Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thoughts on Yesterday's Levaya

The yeshiva went to Kfar Chabad yesterday to take part of the Holtzberg levaya (funeral). I don't think that I am capable of expressing the pain that the entire Jewish world felt at the loss of these two incredible people. What I can tell over is something unique that I experienced to put even more perspective on the incredible Jewish unity we have in this country.
We were not able to stay for the entire levaya and we arrived back in Ramat Beit Shemesh at about the time it was ending.
One of our Rabbeim who travels from Bar Ilan to RBS everyday mentioned some of the things that had been mentioned by the final speaker.
We asked him how he knew what was being spoken about at the levaya.
The hespadim (eulogies) were being brodcast on the radio as well as television all over the country. And the bus that he was on was tuned to that station.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Please Take My Blood"

I've learned that in this country it generally takes three tries before you can actually get anything done, and giving blood is no exception.
Attempt #1: Yeshiva had a blood drive, but we run out of time and I'm am forced to walk away without being able to do this great mitzvah.
Attempt #2: Last Sunday I go to the Blood Bank and and am told that I can't give because I had an upset stomach that morning (the price one pays for eating all of that Shabbos food)
Attempt #3: Success!
For those of you who have never had the privilege of giving blood, I'll tall you a little about my experience.
When you walk into the blood bank you are asked to fill out a form consisting of questions like "Did you live in England between the years of 1985 and 1998?" and other's that are too inappropriate for this blog.
They then take you into a room where they repeat every single question to you-all while completely ignoring the answers that you are are giving them.
Then you sit in a bed for the actual procedure. I happened to be feeling a little queasy at this point (I'm not the biggest fan of needles) and without really any warning the woman there grabbed my are strapped a rubber band around my bicep and JAM, stuck the needle straight in (I'm assuming that these people are professionals-at least the blood started coming out right away and they didn't have to "dig" for it).
Then I'm basically sitting there for about 10 minutes waiting for this machine to fill up the little bag that contains enough room for one "unit" of blood (not sure exactly how much a unit is...). Then the Jamming Lady comes back and yanks the needle out of my arm and tells me to eat cookies (who am I to argue with that...), and press the cotton on the whole that the needle made.
Then I walked out and actually felt completely fine. I had been expecting to feel a little queasy but the only symptom was that I felt a little more tired later in the day. Got a good night's sleep and was back to normal the next morning.
Now for the request: If you are in Israel, whether you live here or are only visiting, it is a tremendous mitzvah to give blood. I can personally vouch for the (relativly) painless process, in which you're in and out in under an hour. Think about it, the more blood they get in the bank the better.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Joke and...Duh!

Well I finally reached a milestone I understood my first joke in Hebrew (more of a funny comment then a joke, but hey I'll take anything).
We were driving this past Friday from Ramat Beit Shemesh to Yerushalyim and as we enter the center of RBS on our way out one of the other madrichim (who actually KNOWS how to speak Hebrew) had the following conversation witht he bus driver (translation will be at the bottom-pardon the Hebrew words with English letters):

Madrich: Aifoh ata l'Shabbat?
Bus Driver: Ani Po
Madrich: Ahhh...BaAuotobus?

Madrich: Where are you for Shabbat?
BD: I'm here (in RBS)
M: the bus?

All right I know, not that funny, but this one had me rolling...(my eyes at least).

A few week's ago I was at the train station and as I approached the entrance there was a metal detector (which is not uncommon in this country).
Now being a veteran at these I immedietly reached into my pockets and started emptying it. The security guard said: "Ahh I see you have done this before."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Day (sorta)

For all of the fans out there who are wondering why I've stopped posting, don't worry, here comes another one.
The reason I haven't been posting as often as I did during the summer is mostly to do without a solid internet connection for two months, added on top of that a lot more responsibilities as well as a lot of repetition in my day. But I will do my best to bring you a taste of what life is like in the part of that world. (and by "this part of the world" I mean Ramat Beit Shemesh.)
So the day is basically like this, wake up, wake the guys up and get everyone to davening on time at 7:45. As soon as davening is over grab my backpack and run out the door for my 20 minute hike up the hill that is Ramat Beit Shemesh (we're all the way at the bottom and the place where we have our ulpan is all the way at the top). Show up to Upan 20 minutes late, have the teacher say something to me in Hebrew along the lines of "why are you late," stare at her blankly because I have no idea what she just asked me then have her smile because she knows exactly why I'm late (because I told her.)
Sit throught a lot of Shamaru, Shamarti, Shamrtah, Shamartem Shamar-"which one are we on again?" Until 12:45 when I then walk back down the hill (otherwise known as Ramat Beit Shemesh) to get back to the yeshiva in time for lunch.
Enjoy your not-so-typical yeshiva lunch, ususally consisting of Lasanga, Fetuchini, Spaghetti (darn Italian words-I'm learning Hebrew!), bagels, fish, salad, (and now that it's winter here) soup.
Then I have a few options, I can go back to my room for a short nap, but usually I do one of two things. 1. Learn or 2. Get my computer and, seeing that we actually have internet now, check my mail and the news.
I then have a chavrusa at 3 and learn until 3:45 Mincha. After I mincha I take care of any administration stuff that I have to do for the yeshiva, and then when I'm done with that, I learn until 6:00 when Rav Machlis's shiur starts.
Go to his shiur, go to dinner, come back to the Beis, learn some more, have my daf yomi chavrusa, daven maariv, take care of any other thngs that have popped up since 4:00 when I was supposed to be working, and then eventually go to bed.
Of course sprinkle through our my day, talking with guys, cleaning EVERYTHING, and other commitments I've made with people in the community, my day can be quite full and exhasting. But all in all it quite good to go to bed at the end of the day and feel that you've accomplished something.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Back from Hiatus (Hopefully this time for good...)

Yay, the internet is finally up in the yeshiva! I’ll be trying to post a few times a week from now on (depending how busy I am).
So what’s happened in the last few week’s since I last posted? Well one thing was Succos, and the first time I ever kept one day of Chag.
It was a very interesting experience, and a little different then I expected. You’d think that making such a drastic change from what you’ve been doing your entire life would feel like it had more of an impact, but the next day just felt like any other day of Chol Hamoed. The interesting part came during the second days on Simchas Torah. The way it works in Israel is that everyone has Hakafos on Smini Atzeres and then 2nd night they bring a band into the Beis Medrash for the dancing. The weird part was the next morning, as I was putting my Tifillin away and getting ready to leave to Yerushalayim, the 2nd day guys started their hakafos by themselves. THAT felt weird.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Miscommunications, Stupid Government Laws, and I should hopefully be posting more often soon

All right basically I haven't been posting because I haven't had easy access to the internet. But not to worry Bezek is coming on Thursday to the yeshiva to install our internet so starting next week I should start posting regularly again.
Other then that I felt I had to send out a post now because this is my first time with one ONE day of Yom Tov, that's right ONE, I need to take advantage of both my internet connectivity-ness (thank's to the Eastman's) and my not being in Chag-ness.
So I'll fill in two interesting Aliyah related stories that have happened to me in the previous week's.
The first one being my health insurance. For those of you who remember, I had the whole nightmare of missing the Bituach Leumi table at the airport when I first got here, and then having to deal with the nightmare of actually having to spend to at their office in both Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem.
So following up on that story it ended with me waiting for a letter from them so I could go and sign up for my Kupot (health insurance carrier-for lack of better translation).
So yeshiva started and they needed my health insurance information, so I decided to just go to the Kupot I had decided and see if there was a way to get my insurance without whatever it was I was waiting for from Bituach Leumi.
I walked in, they asked for my name and Teudat Zehut number, and then they asked me where I had been because I had been signed up for over a month already. Apparently whatever it is that Bituach Leumi does with the Kupot had already been done and I was the only person who hadn't been told about it!
So long story short, I am now insured and the best part that I can tell the people back in America is that I'm playing about $7 a month for the premium plan. (Details will follow on how good the actual coverage is, but for now from what I hear it seems quite decent).

