Monday, June 13, 2011

Triumphant return?

Well hello world,

This post is coming to you from the diaspora. Oh Israel how my heart yearns...

It has been almost 2 months since I have last blogged. Yikes! I remember feeling really proud of myself in April when I realized I had managed to keep up a rather consistent blog for the entire time I was in Israel. I got so close...

A TON has happened in the 2 months that I have been on hiatus from the blogging world. I'm not even going to try and cover everything because that would take me forever and you would probably have a novel on your hands. So I will give you a summary, maybe some highlights, we'll see how it turns out.

1. So I left off at the beginning of Passover. So after the seders I went to Jordan. wooo. I went with two other classmates/friends, one of whom will be my roommate next year and the other of whom I will be working with this summer! So first we spent shabbat in Eilat and we got hosted by Chabad. We got set up with this really nice family and the experience was very positive, which wasn't what I expected. We had the whole dinner in Hebrew, and talked about a lot of different things, learned a little Torah. We didn't tell them we were studying to be rabbis because we were nervous about their reaction, but really they were great people. I think there is so much negativity that comes from both sides, but not everyone that disagrees with you is a bad person. Maybe someday we will all be able to get past our disagreements, or still disagree but in less violent ways and we can all sit around and eat shabbos dinner together. This was pretty close.

Yeah so Jordan was cool. We went to Wadi Rum and Petra. I actually liked Wadi Rum better out of the two. We hired this awesome beduin guide to take us around and we did lots of hiking. It was super fun and so beautiful. Since it was still passover we brought some matzah and stuff into Jordan, which was pretty hilarious. mmm matzah (yuck).

2. Uhh lots of stuff? Life was busy after passover. Finals were starting, papers were due, I had more friends move into town. Everything was really really great, and a lot of what I thought about was how soon I was leaving and how badly I did not want to go.

3. Yom hashoah- holocaust remembrance day. So during the day we had a special ceremony for holocaust remembrance. The most moving part of the day was definitely the siren. At 10am a siren sounds all across Israel and everyone stops for the minute that it sounds. Cars pull over to the side of the road and drivers get out. It was really powerful to see this happen. We were standing out on king David st and the siren went off and people really did get out of their cars. There was such unity in that moment of collective remembrance. Even though there are Jews who did not lose family in the holocaust it is still a tragedy of our people (yes a people, more on that in another entry later). It was also powerful that there was a place where Jews could collectively remember is such a fashion, and where the nation could stop for that minute. I don't know if something like that happens anywhere else in the world.

4. Yom hazikarom and Yom ha'atzmaut- Memorial day and independence day. In Israel the day of remembering those who have died fighting for the land of Israel and Israeli independence day come one right after the other. There is a special transition ceremony that ends memorial day and starts independence day. I was lucky enough to get tickets to go see this ceremony during the dress rehearsal. It was so interesting how these state holidays have been ritualized and have a strong ring of other Jewish rituals. The line of Israeli and Jewish is very strange, something I continue to ponder over. Anyways this ceremony consists of having people light torches and lots of singing and dancing and fireworks at the end. I'm sure I had lots of interesting thoughts, but I just didn't write this entry soon enough.

So then real memorial day (the rehearsal was about a week before) was actually the saddest day I've experienced in Israel. I went to a ceremony at the beginning of memorial day at the western wall. They have different soldiers come in and people speak in honor of those who have died and then a kaddish is said. There was also a siren at night where everyone stops like the one on yom hashoah. It was chilling again. The thing about memorial day in Israel is that most people have been closely affected by the violence. When the vast majority of the population has been or is a soldier in the army this stuff hits extremely close to home. This was also a day that I felt the most disconnected with Israel, I felt distant because I could not relate to this sadness. I could and did try, but it is so far from my realm of experience (thankfully) that I couldn't feel like a part of the collective. There was also another siren the next day and HUC took us to a ceremony at a local high school. The whole day Jerusalem seemed pretty quiet and somber, it was intense. Especially compared to American memorial day (which I was around for), I went to a bbq and played bocci and there were sales.

