Friday, September 4, 2009

Here's what we do on the Mechina

I've now been in Israel for nearly one full week (and for those who don't know, I now have my suitcases. They arrived on the Metzuda on Tuesday).

I'm writing from the Delgado's house ("hello" to the Akiba people reading this!) in Metar, which is near Be'er Sheva in the south. Eldad (one of our counselors/madrichim) drove me, Galya, and Imri to a bus stop where we got on the the #369 bus. Imri got off at the next stop, and Galya and I stayed on till the end, at the central bus station in B'er Sheva. Bertha picked me up there, we ran a few errands, and drove to their house. It's a beautiful, beautiful house! Be'er Sheva, as much as people say there's nothing there, already seems like a great city. It's just as diverse as Chicago also in terms of religions and also in terms of the color of people's skin and where they're from, which is amazing because Tel Aviv was definitely not like that.

So the way each day on the Mechina works is we get up, eat breakfast (usually hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese "kotegge", Israeli salad--at every meal, cereal "kornflakes", tuna, tea). And then we have our first class (shiur) of the day--sometimes Yahadut (Judaism), sometimes Manhigut (leadership) with Gilad, the shead of the Mechina, sometimes Tzionut (Zionism) with Zevik, sometimes with a guest....

We have usually three or four 1.5 hour long shiurim each day, and we also have a three hour break/menucha/hafsakah after lunch until around 4--except usually that "break" ends up turning into time to meet with your chulya (for camp people, it's like va'adot, for others, basically the defined groups that plan programming) or to wait in line to check email, or play frisbee or... whatever you want to do.

Since I mentioned chulyot, I’ll explain a little bit. There are six chulyot (kvutza, p’ilut toremet, echud chayim, tiyulim, limud, and… something that I’m not remembering right now). Each chulya is in charge of running a different part of the Mechina. On the first day, we chose our chulyot, which ended up being a 45-60 minute discussion, including switching our preferences, arguing out, drawing the short straw—in short, something that I’ve become very accustomed to since coming to the Mechina. Sof sof, I’m in Chulyat Kvutza, and we’re in charge of two things. Thing 1 is basically about how things are going on the mechina, things we need to discuss to make sure everything is smooth between us, things like “how do we vote” (we finally decided on 50%+3 people) and “after what time, except for certain places, do we need to be quiet” (12am), etc. In the future, probably things like bringing food into buildings, cell phones on, smoking corners, etc. The other thing we’re in charge of, is planning fun activities (camp people: evening programs) for the whole Mechina. Last night, for example, we ran a program that started with a fun game, then divided into 5 groups to play different get-to-know-you games at each station (my station was basically 2 truths and a lie, there was also “chavila overet” which is like hot potato with questions at each layer…. Etc etc etc.) At the end we had a tekes (ceremony of sorts) with candles and sang Yachad (basically a song about being together). Other chulyot work with the topics we learn about (for special themed weeks), the community service projects we do, the places we go for tiyulim (trips)…

We already went on a small trip (siyur) to Yafo a few days ago, and learned about the Yafo history, and how certain streets came to be named what they are, and walked all around. We met with two Arab-Israelis who grew up in/around Yafo, who talked about what their lives are like (one who went to a Jewish school as a kid) ,and it was very interesting, especially to see the Israelis’ reactions which were so different from anything I would have seen from the same type of presentation at home.

Although Mom/Dad/other adults might not be so happy to hear, there’s no curfew (not like there’s anywhere to go… we don’t leave the Metzudah). But I haven’t been as responsible about going to bed as I probably should. I haven’t gone to bed earlier than 1:30 any night, and two nights ago I went to bed at 3:30. Because people are still awake, and even though sometimes I’m tired, I don’t want to miss anything! But I’ll have more self-control as it gets harder to stay awake in shiyurim.

Each week we're also going to have "koshair gufani" (physical fitness) 2 or 3 times a week. There are going to be two "levels", and I think I want to do the hard one. We ran near the Metzudah, around sunset. To run in an open field during sunset, when you can also see the moon, is really something special. It feld good to run, although my achilles hurt a little, but I think I'm going to like it since I never exercise at home.

About the Hebrew: it’s been really really good! I understand nearly everything in the shiyurim, and when we went to Heichal Ha’atzmaut (the building in Neve Tzedek/Tel Aviv where Ben Gurion announced Israel’s independence in ’48) we watched a documentary in Hebrew that I understood all of. Of course there are words in every shiyur that I don’t understand, and I write them down and people help me out with them—sometimes simply translating to English, but lots of times explaining in Hebrew. I am actually surprised by how much I know. It’s different than classes at home, where I can doodle and take notes and listen and talk at the same time; here I have to concentrate in order to listen and take notes, and I can’t draw at the same time (except yesterday I did and I still got most of the lecture!) There’s only been one that I haven’t understood, and I didn’t get any of it except for the main topic (what’s the dilemma/is there one between science and religion). But the Rabbi who came to teach it used very very high, formal Hebrew and I couldn’t read his hand writing or understand the packets he handed out. It’s basically like being in an unofficial (no direct Hebrew classes) ulpan, since everyone speaks Hebrew all the time. Kind of like Chalutzim…. But to the max?

Shabbat shalom l'kulam!

I posted the first album of pictures:


  1. Curfew? Not so much. But I AM worried about you running in those blue/gray shoes! Mom

  2. So about the whole going to bed really late thing. I feel the exact same way!