Shabbat and Tisha B’Av

I had a very lazy weekend, and I feel somewhat bad that I didn’t do more, but it was nice to have some rest.  On Friday I was supposed to go on a tour of old churches and monasteries, but it was 100 degrees and I didn’t think I could handle the heat. I wish I would have gone, but maybe it was the right choice.  For Friday night Shabbat I went with Wendy, a fellow CY student, to services at Kehilat Kol HaNeshama, an Israeli Reform/Reconstructionist shul in my neighborhood.  The service was really nice and energetic, I didn’t really know any of the tunes/songs so I didn’t enjoy it as much as last week’s service, but it was still really nice.  After services, we went back to her apartment and cooked dinner.  She bought all the food and I was in charge of cooking.  We ended up making shakshuka and stir-fry, and it turned out really well! We watched Netflix documentaries and then I headed home.


Saturday night was the beginning of Tisha B’Av, which is a holiday where we mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples.  These temples were in Jerusalem, so it was really special to actually be in Jerusalem.  In Jerusalem, this holiday is marked by visiting the Kotel, or the Western Wall.  This wall is the last remnant of the Second Temple.  Wendy and I went to a Saturday night service with Kol HaNeshama, which was held in the garden of the Nature Museum.  This involves reading the Eicha, or the Book of Lamentations.  After this, we stopped at her apartment to change clothes and then went to the Kotel at midnight, and it was packed.  To get to the Kotel, you have to go through the Christian Quarter of the Old City, and this entire path was completely filled with people.  The entire Kotel area was full all the way to the stairs, and there were people sitting and laying on the floor crying.  There were a couple of circles of people singing/praying, and we joined the women’s circle for a bit.  One thing I noticed was that every Haredi man was wearing Crocs.  This is because you can’t wear leather in the days leading up to Tisha B’Av, so they can’t wear their usual shoes.

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On Sunday we had no regular classes due to the holiday.  There were some learning sessions at the CY, but I didn’t go to them.  I actually ended up staying in bed basically all day, which was kind of a waste but it was good to get some rest.


Sunsets and Shuk Bites

On Tuesday I had ulpan in the morning (do I even need to say it anymore?), and we had a speaker for lunch.  Rabbi Jeremy Gordon came and had a conversation with Rabbi Levy.  He mostly talked about his experiences at the rabbinical school he went to, JTS.  It was really interesting because he almost didn’t get in to JTS due to his progressive views, and he talked about how he tried to push for these views while in school.  This time lunch was provided for us, and they gave us falafel and fries (people put fries in their shawarma or falafel pitas here).

After lunch, I actually skipped my afternoon class, but for a good reason.  I went to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust memorial museum) to watch my grandfather’s testimony he recorded for the Shoah Foundation.  Yad Vashem has hours accessible to my class schedule, but the visual center where you can watch these videos has much more restricted hours, so the only way I would be able to go was to skip class.  When I walked into the room with all of the computers, not only was I the only woman, but I was the only non-Haredi Jew.


I only got about 2/3 of the way through the video before the museum closed which meant I didn’t have time to walk through the actual museum, but that was fine because I have been there before.  The end of the museum has a really beautiful view.


When I was trying to exit, the security guard stopped me and said there was no exit for five minutes, so I had to wait.  I started to see people with camera equipment walking outside, and then a whole group came out.  Other visitors who were waiting to exit started to get out cameras, and I heard people talking about a president.  I asked someone who it was, and it turns out it was the Italian president walking right by us!

I went back to my neighborhood for dinner, and I went to the Waffle Bar, which I had been wanting to try since I got here.  I got the Oreo waffle, which consisted of Oreo ice cream, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, Nutella, vanilla cream, and vanilla buttercream all atop a waffle.  It was delicious and I was completely stuffed after.