Story #2:
All right this is just a weird story, I'll try to fill in all of the background information. Back in December when I was filling out my information at the Embassy in Washington and seeing that I was already Israeli but had never actually lived there, it would make perfect sense for them to ask for my address in Israel, right?
So I gave the current yeshiva address.
The yeshiva, as you might have guessed by lack of posts due being internet-less, moved and when I got to Israel they had a different address then what I had given and was put on my Teudat Zehut.
So I wanted to get the address on my Teudat Zehut changed to my new address, so I went to the Misrad Hapanim, and they told me that I needed a letter from the yeshiva with the notification of the address change, that I was living there, and my information.
I went back with the letter and was informed that they couldn't change my address.
All right for those of you who hate the Olmert government, here's another reason to change them. Apparently, according to this person at the Misrad Hapanim, the Olmert government passed a law making it illegal to have a yeshiva as your address. When I tried to point out to him that my current address, first of all, no longer existed, but second of all used to be the address of a yeshiva, he told me there was nothing he could do for me. You can have an address that doesn't exist on your Teudat Zehut, but you can't have the address of a yeshiva where you're living. But, the Misrad Hapaim worker told me, that law is only in effect while Olmert is in office, as soon as he leaves in November that law is void, so I can come back and he should be able to change it then.
Sometimes this country makes absolutely no sense.

But the important is that I'm doing well, loving yeshiva and ulpan and just being in this incredible country besides all of the headaches you can get from our wonderful government. As one person I know put it, you need to look at Israel as a country run by a government, but a country run by people. The news media likes to talk about the government and politics, but that's the tip of the iceberg of what our country is.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Update and an Only in Israel List (if you like that sort of thing...)

So, and update, which will hopefully happen more often once the Yeshiva gets its internet installed, their working on drinking water right now which I think might be a little higher up on the list than internet, but it should B"H go up sometime next week.
Anyways, the yeshiva! The new building is incredible, and the amount of work that went into it is really astounding, especially considering that 9 months ago it was a basically a hole in the ground.
I walked into the Beis Midrash about a week before the yeshiva and walked out with the very high doubts that it was going to be ready on time.
Not only was it ready the place looked absolutely incredible.

Now for a short list (by "short" I mean what ever comes to my mind as I write this) of little things that I've experienced here in Israel since arriving almost two months ago:

  • The fierce protection everyone gives to children in the country
  • The unspoken rule, even from NYF Jews, that men and women not related to each other do not sit next to each other on the bus if another seat is available.
  • A disclaimer on a bag of tissues telling you that, if you use them on Shabbos, please make sure that you open the bag before Shabbos starts.
  • How everyone ignores the "Don't put your feet on the seat" sign on the busses, but are very strict about leaving handicapped spots open on the same bus.
  • How on the street you can randomly spot someone davening at the bus stop (that's usually the women, the guys have already formed a minyan)
  • How you realize the news in about Israel portayed by the world's media has absolutly no bearing on the reality of what actually goes on here.
  • The mutual respect (at least most of the time) between all different religions and people who live here
  • The trains. Enough said
  • How Israel is the only country in the world that will shut down the busiest street in it's capitol city in order to put in a subway system and then only work on it for 7 hours a day
  • How everyone (even Arabs') will with you a "Shabbat Shalom" on Friday
  • Sunsets
  • The mountains
  • Little kids speaking Hebrew
  • (This is for the techies) NO CAPS ON INTERNET BANDWITH!!
Well that's what I could come up, let me know if you want to add anything to that list. I will hopefully start posting more frequently next week.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Back from hiatus (sorta)

Whew, sorry I haven't been able to write for a while, but all of the emails that have been pouring in, I need to send something out before Shabbos (the reason for the hiatus has been because access to internet has been not easy to come by-thanks to the Kaplen's for allowing me to use it today).
So, and update on what's been happening in the last 2 week's. As most of you know I moved to Ramat Beit Shemesh last Sunday and have moved into a sub-neighborhood of RBS called Ramat Shilo (funny considering that RBS is a sub-neighborhood of Beit Shemesh).
Anyways, I moved into a brand new apartment here, so new in fact that when I arrived they had not installed the faucets in the bathrooms and kitchen yet, and there were about two rooms that were set up for habitation.
But seriously I have been having a great time, and I'm really looking forward to Yeshiva starting next week. The new guys come in on Tuesday night.

Just one quick story, I started Ulpan (Hebrew language study) on Wednesday, and didn't realize it until about 11:30 in the morning. I had been to the Matnas (where we have Ulpan) about 2 week's ago and they told me that they would call me the day before Ulpan started and I would come in and they sould test me so they knew which class to put me in the next day.
So we were busy setting up one of the apartments and I get a call that basically went something like this:

"Hi is this Gavriel?"
"Why are you not at the Matnas."
"I've been waiting for you to call me. When do you need me?"
"Right now."

All right, not a big deal, so I jumped onto my bike and did what will be one of many rides up to the Matnas. Just to tell you something about Ramat Beit Shemesh, it's on a mountain, and the Matnas is at the top of the mountain, my apartment is on the bottom. I'm going to be biking 1 and 1/2 miles everyday, first thing in the morning, straight up that hill. I'm will B"H be in very good shape by the time Ulpan is over!

So I arrive at tghe Matnas, and go to the woman behind the desk.

"Hi, I'm here for my Ulpan test."

She looked at me.

"Can you read and write in Hebrew?"


"Can you speak."

"A little bit but not really."


She then took me upstairs, I was assuming to get tested by someone, and she plopped me down right in the middle of the class. Apparently Ulpan had started that day and I was 3 hours late.

To their credit, she did put me in exactly the right class and I was not too far behind, but I think the key word in this "COMMUNICATION!"

The Yeshiva is moving into their new building (hopefully!) sometime next week, once they get the office set up I will be able to be online more and be able to start writing more.

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I'm moving!...and Beit El

I’m moving.
That’s right, but this time only inter-city, not inter-continent.
Now is when real life begins (sorta), as I sit here among about 100+ kilo bags (all together, not a single bag-the chiropractor will loooove that one…) and wait for my cab to come to take me to Ramat Beit Shemesh, where I will be working as a madrich at Yeshivat Lev Hatorah for the year.
One thing I’m really looking forward to, and for the past month when I’ve gone to Beit Shemesh my mouth starts watering at the sight of these incredible trials on the mountains surrounding the area. As some of you may have guessed I’m a biker, nothing really hardcore, but I have this weird thing about using my legs to spin a contraption that turns two wheels that will take me to the top of a mountain (and back down it), here in the Land of Israel. And from what I hear the Beit Shemesh area is one of the best places in the country to do that.
Anyways, Shabbos.
Shabbos I was with the Fleisher’s in Beit El (home of the Stairway to Heaven). They live at the edge of Beit El on the highest mountain in the city, and have the most breathtaking view of the surrounding hills and cities. Ad to give you an idea of how high you are and what a commanding view you have, from their mountain you can see Tel Aviv and Gaza at the same time.
Aside from the view and the good company (and food) I had a very enjoyable Shabbos in another part of the glorious Land of Israel.
And next time from Ramat Beit Shemesh!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The NBN Blogger's Convention and Netanyahu vs. Jewlicious

