Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas in Jerusalem

Sunday night we had Beit Midrash for the first time in a few weeks. It was fun learning with Yonina. This program has been a very successful one, and it's nice to have Sunday dinner covered by Nativ.

Monday was its usual long day. When I got home, however, a number of us decided to go to see Avatar. Gabe Co, Joshy, Miles, Gelb, Joe and I went to Talpiot, to the Rav Chen cinema where we saw the movie. Avatar is one of the most incredible movies I have ever seen. The movie is a 3D epic about coexistence between enterprising, colonizing humans and the locals of a planet called Pandora. The basic idea is similar to that of the marginalization of Indians by the United States in the 19th century. The 3D in this movie is not a gimmick that is needlessly employed; the audience's immersion in the beauty of the planet Pandora is critical to the development of the film. There are some pretty cool fight scenes too. Avatar is the most expensive movie ever made with a budget of around $300 million. To date, it has grossed over $400 million - it deserves every penny; it's well worth seeing.

I woke up Tuesday still marveling about how good Avatar was. After Hebrew I went back to the room and watched an episode or two of lost with Adina. We also went to the Mister Zol down the street to buy stuff for one of her friends. I also picked up another bottle of apple juice. So far this year I had chosen to forego apple juice because in Israel it always lets me down. A few weeks ago I was out shopping with Brian at that same Mister Zol and he bought a bottle of a kind I'd never tried before so I figured I'd buy one too. It's the most similar to American apple juice that I've found. It is great to have real apple juice again, hopefully I'll be able to find it once we're down in Yerucham. Tuesday night was Erev Nativ. We did a program when we went around the circle answering questions asked by our staff. People were encouraged to be respectful to others and truthful in their answers. After we all answered questions the staff asked who people thought was most truthful, who we were most similar/different to, who loves life the most, who would be the best leader. I think that the program was very interesting. After the program Rachel, Adina, Debbie and I discussed everything in my room. There were definitely some problems with the program, but there were also some very good aspects.

On Wednesday we had the first part of our Hebrew final, the oral exam. I spoke for about three minutes on one of the stories that we read before my teachers cut me off and told me I'd done fine. It was a good feeling to know that the oral went well, especially since I wasn't sure what to expect with the written exam on Friday. On our way into Alick's class, there was a group of Christians singing carols. I got there a little too late to hear them, which was a let-down, but once he got there Alick said "I dare anyone to name a Hanukkah song that is even half as good as Silent Night." Not sure if that's the Christmas song I would have picked, but they certainly are wonderful. Another one of Alick's gems was when class discussion turned to the (quickly overturned) arrest warrant in the UK for Tzipi Livni for war crimes. "War crimes?" Alick scoffed, "I've committed more war crimes that Tzipi Livni." A lot of the class laughed, but then he reminded them that 18 years of combat duty (reserves included), including both Lebanon wars, adds up. A rather sobering realization that this funny, sweet, learned man is also a battle-hardened warrior - Israel makes for some very interesting people.

Thursday is a day off. I woke up at 1:30 PM and hung around the room working for a while. Thursday night Gabe and I headed over to Lev Yerushalayim to see Raffi, Alex and Elan. It was great to see them (and not just because Alex had a bag with pumpkin bread in it for me) and I'm excited to spend the next couple weeks hanging out with them. I got back to my room a little bit after midnight and was able to fall asleep pretty quickly, despite having only been awake for 12 hours.

On Friday we had our Hebrew final. Josh Goldberg pointed out that you know Israel is a special country when it seems weirder to you that you're coming in to school on a Friday than on Christmas. I think the final went well, but it's always hard to tell with these things. For sure, my essay was really good, and so was the oral, I'm not sure about some of the finer grammatical exercises but we'll see. Friday afternoon I spent some time in the Shuk walking around with Raffi, Alex, Elan, Gabe and others. While I was waiting to buy Marzipan, the guy behind the counter handed me one steaming hot, right out of the oven. It was the most delicious thing I have ever tasted. After I got home and got dressed for Shabbat, Tyler, the Gabes, Joe and I headed over to Josh apartment for davening and Shabbat dinner. We had a wonderful time with wonderful food and cool people. After dinner, we played Settlers and sung zmirot and then we headed home. Raffi and Alex came to base and Gabe and I hung out with them for an hour or so, catching up.