On Wednesday we had another speaker.  Rabbi Tzvi Graetz came to talk to us about the Masorti (Conservative) movement, and pizza was provided.  In the afternoon I had class with Rabbi Alan, where we discussed whether or not “love thy neighbor” refers to anyone or only your Jewish neighbors.  The general consensus is that it likely only refers to other Jews, but it’s really fascinating to talk about.  My second class was supposed to be a tour of the Rehavia neighborhood, but the tour guide was sick.  This left us with the option of going on a tour of the Old City with the French group, but the tour would be entirely in French. Greg and I (the only two people in the walking tour class) decided not to go on the tour, but instead to go to the Emanuel outlet.  This is the factory store for the most popular Judaica brand here, and the prices are heavily discounted.  We were joined by Robert, who is in some of my classes, and we had to race to find a cab because the store closed only 45 minutes after our class ended.  I ended up finding some nice decorations for a really good price.

On Thursday Rabbi Levy led a a multi-faith lunch for me and a couple of other students.  Two of the students at the Yeshiva this summer are not Jewish-we have a Franciscan monk from Japan and a Confucianist student from China.  Both of them were there, as well as a few other students from various areas.  We started a dialogue about what it means to have a multi-faith atmosphere, and we are going to continue our discussion next week.  I had my class with Rabbi Levy after this, and we focused on literature about divorce and hating your spouse.

After class I went to the shuk to use my Bite Card that I had bought online earlier that day.  This is a card you can buy for 99 shekels (about $25), and it has 6 tear-off cards that you exchange for a pre-selected food item at the restaurant on the card.


You can do them in any order, but since I was planning on using the whole card in one visit, I had to start with the dairy items because I can’t eat dairy after meat due to keeping kosher. The first stop was ice cream at Mousseline for ice cream.  I got to choose two scoops, and I chose praline and chocolate.  They also added a scoop of dulce de leche on top.  The cup was very small with three scoops of ice cream in 95 degree heat, and I ended up with chocolate ice cream all over my skirt.


Next up was Hachapuria, a Georgian restaurant that serves khachapuri, which are different variations of savory Georgian pastry.  I got khachapuri that consisted of cheese in triangles of dough.


Next was a “health drink” at Uzi-Eli.  They let me pick from all of the juices they had, and I chose a berry blend.


My next stop was Meorav Yerushalmi for a dish of the same name.  This consisted of chicken livers, spleens, and hearts, mixed with some lamb and hummus in a pita.  It tasted fine, but the texture was a little strange, possibly just because of the idea of what I was eating.


After this I was starting to get overwhelmed and I decided to save my last 2 cards for another day.  I cooled off with a slushie I found before getting on the bus.


I got on the bus that I usually take to get home, but instead of going to my apartment from the stop, I went to the Haas Promenade to watch the sun set.

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Church, McDonald’s, and Pizza (am I in America?)

Sunday started the second week of classes.  As always, I had Ulpan in the morning.  There’s really not anything new to update about that.  One thing I didn’t mention was how diverse the students at the yeshiva are.  We have students and staff from the USA, Argentina, England, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Montenegro, Australia, China, Japan, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Switzerland.  For lunch, we had a young participant lunch, which was for anyone under 30.  We mostly just introduced ourselves and talked about what it’s like to be Jewish where we are from.  After lunch, I had class with Rabbi Levy. The framework of this class is essentially the same every time; we get some new literature that interprets the verse we are looking at, discuss for about 30 minutes in of chevruta, and then discuss as a class.

After class, I decided to go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  It’s a major Christian site, and it’s where Jesus was crucified. It’s also the location of Calvary (Golgotha), and is one of the spots rumored to be the burial and resurrection site of Jesus.  In retrospect, I should have read up more about the history before going, because I didn’t actually know the significance of much. It’s very dark inside, and it’s a lot bigger from the inside than the outside.  At the end of the church is the rumored tomb of Jesus.  There’s a long line for this that winds all the way around the rotunda, but I still decided to wait in line.  The line was slowed down by the procession of monks into the tomb that happened every few minutes.  Even though it slowed things down, it was pretty interesting to watch. The actual tomb area is incredibly small and you have to crawl into it, so only 3 people are allowed in at once. I took a lot of pictures in the church (most of which did not come out well), so I’m just going to share a few of my favorites.