Well last night I had the privilege to attend the first annual Nefesh B’ Nefesh conference (oh that sounds so official), and reached a milestone of it being the first time (I think ever) that I went to Yerushalayim without a backpack.
All right, so I showed up at the NBN Convention hall (that also sounds really official) and was given this sticker to wear on my shirt with my blog name on it (and for those of you getting this by email it’s Israel Fix-please visit apparently I have an interesting blogroll, as someone mentioned to me last night). NBN has this obsession with stickers, not sure where that comes from…
Anyways, I sat down to eat from the absolutely glorious spread of meat that the caterers had laid out for us. This was the real reason I came to the conference, free food. (Hey as a single guy I take what I can get!)
I thought the conference was a great success, and a great chance for the blogger’s to interact outside of the virtual world. I met the faces behind many blog’s. Including Treppenwitz, Hirhurim, My Right Word and others. I also ran into Frum Satire who was brought in by NBN for the conference. I have a video posted of his routine during the conference.
All right so I don’t bore you, I’m only going to tell one story from the conference (and this way when I run into some of you here in Israel I have some new stories to tell and won’t hear the becoming too often “I know that story, I read it on your blog.”)
The initial panel consisted of Treppenwitz, Hirhurim, My Urban Kvetch, and Jewlicious. While Treppenwitz was speaking, he was interrupted by the arrival of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Treppenwitz stopped talking as the room completely stopped paying attention to him. As he put it “nothing I say can follow THAT!”
Then Bibi spoke; he looked down the line of panels and stopped at Jewlicious, raised an eyebrow and said, “Jewlicious?”
To which Jewlicious responded in the same exact tone, “Netanyahu?”
Great way to open up, with the room rolling in laughter.
Bibi then spoke a little long, and a little off topic because, hey, it’s Bibi.

So today I went to Beit Shemesh to take care of more fun and interesting things, namely signing up for ulpan and dealing with some things at the Misrad Klita (which I’ll get to).
I had made my first trip to the Misrad Klita on Sunday. Basically this offices job is to give you stuff, like money, training (money for training), and ulpan (and hopefully some more money). I went in on Sunday to deal with the business that I had to do there, except there was only one small glitch in that there was some other piece of information she needed on the form from the bank. So I had to go back to the bank, fill out the form correctly and come back today.
One of the other things I wanted to do was get the name on my Teudat Zakaut changed to the correct name (this is different from the Teudat Zehut which is a card everyone gets-the Teudat Zakaut is just for people who have made Aliyah).
So the woman there told me to leave it there with her, she would get it to the Misrad Hapanim to get it changed and I could pick it up on Thursday.
So I go in today (Thursday) and what a surprise, the Teudat Zakaut is sitting right there on her desk with the same, incomplete name in it.
She told to wait and WALKED INTO THE NEXT ROOM, where the woman from Misrad Hapanim, HAND WROTE my name into the document.
I’m not angry (I thought it was hilarious) just another interesting insight into how things work in this country.
From there I took my bike to Yerushalyim to visit the shop I bought it in. I wanted to pick up a new bike seat (as the one they sell with the bike is meant for people who buy a bike, ride it around the block, complain that it hurts their back, and the bike then sits in their garage for 20 years until it’s thrown away).
I got to chatting with the owner of the shop, who made Aliyah at the age of 4 in 1951 from Iraq. We discussed quite a few things ranging from politics, to biking in Israel, and I mentioned that I write a blog and he asked me to do two things:
1. plug his bike shop-It’s Mercaz HaOfanaim on Agripas St. in Jerusalem
2. and (I promise this was him and not me) to ask all of the Jews in Chutz L’Aretz reading the to come home!! (And to buy a bike from his shop when you get here.
Heading to Beit El for Shabbos and will be by Yishai and Malkah Fleisher. Have a great Shabbos!!

Frum Satire at the NBN Blogger's Convention

Part 1:

Part 2:

My Thought's on Zavi Apfelbaum Presentation at the NBN Blogger's Convention

There was a representative from the Israel Foreign Ministry there who gave a presentation on Israel’s image in the world, and “branding” Israel.
Basically how do people think about Israel, not politically, but with its culture and people, what do people think when they hear “Israel.”
There was a focus group done of about 10 groups of 5 people (non-Jews), they were put in a room (that’s usually where they do focus groups) and were asked to just start saying names of countries, any that came to mind.
Israel was usually later on in the group and most of the time was helped along by the mention of another country (“Lebanon-oh what’s south of that?”)
They then grouped all of the countries in alphabetical order in groups of 10. The moderator would come in a say “Oh, let’s pick this one.” And “randomly” pick the one with Israel in it.
The people in the focus group were then presented with this scenario: there’s a block with ten houses on it, and each of these countries represents a house, and there’s a party going on in that house. They were then asked a few questions about what the house would be like. What did the house look like? Is it welcoming? Etc.
They showed the video of the group talking about the house representing Italy and you can see the people very relaxed describing the lush garden’s they have in Italy, pasta, and overall a relaxing environment.
When they were asked about Israel the room tensed up and you could see a dramatic shift in the participants body language. When asked if they would feel welcomed there, the room was pretty unanimous, “no.”
A very interesting remark by an African-American guy in the room was, “I don’t think I would be welcome because of the color of my skin.”
Israel is (as far as I know) the only country in the world to bring a group of African’s out of their country of origin, not for persecution, but to bring them to a First World country as free people. Things of that nature are really not an issue in Israel. Even if someone wants to say that Israel is racist against Arabs, true there may be individual’s who are anti-Arab, but the is far from the government policy, and I think also for a good chunk of the population (I have no data, so I’m basing this on personal experience). But anti-Black sentiments are extremely rare if they even exist at all.
Anyways, the point of the presentation is that Israel does not have a positive image with the world-but these people don’t hate Israel. 70% of them support us politically, the point of this group was that their image of Israel is based around one thing and one thing that keeps getting repeated and repeated by too many representatives from Israel-the conflict.
Not to tone that down, but Israel has so many more things of interest to the people of the world, like all of their innovations in hi-tech, medicine, agriculture (baked goods and shwarma) but people in America don’t hear that. All they hear about is “the conflict.”
And that’s what we as blogger’s are trying to do, bring a positive life (or at the very least a “real life” account of what it’s really like here. That’s all I’m trying to do.

Oh and another point that was brought up from the group when asked what Israel's house looked like the main word was 'cement.' Also "barbed wire" and "iron bars" as well as "no trees or anything green."
Well I'm going to disprove that one and show that Israel is GREEN! But I will admit that cement is necessary usually for sidewalks...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

“My recommendation is to eat the cookies...NOW”

Every morning after davening (and maybe eating) I go through the Bar Ilan campus in order to get to the bus station(s) to take me to other areas of the country.
As it is with many places here, there are security checkpoints at the entrance to the campus.
I’m not sure what they’re looking for (I know they’re looking for terrorists, I meant what signs that a person gives that may make the guard suspicious that they might be a potential terrorist), but I have my days where I get checked and I have my days when I don’t. Usually the days I get checked is because they ask for a student card, and seeing that I am not a student at that campus, the Teudat Zehut just doesn’t cut it.
So one morning I’m heading through the checkpoint like I usually do, and the guard takes a look at my Teudat Zehut.
Then he does a double-take and looks again.
“You arre Tzeitlin?”
“I know you, you can pass.”
OK, that was weird. “How do you know me?”
“You come through herre everryday and I rrecognized yourr name.”
So I found out when his shift is and now I know to make sure that I plan to go to the bus between 8:30am and 12:30pm.

