Family Day at the Kotel - Hanachat Tefellin for my nephew Avi
Chanukah vacation in Eilat
This is my my nephew wakeboarding
This is me wakeboarding
December 20, 2004
Family Day at the Kotel - Hanachat Tefellin for my nephew Avi
December 19, 2004
To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other.
- Jack Handy
The Village Idiot
This is a true story........
By Edgar Lefkovitz, for the Jerusalem Post
Two intoxicated female British tourists who were sexually assaulted by their Jerusalem Arab taxi driver fended him off with blows which left him hospitalized, police said Tuesday.
The incident, which took place late Sunday night, began after the two tourists, who are in their 20's, were picked up by the driver from the city's popular Underground Disco and asked to be driven to the youth hostel in the Jerusalem community of Shoresh.
On the way, the driver pulled over on a darkened patch of the road, and started to commit an indecent sexual act on one of the tourists, police said.
The two fought back, beating the driver and even damaging his cab.
The surprised driver – who was so badly beaten that he required medical treatment at Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital at Ein Kerem – was placed under arrest.
He was later released on bail.
The two tourists involved in the incident were questioned by police, and are still in Israel, police said.
What kind of reaction do you think this guy got when his Fatah buddies found out that his black eye and busted lip was inflicted by a couple of white, European, drunk women in Israel???
December 06, 2004
'Twas the nite before Chanukah
Several thoughts to share....
First of all, I bit my tongue yesterday and it still hurts. More on that later.
Next.... As most of you realize by now, I seemed to have gone a bit crazy in my desire to learn Hebrew. Some concerned friends and family members have even commented that I appear to be a bit psychotic. But I continue to stand firm and committed to the position I've staked and to the path I've chosen.
I realize that this path may be somewhat different from that taken by many of my counterparts, most of whom tend to get to Israel and start out enjoying the country for a while, catching up with old friends from the states, maybe even attending a few classes or a Yeshiva in an English speaking environment, looking for a job (English speaking, of course) and finding new friends similar to themselves. I, on the other hand, seem to have chosen the road less travelled. I've detailed in previous posts the many extra hours spent every week outside the classroom working on my Hebrew and also spending five of my first nine Shabbatot at my ulpan teachers home, so I won't go into that any further. What I really want to say is that I think the reason for my persistence has finally crystalized and I realize why it's so important to me.
Even before I arrived in Israel, I had established that learning Hebrew was to be my first major priority. I was fully aware that learning the language of the people would provide the critical springboard to finding work, career, a future, and quite simply, assimilating into society. I also thought it would be pretty fun to learn a new language, something I've never done before.
After a while, when the going got tough, I began to really throw myself into this thing head first, with all my efforts and energy. I spent my time doing classwork, homework, reading about the history of the Hebrew language, speaking my butchered version of Hebrew/English to anyone willing to deal with my stubborness, and fretting about how long this whole process is taking. And sometimes it really does seem like I'm moving at a snails pace.
Then one day a few weeks ago I came to the realization that perhaps the real reason for my insanity is that deep down, my brain is really just yearning for a sort of rejewvination that can only come from an excruciatingly, torturous challenge. Afterall, anyone from my two previous communities in Grand Rapids and Chicago who knows me is well aware of the fact that I spent the last two years cruising thru life, living fat off my cush job, and going to Cubs games three, sometimes four times a week. How many weekday afternoons were spent drinking beer in the sun with 37,645 of my best friends at Wrigley Field??? Then there were the countless festivals, concerts, scotch tastings, bike rides, afternoons at the bookstore, treks to every possible tourist site in Chicago (except for Lincoln's home, which I'm still bummed about), cholent cook-offs, BBQ'ing in the middle of the afternoon, entertaining friends from around the country who'd come visit in the middle of the week, two hour sushi lunches, etc.... I was truly blessed to have had a great job that I was able to master with relative ease and which payed me entirely too much money (not to mention the abundance of free toothpaste, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc...). To put it quite simply, I figured out how to put my job in cruise control and let it run itself. Amazingly, both my client and my employer seemed to be constantly enthralled with my results. Thank You Hashem!
