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Elizabeth's Blog
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Last Blog entry from Israel
Now Playing: Filter - Take a picture
Well, this is it folks. In 14 hours I will be on a plane, making my way back to the States. Surpisingly, I don't feel as sad as I have over the past few days. Maybe my body and mind can't handle anymore sadness, so it's gone into "travel mode". you know, pulling my tickets and passports, zipping up luggage (thank god after I shipped two more boxes it ALL FIT in 3 bags), cleaning up the apartment. Stuff like that. I don't have so many definite plans for the day. Little things I have to do, and big things I want to do. I'm having lunch with karen and her family and I'll probably spend most of the day with them. Some friends, like Marcy, Rochelle, Leah and others are coming to see me off when my sherut leaves at 8 pm. My landlord is coming to get my keys and wrap stuff up with me too. There's just too much to do to be sad.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I'll cry a TON today, especially with all the goodbyes, but I've sort of already made my peace with leaving. It's hard, but it's doable.

I get in to O'Hare at 8:53 am on Sunday morning and my brother is going to pick me up and take me down to West Lafayette. Total travel time, door to door should be about 24 hours (That includes time at the airports, layovers, etc). It's a good thing I got a good night's sleep last night.

I have about 4 days at home, and then I'm off to Cincinnati to look at a place for me and Amy, buy a cell phone...oh yeah, and watch my best friend Michael Sommer become an ordained rabbi! I can't wait!! But, then the next day, I need to be at GUCI and ready to start camp for the summer. So that means that in 4 days I need to spend time with my family, unpack and repack (harder than it actually sounds) see all of my friends, and maybe buy a car. No pressure......

My address for the summer is as follows:
Elizabeth Wood
c/o Goldman Union Camp
9349 Moore Rd.
Zionsville, IN 46077

When I get a cell phone, I'll post my number for everyone. For now, call me at my parents at (765)463-1413 or after June 5th at camp at (317)873-3361.

So, I guess this is it. I'm going to turn off and pack up my comuter soon. I'm going to close up shop, say goodbye to the holy land, and get ready to come home. Home...what a funny word. It's nice to know that I have a home here too, and that leaving is not really saying goodbye forever, it's just a "until next time".

What a year. What memories. What learning and growth. I hope that everyone is as blessed in their lives as I've been this year. See you stateside!!!!

Posted by Elizabeth at 10:48 AM
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Friday, May 27, 2005
Why is the goodbye so hard?
I always knew that leaving Israel at the end of this year would be hard. I knew I would cry a lot and that it would be difficult. But I never imagined the pain of saying goodbye. I never thought that my heart would tear a little each time I had to say goodbye. I never thought about the unexpected but totally logical cries. Lisa Shapanka made me cry a lot. Stephanie made me burst into tears, just by hugging her goodbye. When I had to say goodbye to Erin Ellis (one of my study group partners) I couldn't let go of her. And it's not that I won't see any or all of these people again in my life. Of course i will. That's not the point. It's that our experience together in Israel is over. All the good, all the bad, being in class with such a wide variety of people...that is what I will miss. The everyday school life. Knowing exactly where these people are coming from and being a part of their family...of the HUC family. I

I know this is a graduate school, but it's also a real community that we have here. It's more than school, we've all built our lives together here this year, and I'm only taking about 14 of those people with me to Cincinnati next year. And that's hard to swallow.

I've started packing, but I can't quite seem to ever finish it. I'm leaving in 48 hours, and I'm still not so packed. It's psychological I think. Getting on the plane won't be hard, getting off the plane won't be hard either. It's these goodbyes that are killing me. I just wish the pain would ease...but I know it won't until I go home and really get to stop being sad and get to celebrate my year here in Israel. But for now, I can't seem to stop feeling like I'm on the verge of tears.

It's just been that good.

