yes, i am still here!

If there was an award for the worst blogger, I believe I would be in the running.  It’s been a long time since I have written, and I have so much to tell you!

Last weekend we had a seminar in Jerusalem…and it was awesome.  The theme was centered around the three holidays that happened last week – Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day.  I want to tell you all about it, but it will have to be another post.  Maybe tomorrow.

What I DO want to tell you is my volunteer work update.  I finally have a set schedule and some projects started!  On Sundays, I work at Boutique Hagalil, a pomegranate winery where I will start helping give tours to Taglit (birthright) groups.  I consider working at the winery my comfort zone. It’s not exactly the place for me to interact with Israelis or make a difference in the community, but it’s nice to be in a familiar environment sometimes and work very independently.  My boss there is named Esther and she made aliyah something like 26 years ago from Mexico City.  She swears I will leave here fluent in either Hebrew or Spanish, I don’t think she has decided which yet.

On Mondays, I go to the high school and help the English teacher, Dave, teach after school lessons. These are for kids who need extra help and choose to be there.  I already have a favorite. His name is Tony and he is 18.  In 2000 Lebanon had a civil war where Hezbollah won.  Everyone who had not been fighting with them was then going to be killed.  Israel took them in. They can never go back to Lebanon and many of them, including Tony, have family there they will probably never see again.

Tony has dreams of moving to LA and becoming an actor so usually mid way through our sessions together, we stop our worksheets and talk about living in California.  Things are rough for Lebanese people in Israel, and I think he looks to me for hope for a better life somewhere else.  I’m pretty honest with how much things cost, I tell him he needs to go to college, and then tell him how he can do anything he wants in life. 

Tuesdays are my favorite volunteer day. I work at the Rape Crisis Center where I (try to) help find funds from American Jewish Federations.  I am working on a letter and facebook post to start circulating, and I will start making phone calls (emails don’t work) to see which federations are particularly generous to Israel, women’s organizations, or cities in the periphery.  I can use all the help I can get, so if you happen to know of any federation like this or if you know people who would like to donate to a very worthy cause, let me know.

The women who work at the Center are fabulous.  I had a very long talk with Roni, the fundraiser lady, about everything from women’s self esteem issues, the effects of rape on religious women, differences in rape culture in America vs. Israel, and the effects of pornography on relationships. Heavy stuff, yea, but to be in a house full of awesome women who are interested in the same things I am feels wonderful. 

Wednesdays is our day at the college. We have a Hebrew class and we have a Beit Midrash. I am a complete geek with the Hebrew class, I even requested an extra lesson a week- but hey, if I am going to be in Israel, the least I can do to fit in is learn some of the language. I mean how annoying is it when people who live in America don’t speak English?  The Beith Midrash is like a Torah study except just about all of us are secular so it really just reminds me of law school.  We take a short text and analyze the shit out of it.  There is usually some life lesson that comes out of it like forgiveness or equality… I really do like the Beit Midrash.  It’s led my Amy, a lady who lives in LA, worked as a public defender, and made aliyah years ago.

Thursdays I go to the middle school and then teach extra lessons at the high school.

Volunteering is, honestly, rarely fun and a lot of work, but I have learned so much about the people, politics, and culture of Israel. When I leave here, I hope that I will have given at least some of what I have gained.  Stay tuned.

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raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…

I took my camera on my way to volunteer today.  Here is what I saw…

Flowers. There are so many pretty flowers here that seem to grow like weeds and fruit trees flourish. Here are a few:

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I don’t know what this is but it grows into a huge plants everywhere.

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Fig tree.

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I love the pink.

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…and palm trees.

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These pretty red flowers are all along the side of the road.

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It looks like aloe vera, but when you break it it is full of sticky yellow gel. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s pretty and there is a ton of it right outside our door.

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Lots and lots of lemons.

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…cats

There are so many stray cats here. It’s so sad, but someone told me that the people of K8 feed them and love them.  This kitty is always sitting in the same spot. I think someone in the apartment feeds her.

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…everything sunny

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View from around the corner from our apartment building.

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Our street.