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After finishing at the church, I decided to go to one of the restaurants on my list to try, none other than Kosher McDonald’s. Most of the McDonald’s in Israel are not kosher, but there are a select few that are.  They are distinguished by having blue (rather than red) signs, and being closed on Shabbat.  They are much more expensive than in America, due to how expensive kosher meat is.  A hamburger, small fries, and small Coke cost the equivalent of about $10!  It was still worth it because I can’t eat a burger at any McDonald’s outside of Israel.


The next day I had ulpan in the morning, and Jewish Views of the Other in the afternoon.  We looked at different sources about murdering gentiles, and continued to learn different words that the Torah uses in place of goyim or gentiles.  This was done so that people of other religions who were reading the Torah wouldn’t realize that it called for their murder and destruction.  Rabbi Alan did promise us that our next class would consist of slightly happier text!

After class I walked down a commercial street across the street from the shuk area.  This street mostly consisted of Judaica shops and cafes.  My first stop was at Aldo, a gelato shop.  Israel has the best flavors of gelato and ice cream!  The one I got was Kinder bar flavored.


I browsed a bunch of the shops, keeping note of the ones I wanted to go back to later to buy things.  One item I was looking for was a tallit katan.  This is the one that goes under your clothes, rather than the tallit gadol, which is the more well known, scarf-like item.  If you see tzitzit (fringes) hanging below (usually) a man’s shirt, they are attached to a tallit katan.  I don’t intend on wearing it daily, but I still kind of wanted one to see if I liked wearing it.  After going all the way down the street and seeing most of the shops, I headed to dinner.  I had been wanting to try this pizza place called P2, where you can choose the toppings of your pizza and make it the way you want.  I got cheeseless pizza with broccoli, eggs, onions, and tomatoes.


They also gave me some complimentary watermelon for dessert, which was easily the best watermelon I’ve ever had.  This was supposed to be one of the best restaurants in Jerusalem, but I didn’t think it was really that special.  The crust was really thin, and it felt like eating matzah.  I’m still glad I tried it though!  This restaurant is actually not kosher, which is fine by me, but it was pretty funny to see people eating bacon and cheese pizza in Jerusalem of all places.


Shabbat: Kindness of strangers and feeling like Moses

(This is from last weekend, I’m catching up on my blog)

For Friday night, I had tentative plans with Ann, a woman who is also a student at the Yeshiva.  We had planned to possibly go to a service at an Israeli Reform synagogue near where we live, but we planned to call each other on Friday to confirm plans.  I got a call from her in the afternoon, and it turns out she met a woman at the grocery store who invited us to services at her shul followed by dinner at her house.  The synagogue is new, and has only been around for about 2 years, but was founded on the basis of bringing together people from different backgrounds and experiences, including both Ashkenazim and Sephardim. The service wasn’t in a sanctuary as one might expect, but was in a room that resembled a dane studio. When we got there were only a few people, but the room filled up as the service went on eventually the room was so full that people had to stand.  The service was really cool, and I would say the best service I’ve ever been to.  At first I didn’t know any of the songs because they were all Sephardi, but I was content to just listen because the singing was so nice.  The service was being led by the rabbi, someone who is possibly a cantor, a guitarist, and a man playing the lute.  They eventually moved on to songs that I know, and it was the most joyful service I had ever experienced.  Everyone had so much energy and I didn’t want the service to end!  I’m not sure if I’m going to go again next week; I really want to but I also want to try a different Shabbat experience every week. After the service ended, Ann and I met the woman who invited us to dinner and the other people who would be joining us. It turns out she had only met most of them that day! We walked to her house, which was immaculately decorated (she’s an architect), and were served a delicious homemade dinner of turkey soup, chicken, chicken wings, lentils, salad, green beens, beets, sweet potatoes, cookies, banana bread, and fruit.  I was so stuffed!  It’s pretty crazy that I ended up at the house of a complete stranger for dinner, but I’m so glad I did.  Between Women of the Wall in the morning and the service in the evening, I had a pretty fulfilling day! We actually ended up staying until about 11:30 at night.  I walked back home after that and crashed, due to having woken at 5:45 that morning.

