Friday, December 28, 2007

Chanukkah and My visit to America

So It has been a crazy past few weeks with Chanukkah and then a few days later I (Naomi) left for America for a two week visit. Chanukkah was absolutely beautiful in Israel, so nice to see the decorations everywhere that were not Christmas but all Magen Davids and Menorahs, etc. Chanukkah in Israel is very different also because it misses the Hallmark aspect that it has very much taken up here. Presents are not the priority, but rather the priority is the lights and celebrating the lights. Nate and I learned many new explanations to the holiday, all of which are too long to explain here, but one day we will share them.

Nate and I were both off from school for a few days so we did some trips to the old city to do some touring- through the Arab shuk and to the Holy Sepulcher. Nate gave me a great deal of information about where we were and the history of it, information that was (and rightfully so) left out of my private Jewish day school education. We also went to a number of chanukkah celebrations including a party at each of our schools and a party at family friends.

The most exciting thing of all was shabbat chanukkah I would say when our friend Doni who has been in the army for almost a year now was given leave and came for a visit. It was completely an unexpected visit (he called midnight the night before) but we were so happy to see him and to have the time, although short (he left Saturday night about 30 minutes after shabbat ended), to spend with him. We also had another friend, a new friend, Janis who I had met at school, and who we instantly have seemed to click with. It was a calm shabbat but just fun because we were with friends.

After shabbat that week I was very lucky to finally meet Nate's Kibbutz Ima (mother) Rosie. She is the woman who made our beautiful ketubbah. It was really a great honor and a lot of fun to finally meet the woman who I had only spoken on the phone to once before, yet who had ment so much to Nate while he was living in Israel on Nativ. We concluded chanukkkah with a lot of rest which was absolutely necessary- our last day we spent watching movies in our house and not really actually getting out of our pajamas. It was rest much needed.

As I said, a few days later I left for America for a two week trip. The original purpose of my trip was to come in for a very close friend's wedding- Tamar Sterling (now Katz). I have known Tamar since I was about 4 and a half and I really could not ever picture missing her wedding, so I didn't! I came in about a week before the wedding and spent some time with Nate's parents which was really nice. They took me shopping to buy a "few" things Nate and I needed and they had a really nice dinner and desert to see family and friends. They also gave us a really nice gift while I was there, our new camera. It is really cool, although I have to say I do not know how to fully use it.

From there I went to my parents house. It was so exciting to see my mom (and the rest of my family of course) and to be able to spend so much time with her. We also did a "bit" of shopping (including a new suitcase so I could fit all the new things), and we got to see a really great movie which I highly suggest- National Treasure: The book of secrets. I am actually still in America for the end of my trip and will be flying back to Israel on Sunday. I am very sad to go and will miss mine and Nate's family very much but I unfortunately was on this trip alone, and that has been very hard. I am missing Nate a lot and I can not wait until Monday when I get to see him (I land on New Year's Eve at 5pm). I have really started to enjoy living in Israel, and even though I know I am supposed to call it home I have not yet felt that attachment to it (other then it being my home as a jew). But being here in America, away from it, I have learned a very important lesson. Growing up home was always where my family was, and it still is today, except now my immediate family is Nate, and my home is where he is, whether in Israel or in America, or anywhere else in the world. I can not wait to go home!

It looks like Nate and I will be lucky enough to come visit America this summer among some other traveling, and this trip will be again to go to a wedding- Nate's college roomate Josh Rabin, and of course to visit our parents. We very much look forward to this trip and hope we will get to see some friends as well.

Thats all for now, it should catch you all up on what we are up to. Sorry it has been so long since we have written. We will hopefully write soon. I will post pictures of my trip when I am back in Israel.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A few recent adventures

On a happier note than the last post, we recently went on a few Tiyulim (hikes). Naomi and I were only on one together while my school decided to go on two within two weeks of each other.

The first trip was to Emek HaEla (the Valley of Ela) which happens to be the name of a movie with Tommy Lee Jones but I have no clue what the connection is - I haven't seen it.

It is the historical place of the Battle between David and Goliath. I took a bunch of pictures and you can see the area described in the Book of Samuel. Our tour guide-Rabbi-Friend Dani even thought us how to use a slingshot like the one David used.

The next Tiyul was to Tel Aviv with Naomi's school - Nishmat. The city of Tel Aviv recently celebrated it's 100th birthday. We went to where that all happened a neighborhood called Neve Tzedek - the spring of justice. It was a really nice trip and a chance to spend some time with the people that Naomi sees every day. Despite the fact that it was the end of November, I was wearing short sleeves and was still sweating.

I also found a micro-brewery across the street from Independence Hall that I have to go back and check out.

The last hike was a week and a half ago. The weather in Israel had just started to get a little colder and we decided to make the most of what warmth was left so we went on a water hike. A water hike is exactly like it sounds, a hike through water. Israel doesn't have many rivers or streams so they tend to be very popular places for hiking. This hike was one of the more beautiful hikes I've ever seen in Israel (and one of the hardest - which may explain why I had never done it before).

We found a few places were we could jump off into the water, even though it was warm the water was basically freezing. And there were a few places where you had no choice but to swim. We were hiking through a ravine with a stream at the bottom, sometimes you can't hike around.

The end of the hike we found ourselves hiking up a 60-degree slope (no joke) for close to an hour which was a pain but worth it for the view of the Kinneret that we had at the top.

