Wednesday, October 28, 2009

As Promised, about the Tiyul Noded

The most important thing I had with me was my 55L (45+10) Deuter hiking pack. It's so comfortable that even with the 4.5L of water and sleeping bag and camping matress (foam) and the cloathes and other things I had to bring with me, I hardly felt it at all. I had no back pain, no tight muscles, no bruised hip-bones (an especially excellent occurence, given that both other "real" hiking trips I've ever done--as a Mosh camper and a Mosh counselor--the packs I used were significantly too big on me and were quite painful to carry).

Our tiyul was definitely a tiyul of firsts. For example, when we (after an excellent nap on the bus ride there) arrived at our starting point, I saw a camel in person (in animal?) for the first time. Like any tourist, I took some pictures. We had a short tidruch--I'm having some trouble finding words in English, you'll have to excuse me--about the Bedouins in the area and about the Judean Desert in general. After a surprisingly short "hike" (it was actually basically just walking) we got to where we would sleep for the night. There were mountains all around us, and we were there just in time for sunset which is really a beautiful sight in the middle of the desert where there's nothing but sand all around. I got to play around with my camera a bit taking silhouette pictures (this is Galya) and such.

We attempted to take a picture standing in the formation of י"ג (we're the 13th year of Mechinat Nachshon) but according to the picture I found on my camera, it wound up an epic failure. Dan planned a simply superb activity for us. If you haven't ever been to the desert at night, I highly suggest you go; it's an experience worth having. The silence, the vast openness, the blanket of stars extending to infinity. The activity started with each person saying a word that they associate with the desert. We then turned so our backs were facing into the circle, and walked 120 steps in the direction we were facing out into the Nothing. And then we listened. Just listened to the sounds, the silence, the nature, the never-ending _____ (I'll think of a word). I lay on the slope of a mountain--we didn't know how long it was--and looked at the sky, looked around, let my thoughts float away so I'd have a completely blank slate on my mind. Shortly before Dan called us back I simply felt free, exhilaration is the best word I can find.

Chulyat Kvutza also planned an activity for that night; one that was particularly successful. At camp we call it "warm-fuzzies". Basically everyone sits with their eyes closed and four people are chosen each "round". Then, a statement is read (ie: You made me laugh today. You have characteristics of a leader. You helped me on the hike today. etc) and the four chosen people walk around the circle and tap on the shoulder each person who, for them, fits the statement. Simply to be tapped on the shoulder is an excellent feeling, warms your heart, and kept the calm, pleasant mood of Dan's activity around.

The next day began the real hiking. By the end of a day of mostly-inclines (and mostly walking in front of the pack, because, although the sooner you fall behind the more time you have to catch up, it's also significantly harder to hike at the back of a pack of 62 people), of swimming in a pool we found, of physically draining climbing--oh, and did I mention inclines? Very very very very big inclines?--we arrived at our camp for the night. Where we ate a delicious dinner. And then went to sleep (relatively) early, because on tiyulim in the desert one wakes up at 4:30 am so that we can be on the path before the sun comes out to burn our skin.

On the third day we woke up, packed up, and saw a beautiful beautiful sunrise (see picture of Bar breathing fire... to appear soon) as we continued. I looked towards the north-west and saw a nenormous mountain, and silently thanked Chulyat Tiyulim that we would not be attempting to climb it. An hour/hour and a half later, I found my quads telling me quite the opposite: not only had we attempted to climb it, but we succeeded. It really is a giant mountain, with excellent echo-ing abilities (and when I have a computer with a faster internet connection, I'll upload a picture of it). There were a few more (smaller) inclines, but mostly after that the rest was all downhill (down-mountain).

For a while we were literally climbing down a cliff. Again, the kind of thing that you drive by on your way to Pittsburgh and go "Man, how could people ever climb down that, it's nearly vertical!" And yet, somehow, we started at the top of a canyon/crater and ended up at the bottom where we were supposed to be. It was like rock-climbing minus the harnesses and ropes. Essentially, hard-core rappelling--without the safety? The whole time we were only a few kilometers from the Dead Sea (to which I have still not gone) and especially from the mountaintops we had a beautiful view. However, I was always under the impression that the Dead Sea was a tiny little thing, a small lake, (because we only ever see small touristy parts of it), but it's actually quite large (I don't know the actual measurements).

The final part was a little incline, a little decline, but mostly just walking on flat ground until we reached our final destination: the buses! (And eventually a shower? After three days of the same clothes and hot sun, I'd say that was in order.)

{And then spent the weekend at Shani's in Jerusalem. Where I ran into multiple people I know.}
Also there was a MASA-sponsored (ie: free) Idan Raichel Concert in Jerusalem on Sunday night. It was incredible. Pictures here and on Facebook shortly. Maybe. be continued....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tiyul Noded in Midbar Yehuda (Judean Desert)

A word-description will follow in a few days, but for now check out some pictures:

This is what my bag looked like (with a license plate I found along the way)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Orienteering (says dad) and shabbat

I've gotten to the point where there are now certain things I know how to do--how to explain, how to think about--in Hebrew but not in English. Orienteering (at least that's how Dad translated it) is one of them.