On Saturday I slept through a wake-up knock from Adina, and slept until 12:40. I made it down to lunch just in time to grab something. I hung out with Joe for a while and then Joe, Gabe Co, Tyler and I headed back to Josh's for wiffleball. I had a lot of hand trouble, but it was still fun. Saturday night a lot of us went out to celebrate Shara's birthday. A lot of visitors joined us a Herzl and all over downtown having a good time.

This morning the Silicon Seven (minus Joey, who isn't feeling well) had our usual lunch followed by class. This is the start of finals week, so we'll see how things go. Navah is here in addition to Alex and Raffi, so I'm looking forward to spending lots of time with them in between studying. That's all for now.

Talk to you soon,

Sunday, December 20, 2009

G-ma and Uncle Danny Come to Visit!

This week was the beginning of a long string of visits. Grandma and Uncle Danny were in Jerusalem for the week and I spent a lot of time with them. In the last post I talked about dinner with them on Monday at Hashipudiah. On Tuesday after Hebrew at Heb U I went out to lunch at Hashamen (a schwarma place that I mentioned here) with Grandma and Uncle Danny. I think Uncle Danny really enjoyed the schwarma there which was good because he was the person who first took me to Moshiko's to share one of his favorite places with me. Tuesday night was Erev Nativ which was the Nativ Hanukkah party. It was a pretty fun program planned and run by fellow Nativers (great job Gabe, LeeAnn and Ilana!). We started off with announcements from Yossi and then split up. My group played a "How Well Do You Know Your Fellow Nativers" Jeopardy-style game which was fun and funny. Once that was over, we went back to the auditorium and watched the Rugrats Hanukkah episode. I had forgotten/never realized just how clever it is. After that it was time for the sufganiyiot eating contest. I wasn't feeling well so I didn't even put my name forward to compete. The performance was a little weak, and I felt like I was letting my family down by not taking up Greta's mantle and dominating the eating contest. Oh well. After the program ended we went to the -3 hallway to pick up gifts from our Nativ gift exchange. I got a lovely dreidel from Yad Lakashish that I later found out came from Ariella.

On Wednesday I had my usual long day of classes. I picked up my Freshman Writing paper and was quite pleases with my grade - if anyone wants to see this opus of mine, just let me know and I'll be glad to send it to you. After school, I had the honor of going out to dinner with Grandma, Uncle Danny and Uncle Danny's friend Ralph Goldman. Ralph was instrumental in the founding of the State of Israel, working hand-in-hand with people like David Ben-Gurion and Teddy Kollek. Where the two of them decided to go into Israeli politics, Ralph instead turned to international Jewish non-profit, working for the JDC (the Joint) for decades. Now, at age 95, he is still a working man, Blackberry and all. He has known every Israeli Prime Minister personally and is just such an incredible man, filled with incredible stories. The four of us ate at Beit Ticho, part-museum (part of the Israel Museum; Ralph is on their board) part-restaurant. I had good french onion soup and gnochi.

On Thursday I had lunch with Alexis and her three boys, Shemer, Meitav and Osher. Alexis was my babysitter when I was a baby and now she and her husband Charlie live in Jlem. It was fun playing with the boys, and Alexis made latkes, which are very hard to find in Israel for some reason. Thursday evening we had a social action program. Kibbutz went to an old age home in Me'ah Shearim and Kehillah went to Shalva. We got a tour of the facilities and then spent a little time working with the disabled children. The building is beautiful, but despite that they are moving to a new center so that they can accomodate more children. We sung Hanukkah songs with the kids and they did Kabbalat Shabbat and lit candles (Shalva is closed on Fridays, so in order for the kids to get a chance to celebrate Shabbat they do a little something on Fridays. Shalva also has occasional Shabbatonim). It was really rewarding to talk to some of the kids (not all of them talk) and clap along to the songs with them. I had yet to give the $30ish I had been given to give as tzedakah in Israel and I decided to give it to Shalva. One of the beauties of Shalva is that its services are provided free of charge to all kids in the program. As such they depend on government funding and donations to fund the program. I felt that it was very very deserving place for the money.

