Friday, March 30, 2007

A few honourable mentions...

Although the rest of this week, as far as work goes has been relatively similar to what I described from Sunday, working on the moshav's satellite farm near Ashkelon, and setting up the irrigation equipment for the paprika field, there are a few intresting things worth mentioning. One of our jobs the past few days (Wednesday and Thursday) has been specifically to connect the long 12 metre pipes together by snapping sprinkles in between them, which was not always such a easy task. However, the job was made more interesting when my friend Joey notices an enormous amount of pottery pieces sticking out of the dirt across thye field. Since the city of Ashkelon, which we were working near, was home to many civilizations, including the ancient Phillistines it's pretty exciting to consider the possibilities of where these items came from and who used them.
(by the way, if you want to see an aerial view of our Paprika field, click here.
Kibbutz Ein Tsurim can be found here !
Last night, after an exhausting day of work, the last before Pesach, I went into Kiryat Malachi with a group of friends and indulged in my favourite Shawarma Shel Shuki, probably my last before Pesach. Last night, at 3 AM, Israel moved into שעון קיץ (Summer Time), it's version of daylight savings time. (By the way, remember when North Amerca used to switch at the beginning of April?) Luckily, I was able to get myself to bed a little early and woke up on time for Shacharit, though it was pitch black for most of the time.
One last interesting item to mention is that over the past week and a half, to watch the kibbutz prepare for Pesach was like to watch a whole city get ready. This was especially true in terms of the Chadar Ochel, which turned over its entire Fleichig kitchen on Monday and served a dairy menu for the entire week. However, our group had a delicious barbecue and bonfion Monday night, so we didn't have to be deprived of meat for as long. Yesterday at lunchtime, the staff began to scrub down the entire eating area and meals from then until today are being held outside on the patio. Luckily, Shabbat meals will be held inside, so all of the food will be Kasher l'pesach, although they are working on an arrangement to serve Challa or Pita as well.
As part of that intense Pesach cleaning, the Kibbutz's כל בו (supermarket) has finished all of their preperations, so this erev Shabbat the bread section has been moved outside.
Wow, I can only imagine how much work it is too prepare for Pesach!
Shabbat Shalom, v'Chag Kasher v'sameach

