the kibbutz had a party complete with a DJ and open bar; I dressed up as an Olympic coach. This weekend I visited my cousin and his family again in Netanya. It was nice to get away from the kibbutz and spend time with the kids. I especially enjoyed the park where we went bike riding along the Alexander River. The park was built only about fifteen years ago along the edges of orange groves, and by what used to be very polluted waters. The Palestinian Authority and Israeli governmental agencies worked together to clean it up and build paths, playgrounds, and bridges with grassy areas for picnicking. My favorite part was seeing the huge snapping turtles, catfish, and what appeared to be beavers in the water.
I decided to take today off from work, so I stopped in Tel Aviv for a few hours before going back to the kibbutz. I had a nice brunch outside at a cafe, window shopped on the famed Sheinkin Street (a trendy area of the city), and enjoyed the sunshine. My iPod headphones broke in the morning, so I decided to find some new ones…I entered a shop that was empty except for the shopkeeper, who was wearing thick glasses. After standing in front of him for about 20 seconds and not being acknowledged, I asked, “efshar leshalem” (is it possible to pay?) He had me repeat myself a few times, which I though was because of my American accent. But when he finally understood me, he asked me how much I was giving him, and then I realized he had trouble seeing and hearing! He reached into the cash register and kept bringing out coins, asking me how much he was giving me, and how much more I needed! It was an interesting situation to be in; luckily I am an honest person, but I wonder how many people have taken advantage of the clerk’s disability?!
I passed to kita bet! Today was the oral exam in the ulpan and I passed- in fact I got the 2nd highest grade in the class! I am proud of myself that my language skills are recognized to be at the second level now 🙂
Returning to heavy rain at Kibbutz Tzuba holds some symbolism for me–a fresh start to studying for the upcoming exams and a new appreciation for the nature that the rain brings to the Judean Hills. The Gadna base at Sde Boker in the desert near Be’er Sheva had palm trees dotting the perimeter, but was far from paradise. The experience of taking orders from “mafakedet”s and “MM”s, shooting and cleaning an M-16, and serving food to the camp in a mess hall is memorable, and has affirmed my respect for Israelis and members of the armed services in the United States. However, I also know now that I would not enjoy being in the army for 2 years, after five days living in a spartan tent, with limited access to toilet paper, soap, healthy food, and quiet.
I was nervous to shoot a gun, but I’m glad I did it, just so I could see what it was like. I got 3 out of 10 bullets on my target, and the kickback didn’t hurt my armpit! The day before we shot the guns, the group learned the names of the parts of the gun, the commands that we would be given (in Hebrew), and how to take apart some of the gun. On the last day, as a “reward,” our group cleaned the entire gun, which was covered with a smelly solvent, with newspaper and a cloth.
We also had one day of training in the “shetach,” which was a big open space in the desert. We learned what to do if an enemy was spotted, how to camouflage ourselves, and how to protect ourselves from a grenade. It was nice to have some team bonding activities, including the kitchen duty, where we served food and cleaned the dining hall and kitchen all morning. We learned some discipline, and experienced the consequences of not following directions (pol sheva=7 pushups!) We also learned the importance of communication: our commanders spoke to us in Hebrew, and we usually had to translate directions into English, Spanish, and sometimes Russian or Portuguese. Sometimes the directions were lost in translation, but we had fun anyway!
It’s good to be back on the Kibbutz- last night I chose my costume for the Purim party which is tonight. I’m looking forward to the holiday!
Today I traveled with the ulpan to the Jewish Diaspora Museum on the campus of Tel Aviv University. I was excited for this trip because I had never been there before, and I am very interested in learning about Jews all around the world; I read the Jewish Virtual Library for fun! We started off the day by talking with our guide about what our Jewish identity means, and then we made our way through the various exhibits, from language, to culture, to architecture of synagogues. I enjoyed hearing stories about Jewish communities such as in Prague’s, “Old-New synagogue,” where a golem is said to still inhabit the attic. I also saw a model of a synagogue in Pennsylvania designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which I thought kind of resembled the Sydney Opera house.
I was fascinated to find out about the Chinese Jewish community of Kaifeng, thought to possibly be one of the lost Jewish tribes, who just in the past few years have had members travel to Israel to do an ulpan in the north of Israel to learn Hebrew. Over 1000 years ago Jews who were possibly Persian or Iraqi traders, moved to China and practiced Judaism, but over time assimilated. There are similar cases in South America, but I was particularly surprised to find out that Jews have been living in Curacao for a long time- the oldest synagogue still active in the Americas is there, and was built in 1651. Sand covers the floors of the synagogue; there are a couple of theories as to why this is: as a reminder of Jews’ time in the desert, or as a reminder of the sand Jews spread on the floor to muffle the sound of footsteps in their secret prayer rooms.
I definitely want to visit the museum again; there was so many exhibits I didn’t get to explore. Also, I would like to visit the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before I return to the United States.
In other news, on the Kibbutz Program Center website, I am in a bunch of the photos posted in the Tzuba page. If anyone feels like learning more about Kibbutz programs, the website is a good place to start.