Posted by Elizabeth at 12:03 AM
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Thursday, May 26, 2005
"This was my best day....."
Now Playing: Dido- Thank you
Right now in this moment, I can't help but recall that line from the end of the movie City Slickers when Billy Crystal has finally found his smile again, looks at his wife and says "this is my best day". In 24 hours I've been able to witness the miracle of a brand new human life, of his overjoyed new mother whom I've never seen look so happy and content in her whole life, to studying for and taking a final (which went SOOOO well) to saying a prayer for finishing my studies this year (followed by a vodka shot in the student lounge with my fellow classmates), to spending the whole day shopping and hanging with Karen, to packing and hanging out with my classmates tonight, and getting to spend some really quality time with some of my classmates that I really like but don't spend much time with, to coming home to an e-mail from my best friend telling me how much he loves me and misses me. I couldn't ask for anything more. I just couldn't.

It's all over. I'm done with school this year, I leave in a few days, and I can't even begin to express my sadness in leaving. I keep looking around, trying to preserve everything in my memory, trying to pretend like i won't be back in the states in 4 days. ANd it's not that I don't want to return, or see the people I've missed so much this year. It's just that I'm not ready to give up my life yet. I've built a life here this year, I've had classmates that have become friends and family and have supported me and that I've supported and invested time in. How can I leave all that???

It's hard as people are leaving before me. The goodbyes are really hard. And I can imagine a few that will be extrememly difficult for me in the next few days too.

But when I get sad about leaving, I think of all I've gained this year, and there's no need to be sad. And as my mom says, it wouldn't be so hard if it hadn't been so you should be lucky for that. And as Karen says (although I'm pretty sure she stole it from somewhere else): It's supposed to be hard. If it weren't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great!

And she's right. As hard as this all is, I can look back at the past 24 hours and feel blessed to have such a range of emotions and experiences and memories. Now imagine a whole year of some of these 24 hours. In a lot of years, this whole year was a bunch of 24 hour experiences. Ups, downs, intensities.

"This....was my BEST day....."

Posted by Elizabeth at 12:03 AM
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Baby, oh Baby!!!
Yesterday, at 11:45 am, Tamar and her husband Shmulik gave birth to a very healthy 3 kilo, 60 gram baby boy!!!!

If I hadn't been in my biblical grammar final when someone announced it, I would have gone right then and there to the hospital. Even at that, people had to restrain me from going for most of the day. Finally, today, Shira and Lisa S. and I went to the hospital for a visit. OH MY GOODNESS. I met someone who is less than two days old!!!!! I met baby Havilio (won't be named until the Brit Milah on Monday) who had been inside of Tamar for the last nine months....and he's perfect. He's so tiny and so beautiful and he's just gorgeous. Tamar looked incredible (she's like a super-woman, that one) and was happy and relaxed and holding the baby a lot for us.
It was the best few hours I've had in a long time. And although I won't be here for the Bris, Karen has promised me she'll take tons of pictures, and people have promised to tell me all about it.

I'm hoping to stop by her house again before I leave (she'll be home tomorrow) and to get to see her, the baby, and even the dog one last time.

I have one final left, and once that's over, it's time for packing-up and getting ready to leave. I can't believe it's all just...over.

Anyway, even though I can't concentrate, I MUST study for this last one...I MUST!!!!

I'll write more later, but I wanted to let everyone know how excited I was to get to see Tamar and her baby!!!! In a year full of unbelievably incredible and amazing experiences.....getting to meet Tamar's baby at the hosptial today is by far one of the most wonderful things I've done all year. :)

Off to try and study....

Posted by Elizabeth at 5:50 PM
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Friday, May 20, 2005
Last Shabbat
Now Playing: Hatikvah
Two posts in one day...I know, it's a crazy world we live in. So tonight we had our last shabbat services at HUC followed by a beautiful last shabbat dinner in the library courtyard. It was so nice. My future roommate (not to mention friend and future colleague) Amy Rossel lead services tonight and she did a really beautiful job of integrating our good-bye to Israel and to one another with the service. I'm so proud of her and am very excited about living with her next year.

