Archive for December, 2009

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Trip to Netanya

December 27, 2009

This weekend I visited my cousin (actually my dad’s cousin) Jason, his wife, Limor, and their three children (Maya, Avishai, and Mika) in Netanya.  They live across the street from the sea and also a horse ranch!  Their house is great, with a backyard, which we took advantage of during my stay!  I played games with the kids, including an Israeli version of Uno, which was great practice for my Hebrew.  The girls speak English and Hebrew, and I think they enjoyed making fun of my accent!

I went on a walk on the beach with their family friend, who made Aliyah from France, so I also  practiced my French a little bit.  It turns out that her husband (who also stayed with us for Shabbat) is the brother of someone who I worked with at Hillel!  What a small world!  On my walk, I saw some large beachfront homes, with varied architectural styles, but similar building materials, which are unique to Israel.  You don’t see houses with brick, siding, or stucco typically.

I had a great weekend, even though I didn’t celebrate Christmas…although before I took the bus to the kibbutz I stopped at the mall and got some lo mein…that was my Jewish Christmas dinner a day late.

Here is the beginning of my list of things unique to Israel/different in Israel than in the U.S….I will add on as I can think of things:
-People using squeegees for household cleaning (ie showers and counterspace)
-Weird heavy horizontal window blinds
-People eating wafer (waffle) cookies with coffee
-No public transportation on Shabbat
-Ice cream looks like gelato
-It is fairly uncommon to live in a house
-Houses and apartments are rented and sold without appliances (including heaters and stoves)
-Everyone has a kumkum (electric water kettle)
-Dinner is like breakfast in the U.S.- people eat cereal or something light
-Kids eat a hot lunch after they get home from school
-Your bags have to be searched by a security guard and you go through a metal detector when you go into a mall
-Green lawns are not common
-People almost never dress up
-There are two ways to flush the toilet- for number one and number two
-Almost everyone listens to the same radio station- Galgalatz.
-There is resistance-based athletic equipment on the side of the street randomly, that people actually use.
-People wear socks with sandals
-Young soldiers walk around with guns
-Grocery stores use the floor polishers during regular, busy hours.

My current wish list:

-Winter hat
-Cheap watch
-Some zip up hoodies
-Slippers
-Sweet tart hearts (in February)
-Running pants
-T-shirts
-Neutrogena SkinClearing oil-free concealer

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Second ulpan trip!

December 23, 2009

Yesterday the ulpan traveled to Jerusalem.  First we went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum.  I went there with my Birthright trip 3 years ago but I was too jet lagged too fully appreciate it.  I can’t decipher what I remembered from actually visiting that museum, or the one in DC.  For the tour, everyone received headphones, either to listen to our guide, or to hear about the exhibits in their mother tongue.  It was definitely a sad start to the day, but I think it’s important to be constantly reminded of the victims, the villians, and the righteous among nations (those who were not Jewish but saved Jews).  I already know a lot of the things that the guide discussed, but I learned something new that gave me a new found respect for Sweden: During the Holocaust, the country allowed Jews to immigrate from Norway and Sweden, and apparently the entire Jewish community of Denmark!

We also went to Ammunition Hill, the site of a battle during the Six Day War, where we watched a movie about the war.  We had time to walk around Ben Yehuda St., where I bought some orange fleece gloves…I assume it will get cold again, even though it has been relatively warm the last few days.  We also went to the Kotel/Western Wall.  This time I decided to go into the women’s section for a bit.  I don’t really agree with the separation between the women and the men, and especially the spatial disparity, but I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity because so many people would love to be in my place.

Finally, we went to the “Time Elevator,” an experiential movie with moving seats and other special effects, which was somewhat an overview of Jerusalem’s history from the City of David up to the Six Day War.  It was entertaining enough, but having been to the light show a month ago, it was redundant for me.

In other news….the civil defense siren went off this evening.  I was in my room alone, and I was scared.  I went outside to see if people from the ulpan were going to the shelter…we started to go, but the siren stopped.  I later found out that it was a drill; there had been a note (in Hebrew) in the dining room informing people about it.  I wish I had known!