On Saturday, I decided to go to the Israel Museum, which is open on Shabbat.  I had the brilliant idea to walk there, because buses don’t run on Saturday and I didn’t want to pay for a cab.  Google said it would be a 50 minute walk, but I figured it would be about 40 minutes for me because I walk fast. Wrong. I didn’t get lost, but the directions weren’t good and I kept having to look at the map and redirect.  The museum is pretty high up on a hill, so you have to get up there.  I didn’t realize until after that there was a far more sensible way to do this, so I walked through what was basically the wilderness.  With the exception of the path, the area was completely untouched.  I began to wonder whether feeling like you were Moses wandering the desert for 40 years was part of the experience.  Keep in mind that it’s not only in the 90s here, but because it doesn’t rain in the summer, there are no clouds.  This means constant sun beating down on you.  I drank my entire 32oz water bottle before I even got there. I ended up only having about 90 minutes in the museum, so I went straight for the archeology area, which was really the only area I got to see, plus a photography exhibit.

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I went to another building of the museum which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, but photography was not allowed there.  They also have a replica of what Jerusalem looked like in the time of the First and Second Temples. The museum is up on a hill so there are nice views as well.

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After this the museum was closed, and since I wasn’t willing to reverse-trek the whole way home, I took a cab and spent the rest of the night at home.


Women of the Wall

I’ve been looking forward to Friday morning for nearly six months (if not more).  At 7 am on Friday, Women of the Wall (WoW) held a Rosh Chodesh service at the women’s section of the Kotel.  Rosh Chodesh is the celebration of the new month (on the Hebrew calendar).  Women of the Wall (or Nashot HaKotel) is a group that fights for the right of women to have services and read Torah at the Kotel (Western Wall).  This is currently prohibited.  Until recently it was also not permitted for women to wear any ritual objects traditionally associated with men (kippah, tallit, tefillin, etc.), but thanks to WoW this is now (theoretically) allowed. They have a shacharit service for every Rosh Chodesh.  I’ve been watching the live stream video for months so I was really excited to actually be able to go.  My plan was to take the 7 bus to the CY area and then take the 38 bus, which goes right up to the Kotel.  I had planned on meeting some CY people at the Kotel at 6:35, but I was already running late so I my new goal was just to get there on time. I got to my bus stop to find out the next bus wouldn’t be coming for 20 minutes, which would make me late.  It was too important to be to risk being late, so I ended up taking a cab, which was cool because I got to experience driving into the Old City (I’ve only ever walked).

I ended up arriving to the Kotel at the same time as the bus of women from Women of the Wall, and I went through security at the same time as them.  WoW is often met with a lot of resistance, and it starts from the security check.  From what little Hebrew I know, I could make out something about the guards not wanting to let the women bring in their siddurim (prayer books), and they were questioning the photographer because they thought she was from a TV station.  I was able to pass through with no problem (I was somewhat afraid they would confiscate my tallis) and I walked over to the women’s section. Before we even started, there were Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men gathering around the entrance to the women’s section screaming and blowing whistles. The service started and the whistle blowing intensified, including from the women’s section. There were a lot of parts of the service I didn’t know, but I really enjoyed the songs that I did know.

