In Rabbi Meir Schewiger’s Parashat ha-Shavuah (weekly Torah Portion) class, while learning Sefer Shemot (Book of Exodus), we spoke about the desert as a place where one goes to prepare for Torah study. When B’nei Yisrael (Children of Israel) leave Egypt, they flee through the desert and are on the run until they get to Yam Suf (Red Sea) and cross to safety. Even after getting to Har Sinai (Mt. Sinai) and receiving the Torah, they still spend another 40 years in the desert wandering and preparing to enter into the Land. On the festival of Shavuot, we celebrate Zman Matan Torateinu (our receiving of the Torah at Sinai). We have just finished counting the Omer, the period of time from Pesach up to Shavuot and while we have now received the Torah and have celebrated this by a long night of learning and Torah study, B’nei Yisrael is still in the desert. For the rest of this year, leading up to the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) and Simchat Torah, we will continue to follow them as they travel through the wilderness in preparation for their entry into Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel). I liked the idea of the desert as a place for preparation and when I thought back over the last few years of my life I began to like it even more.
In the fall of 2010, I had been living and working at home in Connecticut, teaching in the Jewish community for a year after graduating college and I was ready for a change. I volunteered with the Kibbutz Program Center and after consulting with friends of friends, was placed on Kibbutz Yahel in the very south of Israel, about a 40 minutes north of Eilat in a region called the Arrava. Arrava means wilderness and this was exactly what I found when I got there. This was the absolute middle of Continue reading →
What A Pardes Student Thinks About on Mother’s Day
(if they hold by it)
I think about you most when I’m walking around Jerusalem. It is so beautiful- tiny curved streets with antique stone houses. Everything is a little bit smaller and closer together (perfectly sized for me) or maybe it all just seems little and quaint because every building has to be uncovered by your eyes from all of the amazing plants. Tall thin trees, tropical flowers in huge bushes full, palm trees, vines in full like trees themselves all covered with flowers I’ve never seen before.
Walking down the street you’re suddenly overcome by some new fragrance. It’s half amazement at the smell and half curiosity that makes me stop in my tracks and investigate the new color/ shape/ feel of some completely unique flower. I always think how you would love all of the flowers, and I like to imagine in those moments that if you were here you would Continue reading →
Most digital cable and dish networks in the United States have an entire channel or two devoted to the outdoors and the numerous related activities, from hunting and fishing, to hiking and camping. Israelis, although I am not able to vouch for the television coverage, certainly are committed to experiencing nature. More precisely, being outside and walking the breadth and depth of the Land of Israel is an experience that is near and dear to a large percentage of Israelis. In the week prior to the Passover holiday, the Israel Trails Committee estimated that 100,000 Israelis had set foot on one of Israel’s countless trails. Most popular among those trails are the Sea to Sea (From the Galilee to the Med.) or the monstrous Israel Trail (From Metula to Eilat). Regardless of the abilities of a particular hiker, each trail gives the trekkers the opportunity to Continue reading →
Now that the craziness of preparing for Pesach and the seder itself is over, I have time to write about the Golan Tiyul. It was so beautiful! Flowers in bloom everywhere! Last week we experienced such a different climate than in Jerusalem, it was rainy and much cooler. We were joined by the families of several Pardes faculty members, which was really nice. Of all the tiyulim we have gone on this year, this has been the one with the most “modifications”. Rain made our first hike interesting, it was very muddy. As someone with a reasonable fear of slippery surfaces ( in 7th grade, I broke my ankle when I lost my footing on some wet leaves on a hill), I was not a happy camper. At the end of the hike, I was ready to throw out my mud saturated sneakers, but a friend brought them to the bus for me. Even though I felt like I never wanted to hike again, this was a good thing because after a good night sleep I was ready to do the hike the next day. Continue reading →
Imagine spending seven days without your phone, television, or computer. Okay, now add on the incentive of no listening to music, reading, or writing. And now try doing that without speaking or communicating at all. Not just verbal communication; you can’t even look at anyone else. Oh, and one final, small thing – you’re not really supposed to think either. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?
Well, yesterday, I returned from a 7-day silent meditation retreat in which I joined about 40 other people just as crazy as me in seeing what exactly that experience would be like. The retreat took place at an absolutely beautiful kibbutz in northern Israel called Hannaton, about halfway between Haifa and Tiberias. From this small kibbutz you could see tree-filled mountains and mountain ranges on all sides with tiny, mostly Arab villages here and there, and with the Sea of Galilee right outside the kibbutz’s borders. Continue reading →
It’s been a while since my last post. Apparently, graduate school essays are a bit of a time-suck.
In any case, here are some pictures from my school’s trip to the Arava in January. We went all the way to Eilat in the southern tip of Israel for a few days of hiking in the beautiful Israeli desert.
We had the pleasure of staying at Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava rift valley. This kibbutz, founded in 1973, thrives as a collective, socialist community, and is of the minority of kibbutzim that have not privatized.
Kibbutz life means a strong emphasis on community: eating, working, and living together. Also, finances are communally-controlled. This means that paychecks go straight to the kibbutz, and every member earns the same salary and receives the same benefits, regardless of their job. As someone who has trouble sharing milk with my roommates, Continue reading →
Tu Bishvat. It’s a day to plant a tree, hug a tree, or nap under a tree. Tu Bishvat symbolizes grounded-ness and growth; rooted-ness and renewal. I celebrated this year’s Tu Bishvat by joining Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) on a trip to Qusra, a Palestinian community in the West Bank. Beginning with blessings in Hebrew and Arabic for planting trees and for peace, we joined with the community to plant 200 olive trees to replace the trees that have been continuously damaged or uprooted by extremists from a nearby settlement. Planting olive trees was an act of sanctifying the day of Tu Bishvat, of solidarity with a Palestinian community, of celebrating the beauty of trees, of promoting wholeness and love in the universe, and of planting the seeds of justice and tikun olam. It was a meaningful opportunity to meet the youth from Qusra, and to meet 60 passionate Israeli and international activists. It was both a humanizing and spiritual experience, and I am so grateful for celebrating such a special Tu Bishvat!
One year ago, I was about to take a semester off from college. I was the thinnest I had ever been; I could no longer run or bike; the slightest bit of yoga made me dizzy. My stomach twisted and turned every day, and I hated my body for how it was controlling me. In a vengeful attempt to control my body, I would sometimes skip meals or drink only tea to reduce the clenching that I knew would come.
Free! Free! Free! Eating this way should make me rich.
Today, my stomach still acts as its own entity, bubbling, hardening and twinging whenever it pleases, but I have learned to work with it. Over the past year, I have managed to put back on some of the weight that had slipped from my bones, focusing on consuming proteins and fats every day. I routinely reduce a little of the discomfort by eliminating wheat and dairy from my diet and sipping cold almond milk at night to cool the acidic heat. But most importantly, I am no longer despairing the loss of my body. I know the cramps will fade by morning. I laughingly explain to anyone who asks why I am refusing their home-made chocolate chip cookies, “Well, I have tons of stomach issues, so I don’t eat wheat or dairy. But if you ever make quinoa muffins, let me know!” And even when the eliminations don’t eliminate much of anything, I know that I will get through the symptoms. Whatever they are, I’ve had them and I can handle them again. They were. They are. They will be. But I will be even stronger. Continue reading →