Archive for February, 2010

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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!

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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.

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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.