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Elizabeth's Blog
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 rooftop..at 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 it...my 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 time...my 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 just...so 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
Pat-tay
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 yesterday...like, 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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Thursday, May 5, 2005
Holocaust Rememberence Day (Yom HaShoah)
Now Playing: Theme to Schindler's List
There are so few words to describe the emotions that I've been having during the past 24 hours. Today is Yom HaShoah. Today, we remember the 6 million Jews that perished in the Holocaust. Today, we remember that 11 million people died in unthinkable, inhumane, and despicable ways...for no real reason, other than extermination. Today, we remember, because if we forget, it is as if we are killing them a second time. Today, we remember.

Israel is a country of ceremonies. That's how they celebrate holidays here, and have memorials...they have ceremonies. Last night there was a ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum here in Jerusalem, and my friends and I watched it live on TV last night. At one point the ceremony, they had 6 survivors on stage and they played films about their stories and they lit candles. These people made it real for me. One woman in particular, who had gone on after the Shoah to become a midwife and deliver hundreds of babies, she made me think a lot. What could have been? What kind of human potential had been wasted when 6 million people were killed? Who among them would have been doctors, or lawyers, or rabbis? What if someone among them had found a cure for cancer? Or what if one among them would have gone on to produce brilliant works of literature or an aria, or what it they could have saved just another human life in their midst.....what was wasted when those 6 million were killed? To kill 6 million, in order to exterminate a peoplehood, is to cause an unnatural rift in the wave of human existence. I couldn't help but think last night...what are the rammifications of that unnatural rift?

Perhaps it was easiest for me to deal with that last night, because I couldn't begin to deal with questions of why, or how. I've learned about the Shoah in Suday school. I even took a course in college. But nothing prepared me for today.

Today, we went to school and prayed. We had a very somber morning service. Then, the most extraordinary thing happened. A number of us went out to the street to hear the siren ring at 10 am and watch the world stop. A few of my friends and I went to a very busy intersection near school. We waited for a few minutes, and finally the siren went off, just as expected. What was so extraordinary was the power that I felt in that moment. I looked all around me, and cars that were stopped in the middle of the street. People had gotten out of their cars and were standing next to them. A man, driving a huge truck got out of the cab of his truck and stood next to it. I looked in every direction, and everyone had stopped their lives in that minute to remember.
I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I couldn't breath. I began to gasp and cry. There was so much power in the act of just remembering. I put my hand over my mouth, afraid of my own emotions, trying so hard to supress the urge to burst, right there, into tears. I will never be able to explain the utter sadness and loss that I felt in that moment, when the entire world, it seemed to me, had stopped in order to remember something so tragic and so unbelievable. I will never be able to recreate that moment. But I will carry it with me always. The power of remembering, in that moment, was ulike anything I'd ever felt in my whole life.

We then went back to school where we had a ceremony in the courtyard. Stories were told, songs were sung, we grieved communally, and then we sang Hatikvah, the Israeli Anthem. Hatikvah - "The Hope". After all, isn't Israel where many of the surviving Jews went after the Shoah, when they felt they had nowhere else to go? Hasn't Israel been the hope of the Jews throughout history, as our home, and our land? I stood, and I proudly sang Hatikvah, with tears in my eyes and mixed emotions about being in Israel, and what it means to me as a Jew to be living in a Jewish land, in this Jewish state. Yes, I will always remember today.

The day feels heavy for me, somehow. With every thing I do and every thing I think, in the back of my mind, I remember. It took me a while today to process all of this. To think about all the stories and all the untold stories. To think about the loss, and to think about what could have been...all of the wasted potential.
I've spent a lifetime listening to stories of the Shoah, learning about it, even celebrating Yom HaShoah. But today, I can never forget the feeling of today, here in Israel, for as long as I live. Yes, I will always remember.

Posted by Elizabeth at 2:23 PM
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Sunday, May 1, 2005
I thought it was just the stomach flu.....
but it turns out to be more...much, much more. I have dysentery. When the doctor told me this, I was like, are you serious? I only thought people along the Oregon Trail got dysentery!!! (Remember that game...ALONG THE OREGON TRAIL....oh no, you've lost two members of your party to dysentery!) But apparently it can happen to anyone nowadays...the doctor said she'd seen lots of cases of it already this year. She thinks I probably contracted the bacteria from some food (like chicken or eggs or something) and she was confident with some anti-biotics, and some anti-stomach-cramping (yeah, that's been REAL fun) medication, that I'd be feeling much better by tomorrow. I did wake up with a very high fever this morning, but hopefully the drugs will help so that my body no longer feels the need to elevate it's temperature any more. The funniest part at the doctor's office occured when she asked if I could give a stool sample. I said sure, I'd try, and after waiting for the lab guy forever, he handed me the smallest vile I've ever seen(it looked like a toothpick holder) and told me to go to the bathroom in it....I was like, what??? I can't do that...do you have anything bigger?? He told me no, and just to try. Karen and I couldn't stop laughing, it was so ridiculous. And then I couldn't get the bathroom door to lock and this women was trying to get in and Karen kept telling her no...it was hysterical. We left there in an absolute fit of laughter.

