The freedoms within (ask me about what I mean)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Simultaneous Chants

CHEVRON CHEVRON CHEVRON---was what a few friends and I were chanting all week in anticipation of our camping out Shabbat in Chevron in honor of Parsha Chaiyeh Sarah.

The amounts of experiences definitely cannot be written down..but I can talk about a few.

Our journey began at 9:45 on Friday morning. We all (as in the few people that chose to camp out for Shabbat) met up at our gate to our neighborhood and proceeded to walk to the bus stop to take a bus to Jerusalem. Then we transitioned to a bus that took us to random bus stop, where we transferred to a bus that was bullet-proof that was en-route Chevron. We were dropped of at Kiryat Arba (the outskirts of Chevron were some Jews now live), and then finally got on a bus to where we were camping; on the grass right outside maarat hamachpela!

First off, let me tell you, Chevron looks like another count

ry. My friend compared it to the scenes in the novel "The Kite Runner". So that itself was intriguing. When we got there, one of our madrichs, Ira, already had a spot waiting for us! There were about 5 tents, 3 big ones and 2 single person tents. The 11 girls got the big tents, where the guys either slept outside or in one of the tents. We set up the area, and dropped off our stuff. Then, a few friends and I ventured off to
maarat hamachpela.

The Maara itself was a little weird to me. There were Arabic decorations and a hole that when you smelt it, it was supposedly the air of Gan Eden. I am not educated in the history of the Maara, so for me, it was a bit weird understanding everything behind it. Since we were questioning it, this random guy (that seemed as if he had a mental health problem to the point where he was obsessed with the Maara itself) found us, and gave us a personal tour on his opinions and his known facts. He told us that the place tiself made him nervous since all the time people are lied to thinking that where tombs are portrayed, the bodies are in, when in turn they are really not. I'll have to do more research to understand what really was going on there.

As Shabbat started, there were many minyans for kabbalat shabbat to choose from. Some friends and I chose the 'Carlbach" minyan where you dance and sing. Of courseee the men were dancing a lot more then the women. I took it upon myself to sing loudly and to jump around and to get others to dance with me. it didn't last too long, but at least it was enough to the point where someone in our group thanked me for doing it. After Kabbalat Shabbat we went to Friday night dinner at this place that was formerly homes to Jews (and was burned down and eventually jews could no longer live there since it was too dangerous), and ate a good meal of chicken rice and potatoes. There were people that said the food was bad, but I think the spirit itself was amazing, which made the food even better then an ordinary Shabbat evening meal.

After the meal, there was basically a big social scene. Everyone was outside of their tents (despite the FREEZING weather) talking to people they didn't know, singing, chanting, drinking, exchanging stories. I personally took the time to meet some people, and have some new conversations. I eventually went to sleep. Might I add it was freezing even with two layers and a blanket, AND it started pouring in the middle of the night. I was ok with it since we pray for rain everyday anyways, so finally Israel is getting it, even though it made the experience a little bit harder.

I was sleeping, and was dreaming a dream I was SO sure I was going to was vivid and clear and I knew when I woke up, I would be able to tell it verse by verse. However I was rudely interrupted. 4:00 AM my eyes flew straight open. 'ALAAAAAAAAAAAAA ACHBARRRRRR'. I was wide eyed, looking around, still laying down. and again ala achbar, ala achbar over and over again, so loud to the point I thought they were right outside my tent. I was aware that this was a call to prayer for the arabs, but I never heard it so clearly or loudly. Eerie is the perfect word to describe it. they used their loudest or closest speakers first, and then as that mosk was about finished a next one started, and on and on, till eventually it stopped. It was probably a good ten minutes until it completely dwindled down . I was lying wide awake until the sun came up..imagining horrible things...but I eventually fell asleep.

Anyways, for the beginning of the morning, that was the talk (unless you slept through it, which in this case I thought they were lucky). But soon, people got on with their day. I went with some friends to pray shacharit in the Maara (which got packed right after we left!) and then headed my way over to the camp site to walk over to lunch. Meat and cholent! Perfect cold rainy weather food. As we were eating though, it started to pour, and our tables were not under a roof so we had to move them. But before we did that, when it was drizzling, I shouted Gam Zu La Tovah! (Basically everything happens for a reason), and was not bothered by the rain at all. After we moved up, as in carried our tables with all the food to a different location, we resumed eating. We were right next to the huge cholent pot (SO BIG). I watched as many people were crowded around waiting to get their bowls filled. No doubt it was not the most sanitary production, but once again it didn't bother me, I was purely happy.