One of my Shalva friends and me

On Friday I hung out all morning, working on my Silicon Wadi presentation. Joshy and I lit candles for the last night of Hanukkah and Shabbat and then walked down to the Dan Panorama to pick up Uncle Danny and head over to Shira Hadasha. Services were good, and Uncle Danny enjoyed them and saw three or four people who he knew. Joshy joined Grandma, Uncle Danny and me for dinner at the Dan Panorama. The food was good, as was the company and we all had a good time.

On Saturday, Josh and I picked up Uncle Danny and went to the Sefardi shul in Yemin Moshe. It was great to see Benyamin and Menashe and to see the shul. The building is beautiful and very unusual for a shul in Jlem. Benyamin and Menashe were overjoyed to see me, as was I to see them. I had an aliyah which was pretty cool and Menashe led Musaf. Once davening ended (at 10:14), Joshy and I headed back to the room for a little Shabbat nap, and then I went back down to the Dan Panorama for a big lunch. I spent a little more time with Grandma and Uncle Danny and then Uncle Danny walked me back to my building on his way to visit Ralph.

It was great having them here. Hanuakkah is a family time to me, so it was nice to be with some actual family in addition to my Nativ family.

After Shabbat ended we went out to celebrate Brian's birthday! We had a good (but cold) time hanging out downtown. Today is Brian's actual birthday so it's not too late to say Happy Birthday Brian!

Today we had a make-up Hebrew class so we needed to be at school at 10:30. Hebrew went fine and then the Silicon Seven had lunch and went to Silicon Wadi. Today was presentation day for our projects and I think that it went well for Joey and me - time will tell.

That gets me caught up to the minute, talk to you soon,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hamshushalayim, Yeruham and Hanukkah - The Most Guttural Week Ever

Again, I've let a week go by without blogging, and for that I apologize. So much has happened that I'm excited to tell you all about. The beginning of the week was pretty normal, but the end gets exciting. Monday was a fairly regular day. Lots of classes, then I came home and we hung out and watched LOST a lot. On Tuesday I only have Ulpan in the morning and after that my day is free. I think this week I will crash some classes at the Yeshiva, but last week I just hung around base and did a little work. Tuesday evening was Erev Nativ, and we spent a little time learning about Hanukkah in breakout groups and then we all came together to decorate Hanukkiot (pictures of mine to follow). On Wednesday I had a lot of classes and then came home for my final Mark Lazar JET session. We had fun learning about the constant balance a teacher needs to maintain between remaining task-oriented and maintaining their relationship with their students. Jordana and I now point out task/maintenance situations to each other when they arise. On Thursday I had no class and loved having a day to laze around. Thursday night was the start of the last of the three weekends of Hamshushalayim. Hamshushalayim is a portmanteau of Hamishi (fifth), Shishi (sixth) and Yerushalayim - it is basically Hebrew (or Yerushalmi) slang for a 3-day weekend. Starting last year (I think as an initiative of new Jlem mayor Nir Barkat) the three weekends leading up to Hanukkah are a special cultural celebration in Jlem. There are free concerts and art festivals and many of the museums are open late for free, lots of good stuff. A bunch of us - Josh, Joey, Rachel, Aaron, Ariella, Gabe, LeeAnn, Jesse and I - decided to go see an a cappella concert in the Shrine of the Book. We got there with about 45 minutes to look around before we took seats around the room for the concert. I knew something was wrong when a man with a guitar went up on stage...there are no instruments in a cappella! The music was pretty awful - the language of the words was indistinguishable, the sopranos were too shrill and the men not powerful enough. Still, the experience was pretty fun because we all had fun being together and taking advantage of Jerusalem experiences.

Check out the Shrine of the Book in the background.

Once we got home, everybody split up. Gabe and I went up to our rooms and then realized that we were hungry. We decided on a walk and eventually ended up at Sushi Rehavia on Emek Refaim. It was a nice nighttime snack and Gabe and I always enjoy our one-on-one reminiscing sessions.

