Kari Leibovitz, from Ocean, New Jeresy
Nativ 28, Yerucham group
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2008
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2008
Last Shabbat was closed, meaning we all stayed with our groups. My group went to Yerucham - the place where I'll be living and volunteering second semester. Now it should be noted here that if I ever tell anyone who knows of the town that I'll be living there, the general reaction is "Why would you ever want to do that?"
The town itself is small, with only one main road with all the shops, grocery store, and restaurants. The town has one school, one grocery store, one falafel stand, etc etc. We took a walking tour of Yerucham that lasted about 15 minutes, and at the edge of the town you can see miles and miles of the Negev desert, because there's absolutely nothing else around.
On the walking tour, our guide, a resident of Yerucham, told us all how it was a great place to live because there was a real sense of community - one time at the grocery store he was short 200 shekels, and a man who he had barely ever spoken to before gave him his credit card to finish his shopping. He also told us how Yerucham got started. Apparently, no one comes to Yerucham voluntarily. Years ago, when the town was getting started, the Israeli government wanted people to move there to help populate the Negev. However, when immigrants came to Israel they generally wanted to live in the big cities - and they definitely didn't want to live in the middle of the desert without so much as a grocery store. So in order to get people to move there, the Israeli government would fill buses with new immigrants to take them to their destinations. the bus would drive to Yerucham, stop and say "Jerusalem." Then all the immigrants for Jerusalem would get off. The bus would drive around the desert for an hour or so, stop again in Yerucham, and say "Tel Aviv," and all the immigrants for Tel Aviv would get off. It did this for every major city in Israel. By the time the immigrants realized where they were, they had already bought apartments, and many were forced to stay. There are many stories of people accidentally and inadvertently ending up in Yerucham, and not many of people who really wanted to move there.
The good news is that we will definitely be able to make a difference in Yerucham. As one speaker eloquently put it "all the successful Yeruchamites move away to try and make it outside of Yerucham, leaving their retarded brothers." Many of the people living in Yerucham are unable to care for themselves in one way or another, because many of those who can choose to move away.
Believe it or not, I had a great weekend in Yerucham. I think that for 4 months, I really don't need more than one grocery store or falafel place, and the town has a library, a gym, a rec center, and several beautiful parks. I had a great time just being with my group; we all get along really well. I think that Yerucham will be an interesting experience and I'm sure that as a group we'll find ways to keep ourselves entertained. All in all, I can't wait!
Posted by Kari at 3:10 PM 1 comments
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2008
Football and Shabbat in Rehovot
Hello again! It's been a while since I've written (oops), but now that I'm back at HebrewU full time it's very easy to get sucked into the routine. Get up, go to class (and I always get up with just enough time to get to class...whether my class starts at 8:30 or 2:30), come home, eat, go to activity, go out, go to sleep, do it all over again. I love to be busy but it doesn't leave a lot of down time.
Last Monday we had a football scrimmage, which we lost, but to be fair we played against girls who had played on the Israeli national flag football team - so they were really good. This Monday, we had our first game, which we also lost, to seminary girls - not such an honorable loss. It's very hard when our team has 38 girls (Nativ doesn't want to split us up because they don't want us to play against each other) and every other team only has about 10. In trying to get everyone, regardless of skill level, a fair amount of playing time, we sometimes end up sacrificing our chances of winning. But we do have fun and we ALWAYS have the loudest cheering section =).
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2009
Israel Today Seminar and Tiyul
Hello again everyone! I’m sure you’re all tired of my apologies by now, but I do have to apologize again…this blog-catch-up is making my head explode a teensy bit, so you’ll all have to bear with me. I’m going to do some chronological jumping around for the sake of being able to write what’s fresh in my mind right now. So, this blog is going to be about Israel today seminar, Tiyul, and next will probably be moving into Yerucham and my European Adventures will have to be blogged later, out of chronological order. If this bothers you, don’t read this blog til after I blog Europe, which might be a while. That’s all the advice I have to offer.