Last Friday's Unfortunate Events

This past Friday Naomi and I were unfortunate enough to be placed in a difficult situation. By now I'm sure many of you have heard about it, but I wanted to let you all know in my own words.
On our way back from Jerusalem to Efrat, last Friday, we were on the bus when the traffic stopped due to a car accident. Naomi looked down the road (a bridge between two tunnels) and saw smoke and then some flames. Then a guy on the bus screamed for fire extinguishers, one of which was right next to us. After the bus driver broke the protective glass covering, I grabbed the extinguisher and ran down the road to help.

A car had been crushed by a passenger bus and the car was aflame - the bus was on top of some of it. The driver was obviously already gone, and there was nothing that I could have done to prevent that, but the sight of the body was the most horrific sight I've ever seen. I tried my best to put out the fire, but since the extinguisher was not a large version it was gone rather quickly and the fire came back.

The bus itself was up against the protective wall, but that blocked both of the doors. All of the buses in our part of Israel are bullet proof and you cant just break the windows all that easily, the only escape for the passengers was through the back window. I couldn't help any more there as, thankfully, there were others doing what they could to help. Another car was also involved in the accident - the woman driving that car seemed to be okay and the first set of emergency vehicles were just then showing up so there really was nothing more that I could have done.

As I walked back to the bus it only then hit me what I had just seen and taken part in. Needless to say I was an emotional wreck.

Naomi tried her best to comfort me, and she did a fantastic job of it too, but only time really helped. When we found out that the bridge would be closed for the next four hours until they could clean up the accident (and Shabbat was coming in about 3 hours) we needed to find a way to get to Efrat. So we started walking up the road, and met a guy who was going towards Efrat willing to give a few of the passengers a lift around Bethlehem and to Efrat.

I've been speaking to a bunch of people here - the Rabbis, and other students who have had similar traumatic experiences.

I think that I'm doing okay, the first few days it was nearly impossible to get the image of the accident (the body) out of my head and sometimes it does come back to me now, but it's not inhibiting my need to move on.

Haaretz has a description of the accident (the picture shows only the car of the woman who was doing okay).

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Last Three Weeks

Since we last posted on the blog our vacation ended and we started school again. During the last week of our break we decided to spend a day in Jerusalem doing some things that we've been meaning to do but haven't yet.

Our first stop was the Jerusalem Zoo, much like any other zoo in the world this place has a lot of exotic animals, but unlike all of those other zoos this one one has a Biblical animal section. All those animals that you read about, the ibex, etc. they're all here. That night we finally were able to spend some time with Eudice Ben-Or which has been a long time coming.

Here's a slide show from the zoo:

Yes, Mom, the Flamingos are for you.

Naomi went back to school that week and I had a few more days off being a House Husband which was a lot more tedious than I thought it would be.

We spent the past few weeks back in school, I'm still in the same level that I started out in, but it looks like I'll move up in December at Channukah break. Now that I have a time frame it's much easier to bide my time.

I'm taking bunch of interesting classes, most of them are continuations from the previous semester, but I have two in Rav Kook (I posted about him before) and a class in this book written by the Piasencza Rebbe (don't worry I can't pronounce it either). He was a pedagogue which is interesting to me on an education level since I'm interested in pedagogy, but more importantly he was the main Rabbi in the Warsaw Ghetto and continued to do his thing despite the terrible conditions there. His writings are so beautiful even without keeping his history in mind. We're reading his book B'nai Machshava Tova which is about a group of people that get together to learn together to perfect their ability to get close to God.

This coming weekend we're going back to Hebron to spend Shabbat with Naomi's school. This week's Torah portion is Chayei Sara - which is the portion that describes Abraham's purchasing of the cave in which he buried her, and eventually his entire family is buried in. It's supposed to be one crazy experience.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Peaceful Shabbat

This past Shabbat we spent with the Derovan family in Ramat Beit Shemesh. This was just what the doctor had ordered. It was so restful, so family oriented, and so full of beautiful singing and enjoyments of Shabbat. We have been very much enjoying hosting guests, but for the past 5 weekends in a row Nate and I have had at least 2 people staying in our home. As enjoyable as that is, and as much as we hope to see many more guests in the near future, it has been very exhausting. Further, since we arrived to Israel we have not had the opportunity to go away for a single Shabbat or Chag. Basically we were very much in need of this little get-away.

We have to say Ramat Beit Shemesh is a very beautiful place. It has landscapes you could never imagine to see anywhere but in a National Geographic's magazine (unfortunately because it was Shabbat and when it was not it was dark we could not take pictures) and a community that seems so pleasant. The community appeared to be primarily anglo- we did not hear as much Hebrew speaking as we are used to, but you do not necessarily feel like you are back in America (except the part were I saw many boys who just graduated from the Hebrew Academy that were in my brothers class). We davened at Lev Hatorah- a yeshiva for boys after high school, and I have to say the ruach (spirit/ excitement) in the room for both the evening services and the morning were beyond amazing. It was actually shocking how much excitement there was because most of the boys were finishing up their third three day holiday (Rosh Hashana, first days of Sukkot, and now last days which all ran into Shabbat) and most would assume by then they were "Yom Toved out." But this was definitely not the case, these boys sang with full voices and danced as if it was still Simchat Torah. Further from sitting with the Derovan daughters- Orit and Nechama, and their Cousin Chava one could feel the holiness of the women's section as well. Following services we attended two very large meals, one of 10 people and another of 18 people, where Nate, for the first time since we arrived in Israel was displayed with home made brisket. We were both in heaven because the food was amazing, but I think Nate may have been on cloud nine (or whatever the phrase is).