Shabbat afternoon consisted of a short nap, a tour of Chevron, and once again meeting people and talking. I was so happy also with the bond I was making with some of the people from my program. I've found people that have motives just like mine, and each of them have something beautiful to offer...I feel as if I'm closer to these girls, more than any 'best friend' I've ever had. Everything was amazing.

Havdalah. As our madrich was chanting the prayer, the arabs began their call to prayer as well. It was as if we were competing with spirit. Once again, it was an eerie feeling. It's basically like reality setting in, we both want this land, and until a real solution comes upon us, the competing is not going to stop...

Overall, Chevron taught me history, it taught me bonding, and it taught me reality. I could not have asked for more.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A dangerous slide

There are alternatives to going out to bars here. As I've mentioned before..there are cooking classes, talks about peace, etc. Anyways, there is one that is called 'In the House with Ari'. This is a weekly class, where the girls are invited to sit down and listen to topics that are relevant to our lives. Last week, Ari (who lives on campus with his wife Ayelet and his child Yitzchak who are one of the Mother's and Father's of the campus) brought up an interesting note. He told us that every single thing in life has a meaning or a lesson behind it. He described the walls as boundries and an EKG machine as us living with up and down and when we are dead its sometimes we get so overwhelemed that we are so sick of the rollercoaster of life..but without these hardships or happinesses we'd be a flat line, aka dead. SO at first, I thought making these comparisons would be one of the hardest things to do...I sat looking around in my room, and I just couldn't do it. time passed I just laid down and closed my eyes.

A slide. A slide popped into my head. One second later my thoughts were on a marathon. You start at the top. You see an extremely fun ride below you. You know for a fact that it's going to be fun regardless of the situation. However...there is always a dead end at the conclusion of this so called fun.

After this I realized that it was just like me making a decision about moving here. Orlando, was pure fun to me...but I knew that it would always bring me to a wall, an ending. I would never be completely satisfied with life.

Another comparison I came across was a lawn mower. I know it's random..but it's what came into my mind at the time. When do you mow your lawn? When the grass is getting to long. But eventually, it grows back, and you have to do it again. It's like working on yourself. You see you have a certain issues with yourself, so you work on them, or mow your lawn. Eventually, your going to come across more things that need to be worked on, but you have the power to fix them.

One last one, A pita bread. A bland pita bread. No one really eats a plain pita. They fill it with falafel, tomatoes, cucumbers, humus, tahini, eggplant, etc. These fillings make it taste good, and sometimes will make it taste really good. You can compare your life to a piece of bread! Life is what you make it! Fill it with tasty and wholly ingredients, or leave it plain.

These possibilities are endless and also help you realize what you need to work on in your life. You can make these comparisons by yourself, and your results will always be something relevant to you. Of course any example is correct, but eventually you'll have an 'ah ha!' moment. I'm thankful for Ari explaining this simple concept to us at our weekly meetings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Looking back but moving forward

Activities and school have taken over my life. I am not upset about this though. I am doing what I said I wanted to do when I was sick and tired of UCF. I wanted to live and grow and to delete the craving to party out of my mindset. Here's how I'm feeling about my growth here:

So last year, there was no question about it: I was a party animal. Didn't want to miss one night out at the bar; I just wanted to socialize. Here, something has happened. Scenario: Someone asks me go out. I start to think about it, maybe consider it. But then something takes over and I am just not in the mood. It's like my personality has altered...I don't want to be drunk or be around people that are drunk. It's really the weirdest thing to me since last year that's all I wanted to do! I went out once here...and felt so bad about doing it. People were telling me it was ok..but i was just so upset at myself. I don't think I can trust myself in those situations I'm going to stick to learning for a bit.