So the strangest thing happens at around 8pm after memorial day when it officially becomes independence day. Israel as a whole has one of the most extreme mood swings ever. It goes from very sad to jubilation in a matter of minutes. Right around 8 or 9 I started hearing fireworks and loud music and the city (and probably the whole country) came alive. It was wild!! I had a great time. There was so much fun stuff going on around Jerusalem, and everyone was out in the streets celebrating. I guess that's what happens when independence is still something you can't take for granted and is challenged all the time, you have that much more reason to celebrate your independence. The next day (it is still independence day) Israel becomes a bbq. No but seriously. Everyone is bbqing. It was wild. Walking past one of the parks in Jerusalem and it is PACKED with people bbqing. I went to a bbq and then went to the New Israel Museum because it was free for the holiday, woot. It was a fun day. Israel is incredible.

5. End of school. Finals were not stressful, because I was already so stressed about leaving Israel. There were a bunch of closing activities we did as a class, and it was interesting to think back on the year and how much we have gotten to know one another. We went from not knowing one another to knowing too much about one another. Especially now that I am gone I realize what a special community we had. I am happy that the Jewish world is small so I know I don't have to go to long without seeing all my buddies.

6. Lag ba'omer. So the omer is the period of days that is counted between passover and shavuot. These days are supposed to be sad, so traditionally people will practice certain customs related to Jewish mourning, for example not cutting one's hair or shaving. Traditionally people don't get married during the days of the omer either. So lag ba'omer, or the 33rd day of the omer is a break from the sadness and it is a festive day. It is customary to build bonfires. So let me tell you, dang, it was crazy. I think people stow away wood all year in preparation for this day. There were HUGE bonfires, and lots of them were in stupid unsafe locations (oh Israelis). I went with some friends to the big park in Jerusalem and walked around watching all the fires. It was also cool because religious and secular people alike were celebrating and burning lots of wood. There are fun things about Jewish holidays that both observant and non-observant alike can appreciate and enjoy (I think this is true for all the holidays, so let's make it happen in our communities in America!). But yeah it was wild. There was so much fire everywhere. A pyromaniacs dream come true!!

7. Leaving. I left Israel May 24th. I definitely left a part of me there, but not enough because I am here in my room in Belmont. While I was very sad to leave my friends I had made there I was also extremely sad to leave the land of Israel. I have developed such a strong love of Israel despite all the complicated and challenging things that happen there. It sucks, I feel like I have gotten myself into a long distance relationship, and I am not a fan of those, but unfortunately at this time I can't go back, so I'm stuck because I refuse to end things with Israel. I miss it so much.

8. Life after Israel? Definitely a little bit of culture shock being back. For one thing there have been a few occasions where I was maybe a bit too blunt with my friends. Sorry guys if I offended you, but what I said was the truth. I think Israel is smarter in that way, I enjoy the ability to say what you actually mean instead of beating around the bush and sugar coating everything. I also had some weird times at the grocery store, it was too easy to shop, so much English haha. I am still adjusting, like the whole getting mail on Saturday--what life doesn't stop on saturday? American Sundays. Blue laws. etc

9. Shavuot- the only major Jewish holiday that I have yet to spend in Israel. I was pretty sad about this because the holidays are so spectacular in Israel, sigh. Also two day yom tov, what's up with that? So Shavuot celebrates the Jews receiving the Torah (it's also linked to the festival of the first fruits), and there is a custom to stay up all night studying because there is a story that says the Jews fell asleep while they were waiting to get the Torah so we have to make up for it. So I ended up going to this study session thing in brookline and it was super cool. There were a lot of good people there. It also gave me hope that there are fun, young communities of Jews outside of Israel. Yeah I learned some good stuff, oh man I love text study. Also check out exodus 24, there is some trippy sh*t in there. I also ran into my friend from youth group stuff in high school, so that was cool. See? Small Jewish world.

10. This past weekend was the gay pride parade in Boston. I had gone to Jerusalem pride last summer so it was interesting to compare, especially to a place like Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal. Also while there were protests of each parade/march it was less frustrating here in Boston because the protesters were Christian, while in J'lem they were Jewish which was more offensive to me because I identify as Jewish and I don't want to be associated with intolerant people like that. I don't think that's what Judaism is about. It was also raining during the parade this year which was super lame. Honestly Boston? It is June why is it still so friggin cold.

11. I go off to camp on Wednesday. What??? Yeah so many transitions are happening so fast, it's crazy. I will be at camp for a little over a month and then back to Belmont for a few days and then off to L.A (road trip wooo). Life is crazy.

Ok those were some highlights of the past two months. I was inspired to start blogging again, so we'll see how this goes. I mean I am still becoming a rabbi, so the blog name is still appropriate, and I don't plan on changing my name any time soon...

Good night