The Derovan family is a very close family, two of their married sons live near by with the grandchildren and you can tell the daughters do not stay far from home that often (we did not meet their middle son). Despite the closeness of their family Nate and I felt so comfortable, and felt like we were right at home in one of our families homes. Listening to the conversations about Torah that take place in their home was also a very exciting point of the weekend, especially when trying to get one of the Derovan grandsons (who is 6 I believe) to give a bit of a Dvar Torah on Parshat Lech-Lecha (he had skipped Breishit and Noach in school so that was the first one he knew). And then there was the singing. The beauty of the words and the harmony of the voices just absolutely amazed us.

Basically we really had an amazing weekend, and we are so thankful to the Derovan family for that. We hope to spend many more Shabbatot and times with them. Thank you so much!

I go back to school Tuesday (Nate goes back on the 14th), and do not have a break until Chanukkah (in two months) so now it will be time to really get a real feel for what it is to sit and learn day in and day out. I am very excited! Further I am now in the process of applying to grad school. I am definitely applying to the Pardes Institute educators program and most likely applying to Wurzweiler's School of Social Work's block program and to Hebrew University. We will see what happens. I am trying to figure out what is the best path for me, since I know I want to work in schools, but I want to work in guidance counseling/ administration. Anyway, until next time!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

More Sukkot Activities

[Blog Maintenance: We will try to make it obvious in the text if there are pictures to be seen or not, either way when you receive your e-mail click on the blue title and you'll be linked to the web page and then you can see all of the pictures.]

As Sukkot comes to a very quick end tonight, we are getting geared up for another holiday Shmini Atzeret. It is the last in the long line of holidays that we've been celebrating for the past month. Here in Israel it's only one day long which makes it packed full of activities.

Anywho, we had guests for the first few days of Sukkot, which was really nice. On Friday the local synagogue that we go to decided to do a musical service the way Shlomo Carlebach (see below) used to. It was a really really special time.

Our friends Doni and Anna stayed until Friday afternoon (festival started Wednesday night) and Shmuel (Naomi's brother Ari's best friend) stayed with us until Saturday night. Doni is seven months into his Army service where he volunteered to do 1.5 years and has just finished learning how to drive a Tank. Anna is in an International medical school program in Be'er Sheva which seems to be very intense.

Since Sukkot is a national holiday here in Israel most people have the week off, so there are lost of activities everywhere. On Sunday we went up to Moshav Mevo Modi'in near Modi'in - famous for being the village that Shlomo Carlebach founded back in 1978. Every year they put on a music and arts and crafts festival. This year they decided to scale it down so it felt very much like the June Fete from home. Really nice music and arts and crafts. Some of our friends from the Yeshiva were there selling their goods.

We really wanted to do hit some more festivals but we both managed to find a 24-hour stomach bug that wiped us out. Now we're feeling much better but it kind of ruined our plans for the week. Oh well there's always next year.

Here are a few pictures from our recent adventures:

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Blog E-Mail Problems

I've found out that some people have not been receiving the pictures in the e-mail updates that are sent around every time we write something new for the blog. I'm not sure how (or even if I can) fix this. If you haven't actually seen the website in a while, you probably should since I've been posting pictures and slide shows of our recent adventures.

If I need to change the e-mail subscription forms either I'll take care of it automatically or you might have to re-subscribe; but I'll keep you updated.

Oh and by the way, my finger is healing nicely and we're hopeful that it won't even leave a scar.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Yom Kippur, Rav Kook, and Sukkah Building

The first semester is over for both of us now, we've got a few weeks off until the next (and much longer) semester begins. Now for story times: A few posts ago we mentioned the Selichot services which between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur become especially important. This past Wednesday night Naomi's school took a trip to Hebron to visit Marat HaMachepela (The Tomb of the Patriarchs). This is the cave (the building's built on top of it) that Abraham bought to bury Sarah. Here too are the graves of Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah.

Naomi's school hired a bus to take us there - I'm pretty sure I've never been there myself before - and it was quite an experience. Hebron is a major Arab town, there is a large Jewish town next door (Kiriat Arba) but for the most part Hebron is completely Arab. Anyway, it's one of the oldest towns in the country - that's saying a lot for Israel - and it showed. Lots of windy narrow streets that a tour bus is navigating only to show up in a large parking lot where thousands of other people have assembled trying to make their way into the building.

I took some rather poor (due to the lighting) pictures inside, but the link above will give you a great idea of what it looks like. It really was very cool, Hebron reminded me a lot like across between Madaba (a city in Jordan) and Istanbul (Turkey); because it's a very large city but has a distinctly Arab flavor. I think we will be going back there in the day time sometime this coming week to get a real tour of the Cave.

Maybe then I'll have some better pictures to show you guys of the inside.

For Yom Kippur we were here at my Yeshiva. Naomi cooked a feast for the holiday beforehand - since it's a fast day we traditionally have a major meal ahead of time - she went all out for this one, we had a bunch of friends over for it; including Adam R. The davening (prayers) on the holiday itself were just outstanding. We spent all day there, a totaling close to 15 hours there in total over the 25 hour day.

The Rosh Yeshiva (Head of School) gave a very interesting class about how there are two types of Tshuva (usually translated as "Repentance"). The one we normally think about is atoning for our sins - a major theme of the day to be sure - but there is another type. Tshuva for being a good person. He read us a Talmudic tale about two people one called a righteous man and the other called and evil one. What was the difference between them? In fact they are both righteous just one only went over his religious studies 100 times and the other one 101 times. The point being is that most of us - deservedly I think - consider ourselves to be descent human beings, but even we are required to do tshuva because we aren't progressing. If we stay as the same decent person we always were it's basically a waste of talent, we need to find more ways to continue to grow or else we're considered to be evil.

