Friday, April 5, 2013

Isru Chag(ue) on the Prague Blague*

Passover began for me months ago, when I first started to think about going abroad for the semester. When I spoke with a friend from Chicago who had also spent a semester in Prague, one of the first things I asked her was how feasible keeping Passover was going to be. She assured me that there would be food. There was, though certainly nothing like the quantity available in most urban supermarkets in the States. A 1 pound box of matzah costs $5 here, as do packages of kosher-for-Passover cheese and chocolate bars. 

So instead of making myself eat cheese slices on matzah all week, with a some boiled potatoes for variety, I went to Israel to visit Naomi. Both Gideon and I were lucky enough to have relatives visit us during our gap years in Israel (for Gideon: Grandma Helene, Grandpa Bernie, and Uncle Danny; for me: Grandma Helene, Aunt Emily, and Gideon), so this visit made sure Naomi got some family time in, also. Since she's been awful at communicating this year (ahem!), this post will function as a semi-update on her life, too. 

I went to seders hosted by the Masorti (Conservative) Community both nights, held at the home of Shumi (pictured on the left). On the first night I missed Eliyahu's visit, as per usual (but the crowd gave a round of applause when he left!), but on the second night I managed to catch a glimpse. There were about 60 people crammed into Shumi's living room each night--a combination of locals, study abroad students, and visiting families. Gaby and Alyssa (pictured in the Purim post) and I sat with two brothers and their mom who were passing through Prague, and the post-seder singing we did made it feel a lot more like home. 

On Thursday night I headed to the airport, and my flight arrived in Israel at 4:15 am. Somehow, I completely missed daylight savings time everywhere--Prague changed the clocks while I was in Israel, and Israel changed the clocks while I was in the air. Galya (woah, I'm wearing the same shirt in these pictures) came to pick me up because her Kibbutz is 10 minutes away from the airport, and we went to sleep immediately upon our arrival at her Kibbutz. But when we woke up we made matzah pizza (in a microwave) and salad (in a bucket, because there were no big K-for-P dishes), in typical Abby And Galya fashion. We continued the day in Tel Aviv, and then I went to Jerusalem to meet Naomi.

Little did I know that Galya and my friend Ariel (back row,far  right in the next picture) had spoken, and Ariel was waiting for me at the bus station! [Sidenote for OSRUI friends: Ariel is on the mishlachat for this summer as media specialist.] Which was good, because I couldn't remember how to walk from there to my friend Amir's house, where I was staying. Apparently, Ariel couldn't either and we got a bit lost--luckily, we ran into Naomi who was walking around carrying her map. Naomi and I had a wonderful Shabbat dinner at the home of a family I met a month ago in Prague on Purim, and lunch with the Kochins (all 6 of them!) the next day before hanging out with friends from her Midrasha. [Since around October, Naomi was a member of the first year of Midreshet HaShiluv, a program for Israelis deferring the military service for a year in order to study Jewish texts. Uniquely, the Midrasha is coed, and has both religious and secular participants. It's located, temporarily, at Kibbutz Mevo Hama, on the southeastern part of the Sea of Galilee, so Naomi got to do a lot of nice hiking up there. And despite what Facebook might say: no, it's not in Syria, don't worry.]

With friends from my gap year at Mechinat Nachshon! It's hard to believe that I haven't seen any of these folks (with the exception of Shani, who visited me at Princeton) in two years! The great thing about Israel is that everything is kosher...even on Passover. So we met up at Tmol Shilshom, one of my favorite cafes in Jerusalem. It was so wonderful to see everyone and to get a chance to catch up. חבר'ה, תודה רבה שבאתם. מאוד שמח אותי לראות את כולכם, ואני מקווה שכשתבוא לארה"ב הדבר הראשון שתעשו יהיה להרים אליי טלפון. כי אין מצב שלא נפגשים...

Sunday afternoon, Naomi and I met up with some friends of mine at a spring on the outskirts of Jerusalem called Ayn Sapir. When it came time to jump in (it was hot!), I counted to three and ducked under. Naomi, on the other hand, pulled that nasty trick that big kids do to little kids and pretended to go under but didn't actually. "I already showered today," she said. And then corrected herself: "I already showered this week." (In Israel, every drop of water counts, right?)