The dinner was lots of fun too. I sat with the Joels, Rochelle, and Dave Reiner (Sara, Josh ans Sasha were at the other end of the table, but I couldn't really see them). It was hysterical. After diiner we did song session...and lots of dancing...and mingled a lot. It was great.

As song session was coming to a close, I motioned Zoe over and suggested to her that we end with Hatikvah. Well, as if I hadn't already been on the verge of tears all night.....
Let me start off by saying, the song has taken on some very new meaning for me this year, aside from the fact that I actually understand and identify with the words. When I sing it now, I will always be reminded of thus year and my classmates and my experiences. In paricular, it will also always remind me of Tamar Havilio. During the fall, at the very end of the Israeli Rabbinical Ordination here at HUC I happened to be sitting next to Tamar and when they sang Hatikvah at the end, she belted it out in the most beautiful way I had ever heard in my whole life. I remember that I was practially crying then when she did it, and that I would never forget how beautiful it was. Then , a few weeks (or months??) ago we did it in services and I wanted her to do the ending in the same way, and told her how much I loved it when she sang it. It was a little hard for her to get it our because she is extremely pregnant now, so it's very hard for her to sing much of anything!!!)
Finally tonight, I happened to be in the same general area as her and when we reached the end, I looked at her and she looked at me, and she belted it out with all her might...and I was left breathless and very teary-eyed. It still remains the most gorgeous and meaningful thing I've every heard.

Speaking of Tamar, this whole "BFF" thing has got to stop (the phrase, not what it means). It's a bit out of control. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, please disregard...and don't use the phrase). It started as something between me and Karen and has now grown to be like a big joke between lots of people. Rose knows about it, Jen Frenkel is claiming she has BFFS and SBFFS, even Marmur is in on it. It's just got to STOP!!!!!

But anyway, on a lighter note, it was a great way to say goodbye to everyone, formally, even though many of us don't leave for several more days. I'm getting excited about going home, but am dreading the goodbyes. For now, though...I'm just happy to be with everyone and savor the last few bits....

Posted by Elizabeth at 11:20 PM
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Friday, May 20, 2005
I took my wall down - lots of little updates
I took my wall down this morning. In my room, the wall that is directly across from my bed (and rather close to it, only about a foot in between to walk through) was hideous when I first moved in. It has this bizarre mural of a little provincal town painted in very muted 1970's colors..lots of browns , greens, burnt orange, etc. When I took this bedroom, I decided that the wall had to go, so being the creative person that I am, I found some bright yellow wrapping paper and covered this giagantically hideous mural with the paper. Then, I put up pictures from home (my family, David Sommer, Michael and phyl, friends, etc). I also added things during the year. My school schedules, a year calander, letters and cards people sent me, stickers, etc. I loved looking at the wall everyday. It reminded me of the things I missed from home, and the things I had done while being here. Today, I took it down. I am leaving in 8 days and I am packing a lot right now. It was really sad to have to take it down, but I know that I will just put those things back up when I get home or at camp this summer, or whenever. But I just loved having it there....sigh.....

So about 3 or 4 people from our program have left already. My friend Jane, who was my boss at the Rape Crisis Center, left the country for about 10 days, so I won't see her again either. From now until I go, people will slowly start trickling out and it's really rather sad.

My finals start next week, although I'm quite convinced that there are as many parties and "study-breaks" planned for the next 8 days that I am here as there will be actual study time. I only have four finals, one is take home and one is an oral exam (meaning it might be easier ?!?!?) but I still have to STUDY A LOT for my biblical grammar and Rabbinic literature finals. I suppose I should find out where the closest 24-hour coffee shop is...or go over to Karen and Harvey's where he'll make me Turkish coffee at any hour ;) The truth is, I've done just fine all year long, and I'm not sooo worried about my finals. I just need to study and be prepared, take them, pack up...and go home. Easier said than done, I suppose.

