Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Week in the Life...

OK I know I haven’t written in a while. A lot has happened but I’m not going to be able to get through all of it. Important aspects of this week include Yom Kippur, Hebrew classes, pub nights, sports, music, and Sukot.

Unlike in the US, Sundays here are part of the workweek. However this Sunday was not typical because Yom Kippur started in the afternoon. We woke up around 7:30 to go on a morning hike with Rabbi Michael. After walking a while, we stopped and discussed the rituals of Yom Kippur and their significance. We talked mostly about fasting and t’shuva. Fasting is important because we demonstrate to ourselves that we have enough self-control not to eat. The purpose of this demonstration is that we exercise that same self-control when we make decisions in the coming year. Most of our sins are committed out of choice, and simply knowing that we have the resolve not to eat or drink for an entire day helps us make hard decisions in the future. Fasting is also significant because it cleanses our bodies and brings us closer to death. When we break the fast, it is as if we are giving ourselves new life for the new year. T’shuva is similar in that we cleanse ourselves by forgiving others and letting go of our own sins. Traditionally, we throw pieces of bread (representing our sins) into a river and watch them float away. However, since there are no rivers near Kibbutz Ketura, we did a slightly different exercise. Instead, Rabbi Michael asked us to write about a sin we have committed in the last year. Afterwards, we took our scraps of paper, put them in a pile, and burned them.

After our hike, everyone prepared for the fast. The main preparation is to eat a lot. The last meal was at 3 and the fast started at 5. A little after 5 was the Kol Nidre service, which I attended and enjoyed more than the Shabbat service, but still less than services back home. The rest of the evening was focused on preserving energy, the most important fasting strategy. Another one of my strategies is sleeping as much as possible because I'm not hungry while I sleep. Accordingly, I went to sleep early and slept in late. Services ran continuously on Monday from 9 until 6:30, except for one 30 minute break. I knew I didn’t have the endurance to be in temple the entire time, so I chose certain hours. As I said, I slept in to shorten the fast, so I didn’t get to services until 10:30. I left around 12:30 and returned at 4:30. In total, I spent about 6 hours not really understanding what was going on. But finally, at 6:30, the fast was over! Even the kibbutz food tasted good that night.

Tuesday was the first day of Hebrew classes aka the first day of boredom. Eight of the eleven Masa students have never spoken Hebrew before and there is only one Hebrew class, so the teacher is starting from the very very beginning. Like I learned this stuff in second grade. I was really looking forward to the Hebrew classes because I’m quite rusty, but these particular classes were useless. During one of the breaks, I took my computer to a wifi hotspot to download some computer games, which kept me somewhat occupied for the remainder of the class. Fortunately, I spoke with Moishe, the program director, who agreed that Adi and I could study independently. (Yoni, the other Masa student who knows some Hebrew decided he wanted to stay in the class.) After class on Wednesday (the second day of boredom), Moishe, Adi, and I worked out the details of our independent study. On Thursday, Adi and I read 2 newspaper articles and answered a few questions in Hebrew. Adi is pretty fluent in Hebrew, so he didn’t have too much trouble with the newspaper articles, but I struggled. We are also supposed to discuss the articles in Hebrew, but we ran out of time. There was no class on Friday, but I’ll give it another chance next week. Hopefully, it will get better.

I have to backtrack a bit to cover Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, and Thursday’s afternoon/evening events. Tuesday was absolutely ridiculous. I must have had a lot of energy stored up from not doing anything on Yom Kippur and being bored out of my mind at Hebrew class that morning. Here was my Tuesday afternoon and evening itinerary:

- Pool (swimming, volleyball, frisbee)

