Gaza, the Negev, and…Australia?

Originally posted on my blog:

Hey, I’ve certainly been keeping busy over the past few weeks but I’ll hone in on this most recent week since a lot has been going on recently.

The first thing I’d like to say is that, although from the media explosion through internet and TV it may seem like every square inch of Israel is a war zone and people are freaking out, things are actually quite calm here in Jerusalem. On Friday and over Shabbat, people were walking their dogs, kids were playing with each other in the streets, people were shopping and preparing for Shabbat, and more. Life goes on as usual here in Jerusalem. One air raid siren did go off last night aroun 5 pm, but I was already in Shabbat services then and didn’t hear it, either because we were all too engaged in the excitement of singing and welcoming in Shabbat, and also because we weren’t exactly expecting a siren so weren’t really listening for one. But luckily it hit nowhere near us and in an open field, far away from people. And as for the future, I think the mind set is just to take things day by day and not panic or overreact. But what can you do instead? Pray for the IDF, pray for Israel, and pray for the innocent civilians of Gaza, that this is all over soon.

Now onto the fun stuff. This week was the Fall Tiyul (trip/hike) that my yeshiva took down south to the Negev, and it was great. We stayed over for two nights in a beautiful Bedoin tent place with awesome food and amazing star gazing opportunities right outside. During the second night that we were there, I stepped outside of the place we were staying to lie down on the farm across the road and look up at the star-filled sky, and as I was doing so, I heard my peers playing guitar and singing “Hallelujah” in the distance. For those of you that don’t know, that’s (a) one of my favorite songs and (b) very fitting of the reflective moment I was having, so it was a very special experience. Each of the three days, we went on a different, 4-6 hour hike through the Midbar (Desert) in which we were able really get out and see Israel in all of its glory. We also got to see some amazing views of the Dead Sea, the mountains of Jordan, and saw incredible sunsets over the mountains. Overall, it was a great trip to do something different and get out and really be able to access a totally different part of myself than that used in the classroom, while still learning just as much.

Then, an interesting experience from the Shabbat that just finished up was that, last night, I attended a Shabbat dinner with some fellow students in which three Australian diplomats also joined us. They were stationed in Afghanistan, the UK, and Cairo, and were on a two week study tour of Israel and were given the chance to meet some “locals” (us) and see a more authentic side of Israel aside from the touring by having dinner with us. It was a really great way to meet people from outside of my world and swap stories and experiences which were vastly different. They were very interested in all of the customs and rituals associated with the meal which definitely gave me a new appreciation for the process that I have become accustomed to over the months. And it was really amazing to see that every person at the meal, coming from completely different places and experiences and perspectives, were able to sit down at a meal and eat and drink and laugh together and really connect with one another. We all went around at one point and shared our most memorable experiences in Israel, and all three of the diplomats said that it was the dinner we were having, and that was certainly very special.

And just a brief run-through of some other happenings over the past three weeks:

  • I met up with a bunch of friends at ~3am on the night of the election and we all hung out and watched intently as the results came in, coloring each state red or blue as it was called. And then, to the delight of everyone in attendance, Obama was announced as the winner as the sun was rising over Jerusalem, just in time to get ready for class
  • I completed Journal #2 of the trip, detailing the first 10 weeks at Pardes, and have moved on to Journal #3. Try to contain your excitement.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed the Ravens 55-20 thrashing of the Raiders last week and am getting psyched for the 3:20 am match up vs the Steelers coming up tomorrow
  • Been reading “Man is Not Alone” by Heschel, and several quotes have jumped out at me so far…
  • “The greatest hindrance to knowledge is our adjustment to conventional notions, to mental cliches.”
  • “The most incomprehensible fact is the fact that we can comprehend at all.”
  • The greatest experiences are the ones for which we have no expression.”
  • “As I enter the next second of my life, …I am aware that to be swept by the enigma and to pause – rather than to flee and forget – is to live within the core.”

That’s it for now. Have a great week!

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