At one point, a man from the other side of the mechitza (division) threw a water bottle over the division and hit a woman in the head.  Closer to the end of the service, a woman whom I recognized as Rachel Cohen Yeshurun joined our group, and talked about how she had just been arrested with the Torah.  Every month, WoW tries to bring in a Torah scroll, but is turned away.  There are Torah scrolls for public use in the men’s section, so no one (man or woman) is allowed to bring in a Torah. However, women are not allowed to access these so that means no Sefer Torah for women.  Rachel was handcuffed and detained for attempting to bring a Torah, but was released in time to catch some of the service.

There was a photographer and videographer there to document the service.  I was really hoping there would be a nice picture of me, but I was disappointed that I was only barely visible in one picture.


(photo credit Yael Gilboa)

I got to take a picture with Anat Hoffman, who is the founder of WoW.  It felt like meeting a celebrity!


Here are a couple pictures I took (on my phone, so excuse the bad quality):

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The last photo is a picture of a woman from the CY and another woman using their bodies to push back a Haredi woman who was blowing her whistle and generally just trying to harass us.  That woman was wearing a sign on her jacket that she taped to herself, which said something in Hebrew I can only guess was warning about the danger of women signing and reading Torah. The police eventually removed her.

I also got a picture of me, and one of all the CY students who were there:

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There were a few news articles about the event, one of which I almost made the photo in.  Also, as of Saturday, if you search “Torah” on Google, you get articles about WoW, so that’s pretty cool.

Police confiscate Women of the Wall Torah, detain board member

Women of the Wall arrested for trying to sneak Torah into holy site

Here are two videos (the second one was my favorite part of the whole day, plus the recorded live stream:

Rosh Chodesh Av

I’m so glad I got to experience this.  It was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had.  Even though people were trying to drown us out the entire time, it only added to the experience.  I don’t think I would be brave enough to wear a tallit to the Kotel by myself, but surrounded by other women wearing them, I was able to do so without fear, and I had fun waving at all of the men trying to harass us.

It was still early after the service was over, so I got some breakfast at Aroma when I walked back through Mamilla.  I had my first shakshuka of the trip, and it was complete with a beautiful view.

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End of First Week

On Wednesday I had ulpan in the morning, and Jewish Views of Gentiles in the afternoon.  That class is really interesting, and it has more practical applications to my life than I realized.  We discussed the origins of the word shiksa, which actually has its roots in the biblical word for bugs and/or pests.  We also got on the subject of various kashrut laws that essentially deem food cooked or handled by non-Jews treif (not kosher), which then led to Rabbi Alan bringing up the Kosher-Halal co-op I eat in at Oberlin.  I continued discussing this after class with some students in my class, one of whom was in my next class. Normally, I have Torah reading after this, but I’ve been conflicted on whether I should take the Torah reading class or do the yeshiva-organized neighborhood walking tours that happen during this time slot.  I decided to give the tours a try, and we went to the Mamilla neighborhood.  I liked the tour a lot, but I think I might stay in the Torah reading class (I haven’t made up my mind though).  I didn’t do much of anything after class as I was still tired from earlier in the week and had just finished a walking tour.

The next day, Thursday, was the last day of classes for the week.  I went to shacharit this morning because they told us there would be a brief explanation of the service afterwords.  There wasn’t really that much explanation, but apparently there will be more during the coming week.  I had my last ulpan class of the week, and we’ve already gotten through 90 pages of our textbook in one week!  I haven’t been reviewing every day as much as I should, but since I own the book I’ll still be able to review it once I’m back home.  During lunch we had another speaker; this time we had Danny Siegel who is a pretty well-known author and lecturer.  He spoke about tzedakah and different mitzvah opportunities (36 or 2 X Chai ways to make a difference).  He was really entertaining and kept telling jokes, my favorite one being “I tried to teach my cat Greek but he never got past mu”.  In the afternoon I had my Story of a Verse class. In this class we work in chevrutim, or partners to read through texts.  We usually switch our chevruta every class, because in the words of our teacher “chevruta promiscuity is not a bad idea”.  In the second class time on Thursday afternoons, we have the opportunity to participate in gemilut chesed projects.  The two choices are to visit residents at a nursing home, or to help out in a garden.  I chose to go to the nursing home, but I think I’ll try the other project next week.  Only one resident spoke English so I didn’t feel like I was that helpful.  I did see a very elderly looking golden retriever who seemed to live at the reception desk.