The other day we had a "Yom Nivutim" (Navigation Day/Orienteering). Basically we split into groups, went to Emek Ayala (near Beit Shemesh) and had to get from Point A to Point B by way of certain other points in between. During the day we had a "chonech" who went with us, explaining what he was doing, how he was using his knowledge of topography etc to translate the map to the land. During our (extended) lunch break, we had time to break the remaining terrain into a planned path. That meant memorizing the map--valleys and hills and etc. (this is hard... I know all the words in Hebrew, and I know what they look like in reality, but I don't know the most appropriate translations for them into English) and the coordinates and how to find them on the compass (it's preferred not to walk around with a flashlight on at night, which means memorizing the map and landmarks, etc.)

In pitch black, with turning on a flahslight maybe 3 or 4 times, we managed to get from Point A to Point B (and all the check-points in between) without getting lost! It was a really excellent, satisfying, and gratifying experience...and to tell the truth I found it easier to do the navigation during the night because then we weren't trying to match trails that we saw with trails on the map (which are not exactly exact, and we weren't necessarily sticking to trails.)

On Tuesday we leave for our first Tiyul Noded ("wanering trip". ie: carry everything on your back) for three days in the Judean Desert. I'm not exactly sure what the plan is, but I'm VERY very excited.

We were here for Shabbat this week (once a month) and once again I was in "Chulyat Shabbat" (the group that plans Shabbat and all the activities). We planned Shabbat with a theme of humor, which was great. It was basically like 24 hours of solid hilarity and laughter. I was responsible for giving the "Dvar Hagut" (which is LIKE a dvar Torah, except not necessarily related to the week's Parsha) at dinner. I basically talked about Isaac (in hebrew "Yitzchak" which comes from the word "laughter") and the appearance of laughter in the Torah and its connotations.

I ALSO was reponsible for leading Kiddush on Friday night, which ended up turning into a big fuss and someone storming out of the room. You see, religion here is very black-and-white; at least, the aspects of religion that are talked about. You're either Dati (religious) or Chiloni (secular) and there's no (widely recognized) in between. And the idea--the very idea of trying out some sort of egalitarianism is unfathomable to so many people here, even chilonim. I didn't choose to do Kiddush, per se; I agreed. Our (chiloni) counseor Dani went to our (religious) counselor Dan and said "I need to find a guy to do kiddush." and Dan said "why a guy?" so Dani said "Sababa, I'll ask Abby." More than just the one who left the room were upset that I (okay, that a girl) led kiddush, but it did open conversation. It opened a conversation that I've had so many times since I've been here, and to many an interesting discovery about the religious beliefs of both Dati'im and chilonim (yes, they do have religious beliefs. It's very interesting).

This is a conversation that I then repeated nearly word-for-word to Gideon when I talked to him for 35 minutes (!) (for the first time in two montsh!) the other day, and then also with Deborah. And it's a conversation that I'm sure I'll have many many more times throughout the duration of the year, and maybe by the end of the year some of the people here will think differently about gender and religion than they do now. Maybe.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Since I last wrote, Sukkot has nearly come and gone.
Religiously, it was the most bizarre Sukkot of my life.
On the first night I went with Neti and his family to his cousin's sukkah nearby. It was really nice to eat a (delicious!) home-cooked meal and be with a big family with lots of noisy kids running around.
But in the morning I didn't go to shul, and now that I'm thinking, I haven't shaken a lulav and etrog at all.
We DID have a sukkah at the Metzudah (that we built and decorated) and didn't eat in it for every meal, but we did specifically have one dinner during which we ate in the sukkah and sang songs (in Israel there are Sukkot songs!) I ALSO slept in the Sukkah (twice) forthe first time in mylife, which was very veryneat.
On Tuesday I was "Toranit" which means I don't participate in the normal activities; instead, I (and one other person, Assi) worked in the kitchen (cutting salad, etc.) and cleaned (bathrooms, floors, etc.) all day. We actually had a lot of fun, but didn't have enough time to shower before.... driving up to Jerusalem forthe night. SURPRISE! (I didn't know that washappening). We went to Mea She'arim (basically a Hasidic enclave in the middle of Jerusalem). When you walk in you sortof think you've been teleported to 1800s Poland. Everyone wearing long skirts and jackets and the black hats....
Anyway, it was an interesting experience, even though I didn't (obviously) agree with everything they said to us. The woman who took us around warned us: "I hope nothing will happen to you here, I hope no one will throw anything and that the worst will be nasty words, but be prepared that something might [because there are girls wearing pants, which is against the dress-code]." (We did hear some nasty words, but no one threw anything).
We were there for something called "Simchat Beit Ha'shoeva" which is basically men dancing every night of sukkot to emulate something that happened during Sukkot when the Beit Hamikdash was still built. The women? They stand in a cage-liked thing aboveand watch through a window the men dancing. The woman who took us said "there's nothing like watching the men dancing" I wanted to ask her--WHY DON'T YOU DANCE FORYOURSELF!? I think that was basically the major theme (for the girls) of the night: why are you restrained, why don't you do things for yourself, overthrow this patriarchy... it was actually nice to see the feminist side of the girls at the Mechina, because it rarely shows through.
We ended up leaving at 2:30 am.
In the morning I went to the Defense Minister (Ehud Barak) sukkah. more later.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Don't have a heart-attack; if anything had happened I wouldn't be able to post this :)