But in retrospect, while this need to have my mind and spirit challenged after so much down time is completely accurate, I don't think that this summation truly captures the essence of my infatuation with mastering the language. You see, this past weekend I realized something all new. And I'll preface this latest revelation by stating that I came to Israel without having many friends here at all. In fact, quite the opposite. I know practically nobody here. Due to my background, I wasn't surrounded by a circle of friends that came to Israel for a year or two after high school and then either stayed here or ultimately came back with their families. Quite frankly, as a teen and even into my twenties, Israel was the furthest thing from my mind. It seems that I discovered my heart and soul a little later in life than some. So, to make a long story short, I didn't have the benefit of coming to a country filled with old friends, classmates, and the support network that so many other seem to walk into.
But something very nice happened to me after Shabbat this week that's made me think about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. You see, I realized that I'm finally succeeding in making new friends here, with people that I like a whole lot and have a huge amount of respect for. They're serious folks, intelligent, humorous and adventurous, which is somewhat like me, right? It's a great feeling to wake up from a two month abyss and realize that your finally beginning to see some daylight being shed on a new social circle.
So what's the problem??? You'd think I was on the right track. But there is a problem, and it's frustrating the hell out of me. You see, most of my new friends speak fluent Hebrew with little or no English and I speak fluent English with little or no Hebrew. Now, this can certainly be of benefit to me in that I'm exposed to much more Hebrew on a daily basis than many of my classmates living in Efrat, which allows me to pick things up a bit quicker than some. But true friendship entails much more than simply hanging out to work on one's own personal language skills. Friendship is about sharing, communicating, and learning from one another. And right now I can't do any of that. Well, that's not exactly 100% true because naturally we do learn from each others actions and we also succeed somewhat with what we are able to speak to each other. But still, it's extremely frustrating because I'm feel unable to share most of my thoughts, insights, and creativity to these fine people. At this point in time, I just don't have the command of the language, nor the vocabulary, to convey any thoughts beyond the simplest concepts. It's really driving me crazy because I understand enough about these people to know that I really like them and I can learn so much from them. And I also get the feeling that they really like me, but at the same time, I know inside that they really don't know me all that well. How can they? I've never been able to share with them any of my uniqueness, my humor, my true thoughts on Torah, society, politics, life, etc... I have so much inside of me that I think is worth sharing, that may have some value to others, yet I'm completely unable to verbalize any of these thoughts and ideas. I hope nobody will take offense to this, but it feels a bit like what I imagine paralysis would feel like. Having complete control of the mind yet unable to move or speak. Being able to see your freinds standing around you and yet not being able to say a word to them. Now that's certainly an exaggeration, but so far, there have been many times in which we start an intellectual conversation, whether about the weekly Torah portion, politics, society, or life in general, and I can never express any of the thoughts that really make me who I am. So while we do fine communicating about the little stuff such as how's school? would you like more gravy? how many siblings do you have, etc... B'kitzur, we can't really dig much deeper to get to the core of who we really are. I wonder if they realize that there's so much more I want to say.
But I must say that there is hope. These people are obviously of the highest grain and thus, I'm sure they understand the boat I'm in. If we've grown this close up to now, I'm sure things will only get better as my comprehension of the things we discuss develops and matures. I've recently begun hearing people comment how much better my Hebrew is today than it was only a few weeks ago. Just in the last few days it seems that a "light" went on in my head (or as they say in Hebrew, ha'asimon nafal) and I've somehow gained a grasp of niphal and hipheel, two of the more complicated grammatical groupings in Hebrew. And tonite, I wasn't even thinking about it as I was speaking to an Israeli girl I know, and completely in Hebrew, I explained to her exactly what was bothering me, about not being able to communicate my deeper thoughts to my friends. And then she just looked back at me and said "Do you realize you just shared a deep thought with me? And you did it in Hebrew. Your doing great." So I guess there is hope after all.
Just knowing how great these people are is enough to keep me going. Realizing that learning Hebrew will allow me to share what's inside of me with my friends, and also allow me to learn what's inside them, is inspiration enough for me to continue along this path with strength, happiness, and continued determination.