(Doing something good for the world: onion picking for the needy. Activities director Meir Balofsky, me and Jacob)

Another thing; growth in the Jewish lifestyle. Back at home, being Jewish was something that didn't come so easy. Both my parents didn't keep kosher or make Shabbat, etc. And I wasn't ready to ask them to do it for me..since it would make me seriously emotional. I don't know why. If I saw someone in my family in true deep prayer, or heard kiddush, it would be hard for me to hold back my tears. So, I didn't ask them to alter their lifestyles. But here..everything, well many mitzvot are being handed to me on a silver platter. I am wearing more skirts, studying more Torah, eating Kosher, and doing Jewish things that I just wouldn't do at home. I kind of feel like I'm cheating though. Because it seems as if I'm not putting in any effort, and that it's just being handed to me. I've talked to a 'madrich' (one of the counselors basically that live on campus) and I was reassured that many people are making choices to not follow the rules or advert the attention to the learning, and that I was doing a pretty good job myself. It comforted me. I guess a challenge in the future is how I'm going to take all I've gained here and apply it back wherever I am after this.

(Looking back but moving forward. In the old city in Jerusalem on a roof)

One more thing, there are so many people here that are living out of their parent's wallets. And not only are they doing that, but they are complaining and complaining and complaining about countless amounts of things. It bothers me since I am here on scholarships, a loan, and my own check. And coming here wasn't easy! I don't take advantage of anything they offer here since not only did I pay for it, I want to gain a true experience.

(Sitting on the floor of a 45 minute bus ride to Jerusalem with two amazing girls Robin and Claudia)

We do so much here and I barely find the time to sit down and write. My phone was run over by a car...and now I can't see the screen, so I can't call anyone right now. But feel free to call me! But not on the American number I gave you before...since I realized now that it's costing me. So call 0524508440. Here's our newsletter that is sent out monthly if anyone wants to see it:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Suffering is for making us grow......


Saturday, October 16, 2010


I've come to the conclusion that I am not going to get much sleep while I am here for the year. We have class sun-thurs. Sunday I get to wake up a little later, but from Mon-Thurs I'm up at 6:15, (so i can press my snooze button a few times) and then have long days that range from ending at 3:45 to 5:45. Then, there are activities at night, like cooking with the counselors, or insightful talks about peace; just random things that are alternatives to going out. I attend most of them, and then sleep from either 11-2. Anyways, I love shabbat now, because it's the only 25 hours where I'm actually resting. Thanks g-d for commanding us to rest once a week, it really is great!

My classes are like this so far: Ulpan level 3 sunday, Arab-Israeli conflict sunday night, Jewish literacy, Tanach Overview, Business marketing, and Leaders and Leadership on Monday, Bein Adam L'Chaverio, Aggada, and then a chessed internship where I will be volunteering, Contemporary Halachik issues and World of the Sages on Wednesday, and Practical Halacha, Philosophy of the Siddur, Biology, and Micro-economics on Thursday. It's a pretty busy schedule taht involves activities, and trips, and then me doing my own thing so free time is pretty close to shot!

I may have gotten emotional once or twice. I think of my 'provacative' past, and then I think of my future, and that makes me happy that I'm really dedicated to changing. Also, I opened my facebook up one day and came across some words, that weren't directed towards me, but between my family, and it brought back many many memories. I was lucky to have Rabbi Bryks there to calm me down, because I was not well for a few minutes. But that night, we also had a bonfire that calmed me down and made me realize how lucky I was to be in such a warm and interesting place.

This Shabbat was an out Shabbat so I was able to go wherever I wanted. I was lucky enough to be able to have one of the families on campus to host my mother (since she was here on business) for the weekend. SO because the Siegel family had us for both meals, i cooked a past time, a deli roll, (for those of you who don't know pastry dough with deli slices and mustard, aka fattening goodness) and brought it over. Mrs. Siegel also prepared an array of yummy (and healthy!!) food. After Shabbat, 3 people from my mom's side of the family: Carmela, Nurit, and Hila, picked my mother and I up from Ramat Ef Al and took us to a nice dairy restaurant called Uno in Tel Aviv. It's truly amazing how the vegetables are so much better here. I still cannot get over it! Overall Shabbat was relaxing and fun.

