Hey. I'm Jay. I'm 20. I'm spending a semester abroad in Israel. I thought maybe I'd tumbl about it.
I live in Ashdod, which is right on the Mediterranean Sea (which is pretty sweet). The program I'm doing is called Oranim, and if you're interested (and are Jewish) you can find more information about it here.
Hey, its been too long, and I still need to post about my spring break, but the last week has been truly amazing and I just needed to talk about it.
Sunday: All of the Oranim groups went to Haifa. First we toured the illegal immigration museum. By illegal immigration, they mean immigration by Jews into British Mandate Palestine. So the good kind. Basically, from sometime in the thirties until the founding of Israel, Britain had extremely tight limits on Jewish immigration into Palestine. So, people would just sort of come anyways, and either get turned back or get sent to Cyprus. The resolve of these people was pretty incredible. What was most interesting to me is how much of it happened between the end of the Holocaust and Israel’s founding in 1948. These people really had nowhere else to go, so they simply tried to come home. Many of them succeeded, but many did not. The museum was also a naval museum.
Then, we went to a naval base in Haifa to attend a Yom Hazikaron ceremony. Yom Hazikaron is the Day of Remembrance, and is meant to honor both military dead and those who died in terrorist attacks. The ceremony was nice, though I only understood some of it.
Monday: Still Yom Hazikaron until Sundown. I had school, though it was a short day. I didn’t work very much, because about an hour after I got there they had their Yom Hazikaron ceremony, run by the kids, which was very nice. Then I went home, chilled for a few hours, and went with a bunch of my friends to Tel Aviv, because at sundown, the mourning ended, and the celebration began. The day after Yom Hazikaron is Yom Ha’atzmaut, or Independence Day. Imagine the Fourth of July, except your country is fairly constantly under attack, only sixty years old (63, to be exact), and every single citizen has served in the military. So its pretty big. We went to Tel Aviv, and you can go into the bars and clubs and such, but they close down all the streets, and everyone just parties in the streets. Its amazing, just dancing with everyone in the streets and hanging out. I went down to the Florintine district, which is where I usually hang out in Tel Aviv. Its the hip, young area. Kind of like the Upper East Side. So I just chilled there until about 4am and it was amazing.
Tuesday: Honestly, pretty uneventful. Went to the beach, had a slow, very nice, Yom Ha’atzmaut.
Wednesday: Went to Tel Aviv alone. Went to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which was awesome. Incredible impressionist collection, giant Roy Liechtenstein mural in the foyer (I am madly in love with Liechtenstein), a couple of really awesome photography exhibitions, and little exhibitions from each of the three shortlisted artists for the 2011 Israeli Art Prize. Then I went to the shuk. It was actually super nice spending a day alone in Tel Aviv. I’ve decided that at some point I may need to put in another year in Israel, definitely in Tel Aviv.
Thursday: Actually kind of an annoying day. We had to wake up at 5:30, and then we went on a group trip to the northeast. It was nice, but I had seen a lot of it before on my own time, and everyone was tired. I came home, ate dinner, took a nap from 11 until 3:30am, at which point I woke up and watched Red Wings hockey. Unfortunately we lost, but it was totally worth it. For some reason we got the Fox Sports Detroit feed in Israel. So that was sort of fun.
Friday (today): About to head to Jerusalem for one last time. We’re going to the Western Wall at sundown for the shabbos, which I did on Birthright last year and is a truly amazing experience. There is just this critical mass of people celebrating the sabbath, and it is quite beautiful. After that, one last night of just partying in Jerusalem. Frankly, Jerusalem is not as crazy as Tel Aviv, but I happen to love the vibe there.
So that is the week that was. I don’t have much time left here, but as you can see I’m determined to make the most of it.
It’s been too long. Right now, I’m just waiting for someone from my host family to pick me up and take me to our Passover Seder. I’m pretty excited.
Some events have transpired since I last posted.
The first thing I’ll mention is we had the Passover Seder for our group. It was just a little thing. It was actually a lot of fun. Everyone pitched in and helped make food, and the people who planned the Seder itself clearly put some effort into it. It was quite the nice send-off for us all before Passover Break (which is now). I had to read the Four Questions, because I’m the youngest.
The next day we went to the Golan Heights in the North, next to Syria. The Golan is a very pretty area, and I did some very nice hiking. All of the Oranim groups from all over Israel were there, and that was a lot of fun. We spent a night at a Kibbutz, and there was a big bonfire. Every group had to do some presentation, and ours was just a series of fairly mean-spirited inside jokes about the rest of our group. It was extremely well-received by Team Ashdod and who cares what anyone else thinks. We’ve definitely asserted our dominance over the rest of the groups. Its a lot of fun. Everyone sort of hates us but then tries to hang out with us. I love Ashdod. The next day we did some rafting, and for the first few minutes our boat was completely out of control, but then I took over paddling for someone and everything went ok.
I have to go now, but I should post again tomorrow or something.
The first in at least two weeks. It is 3:50 AM. Oh well.