Sunday, March 25, 2007

An Interesting Week of Work and Shabbat in Be'er Sheva

Sunday and Tuesday
When I woke up on Sunday morning, as I had noted briefly מוצאי שבת, the Kibbutz had turned into a swamp due to all of the heavy rain of the previous week. Consequently, when we got in ourSherut we found out that instead of doing field work as usual, we would be rather be working in the לול (chicken coop) for the day, as we did again on Tuesday. It was a pretty gross experience, and I'll spare some of the details, but after spending both mornings washing chicken toilets in acid and being soaked to the bone, I had definitely had enough of that work. It was definitely interesting, but you won't see me back there anytime soon.
As usual, we had Yom Nativ, where we started with tefillot (and I read Torah, followed by a discussion with Jules Gutin, the International director of USY, where we talked about our feelings about Nativ up to this point of the year. Following lunch, we continued with the second part of the day, which was a program about the Knesset put together by my friend Avram, where we were split up into different parties and acted out scenarios that could happen in the actual Knesset. Most people really got into their roles, and it ended up being a really great program.
Tuesday afternoon/evening
While you already read about what I did during Tuesday at work, I had a pretty fun time after work. After relaxing for a few hours, I studied Talmud for a little bit in the late afternoon with my friend Josh, after which there was ashiur (study session) about the meaning of remembering the Exodus from Egypt, and showing proofs from the Torah that illustrate that when both God and AmYisrael remember, it is always accompanied by action, an appropriate message considering the issues that confront our world today. In addition theShiur was given in Hebrew, which is always good practice for me. After the shiur, we had a group barbecue/bonfire, which was a great opportunity to hang out and spend time together.
On Wednesday, I continued my week of working different jobs by spending the day helping set up for Pesach in the Kibbutz's grocery store, known as the Kol-Bo. I worked with the regular staff, overseen by the manager, Chaya, a 7th generation Yerushalmi with 8 children, as well as 5 South Africans and Australians who are studying at Yeshiva and spending two weeks working on Kibbutz. It was a nice change of pace for a day from working outside, and an interesting challenge to remove all of thechametz products (necessary, being a Jewish-owned store), and price and lay the Pesach ones.
After finishing work and picking up my laundry, I took some time off and went with my friend David to visit with his host family from the kibbutz,Yehuda Noiman. who was one of the founders of the Kibbutz in 1946 when it was in Gush Etzion , and was held in captivity for ten months by the Jordanians during the war of Independence in 1948. He has a museum with many fascinating artifacts in one of the Kibbutz's bomb shelters, and it was interesting to hear from him what it was like defending the Kibbutz almost sixty years ago, as he was truly a founder of the State of Israel.
On Thursday, I finally returned to working in the fields following a two week hiatus, and was very happy to be back at my old job, despite all of the exciting goings on in between. We fixed some irrigation piping in a Tomato field, and then loaded 75 rubber pipes ontoa truck to prepare for irrigating another field.
On Friday, I got ready for Shabbat and prepared to go with my roommate Yosef to head down to Be'er Sheva and visit friends on the other Nativ track who is volunteering band living in an absoption centre there. A little before noon, we walked out of Kibbutz and caught a ride to Kiryat Malachi. Once there, we stopped off at the רב שיווק Supermarket, which reminds me a bit of No Frills, and bought a bottle of wine forShabbat, after which we stopped at may favourite, Shawarma She Shuki and bought lunch.. After lunch, we walked down the street to צומת קסטינה (Kastina Junction), where one can catch a a bus to many different destinations. Instead of taking a usual Egged bus, we instead took a new discount bus line calledMetropoline, which cost 40% less, and after leaving at 1:15, we arrived at the Be'er Sheva Central Bus Station an hour later. We then hopped a city bus and arrived at the Mercaz Klita, where my friend Hillel met us and took us to his apartment, where I saw my friends Daniel Peaceman and Daniel Goldschmidt. We had a good while to relax, and I watched an episode of West Wing, showered and helped set the table for dinner. We davened friday night at the Kipa Shul, where a man with a beautiful voice led a tradtional Carlebach Kabbalat shabbat. We returned home and eight of us sat down for a leisurely shabbat Dinner. After Dinner we ralxed for a while, and then I got a nice night of sleep. On Shabbat morning we woke up and davened at the Rambam synagogue, a regular Orthodox shul that started at 8:30 and was finished by 10:20. I received Hagbah and there was a nice D'var torah after the haftarah.
Since it was so early, we went back to Hillel's and relaxed until 12:30, when ten of us gethered for another extremely pleasant shabbat meal. I spent the afternoon relaxing and napping, running the short walk to the shul for mincha around 5:15. As Shabbat ended,we davened ma'ariv, and threw together an impromptu havdalah. Before heading home, four of us ordered Pizza for dinner and we eventually made it back to Kibbutz around 10:15.
Today, we were again back to working in the fields, and during work we actually took a 'field trip', driving to a satellite field of the Moshav, an hour away by tractor, and prepared it for the planting of paprika. For the rest of the morning, we worked in a field that was being sown with tomato plants.
שבוע טוב!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Leadership Seminar and שבת in ירושלים!

After another relaxing and enjoyable shabbat on Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, with my friends Mendy and Phil visiting, Motzei Shabbat it was time to (order pizza delivery! and) get start packing for our week-long leadership seminar which took place in various locations around the country. It was a very action packed week, and I’m so excited to share it with everyone.

On Sunday morning, I woke up early as usual, davened, ate breakfast, and took care of some last minute odds and ends. Although the bus was supposed to pick us up at 9 AM sharp, it was quite delayed and didn’t arrive until about 10:15. After a rest stop (for our friends who had already been traveling for a while from Beer Sheva and Yerucham) and a broken down bus, we finally arrived at Beit Nati in Yerushalayim around noon. We had a little while to catch our breath, put our things away and eat lunch. Our first lecture was by Neil Lazarus, a british Oleh who works in Israel advocacy, and who had spoken to us on Pilgrimage as well. His talk, which was supposed to focus on Public Speaking, was a little more humorous than informative, but I still picked up a few good tips. Our other lecture for the day was about ‘thinking outside of the box’, and was given by a cousin of our director. It was pretty interesting, in that it showed us how hard it really is in most circumstances to not go with the first idea that comes to mind. Dinner was provided, but was dairy and looked pretty unappetizing, so I went with a friend and got my favourite 300g burger.

