Tuesday, October 5, 2010

....and we're back

Hello friends and family out there in the blogosphere,
After about a month and some change away from my blog, I have returned fueled with new ideas and musings. But first, an update on my life:
August 31st-The Nativers(These are the participants on the program I am staffing) came.
That long ass ellipses marks the time period between that date and the current date of October. Between those two dates occurred many programs, holidays, late nights, early mornings, tefillot(prayers), complaining, chummus, nasty Beit Nativ food, and most importantly some wonderful kids and friends.
Wooo---deep breath, and now we're back in current time. Life has been really great so far, tiring at all times, but really worthwhile. I've been doing some studying at the Conservative Yeshiva, which has been grand. This time, I think i'll stick it out(:-)) I also have been loving my downtime with the other staff. As a result of said downtime, Aaron, Maya, and I have started another blog about the quest for the perfect chummus in all of the land. Expect that to hit the internet soon. It's going to sweep the nation. Prepare yourselves.
Being in Israel has been great, but i'm really missing the fam more than I remember. Even with the popularity of skype and gchat, I feel like since i'm not distracted like I was when I was a participant, I have more time to think about home. Dare I say it, but I might miss New York a bit. Please don't tell anyone.
Other than that, i've resumed my softball pickup games on Sunday night. Although the game is played on a field paid for by Bob Kraft and I have to run over a New England Patriot logo every time i'm in the field, it is a great group of guys and I get to play under the lights, which is awesome. Plus, unlike the game I play in Riverdale, everyone speaks English here. While I did get to brush up on my Spanish in that game, I felt like I was living in a Telemundo sports sitcom.
In addition to this game and my other weekly sports games with the Nativers, I joined the gym(YMCA). It's a great outlet for me and helps me pass the time a bit(the few free minutes I have, that is). The gym is a truly worldly place, with many different nationalities and religions coexisting peacefully. For that, I think our friends BB and Abu Mazen need to listen up. Here, at the YMCA in Jerusalem, we see strong Palestinians and Israelis((probably steroid-induced) lifting very heavy weights together and resisting the urge to drop said weights on each other. It is truly beautiful. Screw your settlement freezes and acknowledging a Jewish state. All it takes is a little HGH, a few titanium plates, and some sweat. Sounds easy.
Besides that, I have been having a swell time. I just returned from the Visa office where I received my student visa, in what I can easily say was one of the most quintessentially Israeli places I have ever seen. I mean, it was pure chaos. For a country so adept at streamlining technology and military force, its day to day operations are so ridiculously dysfunctional. I mean, create some order in this Middle Eastern oasis. There was a middle-aged religious woman, probably tipping the scales at 350 LB(That's about 159 KG for those of you who are keeping tabs) who was screaming at the top of her already pushed to the limit lungs that it was ridiculous to pay such a price for extending her passport. C'mon lady! You're like 2.5 minutes away from a Coronary. And it's all over about 50 bucks. Now, create some passage in those arteries and sit down. Luckily, a chasidic man came to the rescue and loaned her the money and it shut her up, and no, it was not Sholom Rubashkin and all his dirty money(hey-oh!) I was laughing at the spectacle of it all and thoroughly enjoying the Israeliness of the situation. In the end, I was able to secure my student and now am free of the hounding of the Israeli government(that is, until I leave the country and have to renew the visa...silly rule)
Besides that, Nativ girls football started last night, for which I am the coach. We got some talent and a few athletes and I, at least, hope that we can beat the seminary girls. Because, honestly, if you can't beat girls playing in skirts, then you need to rethink your purpose in life. Seriously though, it should be a great time, and I get to fully my Jewish destiny. Because I was always to short to play organized football(and my mother would have cut of all monetary connection if I chose to play), I now get to pretend like i'm the second coming of Vince Lombardi. Should be a success! Wish me luck.
Hopefully, I will be more punctual in my next update, which should include something about my upcoming trip to Ramallah. WOOOOOOOOOO!
It's T-Shirt time,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A New Week Begins

