So many things to update you on from the past week I made a list so that I wouldn't forget anything!!! I know how sad you all would be if you weren't getting every detail of my experiences here. According to my list I have 10 specific things to share with you all, but knowing me once I actually start going another thing will pop in to my head. Not to worry I have a pen right next to me to jot it down as to not leave out anything piece of information.
1) Tisha B'av. For those of you who don't know, Tisha B'av is a holiday of sorts. It is more of a day of remembrance of the the terrible things that have happened not just to the Jews but other communities as well on the 9th of Av. Getting to be in Jerusalm on Tisha B'av was an amazing experience. Typically on Tisha B'av people fast...I chose not to as a sign of being grateful for being here and not have having been part of one of the many horrific events that took place on this day. There are two ways of looking at this day, as a celebration for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and celebrating the continued hope of a future of a feeling of depression of remembering that happened over the years before. I chose to look at it in both ways. So the evening of Tisha B'av the school held a service in which lamentations was chanted and poems were read. From the service as a large group we walked over the the old city and went to the western wall. I have never seen anything like this. The M'chitzah (the center divide between men and women) as all the way out in to the center of the courtyard area and it was nearly impossible to actually reach the wall. There were people, both men and women, children and adults, standing, sitting, laying in order to pray. It is also common for men and women to spend the entire night at the wall.
This is a picture of the mens side of the wall. Of course since I am not a man I couldn't go over there and take a good picture, but I think you all can get an idea of how many people there were.
Looking over the city from the old city.
Look at the mens side
The very small area for the many women to pray at.
everything...and you can see the mchitza
Something else that I found very interesting about Tisha B'av was that everything closes on the night of. Even the McDonalds that's next to my apartment that's open on Shabbat was closed on this day. What's also interesting is that this holiday / remembrance day is not one that I knew about until last summer when I was the educator at Tawonga. How many of you knew what this day is?
2) So, I made the executive decision that it would be in my best interest to change what Hebrew class I was in. As excited as I was to be in a higher level course I didn't feel as though the information was truly resonating with me. Also, I was really stuggling with the teaching style of the other teacher, and one of the teachers teaching Citah Alef was my teacher for the pre ulpan. I already feel so much more comfortable in the new class and feeling challenged enough that I know I am learning something new every day and am increasing my Hebrew knowledge and understanding.
3) As some of you may or may not know I was struggling with my landlords and them coming to fix the various items of the apartment that weren't working. After finally getting through to them my landlords have been nothing but helpful! YAY!!! and on top of everything else since not of the lights had light bulbs in them inside the living room / kitchen area, they went out and bought new light fixtures! I never thought I would appreciate light fixtures until now. They really add some dimension and updated feel to the apartment. So now when you all come out to visit you can see my new light fixtures!
4)What a better thing to by myself when here in Israel than a Talit?! There are specifically two that I want. The first one is a Women of the Wall Talit. Women of the Wall is a group of women that meets every Rosh Chodesh (head of the month), join together at the western wall and pray. From there they all meet at a park (i think) take off their top layer in which they are able to show their Talitot and read from the Torah. They have a special Talit they where and they are available for purchase. I would love to purchase this Talit. Donations are welcome. Recently the head of IRAC Israel Religious Action Center, Anat Hoffman, was arrested at the wall for holding / touching the Torah. After spending time in jail her punishment was that she is band from the Wall for 30 days....just long enough for her to be able to attend the next women of the wall meeting!!! The other Tallit that I want to get is one that I am able to make / design. All that we have to do is buy the tzitzit and then we get our own frabics and other items you would like to add and make your own! Don't worry this is not something I will do in much hurry, but if it turns out well, I can make one for everyone!!!!
5) Moshe my lovely nut guy! I am finding that it is relatively hard to get homework done in my apartment since I don't have a desk in my room and the living room area is where we all talk so I have been going downstairs outside and doing a lot of my work there. Moshe has been correcting my homework! Thanks Moshe! I am pretty sure when he looks at my homework he is laughing at how simple it is, but not much I can do other than what I am doing. The great part is that when he is looking over my work I get to eat all the different kind of nuts he has at his stand! (I know this sounds dirty, but I don't really know if there is a better way to say it...so everyone, keep your mind out of the gutter!!!) :D The other day when I was on my way home from school all my lovely friends were outside. The guys from SOYA (the really good asian place) and I have also become friends. So I am walking by and they said Moshe isn't working now. I looked over to the nut stand and I was like well ya...since he isn't there. And then they told me "no, he is working here anymore" I nearly lost it! I kept asking them if they were serious and why. First they told me that he got married and I told them it wasn't funny. Then they told me he got a new job. I asked them where and they said the didn't know. So I spend a good portion of my evening calling my friends and telling them how Moshe wasn't there anymore! What happened! So later in the evening when I came back from Greg's apartment one of my other friends from SOYA was there and he told me that Moshe was on vacation and is coming back in two months. And while this is somewhat a relief ultimately it's two months...that sucks! So again, when Moshe returns I will be having a little talk with him. Hopefully the little talk will be a little bigger since I will have had 2 more months of Hebrew. I will let you all know in two months what happens with that situation.