The next morning began with Shacharit, which I got to lead, and following breakfast we continued with our sessions for the day. Our first one focused on leadership and program planning, and was okay, but next one, led by David Keren, the director of USY programs in Israel and former director of Nativ, was amazing. David focused on an innovative method for teaching Jewish text, and after studying a midrash in chevruta, we spent the rest of the session just asking questions. It was pretty amazing how many we came up with. We then had lunch and a short break, and soon we were back for afternoon sessions. The first focused on games that teach about Israel that can be used children, and the second, led by our staff Jesse and Yael, and they spoke about the tension between identifying as North Americans or Jews, and the tension between the two. They then discussed with us about the importance of considering Aliyah as a choice for the future. Luckily, we ended the session early, shortly before 5, and I quickly ran over to the Conservative Yeshiva, where I made in time for the Shuir segment of one of my favourite classes, advanced midrash with Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein. It felt so nice to be back at Yeshiva, and although the class had gotten a little smaller, it was still just as nice of an experience as I remembered. After Maariv at Yeshiva, I went with 5 friends to the Red Heifer (as in the special maftir the other week!) steakhouse to celebrate my friend Phil’s 19th birthday. I decided to save a little money and not go for a steak, but instead got a delicious sandwich of brisket, pastrami, and chopped liver, along with mashed potatos and a complimentary glass of wine. It was a really nice evening and a great opportunity to spend time with friends casually.

On Tuesday morning, because there was a worry about having a minyan for someone saying kaddish, I davened Shacharit at the Conservative Yeshiva, which was nice to be there just like old times. There was a light breakfast after tefillot, and soon it was time to pack up and say goodbye to Beit Nativ and Jerusalem for a few days. Our first stop was at the Kibbutz Maale Hachamisha hotel, where we had the day’s sessions. In the morning we discussed the lessons of the four sons of the Haggadah with Nahum, our assistant director, and the next session I had was with Yossi and focused on bringing back Israel to camp this summer. By then it was time for lunch, and we were treated to one of the delicious Maale Hachamisha buffets that I remember so well from pilgrimage. After davening mincha as a group, we had a break and then a session about being a dugma (personal example) with Jules Gutin, the director of USY. In the late afternoon, we boarded busses and traveled to kibbutz Hannaton, which is located in the Galil just northwest of Nazareth. It had been pouring all afternoon, which would set the weather pattern for the rest of the week. It made things a little interesting, but didn’t take away too much from the fun, and was good for the land as well. We had a good fleichig dinner, and I hung out and relaxed for the rest of the night.

Wednesday morning, we woke up, davened, ate breakfast and soon got on to road to Dani-Hi in Cesarea, a site which is used by the army for training and shooting practice, but also offered tem-building activities for groups such as ours. The 81 or so of us were split into four groups, and for the morning we engaged in different activities which focused on team-building, trust, and cooperation, including passing each other through a web of ropes without touching them, or helping each other up a smooth wall with no grips. Shortly before noon the skies opened up and it started pouring, so we eventually made our way to a gymnasium to wait out the storm. After about an hour we had lunch and in the afternoon we did rock climbing, drumming/martial arts, and finally paintball. It was my first time playing, and was a very fun and exciting experience. The day went by pretty quickly, and around 5:30 we left to return to Hannaton. We davened maariv, had an indoor barbecue dinner, and I relaxed for the rest of the night.

On Thursday we checked out of Hannaton in the morning and drove south towards Herzliya, where we spent the day at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC), a well-regard Israeli private university. In the morning we heard from the dean of Admissions, some students, among them three bogrei native, and heard the head of the overseas school speak about the middle east situation. Following a catered lunch, we were given a tour of the campus, and ended leadership week off with an intense lecture by Jules Gutin about the future direction of the Conservative Movement.

Luckily for me, Nativ decided to provide a bus to Jerusalem for the many of us, including myself who wanted to spend our Shabbat there, so by a little after 5 PM I was dropped off directly in front of the Fuchsberg centre. However, when I stepped off the bus I noticed that it was actually hailing outside, so I went in and sat in the lobby for a while until the storm calmed down a bit. While the rain had let up a bit, there was still some thunder and lightning, so I decided to play it safe and hop the #14 bus down towards Emek Refaim. I didn’t have too much trouble making it the few blocks to the apartment of my Chevruta Miron and his wife Naomi. I dried off, had something to eat and caught up a bit. But before I knew it, 8 o’clock rolled around and it was time for a small chametz finishing party combined with a showing of the Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston. It was pretty funny, especially for my first time seeing it, and pretty long, keeping us occupied until after midnight.