Tomorrow is our first day of Ulpan, and I could not find myself placed on the list of which level to go to. SO because of this, I'm placing myself in level 3, and seeing where it goes from there. Following that, we have a table to table fruit picking for the needy activity, which im sure is going to very rewarding =)

I miss my brother! Wish he was here with me <3 I can't wait to see his album, I know it's going to be amazing and I'm going to brag to every one about him! love you bro!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

thinking > sleeping

My intrigue for the Jewish life is at it's highest right now.

We just started taking classes, and I'm actually excited to actually start getting into the learning. Even though I'm taking 8 Jewish classes, 5 Secular classes, and 1 Ulpan class, I'm still ready. I am a little afraid since so much information has departed my mind; it might be hard to absorb it all in one year.

Besides that though, anyone that has met me in the past 5 years, or anyone that knows me, would be suprised to know that I'm known as one of the girls that 'never go out'. I like to stay back, and chill, and sit outside and play guitar, and have intelligent conversations. I've purposefully sparked conversations to get my mind thinking, so I'm not just sitting around or sleeping and doing nothing like I did in Orlando.

There were a few people back at UCF that said I was running away from my problems, and that it was stupid that I was coming here. Well to all you doubters, I am now something to prove.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What a life.


Some time to sit down and to relax! So many things have happened in the past few days. It feels like it's been so long since I've gotten to Ramat Ef'Al. Here's why:

Tuesday: Move-in day. I definitely don't live in a 5-star hotel. But, I also don't live in the slums. The dorms are like this: two story separate buildings that have 12-15 girls in each of them (this is the girls campus which is a few minutes from the guys). I live on the second floor with a really awesome and sweet girl named Rachel. She's from Kansas, and kinda looks like Taylor Swift. Anyways, the room has two beds, ONE closet, and two desks. No drawers, no storage space, and an israeli shower that has no separation ont eh floor, so the water gets every where. We also have many pets. I mean ants. BUT despite the interesting living conditions, I'm actually really enjoying it. Thursday night, I went to one of the guys on the programs freinds house in tel aviv, with a few other girls, some from L.A and one from new York, and just relaxed.

Wednesday: Woke up at 9:50 to register early for classes. Turns out, I have to take 8 Jewish classes, 4 English classes, and one Hebrew language class. So that's 13 classes a semester. Not what I'm really used to, coming from UCF, but I'm definitely going to be busy, and I like that :) After that, the school took everyone to a big home store, and a grocery store, where my roommate and I split costs and agreed on almost everything! That night, I just unpacked and went 'to sleep.

Three generations of Beauty: Suzie, Reut, and Esti

Thursday: I don't really remember what time we woke up, but I know it was early. Anyways, we went to Jerusalem early in the morning. Personally, I had a meaningful morning prayer and just felt purely happy. After that we went to, or should I say underground to the pitch black tunnel tours. Funny thing: I was right behind one guy that is in charge of the group, named Meir Balofsky, He's really great with people our age. Anyways, he was like "I've done this so many times" turns out though, we got lost behind him,in the pitch black. It was pretty funny, and we eventually found our way back. After this, I took (my first) bus alone back to ramat ef al so i can get back and get ready for Reut's wedding. When I got back, I got ready, and got picked up my my aunt Susie and we were on our way. The wedding was truly a beautiful experience. I honestly got goosebumps, when I saw them first touch each other, since that was the first time they touched each other since they met...
Eitan Kochav with me and his two sons, Matan and Or

Friday: we were woken up early to go mountain biking and do a ropes course. It was really fun, even though the bike ride was pretty challenging. After that, we went to Ariel for a shabbaton. To sum up Friday and Saturday, I met a lot of people and may have inspired some, telling them of my past, and my goals now.

JUST SAYING, I have not been out or drank since I've been in Israel; for those of the family members that are worried ;)

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Few Remaining Activities

Saturday night I traveled on a train (I'm a pro at this train thing, now how to conquer the buses :o ?) to Netanya to see my friend Arielle Fried and her family. From the train station, I took a taxi to the main street in Netanya, where her and her family were having sushi. I joined, and was lucky to have them treat me to a sushi dinner as well.