On Friday morning I had to wake up earlier than usual for a Friday because even though it was a closed Shabbat, my track was going as a group to Yeruham. We got on a bus for the ride down (or up, as Ben Gurion would have said) into the Negev. We got to Yeruham around lunchtime and ate in a small forest by the lake. I know that "forest" and "lake" aren't words usually associated with deserts, but there they were. Many of you many be aware of my love for JNF, well this is just one more area where the work that they do really has a lasting effect on the Land of Israel. After lunch we met our Yeruham guide (Yoram from Yeruham) and were given a look at the lake (fit for swimming by next year), and Be'er Rahma (Well of Mercy), the well that some believe is the same one from which Hagar drew water after she and Yishmael were sent away by Avraham. We headed into town then and it was already really upsetting to hear the groans of people who thought that Yeruham was simply too small for them (pop. 9,500). It would be an overstatement to say that I had fallen in love with the town, but it is very cute and I didn't want to hear people complaining about it. We got into our rooms at the hostel and got ready for Shabbat. I stayed with Joshy, Joey and Tyler this Shabbat. The hostel is not where we'll be staying next semester, we'll have apartments, but for now it was an ok place for Shabbat. We lit Hanukkah candles and then I led Kabbalat Shabbat and then we did Maariv and had Shabbat dinner (the first of a series of awful meals, courtesy of the Yeruham hostel). After dinner, Joey and I shot around on the basketball court for a little bit (he made shots and I put up my best effort). Then we needed to go back to our group room for a limud session with some famous woman from Yeruham. She made a big deal of winning a Supreme Court case to force the town council to appoint her to the religious council. She was a little annoying and insane and loquacious, but I paid attention as best I could. Once she left, a local rabbi came in and led our tisch (his yiddish accent made everything a little weird). He was extremely impressed that we knew all of the songs he led and he told a few stories - I think most of us would have preferred he told fewer stories and we sung more, but it was what it was - a pretty ridiculous change of pace. Our staff for some reason deemed it impractical to get marzipan rugelach or sufganiot for the tisch and we found this egregious breech of protocol to be unforgivable. Once we got to our room, the four of us got ready for bed and then spent some time talking about Shabbat and God and lots of deep discussion. The four of us come from very different places religiously, but we are all either already quite observant and knowledgeable or trending in that direction. Everyone had a lot to say and it was pretty interesting.

In the morning we woke up and headed off to shul. Even though the shul was basically down the street, our staff got horribly lost leading us there. It was ok in the end though, because we got an impromptu tour of the town. We showed up at shul in time for the seventh aliyah. The shul seemed nice and there was a lot of sefardi going around - it made me feel right at home. The building itself was pretty and it should be a nice place to spend a little time when we're in Yeruham on Shabbat. After davening, we went to an all girls school down the street to have a session with a woman named Debbie who runs an NGO (with Yoram from Yeruham) to promote something or other in Yeruham. She taught about Tikun Olam with a specific but subtle emphasis on the importance of moving to the Negev. Lunch was a little better than dinner, but not by much. We had a few hours to chill, and then Yoram from Yeruham took us on a walking tour around town. We saw a number of interesting things - some of the 27 synagogues in town, the young adult center that JNF is building, several schools, and two of the places we'll be staying next semester. I'm gonna focus on a few of the places we saw. One of the apartments was actually a small freestanding house that looks fairly decrepit, but would be lots of fun to clean up and decorate together. The other was an apartment on the third floor of a walk-up. It was pretty small and there was a hobbit hole inside - if you know Lord of the Rings, you'll know what I'm talking about. We passed by Eli Cohen neighborhood. Yoram from Yeruham said this with no additional information but as Eli Cohen is one of my favorite modern Jewish heroes I walked with YfY for a little bit to learn more. He told me that Eli Cohen has no particular connection to Yeruham, but because he was Moroccan (like many of the Yeruhamites) they were very proud to have an Israeli hero of their own (someone not Ashkenazi). We walked to the top of a hill and saw the white towers of Yeruham. These tall, thin, pointless towers, are a piece of art to help give some personality to Yeruham. They are spaced about three feet apart, with stairs and a slide in between to make them less menacing. The spacing in between, also forces the eye to look out at the forest, hills and lake, which the artist described as the true art of Yeruham. For some reason the Negev has never gotten proper credit for being the playground capital of the world. Everywhere settled that I've been in the Negev has simply incredible playgrounds - Yeruham has at least four. Tanni should love it here.

