In light of the upcoming bestholidayever called Thanksgivukkah, I figured a "catch-up" post with some highlights from the past two months was in order. I'm feeling pretty lucky to have experienced all this and so much more. Pictures at the end!
1) Experiencing the chaggim in Israel! I last wrote right before Yom Kippur and I have to say that being here for that holiday was something I will never forget. Despite the surprise heat wave (hottest Yom Kippur on record!), Jerusalem was magical that day. It is actually illegal to drive in Jerusalem that day, so the streets are completely empty. I took every opportunity I could to run, walk, skip and even sit in the streets! We walked to Emek Refaim (a usually very busy and commercial street) and it was just full of friends greeting one another, children playing, dogs roaming around and others just enjoying the sight. There was an incredible one-ness that night. Maybe it was the fact that most of the people were wearing white and this similar scheme placed everyone on a similar level – there were fewer obvious distinguishing factors between observant and secular, reform and orthodox, Israeli and visitor. I felt more at home in Jerusalem than I had previously.
2) Traveling to Europe with three of my classmates! We left less than 24 hours after classes ended and arrived back in Jerusalem at 4 am the day we began class again. It was definitely a whirlwind trip, but we saw so much in those ten days. At some point I'll do a full update, but highlights include hearing a street musician play Beatles songs at the John Lennon wall, being moved by the Holocaust museum in Berlin, walking along canal after canal in Amsterdam and observing Simchat Torah with an amazing progressive community in a synagogue surrounded by a moat! I managed to get epicly sick during the trip, but my friends took such great care of me. It was a great experience to see so many new places as well as solidify truly special friendships. I'm lucky to know these women.
3) Leading my first solo service ever and chanting Torah for the first time in eight years! I led Mincha about a month ago and received great feedback. It was a big hurdle to overcome, but I'm really proud of myself. I connected an aspect of the weekly parsha (Vayeitzei) to the concept of finding holiness in the everyday, as inspired by my nephew Holden. Even though it was a lot of work to prepare, I did get a serious rush while leading and am thinking this may actually be something I enjoy doing :-)
4) Women of the Wall 25th Anniversary Service and Gala! We are lucky enough to be here for this huge milestone and greeted it with the calmest and most powerful service I've experienced yet with WOW. I'll write more about this later, but suffice it to say we were welcomed at various events that included so many powerful and amazing Jewish women from the US and around the globe. As I wrote in an email, it was one of those "I'm so proud to be a Jewish woman and studying here to be a part of this!"
4) Shabbat each week! While we miss full weekends epicly here, Friday night services and dinners are always something special. After an insane week of classes, projects, papers and other commitments, I need Shabbat very badly. Even though we are five months into the year, we are still doing a great job of organizing nearly weekly dinners in an infinite number of sub-groups to bring in Shabbat together. My classmates are seriously amazing cooks and I've experimented with some new recipes that received good reviews. There's always a lot of wine involved, sometimes some singing, and just a nice opportunity to connect outside of class and relax.
5) Classes! So right now I'm in the middle of the continuous and never ending period of midterms, but despite that, I'm really enjoying classes. Not every single one is a slamdunk, but I learn something new everyday, and for that I am incredibly grateful. I can't actually believe I'm writing that as I just swore at a midterm for two hours, but still. Mostly good things.
All in all, I'm enjoying my time here, learning a TON, and building strong friendships that I really cherish. Time moves differently here - on the one hand it feels like I just arrived and on the other it's hard to remember what life was like before this as it seems that I've always been here. Jerusalem is still an odd amalgamation of a city... both feeling like I know my place and almost constantly reminded of my foreignness. With all the class and homework, it sometimes feels like I am in a generic city in the US, but then I have experiences (such as our trip to the Negev where I hiked up a mountain with views of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt in the distance) where I am slapped with a reminder that I am in one of the most beautiful, controversial and complicated cities and countries in the world. For that, I give thanks and will enjoy some turkey and latkes.
Now for photos!
Sitting in the intersection of Keren Hayesod and David HaMelech after Kol Nidre services
|Drinking massive beers in Prague! So good and so cheap.|
|The group inside the Reichstag Dome in Berlin|
|At the John Lennon Wall which we wrote on to commemorate our trip.|