Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Even though its the holiday season here in Israel, Ive been attending ulpan a couple times a week. Its been more laid back, because of the constant holidays, but I love being back in the classroom, even if its as a student. this last week has definitely been full of a couple "only in israel" moments.

During a break in ulpan I went with a classmate to a beauty store because she needed some things. the cashier was SO excited to talk to us... she had made aliyah from Georgia (the country, not the state) when she was 18 (at least 40 years ago). She was so excited that we had made aliyah and that we were joining the Jewish people in Israel. She wished us good luck, and thanked us (!) for being here.

Later in class we were discussing the terror events of the Munich Olympics, and learning words that relate to that, such as the word for hostage. A classmate raised her hand and said that her husband had been a hostage during the entebbe crisis, when a plane was hijacked from Israel to Paris. her husband will come in later in the class to give us a first hand account of the event. it was beyond amazing, and proves how little we know about others.

And last but not least... sukkot starts today, and I am amazed to see our whole block covered with sukkahs. Its a great sight, and really makes me feel connected to my neighbors. i love being part of the majority, and knowing that the rest of the country is celebrating with me. chag sameach!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

After a long break, I decided to head back to Ulpan. I am heading to ashdod this time, since it is the closest city that has a real ulpan past the first level. Its an interesting change, since many of the immigrants in Ashdod as French, and it creates a very different atmosphere from the totally Russian class I had here in KG.

I am always amazed in Ulpan how many people have been here 10+ years, yet dont have a basic grasp of Hebrew. I understand that its a difficult language... but you made the choice to move here. I had this same puzzlement in California, when my second generation Mexican-American students had no basic grasp of English by Middle School or High School. Its frustrating to me. After 2 or 3 years an immigrant should be able to hold a basic conversation- the supermarket, public transport, the bank....

In other news... it is holiday season here! Since Rosh Hashana start Wednesday night, Israel will be in a three day holiday.... while this is (semi) common for the states, its creating a panic here in Israel. The stores have been packed the last couple days, and the lines in the supermarket have been crazy. I am looking forward to my second year of holidays here in Israel... I have now officially experienced every Holiday here, and I am looking forward to seeing them through new eyes again.

שנה טובה

Saturday, September 4, 2010

the conflict

I found this website last week called bookmooch, where anyone can sign up and you trade books all over the world. This has been a blessing, since books in English are so expensive here. For the last year I have been stocking up on books when Im visiting the states, but since Im such an avid reader it just hasnt been enough. In the past week I have sent off 9 books and recieved 10 in return. Its a great system....

One of the books I am currently reading is called "Coming Home to Jerusalem" by Wendy Orange. Its been a really interesting read so far. Since the intifada died down, almost 5 years ago now, its easier to forget about the conflict... The last week has started to bring the memories back, with the two shootings in the west bank. I obviously wasnt living here during the Oslo Peace Accords in the 1990s... and in fact the only memory I have of Israel from that time is the murder of Rabin, which shocked all of my hebrew school teachers, but left me wondering why it was so important and who this Rabin was.

I dont agree with many of Orange's opinions, but its interesting to read about the situation in Israel through an American perspective. it leaves me wondering how we got to where we are now. Its been 17+ years since the peace accords, and its hard to imagine the mindset at the time. The second intifada is much clearer to me, and the pain and fear Israelis felt. I was first here in 2004, and we were scared to death of terror attacks. When I studied here in 2005 we had an attack in my city, and were constantly aware of the situation after the disengagement. Its been a quiet lull since then, but there is not great feeling that we are actively moving towards some sort of peace, no matter what the white house says. If anything, the most people hope for is quiet.

I dont know the situation in Gaza now, and as an American I am almost ashamed to admit how closed off we are to the situation only a couple miles away... we live our lives like anywhere else, and its so easy to not question it. I do, of course, have two brother in laws serving in the middle of the action every day, but in my own life I can imagine it all happening far away. One brother in law serves in silwan, where there have been riots often, but my own trips to Ir David, at the edge of the same area, have been quiet.

Sometimes I marvel at the fact that I do actually live in Israel, in a place that is so much the center of debate and religion... yet after only a year it simply feels like a place to build a home and a life... like anywhere else.