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I can’t explain why, but I am really into the graffiti here.  It’s everywhere, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t gang tags.  Half of it says “I love you” or like this, is the star of David.

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Just a park sign.

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Tel-Hai is the college here and where go for Ulpan and Beit Midrash.

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Yep, I walk along a stream on my walk to work. How many people can say that?

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Behind this gigantic playground (and rather scary looking slides) is the “mall.” I call it a “mall” and not a mall, because it has a grocery store, pharmacy, and bowling alley. Not a bad place, especially since it’s the closest thing to our apartment.

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The mural was done by the last group here, and the door to the right of it is our apartment.

Speaking of our apartment…

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This is our kitchen.

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Yes, the shower is bigger than the kitchen.

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I’m not even sure what to say about this. Those windows are nice, though, and we can hang our clothes to dry to air out right outside of it.

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After I did not slip and fall to my death on our hike the other day, I treated myself to flowers.

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My side of the room. Look how clean, Mom. You should be proud.

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the shuk

Today was a great day! It was about 65 degrees and sunny, volunteering felt rewarding and fun, and the shuk was open.

The shuk, for those of you who don’t know, is an open air market, much like a farmer’s market.  It’s open every Monday and Thursday from very early to 6pm.

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Tomatoes and…

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lemons. My favorites.

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This little old lady was working very intently to get all the best beans.

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The shuk is not just for fruit and vegetables…you can meet all your clothes, shoes, and even underwear needs right here.

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I’m not sure what it is, but it’s HUGE.

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That’s all garlic.

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The guy in the middle is always at the shuk selling fruit.  The girls who are here still from the last program call him the father in law because he always talks about how we should marry his sons.  When you need a boost in your self confidence, pay a visit to him.  He will tell you how beautiful you are and how much he loves you. Then he gives you free fruit. Not bad.

This is what I bought-

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Half a kilo (1.1 pounds) of almonds: 25 shekels ($6.50)

2 red bell peppers: 3.5 shekels ($.94)

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Big carton of strawberries: 10 shekels ($2.70)

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A big carton of some of the best tomatoes I have ever had: 20 shekels, I think is what I paid ($5.40)

This was pretty expensive for the shuk, but they were so pretty (and I had no idea how much he said they were until I got my change back).

 

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6 lemons: 4 shekels ($1.08)

2 onions: 3.5 shekels ($.94)

 

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10 super yummy oranges: 10 shekels ($2.70)

Total: $20.26

 

hughie and birdie (and a little bit of benji)

I kind of miss my parents.  It’s too late to call them, and since some of you don’t know them, it’s time to talk about Hughie and Birdie.

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That’s my Dad. Isn’t he cute? I like this picture because he was doing what he loves- drinking wine and eating dinner with his family…on a cruise ship. He was pretty happy.

My mom may kill me for posting her picture without permission, but I am all the way in Israel, so I will take my chances.

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My mom has the sweetest smile.

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That’s me and my brother, Ben.  I have a really stupid look on my face, but you can see how freakishly tall he his. No one is our family anywhere close to that tall.  I wish I had a picture of the milkman to compare…(just kidding)

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When I was working at Glamour Shots in college, I decided we didn’t have enough photos of my parents, so I dragged them outside and made them pose.  They thought it was the most ridiculous thing, and in this picture they are laughing at me…really hard.

While my mom and dad aren’t big into professional photos, my grandparents were-

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This is my mom in, I think, 8th grade.

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My grandma, she was pretty hot huh?

ImageMy Aunt Jackie holding my mom.

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Pretty rad hair. I think she is in middle school here.

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My mom in her 20’s.

 

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a few random days of photos

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This cat hung out on the roof outside Reut’s family room window. I talked to her, and I’m pretty sure she listened.

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At the beach in Lishon.

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As a group, we went for a hike at Hazoori Stream in the Golan Heights.  It was beautiful. It reminded me of Birthright and how awed by Israel I was. It was wonderful to be reminded how much I love this country.

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i had my camera around my neck and accidentally took about 100 of this exact photo

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There were little wild flowers all over.

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schedules and such

Here is an example of a typical weekly schedule for us.  About every other weekend we have off and can go wherever we want for 2 days and the other weekends, we have to stay here.