I slept in of Friday until a little past seven, woke up and got ready, and made it to the Great Synagogue on time for the 8:00 Shacharit. After davening I went to Meah Shearim and did one of my favourite activities, book shopping at Manny’s, and after buying 3 New haggadot, picked up some flowers for Shabbat on a street corner and some bourekas to munch on at Mister Zol. Shortly after I returned to Miron and Naomi’s apartment, I set out with Miron and we went up and down Emek Refaim stopping at all of the different little local stores to shop for Shabbat. After getting a falafel for lunch, we went back and I helped with cooking and cleaning for Shabbat. Around 4 PM my friend Matt Tepperman arrived and joined us for Shabbat. After showering and getting dressed, we walked down the street to Yakar, where we took part in a joyous and spiritual Kabbalat Shabbat davening. We walked back to the apartment and since Miron and Naomi live on the 11th floor, we were lucky to catch the Shabbat elevator which stopped every other floor all the way up. After relaxing for a little bit, our friends from Yeshiva, Annie and matt arrived and we had a great Shabbat dinner together.

Shabbat morning I woke up, got ready, and Matt and I walked down the 11 flights of stairs and took a 15 minute stroll to Yedidya. It was a very lovely davening, as always, and I was even asked to lead Shacharit. After hanging out at the Kiddush, we took a leisurely walk back to the apartment, and even caught the Shabbat elevator again. For lunch, our friend Avram joined us and we again had a delicious, lovely, and relaxed meal. After a two hour Shabbat nap, I went back to Yedidya for Mincha (where I did Gelilah), a limud about Pesach/Seudah Shlishit, and maariv. On the way back, it was raining and it kept getting heavier, so I was pretty soaked by the time I got back to the apartment. I relaxed for a little while, and made Havdalah before hitting the road around 7:30 so I could catch a #18 bus to the תחנה מרכזית (Central Bus Station), and caught the usual 437 Ashkelon back to kibbutz.

Shavua tov…and an early Hodesh tov!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

וימי הפורים האלה ...and these days of Purim

While I hope to go back and give a brief update of last week, which was mostly filled with hard work, I thought I'd go back just a few days, and describe my unique experiences of celebrating Purim twice, once on kibbutz Ein Tsurim, and again in Jerusalem the next day (this can be done because of Jerusalem's status as a walled city, meaning that Purim is celebrated on the 15th of Adar instead of the 14th).
Erev Shabbat:
Although I thought it would be a relaxing day, this past friday was actually pretty busy. It started out as usual with Davening at 6 AM, relaxing time, and breakfast. I then made a quick run to the Kol Bo, and the spent the morning peparing decorations for our Purim party Motzei Shabbat. I had been craving a good shawarma, so my friend Matt and I went into Kiryat Malachi for lunch and some shoping at the grocery store there, which was full of displays of Purim goodies.
Shabbat Zachor:
Friday Night we had tefillot as a group, after which I went to the Chadar Ochel for dinner. Following dinner and Zemirot, my friend Josh and I led a study session on Purim, where I taught a funny text from Masechet Megillah (Daf 7a), and Josh led a discussion.
Shabat morning we davened in the Kibbutz Beit Knesset, where services were nice and (relatively) fast, but including some nice Purim touches, such as misheberachs for people's ages, and including Mordechai Hayehudi v'Esther Hamalka! After tefillot, I went with my friend Abbie to our host family from the Kibbutz, Avraham and Rivka Slater, to eat Shabbat lunch with them, their children, and new granddaughter. besides for being a really nice family to get to know, it was also a pleasure to have a delicious home-cooked meal. I then got a great Shabbat nap for most of the afternoon until it was time for Mincha, when I was Gabbai and added my own special misheberachs. We then had seudah shlishit outside, and I led maariv and we did Havdalah. We only had a few minutes to get ready before megillah reading #1 began. I quickly changed into my costume, as the red Teletubbie, (Nes Gadol Hayah) Po!