So yeah, other than that the past few days have been unbelievably miserable...and painful, and pretty rotten, all around. But now that I've gone to the doctor, I'm confident that I will kick this in the butt.
I'm a little sad I wasn't able to make it back to our first day of school today after being on break for two and a half weeks. I was actually looking forward to school....seeing as how we only have 3 weeks of classes left this year. But, such is life....I'm just going to try and rest today so that I can go back to school tomorrow!
Okay, off to go be lazy and let those anti-biotics do their thing!!!

PS Thanks so much to everyone who brought me stuff and wished me well over the past few days: Katie O., Crossley and Lisa, Rachel I. and especially Karen and Harvey for takiing me to the doctor and laughing with me about all of this!!!! I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful and caring community here!!!!

Posted by Elizabeth at 11:05 AM
Updated: Sunday, May 1, 2005 11:12 AM
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Thursday, April 28, 2005
Last few days of my break.....
Now Playing: Coldplay - Clocks
I guess it's been almost a week since I've updated. The sad thing is, there isn't much new to report. Passover in Jerusalem has been really cool because most restaurants are Kosher for passover (which means I got Chinese food!!!) and everything in the grocery store that is Chametz is covered...it's like the whole city already did the worrying for me!!! How convenient!!!

Our seder was a lot of fun! I went over to Joel and Josh's and we had a great time. Sometimes I wonder why they are ever going to let us be Jewish professionals. We really have too much fun...I can't wait to see what Biennials and CCARs will be like in the future. I'm sure it will be all about wrong!!!

A few days ago I met an old High School friend of my mom's who lives here in Jerusalem with his family. His cousin, who also knew my mom, was visiting and so it was cool to get to meet them. He teaches at a local art school here (sort of in the Talpiyot area) and he showed me some of his work...really incredible stuff. Hopefully I'll at least get to spend a shabbat with them, or some more time before I leave in like 30 days.

Yes, 30 days. Can you believe it???? I mean, everyone told me the time here would go by quickly, but it didn't really seem like it was going by so quickly at the time...and now it's the end of April and I have 30 days left here before I go home. I would have loved to have stayed a bit longer after school was out, but I have to get home immediately so that I can run to Cincinnati for Michael's ordination, and then be at GUCI the next day to start my summer. Hectic!!! Maybe it will make saying all the goodbyes a lot easier. Short, quick, and to the point. I mean, why drag it out??? It'll just be harder for me if i do...I know this about myself.

So what have i been up to this past week??? NOt really much of anything. I've been trying to get a lot of work done (which I haven't been too successful with lately) including 2 papaer, errands I need to run, homework and studying and other such stuff. I've really also been trying to relax too. I work hard all year, and it's important for me to use my vacation time wisely to recouperate in order to be fully ready for my finals!!! And man, am I nervous about thos finals.....
First of all, I'm not exactly sure how many I have. There's been rumors that EVERYONE has a Hebrew final, but I have no idea. And Rabbinic Literature is going to be pretty hard, not to mention biblical grammar and bible...oh yeah, and do I have a liturgy final??? I love how set in stone things are here....NOT!!!!
Hopefully we'll all get a little more clarity on the FINALS SCHEDULE when we get back to school on Sunday. For now, I guess I should just worry about my papers and studying....right?!?!?!?!

Anyway, off to go have another very productive day!!! I think I can, I think I can.....