Last night, there was a party at Josh, Joel, and Reiner's place. I should have known not to fall asleep there on the couch before it started....let's just say, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. At least I woke up in time....oh those boys!!!!! The party was fun and I got to see thier friend Leron from Tel Aviv who will actually be on the same ElAL flight with me to Newark when I go home. He's a really sweet dude, and I'm glad I have a flying buddy!!!

The other day, Rochelle and I went shopping around Ben Yehuda Street. I finally ate in my first McDonalds in Israel, EVER. They serve kosher meat there, but they let you put cheese on our burger. Weird. So yeah...honestly, I can say it was a gross experience. I ate the food, felt totally nasty, and really could have done without it for the rest of my life. Well, at least now I know that I hadn't been missing ANYTHING, and that I have no desire to eat there in the future. Off the checklist!!!
I also finally went shopping for tons of things I'd been meaning to buy...a few scarves, some Ayala Bar-like jewlery, an everyday star of david necklace, etc. I found some great gifts for my parents too. So that was a very productive day.

That's all for now. I'm off to get my liturgy final done to day so I can spend the rest of the weekend (which is really just Sat. and Sun) studying for other stuff. Wish me luck!!!

Posted by Elizabeth at 9:43 AM
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005
" What a great way to get to spend your life...."
Now Playing: The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
Yesterday, I had my last reflection group. Honestly, I loved my group. It was lead by Dean Marmur and Sima Haruv and my four fellow classmates were honest, open, and very receptive to reflecting on both good, bad, and everything in between. I couldn't have asked for a better group. I also thought that we ended quite beautifully yesterday. Sima and Marmur handed out a list of questions that are intended to be a part of the goals of the cirriculum of HUC, questions that students will be able to critically reflect on after their time in school at HUC. They asked us to look over them and pick one that we would answer.
Here were the questions:
1) What does it mean to be human?
2) What do we believe about human nature and questions such as good and evil?
3) How to provide meaning to human existence in a Jewish way? Why be Jewish?
4) What is the nature of the universe? history? Is it planned? What is its end? Is there meaning to Jewish history?
5) What is the role of Israel, both the land and the people? What is its role in our lives?
6) How do we bring to bear a progessive Jewish outlook upon all that we do and believe?
7) How do we understand the nature of the Jewish tradition?
8) How do we lead Jewish lives?
9) How do we integrate critical thinking and a personal search for meaning?
10) How can we be a part of an interpretive tradition, yet maintain our autonomy?
11) Are there limits to rationality and how do we respond?
12) What does it mean to define Reform as an orientation and not as a canon?
13) What does lifelong Torah study mean? How should it express itself?
14) What is our responsibility to the Jewish community? The larger human community?
15) How do we function as Jews in a pluralistic world?

After everyone responded, the Dean of our Jerusalem campus said: "What a great way to spend your life...getting to ponder and figure out your own answers to these questions."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
I really feel that this year has solidified a lot of things for me. And I feel a lot more connections to many things that I ever did before. Now, after this year, I FULLY understand why I want to become a rabbi. I also have a greater sense of what it will take in the next four years to make me one. I finally feel a real connection to Torah text and to Jewish text and to discovering what there is behind it, in it, and around it. I feel an unbelievable connection to the land of Israel and it's people. I am a passionate Reform Jewish Zionist and I can't wait to share my love of Israel and my support for it with others.
In a lot of ways, those questions have more or less summed up my year and the struggles I've dealt with and thought about this year.
I'm having lots of emotions and bittersweet feelings about leaving, but I feel wholly refreshed and renewed and passionate about the road ahead of me and the choice I have made to do all of this. This year, for better or for worse, had tons of challenges, was incredibly thought provoking and educational and fun and intense and hard. But somewhere in the middle of it, I grew as a person, as a Jew, as a rabbincal student, as a human being. Undoubtedly, this has been the most incredible and memorable year of my life. But more than that, I'm coming away from this year with the gift of reassurance in my life choices, with passion and zeal, and with an excitement to bring back what I've gained, to others. It will be so hard to leave here...but I know I'll be back. And I can't wait to see where I am at in life when I return and what new things I can gain.
I am lucky. I've found a profession that lets me do what I love, lets me feel challenged every day in every way, and helps me to grow as a person and a Jew during my life. I get to spend my life pondering and working on answers to those 15 questions. I am so blessed.