Today I walked into school and was told I was going to spend my first period making matzo. Which sounded fun, and I figured it was a more fun way to spend an hour than teaching. I walked into the matzo making room, and the class I work with the most was there, and all the kids got super excited like they always do, and I must’ve given thirty high fives and fist pounds. Then their teacher, who I always have secretly suspected doesn’t like me but I guess that’s not true, had the kids start chanting my name. Then I made matzo. I have an awesome job.
I’m sort of just biding my time now that the test is over. And Leo has mono so I’ve been alone for almost two weeks now and I need some people to talk to at work.
Break should be sweet though.
I guess I’m gonna warn you in advance, this story does not have a happy ending, but its an important story from my trip, and I want to tell it.
My house has a cat. We’re not really allowed to have a cat, and technically she is not ours, but a group from our program that used to live in this house started letting her in the house and feeding her, and though we didn’t let her inside (very often), she just sort of kept hanging out on our porch. So she was our cat. She was a pretty cute cat. She came with a name, Bika (pronounced sort of like Bike-uh, but more like Bi-kuh). We all got pretty tight with this cat, and recently she became pregnant. We all became quite concerned with pregnant Bika’s safety, and started feeding her more, and built her a little house to have her kids in. (We called it her rain-house, because one day it was raining and my friend David said “Where do you think Bika goes in the rain?” and I said, quite matter-of-fact, “Her rainhouse.” And it was decided that that must be the answer.)
Last night Bika died due to complications with her pregnancy. This is the sort of crazy story of last night.
A few of us were hanging out in the kitchen, and people started noticing that Bika didn’t look so good. We started looking at her, and we could feel her kittens moving but she was barely breathing. We couldn’t think of what to do, as none of us knew anything about getting her to a veterinarian. Luckily, there is a group of Russian and Ukrainian volunteers in Ashdod, though they do not teach English like we do. One of them, however, is a vet back in the Ukraine. We called the Russians, and through jumbled English, they said if we could get the cat to them, Laila would be happy to look at it.
We didn’t know if a taxi would take a cat, even in an emergency. We called a friend of ours, Josh Carter. Josh is a Texas A&M grad who plays for Macabbi Ashdod, the professional basketball team here. We’re sort of the only Americans he has to hang out with in Ashdod, so he’s been hanging out with us a fair amount lately (incidentally, my students flipped out when I casually mentioned this to them). Its actually pretty cool, the other night I saw highlights of him on TV at a bar. Anyways, someone called him and he agreed to take us to the Russians in his car. Myself and three others went, carrying Bika in the box that serves as her house.
She stopped breathing on the way over to the Russians, and the vet there said there was nothing she can do. She was actually really on top of the situation, she clearly wanted to do what was best for everyone.
Things got interesting when the vet’s friend translated the vet’s russian for us: “She would like to know if you would like her to try to save the babies.”
Of course we said yes, I’ll spare you the details of the procedure. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful.
She died from getting hit by something. It injured her and the babies.
We then set about having a starlight funeral for Bika. David organized the logistics, and I organized the service itself. We started by going around and sharing our thoughts about Bika. This was very nice, everyone had kind and thoughtful things to say. We then had a moment of silence, and then, since there was a minyan, I led Kaddish. Everyone put a handful of dirt on her grave, and we all said our goodbyes.
In the end, we did the best we could in the circumstances. The funeral had been relaxing, and some friends of ours gave us a lot of help. So thanks to Laila and Sasha, allowing us into their home and helping us in an emergency. Thanks to Josh Carter for taxiing us around, and sticking around until after the funeral was over.
The porch is sort of weirdly empty now. Bika was the first substantial pet I’ve ever had, and I’m going to miss her. I’ve always said I wanted a cat, and I was so excited that we had one.
It should be mentioned, because it is a part of the story: I was once all dressed up to go out and talking to my mother on the phone. Bika had been sitting on my lap, and suddenly Bika shifted her stance and pooped on me. It was terrible. I love her anyways. She’s way too cute to stay mad at.
We’ll miss you, Bikes.
I’ll tell the whole story tomorrow, but tonight I presided over a cat funeral.
Two elderly, but apparently well-off people coming back from the open air market. One of them picked up an egg carton out of a trash can, examined it, and proceeded to put their eggs in it. Israel, you are an interesting place.
One of them is birds inside of schools. They leave all of the doors open, so without fail, birds get inside of the school. If that happened in America, I feel like everyone would freak out. In Israel, everyone just ignores them. Really, the Israelis are right on this one. I asked Ariel about it one day (most of the time when I have questions I ask Ariel, who is the best at English out of all of the students. This is only part of the reason he is my favorite, but the point is that he gives me straight answers to questions about the school, and the teachers don’t always), and he just sort of said “Who are they bothering?” This is perfectly logical. It still weirds me out every time I see a bird in the school.
Me: So, Leoni's not here, and neither of the English Teachers are here today.
Ariel: Yeah, so?
Me: Well, it means I have no one to talk to, since you are currently the second best English speaker in the school.
Ariel: Ah. Right. Sorry about that.
And then we played MLB 2011 on PSP for half an hour. In the end, I have a pretty cool job.