Sunday (like Monday because their weekends are Friday and Saturday):

  • 8:00am-2:00pm: Volunteering
  • 8:30pm-9:30pm: Reflection of the week with Michal

Monday:

  • 8:00am-2:00pm: Volunteering
  • 6:30pm-7:30pm: Group Dinner (much more on this later)
  • 7:30pm-8:30pm: Hebrew class

Tuesday:

  • 8:00am-2:00pm: Volunteering
  • 4:30pm-6:30pm: This week we had a talk about the city with someone from the Mayor’s office. This isn’t a weekly thing, but we sometimes have some similar random things during the week.
  • 6:30pm-7:30pm: Group Dinner
  • 7:30pm-8:30pm: session with Michal (usually they are about some kind of life lesson)

Wednesday:

  • 10:30am-12:00pm: Hebrew (at the local college campus, Tel Hai University)
  • 12:00pm-12:30pm: Group (catered) lunch
  • 12:30pm-2:00pm: Beit Midrash (spelled wrong) This is an awesome class. The lady who leads it, Amy, is from California so her English is great. This class is like a bible/torah study without much religion.  We read texts and discuss them philosophically, not religiously.  Today’s topic was poverty and giving.  Last week’s was the difference between justice and charity.  This might be my favorite part of the week.

Thursday:

  • 8:00am-2:00pm Volunteering
  • we have some time here to walk from work to downtown, so I usually get a falafel.
  • 4:00pm-6:00pm: “Old Ladies with Baskets” The college has a group that comes to help old ladies (or whoever wants it) carry their bags of food at the shuk (like a farmer’s market) around while they shop or to their cars.  Most people are too proud to accept help, but it’s a good chance to meet other Israelis, so some shopping, and really feel like we are in Israel.
  • 6:30pm-7:30pm: group dinner

Friday:

  • 9:00am-11:00am: Usually some kind of hike or local tour. This is like a Saturday here, so it’s supposed to be fun. This week we are hiking at some stream called Hazoori.
  • 6:30pm-7:30pm: Shabbat group dinner

Saturday

  • 4:30pm-5:30pm: session with Michal

What the heck is a group dinner you ask? Great question! One or two of us volunteers to made dinner for the whole gang.  We get 100 shekels (less than 30 dollars) to make dinner for anywhere from 9-20 of us. It’s been a struggle, because some of us can’t boil water and others can’t get dish soap on a sponge, so really, it’s like 5 of us who do any of this.  It becomes a lot of work.   The point to the dinners though, is to establish a sense of community here.  I understand why it is so important to the Ten-Tlalim powers that be for us to have this, and J and M have worked with us to make them more bearable.  We now have group dinners 4 times a week instead of 6 and 2 lunches that no one has to cook.

I am looking forward to really getting in the groove here and to be able to tell you more about where I am working.

alef, bet, gimel…

I realize it has been a while since I have posted anything of substance, and I apologize. Things here have actually been pretty rough lately, and I wanted to wait to tell you about them until they were either resolved or clear that they would never be resolved. I am happy to say, that Jacklin and Michal have really been working with me to make my time here more enjoyable and meaningful.

When I applied for my grants and when I told all my friends and family that I was coming, I talked about volunteering for women’s organizations and maybe some time at a winery.  When I signed up for this program, that is what I thought I was doing.  When I got here, I learned that Israel Pathways had teamed up with Ten-Tlalim and the program completely changed (plus the Israel Pathways rep told me whatever she could to get another person to join).  There are two options for volunteering: teaching English in elementary school and high school or working in a park planting, pulling weeds, picking up trash, etc.  If you know me at all, you know that patience is not one of my virtues and that few things make me grouchier than yard work.  Needless, to say, I was not happy with my new options.  While I would truly like to make a difference in K8, I feel that I could do that in a way that comes closer to matching my skills and interests.