So yesterday (Monday) I took a “Yerushalayim Day” (you know like a mental health day-only spiritual). I first started by taking a bus over to Bayit Vegan to surprise my relatives who live there.
They weren’t home, so I stopped by Angel Bakery and picked up some bourekas (the true reason I made Aliyah-they’re soooo good!). Then went to the Tachana (Bus station) to catch the city bus tour.
This is a genius thing put forth from the good people at Egged. They have a double decker bus, the bottom enclosed and air conditioned and the top with an open roof, as well as inputs for headphones on both levels. The headphone jacks are so you can, um, plug headphones in. They then have located throughout the entire city sensors that, when the bus passes, tells the bus where it is and some audio (in I believe 9 languages of your choice) will tell you some of the history about that particular place.
I think the part I liked the most was actually the open air top side of the bus, it’s not everyday you get to see Jerusalem from 20 feet in the air.
After the tour I headed to the Old City and spent a few hours at the Kotel. When it started to get dark, I headed back to Bayit Vegan, and my relatives were there this time.
I spent about an hour and half updating them on everything, (and yes, it was EVERTHING-my family knows what I’m talking about) and like any good Jewish mother, she gave me a bag of cookies to take with me.
Now those cookies taught me a very important lesson, when someone gives you an open bag of cookies (or in this case, a plastic bag that doesn’t close at the top) either eat the cookies right away or if you’re putting into your backpack, put it in a SMALL bag in the bag, not the BIG bag with all of your stuff in it.
My Gemarah now has crumbs and chocolate on it.
I think some guy in the Bais Midrash thought I was nuts when I started licking my Gemarah. (crazy chutznikim ;)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Off-key Chevron songs

Time for another update.
So I was in the community of Tel Zion for Shabbos staying at the Ishtov’s, and had lunch at the Yonah’s in Kochav Yaakov (you know, Tamar Yonah of Israel National Radio?). I really like the community, another one of these Yishuvim out on a mountain in the middle of the desert. It really gives you the feeling of isolation, even though you’re less then a 20 minute drive to a major city. Just another thing I like about Israel.
Today I went to Chevron (Hebron) for the first time and visited the Mearat Hamachpayla. Another new area of the land of Israel to set foot on.
The highlight of the day however, was on our way back from Chevron to Yerushalayim. We had this bus driver who, as soon as we were starting to reach the outskirts of Yerushalayim on the way back from Chevron, he picks up his microphone and asks everyone if they had a good time in Chevron.
“How good of a time? A GREAT time?”
Then he started (very off-key I might add) to sing Chevron songs. Then as soon as we entered Yerushalayim, he started singing Yerushalayim songs. It was absolutely hilarious.
Anyways, short post today, tomorrow I’m taking a “Yerushalyim Day.” I’m going to go on the city tour bus that takes you all over the city with an audio guide to explain the history of the different sites, and you don’t even have to leave your chair. I’m then going to go visit some relatives and spend the rest of the day at the Kotel.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Scraped Legs, Chance Encounters, and "I told you NOT to hit the rock!"

Well a lot has happened in the last 48 hours, where to begin…
Oh I know Ramat Beit Shemesh.
So I went to Ramat Beit Shemesh yesterday to pick up the Israeli ATM card. I can now take money out of my account with out having to go to Ramat Beit Shemesh every time I need cash. Nice feeling.
I brought me bike with me, which makes traveling a lot easier and quicker. I went down to Ramat Shilo for a little bit and schmoozed with two of my Rabbi’s, then went up to Beis Tifilla to have a seder.
Now here’s where the twist comes, some point on the way up the hill to the shul, my foot slipped of the pedal of the bike, came around and slashed the back of my leg. I didn’t think much about it, but sometime in the middle of learning it started to sting, so I headed over to the pharmacy to pick up something to clean it.
The pharmacy in Ramat Beit Shemesh is run by (at least in my opinion) this awesome guy named Arthur Jacobs. I got to schmoozing with him (as I’ve been known to do with people) and we somehow got to the topic of Baltimore.
“Ah, do you know Avi?”
It turns out a friend of mine got married to his daughter back in January, and I had never made the correlation (I’m not sure why “Jacobs” is a pretty common name right?) that this was same Jacobs that my friend married.
And on top of it all, my friend and his wife (who are currently living in Tzfat) were in RBS for the day.
So I was given another chance to shmooze, now I’m not feeling that bad over my scraped leg.
Today a friend and I went to En Gedi, I’m attaching a link so you can check the pictures out. The pictures can do better work at explaining things then my words can, but I will include one humorous anecdote.
My friend and I hiked Wadi (Nachal?) Arugot, a hike I’ve been on a few times, about a 3 mile valley that goes along a riverbed that’s dry at times. It ends at what’s know as the “Hidden Waterfall.” You then hike back to where you started (a total of about 6 miles roughly).
As we were leaving the waterfall we decided to take the high trail as neither of us was interested in getting our shoes wet. The “trail” up was basically small overhanging cliffs that you climbed like stairs to the top of the side of a mountain. Some of these steps are a little tall and requires one to push themselves up with their hands.
One who is climbing up these “stairs” of rocks, is not really concentrating on what’s happening on the next ridge, as their more concerned about getting up the ledge they are currently on. Needless to say I pushed myself up and was greeted with a rather large rock about 2 inches from my face and my momentum speedily bringing the two together.
I veered away, missing the rock and yelled “rock” so my friend would know not make the same mistake that I almost did.
Turns out I should have been a little clearer in my communication.
“Rocks? This whole place is full of rocks!”
Boom! Rock collided with flesh. “Ow!”
We had a good laugh back to the entrance of the hike.

For pics of Ramat Beit Shemesh and the Benei Brak fire (see below):
For Ein Gedi Pics:

Now for some more serious news, some of you may have read this in the news. When I got back to the apartment on Wednesday in Givat Shmuel I thought I smelled smoke. I didn’t give it much thought, I figured that someone was having a barbeque. I then checked the news and learned that some sicko had gone into a shul in Benei Brak and lit the Aron (ark) on fire, with all the Sifrei Torah inside.
I went to the window and could see the shul on fire from the window, police are still not sure who the culprit is, but this is seriously a sick act against the frum Jews in Benei Brak. (Yes I am aware that is an opinion)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Watch it Again

Service update: you can now watch previous NBN Aliyah landings on their website (including mine). And for those who are interested there will be another plane landing tomorrow morning (7:30am Israel Time/12:30am Eastern Time) including two friends of mine from Baltimore.
I was going to go to the landing, but when I went to Nefesh b'Nefesh' website to sign up registration was closed!
You know what that means? There will be A LOT of people at tomorrow's landing! It's going to be awesome.

Bene Brak, confused Chassidim and the search for Shawarma begins!

I need to tell this story, this is awesome. I decided to take an evening bike ride over to Bene Brak, I hadn’t had the chance to explore that city at all yet.
The ride over is relatively easy, you cross over the bridge from Givat Shmuel and BOOM you’re in Bene Brak.
It’s like entering a new world. Where Givat Shmuel (from what I can tell) is relatively secular, with the university and what not. Bene Brak is CHARADI. Not that I have an issue with that of course but it’s kind of an interesting culture shock, part of which has to do with that this is the first time I ever went to another city via bike. I’ve only gone in some kind of gas-guzzling transportation before.
Anyways, I exited what’s known as the “Coca Cola Bridge,” made a right and just decided to go straight until I decided to turn back.
I think I caused some questions as I rode past. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt with my tzitzit expertly tucked into my back pocket. I have a friend, fellow blogger Frum Satire, who has this happen to him in Monsey. There the kids are asking “nu, a Yid?” No such question in this country!
Let’s just say I attracted quite a few stares.
The best part of the story happened somewhere along this road. As I was riding I was assaulted by a Chassid looking for a tenth guy for a minyan. I would have been happy to stop except I was not exactly in the right attire for davening in such a chashuv place.
“Lo Chashiv,” I told him pointing to my shorts.
He said it wasn’t a problem and directed me into this tiny little shteeble wedged between two apartment buildings.
When I got inside I realized another problem with this situation. I removed my helmet and discovered that (as I usually do while biking) I did not have my kippa.
The guy standing next to me noticed and immediately handed me a kippah. Who said Charaidim weren’t kiruv ready?! I do think the guy was thoroughly confused though, he probably thought I was some chiloni guy, except the tzitzit was throwing something off. Tzitzit, but not kippa, usually it’s the other way around.
So that was my first trip into Bene Brak. Next trip will be to track down, what I hear, is the best Shawarma shop in the country!

