So after being on encounter and feeling pretty down about Israel, I went with my class on a trip down to the south and rediscovered my love for this place. Israel lets me down, but it also impresses me and is a place that has a lot of meaning for me. Confusing.
So the trip...We left on Wednesday and headed down to this development town called Yerucham. There really isn't anything exciting there, I guess the noteworthy thing is that it is becoming a better place to live after it was formerly a place that new immegrants were shipped to and just wanted to leave. I dunno...
For the entire trip we stayed at Kibbutz Yahel which is a Reform kibbutz in the negev. It's a really nice place. Being in the desert was awesome. It is sooo beautiful with all these looming mountains and different colored rocks. I recommend it. It was also nice to be in a place where Reform Judaism is accepted and used. Jerusalem is really religiously intense, so it was nice to be outside of J'lem in a more relaxed environment.
Thursday of the tiyul was my favorite day. We had the options of two hikes, and I chose to hike Mt. shlomo, which is one of the hardest hikes in Israel. It was soooo fun. The views were AMAZING, and it was a challenging hike, but not so challenging that I felt like I was going to die. There were lots of obstacles and things we had to climb on both up and down. Everyone was really supportive and encouraging, so that was also cool. I highly recommend it.
Also down in this area there is the Yotvata headquarters/factory thing. They make milk and chocolate milk, etc. So we stopped there after the hike and also one other time. They have great ice cream there, and chocolate milk, but you can get the milk from them most places around the country. In Israel (I'm not sure if there are other places you can find this) they have chocolate milk in a bag...it sounds weird, but it's awesome. mmmmmmmm
Then on Friday we went to Kibbutz Lotan, which is this really cool environmental/Reform kibbutz. They do a lot of cool work there in terms of trying to be environmentally friendly. They even make houses out of used tires and stuff, so they can reuse their waste. While we were there we had the option of doing different projects. I helped to plant some vegetables for their garden. We tried to plant them following the way it is said you are supposed to do it in the Mishnah, which was interesting. I don't know how many restrictions people have who plant/farm in the land of Israel, but there are a lot of interesting directions about it in the Mishnah. Good stuff...
After being at Lotan we drove down to Eilat to go snorkeling/have some beach time. The weather was wonderful!! I laid out in the sun and got some color. It was crazy the temperature difference between Eilat/where we were staying and Jerusalem, even though the drive is only about 3 hours!
After Eilat we drove back to Yahel to get ready for Shabbat. We had services at the kibbutz that were lead by some HUC students, and then we had a lovely dinner and some z'mirot singing (my favorite!!!!!). Afterwards I also played some bananagrams (good times).
Saturday was also very relaxing. We had services outside in the desert which was pretty cool. It was so beautiful to look around at everything. There is something very spiritual about the desert. I also read Torah (3rd week in a row!).
We had some interesting study sessions on Saturday also, and then when shabbat ended we boarded the bus to go home to J'lem. It was a great time! I think it is so important to get out of J'lem every once and a while, it is kind of like in NYC where everything is just so intense (obviously in a different way) and it is necessary to get out and breathe every once and a while.
What else?? My fam fam is here. Well part of it. My Dad and step mom and step siblings are all visiting Israel (and my bro is here studying abroad) so it's been fun to see them, even though school gets in the way.
I also taught my Talmud class on Sunday. It's a new group of kids with some of the same but a lot different. I taught together with the other teacher and next week we are going to split up, so I am waiting to see how my class will look. I taught this text (b'rachot 62a) that was pretty racy. Well kind of. It is about these students who followed their rabbi/teacher into the bathroom to learn the proper way to go #2. When challenged as to why they dared to that they say "It is torah and I must learn it." We talked about what the limits of Torah is, and if you believe that torah means all learning, is there Torah in the bathroom? I think it's an interesting question. We also talked about the limits of learning, is it acceptable to go as far as violating your teacher's privacy in that way. What if they had just asked their teachers? There are lots of good questions that are raised by this text.
What else...today I just got back from an army base. As part of our Israel seminar they took us to an army base and we talked with some soldiers. We went to the paratrooper unit, which is one of the elite units in the army. It is hard to get into, but it's kind of funny that they have a paratrooper unit since they haven't had any paratrooping operations since 1957. It was interesting to talk with them, and see how proud and dedicated they are to Israel and to the military. At the same time I can't be 100% positive about the military since they do some not so great stuff in parts of the west bank. It's not the unit we met with, and I don't know how many people are actually responsible for treating people shittily, but it still happens. I would be interested to go to another army base, where it's not the elite soldiers, and see the differences, if there are.
Um yeah that's about it. Oh except...today was GORGEOUS weather-wise. Oh man. What a beautiful day to be alive and in Israel...