After the tour, we came back the hostel and davened maariv and did a little singing. We made Havdallah and had dinner. There was some extra time, so I spent about half an hour having a catch with Joey and Noah. Noah is a lefty and so we traded gloves and he got to test out being a righty and I got to work on throwing lefty. We then got ready to head over to the community center. There, in their brand new facilities (theater/concert hall, cafe, maybe other stuff), we listened to an Indian band perform and watched a young girls Indian dance troupe. The performance was lovely. I talked to a few residents and they seem so nice and I just can't wait to get to Yeruham for real.

On Sunday we got up and davened (I read Torah), and then had breakfast, made lunch and got on our bus. The bus took us to Sde Boker where we did stuff about Ben Gurion. It was pretty comical. Our guide greeted us and asked how many of us had been to Sde Boker before - all but two or three hands went up. The rest of our time there was pretty useless, except we watched the movie which I like. Our guide pulled me aside as we were walking between places and told me that she had noticed my accent and wondered if I had any British in me. I guess maybe she meant that I spoke intelligently, because I certainly don't have a British accent!

We got back on our bus (without actually going to the graves of David and Paula, which was weird) and traveled to Ein Ovdat for a short hike. It was really more of a walkabout - there was nothing strenuous about the hike at all. I guess it was a little pretty, but I like hikes to be challenging and climbing, not just walking. It was still pleasant, the weather was lovely.

Our bus driver home decided that it was so pleasant that we didn't need air conditioning on the way home - he was wrong. Jordana slept on my shoulder the whole time (just as she did on the way down) and the bus got uncomfortably hot. It was great to get home, especially since I needed to get to work on an Isaacs essay. When I got to my room, I was too antsy to get down to work, so I went with Joshy, Jesse, Joey, Asaf and Jordana on a sufganiyot tour of Jlem. We went all around the shuk and that general area looking for a custard-filled (Boston Creme) donut. I packed away five sufganiyot during our search (two jelly, one vanilla, one caramel and one glorious custard filled one), and in total, the five guys ate 21 1/2 sufganiyot in the hour or so that we were out. We also restocked on gummies.

Today It was off to class (Heb U was closed yesterday for Hanukkah vacation). Classes went as usual, and then I got home, lit candles, and headed over to the Dan Panorama to see Grandma and Uncle Danny! They are here for the week, and I'm so excited to spend time with them. They gave me some Hanukkah presents and then we went out to dinner at Hashipudiah. Hashipudiah is a skewer place that they both like a lot and now I do too! Dinner was lovely and we had a great time talking and eating. It will be really nice seeing them many times this week.

That's all for now, talk to you soon
Seffi Kogen

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Intel, LOST, Whiffleball, Chimps, and a Hot Tub

It's been over a week since my last post and so much has happened! I last posted on Thanksgiving. That was a Thursday (obviously), so on Friday I woke up around 11:30, the usual Friday hour, just in time for lunch. I went downstairs and had a little lunch and then walked with Brian over to a brand new Mister Zol's supermarket that opened up a couple of blocks down RaMBa''N street - not as close as Supersol (Shufersal) right across the street, but significantly closer than the Mister Zol's across from Ben Yehuda in the shadow of Lev Yerushalayim. The prices there are great, especially compared to those at Supersol. Shabbat came quickly (after a lovely Skype session with the fam) and I headed to Shira Hadasha with a number of people. We played Risk and went to the Tisch and then a bunch of us (Gabe Co, Aaron, Nadav, Adam, Jonny and I) hung out for a few hours. Saturday morning I went with Gabe Co and Nadav to Yemin Moshe (wonderful kiddush) and then to Josh's apartment for lunch. We had a delicious meal and then we played Settlers (Gabe and I decided to buy one for Yerucham) and, with our initial group joined by fellow Nativers Gabe Ci, Meir (and his brother David and David's girlfriend Yael) and Aaron as well as several of Josh's friends, I davened Mincha. A bunch of us then headed down to the vacant lot by Josh's apartment for a game of Whiffleball. Over the course of the game, I had WAY too many strikeouts relative to skill level, pitched some good innings and some not-so-good ones, and the ball got cracked and then destroyed. There aren't too many places to buy whiffleballs in Israel, but we may try and find somewhere that sells bats and balls because it would be a good way to pass the time in Yerucham.