Pics are here, more shots of that magnificent Israel sunset:

Biking Around Givat Shmuel

I’ve discovered something. Behind Givat Shmuel there’s a large stretch of open fields, perfect for some off road biking.
I kinda stumbled onto it by accident. I was going on a ride yesterday, and just found it. I wasn’t able to really get a feel for it as I was running out of water and I didn’t want to get stuck out there without water, so I went back today and had a great time.
I will admit that some of it is annoying because it’s made of sand. Bikes don’t do well in sand, but if I can avoid the middle of the road and stick to the sides which are a little more compacted, I’m fine.
I can’t wait to get out to Beit Shemesh and hit the trails out there, from what I hear the whole area is a biker’s heaven. 2 week’s to go until I move out there, (but I have a feeling I’m going to be on a trail before that).
Here are some of the pics I took while out in the field today and a link to a video I took coming back.

Biking around Givat Shmuel

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Good Deal's" and Tishah B'Av

Before I start with this post, I just got an email inviting me to (I believe the first) Nefesh B’ Nefesh International Jewish Bloggers Convention. That should be fun, next Wednesday at the NBN offices in Jerusalem.
So onto today’s post, I’m going to tell two stories that happened to me this past week, and only two, because I’ve discovered something, it seems all of the people I’ve been running into are either getting the emails or are reading the blog and I have nothing to talk to them about because they’ve already heard my stories!
So on Thursday I made my first (and probably last) big purchase for quite a while, the bike.
Sometime after Pesach I started to get really into mountain biking. So I’d drag my 10 year old, $150 bike that I got from BJ’s out and take some trails in the Baltimore area.
I was about to make Aliyah so I wasn’t about to buy anything heavy duty, if the bike gave out then I’d have to suffer for a few week’s.
It turned out the bike held up very well, but now that I was in Israel it was time to get a new bike.
So during my first two week’s walking around Yerushalayim, I’d stop at every bike shop I saw look at the different bikes they had, talk to the owners, and just did some research.
I ended up finding a bike in a small shop on Agripas, owned and manned by a jolly Russian guy, who when I first expressed interest at buying at his store, offered me a “good deal.”
I’ve learned to be very weary when I hear this phrase, a phrase that translates into “rich and dumb American who can be taken advantage of.”
Case in point, I had a friend who was in the Machane Yuhuda Shuk and was looking for bed sheets. The shop owner told him the sheet’s he was looking at were 180NIS. “But,” he said, “Because you just make Aliyah I offer good deal, only 130NIS.”
The following week my friend was in a shop on Yaffo and saw the same exact sheets for 30NIS.
So I was wary when the bike shop owner offered me a “good deal.” But to surprise when I did the math myself he had given me quite a fair price. He then knocked 150NIS off the final bill. I think I found my bike shop.
I rode out of there quite happy with my purchase and biked down to the Old City to go to the Kotel (what better way to celebrate a new purchase). Biking in Jerusalem is quite a liberating feeling, as bikes are the only things that are allowed on both the streets and the sidewalks. I got to the Kotel in about 10 minutes, as they were doing some construction on Yaffo for the new light rail system.
Now for story #2.
I spent Tishah B’Av on Rabbi Zev Leff’s Moshav Matityahu. I have a friend who went to yeshiva there and is now married and lives there with his wife. For two year in Yeshiva he’d been trying to get me to come out there, and somehow I never made it, so when I got back to Israel, I wanted to make sure that visited him.
This also was my first Tishah B’Av in Israel, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. I think one of the most moving things that happened was during Eicha on Motzei Shabbat, there were people in the room who were wailing with grief over the lose of the Temple. I don’t remember every seeing that before, people who seemed to really feel a physical pain. It was quite a moving experience.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Week

So lot’s of fun stuff this week (oh, that was a lie). On Tuesday I headed to Ramat Beit Shemesh to pick up the (loud trumpet music) The Israeli Checks and ATM Card!
They only had the checks, the ATM card will arrive NEXT week.
Besides this unexpected turn of events it gave me a chance to catch up with some people in RBS who I hadn’t seen in a while.
On to Wednesday.
On Wednesday I took my first trip ever to Kever Rochel (Rachel’s Tomb). From there I went to Maaleh Adumim to hear Rabbi Pinchas Winston speak about the Geula (redemption). Due to my desire to keep these writings as neutral as possible, I will not be detailing what he said. But take my word for it very interesting stuff.
I then spent the night at the home of a family who make Aliyah from Baltimore, the Dressler’s.
This morning, I went to Jerusalem to make my first (and probably last for a while) big purchase, the bike. I know have a set of wheels, and I must say that it was quite a feeling to be able to get around Jerusalem, at 10 mph rather than the usual 3.
So I went to the Old City and davened at the Kotel.
I’m heading to Moshav Matityahu for Shabbos and Tish B’av.
Hopefully some exciting 10mph stories next week.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ketubot, Rabbi's and Shnekel's (and Pizza)

Well today I had the privilege of getting my first experience with the Rabbanut. I had some friends who got married last month in America, but the Rabbaut did not recognize their Ketuba, so they had to go in front of these Rabbi’s to “prove” that they were married. To do that they had to have two “aidem” (witnesses) to the fact that they were married, so my friend and I went to the Rabbanut building in central Jerusalem this morning.
An interesting fact, the Rabbanut building is the same building that used to house the Knesset. It’s right off of King George street.
I had been waiting for my first experience with some kind of hellish Israeli bureaucracy, and luckily my first experience was not directed at me.
My friend and I actually arrived before our friend and his wife, we hadn’t seen each other for a while so we had a good chance to schmooze. When they finally did arrive they started the process of whatever it was that they do behind that door.
Now the door was very interesting. Pretty much at all times the door remains locked, and you are not able to knock on it because there is a sheet of cloth that hangs suspended between the actual door and the hallway where they make us all wait for them.
The first thing they did was confiscate our Tudat Zehut’s, I’m not sure exactly why they did that. They then took the couple into the room by themselves to question them. I later found out that they wanted to make sure that our answers matched whatever they had said.
My friend and I each went in separately, my friend went first. I was wondering what kind of questions they would ask me. I assumed it would do something related to the wedding , “was the Ketuba written the correct way?” “Who was the Rabbi who wrote it…” etc.
But to my surprise, when it was actually my turn to be interrogated, they were asking me questions relating to the religious level of the my friend.
“Does he drive on Shabbat?”
“How sure are you of that?”
“How long have you known him?”
Then the actual questions of sustenance.
“You were at this supposed wedding?”
“What was the name of the Rabbi who signed the Ketuba?”
That last one I answered “Rabbi Goldberger,” and for good measure (as all of them were very Charadi looking) “and he wears a very big Striemel.” They seemed very impressed by that.
Of course the problem came when they stared asking me questions about my friends wife, and more specifically when they asked if I knew here parents. I didn’t and the pretty much told us that she was not Jewish, because we had not proof that she was Jewish, therefore they could not give them an Israeli marriage license.
Let’s just say the emotional situation in the room starting moving VERY quickly.
So we went out wondering what we were going to do when the couple remembered that she has a relative who lives in Geula (the place-not the time) who knew her and her parents. They were able to contact him, and he showed up about a half an hour later, dressed in his kaputa and hat, and looking very Chareidi.
Let’s just say that the next step went very quickly and they were accepted as a married couple. (I think there was some Yiddish involved).
When the Rabbi came out to tell them what their decision had been, there was a big sigh of relief (he’s in the army and it’s not that easy for him to get out). The Rabbi told them the good news and their instructions for getting the documentation that they needed.
As he turned to leave he turned around, smiled, and said to the two fo them “Mazel Tov.”
The last step was they actually had to go downstairs and pick up the physical document. While we were waiting for them, my friend (the single one) went to get a soda and asked if the machine too a “Shnekel.”
“What’s a ‘Shnekel?” I asked.
That was apparently his term for the new 2 shekel coin. I wonder why the name never caught on…
From there all four of hung out for a few hours. This was really the first chance that I had to hang out with friends since getting here.
We had lunch on Ben Yehuda (pizza) and then I went with them to Misrad Hapanim so that she could (finally) get her last name to be same as her husbands.
From there we parted ways and I went to pick up some things I needed. But I must say all in all, it was a very interesting day…