6) Last Thursday instead of having class we had a program. We all did different programs and the name of mine was art in the field. Although it wasn't my first choice, I still excited. We met at the central bus station here is Jerusalem where we met up with Ofer, one of the roommates of one of my classmates. He is a student at the art and design school here is Jerusalem. So once we start our treck to the location of which we will be producing art the rest of the group started to talk about how we were going to Gaza. Not being a Geography major, and being geographically challenged as it is I really believed we were in Gaza. It felt as though we had been walking for hours in the heat and all I wanted to do was sit down in the shade and drink water, but it reality we had only been walking for about 10 minutes. Once we finally got to our destination, which was not in Gaza I was really able to enjoy the view. We were at an old deserted palestinian village in Lifta. It was interesting seeing all the run down homes and all the different items that were left behind. And while I am not an artist I did enjoy taking pictures of the many things we got to see.
7) So I have now had two of my education Seminars and I am really enjoying them. I handed in my first paper which my teacher enjoyed and also gave me a lot of constructive criticism for. The classes are very informative and I feel as though I am really learning a lot from the readings and learning to develop my own opinions and develop strong enough evidence to defend the way I feel. The first class we got to know each other really well as well as doing an active listening activity. I never realized how hard it is to listen to someone for 2 minutes and not be able to talk to them about what they are saying or asking them to elaborate on certain situations. It was really challenging but in the end I think it was really beneficial. The next assignment I have due is on the 5th of September where Sam and I will be doing a presentation. Wish me luck! I haven't started the book yet, but that is the plan for shabbat this weekend.
8) This past Shabbat I had dinner at my apartment again. Ryan, Greg and I went to Har El for services and Tina, Sam, and our friend Becca went to Shira Chadasha. The services were amazing. They seem so community oriented to me, and even though the Rabbi gives her cermons in hebrew she speaks slow enough that I am able to understand the main point of what she is saying. The cantor at the synagogue is an HUC graduate and is originally from Texas. This weekend I plan on going to Shira Chadasha which is a Modern Orthodox synagogue. I will definitely let you all know how that goes. I made an amazing dinner! I had my famous lemon chicken (even though it was a little dry) with pasta and sundried tomatoes and garlic. It was delicious! Way to go me. I decided to sleep in for services on Saturday morning and I woke up just in time for Sam and Tina to get home from Services. After we had leftovers for lunch I thought it would be fun for us to do a little text study since I didn't know what the Torah portion of the week was. So as we start to read we start to discuss the text (obviously) and there were moments when our conversation began to get really heated. As much as I wanted to stop the discussion when they got heated and I got frustrated I really enjoyed the overall experience and I think that sam and I are going to make this a weekly tradition...we'll see what happens on Saturday.
9) As students we all have to pick what is called a Truma project. It is a volunteer project for the year. I am not sure what we have to do for it after the end, such as write a paper of create a report or what not, but it is something that is supposed to last the whole year. At first I was nervous that the different projects were ones that I wasn't going to be interested in, but once I read all the options I wanted to participate in almost all of them I didn't know which one to do. The two that I requested to do because I am allowed to do two are one called Avi Chai which is a program that works with Israeli's that work at American Jewish summer camps for the summer...perfect for me!!! The second one I put down is called FSU and it is where we get the opportunity to go to the Ukraine for Passover and help lead seders at peoples homes and in congregations. We are not there for the whole time so I would still get to experience Passover here is Israel. I don't know yet if I get to do both so when I find out I will let you all know.
10) Cantillation class has been going well. It really isn't as hard as I thought it would be. In class yesterday we actually chanted the first three verses of B'reishet. It was really cool to be able to put it all together and not have to sing it based on a tape. (No offense Cantor Korn). So Tamar (the head of the Cantorial Department) told us that if anyone wanted to Chant Torah to let her know so I did and in two weeks i will be chanting torah. I will keep you all updated on my status of how I am doing in learning it and how it goes. Let's cross our fingers that I will do great!
11) Today we had our first test for regular ulpan and monday we had our first quiz. I received an 82 on the quiz (which I wasn't very happy about since I was getting good grades in the pre-ulpan) and when I was done taking the test today the teacher looked it over and I got two things wrong! YAY! I don't know how many points those two things were worth, but I am glad that I am back on track.
I think that's it for now. Sorry that it has taken me this long to write to you all. Life around here has been pretty crazy and I am going to have to start to work out a system for blogging time. I miss everyone like crazy!!!! Love you all so much!!!!