Third thought for today.....
Today in ulpan I learned that many of the major battles of Chanukah took place only meters from where I'm sitting at this very moment. One of the reasons behind the Chanukah holiday is a commemoration of the successful revolt, led by the Chashmonai Family (the Maccabbee's as they were known), against the ruling Greeks. The Maccabbee's succeeded in freeing Jerusalem from the oppresive Greek (Hellenistic) Kingdom that had desecrated the Holy Temple and attempted to destroy the entire Jewish religion.
It seems that the most famous of the Maccabbee's, Judah Chashmonai, had four brothers, all of whom fought alongside their father Matityahu in the revolt. One of the brothers was named Elazar. Elazar led the Jews in one of the most famous battles of the war on a hilltop right around the corner from here. The story goes that the Greek battalion came riding up the road from Chevron on their way to Jerusalem when the Maccabbe contingent, led by Elazar, spotted the Greeks from a distance. Elazar saw the Greek general leading the pack riding atop an elephant. Elazar knew that if he could somehow kill the general in full view of the Greek army, it would deal a crushing blow to the troops morale. And so Elazar sprang from the trees and went charging head-first towards the general. Elazar caught them completely off guard and plunged his knife straight into the elephant's belly. Unfortunately the elephant fell over, crushing Elazar to death, but the general also fell to the ground and was killed within seconds by Elazar's troops who had followed him. While Elazar perished in this battle, his strategy was correct. Many of the Greek soldiers fled shortly after seeing such bravery and heroism, and the remaining Hellenist troops sustained enough casualties to drive them back and out of sight for a long, long time. The town right next to the one in which I am living is the exact spot where Elazar battled the Greeks and it is now known as Elazar. I can see it every morning when I walk outside.
To wake up tomorrow, on the eve of the first night of Chanukah, and go outside to walk on, feel, and smell the same land that our ancestors fought and died to protect will be something special. And then to realize what it was all about will be even more meaningful. Take a look around and see what we have in this beautiful country. The rest of the world wants to hate, criticize, and slander us, but we have somehow managed to put six million Jews in a place that was nothing but a burnt-out wasteland desert only one hundred years ago. Take a look at the land that so many of our ancestors have been forced to fight for so many times. We are now, thank G-d, one of the most powerful countries in the world. Europe is everyday envious of our success. This tiny country of Israel, the size of New Jersey, has a brighter future than that entire continent, which is soon to be run over by their friends, the holy muslims. We are one of the world's leading producers of new technology. Our contributions to world science and medicine is second to none. We have more nobel prize winners than all other Middle East countries put together. We're on target to complete the newest state-of-the-art rail system from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Modiin by 2006. There's more Torah learning going on here than ever before. Period. The streets and malls, shops and bars, cafes and public sites are filled everyday. Tourism is flourishing. No country in the world could have sustained the onslaught that Israel has and so quickly found a way to rebound and make its citizens feel as safe as you can anywhere in this crazy world.
It feels good to be here.
Mi Camocha Ba'Olam Elohim (MaCcaBbEe)
May our lights never be extinguished! Chag Sameach
December 03, 2004
Not much time to write today but thought I'd post a few pictures from the past week. Had several good friends here which made it an extra special week. Had to say goodbye twice to people returning to the States which reminded me that I'm still not used to the fact that I don't have to leave. Most people dred leaving and I still have to pinch myself to believe I actually get to stay here. Pretty cool feeling. Went to a great Chabad wedding in Rishon L'Zion on Wednesday nite. Lots of dancing, singing, eating, and long beards. Spent Sunday nite and Monday in Tel Aviv. I don't care what anybody says, its a pretty cool city with great beaches, diverse population, and serious people who also want to have as much fun as they possibly can. Plus the weathers great. How can you argue with that?
D. Salita update - Dmitriy got invited to a Channuka party this Wednesday at the White House.
Hope to post again before the chag. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach to all.
Saturday Nite with my Nephew. He's the coolest.
Tel Aviv - Tallest building in the Middle East. Go Figure.
Skateboarding two minutes from The Old City. You gotta love this place.
Wedding in Rishon L'Zion