So I apologize for not updating sooner, but there is still no internet in my apartment so it's hard (and SO ANNOYING). I just wanted to say a thank you to everyone who is reading my blog, it's nice to hear I'm not just talking to myself on the internet haha. Feel free to comment and ask questions too!
Gosh so today is my 1 week anniversary of getting to Israel. I feel like I am completely over the jet-lag, so that's an accomplishment. It's weird that I've been here only a week, sometimes I feel like I've been here forever, but others I feel like I just got here, so I'm still a bit confused.
All the days kind of blur together, so here are some highlights:
-On Tuesday, I think, me and Beni (a fellow first year rab student) went out and got 2 mesechet ta'anits (a certain tractate of Talmud). Then we went back and went through a couple of sugyot (sections) and studied it. That was great. I majored in Talmud at JTS and I really love it, so I was happy to be able to sit down with another person and trying and untangle what the rabbis are saying. I'm excited to study Ta'anit, I hear there are lots of strange things in there, so I will def keep you posted on what I'm learning or if I come accross something crazy.
-Later Tuesday I tried to go to the mall to get some sheets and towels and I waited at the wrong bus stop for an hour. That sucked, but I guess I can pass as Israeli because while I was waiting other Israelis kept asking me questions about the bus, so I felt kinda cool.
-either Tuesday or Monday I went to hear David Hartman speak at the Hartman institute. He was great. I wish I had gotten the chance to write about it earlier because he raised a lot of interesting questions. As a jumping off point he used a text from the Talmud (sanhedrin 97b) where Rav and Shmuel are having a disagreement. These two rabbis are arguing about what is enough for one to be redeemed. Rav says you can only be redeemed if you do tshuvah (hard word to translate, but commonly translated as repentence) and good deeds. Shmuel disagrees and says that it is enough to be redeemed if a mourner maintains his/her will to live during the period of mourning. There is so much to say about this, and Hartman certainly said a lot about it especially Shmuel's view. The will to live is a powerful thing, but in some circumstances it can be hard to maintain. Hartman used life for Israelis as a way to illustrate this point. The fact that so many Israelis have died fighting wars or in suicide bombings, etc and yet they go on living their lives and not just living them, but wanting to live them. In the end both Hartman (and maimonides) side with Rav because it is not enough just to want to live, you have to work to make the world you live in a better place. He spoke about the "kingdom of God," and if that kingdom is supposed to be Israel then people have to figure out what they want the kingdom to look like. You could take the one attitude that God will bring about his kingdom so we just have to wait around for it, or you could come up with your vision and work to improve it. Along those lines one of my favorite quotes of the night that I wrote down was said by Hartman quoting the gemara (I would love to know the exact source if anyone could tell me): "someone who lives a week without a dream isn't a Jew." I thought this was a beautiful quote, but having goals and dreams are so important. To be constantly striving to be the best person you can be and to make the world you are living in the best place it can be, I would say is a Jewish value (but it's definitely not exclusively a Jewish value).
In his speech he said many interesting things, and I could go on and on and on, but I won't. One interesting quote I wrote down is when he was talking about Israel. He said "do I become more Jewish by the Jews I exclude or the Jews that I welcome?" This is something that has really been bothering me lately. I think it should, no question, be the second option. Judaism should be about embracing other Jews, we are a Jewish people. When I hear about Jews throwing rocks at other Jews or that incident recently where a woman got beat up for wrapping tefillin that makes me so upset. 1. Do you think it's going to help convince someone you are right/your interpretation of Judaism is right by hurting them!? 2. The Jewish people have gone through so much shit, we should NOT be violent and so unsupportive of each other. I think it is great that there are so many ways to practice Judaism and I think it is healthy to have arguments about it, but they should be respectful and not alienating. This is a HUGE problem here in Israel. Just look at the kotel (the western wall). If you want to pray there it is basically like walking into a super ultra-orthodox shul. There have been instances where women were arrested for wearing tsitsit katan (http://www.danshabat.com/tsitsitnew.php) when they go to the wall. While tsitsit are traditionally worn by men, women are never forbidden to wear them, they just aren't necessarily commanded to wear them, it's complicated. BUT regardless, if someone is observing Judaism and cares enough to put on tsitsit everyday that shouldn't be something to arrest them for. Are you so threatened by change that this is unacceptable? And why is it worse for someone to take on ADDITIONAL jewish practices, the secular Jews who do nothing would never get arrested and if you are interested in keeping the Jewish people alive wouldn't you be more concerned about people who aren't practicing and aren't preserving the tradition? Ugh can you tell it pisses me off?! (also that last example I am not trying to call out secular Jews or anything, I believe that people should practice their Judaism in a way that feels right to them, I'll write a blog about this later).
-Anyways back to Israel/things I've done. I finally made it to the mall and got some sheets. They are purple and they make me happy. I had the ugliest comforter I've ever seen so I'm very happy that I was able to get a cover for it in my favorite color. My room finally feels like MY room and not just a room I am sleeping in. Which is great.
-Today my friend Ory (shout out!) and a few of his friends went on a mini hike thing. It was definitely spur of the moment but I am so glad I went along. We drove out to a part of the west bank I think it's called anamot or something and there is this beautiful national park there. It was a 20 minute drive from Jerusalem, but suddenly it feels like you are in the wilderness, there are very few houses and just these incredible views of mountains and valleys. Damn. So we went on a short trail to a spring, it is one of the only sources of water for miles (one of Ory's friends was a tour guide, so he knew all these interesting facts). It gets really friggin hot here, so it was wonderful to go for a little swim in the spring, although the fish definitely creeped me out.
After finishing hiking we drove out to a place near Jericho to see this crazy monestary. I really wish I had brought my camera, but the view was incredible. We were up on this ridge thing and looking down at this huge monestary cut into the stone of the other side of the ridge. This monestary had been around for about 1000 years or something, but rebuilt a bunch of times. It was cool to get to see. Near this area is where a bunch of the Jewish settlements are and the "illegal outposts" or whatever they are called. It's crazy to think these little clusters of houses out in the middle of nowhere are causing so much trouble/drama. I was told that these outposts are mostly built by kids/ young adults who want a place to hang out away from the settlement or are lived in by young poor couples because its super cheap. Israel is a complicated place. oy
Last thing, and then I will end this novel of an entry, ISRAELIS HONK WAYYY TO FRIGGIN MUCH. Seriously it drives me nuts. I live on a busy street that gets a little jammed up during rush hour and cars just sit there honking away. ITS NOT HELPING, YOU ARE NOT GONNA GET THERE ANY FASTER BY MAKING LOTS OF NOISE POLLUTION (and waking up yours truly). Can you tell it pisses me off, haha. I was saying this to someone, I can't remember who, and they replied that it's because Israelis always like to speak their minds. haha well said. But seriously it's ridiculous. Keep in mind I'm saying this after living in NYC.
Ok well I'm off, I'm going bowling in a little bit so I'm excited. I will impress (not) all of my classmates with my mad skillzzzzz.