Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jerusalem, Yom Haatzmaut, and the Galilee

It's been a while, as I was reminded last weekend by Emily, since I've written a quality blog.
I can't promise that this will be a quality post, but it will be a post, which I also haven't done in a while.

One small thing before I begin: everyone in the mechina belongs to one of 6 committees, as I explained at the beginning. And one representative from each committee also holds a seat in the Committee of Decisions (let's say) that decides on the schedule. So--an unusual occurance--there was a hole in the schedule and people suggested all sorts of things: another participant lesson, a counselor lesson, a beit midrash, an outside lecturer... and then I said, "Wait, Amir and I have been wanting to do a lesson on Game Theory for a long time!" so I suggested it. And when I explain everyone laughed--but when it came time to vote, everyone voted for it! (Which means that we had to stay up till 5 am in order to plan it). We had a lot of fun planning it and talking, and also teaching it. We played clips from A Beautiful Mind (obviously), The Princess Bride, and Rebel Without a Cause and did lots of exercises. And we're the only two people who've been able to steal a spot in the schedule like that :)

Jerusalem: We went to the National Ceremy for Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) at Yad Va'Shem in Jeruasem. On Thursday of that week, we had to be back in Jerusalem for a day-long tour with Zevik, so we decided that we should spend Mon-Tues-Weds there as well... so an ad-hoc committee arose to plan the three days and I was part of it. We did it sort of as a timeline (Mon=the old city and ancient Jerusalem, Tues='48-'67 and the Green Line etc, Weds=Jerusalem of today). I won't go into detail about the people we met or the places we went, except to say that it was one of the best tiyulim that we've done this whole year. Because there's not money for a bus--whether a schoolbus type thing or city buses--we walked everywhere we needed to go for those three days. We were really able to get a feel for the city that way, the way one place relates to another, and the way the neighborhoods are broken up and the geography of the city. We had two incredible tour guides that I have to mention: Eitan (last name?) took us through the Old City, but didn't just talk about the history. He talked about living the history, imagining the people that were living there and why the settlement of the Old City happened the way it did. He told the history like a story, and it was nearly impossible not to pay attention. It's not the kind of tour you can take notes during, because everything just streams along and mushes together, but people who used to just think of Jerualem as "that city for religious people" left with a much stronger connection to the roots and the development. The other incredible guide we had was Mena, my friend Hadar's high school teacher. He took us on a tour of Nahlaot, the neighborhood near the Jewish shuk that's built sort of like tenements--everything all close together and a maze of alleys and turns that you'll never be able to navigate the same way again. He was simply a wealth of knowledge and although he walked quickly and spoke quietly, people ran to keep up with him so they could hear.

What was so great about Campus Jerusalem is that people left with a real desire to go back to Jerusalem and discover more. To go back to the Austrian Hostel where we climbed the roof, to go back and explore the area near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre... and to find people to talk to about Jerusalem. That desire is something that we always talk about during trips; that they give a taste and a toolbox in case you ever want to know more. But I feel like they never really succeed in creating that want, and Jerusalem did!

From there we had a loooong weekend, leading up to Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day). In Israel, Yom Haatzmaut is preceded by Memorial Day for all the soldiers who've died fighting for the existance of Israel. Part of the theory is that Memorial Day makes Yom Haatzmaut more meaningful--we have a state because of all those who died in the War of Independence in 1948 (and since then) protecting and fighting for Israel. But on the other hand, the transition between the days is this awkward... very solemn day, and then immediate bliss. It's hard to digest. Memorial Day is filled with ceremonies, and usually kids go to their high schools for the ceremony (a reunion of sorts), so I went with Shir in Nesher (near Haifa).

For Yom Haatzmaut I was at Ron's house in Haifa, and although we didn't go out to the parties in the streets or any of the typical things like free live shows, I enjoyed myself. We had a quiet-ish evenin: after making tapioca pudding (came out deliciously!) for the barbecue at his house the next day, we (feel asleep) watching Forest Gump. It was the least typical Yom Haatzmaut that I could have imagined for myself, and I think that usually I would have regretted not going out and doing "the thing to do" (even though I know that once I arrived I would have hated it) for some reason there was no regret and no second thought. Like Memorial Day or Labor Day in America, Yom Haatzmaut here--for good or for bad--is a day of barbecuing and eating. So that's what we did. In the evening, while Ron (Mr. Fitness) went for a run, I biked the hills of Haifa (HARDER THAN YOU THINK!) It was actually faster the run than to bike (we switched for a while). The great thing, though, is that the uphills are an incredible workout, and the downhills are simply soaring. And in the morning he had the most Bed&Breakfast breakfast waiting for me: a lime-green saucer with a glass of mint tea on it (leaves), as well as 1 homemade choco-chip cookie, 1 piece of passionfruit-flavored halva, 1 square of cherry-chili filled chocolate, 1 ripe red strawberry, and some slices of dried pomello.

I'll write about the Galilee later, actually...

Shabbat shalom!