First Days of Classes

I definitely meant to write about each of these days separately, but I ended up not writing anything so this will be a longer post! Sunday morning began the first day of class.  There was a 10 minute orientation at 7:20 which I ended up missing, but it was optional as all of the information is online.  Shacharit started in the synagogue at 7:30 and was a mix of congregants and students.  I wasn’t able to follow along too well but it was still nice to be there.  Shacharit is in the beit midrash the rest of this week, and I believe back in the synagogue next week. At the end of the service we discussed how we felt about the service, and then we went outside for breakfast, which consisted of fruit, yogurt, and bourekas.  This is where I learned that shapes of food are apparently regulated in Israel.  Any pastry shaped like a triangle is filled with cheese, and any pastry shaped like a rectangle is filled with potato.  After this, we went back to the synagogue for an information session.  We also found out which ulpan level we had placed into.  I of course placed into aleph.  We were introduced to our teacher who then took us to the classroom.  Our teacher’s name is Nitza, and our class has 9 people in it.  Half of the people in our class are from France, so at any given time there are 3 languages being spoken in the room, which can get confusing.  Because of orientation, morning classes started an hour later, so they ran from 10:00-12:30 this day, when they will usually start at 9.  I really like the class and the people in it, and I can tell I am going to learn a lot.

After ulpan got out, it was time for lunch.  We have 70 minutes for lunch, so this gives time to go out to a restaurant if you would like.  I was initially planning on going to the shuk for lunch, and I started following some other students who were walking in that direction.  They turned out to be going to a falafel place, so abandoned my shuk plans and had lunch with them.  After lunch, it was back to the beit midrash for mincha from 1:40-2:00.  Again, I can’t follow along very well but I can already feel that I am picking up the order.  At 2:00, our afternoon classes start.  On Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, I have my Story of a Verse class from 2:00-3:45 with Rav Levy.  In this class we study only one verse from the Torah, and look at this verse through a variety of interpretations and literature.  We are studying Leviticus 19:17, and our first task was to use a Biblical dictionary to translate it word for word (we were only provided with the Hebrew).  Here is what we have been working on:


After this, I was done at the yeshiva for the day.  Classes go till 5:15, but I elected not to take the second afternoon class on Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday to give me a little more time to see the city.  I decided to explore the Old City after class.  I started by walking from the yeshiva through the Mamilla neighborhood, and then through the Christian quarter into the Jewish quarter.  My end goal was the Kotel, and I have now realized that I can take the 38 bus straight here instead of the almost hour-long walk.  I finally arrived at the Kotel after getting somewhat lost in the Jewish quarter.  I only stayed for a few minutes, and then people watched for a few minutes after that.  It was pretty empty, much emptier than the last time I was there.

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After this I was already exhausted from having walked about 2 hours so far that day (I walked to class), so I decided to abandon my plans to have dinner at the shuk and walk back to a bus stop.  At this point, the only bus stop I knew would take me home was by the yeshiva, so I decided to walk back there.  I ended up getting unknowingly lost in the Old City and ending up in the Muslim Quarter.  I didn’t realize this and tried to exit through the gate, but I was stopped by a guard who told me that this exit was only for Muslims, so I had to turn around and walk all the way back to the Jaffa Gate.  I did get some nice pictures out of it, though.

