Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jerusalem Week 15--Shabbat in the Settlements, Conservative Ulpan

 This week was quite eventful, including starting Ulpan at the Conservative Yeshiva, some great visits with old friends, and spending Shabbat with settlers in Ofra.

Shabbat with Settlers
Yishai, Ruchi, daughter Michal with Karen, Jonah, and me.  Micah is snapping the picture.
On the TBA trip with Keshet we became very close to one of the tour guides, the incomporable Yishai.  He and his wife Ruchi invited us to spend a Shabbat with them at their home on the Judea/West Bank settlement of Ofra, and he drove 45 minutes each way to pick us up and bring us home afterward.  The settlement of Ofra, just 25 km North of Jerusalem and near the Arab city of Ramallah, was established in 1975 on an abandoned Jordanian Army post.  Biblically, it is in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, and I kept thinking of King Saul and Samuel on the way there.
                                     Play structure where the boys enjoyed themselves.           View of Ofra from the top of the hill.
If you tell most American Jews you are spending Shabbat on a "settlement," the reaction usually ranges from "how could you" to "aren't you scared?"  But it is a very, very normal place.  There are about 500 families there, and it feels more planned suburban community Israeli style than anything else.  Most of the community is Modern Orthodox, and it is a diverse, .family-oriented place.  The synagogue there was quite interesting.  They have one large synagogue which almost the entire community attends each Shabbat,   The Shaliach Tzibur (prayer leader) decides each week whether they will use the Ashkenazic or Sephardic minhag (custom).  In our case, Shacharit was led Sephardically and Musaf Ashkenazically.  The mix of people is incredible.  There are Ethiopian Jews and Yemenite Jews and quite a few B'nai Menashe, which are Jews from India who are ethnically Tibetan/Chinese.  The place is a real melting pot, and nearly everyone knows each other.

The kids enjoyed playing on the playground and met some very nice Israeli kids there.  It was great to watch them communicate in a mixture of broken Hebrew and English, going over names for animals, trying to sing their favorite American pop songs, and playing ball games.  Micah and Jonah are in this phase where they joke about Justin Bieber being a girl in disguise, and the Israelis and my boys repeated "Bieber yelda."  I don't like them saying this, but watching them all agree in Hebrew was a funny moment.  Unfortunately, it was Shabbat afternoon, so I couldn't take any pictures.

Yishai and Ruchi were amazing hosts, of course, with fantastic food and company.  Ruchi works as a translator and has met some of the world's greatest leaders in her work, so we got some amazing stories.  You can hear her views about Ofra in the following video article: .

Ulpan at Conservative Yeshiva
I began a 3 week Ulpan and an additional class at the Fuchsberg Center, more commonly known around here as the Conservative Yeshiva.  It's the headquarters of the Conservative movement in Israel, and there are people of all ages from all over the world taking classes there.  The place is great, the Ulpan mediocre. I prefer a more structure environment, and our class is mostly just four hours of the 9 of us sitting around talking Hebrew.  That's 4 more hours than I would get any place else, but it's group discussion, not partner discussion, so we don't get to maximize our practice time.  The good news is that I am just about at the level I was during my first year of rabbinical school in Israel 21 years ago.  The bad news is that is nowhere near real fluency.  Realistically, I didn't think I would be fluent, but I had hoped to improve a little more than I have.

Good Friends
The Bloom and Feld/Goldfarb Families--We've come a long way since 6th grade
Chana Mesberg
Harold Grossman and Chana Mesberg--Friends from South  Salem, New York
We enjoyed two different dinners with good friends.  One was with Deborah Feld Goldfarb and her family, a good  and "steady" friend from 6th grade, and the other was with Harold and Chana Mesburg/Grossman, who were some of our favorite members from my first congregation in South Salem, New York.  Harold and Chana (formerly Christine, but born Jewish secular in New York) moved to Israel a few years ago and live part time in the Golan Heighs and part time in Jerusalem.

Wine of the Week--Adir 2009 Shiraz
I had tasted this one at the winery itself so I knew it was good.  88 good, because it could use some aging.  Great spice flavor but not enough wood age for a 90.

Winding Down
]It's hard to believe that we only have two weeks left here.  It's only in the last few weeks that I'm starting to feel ready to come home.  I've missed friends, family, and modern conveniences the entire time, but I love the idyllic lifestyle we've had here.  However, it is so hot at night in our apartment that it's pushing me toward thinking about all the other things I'm looking forward to upon our return.

1 comment:

  1. Great posting Rabbi, everyone back here is still talking about how much we all liked Yishai. The weather here is as cool as the Giants bats, hopefully both will warm up a bit before your return.