Posted by Elizabeth at 6:44 PM
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Thursday, May 12, 2005
Busy, Busy, Busy
I don't know why...but I feel like I have so much TO DO!!! Well, i'm sure I feel that way because I am leaving in like 15 days...
But really, I just feel like I have lots to get done before that...and lots that I want to do.
I started packing this afternoon. I made the hard decisions about what to ship (and what gets packed) and what to donate and what to just throw out. It was a very productive afternoon.

Yesterday was Yom HaZicharon (Israeli Memorial Day) and we went to the Gymnasia in Rehavia and watched the ceremony there. It was nice, sort of short, and very sad. I have pictures up on my site if you want to see them.
Then Karen and I met Jane at this very posh restaurant across the street from HUC called 1868 (it's sort of in this little hidden alley) and it was such a FABULOUS meal. And, honestly, it wasn't so expensive that I couldn't have done it more this year...well, at least lunch wasn't. I don't know about dinner. But it was nice to just sit and have a long lunch with friends and just relax and eat good food. Then I came home and took a gigantic nap (because I didn't get much sleep the night before after coming home late from the ceremony in Tel Aviv) which was so refreshing. I woke up and got dressed and literally dragged Karen out of her apartment to come with me and the rest of our classmates to Na'amah Kelman's(the director of our Year-in-Israel program)rooftop to watch the fireworks for Yom Ha'atzma'aut (Independence Day). It was a ton of fun...especially after a really sad and heavy day like Yom HaZicharon. It's weird, but sort of cool that the days run one into the other. It starts out very sad, but ends up very happy.

And Independence day in Israel is CRAZY!!!! There is lots of drinking, lots of shaving cream flying through the air, lots of loud and drunk people....that's why we went to the least it was safe. I'm not going to lie...I bought a bottle of white snowy cream in a bottle and wrote stuff on the ground...hey, when in Rome.....

After the crazy, but short, fun times at Na'amah's place, Karen and Jen Frenkel and I headed back to Karen's place where we sat on her porch, drank a yummy dessert wine, ate some snacks and chatted. It was so nice.

But now, I must be productive. I really have to get some work done today before my friends come into J'lem this weekend (Nina Loftspring and Elyse Greenburg will be here, and Seth Gildenblatt and Mike Simmons will be in town too!) So I did some preliminary packing, and now I'm off to put finishing touches on my liturgy paper and to study some hebrew vocab!!!

Posted by Elizabeth at 4:40 PM
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Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Leaving on a Jetplane
I'm really getting very sad about having to leave Israel. I'm also really starting to realize how little time I have left here. I leave in 18 days. That's like, nothing.
Katie B. gave a D'var Torah this morning that touched on the subject of or leaving, and I realized that every time people mention it, or I think about heart begins to heart. I feel like I'm constantly walking around with this lump in my throat (you know, the kind you get right before you cry or are trying hard not to burst into tears) and that it takes a lot of effort nowadays to not give in to that lump and start sobbing.
Thr truth is, I am an emotional person and transitions are always really hard for me. I'm never good at ending things...ever. And this is such a radical kind of transition. I will never be in the same space with the same people in the same way again. And although I am sad about that, I know that I have the memories. And I know that I've lived my year to the fullest advantage. But I'm sad about the people I have to leave, about this life that I've come to love, that I have to leave.

