Monday, December 31, 2007

A wonderful Shabbat on Sa'ad שבת בסעד!

For the past three years (since I was on Pilgrimage in the summer of 2005), there have been many times when I was supposed to visit (or live on) kibbutz Sa'ad, and each time, something, either the security situation or other shabbat plans I had. While I thoroughly enjoyed my four months living on Kibbutz Ein Zurim and working on the communal Moshav Massuot Yitzhak, I still felt like something was missing not having lived on Sa'ad or at least visited there, since every Nativ for the first 25 years of the program had done so. Yael, our madricha had told me last year, that I will come back to Israel relatively soon, and that I will visit Sa'ad.
Well, she was right on both counts. When I knew I was coming to Israel, I immediately made plans to spend a shabbat on Sa'ad in order to to finally visit the place I had heard so much about, visit Yael and my fellow Nativer David Landau, who has made Aliyah and is now living on Sa'ad.
After walking around the shuk for a while and getting a shawarma on Friday, I headed over to the Tachana Mercazit (central bus station) and caught the #443, a once a day bus that travels directly by Sa'ad via Sderot. The ride took about an hour and a half, and was very pretty and relaxing, between the fact that the bus was relatively empty (unlike most egged rides I've taken) and that we got to pass by my old digs of En Zurim, Massuot Yitzhak and Negba. It was quite an interesting experience to drive through sderot, the town that has been the focus of Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. While it was hard to see too much from the bus, what I could see is that a small, beautiful community which was simply trying to make a life for itself and its children, has been uprooted from its normal routine and forced to wait at every second for the tzeva adom (red alert) siren to go off in warning of a kassam rocket.
A few minutes after leaving sderot, the bus let me off outside kibbutz Sa'ad, and I did immeaditely notice how I could easily see Gaza on the horizon, but I still felt safe being on Sa'ad, even having never been there before.
David met me at the gate (unlike En Zurim and Massuot Yitzhak, whose gates barely exist, Sa'ad has an operational fence and gate surrounding the kibbutz due to the proximity to Gaza), and we immediately went to say hello to Yael at her family's home and do a little catching up. Before shabbat, David borrowed a car and we went on a grand tour of Sa'ad's fields which seem to stretch on endlessly, at the end of which we even got to have have some clementines that hadn't been harvested.
We then went back to David's room to get ready for Shabbat, and soon departed for tefillot in the kibbutz synagogue, which reminded me of the one at En Zurim, except that Saad's was muxh larger (being a larger kibbutz), has a more liberal women's section (on the sides of the mens section instead of upstairs, and is slightly more beautiful. Tefillot were conducted in white I feel is typical kibbutz style, quickly but without sacrificing the feeling or the necessary singing of tefillot such as Yedid Nefesh, L'cha Dodi or Adon Olam.
After tefillot we attended a short shiur, and then went to the Shlomi family, who are David's adopted family on Kibbutz, for Shabbat dinner. (at this point I should mention that this weekend was a great opportunity to practice my Hebrew speaking. While my Hebrew comprehension is close to perfect, and my speaking is relatively good for an american, I realized that it could still use a decent amount of improvement). We had a very nice dinner with good food and good conversation. Ofer Shlomi comes from a yemenite family,which explains his meticulous Hebrew pronunciation, and he and his wife Tzafchi have 7 children and three granchildren, despite only being about my parents' age. After dinner, Yael came over for dessert, and all of us hung out and chatted for a while. David and I went to bed relatively early since i was still getting over jetlag, and I managed to wake up in time for Shacharit the next morning at 8:30.
Shacharit was pretty quick, just as on En Zurim, and tefillot were over by 10:15. After musaf, Ofer gave a fascinating shiur about the birth of Moshe, and we went back to the Shlomis following the shiur for kiddush. David, Yael and I ate lunch on Shabbat with another family that he had become close with, and had another great time. In typical kibbutz/Israeli style (although not everyone goes all the time), David and I ran across the walk to the Beit Knesset for mincha, and were back at the lunch table in about 15 minutes. In the afternoon we relaxed and hung out with some of the kids, while also getting to see the Kibbutz school and petting zoo. As Yael had told us last year, it was easy to see that the entire school had been covered with an extra overhang that the government provided to stop kassam rockets from hitting the schools. This step was very sad for the kibbutz as a constant reminder of the situation, but it was in the end necessary in case of an attack.
We relaxed for the rest of shabbat, and after maariv, David, Yael and I chilled at her house and in his room, and watched a movie. Later that night, David's roommate Eli returned from the army for the night, and I got to meet him and hear about his experiences in the paratroopers.
On Sunday morning, I decided to be crazy and wake up for a 6 am Shacharit, which was pretty well attended. Around 7, David and I walked over to the Chadar ochel, where I made a quick sandwich and ran out to the gate. Although I unfortunately missed the one bus per day which goes directly to Jerusalem, a taxi pulled up a little later and agreed to take me there for a reasonable rate.
Later that day, after dropping off my bags, I took a leisurely walk downtown, and strolled around ben yehuda, took a side trip to meah shearim, and had a late lunch at Pinati.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Who renews each day in His lovingkiness המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד

I arrived in Israel around 10 am on Thursday, and after davening quickly at the Airport synagogue, I hopped on a Nesher taxi to Jerusalem. An hour and a half after leaving the airport at 11, and following a grand tour of Meah Shearim, I was dropped off at Beit Nativ and left my bags there for the afternoon while I reacquainted myself with Jerusalem.

Well, even though the changes I've noticed haven't come directly from God, I figured this would be a good place to talk about all of the changes I noticed since I last left Israel, and the quote, from weekday shacharit, is fitting since after all, this is Israel. Some of them are pretty minor, but after living here for almost a year and then coming back 7 months later. Here's a quick run through:
-The new kvish 9 is open at the entrance of Jerusalem, which goes directly from the main Road to Ramot and Har Tzofim.
-No more jaywalking from Beit Nativ to Supersol...the finished the construction across the street, and now there's big barriers there to prevent that.
-The Beitza Ayin (ask anyone from the Conservative Yeshiva) delivery motorcycle now has a big egg on top.
-Remember that old, run down restaurant on King George south of Hillel; it's now being turned into a new Cuppa Joe (Kosher, of course).
-The first stage of the Mamilla project is open (directly across from the Jaffa Gate) and includes a collection of upscale shops and cafes.
-There's more traffic than ever.
-Remember the 'museum of taxes?' ein od! That whole block is currently a mess, and it and the former palace hotel (where mishehu larutz ito was filmed) is now being turned into a lucury hotel/condo complex.
-The Hurva synagogue (where the commerative arch used to be in to Jewish quarter) is a long way into its reconstruction, and the exterior shell is almost built.
(addendum)-you may remember the block at the top of Ben Yehuda which was open for cars...that's no longer, since the municipality decided to permanently close this and a few other streets surrounding Ben-Yehuda to cars and add to the pedestrian mall. right nown, the area is a mess, bu when the changover is complete, downtown shouls be even more pedestrian friendly.
Well that's it for now. After spending last night with the Moshe's in Talpit, I'm going to head to Kibbutz Sa'ad to visit friends for Shabbat, which should be lots of fun.

שבת שלום!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Home-Back and Forth הביתה הלוך חזור

The title of this post is also the title of a new song by one of my favorite current Israeli artists, Idan Raichel (you can watch the music video here -it's highly recommended). While the song itself was written to introduce a new movie, Black on White which traces the journey of Cabra Casey, an immigrant artist in Idan's project who was born in Sudan on the way to Israel from Ethiopia, and her trip to trace her journey and discuss her feelings as an immigrant from the Ethiopian community.
I figured that this was a perfect metaphor for my approaching trip, even though my journey and relationship with israel is very different from Cabra's. However, this trip - which is unfortunately, just back and forth - allows me to reflect on my feelings for Israel, after not being there for 7 months, and trying to figure out what is home for me. Although I am very happy here at JTS and Columbia, having just successfully completed my first semester, there is a special, hard to explain pull that Israel has, and which makes me so excited to be going back home, even if its just 'back and forth' for now. While I can't predict exactly what I'll be doing in Israel, my plans include a shabbat on Kibbutz Sa'ad, a trip with the Jewish Agency to look at options for aliyah (AFTER I graduate college), some time with the Moshe family and other friends, and some quality time at the CY...and of course, some good Shwarma!
I hope to restart this blog at some point when I'm in Israel or upon my return, and reflect on my experiences over the next few weeks!
To quote another song lyric, ירושלים, הנה אני בא!
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