I found the class to be very interesting and is very similar to a class I'm taking this year on the philosophy of Rav Kook who was the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine nearly 80 years ago. He is very well rooted in the Kabbalistic school of thought meaning that for him tshuva is progressive process. When we do tshuva we are progressing towards the divine ideal. He explicitly states that social revolutions are progressive - a worldly tshuva that will eventually bring us into harmony with perfection.

The four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot are very hectic days. So far we've gone into Jerusalem to buy me a Lulav and Etrog set; and we bought items necessary for our Sukka. Just behind our apartment is an abandoned Sukka structure so today we spent a long time cleaning it up, adding a new pole, putting up the walls, making ceiling beams - quite fun. Again Adam R. helped us and we're still not quite done yet but it's coming along quite well. Sukkot doesn't start until Wednesday night so we have some time before we really have to get things together.

Here's a slide show of our Sukka fun.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rosh Hashana

So we just finished our three day Holiday (two days of Rosh Hashana followed immediately by Shabbat) and it truly was a great experience. We stayed at the Yeshiva for the holiday and my cousin Jay-Jay came to join us. Rav Sperling, one of the Rabbis at Nishmat, told our class the day before we left for Rosh Hashana, that if you have the ability to go to a Yeshiva for Services on Rosh Hashana do! He said it would be an experience you would never forget. He was absolutely right. The Cavanah (focus) of the prayers coming from each person was amazing. When we would sing certain parts outloud I often felt that the hole building was being lifted with each lift of our voices. I did, however often find myself starting to sing the tunes of Mr. Sigman (the leader at my parents synagogue) and getting very confused when the leader at the yeshiva would do something different. The first day I was not in the service for the repetition of musaf and therefore did not hear all 100 blasts of the shofar (but I did here 30). I was helping out with the babysitting and joining in by taking an hour out of davening, as every other wife at the service did, to help watch everyone's kids. The second day I did it during Shacharit and did not miss very much at all, since it ran into the time for kiddush (the yeshiva takes a break at 9am for kiddush which is home baked by all the wives) which the kids went in to take part in. I have to say this Rosh Hashana was one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had. Of course tears were shed, when we were thinking of our families, but only wishing they could be here with us and not us there with them.

We hosted three meals throughout the weekend, and ate at the yeshiva for three, and we were invited out for one. I have to say as amazing as shabbat food always comes out, there is something added to the taste of Rosh Hashana food- oh right honey! Nate, being the one who likes spice food, was not as excited as I was to have honey in just about everything we ate. I went through three very large containers of honey in my cooking and for our dunking of apples and challah into at the table. It was amazing! There are many other customs here at the Yeshiva that many people have and we were able to take part in many. On the first night, when we ate at the Yeshiva on the table were fish heads (I know mom, you would have been freaked out), eggs, pomegranates (they have 613 seeds equaling the number of commandments in the bible), apples, honey, and round challahs. One of our friends, the Hassans made cookies that had different fruits in it each having some symbolizing some custom for the holiday. They were very good. On the second night, our custom is to have a new fruit, so we had a cactus fruit. It was interesting, a bit bitter, but it definitely looked very nice.

Having my cousin here was very nice. Jay made me realize how hard it is to not have too much family here in Israel that we can spend holidays with and how important it is that we spend with with who ever we can when we can. On that note, we will most likely be spending part of sukkot up north with our cousins the Chai's (on Nate's side). I hope Jay enjoyed being here as much as we enjoyed having him.

So for those of you who are wondering, (if you read the last post) over the holiday we still at tomatoes, in fact we ate the tomatoes Nate had sliced previous to his accident (it was for my rattatoi dish that I was making) and as he said "It was very good, but it had a taste I just couldn't put my finger on..." Anyway, we saw the doctor yesterday and he said everything looks good, Nate will continue his pain killers and I learned how to dress the wound which I will have to do daily. Overall, despite the downer before the holiday, it truly was a great weekend. We miss you all and love you! We hope you all have a meaningful ten days of repentance, including Yom Kipur. Shana Tova and G'mar Chatima Tova!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Our midnight adventure

Late last night while helping Naomi prepare for Rosh Hashana, I cut myself pretty badly on my left index finger. The emergency medical facility here in Efrat closes at 12am so we struck out there and ended up having to go to this medical center in Jerusalem near the central bus station. The doctor there was pretty funny after telling me that it would be three weeks until I'm back to normal he told Naomi that I shouldn't wash dishes for six months. For a minute he had her.

Today I got my prescribed meds and a sling costing me only 47 shekels - about $10. I expect that it would have cost me 10 times that in the states. Naomi was so worried, but I'll be fine it just bled a lot and I'm sure that I'll be in pain for awhile.

I need to publicly thank Michael who drove us last night at 12:30 and didn't get home until 3:30 without complaining in the least. What a mentsch.

(Typing with one hand is much harder than it looks)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

New Pics

We finally finished arranging our caravan. Everything has a place and it doesn't seem too crowded (we are still waiting on a box, however, to arrive from the states). We put a lot of our style into it and it really is a fun place. We used lots of color where ever we could, and, not that you can see them so well in the pictures, we hung every family photo up that we had with us. It really feels like a home now. We look forward to having you all coming to visit but in the meantime here are the pics of it!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Rosh HaShana is coming

So, Wednesday night starts Rosh HaShana (the New Year) and that means that the holiday season is starting here. For the next month there are three major Jewish holidays, a week of festivities, and two lesser known holidays. When we're talking holiday season we mean it.