Today I worked outside all day.  Luckily I dressed more appropriately than I was the last work day (one pair of my work pants has a broken zipper so I couldn’t take off my sweatshirt because I was wearing a tank top- and it was 75 degrees outside on Monday!)  Today we continued with putting the “plasticim” on the irrigation pipes;  I think we are almost done, but we also had to hammer stakes into the ground over the pipes.  It was really tiring work and my back is sore!  It’s nice to see what I’ve help to accomplish though-when we drive through the fields to reach the edge of the kibbutz to finish working on the remaining vineyards, we can see the “fruits” of our labor!

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Ain sheleg po…

December 20, 2009

That’s right, no snow here!  In fact it’s downright balmy in comparison- at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, I have been enjoying the weather.  Yesterday I ran to Castel National Park, which is very close to the kibbutz.  It’s located on a hill with panoramic views of the Jerusalem hills.  It was contested territory during the War of Independence in 1948 due to its prime location to Jerusalem.     The trenches surrounding the hill were dug by the Israeli Defense Force to anticipate attacks, and they are open for exploration!

This past weekend I mostly hung around the kibbutz but  on Thursday I went to Jerusalem with some friends, but I forgot my umbrella.  Big mistake!  There was torrential rain for hours-I got soaked, but I got to check out the Great Synagogueon King George St. and saw their extensive mezuzzah collection in the lobby.  The sanctuary wasn’t open, but maybe I’ll be back again.  Then I went to a bar and relaxed for a few hours.  On Friday I had a few hours of class, where we are currently learning the past tense (zman avar) and then we lit Shabbat candles and the hannukiah for the last day of Hanukkah.  I watched a great Israeli movie that night, called “Someone to Run With.”  I definitely recommend it- it’s in Hebrew with English subtitles.

On Tuesday the Ulpan is taking a trip to Jerusalem, in which we will be visiting many of the places I visited during my Birthright trip.  However, I am looking forward to the trip, because I was jetlagged when I visited the sights, and it was such a whirlwind trip, that a second look and explanations by a guide will be greatly appreciated!

I made puppy chow to share with the people in the ulpan and the workers in the orchard.  I thought I’d get into the holiday season 😉 I couldn’t find Chex at 2 supermarkets so I had to settle for Life, but it worked just fine!

Random observation:  In Israel, many people are given company cars.  Unlike in the U.S., people in all industries get them, and are allowed to use them for their personal use.  Also, they have decals with their company or organization on them.  They’re not just for higher-ups; my 26-year-old friend has one!

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Hanukkah Update

December 14, 2009

Hanukkah has been an exciting time so far at Kibbutz Tzuba.  The children have a break from school, so in the orchard yesterday we were joined by four or five 14/15 year old boys!  It was actually pretty entertaining having them singing Bob Marley songs and hearing them practice their English…but they did more playing with the electrical piping we are using to protect the irrigation system for the vineyard, than helping.  I don’t blame them though, because half of their break must be spent working in the kibbutz!

During class today, we sang Hanukkah songs, received presents from the ulpan mother (socks!) and from a secret buddy (my idea).  I got a cute mug and matching spoon.  We ate  sufganyiot and had lemongrass tea, and practiced Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages), because the ulpan students were assigned to light the Hanukkah candles and sing that song tonight in the dining room during dinner.  After dinner the volunteers on the kibbutz who are 18/19 year olds doing a year of service prior to going into the army put together a coffee house night.  They, along with physically disabled young adults from a nearby town, played music and did a stand up comedy routine.  It was all in Hebrew, but it was a good chance to practice listening!

Well I’m off to bed- I have another full day of work outside tomorrow!  It’s starting to get cold, so I’m praying for sun!

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Happy Hanukkah!

December 12, 2009

Happy Hanukkah!  To celebrate, I went to the shuk (Mahane Yehuda) in Jerusalem on Friday because I had the day off from work, and I bought sufganyiot (jelly doughnuts).  Potato latkes are popular in the United States for Hanukkah, but sufganyiot are everywhere in Israel.  The stands in the market were full of them, and even bakeries had special tables set up outside their shops to sell just doughnuts.  Unfortunately the first one I tried to enjoy with a cappuccino outside a coffee shop wasn’t very tasty, so I decided to get some more treats to take home with me to the kibbutz.