After Shabbat was over, there was a big rally, organized by the Masorti movement (for most intents and purposes, the branch of the Conservative movement that operates abroad) protesting the Haredi control of Jerusalem. The papers the next morning generally labeled it a protest of Hilonim (secular Jews), which I found rather offensive. There were over 2,000 people there, ranging from totally secular to what Americans would call Modern Orthodox. We marched from Kikar Pariz (Paris Square), across from Beit Nativ, down Rehov Keren HaYesod, made a right to go down Ben Yehuda and then ended at Kikar Zion (Zion Square) at the bottom of Ben Yehuda. Aaron, Jonny, Gabe Co and I peeled off a little bit early to go get dinner, but we got in lots of rallying before we left.

Back row: Asaf and Jonny, Front row: Marc, Jesse, me, Gabe
(Best part of the rally - free tshirts! The front says "HaKotel LeKulam/n" meaning the Kotel is for everyone, but the ending of m/n emphasizes that they are referring to men and women)

The four of us went to Thailandi for dinner (good, but not great) and then went home by way of Kikar Zion to check out the rally. It looked like there was still cool stuff going by as we walked past.

Sunday was our Silicon Wadi class trip to Intel in Kiryat Gat. We had a really fun time with two presentations from people who work there and Q&A sessions as well as a general tour of the factory. Intel exports $5 million per day from Israel and much of the money that the Israeli government invests in Intel ends up right back in the Israeli economy. One really interesting thing about the Intel factory was that there was a Mezzuzah on every doorpost. It was one of those only-in-Israel moments. After the trip we came back to school and the Silicon Seven grabbed lunch at the Frank before heading back to Beit Nativ. Sunday night I again went to Beit Midrash and had fun with free pizza and good learning. Sometimes I feel like I'm monopolizing the discussion, but no one else seems to be jumping in so I think it's ok. After Beit Midrash we watched an episode of LOST (when this post went to print we were two episodes into season 3!!!)

On Monday morning I woke up feeling sick and I ended up staying home. That gave me plenty of time to start getting better and to work on my Freshman Writing essay on Conservative Judaism.

On Tuesday I only had Hebrew (among other things, we read an article about the rally I had been at). During lunch Aaron announced that he wanted to go to the zoo and so Aaron, Jesse, Joey and I hopped on the 26 bus and made our way to Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo. Among the highlights were the lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, parrots, red pandas and, most of all, the chimps. We stood by the chimps for at least half an hour just watching them play and fight with each other. We left in total agreement that zoos rock. When I got home, my favorite teacher, Alick Isaacs, gchatted me to see how I was feeling! For Erev Nativ we watched the movie Trembling Before God. This is a documentary made about homosexual Orthodox Jews. After watching the movie, we spent some time examining two of the four teshuvot accepted by the Conservative movement - Dorff/Nevins/Reisner and Roth. Dorff says that homosexual couples should be welcomed into Conservative communities, ordained/trained as rabbis/cantors, and that Conservative rabbis can perform commitment ceremonies. From a social justice standpoint, I may side more with this teshuvah, but from a purely halachic standpoint, it seems to me that Dorff makes a mockery of Halacha. The entire argument is based on the fact that "men don't have vaginas" (direct quote from his teshuvah). To me, that is just not a halachic argument of the caliber necessary to overturn a prohibition from the Torah. I was bothered that the program set up these two teshuvot as opposites, because, though Dorff's is the furthest to the left, Roth's actually is in the middle. The furthest to the right says that homosexuality is a choice and that we should offer reconditioning courses to fix homosexual Jews - obviously an idiotic position. Roth says that we should welcome homosexual Jews into our communities, just not as couples. He also does not allow for the ordination/training of homosexual rabbis/cantors. I think that this is an issue that very few people my age have a concrete and informed opinion on, because it is such a loaded issue where Judaism and the natural social progressiveness of being a college student seem to clash. I think everything right now boils down to the fact that all people should be treated with respect, and that it is not up to humans to decide whether a person has sinned.