Last night, that is Saturday night, we started an early morning service called Selichot. Basically they are supplications that are read to prepare us for Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. There are a couple parts to the service; in one, we are asking God for forgiveness and another part we are going through the 13 Godly attributes and reminding ourself that if we are to live lives as Godly people we should try to emulate these attributes. It's a custom in our Ashkenaz community to start it the week leading to Rosh HaShana, while for Sephardim they tend to do it for the entire month before.

Last night's selichot were held at 12:30 am but for the rest of the week we will say them at 6:30am. The first day's prayers are usually considered the most important which is why we say them at midnight - its assumed from the time of the Talmud that midnight is a good time to ask God for forgiveness.

We are having Naomi's cousin Jay for Rosh HaShana and the Shabbat following. He's on Year Course and we're quite excited to have him. For those of you who don't remember - or need some mind jogging - Bethany did Year Course two years ago. Seems like a long time doesn't it B?

Anyway, we'll have some more updates soon with some new pictures.

Friday, September 7, 2007

So, unfortunately with the business of school it has been very hard for us to post this past week or so. I leave the house at 7:10am by which time Nate has already left (at 6:55am). I do not get home, until at the earliest 6:30, which often turns into 7pm. Nate plays sports after class which mean he gets home around 7:30 and then has to leave for Maariv (evening service) and then more class at 8-10pm. Usually I go to some class here at the Yeshiva for the wives at night while he is in class, and sometimes I even go to Nate's class at night. So basically we are totally booked, but because we are totally booked there is so much to fill you in on!

So this past week I finally came to the conclusion that Midreshet Rachel was really not the right place for me. The classes, often, were not text based, which is what I had wanted; the classes had teachers who seemed to know one way and that that one way was the only way to understand anything, which I disagreed with; and worst of all for me, it had classes that I saw as not what I wanted to spend my time in, but that made me want to skip school because of. To explain the last one a bit further, the day before I finally gave up at Midreshet Rachel we had a class called Midot (positive characteristics). I assumed (yes, Dad I know that stands for I made an ASS out of U and Me) this class was to learn about what different Rabbis say should be the positive characteristic that we should all have. To my amazement that was not at all what this class was about, but rather it was about "how to tell your parents you are becoming frum!" Oh, and if they don't like it well then "you will just have to re-examine whether your relationship is worth having or not." Anyway, basically what it comes down to is Midreshet Rachel is not for me. (But as a side note I have to say it still is a great place to go to Learn and there are some amazing people at that school and for many other people it will be a great place).

So, starting Tuesday I went on an exploration for a new school. I started at Nishmat. After spending three days there I have decided to transfer (three days was all it took). The teachers at Nishmat are world renown scholars and they just has so many interesting things to teach. I am learning G'mara there, women 's commandments, the Halacha (laws) of Shabbat, some Chassidic texts (thats really deep stuff), Torah and Prophets. I feel like in every class I am on the edge of my seat. Plus I will definitely improve my hebrew speaking skills, considering that majority of the girls there either are Israeli or just speak hebrew so well that they use it more often then not. The seminary actually looks more like a guys Yeshiva (well except for all the pretty art) and, as Nate said when he looked at my schedule, it seems to teach like one too. The Beit Midrash (study room) is huge (like twice the size of Nate's) and every girl has their own Makom (desk, basically). This school is well known for its Yoetzet Halacha program- a program that educates women in women's Jewish law (as I explained it to my mother in law, it is as close to a woman becoming a Rabbi as possible in the Orthodox community at this time). Anyway, so as soon as I work out all the financials I will officially be a student there.

Anyway, also coming up is Rosh Hashana. We are really excited to spend it in Israel with the Yeshiva, because I have been told that if you ever want an amazing Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipur experience that you will find it at a Yeshiva. I am starting to get teary though each day as I think about how I will not be sitting next to my mom this year. It will be my first Rosh Hashana away from her ever. I know though, that Mrs. Millen and all the other amazing women at Shomrai will take care of her well!

Last but not least, this weekend is my little brother's 18th birthday! I am so excited, welcome to adulthood Ari. Ari just started University and from what I hear seems to be enjoying it (although he is a bit bored with not having school all the time). Congrats Bro! I am so happy for you!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Staff Sargent Michael Levin z"l

Last Friday Naomi, Sara Romanoski, and I went to visit the Cemetery at Har Herzl. It is there that all the Prime Ministers of Israel, Presidents, and other dignitaries are buried. It's a must to see for any trip to Israel; but it was not the reason we went.

Last Summer when Israel was fighting in Lebanon against Hezbollah our friend Mike Levin was killed in action. Many of you have probably heard about him by now as the famous American who died fighting for Israel. In total there were three Chayalei Boded (Lone Soldiers) killed in Lebanon.

It took a little while for us to find his grave, as we entered through Har Herzl instead of the main entrance to the military cemetery. But eventually, through some creative hiking on my part, we found it in Section 4,6. I've seen pictures of his grave before and it was just as I expected. Mike was - though I didn't know him well - one of those guys you never forget. And it appears that he left that impression on hundreds of people.

The grave was decorated with Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies memorabilia, pictures of him with friends, cotton (I didn't really get this one - must be "something from America"), letters that people wrote him. The most moving part of the entire experience was reading the plaque that is attached to the grave "An American Oleh whose love for G-d and Israel is eternal".

