Thursday, February 1, 2007

off to jerusalem

getting ready to blast outa this popsicle was my last day, and it was totally hectic. forget about the calm transition/ending. pure israeli style i guess.

i'm all packed and ready to go, my roommates (and half the ulpan) are gone tonight so its pretty quiet. the transitions are always the hardest part, so hopefully this will go smoothly.

tomorrow i go to stay with dahlia and her partner for the weekend. i haven't seen her or been in touch for about 5 years. we worked together at elat chayyim, the jewish renewal spiritual retreat center my first post-college summer. now she's married and pregnant. i guess that's what happens.......

kibbutz update

i've now been here at kibbutz be'erot yitzhak for about a week and a half, and the time is flying by! its a very rigorous schedule, i wake up at 6am to meditate (self-inflicted), and then have hebrew class from 7 30-11am. lunch is at 11 30, and then i work in the dish room until 3pm (kind of like a 3 hour k shift), meditate again and then do homework, evening activities, etc. its exhausting at times, but i'm enjoying the intensity and also enjoying have a little niche and friends around.

i'm learning more about the "olim chadashim" or new immigrants, ie those of our group who have made aliya and moved to israel. many are of them are young, moderately but not extremely religious people. they've come for lots of reasons, but my general sense is that they come because israel is a fun and interesting place with folks from all over the world, and lots of jews. the majority are only moderately religous, and come from families that are pretty secular. there also many russians who move here, basically because life here is so much better than in russia. i've heard that at this point, there are so many russians that you can pretty much live here and get by only speaking russian. lots of them have friends and family that have already come, making it an easy transition. most of them have little to no prior exposure to judaism, and they adopt varying levels of religiousity once they are here.

there's also the fact that when you make aliyah, the state of israel gives you tons of benefits--these include: a free ulpan (5 month course of hebrew study), free housing for a year, unemployment $$, and other kinds of support. of course, you have to prove that you're jewish. for converts, they only accept orthodox conversion. there are also folks who come because they want to be in the army, (one guy actually told me that he wanted to be in the army so he could kill terrorists). there are a handful of folks who are in the army that live here in the kibbutz. a

army service is required of everyone, 3 years if you're an israeli, 2 if you're an immigrant. religious girls can choose to do national service instead, which is like 2 years of social service work, like working in an orphanage or on an ulpan. when you're in the army, they will pay for you to live cheaply somewhere, or they'll pay for you to live on a kibbutz, which has obvious benefits (community, meals, etc). there are all kinds of jobs in the army, and some of them seem interesting and even compelling.

as i spend more time on the kibbutz, some of the more disturbing aspects are starting to come out, for instance, all of the elder care and field work is done by Thai immigrants. apparently this is common practice in israel, particularly for the elder care. also, the environmental standards are somewhat dismaying. there's no food or mulch composting at all, despite the fact that they have a giant chicken house for the sandwhich business as well as pumpkin and sunflower fields. there's tons of waste, food, water, etc. and little awareness around it.

i've heard that all kibbutzim are privatizing, but the religous kibbutzim are doing it more slowly and this one even more slowly then the rest. still, its quite privatized to my twin oakian eyes. people come by the kitchen on friday afternoon to pick up their shabbos food (the cooks are outsourced, too, none of them are kibbutzniks) and most people celebrate shabbos in their house with their family. people now pay for electricity and laundry, which didn't use to be true. the kids program is still strong, but kids live with their families now and spend only their days in the kids program.

still, it has a familiar communal feel although most kibbutzniks are decidedly unfriendly there are definately some very sweet folks around. i'm enjoying my ulpan experience--its nice to have a rythm and schedule to my days, and of course i'm totally psyched to be back in school and have homework every day. my american roommate insisted on having the palestine/israel political conversation with me, so that was interesting and intense. as far as that goes, i find myself flinching with some frequency at jokes and comments that people make about arabs, but i've also been pleasantly surprised at the couple of in-depth conversations i've had with some more thoughtful and informed folks.

my sense from what people say is that most israelis think that there should be a palestinian state, so that's comforting. i'm not hiding the fact that my dad is iranian, and that certainly gets some interesting reactions. and yes harry, it was morris and not i who turned red when we met. poor morris, it took him three tries to get his plastic apron tied on right in the kitchen (first tied all up in front, then in back like a cape. finally, the cooks took pity on him and get him straightened out).

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

count down to FREEDOM!

hello my electronic friends,

tomorrow is my last day on the kibbutz, and i'm pretty psyched about it. its been a great jumping off point for this journey, but the other night i went into telaviv (to "practice" with gershon), and it was such a relief to be on my own without pesky parental figures constantly telling me what to do and nagging me about how i did it all wrong. and, its a little bit sad, leaving my first little nest here in israel.

today we had a tiul (trip) to jerusalem. i got to see alot of the country side, which was very beautiful. we also saw spectacular stalagmites/stalagtites in a cave near jersulam. hopefully i'll figure out how to post photos soon..........the active ones were so lucscious and sensual, i'm excited to make sketches from the photos. the most active wall is called the honey wall, and it is sweet and delicious.

in the afternoon, we met up with a bunch of other ulpanim from all over the country for a fancy lunch, open mike, and then a dance party! i got to hack with some dorkyhipster guys from kibbuts yavneh (they asked i was french), i was so grateful for my twin oaks hack-training cuz i could actually hold my own yee haw.
and the dance party was so so great--it felt so good to just cut loose and dance hard, fully express. and one of the hackboys asked me for my number, even after i told him he was way to young (19) and that i have a boyfriend. it was sweet though, and above all it felt really good to be grounded in my self and self expression. i even played a little song in the open mic--

playing music and dancing are the 2 things that make me feel most alive and most ME.

aright, i gotta meditate cuz i missed my afternoon sitting..............