I made a present for Tamar and I gave it to her today. I didn't want to not have time to give it to her before I left (or befor she went in to labor...she could go at any moment folks!!!) so I decided to give it to her today. There were so many things I wanted to say, but I ended up just telling her why I gave her what I gave, and a bit about how much she's meant to me this year as a teacher and a friend. I made a collage for her that is a quote from the movie "Dead Poets Society" and it talks about Poetry, and life and beauty and really contributing a verse to the powerful play of life. It's one of my all-time favorite movie quotes, and i think it was very appropriate and telling of our relationship this year. So, in a way, I feel a bit of closure with my relationship with her. Of course I'll say goodbye when I actually leave...but I needed to do this too...just to tell her how much she's contributed a verse to my play, this year.

I'm also having a hard time envisioning saying goodbye to Karen and her family. I, honestly, cannot even imagine it. She's come to feel like family to me, like a sister, like a best friend, and she's there, in and out, every day. And I cannot imagine what life will be like without her in it every day. I think my mind can't grasp the concept, because it knows that if I think about it, before it's heart will simply break. It will just collapse.

Last night I was talking to my brother (because it was his birthday!!!) and he asked if I had started packing. Packing???? I said no way..and then he reminded me that I had been packing to come to Israel for like a month before I left. And I think psychologically, I haven't wanted to start because it means the end. I also feel like I've been pushing it off because of all of my papers, and studying for finals, and all sorts of end of the year requirements and deadlines and stuff...but the truth is, I really need to start packing. I'm going to be leaving in less than three weeks, and I can really start packing away (and making up my shipping boxes) some of the stuff that I don't wear and don't use during the spring/summer.
Maybe that will help me to get over the impending sense of sadness and loss that I feel, just throw myself into really getting out of here by May 28th. It's hard. And I can't make this hurt inside of me stop. I feel it growing a bit bigger each day....and it's sad.

So what am I doing? I'm really trying to make the most of each day, and not be too sad, and just enjoy the moments that are left. Because that's what I'll remember from this year. Not the way I felt at the end...but the way in which I grew, the things I learned, the friends and friendships I gained, the experiences I had and the memories i created. It's the best any of us can ever hope for....just to love the way in which we've lived.

Posted by Elizabeth at 12:42 PM
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Monday, May 9, 2005
Tonight, my entire hebrew class went to a party at our hebrew teacher's house. Now let me tell you, on the outside, you might not guess this about Hannah Shafir...but she is a party animal!!!! We had soooo much fun at her place. I genuinely believe that she really likes to laugh and likes to know what's going on in our lives, and sometimes in hebrew class, we don't always give that to her. We joke around privately, and i feel like she always wants to be clued in to the jokes, but because we feel that it will disrupt class...we say, "lo hasuv" (meaning...not important). Tonight, however, because it wasn't class, we all felt a little more free to joke around with her and laugh with her...and she is ONE FUNNY LADY!!!! And she has a beautiful home, and she made wonderful food for us, and we just all had a really good time. It was nice to get to see her at home, in her own environment, to get to meet her husband and her daughter and to just see what life is like for Hannah. Hiya maod kef (It was lots of fun!!)

Also, on a hebrew note...I did REALLY well on my hebrew test, better than I've done on any previous tests...I guess I really did learn how to conjugate verbs this year....GO ME!!!!

So tomorrow is another jam-packed day where I won't get home until very late. That seems to be the trend lately. I have class all day (and when I'm not in class I'm running errands or meeting with people) and then I'm leaving straight from school to go with Joel and Rochelle to Tel Aviv to see the concert at Kikar Rabin (Rabin square) for Erev Yom Hazicaron (night before memorial day). It should be pretty powerful. I'm very excited, but I also don't know what to expect. I'm sure I'll blog about it if it's worth it!!!

Other than that, not much else is new. I have one paper down, and I'm almost done with my last paper. We just got the Finals schedule and I have FOUR FINALS (compared to TWO that I had last semester) so it looks like the next week and a half will have to be devoted to finishing my paper, and STUDYING!!!!! Can't wait!!!!

Okay, off to sleep I go!!! Lilah tov!!!

Posted by Elizabeth at 9:48 PM
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