The candle that is next to every Soldier's grave was alight, it seems that someone else visited his grave that morning before us. In the Jerusalem Post article written about him when the news broke that he had been killed in combat it mentioned that every American living in Jerusalem knew him, I'm not surprised and it seems that the affect he had on them has lasted even after his unfortunate death.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The School Year Has Started

Both Naomi and I have started our classes now. Last Wednesday was her first day of school and today was mine. I will let Naomi tell you all about her reflections on school.

As for me, I'm back at the Yeshiva (Yeshivat Hamivtar) that I went to two years ago for the summer. So I'm not really new here, but I am sort of treated like one. Most of the new guys are having a hard time learning everyone's name and where certain classrooms are and policies on this and that; all of these things I've got down already. But at the same time, the students that are here full time take the summer guys (as I was two years ago) rather apathetically so while I know them some of them didn't really care so much who I was then, but now that I'm back are opening up. The people at the school are for the most part fantastic and those that aren't as great are still really nice.

As far as my classes go, I still haven't had all of them yet so this may be a little pre-mature, but for the mornings I'm in level 1 and in the afternoon I'm in level 2. The hope to move me up to level 2 for everything once I get my feet wet again, but for now I'm with the beginners. It can be a little frustrating since I already have a background in the Talmud to be working on things that are very basic. Hopefully they'll decide that I'm ready soon and I can move on up.

Besides Talmud, I'm also taking an in depth class on Halacha (specifically dealing now with the laws and customs of Rosh HaShana - it's less than a month away); and an in depth class on Sefer Bamidbar - the Book of Numbers. This class will be fantastic, right now we're comparing the introductions written to this book from a few medieval commentators. What is the purpose of the book? The central theme? Does this theme permeate every section of the book? If not how do those unrelated sections relate to the rest of the book - why are they included in this book? All that and we haven't even read the first sentence of the book.

It's a long day, I have to be at school at 7am for prayers and I didn't leave tonight until 10pm, besides a break for meals and a hour-long rest in the middle I was working all day. Call it a 10 hour day easily, and that was a light day. That's all for now, I'll get Naomi to write soon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Israel and Holocaust Survivors

In the past few weeks there has been a recent reports on how well or poorly Israel treats its Holocaust survivors. This is a recent JPost article on the matter. Its been reported that the government will give each survivor 85NIS per month. I've never been able to figure out how they came up with that figure coming to about $20/month. It's a ridiculously low number.

It seems to me that Israel has an obligation to provide for these people. The Nazi's brought them to the lowest of the low, a government dehumanized them; here in Israel, the Jewish state, we should re-humanize them. We should pay them whatever it should take just to survive. If it's 1500NIS/month then they should get it without any qualifications.

It occurred to me that we should also ask them to help Yad Vashem - tell their stories, whatever they can do to keep the historical account up to date and accurate. Write letters to convince others to tell their stories or speak to tourists. Do this and we'll give you another 500NIS/month. It's not a job, its a right that they get just for being who they are.

Anything less than giving them full support is tantamount to do what the Nazis did, dehumanized them.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Our First Guest and Trip Up North

Sara Romo came to visit us on her surprise trip to Israel; she got a free ticket from Birthright because a staff member couldn't make the flight to Israel and they needed someone to check all the kids in. Lucky her.

Anyway, Sara came to visit and we had her here over night. Her brother Adam (Dill) is coming to the Yeshiva in a few weeks so we thought it would be a good idea to show her around. We even found out which caravan would be her brother's - he gets to live with the maintenance guy. Lucky him.

On Sunday we went up North to visit Sally and Michael at Ein Dor. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of Mount Tavor but it was beautiful, it was a wonderful shade of green this time of year. Anyway, I hadn't been to Ein Dor in seven years so it was nice to get reacquainted with the place. Sally gave Naomi a tour of the Kibbutz and showed her the art room. The bus from Jerusalem to Afula is unbelievably crowded but its about a two-hour trip thanks to the new highways so it's bearable. I really like the Galilee but we missed the nice cool breeze that Efrat has nearly all year round.

Sally came to see us off and we quickly found someone to take this picture as we were getting on the bus to leave Ein Dor. This next week is a big week for us; we have a friends wedding to go to, Naomi and I both start school and we have to help a bunch of friends move into the new Caravillas.

One day we will move into them as more are built. But here is a picture of the ones that are already up. The inside is absolutely gorgeous; this picture really doesn't do it justice. The reason the first one in the row doesn't have a roof is that they are hoping to get permits to put a second story on it - we'll see, I'm skeptical about that part. Anyway, leave a comment or shoot us an e-mail and let us know how you're doing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The first week in Israel

So we are finally somewhat set up in our apartment- we have use of a kitchen, we have a closet and dresser, and we just ordered a bed yesterday! We have finally decided to start doing some touring before I (Naomi) needs to start class. Two days ago we went to Bat Yam, the old city of Yafo, and Tel Aviv. I am so sorry we do not have pictures, but I forgot to put the card in the camera. Just to give you an idea of what we did, we walked along the beautiful beach for about an hour, and then to save money on cab fair (and because we could not find the right bus back to Tel Aviv) we walked to the old city of Yafo. Yafo is a beautiful city, with some really nice buildings and amazing views, however much was closed. We then proceeded to walk to Tel Aviv. We finally gave up about a mile and a half away from Tel Aviv mall and took a cab (which cost like 4 bus rides for both of us) to one of the malls in Tel Aviv. There I am very proud to say, I purchased my first pair of Naot. You have no idea how long I have wanted them.

