Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tourist for a Day

Even though I have been living in Jerusalem for the past few weeks, I could really be anywhere. I go to school, sometimes go to the market or the corner coffee house and then I come home. Not too terribly exciting. I often think that HUC could have put us on a Kibbutz or even at a stateside URJ Camp and give us the same educational experience without our having to pack up and move halfway around the world.

But this week I finally got out of my daily rut. A group from Temple Emanu El in Redlands has come to Israel and they invited me to spend some time with them this week. On Monday evening, soon after they arrived, I met them at their hotel and went to dinner with them. It was wonderful on so many levels. First: it was fantastic to finally have a delicious meal. The restaurant was called Olive and Fish and the fish I ordered was perfect. Second: I loved talking with my friends, feeling like a peer and not like someone's mother (or grandmother!). Rabbi Kohn very kindly treated me to dinner which I appreciated since my financial aid package STILL hadn't come through.

I struggled through the rest of the week with my Hebrew. Each day is more of a challenge but I am plugging away.

On Friday morning, bright and early, I met up with the Emanu El group again. Our bus first took us to the Knesset where we took pictures in front of the famous menorah which is known as the symbol of the state of Israel. We then traveled to Yad VaShem, the holocaust memorial. I had been there several times before but it was totally renovated a couple of years ago so I was interested in going again. We spent about three hours there with Shimon, the fantastic guide, giving us so much information. Of course, it was a very sobering experience. As I went through the rooms that chronicled Hitler's rise to power and the systematic extermination of the Jews of Europe, I couldn't help but wonder if some of those faces that looked out at me from photographs and newspapers and film could have been my relatives. I remember my parents telling me that, when their parents left Russia for England, many of their other relatives went to Poland. After WWII, they never heard from those relatives again. At the end of the tour, we were taken to a room where binders circled the walls from floor to ceiling with names of some of the 6,000,000 Jews that perished during the Holocaust. Only 4,000,000 names have been recorded so there are still 2,000,000 names that are not known. That is why I stand for Kaddish even if it is not a Shabbat when I am commemorating a death in my family. I stand for those who have no family left - whose entire family was wiped out during the Holocaust.

As a total change of pace, we left Yad VaShem and traveled to Machane Yehudah, the busy market in the center of town. At any time, on any day of the week, the market resembles the day after Thanksgiving at the mall but on Friday afternoon, as people are rushing to prepare for Shabbat, it is like the most crowded mall you can think of...times 10! People are wall-to-wall and it is hard to buy anything as the lines are long and people are pushing. We did manage to get to the end where Shimon bought us the most delicious rugela we had ever eaten.

After this incredibly long day, the bus dropped me off at the top of my hill and I walked home...too tired to go to tired to make Shabbat dinner...but so happy that I had such a wonderful time. The rest of Shabbat I studied...and studied...and studied!

This week will mark one month that I have been in Israel. Was it just a few weeks ago that I was home with Sheldon and Lucy? I'm still settling in and feeling things out but it is becoming more comfortable. What will July bring? First of all, about 50 more students will join us for the regular summer session. That will certainly change the dynamics of our classes. I will also begin a cantillation class in addition to Hebrew. I have been looking forward to learning Torah trope so this is very exciting for me. I also hope for that little light to go on over my head which will signify that the Hebrew is becoming easier for me. We'll see.


  1. Thanks for the very interesting journal/blog. This is my first chance to check up on your journey. It seems as if just a moment ago you were saying good bye from the Bema at Emanu El in Redlands.

    Your writing is full of such vivid images that it seems as if I were beside you. They go from the isolation of setting out alone at the airport, to the overfilled first falafel, the let down of a barely functional new apartment, the profound change of place, language and weather and the comforts of new and old friends. Pretty soon, you'll be writing that you are suddenly fluent in Hebrew!

    Thanks for letting me share your experiences. What fun!

    Love and with "Hi!" from Ann,

  2. I'm enjoying your blog. You're making Jerusalem come alive with your descriptions, including the cats! I'm envious as I've always wanted to spend more than I few days there. Someday...
    And, I have a good appreciation of your Hebrew class. I just took a conversational Hebrew class "on line." Just when you think you "got it" there's an exception to the rule!
    However, your long term goal is SO wonderful, that someday you'll look back and it will be such a nice memory!
    תןדה ראבה
    Celia Norian