Shavua Tov friends and family,
I hope all is well outside of the blogosphere. Here in Israel, I just came back to base after spending a wonderful shabbat at my buddy's house, David Zisquit. As some of you know, we staffed pilgrimage together this past summer and created a great friendship. His family is very warm and kind, the food is delicious, and the conversation is always multi-faceted. His dad particularly enjoys pushing people in their readily accepted views about life. It makes dinners and lunches there much more interesting, in a very good way. He's one of the people who likes to play devil's advocate and it always helps me sharpen my ideas. Last night, we had a particularly heated conversation on the origin of the Torah she'ba'al peh(Oral Torah) that is for another time. Needless to say, we all still ended the conversation as friends :-)
This past week, I began my training for the coming year ahead. We discussed the format of the program, the structure of the schedule and the daily demands of the job. While much of it I had known from my year here, it was still very important to go over everything as i'm sure there will be things I forget throughout the year. The week ended in a very fun way with a trip to Dani Hai, a sort of ropes course/team building complex. We spent about 3 hours there doing various activities within the staff and it was a great way to open up to each other and be active(something that had been sorely lacking over the past couple days. The night ended at Yossi Garr's house(the director) with a BBQ. It was a great way to end the week at his beautiful home with his great family and cat. We played Taboo and Apples to Apples(and I, of course, dominated).
As I return to base tonight, I am super stoked for the week ahead as the Nativers will soon get here and I am afraid my free time will dissipate rapidly. That being said, I had one of those moments that makes Israel a horribly complex place. As many of you have probably seen, today was Gilad Shalit's 5th birthday since his kidnapping. For those who aren't familiar, here is an article explaining the situation. It was a very moving rally with both his parents sharing very impassioned words and other politicians speaking. However, the striking thing for me was happening down the street from the rally. In fact, right outside my window was a group of people holding a sign declaring that we shouldn't pay any price for Gilad's return. Hamas, the terrorist group who has Gilad, has demanded the release of thousands of convicted terrorists who are being held in Israeli jails. Those who were protesting this issue believe that this price is too high for Gilad's release. Separate of my views on his release, their rally seemed a bit ill-timed.
Parents "celebrating" their son's 5th birthday in captivity, I believe, should have their moment of catharsis. However, these folks deemed it necessary to stage a counter-rally where they certainly stole some spotlight. I wonder what they would feel had they been in Gilad's parents' shoes? For a religion that holds the value of one human life as paramount, I can't seem to figure out this collection of religious people. Does the value of one life change based on the demands of the situation? I have to stew on this one a bit more but perhaps you all might have some thoughts to share.
As always, thanks for reading, folks. A great week lies ahead!
All my love,

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Blog is back, baby!

Hello long lost friends and readers,
No, your eyes do not deceive you. Musings of a Midwesterner is up and running again. I consider this long hiatus I took(nearly 8 months) equivalent to the furlough many journalists around the country are taking. Although there was a slight clamoring for my blog to return, I was never able to find the time to get 'er done, as they say. However, now that I am "free" for awhile, I figured the time was ripe and in thinking of new ideas, I was champing at the bit!
For those who don't know, I just arrived back in Israel for the year to staff Nativ, which is the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's year program. In fact, it is the same program I went on post-high school. It is a great program and I am really looking forward to being back here for the year(although I will miss my friends and family quite dearly). Look to this blog to discuss my daily goings on and thoughts I have on this country I am living in(which, I assure you, will be plenty). Israel is a crazy place and I look forward to having lots of crazy stories. More on that later.
Anyway, i'll keep the blog post brief as my jet lag and the abhorrent heat of Israel are taking their toll. Before I take a little snooze, I wanted to discuss my travels here. I flew direct from JFK to TLV--good. However, I was placed in a middle seat--disaster of epic proportions. For those who know me, you have an understanding of how awful this was for me. In movie theaters, I refuse to sit anywhere but the aisle. Needless to say, sitting in the middle of a three-rower for 10 hours was torturous.
To make matters worse, I was surrounded by the modern day equivalent of the Cheaper by the Dozen family. A mother, on her own, was surrounded by her five children who didn't shut the hell up the whole flight. The kids were climbing on the seats, running around naked, squeezing the moist towelettes on each other(a real travesty cause moist towelettes are a real treat!). Even with my sleep aids, of which I certainly took too many of, I couldn't sleep through this trainwreck.
Furthermore, the mother of the delinquents was directly in front of me and had her seat reclined all the way back. I find this act on an airplane to be in direct conflict with proper etiquette. Honestly, to already have to deal with the drudgery of the middle row, I know had the winner of the worst mother of the year award in my lap, constantly banging against her chair as she tried to wrangle in her troop. It was trouble. Big, big trouble.
I just plain don't believe in the full incline of the chair on an airplane. Those who practice such a thing should be forced to the bottom of the plane with dogs, luggage, and Cyrus the Virus
Anyway, that is that and we finally made it here where we were graciously picked up at the airport by my main man, David "the Bisquit" Zisquit very early in the morning. We arrived at our home for the year, known around these parts as Beit Nativ, only to found that my room wasn't ready(and we're now 3 hours into this wait and the room still isn't ready)...How Israeli!
I guess I better get used to it.
That's it for now. Expect a more consistent outpouring of blog posts. As usual, keep the comments coming, friends.
Much love,