Wednesday was a long day. We found out in the morning that one of our fellow Nativers would be going home that evening so there was gossip flying like crazy. When we got home, it was Mark Lazar time and that was fun as usual, though Jordana was out with her dad so she was missed. After J.E.T. I was up late finishing my paper on Conservative Judaism which I think turned out pretty well.

Since Freshman Writing is now over, this Thursday was my first Thursday since the beginning of the semester without class - its going to be nice having the day off. Thursday afternoon I took a bus to Hadassah Ein Kerem for an appointment with a neurologist. I didn't really find out anything new, which is frustrating but what I expected. We had Kol Nativ, which is getting pretty frustrating, but it'll all be over soon (I have a plan for a four-man Yerucham a capella group, should be pretty awesome). Thursday night I really wasn't feeling well so I only went out for about an hour and I only went out at all because it was Jordana's birthday and I would have felt bad not going out at all. Happy Birthday Jordana!!!!

On Friday we had a make-up Hebrew class because Ulpan ends before the semester ends so that we have more time for finals. Shifi knew that it was a big hassle for us to wake up on a Friday morning so she decided to make it more fun for us. We had about an hour of learning and then took a break, followed by a big brunch. We all brought in food (Shifi included) and had a HUGE meal - marzipan rugelach, pita, cheese, chips, burekas, juice, shoko, tea and all sorts of goodies. Don't worry that I missed out on lots of learning during the Hebrew class. The other class watched Sallah Shabbati - a wonderful movie, don't get me wrong, but no better use of my time then our brunch. After eating, we still had time left in the class so Adina came up with the wonderful idea of playing 2 Truths and A Lie. This is an icebreaker where everyone goes around and tells the group two true facts about their lives, along with one lie that they made up. The group then guesses which fact is the lie. We played in Hebrew, so there was at least a little educational value. Shifi made everything so much fun because she is just the cutest Hebrew teacher ever. She is by far the second best Hebrew teacher I've ever had, right behind Morah Besner.

After class ended, a number of us headed over to the Central Bus Station to begin our weekend fun. Adam, Aaron, Joshy, Gabe Co, Asaf, Brian, Nadav, Meir, Jacob, Joey, Max and I went to Ramat Gan to a hotel/resort called Kfar Maccabiah. After a little bit of a room balagan where the rooms that they initially gave us were too small for three people, we ended up moving to bigger rooms that could each sleep four, so we needed one fewer room. We headed to the hot tub, pool and saunas right away and hung out there for a few hours. After that, we went back to the rooms did Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, and then had dinner. We hung out and watched tv for a while, and then went to our rooms for bed. In the morning we woke up for hotel breakfast and it was wonderful!! They had fruit and cheese and bread and pudding and yogurt and shoko and juice and cake and parfait and tea...we were all really full after breakfast and we went back to our rooms for late morning naps. When we woke up, we headed down to the basketball courts to play for a few hours and then went back to the pool area for a while. We had dinner back in the rooms with some more tv watching and then took some more napping time. We woke up as Shabbat ended, packed up and headed home. Once we got home, we dropped our stuff off and a number of us headed off to a movie theater/restaurant on Rehov Lloyd George to see A Serious Man (A Good Jew in the Hebrew title). It is based in St. Louis Park, MN where a lot of my friends live. Joey's little brother plays the role of "Daniel's Reefer Friend," who is always asking Daniel to pass the marijuana that he is smoking. The movie is VERY interesting as a modern Book of Job parallel and just generally as a thought-provoking film. I really enjoyed it.

This morning it was off to Silicon Wadi again (with a stop at The Frank first for lunch), and then back home. On the way home I saw a nun in Naot sandals - one of those interesting incongruities that you only see in Israel. We watched a lot of LOST today and then Rachel, Adina and I went to grab pizza. Rachel had a meeting for her Poland trip and Adina and I walked around a little more, then it was time for another episode of LOST.

Now it's time for bed, but it feels really good to be caught up on my blogging.

Talk to you soon,