I tried working in the schools for the first week hoping that Israel would completely change my personality and that suddenly I would love teaching little kids, but, of course, it didn’t.  I had a couple really honest talks with Jacklin and Michal, and now it seems I have some other options.  After great efforts on their part, I am now volunteering at the Rape Crisis Center here in town researching and writing grants. I am also probably going to be working one day a week at a winery and one day a week at a sort of safe house for troubled girls, leading an English group. It looks like I might also do some sort of mentoring at the middle school for some girls who already speak English. None of these things were options at the beginning of the program, but because of Jacklin and Michal’s understanding and efforts, I don’t think I will be dreading every volunteer day as I have been.  I’m really excited, and I will tell you much more once it gets going!

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oh, say, can you see….

…how awesome some things in America are?  This post is not meant to bash Israel for what they do not have but to take a moment to appreciate what I have taken for granted in America. (And you are not allowed to judge me for how shallow I am about to sound until you go live in a country where you don’t recognize brands and can’t read labels.)  I have a feeling this will be a repeating post like “my favorite things,” because as much as I love Israel, there are sometimes I find myself thinking “Damn, I miss [blank]” Today it is-

SEPHORA

If you know me, you know I am a bit of a make-up/cosmetic snob.  I buy just about all my stuff from Sephora, no matter how broke I am.  Once you buy quality make-up or hair stuff, you just can’t go back to drug store brands, I don’t care what anyone says. As I was putting my new BB cream on today, I felt the bottle feeling a little low on product so soon on my trip, and for a moment I panicked, because I can’t get Tarte BB Cream in this country! If I even said those words to an Israeli, I would surely get some ‘dumb American’ looks. In fact, I can’t get any favorite brands from Sephora here at all.  When I run out, I have no idea what I will do.  I am sure they have higher end make-up here, but I can’t read the ingredients.  (side note- I have seen Clinique and Estee Lauder here but the prices are INSANE. As if they weren’t expensive enough in the US, they are almost doubled.)

My best guess is that the army kills any make-up snob in the girls in Israel, because I don’t get how they work with drug store make-up.  Maybe I am just missing something, but nothing compares to Sephora, a wonderful store all in English.

With that said- please go to Sephora, think of me and Tarte BB Cream, and most importantly, appreciate it!

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AmyAdina2

amy adina schulman

This is a wonderful organization,who helped get me to Israel, named after a girl about my age who passionately believed in Zionism but died suddenly very young.  Sometimes when I walk around here and look at a pretty view or go to a historical site, I wonder if Amy was ever there too.  Such a sad story.  If you find it in your hearts to throw some financial support their way, I know they would appreciate it.

The Amy Adina Schulman Memorial is an endowment fund started in 1987 one year after Amy died suddenly from a burst aneurysm. The Princeton community in which she was nurtured, Habonim-Dror which shaped her commitment to social justice, and her Rutgers community – all searched for a way to continue her presence, her ideals.  This Fund is a realization of her family and her communities’ desire to celebrate her life, to fulfill her dreams and her potential.

The Fund is unique in that it provides grants only to individuals – young adults who volunteer or intern in progressive social action projects of their own choosing.  Applicants submit a letter of acceptance from the project with which they will work, and also submit a proposed plan as to how they will educate and encourage their peers to participate in similar social action.

Since Amy Adina’s death, the Fund has distributed $475,000 in grants to more than 500 grantees.   The number of awards has grown each year thanks to annual contributions as well as  to gifts sent to the Fund to honor special occasions and life cycle events.

http://www.amyadinaschulmanfund.org/

these are a few of my favorite things…

There are so many things little in Israel that I love. Every so often, when the mood strikes, I will tell you a little about what I think is awesome that is either not available or not as commonplace at home.

Today we have….

TURKISH COFFEE

This stuff is strong. You can only drink a small cup of it, because any more and you will be up for days. The first time I had it I felt like I was flying for hours.  All you do is boil water, throw a couple spoonfuls of coffee, and stir (at least that’s the only way I have seen).  Once the coffee settles after a minute or so it’s ready to drink!  Once you get to the bottom there is a thick layer of coffee sludge called mud.  You don’t drink it…it’s gross.

I like it sans sugar or milk but you can girly it up if you want. It’s a bit bitter, but oh-so smooth.

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And here is the mud…

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Yum.