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.