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I couldn’t find Mamilla and ended up getting lost in a neighborhood (I still don’t know which one).  In this neighborhood I found a spot that someone in my ulpan class told me about.  The entire street has umbrellas hanging between the buildings

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I ran in to a couple who’s studying at the CY, so it was nice to know I was at least somewhere in the vicinity of where I was supposed to be, and using my map I eventually found my way back and got on a bus.  After about 20 minutes on the bus, I realized we were in a Haredi neighborhood.  I know enough about Jerusalem to know that this is on the opposite side of the city that my apartment is on. I figured we would eventually turn around, so I stayed on the bus.  I ended up being on the bus for nearly an hour and had to get off as it was the last stop.  Thankfully, the driver spoke a bit of English and he was able to tell me that I had gotten on the wrong direction of bus, and showed me the correct bus.  The mistake I made was that I didn’t realize that most bus lines go in both directions, and I need to get on the one going in the direction I want to go.  I got on the right bus, and nearly 3 hours after I planned on getting home, I finally did.  One good thing did come out of my very long walk-I was able to find a fan which makes my room cool enough to sleep in.

The next day, Monday, I had my normal class schedule start.  Ulpan went for its normal 3.5 hours, which seems very long but actually goes by quite quickly.  We have a 30 minute break where you can sit outside or if you want, go to the store across the street for a snack if you are hungry.  For lunch, there was going to be a speaker in the beit midrash, so we had to bring lunch.  I forgot to pack a lunch, so I went to the store on my break in search of lunch food.  I ended up with a can of beans and bamba for lunch.  This actually enabled me to discover a new favorite food, which is canned giant white beans in an oily tomato sauce.  After lunch I had a class called Jewish Views of Genitles, taught by Rabbi Alan, who I walked home with on Friday.  We looked at different verses in the Tanakh and then discussed them.  After this, I had one more class from 4:00-5:15 with Saralee about how to chant Torah.  I really want to learn this so I don’t just have to memorize recordings for Torah reading.  We are learning what all of the different tropes sound like and combining them into different phrasings.

I went to the shuk for dinner on Monday.  I had kubbe soup and rice from a Lebanese restaurant, and bought some bread and fruit to take home.

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Today is Tuesday, and I had a repeat of my Sunday classes.  Ulpan is already moving fast but for now is still a little bit below my level (not for long though!).  We had another speaker during lunch, this time about African refugees in Israel.  I repeated my bean-and-bamba lunch (with a different flavor of bamba!).  Here’s what my strawberry bamba looked like today (I didn’t take any other pictures today):


I didn’t do anything after class today, just came home and ended up falling asleep!  Tomorrow shacharit is happening at the egalitarian section of the Kotel, so if I want to go I have to be at the yeshiva by 7.  If I miss it, they go every Wednesday so I can catch it next week.


First Shabbat

Friday night was the opening Shabbat for CY students.  We started at 6:30 with services in the egalitarian synagogue on campus.  The people there were mostly students, with a few members of the congregation.  This was also the first time I had to find my way to the yeshiva.  The buses had already stopped running by this time (they don’t run on Shabbat), so I had to walk.  I found my way pretty easily with a map, but I thought I was going to be late because I didn’t leave early enough.  I ended up getting there on time and was able to meet a few students before services started.  I really enjoyed the service; I was able to follow along with about 90% of it as it was quite similar to Oberlin’s service.  After this was done, we went to the guesthouse next door for a welcome dinner.  It was a meat meal as I expected, and all the food was delicious.  I sat next to a professor of one of the classes (that I would end up being in) and his wife.  They are living in a neighborhood near mine so we walked home together.  I didn’t really have anything planned for Saturday other than to get some rest and unpack.  Saturday night there was mincha, learning with Rabbi Levy, maariv, and havdalah.  The davening was very different than I was used to, having not grown up in a conservative synagogue, and was very hard to follow along to.  One of the first things I noticed was that the siddurim had no transliteration, but I guess this will force me to become quicker at reading Hebrew.  I enjoyed havdalah a lot, and was happy that we used the tune that I am familiar with.  They had me hold the havdalah candle which was nice.  I don’t have any pictures for this post because it was Shabbat, but I still wanted to write about it.  After this I went home to get ready for the first day of class!