The shuk is an open air market with stand for anything you could possibly need, from fresh fish and chicken, to pastries and spices.  It was crowded and crazy because it was Shabbat, but the excitement about Hanukkah also made the experience especially fun.  Since yesterday was the first night of Hanukkah, the kibbutz had a Hanukkah celebration in a large building across from the dining room.  There were skits and songs, some of which were performed by two of the students in my ulpan!  Then the pub had a Hanukkah party, and it was the most crowded I have seen it during my time on the kibbutz.  It was fun, but I had my drinks before going there-some of the Brazilians in the ulpan made me caipirinhas- it is the country’s national drink, made with lemon, sugar, water, and a sugarcane liquor (cachaça).

On Thursday night we had a bonfire again!  My fleece reeks of smoke, but it’s worth it; we had fun singing by the fire and making s’mores.

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Hike to Ein Kerem

December 6, 2009

On Shabbat I hiked on the Israel National Trail toward Jerusalem with Roni and Alex.  The trail is very hilly and rocky, but wide enough for ATVs and cars in some parts.  It seemed like every car or truck driving on the trail had a dog running behind it!  I’m not sure if that’s the lazy person’s way to walk a dog, or if there’s some unwritten trail rule that dogs don’t ride in the car.  We wanted to go all the way to Jerusalem, but after getting lost and asking for directions, we found out that the trail wouldn’t bring us directly there. Also, in the early afternoon when we would arrive, there would be nothing open.  Therefore,  we decided to go to Ein Kerem, a Christian neighborhood southwest of Jerusalem.  John the Baptist was born there, and on the site of a Catholic church, Mary was said to have visited Elizabeth.  There are several other churches and also some monasteries in the town. On my photo site, you can see a picture of Mary’s Spring, which is where Mary and Elizabeth supposedly met.   Unfortunately the water is no longer clean, and there are signs discouraging its consumption.

We ate ice cream at a cute shop in the town when we first got there as a reward for braving the steep summit (we went a bit off the beaten path), and I had a cappuccino later at a pizza/gelato/coffee shop.  It was nice to be able to buy something on Shabbat near Jerusalem!  After exploring the town for a few hours, we hitched a ride to Jerusalem a little bit before Shabbat was over.   It was a fun experience hitchiking in Israel.  It’s very different then in the United States.  Young people and families are especially open to allowing strangers in their car, and even if their car is full or if they are staying around town, they often signal that they’re sorry or their car is full.  The hippie couple we got a ride with were very friendly and offered to drop us off at the central bus station.  During the ride, we pulled up to a stoplight next to the guy’s parents, who rolled down the window and questioned him why he had picked up strangers, though, which was funny to everyone in our car!

Jerusalem was a ghost town, with almost no cars or buses driving around, only taxis.  Also, by law all shops have to close for Shabbat.  We walked down King David St. and went inside the YMCA, which I hadn’t done since my trip to Israel in 2006.  When shops and cafes were open, I got a felafel for the first time since I’ve been in Israel, and it was delicious.  I also had a diet grapefruit Fanta, which I had never hear of before.  It tasted like Fresca!  Next time I get a shwarma or felafel I will take a photo, although I will probably get the camera dirty- I ate it in a laffa instead of pita, which is larger.  In Jerusalem, felafel and shwarma stands are like hot dog stands or pizza places in the US- they are cheap and everywhere.   We took the 8:00 p.m. bus back to the kibbutz after a very long day, and I was exhausted, but at least my cold is basically gone!

I will leave you with an interesting tidbit I learned today: Colin Powell was a shabbos goy as a young man in the South Bronx.  A shabbos goy is a non-Jewish person who does tasks for Jews who have religious restrictions on Shabbat (like lighting a fire for a stove, because using fire is considered work, which is forbidden to Orthodox Jews).