Posted by Elizabeth at 10:05 AM
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Friday, April 22, 2005
Back from the Dead Sea getaway
Now Playing: Maroon 5 - This Love
I am back from the Dead Sea getaway week!!!! It was SOOOO much fun!!!
It all started on Tuesday morning when Jane Jacobs (who works at the Rape Crisis Center with me and Karen...and who kicks butt, in general) picked me and Karen up and we headed down to Ein Boqueq. We had a great car ride down (except for needing to stop and switch seats with Karen cause she was feeling a little green in the back seat) and Jane was a fabulous tour guide out of jerusalem and down the West Coast of Israel. Once we got there, we headed straight for the pool and swam a little, sun bathed, and had a bite to eat. After Anne arrived from Eilat (where she had been earlier) we all got Aromatherapy messages that were about an hour long. MMMMMM....it was sooooo nice!!!! Then we went into the spa area where they have an indoor version of the dead sea (in this huge octagonal pool) and some steam rooms and hot tubs. After partaking of the spa area with all the other old, heavy, russian men and women, we headed back up to the room where Karen napped and Anne, Jane, and I sat on our balcony and took in the view and chatted. After dinner, we said good bye to Jane who headed back to Jerusalem, and after seeing that there wasn't much night life happening, we headed up to the room to be girly. Anne chose the single bed, and Karen and I shared the HUGE bed in the second bedroom. Now, you would think that this would mean that we would both have tons and tons of room. That's what I thought, at least. But it turns out that Karen likes to cuddle up in bed...she defiantely took a good 2/3 of this bigger-than-king-sized bed and although I had enough room...it didn't feel overabundant. She's too funny!!!
After sleeping in (a huge luxury for Karen who has a 4 and 8 year old and is up EVERY MORNING AT 6 AM!!!) we got up, got breakfast and then the rest of the Sherman family arrived. We all got ready for the pool, but it was really cold out that morning, so Karen and I played with Eliana and Rebekah on the playground and a bit on the kid's waterslide. I would have preferred more time with the kids on the waterslide...but that's just me, a BIG KID at heart!!!
After lunch, Anne and Karen and I got facials. After a quick nap (because it had been such a strenous day!) Karen and I went to go get our bodies wrapped in mud. This was by far one of the most interesting experiences of the whole trip. You basically go into this room that looks sort of like a scary doctor's office and the russian woman with a thick accent tells you to take off all your clothes and lie down. Then she comes in with a hot bucket of steaming mud, and slathers it all over your back, arms, and legs. She wraps a sort of saran wrap around you, and puts horse blanket over the rest of you, shuts off the lights, and says "GOODNIGHT" in that thick slavic accent.
OKAY. Several thoughts were running through my head at this point: 1) Did I just pay NIS 180 to do this (roughly $40)?? 2) This is a woman's job? She wakes up every morning to slap mud on people? 3) Karen told me she felt Dead in her wrap..like that's what it would have felt like to be dead...I just felt like a big tortilla. 4) It almost felt very Nazi-concentration camp experiement to me...I couldn't move, I had hot, steaming dirt on me, and I was waiting for something....anything to happen. Weird.
After a while the woman came back in and said: "Get up, and go to the shower, I will wash your back." So I walked over to the tiny shower in the room, and was hosed down by this woman.
The Mud in the Dead Sea is supposed to have such healthful minerals and oils in it, and it's supposed to be very good for the skin...but Karen and I couldn't help but laugh at the whole process. Very memorable!!!
After dinner, Anne wasn't feeling well so she went up to the room, and the Sherman's and I took a walk on the beach. As we left the hotel, we saw some men burning the chametz (bread products) off of serving trays in order to make the kitchen kosher for passover. In fact, the hotel had been in the process of doing this the whole time that we were there. Half of our meals were normal, half were already kosher l'pesach. But it was weird watching these guys taking blow torches and trying to burn off every single crumb that could have possibly been there. Karen and I , or course then got into a whole conversation about what it means to be Kosher for passover, the extent people do and don't go to, and what it all means. Very rabbinical of us, if I do say so myself!
The next morning, we packed up, checked out of the hotel, and headed to Masada so that the Sherman's could see it (because only Karen had been there before). We all went up the cable car (which was cool, I've always hiked up it) because we had the girls with us and the Sherman's let me be their tour guide at the top of Masada. It was fun, but it was getting hot and the girls were tired, so Anne and I took Eliana and Rebekah back down the cable car while Karen and Harvey hiked down. We got the girls popsicles, and we took them into the shop and had lots of fun with them.
After we headed back to Jerusalem, we all got together for dinner at the Sherman's and ordered in. Then Anne and Harvey and I went shopping in order to get all of our Passover food.
All in all, it was a lovely few days spent with some lovely folks.
Part of me wishes that I had gone to the FSU with my other classmates, but being at the spa was sort of like it's own FSU. The way that people speak hebrew and some english in jerusalem is like that near the Dead Sea, only with Hebrew and Russian. I had so much russian spoken at me, and unlike Hebrew...I had absoultely NO IDEA what they were saying. Also, the food at the resort was very russian...lots of smoked and pickled fish, salads, meats, etc. And all the people that worked there were Russian olim. Most of the guests were older Russian men and women and they were all in the spa, getting their joints back in order, crowding me in the hot tub, and just letting everything hang out in general. So, I got my own little taste of the FSU.

Also, I'm really starting to realize that I have about 5 weeks left here in Israel. I'm glad I didn't go away for this break because it's the only break I've actually spent in Israel, and it will give me the opportunity to get a lot of work done so that I can spend the next few weeks here enjoying the time I have left. Part of me feels such a sadness that this year is over, because it has been one of the most life-changing, growing, fun, and unique years of my life. However...I'm feeling ready for it to be done. I know that this year can never be duplicated, no matter how hard we try, and so I have to just appreciate this year for what it had been. I feel like I've done everything this year that I wanted to do, that I've taken advantage of all of the things that I've wanted to, and that I've grown in ways that I may not be able to see right now, but changes that I know have happened.
Part of me is ready to come home, because I know that I will be back. I know that this year has had a profound impact on me and my relationship with Israel and with Reform Judaism, with my own Judaism, and with my own views about myself. I'm ready to be back in America and see what I can do there. I'm ready to see my Mom and Dad again. I'm starting to miss them...a lot. I'm ready to see my friends again, and to tell them about all of my experiences, share with them the wonderful memories I've made this year. The year is coming to a close, and although I cannot put to words the deep sadness that I feel about leaving, I think that in a really healthy way, I'm ready to leave....I can see the end coming, and it's okay.
For now though...I'm just loving the break and the down time to just be here, living in Israel...just living, learning, and loving it all!!!

Posted by Elizabeth at 3:11 PM
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