After coming back from winter vacation, we had a closed Shabbat, during which time I rested and caught up on some much-needed sleep. After that we went into our week of the “Israel Today Seminar.” Sunday brought us to Tel Aviv. That morning we had a short tour of Jaffa and Tel Aviv and in the afternoon we went to the Blind Museum. The blind museum was really interesting. If any of you ever went to the touch-tunnel at Liberty Science Center, it was an extended version of that. It was a forty-five minute tour through several different rooms, completely in the pitch black. In the jungle, at the market, on a cruise ship, in a music room, in a regular living room, and ordering in a cafeteria we all had to find our way and figure out where we were in the dark, with the help of a blind guide. At the end we all sat down to have a discussion with our guide. Overall it was a really interesting, eye-opening (all joking aside) experience. We then all ate dinner at the mall in Tel Aviv and ventured on to our next blind experience. This was a performance, a play, performed entirely by actors who are both blind and deaf. This is the only performance troupe like this in the entire world. The show was performed through a combination of mediums – some of the actors, those who weren’t always deaf, spoke to the audience. Other people signed into the hands of those sitting next to them, who then signed into the hands of others, all the way down the line until it reached someone who could speak. The spoken words were then translated into English on a screen at the side of the stage. One man communicated using knuckle type, a system of tapping letters of the alphabet onto his hand, which each joint of the knuckle representing a different letter. Others had to translate Russian sign language into Hebrew or English sign language. They way that the troupe communicated and interacted with each other was complex and extremely fascinating.
Monday was devoted to being in Jerusalem. I signed up for the religious seminar, so in the morning we toured a church and then in the evening we went through the Jerusalem tunnels. The Jerusalem tunnels were really cool because although everyone goes and prays to the Kotel, which is a remaining bit of the outer wall surrounding the temple, there’s actually a lot more of the wall remaining than we see. First, some background information: the Kotel (or Western Wall) is holy not because it’s a wall of the old temple, but because it was part of the outer wall that protected the Temple and the temple mount, and it’s the closest thing we have today that remains of the Second Temple. But at some point or another, neighborhoods were built over some of the remainder of the wall. So the Kotel is the only exposed part that remains, but underneath all of these neighborhoods is an even bigger part of the remaining wall, and the part that was directly in front of the Second Temple, making it much closer to the spot where the ‘Holies of Holies’ was, inside the Temple, than the Kotel. So the Jerusalem tunnels lead all along the remaining wall that is buried underneath all of those neighborhoods, and that is what we got to see.
On Tuesday we traveled up north to go to a Kibbutz and had some seminar lectures on Arab-Israeli conflict and Arab settlements within Israel. But Tuesday night was undoubtedly my favorite part of the week. We went to the lights show at the David Citadel. The citadel used to be a fortress and is all outdoors and made of crumbling Jerusalem stone, with lots of stone arches, walkways, and towers. The lights show was projected onto all of the walls surrounding us, and it was completely AMAZING. There were various scenes depicting the history of Jerusalem, and other scenes that were just fun to watch – such as a crumbling sandstorm and a library with floor-to-ceiling books. It was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve seen since coming to Israel, it was absolutely phenomenal.
Wednesday was devoted entirely to packing and putting our things into storage for the week. We then said goodbye to our cozy homes in Jerusalem last Thursday. Thursday morning we set off for a hike in which we had a choice between hard and easy. I hadn’t been feeling so well (between coming back from vacation, living together all again, and cleaning up and packing our disgusting rooms, half of Nativ was sick), so I chose the easy hike. It turned out to be pretty rough for me, and I was coughing a lot and had a pounding headache by the end of it. That night we went to the Bedouin tents, which I’d luckily already visited (and ridden a camel at) on pilgrimage, so I spent most of the night (except for a quick dinner) sleeping. The next morning, thankfully, we could choose to visit the colorful sand dunes, which I did (they were nothing special, just some pink sand), and so I didn’t have to hike again. We then traveled to Kibbutz Ketura, a kibbutz in the south that I had visited on pilgrimage, for Shabbat. Being a guest at the Kibbutz was great – our rooms were really nice and it was GORGEOUS weather, perfectly warm and sunny during the day. It makes me a little less homesick to sit outside in the sun in shorts and a t-shirt reading and then call Mom and have her tell me that she’s driving to work and her car thermometer reads 19 degrees.