The next day, we woke up late and then just relaxed and then walked to a dairy cafe a few minutes around her house. She lives right off the beach, so it was really nice to get a wide view of the Mediterranean. It looked like there was some surf there, so another trip there seems to be in my near future. Anyways, we just relaxed for the rest of the day, and enjoyed a really beautiful sunset right before I boarded the train back to Shoham.
Today, Monday, Reut woke me up and asked me to accompnay her on her errands, which included laminating a prayer that the groom reads as the bride walks down the aisle, some pharmacy items, and volunteering. At first, i was really tired, but I realized I didn't want to waste the day away so I tagged along.

I really loved volunteering. It was a room with a bunch of donated clothes and Reut and I were supposed to go through it and find clothes for 3 month year old girl, 6 month year old girl, 1 year old girl, 2 year old girl, and size 25 shoes for a boy. Even though the room was small, and there was no A.C, and the plastic bags started sticking to me because I was sweating from the heat, I really enjoyed the outcome.

I'm definitely going to find a place to volunteer at close to where I'm moving in tomorrow! I don't want to waste any time while I'm here; I just want to absorb a new life with new experiences and to grow with what I see.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tears of Joy and Distant Feelings

Reut'sShabbat Kallah went beautifully...for her.

I sat in the background the whole Shabbat and observed the many Israeli girls that were all Reut's friends. They played games, sang songs, danced, and prayed. At one point, when everyone was singing a lighter song, Esti and Sapir, her mother and sister, started to cry. I teared a bit over this sight of pure love.

However, the whoe time, I felt sort of out of place. Everyone, Shomer Negiah, Or close (which means they won't touch any men, even their fiances until they were married. I thought it was beautiful for them, but I also may of felt embarresed or ashamed of my past, compared to theirs. Anyways, I made a connection with one amazing girl named Advah. She insisted on helping and cleaning the whole time. By the end, she came over to me and told me that I was very brave for what I was doing, and that she really was thinking about me the whole time she was here. She told me that she hopes I have an amazing time, and that maybe someday, I'd move there. She almost made me cry, but I held back.

Reut's shabbat kallah really gave me time to sit and reflect since the girls were speaking hebrew so fast, that I could barely catch one word.

I am now going to visit an old friend, that I still label a close friend since we grew up together. I respect people i grew up with, because they know where I came from...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hakafot and Hallah

Simchat Torah had just ended and I spent it at Rabbi Bryks's house in Ramat Bet Shemesh. Despite the Hebrew name of the city, EVERYONE spoke English. It was a very Americanized neighborhood. Not to mention, very religious. Anyways, 2 other girls from another seminary stayed at the Bryks's home as well. They were both very sweet, one girl was from Manchester, and one from New York.

We went to the shul (that was a few steps away) for Hakafot (traditional dancing for renewing the reading of the torah) and all the men were dancing with their kids. The women on the other hand, were not. I wanted to ask why, but I knew the answer; the women were in sight of the men, so it wouldn't be appropriate. I wouldn't choose a place like this to live, because all I wanted to do was dance, dance, dance. Besides that though, it was really beautiful to see the passionate faces on the men that were really happy to be renewing the 5 books.

The next day consisted of relaxing, and me reading a 750 page book that I got 350 pages over one night, and one day. It's called The Double life on Chani Greenberg, and it has a really really good plot. I borrowed it from the rabbi, and will most likely have it finished by the end of Shabbat. I like that my life is different over here.

Anyways, I really really wish I remembered to take that vitamin C from my dad before I left, because of course, my glands and ears are starting to hurt. Usually this happens when I go away....I'm so not in the mood to go to an Israeli doctor right now!

This Shabbat is my cousins Shabbat Kallah. I'm really excited for her, but not so much excited to be with a bunch of girls that are going to talk and talk and talk in hebrew so quickly that I won't be able to follow. Hopefully I feel better in the morning so the headaches don't start kicking in...
Maya, Sagit, Me, Reut, Shir, and Tami

So before Shabbat we all just made Challahs and did the mitzvah just for women where you rip the piece of dough of and 'sacrifice' or something. It was said all in Hebrew, so I don't know the whole meaning behind it. Reut is so so happy, it is really written all over her face. Her wedding is in 6 days, when she can finally touch the man she's been engaged too for a few months...I wonder how that feels?