- Dinner

- American football

- Soccer against the Australian volunteers

- Ultimate frisbee

- My legs stopped functioning

- Music

I’ll elaborate. It didn’t really start getting intense until we played soccer with the Australians. I don’t know whose stupid idea it was to challenge the Australians to soccer, but they’re damn good and we (the American students) were pretty bad. We decided to play to 10 goals, and team USA managed to drag it out for like 2 hours. The final score was 10-2 (I scored our first goal when we were losing 6-0!) Anyway, everyone was pretty drained, but then there were a few people who hadn’t gotten to play soccer, so they brought a frisbee. My legs were already starting to cramp, but I decided to play frisbee anyway. It actually wasn’t too bad until I ran and dove to catch the disc. It was an epic catch—I was sprinting my fastest and then lunged to catch it when it was about 2 inches off the ground. The problem was that I had no more gas in the tank, and that last burst sent both of my legs into a coma. For a few seconds, I just laid there, completely sprawled out, wincing, but with the disc in my hand. I got rid of the disc, but I was down for the count. It took me a while to get to my feet and waddle to the sideline. It would have been a good idea to call it a night right then, but when I heard that there was about to be a jam session, I couldn’t miss it. I grabbed my saxophone and we met in this old blue trailer. Benjamin played drums, Yoni played guitar, Ben played harmonica, and I played saxophone. It was so awesome! There were a ton of Israeli high school kids visiting the kibbutz for a few days, and about 10 of them piled into the trailer to listen to us play. They started videotaping us, asked us what the name of our band was and how long we had been playing together, and we just shrugged and told them that we had never played together before. It was a great way to finally end the night.

Wednesday afternoon, I was still pretty energized by the previous night, but there wasn’t much to do, so I went to the Mercaz (kibbutz center), where there is a piano. I composed this song that we might try to perform for the kibbutz later this week. It still needs words, but the chords sound pretty good. I also played some tennis and basketball, which helped my legs loosen up from the night before. Before going to bed, I hung out with the volunteers and smoked hookah.

There were 2 highlights to Thursday: schnitzel and pub night. Schnitzel is a rarity at the kibbutz (about once a month) but it is the best food I have had in a long time, so I stocked up on it. I brought this huge plastic container and filled it with about 20 pieces of schnitzel, which is now in the freezer. I will resort to it when we have a sucky meal, which is essentially 3 times a day. Pub night has gotten better each time. Braeden and I split a bottle of vodka and a 6-pack of beers at the Aspaka so that we wouldn’t have to pay for stuff at the bar which is more expensive. Basically, pub nights have gotten better because of more drinking, more dancing, and more friends. Tonight is pub night too.

Friday morning, we woke up early to go on another hike with Rabbi Michael. This is our third religious conversation with Rabbi Michael, and I enjoy them a lot. I have decided that services are pretty useless to me, but Rabbi Michael makes up for them. This conversation was about Sukot. To begin with, we assembled the lulav with leaves from a date palm and a myrtle branch (there are no willow trees on the kibbutz for the last third of the lulav). We also picked an etrog, a lemon-like fruit. Together, the lulav and etrog are shook in each direction in temple. After walking around a bit we sat down in the date orchard. A lot of our discussion focused on the importance of Israel to Judaism, which turned into a more political discussion once we returned to the caravans.

For dinner, we sat in a huge sukah which was built outside the dining room. When I walked into the sukah, I heard some people calling my name. I turned around and saw Dor and his family! They came down to the kibbutz for the first night of Sukot. It was great to see them here after they hosted me in Tel Aviv. Dor’s father, Nadav, is a guest lecturer of eco-health at the Arava Institute, so he has many friends on the kibbutz. After dinner, I showed Dor around the kibbutz before meeting up with his family in Sharon’s sukah. Sharon is a friend of Nadav’s who works at the Arava Institute and is a member of Kibbutz Ketura. This was my first time being invited into the home of one of the members, so I was pretty excited. The conversation wasn’t particularly interesting, but it was still a good time.

FYI there’s another public Picasa album to which all of the Arava students post pictures. Here’s the link:

1 comment:

  1. You sound like an alcoholic when you talk about pub night. But that's ok - go get em. That sucks about the Hebrew lessons, exactly like what happened to me when I went to Panama!