Monday started our vacationy part of Tiyul, and we all went to Eilat. We were staying at the same beautiful hotel that I stayed at on pilgrimage, and it was really nice. Monday afternoon was supposed to be a boat ride, but due to unfavorable-for-boating-weather that was canceled and we were given a few other options instead. The option I chose was to do a ropes course and go paintballing. I was really excited for this, because I’d never been paintballing before. Turns out, the paintballing wasn’t that exciting – the rounds were really quick and there wasn’t a lot of ammunition, so I ran out right away. Plus, those things HURT. I got hit in the elbow one time and I literally fell to the ground and was writhing around in pain, everyone thought I had actually been seriously injured but really those things just hurt a lot. But the ropes course was a LOT of fun. I just want to take a second to point out how differently things are done in Israel than in America. There was no waiver form, no helmets, no demonstration. We were harnessed into a beltish-type-thing and instructed on how to hook ourselves onto the (flimsyish) safety-wire, and off we went, 25 feet above the ground, doing the ropes course. Obviously it was really great and no one got hurt, but it still made me laugh to see how casually they did it.
Tuesday, after having made a full recovery and after having been assured that this hike was really great, I signed up for the hard hike. Services started promptly at 6:15 AM, because Yossi (our director and for the day, trail guide) told us we had to be the first group up the mountain. Now this wasn’t a tiyul hike that everyone on Nativ had to participate in. This was a hike that you CHOSE to go on and you CHOSE to have it be hard. And it was hard. I started getting nervous about two minutes after we got off the bus and saw a sign that said “Warning: For Experienced Hikers Only.” Truth be told, the hike was tough. There were points when we were just going up VERY steep rock by pulling ourselves up via a zigzagging steel bar that had been drilled into the side of the mountain, and a lot of parts where there was no visible path at all. But we made it up in only about an hour or so, so the pain was over pretty quickly. It was, again, not great weather – very cloudy, and freezing on top of the mountain. But the worst part of the weather was that a huge advantage to that particular hike (up to the tallest mountain in the Eilat region) is that from the top you can see four countries at once – Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately for us, it was so cloudy that morning that the only country we could see was Israel, which was definitely a disappointment. Additionally, it took us about three hours to get down, and then another half hour of walking along the road because the buses didn’t show up where they were supposed to and we had to walk until Yossi got cell reception. Overall, it was an exhausting hike.
That afternoon it was time for WATER SPORTS. Even though it was coldish and not sunny, we all went to the marina to go banana boating and tubing. Banana boating was only okay – most of the time we were out of the water, so that was pretty cold (the water was significantly warmer than the air). Tubing, however, was great. It actually didn’t involve a tube it all – it involved four of us laying down on a flat, half oval shaped raft thing and hanging on to the two handles and the boat dragging us through the water. It was really a ton of fun.
Tuesday night was our last night together as all of Nativ, so obviously we all had to go out one last time. We went to a bar called The 3 Monkeys. They had a live band that was pretty good, and it was basically just Nativ going crazy on the dance floor, so we had a really good time. Plus, the band ended the night by playing “Living on a Prayer,” which is our Hagalil song, so the Nativ Hagalilers had a lovely time dancing in a corner like we did at every dance and convention. It was a really fun, relaxed last night together.
And so ends the first semester of Nativ. In a lot of ways, I feel like exactly the same person I was when I left. I think I’ve done a good job keeping in touch with the people at home that I wanted to, and right now I don’t feel like this experience has changed me that much, although it’s obviously affected me. On the one hand, I can’t believe how much time has passed, because it doesn’t feel like I’ve been away from my family for so long (it probably helps that I talk to them every day) and the time has really flown by. On the other hand, when I sit back and think of all the wonderful things I’ve been lucky enough to experience I can barely wrap my head around the fact that I haven’t seen my Mom and Dad, or Marcus, in nearly six months. I can’t wait to see them again, but I also want my Nativ experience to last forever. I think that there were things I could have done differently, and better, in the first semester, but overall I’m really happy with the way my year is going and I have nothing but optimism for the next three and a half months.