Reading #1 was held a Yeshivat Ein Tsurim, the modern Orthodox Yeshiva on the Kibbutz grounds. We arrived just in the nick of time for the reading which began promptly at 7 PM. The entire megillah was read by one student, who was nearly flawless in his reading and added voices for some of the characters as well. The tsibbur was made up mostly of the students who are my age or a little older, was well as some faculty and others.
After the reading we had some time to relax and hang out, and around 10 PM, the other Nativ groups from Be'er Sheva and Yeruham came to kibbutz for a Purim costume/dance party.

The next morning, I got to sleep in a little past my usual wake up of 5:40, and got up and ready in time for Shacharit and megillah reading #2 at 8 AM Shacharit and megillh reading. Shacharit, was little less rushed then usual, and the Kedusha was even done to the tune of Ani Purim. Although the reading was a little quicker than the night before, it was still pretty festive and I was still able to understand every word.
After the end of Shacharit, we found out that there was a bit of a mix up with our Purim seudah from the kitchen, and there wasn't any food for us. However, we didn't dispair and instead bought an assortment of delicious brunch food at the כל בו (general store).The Seudah was held in the late morning and despite the hitches, went off pretty well, including my recitation of the 'Purim Kiddush'! I left Kibbutz shortly after noon and caught the 437 Ashkeklon-Jerusalem Egged bus, got a round trip ticket, and was off towards Jerusalem. When I arrived it felt so good to be back, almost like coming home. After going through security and walking through the bus station, I headed down rechov yafo and took a walk around downtown, so happy to be surrounded by the city as it got ready for purim, with music playingt in the streets, people walking around, and warning signs in Meah Shearim ('On Purim, Don't leave the kids alone!'). I then Walked back towards downtown via Strauss and King George Streets, and a little while later caught the 7א bus to the Moshe family's home in Talpiot. I got dropped of just a block and a half away, and ran into Janet right outside her house. We went upstairs, caught up and chatted for a while, and soon it was time for me to shower and get ready for the beginning of Shushan Purim!

For reading #3 I returned to one of my favourite shuls, Kehilat Yedidya, for what was one of the most joyful megillah readings I have ever heard. Around 6 PM, the room began to fill up and within 15 minutes both sides of the mechitza were packed. After a festive Maariv service, the megillah reading began. The different chapters were read by both men and women, and many of the readers used amazing special voices for lines spoken by Mordechai, Esther, Achashverosh, Haman, and Zeresh (his wife). There was also a trumpet that someone brought and played at appropriate phrases during the text. As well, the kahal also made appropriate noises at different points, in addition to some good booing for haman. After the end of megillah reading, I went back to Janet's, ate dinner, and read until I fell asleep.
I woke up around 7 on Monday morning, had a cup of tea, and then took a leisurely 40 minute walk to the Conservative Yeshiva. I got there, talked to people for a while, and then got ready to daven P'sukei D'zimra and Shacharit. Both were drawn out in honour of the holiday, and included pop tunes, nusach for every holiday, and more, which was fun, despite being long. During the Torah service I did a pretty improved hagbah, and soon it was time for megillah reading #4. Each of the 10 chapters was read by a different Yeshiva student and although there weren't as many funny voices as the previous night, I was impressed by the high quality of all of the readings. After the conclusion of Shacharit, and a purim edition of the dedication of the day's learning, the Yeshiva sponsored a delicious brunch outside in the courtyard. After the meal, we went back into the Yeshiva for both the staff and student purim shpiels, as well as a talent auction for Tzedaka. The shpiel was hilarious, full of inside jokes, all of which I got of course. It was already 1 PM by the time the shpiel ended, so I ran around the corner and after missing the first #7 bus, another one miraculously pulled up two minutes later. Janet's seudah was very nice, with an interesting mix of families and friends, although I didn't really know anyone. Around 5:30, I realized that it'd take a while to get back, and said goodbye. I then took a number 21 bus to the תחנה מרכזית (central bus station), and just made the the 6:45 bus to Ashkelon (which stops right outside kibbutz).
The past two days have been filled with getting back into the work routine, getting over a cold, finishing The Kite Runner, and just enjoying kibbutz life.
Boy, its almost time to start thinking about Pesach!
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