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Neve Daniel

On Friday headed out to Neve Daniel to spend Shabbos with the Eastman’s. I’m not exactly sure why everyone call it Neve Daniel, all of the signs I saw said “Newe Daniel,” and the Hebrew had 2 vavs which usually implies a “w” sound.
I first traveled into Jerusalem to meet up with the Eastman boys before heading to the Central Bus Station (commonly referred to as “The Tachana”) and was approached be a cab driver trying to offer me his service. I’d tried to tell him that I would rather walk, and he continued to insist that he would drive me. So I asked “will you take me for free?” He looked a little surprised and I realized that he had completely misread that situation (think that I was a “rich American”).
“Ani Oleh Chadash” (“I’m a new immigrant”).
He looked at me, “From America?”
“Why would you come here?”
So I said it straight to him, “It’s better here.”
I think I gave him something to think about over the weekend
So I meet up with the Eastman boys and we took the bus to Gush Etzion. Neve Daniel is on the highest mountain in the Gush Etzion region and from the top you really have a commanding view of the area. To the west we could see Beitar, and on the other side of the Efrat, and apparently on clear days you can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea.
I introduced myself to Jeremy Gimpel of Shabbos, who lives on the block next to the Eastman’s, as well as to Lawrence ben-David, husband of Laura ben-David who wrote the Aliyah book “Moving Up.”
The synagogue in Neve Daniel is quite impressive, they know how to give it its due prominence (pictures’ on the blog I’m still not sure exactly what the structure on top was (I heard, water fountain, UFO…) but it was an impressive structure.
One interesting thing I learned this week regarding the security fence that Israel is currently building is that apparently the Prophets actually write about the area that Jerusalem will cover during the time of the Third Temple. During that time all Jews will have to travel to Jerusalem, and they all have to be in the walls of the city.
The truth is that today, as large as Jerusalem has become, there still is not enough room for all of the world’s Jews.
Interestingly enough apparently the way that the security fence is being built in relation to the Eastern part of Yerushalayim, the fence is going almost exactly on the border that was prophesied would be the border’s of Greater Jerusalem 2500 years ago.
Just an interesting tidbit I picked up over the weekend.
Oh, and he pictures are (finally) up. Let me know if you have any trouble with the links.

Here's the picture of the Shul:

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Alternative dimensions and Beit El

I am thoroughly convinced that buses in this country exist outside of the dimension the rest of the world exists in. I don’t understand how it is possible for them to squeeze into these incredibly narrow spaces, spaces that I would feel uncomfortable going through on my bike. (The other day I was on a bus that was passing another bus in an extremely narrow road, and I swear that at some point the two buses intersected and were intersecting over one another-something that, as far as I know, is impossible!)
And even more so then the extremely narrow spaces are the speeds that they send these enormous machines through the street at. Yet they always manage to stop on a dime, and navigate through cars, other buses, and pedestrians.
Besides that today I had a great “only in Israel story.” I was on the bus from Beit Shemesh to Bene Brak, and at one of the stops in Beit Shemesh a man came speeding towards the bus on his bike, with his small son in a carrier on his back. The man pulled in front of the bus and asked if the bus would wait for him so he could run his son into his house (which was right in front of the bus stop). The bus driver asked if anyone minded, and no one had a problem with it. The man took 2 minutes running inside and then running back out, throwing his bike in the bottom of the bus and finally climbed onto the bus.
At the next stop we had a guy come onto the bus wearing his tallis and tifilin. Only in the country!
My trip for the day (after I went to Bene Brak to drop off my stuff-and by “Bene Brak,” I mean “Givat Shmuel” were I’m staying) was to Beit El to visit the Arutz Sheva studio.
I got to the bus station and was waiting for the 2pm bus when Walter Bingham, one of the radio hosts, sat down right next to me.
Just so you know who this is, Mr. Bingham made Aliyah 4 years ago from Britain. He is well into his 80’s and actually fought for the British during the 2nd World War.
So he gave me a little tour as we were driving through the Binyamin region of Israel. On the way he pointed out a few Jewish towns, like Kochav Yaakov, as well as Ramallah, which we could see in the distance.
The first person that I met in the studio was Ben Bresky, cool guy who does a lot of the audio editing and mixing for the studio as well as hosting a music show once a week on Sunday.
While I was there I actually recorded a commercial for the station, I send it out when it gets played.
After schmoozing for about and hour I headed across the street to the Yeshiva there to do some learning (with all of this running around I’m a little behind in the Daf). I had a great seder, and the yeshiva was quite impressive, about 200 boys, I’d say ages 14-18 all doing their afternoon seder in the Land of Israel. This is Judaism, Torah in the Land of Israel, you can’t get any better then that.
I went back to the studio a little while later to say hi to Goel Jasper and Dovid Gancher who were there to do the Aliyah show. They were interviewing the translator of the Eim Habanim Semeicha, Rabbi Moshe Lichtman (who I believe lives in Beit Shemesh).
I then when back to Jerusalem and treated myself to my favorite schwarama resteraunt, and had a Chetzi Chetzi.
Now for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s basically a Schwarama, but with strips of Schnitzel in it. I don’t want to imagine how good/bad it is for you, but it was sooo good.
Anyways, probably won’t be able to post again before Shabbos, which I will be spending in Neve Daniel with the Eastman’s.
Have a great Shabbos!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pizza, Government Offices, and Cell Phones

Whew! A lot has happened in the past few days. The last time I posted I had gotten my name changed at Misrad Hapanim to the RIGHT name and had opened my bank account.
That was on Sunday. After I had posted that I went and got my cell phone (I’ll post the number at the end), and had a great experience at the Orange store. I understand that the workers there work on commission but this guy who I had was phenomenal. He spoke English, and was very upbeat and fun. After we had the phone set up he gave me first ringtone, a clip from Jeff Dunham’s skit of Achmed the Dead Terrorist, “SILENCE!! I -.”
Phone’s work differently here then they do in the States. As a tech guy I keep with all of the changing technologies and different services that are offered in different countries. In America, you are usually given a phone by the phone company (usually it’s free, but sometimes you pay a subsidized price) and then you pay a monthly fee for a set amount of minutes which either are not all used up at the end of the month, or if you use more then your quota of minutes you have to pay more if you go over. There are other perks in America, like free night s and weekends.
In you pay for your phone (as far as I know unsubsidized) but they you pay pennies for the phone service, and you only pay for the minutes you talk.
I’m not saying one way is better than the other, just the differences between the two.

Anyways, Sunday has for sure been my most successful day so far. Getting 3 things done in one day is apparently quite an accomplishment in this country.

I was speaking with someone at the Nefesh B’ Nefesh office when I was there on Sunday (not an NBN staff-someone else I knew), and he pointed out to me that what I’m doing is like registering for college. You have to run around going to from office to office for a few week’s… and then the REAL work begins!

Alright, so yesterday I went to Yerushalyim to take core of my health insurance at Bituah Leumi. I walked in thinking “here we go, a government office in Jerusalem.” I was expecting to have a 4 hour wait before I was able to get anything done.

