Hello technology! On Wednesday morning Ariel, Vanessa and I made our way to Maale Adumim to go to Ariel’s aunt and uncles. I was there last week and had relaxed plenty and ate plenty more. This time around I did the same, times ten. When the sun went down Wednesday night I said goodbye to all forms of technology, the shower, and the best yet, toilet paper. Orthodox Jews are not allowed to rip on Shabbat, something I was unaware of. I had no problem using their Kleenex-style toilet paper; I just want to look into why it is you are not allowed to rip. Please comment if you have the answer.
When we arrived we started helping Ariel’s aunt with the preparation of all of the delicious dishes to be served throughout the 4-day weekend. Since you can’t cook on Shabbat everything had to be made on Wednesday. Needless to say it was good we arrived early because there was a lot of preparing to do. More than being able to help out Ariel’s aunt I had a blast helping to cut and chop vegetables and see what my work would turn into.
Examples of some of the food we ate were gazpacho, homemade whole-wheat challah (raisin one day, garlic another), homemade pesto, hummus, tahini, and other great dips, honey cake, and so much more. If I could have taken pictures of all the meals laid out I would have. Too bad there was no usage of cameras allowed.
The first night we traveled to their downstairs neighbors home and had dinner with around 20 people. It was so nice to meet everyone. Some were Israelis, some were British, some were Australian, and along with Vanessa Ariel and I, some were American. It was a whole mixture of people coming together to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and it was just as beautiful as it sounds.
Thursday morning we woke up at the early morning hour of 6:30 a.m. for services. The early morning service started at 5:30 a.m. but we thought we’d be fashionably late. It was interesting attending an Orthodox service. The hardest part for me was being separated from the men, and not given full access for seeing the Torah and the Ark. But all in all I very much enjoyed it and was glad I could be there. The members of this congregation really sang these prayers unlike I have ever heard in my life. I wish I could say it was because they were all once contestants on American Idol, but really I just think there was so much passion behind their praying that it was released through their voices.
After Synagogue we ate another delectable meal. Then we went back to bed and took a nap until we woke up and did, yes you guessed it..ate another meal. As one of Ariel’s cousins said in her finest British accent, “That’s what the Jewish Holidays are all about! Eating until you’re full, and then continuing to eat.”
The rest of the weekend pretty much followed this same trend of sleeping, going to synagogue, eating, sleeping, etc. etc. In between we all shared in some great conversation varying from what this week of atonement and judgment from G-d is really all about to current news issues in Israel and abroad. We even had some funny conversations, especially when it was time to make fun of the Americans. What I have come to realize is that what you think Americans are stereotyped as abroad you are more than likely right.
During lunch one of the days a family came over for lunch and the father was a member of Otzma 11. We are now Otzma 25 so that was quite a few years ago! We shared how our program was then to how it is now. Back when he was on it there were 90 – 100 people participating each year. Now we only have 36. Unfortunately financials have come into concern for many people. Plus I personally feel that these days so many of us just want to build our resume. The addition of having an internship at the end is a newer one, and I was told it was added for incentive to get more people to participate in the program. When did we start caring so much about making money and less about helping with developing a land and its people?
Needless to say, the man who was on Otzma 11 will be interviewed on 60 minutes in a few weeks. Leaving private discussion private I can only say that much was learned about the American media during that meal.
Ariel’s aunt and uncle have a great book collection that I have decided to take advantage of. I started reading “Everything is Illuminated” during the holiday weekend and will be finished with it soon. There is nothing quite like a good book. It is so nice to have when I am feeling anxious or nervous about something here. To me, no matter where you are in the world, when you get lost in a book, you are lost in the book and all of life’s trivial matters seem to disappear for a little while.
I would like to share a specific story (the length is much shorter than a books) with you that I found to be quite hilarious and also very weird and coincidental. So Thursday night I was helping to set the table by placing the napkins on everyone’s plate. One of the napkins I accidentally tore as I was placing it down. I didn’t know where I was sitting yet so I couldn’t know to give myself the torn napkin. I decided instead to put it at the bottom of the pile and put it back with the other napkins. I figured whoever got it next would think it was already ripped, or may not even notice it at all. Come Saturday night we are all sitting down for our last meal and Ariel’s aunt this time passed the napkins around. Yes, you guessed it. Who received the torn napkin? Me. I giggled to myself a little and turned to Vanessa to say, “Remind me later to tell you a funny story about this napkin.” She looked at me with funny eyes, giggled a little, and said, “Ok.” Later on in the evening when the three of us were waiting for the bus I told them the story. It was completed with my infamous laugh. To make the story even better however Ariel pointed out how it was almost a sign I got the napkin. Why you ask? Because Orthodox Jews can’t rip on Shabbat! Was G-d giving me the napkin because I ripped it and he didn’t want anyone else to know it happened? Maybe not, but I’d like to think G-d is on my side so I am going to take that as a sign from him that I am doing well during this week of judgment.
We ended the Rosh/Shabbat weekend with Havdallah, which is one of my favorite services. Then we made our way home via some buses. We hit some heavy traffic in Jerusalem, but it was the first traffic jam where I actually loved being able to sit in it. Because this time the traffic jam wasn’t due to a car accident, or for July 4th holiday, but for Rosh Hashanah. And that people, can only occur in Israel. To go from growing up and always having to miss a day of school for the holiday to being able to sit in a traffic jam because people are going back to their homes from it is something quite amazing for me. Now granted the majority of Israelis were traveling home from the beach, and many did not attend services at all. Even still, Rosh Hashanah weekend was all around me this year and I could definitely feel its presence from every corner. To further explain how amazing it is to be here during the High Holidays daylight savings time happened on Sunday morning at 2:00 a.m. In Israel daylight savings isn’t the third weekend of every September, but instead it’s always the week before the Yom Kippur fast. Why you ask? So the fast seems like it’s going by quicker because the sun sets just a little bit sooner. I know, incredible. Even more incredible is now I am only 6 hours ahead of home! Which you wouldn’t think is a big deal, but one hour has seemed to make a big difference as far as being able to keep in touch. Unfortunately when daylight savings happens at home it’ll go back to seven, but I am going to enjoy the one-hour difference while I can. It is even better for people like my roommate who is from California and normally has to deal with a ten-hour time difference.
When we headed back to Ashqelon I truly felt like I was home. We said hello to our Absorption Center and I really enjoyed feeling our air conditioning when I entered my apartment. I then unpacked, caught up with people on how their weekends were, and inched my way into bed for a restful nights sleep.