Sunday I went to stay with my friend Ofir in Haifa. This is the view from his window. We actually didn't end up spending much time in Haifa because one of our friends from the Mechina had been in a car accident in the army and was in the hospital, so we drove down to visit him. Incredibly, despite three broken vertebrae, he's doing fantastically and has full range of motion in all his limbs! 

Oh, and since Passover ends a day earlier in Israel than it does everywhere else in the world, I got to break Passover in Haifa on a delicious sandwich whose contents I'm still not quite sure of.

Isru chag*: Abby and Naomi bike around bike routes in Jerusalem currently under construction, which will eventually create a Yam L'Yam bike path (from the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean Sea), and will also connect Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, the paths aren't finished yet, and we had to turn back at the end of this section, but thanks to Naomi's handy-dandy bike map, we found some sections that were rideable, though still unpaved, and got in a good deal of wandering around parts of the city I'd never been to. The bike Naomi's riding is one she bought at the beginning of the year from someone in Tel Aviv; the one I rode belongs to the family she's been living with in Jerusalem for the past three weeks during the interim between the end of the Midreshet Hashiluv program and the beginning of the Midreshet Lindenbaum program which she starts next week. Itai is a good friend of hers from the first Midrasha, and she's taken over the loft bed and one of the shelves in his room, and even has a key to the house! He's in the army most of the time now, anyway...

I just really liked this contrast.

Outside Ayn Yael, another spring close to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. The gate was locked, but Naomi and I had a nice adventure there anyway. I'm not sure what she's using to pick her nose with, but nearby was another plant whose name I forgot that she kept peeling and eating; apparently, you can make pies out of them. I guess living near the Kinneret and doing lots of hikes teaches you about the edible plants!

It was hot outside, so we continued our bike ride along dirt roads and ended up at this spring. I can't remember what it's called, but it's more like a pool than a spring. When we got there, it was filled with ultra-Orthodox boys/men. I told Naomi that if she jumped in, they would disperse pretty quickly...

and they did.

"אבי, את ישראל, man". Transliteration: "Abby, at Yisrael, man." Translation: "Abby, you are Israel, man." Okay, so it actually says "Avi" not "Abby," but they're spelled the same way in Hebrew and I like my version. 

Wednesday morning I had the opportunity to interview Ernest Stock, a member of Princeton's class of 1949, at his home in Ramat Gan, pictured here with his wife Bracha. In 1946, six years after coordinating his family's escape from Nazi Germany, having learned English attending night school in New York City, and having served in the United States military, Stock was accepted as a sophomore at Princeton through the GI Bill. Upon his arrival, he founded the Student Hebrew Association on campus, the precursor to Hillel (now the Center for Jewish Life) and the first long-lasting Jewish student organization at Princeton. For my second junior paper (and likely for my senior thesis) I am writing about the development of Jewish communal life within the student body at Princeton. 

The rest of Wednesday, prior to leaving for my flight back to Prague, was a day in Tel Aviv. It was great to be back in the shuk--outdoor bazaars are something I wish were more common in America! Except these mannequins were really creepy.

Naomi, expert shuk-shopper that she is, picked out some fantastic veggies to make us lunch: avocado, tomato, cucumber, red pepper, some zaatar bread to go with it, and a handful of strawberries for dessert. Once we got to the beach (five minutes away), we sat down for some lunch and a dip in the sea. 

There she goes! This girl brings her bathing suit everywhere.

If you look closely, you can see the Chaco's tan line that I got after only 5 days in the sun. Czech Republic, step up your game! Let's get some shining sun and warm weather happening. (And yes, I finally succeeded in getting a new pair of "Jesus sandles" to replace my beloved broken ones).

Coming full circle: Masaryk St. in Jerusalem. Thomas Garrigue Masaryk was the first president of independent Czechoslovakia, and was really good to the Jews. The restaurant on the corner of this street is called "Masaryk Italian Restaurant." Oops.

*Danny, here's your footnote. Thanks for having us over for tea, it was lovely!

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