To my surprise I was only there for about 40 minutes. I filled out my forms, and they said everything should be taken care of by next week. I was very surprised that it had gone that smoothly. And here I was at 10:30 in the morning with a few hours of free time on my hands. So what does any good Jew do when they have free time? Usually one of three things:
1. Eat
2. Socialize
3. Learn.

I did all three

I stopped by a pizza shop and had some early lunch, while listening to a shiur on my iPod. About halfway through my meal, one of my Rabbaim Rav Slifkin (the “Zoo Rabbi”) walked into the shop. He had just returned from a trip to Africa, and hadn’t know about my Aliyah. So we sat and schmoozed for about a half an hour.

Later in the day I met up with uncle to have lunch (again!...second lunch), and we schmoozed for a few hours. I then went back to Benei Brak/Givat Shmuel and picked up some stuff so I could be in Ramat Beit Shemesh in the morning to take care of bank stuff.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Teudat Zehut and other intersting things

Finally I got something done! Yesterday I went to the NBN office and picked up my Teudat Zehut without an issue. They sent someone to get it for me in Ashdod and it was waiting for me at their office in Jerusalem when I arrived.
An interesting side note, it's getting to the point now that I'm (and I'm sure other people as well) are getting very jumpy around tractors. I passed a group of Arabs working on the new subway system and one of them was in the tractor starting it up and facing right at me.
There wasn't an issue, I walked right passed, but it's just another thing to keep in mind when you're out and about. The only way to go about this is to live you're life as normally as possible and don't give into the fear. The terrorists want us to live our lives in fear and the best way to fight that is to live you're life as normally and as freely as possible.
From the NBN office I went to Maaleh Adumim to see the Adler's. I met up with the Schamroths there and we all went out to Malcha Mall for dinner (Kosher Burger King-I'll start posting pictures eventually).
Burger King was interesting, in America you have inter-transliterated siddurim, where they have the Hebrew transliterated into English. Here it's the other way around. I was staring at their menu trying to figure out what it was saying (Davel Vooper?) The Double Whooper was very good.
The one issue I had that I knew I was going to have to deal with when I got here was getting my name changed so that it included both of my middle names. I was already and Israeli citizen so when I made Aliyah I had to come with my Israeli passport. So I was back and forth to the embassy in Washington a few times between December and March. When I received my Israeli passport I opened it to discover that they had left out my 2nd middle name. My middle name is "Israel" -Yisrael, someone there must have thought that I had put nationality in the wrong box so they returned my passport without the correct name.
When I told them they just told me to go to Misrad Hapanim here and get it changed, because I would have had to wait another few months if I had gotten it done in America (they mail everything to Israel) and I needed the passport in order start being processed for Aliyah.
The truth is it was the smoothest thing that I've done so far. Thank you to Yehudis for driving me around to all of these places in Beit Shemesh to take care of my documentation-it is saving me a lot of time.
I walked into the Misrad Hapanim where the security guard-that's right, the security guard-helped me fill out all of my forms to have my name changed.
They were incredibly helpful and they changed my passport and Teudat Zehut for me right on the spot. It only took about 20 minutes.
From there we went back to Ramat Beit Shemesh where I opened my bank account-another thing that went relativly smoothly. I know when I get my first bank statement all hell will break loose-but that will be for another post.
So hopefully by the end of today (if everything goes as planned) I'll be able to check 3 things off my list:
1. Name change
2. Bank Account
3. and cell phone

We should be heading out soon to go pick up the phone. Hopefully that will also be a successful trip.
I'll update the insurance situation on the next post. NBN is going to try to help me with this.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Shabbos and more fun with Bituach Leumi!

So Friday, I got up at around 7am to go to Shacharit. Then I hung around Givat Shmuel for the morning doing some work on the computer, and getting to know my 2 other roommates, one who's Israeli, the other who's a law student in Chicago and was in Israel for the summer as an intern.
I got the bus to Ramat Beit Shemesh at around noon. It felt so good to be be back in RBS for Shabbos, where I spent Shabbos with my families good friends, the Schamroths.
Shabbos was awesome, you can't really compare Shabbos in Israel to Shabbos in America. Particularly when you spend it in an almost entirely religious community, and every single other person in the entire community is doing the exact same thing that you are. I remember seeing a list of "what we like about Israel" and one of the things on the list was "Shabbos, really feels like Shabbos."

I walked down to Ramat Shilo, where I will be moving to sometime next month, for Mincha and Shalosh Seudos, and ran into Dovid Gancher from the Aliyah show on Arutz Sheva. Nice guy, and he's a head hunter, and good person to know.
I had Shalosh Seudos with my Rosh Yeshiva, and had a very nice close to Shabbos with maariv in Ramat Shilo.

Today, more fun! I went down to open up my bank account at bank #1 and found that it was closed in Sunday. I went to bank #2 and found that they could do anything because of the situation with my tudat zehut. They can open up a bank account with me before my tudat zehut is issued, and they can open it up after I have my tudat zehut, but they can't open up the account after it has been issued but before I have it. I should be getting my tuday zehut today and will be able to open up the account tomorrow (hopefully will also be able to get my phone after that). Thanks to Yehudis for driving me around everywhere.
Another interesting story with my tudat zehut (which I'm hoping to pick up today from the NBN office), I got a call from Nefesh B' Nefesh saying that somehow my Tudat Zehut never made it from Ashdod to their office in Jerusalem! Would I mind if I could wait a day and pick it up tomorrow.
NO! I want my tudat zehut today because there are too many things I need to do that I can't do without it! I need the Tudat Zehut to open a bank account, and I need to open a bank account before I can get my phone!
Not to knock NBN they've been incredibly helpful throughout all of this, but if I'm going to be dealing with American's I have a right to act like an American!
I also went on trip #2 to Bituach Leumi (health insurance) today. The guy there was in credibly helpful but if I went through his office it would take close to month before I was insured (arrg, if only I'd remembered to go to Bituach Leumi at the AIRPORT!). He recommended that I go to the one in Jerusalem, I'll have a longer wait at the office, but I'll get insured faster.

So hopefully the next time I write I'll have my Tudat Zehut, and I might have opened my bank account and even gotten a phone. But I'm looking up! Because I know that it'll take a while but once everything is done all I'll have left are some great stories to tell.

Friday, July 25, 2008

To Yerushalayim

So yesterday was my first trip into Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). It was weird, it felt like I’d never left. There were some changes, the biggest one being the new bridge that they’ve installed right at the entrance of the city, but I walked past my favorite shawarma shop, and the Tachana (bus station) was as crazy as ever.
I decided to walk to the Old City instead of taking a bus, so I could take stop by some places along the way. One of which was the site of the bulldozer terror attack a few week’s ago.
My first stop was Mechane Yehuda (“The Shuk”) where I picked some bourekas (one thing I forgot about this country is how good the baked goods are). I then stopped by the Judaica Book Centre to take a look at what they had and to say hi to the owner.
From there I pretty much went straight to the Old City, I tore Kria right at the top of the stairs that lead down to the Kotel. Stayed for a little while, learned the Daf, davened Mincha, and then took the bus to Geula to catch a bus to Ramat Beit Shemesh.
It’s interesting, that my day in Yerushalayim seemed so routine, for 2000 years Jews have been praying to return there and now that we are back, it kind of feels like it’s taken for granted.
Anyway, short post for today, and some more press from this week’s flight.