We then took a bus back to the Takana Merkazit in Tel Aviv and then traveled back to Yerushalayim. It was a fun filled, beautiful day, which ended with some very painful legs from all the walking (whoever said we would gain a lot of weight in Israel had no idea how much exercise we would be getting).

Then yesterday we took the day to go to Yerushalayim- to the old city. We started our day, before this trip, at the official lottery of the new caravillas that have been built into our community. Each family gets to move into them if they chose, as they are built. We will get first dibs on the ones that are to be finished in October (although we all bed they will not be done until December). Meanwhile many of our new friends did get to pick yesterday, and they will get to move in next Tuesday. After the lotery we all got to go in and look and see the inside of this beautiful construction site that wakes us up at 6 am. They are absolutely gorgeous. They are huge, and spacious, and have cabinets and just so much that is beautiful. They have a glassed in shower (which you saw our shower definitely does not). Around 1ish we left for Yerushalayim. The pictures below show our day, which was so nice. We davened mincha at the kotel, and just walked, and walked, and walked (something we are getting very good at) around the old city. As we were leaving we saw someone setting up a beautiful site for what seemed to be a proposal of marriage. We wish him and, hopefully his new Kalah, all the best.

As a side note, so you all know, we have our internet working in our home, and we have our vonage set up. This means you can call us on an American line. If you do not have this number please please please send us an email and we will send it to you. Talk to you all soon!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

To bring you up to date

So as promised we have posted some pictures of our caravan. There is a possibility that we may move to another caravan, one that is a bit nicer. It is where the furniture we purchased from someone leaving is located now, and it is too heavy to move, therefore we want to move us to the furniture.

This past week we have gone into Yerushalayim at least 3 times (in 4 days). We have bought Nate some new shoes for shabbat, Naomi some new scarves and of course the new oven- we are very excited about this. We found someone, as suggested by one of the other kollel couples here, who buys ovens, dishwashers, fridges, etc. used, fixes them and then sells them. He not only sold us a fixed oven and stove, but delivered and installed it, and best of all- It comes with a warranty that is renewable. On Friday we woke up early to try and see how long it would take Naomi to get to class each day, but forgot that the bus schedule on Friday is very different and ended up waiting for a bus for an hour and a half. When we finally got into Yerushalayim we made our way into Machane Yehuda- Naomi's first time ever, and found some very yummy Marzipan and some really inexpensive wine to bring to our hosts for Shabbat.

Shabbat was very nice, we ate out for all three meals, which were absolutely amazing. We made some great new friends, and Naomi seems to becoming best buddies with the other kollel families' children. We davened at the "Happy Minyan" on Shabbat morning, which we very much enjoyed and may even consider making it our minyan of choice. We took a walk in the afternoon and discovered some beautiful views and of course a water main break on our street that will most likely result in no water for the next few days. We also snuck some views through the windows of the new caravillas that are going to replace the caravans. They are quite nice, and very spacious.

Until next time... Shavuah Tov!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

We're in Israel

So we made it. The Israir flight is best described as "You get what you pay for". I would highly suggest that anyone look elsewhere for cheap flights, but if you need to save some money this is a good way to save a lot. It was cramped and I missed the amenities that El Al provides.

We had a car service pick us up at the airport and took us directly to Efrat which was about 40 minutes away. The best part about this was that our 5th bag couldn't fit in the car, so the driver had his brother pick it up and brought it all the way to Efrat later for $5 more. Best $75 we've spent in a while.

We showed up at the Yeshiva and met two of the other couples, each of whom proceeded to fight over us for dinner that night. What a welcome (plus the cookies and drinks awaiting us at our door).

So we'll write some more about our adventures since then and post some pictures of our very empty caravan. We miss you all and hope you find a way to visit us soon.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tisha B'Av and Moving to Israel

Tonight is erev Tisha B'Av. It's always been a very hard day for me; to understand the imagery that we find in Eicha. Two years ago I sat at the Kotel all day trying to feel the destruction - but I can't - it's so much easier for me to feel the destruction of the nation through the Holocaust, the descriptions provided in the megillah of what the populace went through during the siege. This is why most shuls watch Holocaust movies - because we cannot connect to the Temple - despite our best efforts most of us cannot do it.

XGH says that this phenomenon is proof that we don't really want the Temple back; I don't think so, it's been 2,000 hard years and we - today's Jews - don't really get it. So we take other aspects of Tisha B'Av the other calamities that have befallen us on this day and connect to those.

Is it bad to do so? No, I don't think so, since it's also an integral part of the day. But this year I'm going to make a concerted effort - like I've done in the past - to think about the Avoda in the Beit HaMikdash and what the Churban really was.

I found RWAC's post to be truly moving, because I feel that I will come out of Tisha B'Av feeling very like that. Today I will accept God's judgment, but I'm moving to Israel in a week. I have the pain of packing and moving boxes in my arms and legs; I can't forget that. There is a day after Tisha B'Av and on Tu B'Av I will move to Israel.

This year's Tisha B'Av promises to not be the average Tisha B'Av. It will be hard and special in it's own way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

packing update

So rumor has it that we have have been assigned a caravan in Efrat. We kind of heard it from someone leaving the area and coming back to the states, but we should know for sure tomorrow. In the meantime our lift leaves in 6 days and that means everything going to Israel must be sealed up soon. My parents and Nate's dad will be coming down this weekend to help us finish up the packing, and to help us move everything going to Israel to the place where the lift is leaving from and everything staying to my Aunt and Uncle's house where it is being stored. Looking around the apartment it seems we are almost ready for this Sunday, however when I sit down to try and finish packing all I can see is that there is a lot more.