Amsterdam and arrival in Jerusalem

I’m here! My first actual flight of the trip was to my layover in Amsterdam.  I left the US on Wednesday at about 9:30 pm and arrived in Amsterdam around 11 am the next day. Schiphol Airport was pretty easy to navigate around, and was the nicest airport I’ve ever seen.  After asking a few people at information desks, I converted my money into Euros, stored most of my carry-on luggage, and managed to find my way onto the correct bus in the airport train station.  This is what the train looked like:


Here was my first view of the city after leaving the Amsterstam Centraal station

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I didn’t really have a plan so I found a street to walk down.  It smelled awful due to the fact that almost everyone was smoking.  I went in to a cheese shop and sampled some (bad) cheese.

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After some more walking I found a Nutella cafe where I got a Nutella waffle that ended up having no Nutella.

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It started pouring briefly, and after the rain let up I decided to leave the street I was on and go back to the main area, where I found a canal tour to take.

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After the canal tour I walked around to some shops I had passed earlier.  I wish that I had bought things when I saw them, because I ended up having no time to go back.

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Next up was the Anne Frank house.  I had bought a ticket online almost two months in advance as I had heard that the lines were always very long and there was no guarantee of getting a ticket.  I’m glad I did this, because I could tell that I had found the house from nearly a quarter mile away due to how long the line was.  It wrapped around the building and all the way down the block!  Because I already had a ticket, I was able to bypass the entire line and walk right in to the house.  I had a lot of trouble locating the house and I had to stop at multiple places for directions.  I was worried I would miss my time slot, but I ended up being almost on time.  No photography is allowed in the house, but it was an amazing experience that I’m glad I got to see.  I did get some pictures from the outside and surrounding area:

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I took a picture of myself to prove I had actually visited the city:


After this, it was time to run back to the train station.  I unfortunately was unable to try any other foods because I had to get back to the airport.  I somehow found the right bus and made it back to the airport on time.  I had a little bit of time to get souvenirs at the airport, and then it was time to fly to Israel!  I landed in Tel Aviv at 2:30 in the morning.  I got some shekels so I could pay the shuttle, and charged my phone for a bit.  I got on a sherut, or shared taxi, and arrived at my apartment at 6:00 am.  It took awhile to find the right building and climb up all of the stairs with my suitcase, but I finally made it and slept for a few hours.  When I woke up, I went to the neighborhood grocery store to have food to eat for Shabbat when everything would be closed. I snuck in a picture on my phone:


I also discovered that Women of the Wall is using my picture on their website for their campaign, which is pretty cool.


Later that day was Shabbat, which I’ll write about in a separate post.


Preparing for takeoff

I leave Cleveland on Tuesday and the country on Wednesday.  Hard to believe it’s already so close!  I’m scrambling to put together last minute details and of course pack!  My first flight of the trip is on Tuesday, but I don’t arrive in Israel until Friday morning.  On Tuesday, I will be flying from Cleveland to Detroit and staying with my friend Becky overnight.  Wednesday night, I get on my transatlantic flight with a 9.5 layover in Amsterdam.  Thursday night, I get on my final flight and arrive in Tel Aviv around 2:30 in the morning.  I will arrive in time for Shabbat, which will be a welcome dinner for Conservative Yeshiva students.  I’ll have to go shopping Friday morning for food so make sure I have things to eat on Saturday, when everything will be closed.  Saturday I will rest up, and Sunday will be my first day of classes!

I am going to document my travels on this blog so I have something to look back on to remember this trip.  In the past I’ve tried to keep a travel journal, but that has always fallen through as I get busy and tired.  I’m hoping having a public journal of sorts that people back home will be reading will guilt motivate me to write everyday.

Until Tuesday,