Bad Hummus News!

May 11, 2010



End of my trip

April 8, 2010

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!


Trip to Abu Ghosh

March 13, 2010

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!



March 7, 2010

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?!



March 2, 2010

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 🙂


Return from Gadna

February 26, 2010

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!


Trip to the Diaspora Museum

February 16, 2010

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.


Summer has arrived?

February 13, 2010

I went to Netanya for the weekend with Malke and Ylana, and stayed with them in their friend Samantha’s apartment, which is where they will be moving to after the ulpan is over.  In Netanya, many shops and restaurants are open on Shabbat, so we were able to eat non-Kosher McDonald’s for dinner.  Then at night, I went to my first “fiesta latina,” in Tel Aviv.   In Netanya, like in other Israeli cities, there are sherut monit, which are smaller than buses and look like taxis, but are  less expensive.  So we walked to a nearby sherut monit stop, took one to the central bus station in nearby Tel Aviv, and then took a taxi to the bar where the party was held.  It was fun to see Jews from Spanish-speaking countries from all over the world dancing and singing to familiar (to them) music, and Malke (from Mexico) and I enjoyed having Corona beers.

Today we woke up relatively early and went to the beach.  We had fantastic weather, and I loved having the opportunity to read in the sun.  The water was too cold for me to get in, but I put my feet in, and it was warm enough for me to wear my bathing suit!

Netanya has many waterfront apartment buildings, and many more are currently being built.  Malke and Ylana’s new apartment is walking distance from the beach, and is built in the 70’s style of apartments in Israel- concrete block exterior, however their apartment has been renovated inside and looks quite modern.  The waterfront town has a lot of nice amenities– running/bike path separate from the sidewalk, public tennis courts, beach with cafe, and good public transportation, but the services seem to be lacking.  I wonder where all the people who will move into the new apartments will buy their groceries?

I hope the nice weather will stay in Israel- I am have been working in the vineyard securing the vines with special plastic ties and rubber bands to wires.  Work is so much more pleasant when the sun is shining!  This week I will be going to the Diaspora museum in Tel Aviv with the ulpan, and next Sunday we will be doing basic army training (Gadna) at a base in the desert in the South of Israel.  I will definitely report on my experience there, but not until I return, because I will not have computer access during my time there.


Lumberjack Vick

January 25, 2010

I still maintain that I have the best job available to people in the ulpan, especially now!  For the past two work days I have been helping to prune olive trees (aitz zayot).  I think I should buy some plaid shirts, because I am enjoying this new task!  We have three main tools to accomplish prime pruning: shears (mazmerot) and two saws (masorim).  The goal of pruning is to make a very overgrown tree look minimalist and sort of like a goblet.  This can be difficult when there are several trunks or branches growing the “wrong” way, inside the tree instead of outwards.  That’s where the saws come in!  The first day I had some trouble with the saw, but I quickly caught on; you have to put your whole arm into it!  I’m looking forward to some more days of hard work in the trees, but hopefully the weather won’t be like it was today (really cold and rainy!)

In other news, this past weekend I hiked to Sataf with Alex.  It’s only about a 25 minute hike through the kibbutz to get there, and there are lots of little trails that go through some ruins with aqueducts, and there are great views of Jerusalem, Ein Kerem and everything in the valley below.  Also, there is a cafe that is open on Shabbat- big bonus!


Trip to Tel Aviv

January 19, 2010

On a cloudy but temperate day the ulpan had its third trip, to Tel Aviv and Yafo.  We began the trip by visiting the square next to city hall where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995.  In my photos you can see plaques  placed on the ground marking the exact spot Rabin was standing, and where his bodyguards were standing.  It seems unreal that the shooter could have gotten so close to him, but apparently that day Rabin refused a bulletproof vest because he didn’t believe anyone would be against him and peace.  One new thing I learned from the tour guide was that ironically, the lyrics to a song about peace (Shir LaShalom) that Rabin led minutes before his assassination, was found in his pocket, stained with his blood.  The monument in the square, displaying black broken rocks, symbolizes the “political earthquake” of Rabin’s assassination.

Afterward, we walked to the Shalom Tower, which was the tallest building in the Middle East when it was built in 1965.  Nachum Gutman, who is also a children’s book author and illustrator, created a large mosaic displayed in the lobby of the tower, which contains over one million tiles, depicting daily life in Tel Aviv and Yafo.  There are also models of the first homes in Tel Aviv.  Unlike Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is only 100 years old- before that, it was just desert!

Then, we walked to Neve Tzedek, one of the original neighborhoods in Tel Aviv.  Most of the houses have been renovated now, but many look very run down, which I was surprised about, since the property values are very high in the area.  We also passed the first coffee kiosk in the city, on the way to Independence Hall, where David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the state of Israel.  After hearing the explanation of the meaning behind the name “Tel Aviv,” I want to know why Spring Hill school and Recreation Center (in Virginia) are named that way!  A tel (a hill with layers of civilization buried underneath) is something old, and Aviv means spring (renewal, something new).

We had some time to explore Yafo, which is the ancient port city neighboring Tel Aviv.  I bargained my way down to purchasing an umbrella for 10 shekels (about $2.50) in the flea market, and had a shwarma sandwich.  After the free time, we toured Old Yafo’s narrow alleyways with zodiac signs, and viewed a hanging tree,  a wishing bridge and some Egyptian excavations in Abrasha Park.

It was a nice, albeit short trip.  I’m glad I had the opportunity to see some places I didn’t go to during my Birthright trip, and I hope I will return to Tel Aviv before I return to the U.S.!