On another note, we are considering getting Vonage so that way many of you will be able to call us as if you were just calling another American number and we will be able to call you as well. If anyone has any takes on this idea please send us an email. We have been doing some research, talking to people in Israel about it, but more input would be great before we go and order it. Thanks!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Naomi's first post

Hey All!

So I am very new to this blog concept but here goes. So the stress is starting to disappear, now that we have things worked out with where we are going and how we are getting there, and now reality is starting to settle in. On Friday we tried to get visas from the Israeli embassy in DC (we were unsuccessful because we had one way tickets and you need round trip to get it) and as I was davening before we left I started to tear a bit thinking how this was really happening. It is amazing and I am so happy that my dream, which this past year became our dream, is happening. I will finally get to go to Israel and learn Torah full time. I can not express to you enough how happy I am and how excited.

On the other hand though, as it gets closer there is a definite sadness that is setting in. No it is not because I am leaving America, or the luxury life that we have been living, and as much as I love my friends it is not even because we are leaving them, but rather it is because we are leaving family, and more importantly for me, because I am leaving my Mom. I love my family very much but as anyone who knows me well, for at least the past 6 years (sine I finished those annoying teenage years) and maybe even longer, my Mom has been my best friend. I will miss our three (or more) times a day phone calls just to check in (which we will not be able to afford) and I will miss the ability to go home and just hang out whenever. I will miss chag, or at least the pre-chag cooking that we do and I will miss going to the women's Seudah Shlishit with her during the summers (and a couple during the year). We are going to visit my family this weekend, and thanks to my parents there will be a kiddush in honor of our leaving (Hashkama minyan at Shomrai if you are in town btw), and it truly will be a hard weekend for me.

Anyway, so I guess that is how I am feeling. Yeah for me learning to post on a blog and yeah for our upcoming move! Until next time!

We're Finally Packing and Selling Furniture

We're packing all of our books that are coming with us; and all of the books that aren't coming with us. We're packing all of my CD's (3 boxes worth) that aren't coming with us; but I bought a harddrive so I can take the mp3's with me.

Dishes, Books, Pots and Pans, Appliances, Books, Clothing, did I mention books? It's all coming.

Anyway, I took some pictures of the mess - I mean - progress.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Alan Johnston is Free

Alan Johnston, the BBC reporter who was taken hostage in Gaza, has been freed by Hamas forces. I truly believe, and CNN speaks of it, that the only reason Hamas decided to do something was that they sorely need some good publicity.

The captors - the Army of Islam - have been connected to Fatah; which is curious since Abbas was not able to do anything about it. There is no mention of what the military operation to retrieve Johnston was like - probably because the media is grateful to Hamas and doesn't want to publicize the event.

Either way, I'm glad he's safe and unharmed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mid-June Update

Well a lot has happened since the last update.

Instead of doing the Couples program at Darche Noam we decided that it would be better - for a number of reasons - that I instead went straight into the pre-Rabbinic track at Yeshivat Hamivtar. We didn't feel that Darche Noam was the best place for us philosophically and it would help me out for my Rabbinical school. It also finalized our issues revolving around housing and health insurance. Naomi is still going to Midreshet Rachel and will be commuting between Efrat and Jerusalem (J'lem) every day.

So, we're moving to Efrat instead of Jerusalem. And we have an apartment. Well it's more of a caravan on the side of a hill, but it's a free caravan on the side of a hill. The Yeshiva is busy building buildings on site so we may move into a real apartment soon - we'll see.

Efrat can be seen via Satelite here, and if you look just to the south you can see "Yeshivat Hamivtar". That's where we'll be for the next four years. It's a beautiful city with a fantastic community and an even better view of the Judean Hills.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

With 3 Months to Go...

With three months to go we have a lot to still get done. As far as I know we've covered our tuition, which is nice since it is our single largest expense in Israel, but we expected it so it doesn't change our financial situation any.

Our very close friend Ari just got engaged, and his wedding is August 5th, six-days after we leave for Israel. Ari was one of the groomsmen at our wedding and sang during the ceremony. It's a shame that we have to miss the wedding, but we'll be there in spirit.

We're trying to find a place to live, the Yeshiva tells us that we're on the top of the list to receive one of their two apartments, but we don't know when we'll hear about those. They're building apartments next door in a recently acquired building, but they are not likely to be ready until October (which when you remember this is Israel; December would be nice).

So we're using Craigslist, FlatHunting, and the Nefesh B'Nefesh listserve to help us out. We've found a few places that we're interested in. Seems that the places that are perfect (price, location, and furnished) don't have the time period we're looking for. So, for now, we continue to sit and wait.

I have to figure out how to get our cell-phones unlocked so that they can be used by any carrier. I'm worried that it might remove our service from T-Mobile, but that's a question that needs to be asked.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

We're Going to Israel

Naomi and I bought our (one-way) tickets to Israel two weeks ago.
JFK (New York) to Tel-Aviv July 30th.
Departure: 8:30pm
Arrival: 1:50pm July 31st
We're not sure when we'll be coming back to the States so we only bought the tickets one-way. Naomi will be returning just before Christmas for a wedding in Baltimore, but it will be a quick in and out trip.

I doubt I'll be posting much to the blog until July as we start packing and getting things together for the move, but once we get to Israel we'll likely write something once a week if not more.