The Baltimore Jewish Times:

Yeshiva World News (pics taken by my friend Yehuda):

Arutz Sheva:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Everything and Nothing" at the same time

Today's post will be in 2 parts

I forgot to tell one part of the initial experience after I got to Israel yesterday. After I left the airport and was driving on the Tel Aviv highway towards Givat Shmuel, my first thought was, "wow, the country looks goooood."
You kind of get a warped perception of what life is like here from America. Largely because the only news you hear is bad news. Not that you're not aware of bad news here, but here you can walk around outside and see a thriving economy, lot's of people walking around enjoying the sun, and the sun, you don't get it quite like you do in America, and you see life in the country. Quite a different experience then one gets in America.
Anyways, I had a Russian cab driver, who spoke about 3 words of English ("yes, no, pen"), so I got to practice some of my Hebrew right when I got here. I was actually surprised by my Hebrew, I guess it wasn't as bad as I thought. So far actually it seems that I've been speaking to everyone in Hebrew and they've been speaking to me in English. I'll say my Hebrew sentence with one or two English words substituting the Hebrew one's I don't know, and they'll respond in English with one or two Hebrew words mixed. It's kinda working… Anyways I'm already expanding my vocabulary, guess how you say "energy?"
"Cholesterol is… well, "cholesterol.

So I asked this cab driver where he was from in Russia. He told me he was from the town of Berditchev.
There's a rabbi, named Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who was famous for his Dan l'kav Zchut (giving everyone/everything the benefit of the doubt). So this was the name that immediately popped into my head.
I turned to ask him "Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev?" But before I got the chance, this not overtly religious looking guy, turned to me and said, "You know Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev? That was his place.

Part 2:
So today I went to Beit Shemesh to get part 1 of bureaucracy done…and walked away empty handed. I had to go to Betuach Leumi to get registered for health insurance and they had absolutely no one there who spoke English. I'm at the stage where I can mix up the two languages, but I'm not really conversational n Hebrew (yet!). So I'm going to go back tomorrow with someone who speaks Hebrew, and get this thing straightened out.
But the day was not a complete waste; I had the completely random experience of taking a cab with an Israeli who lived in Baltimore. He said he lived there from 1991-1998 and he told me there was one thing he learned there, and it took him 8 years to learn this, "In America you have everything, yet you have nothing. In Israel you have nothing, yet you have everything."
I'm heading to Jerusalem for the first time on this trip tomorrow, will write later.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New York ===> Israel-SHALOM FROM ISRAEL

All right, I’m writing this from CafĂ© Aroma in Givat Shmuel, about 5 miles from Tel Aviv.
Yes I made it, and it was an incredible experience. I got to JFK at around 10:30 yesterday morning, checking in went very smoothly. We then we had the departure ceremony and before long I was going through security and down to the plane.
The plane ride itself was an interesting experience. Not like you’re normal international flight. As Jerry Seinfeld says “You know when you’re sitting in coach and the stewardess close the curtain to first class they give you a little look, ‘well, maybe if you’d worked a little harder.’”
There wasn’t really any of that in this flight, there were no curtain’s and I was walking back and forth over the entire plane. First class and business class was reserved for NBN and Misrad Hapanim staff, and press, including Baltimore’s very own Phil Jacobs of the Jewish Times. But anyone was allowed to visit anyone in these seats.
My Rosh Yeshiva was sitting in First Class, and at one point I went up to talk to him, and got to experiment with the very cool chairs that they have up there, chairs that literally folded flat into a bed.
The truth is besides the seat there wasn’t anything else impressive about First Class. At least on this flight, the food was the same as everyone else’s, the entertainment was the same, and (the moment of truth) the bathrooms are exactly the same as coach (except in First Class they had soap).
The landing also went very smoothly, we debarked the plane to a hoard of press with lots of camera’s including my friend Yehuda (I’ll post his pictures later this week.
We then boarded a bus to take us the “old” terminal of Israel’s old airport. This airport has pretty much become the Nefesh B’ Nefesh airport, and the new airport is used for everything else.
We were bussed into the terminal to, we were told, 900 people waiting to greet us. There was certainly a lot of energy in the terminal, something about Jews returning home, I don’t know it makes some people excited☺
There was a welcoming ceremony, including a special presentation given to the oldest member of our flight, an 88 year old woman, who had been on the ship Exodus 61 years ago. The ship tried to get into Israel, but was sent back to Europe. Now she finally made it to Israel.
I then went upstairs to start my initial process by the Misrad Hapanim, this is where I received the first lump of my absorption money (temporary ID card), my Tudat Zakaut and my voucher for my free cab ride to my first place in Israel and made my first big mistake. The mistake wasn’t actually in that particular place, it was after I’d gone downstairs to get my luggage, I went into the entrance hall and some guy swooped down on me asking for my travel voucher so he could get me a cab. I handed it to him and 30 seconds later he appeared with a driver.
My mistake was I forgot to go and get registered for healthcare and apparently about 2 minutes after I left, they were in there looking for me. So I’m going to head to Misrad Hapanim tomorrow and get to deal with my first taste of straight Israeli bureaucracy! That should be fun.
I’m staying in Givat Shmuel for about a month or so, and it wasn’t until I got here that all sense of my rational broke down. For approximately 5 seconds I stopped and yelled “I’M IN ISRAEL.”
That was it, went back in rational mode.
One last note, for any of you who were worried about today’s bulldozer terror attack in Jerusalem, I was nowhere near it. From what I hear 5 Jews unfortunately were injured, including one who will need to have his leg amputated. We should hope that they all make full recoveries, and the terrorist (who was killed by some quick thinking citizen and border guard policeman) is brought to justice.

For press on today’s flight:
(check out my guitar case)
I’ll post more as they become available. Anyways, it’s now about 11am in America? I’ve been up since 6am yesterday, and I’m going to go crash soon.

Monday, July 21, 2008


If anyone is interested, Nefesh B' Nefesh will be broadcasting the landing on their website at . The plane lands at about 1am EST, so if you're up and are interested, go ahead and enjoy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Episode 1: Baltimore ===> New York

I’ve been pondering something. A deep question of the universe.
Can you get Listerine in Israel?
I’ve been pondering something else.
So after about 3 days of packing, I’m sitting here in Far Rockaway, NY about 20 min from JFK so I can take off in the morning.

(Now that you have the setting we will continue with post #1)
Before I start this post I want to thank a few individuals (and teams):

My parents for being very supportive of my Aliyah and for everything they’ve done for me over the years
Lenny & Glenna (Glenny) Ross for helping me convince other people that I really am working very hard, and for all of the incredible work that they do.
Rabbi & Rebbetzin Goldberger for their guidance throughout the years
The Baltimore Aliyah experts/motivators/coordinators who just do incredible work-Rabbi & Rebbetzin Adler as well as our incredible Shaliach Neil Gillman
I think that’s it...oh and the Shamroth’s, Eastman’s, and Bolthouser’s for allowing me grace their homes for my first 3 Shabbosim in Israel.
Now I am aware that there are some people reading this who may not be aware of the terminology that I use. You can just ask, or Google it, if you have a question on anything,.

Of course the past 72 hours haven’t been without its share of enjoyable moments. Like discovering that after weighting one of my bags, the scale said 120lbs (the limit’s 70). I do have reason to believe that the scale was toying with me (as I’ve been told scales sometimes do).
Or when we pulled into driveway of the house we’re staying at here in Far Rockaway, a certain unnamed person discovered that they had misplaced the keys to the house (gender-specific terms have been obscured to protect the guil- I mean innocent)
Anyways, I’ve been asked if I’m scared, nervous etc about tomorrow, and I’m still feeling really calm about it. It’s not everyday one decides to leave suburbia America to move to the Middle East.
So for any of those who don’t know (read: have not asked me sometime in the last 6 days-seems like EVERYONE’S done that) I’m going to be staying for my first month with a friend who lives in the coastal city of Ramat Gan, and goes to Bar Ilan University. After about a month or so I’ll be moving to Ramat Shilo, a new community located near Beit Shemesh, and will be working at Yeshivat Lev Hatorah.
So this first post will be short, I just wanted to get something out today because I promised some people that I would. Tomorrow bright and early (11am) gotta be at JFK for check-in, I’ll write more about it on the plane and hopefully the next time you hear from me I’ll be in the Holy/Homeland.