These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Pressure, Poetry, Potpourri

Posted on April 23, 2013 by Naomi Bilmes

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From my blog:


I really need to write a blog post right now, but I must first overcome many obstacles.

The above statement has two parts. I should know what they’re called because I was an English major, but thankfully, I managed to receive my degree without taking a single grammar class. So, there might be an independent clause, a subordinate clause, a santa clause, or an insanity clause up there and I have no idea. In any case, in response to the first part of the statement, why do I need to write a blog post right now?

Necessary fashion.

Necessary fashion.

  1. I want to, and everyone knows that want = need. Remember Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind? She needed a new dress for the coaxing of three-hundred-dollars from the hand of Rhett Butler. Rhett saw right through her plan and withheld the money, so I would say that Scarlett needed an even fancier dress.
  2. My Safta (Hebrew for grandma) recently wrote me an email that ended with: “I can hardly wait for your next blog post.” This creates urgency because 1) I love my Safta and 2) the thought of my Safta reading The Hartford Courant while waiting for my next blog post is just a sad, sad thought.
  3. One of my teachers at Pardes keeps badgering me with, “Am I in the blog yet? Am I in the blog yet?” Here you go, Zvi, you’re in the blog.
  4. So much has happened in the past few weeks that deserves a blog post. Which leads me to the second part of the above statement: what are the obstacles that I must overcome in order to write this fateful post?
    • Time: the foundation of a worthy blog post is the time in which to create such a post. Between full-time studency, social endeavors, the Holy Sabbath, and finalizing plans for my apartment in Jerusalem next year (did I mention I’m staying?), finding a few hours in which I am awake and brain-functional has been quite difficult. But then again, I hate excuses. If I had really wanted to write, I would have forgone sleep and cleanliness for the sake of my art.
    • Indecision about the topic of the post has hindered my oscillating mind for the past 10 days. On the one hand, I could write about Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha’atzma’ut, my Shabbat in the West Bank, my decision to stay at Pardes next fall, the arts night I hosted last week, or all the wonderful knowledge that my teachers impart to me during the school day. But I don’t want this blog to be an “I did this, then I did this” journal, nor do I want it to be a forum for political musings about Israel, nor do I want to bore all the Pardes students who attended the arts night and who also attend class with me every day.
      Then there are my parents and grandparents who like updates about my “doings” on a day-to-day basis. And then there is my teacher at Pardes who insists that I write about the gluten-free oat rolls he baked when I spent last Shabbat at his house. I will heartily admit that the rolls were delicious and baking them was truly an act of generosity – but an entire post about oaty baked goods seems a bit excessive (although that seems to be the prerogative of many modern food bloggers).
      And then there are the things that I want to write: poetry, stories, poetic-prose, essays about the presence of God in my little finger, recipes of banana-filled goodness…I don’t know whom to please and whom to bore. So as a result, this post will be a potpourri: quick updates, fleeting thoughts, gut-punching emotions, and God-inspired metaphors. Get ready to be bored.


5There is a surge of vegetables coming down the chimney.
Oh wait, we don’t have a chimney.
Well, if we did, it would be full of gleaming cucumbers, shining tomatoes, bulging beets, and long, moist carrots. They would be chopped fine, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and only the most natural of dressings.
The tangy salad (served with half-a-cup of roasted chickpeas and a handful of slivered almonds) will be eaten in public with absolutely no carbohydrates in sight. The eater will savor every bite of the luscious vegetable medley – in plain view of that terrible pita-eater next to him and in fierce competition with the girl eating sardines and spinach and the alpha male eating a fist-sized steak on a heaping bed of arugula and chard.
The game is on.
A few hours later, the chickpea-eater will snack on an apple.
A few hours later, he will snack on an apple.
A few hours later, he will snack on an apple.
A few hours later, he will start drinking coffee because he is either tired all the time from lack of energy or awake all night using the toilet (the coffee does not help with this). He will wake up the next morning to a breakfast of banana and walnuts. He will embrace the dinosaur within. He will make sure to tell everyone that he is a dinosaur. We will hear him roar. We will be so scared of the dinosaur that we will be frightened into eating heaping bowls of produce and protein. We might even become dinosaurs ourselves.

Still stumped? Find out more about the latest fad to hit Pardes by clicking here.


I’m the kind of person who gets tired of you easily.
Yes, you.

After we make tomato-basil sandwiches, I want you to go home so I can read and digest my food. After we go for a run along the train tracks, I want to sing in the shower and then keep singing – loudly – for a good long time. And after I spend the night at your house, I want to head back to mine so I can eat bananas with peanut butter, cinnamon and soy milk while quietly reading the crinkling news.

Which is why it is odd that I have been enjoying so much social time lately.

6Par exemple: On Thursday night, I hosted an evening of the arts for my fellow Pardes students – Salon Pardes, in the truly French style (complete with laissez-faire and tete-a-tete). A small group sat around a cloth-covered, candle-lit table: voices melding in harmony, ears listening to beaten poetry, eyes absorbing color on white, words of story unfolding and sitting in our consciousness; we are warm vessels of pulsing inspiration.

In a room draped with green and lit with glowing tea lights, I look out over the talking, thinking vessels and want none of them to leave (well, except for that guy who sings off key). I crawl into bed feeling people-happy and full of art (not to mention chocolate-covered apple slices).

I close my eyes, drifting… I’m tired, so tired…but not tired of you…well, maybe a little tired of you…but you can come back tomorrow. Just please bring some poetry.


They breathed in
and then breathed no more.
We breathe in and live.
Siren. Wail. Stop. Wail.
The only way to remember is to wail.
Wail in prayer, wail out names, wail out a thank you
(a thank you for life),
wail until your breath is gone and your cheeks are tired and your eyes are wiped and
you are deflated.

Wail again.
The man who once had only half a face stands before you,
telling you how he helped build a state
and how the memory of the searing border haunts him
every day and today.
you walk the hillside, tramping over
grave and grave and grave and another grave.
So many graves.
Numbers upon numbers
upon names upon names
upon broken bodies and broken hearts.
Your heart breaks a little more.
It breaks until your cheeks are tired and your eyes are wiped and
you are deflated.

One hour later,
a room is filled with song; it is filled with people.
Some you know; most you don’t.
They sing and play and throw their harmonies up to the ceiling
and you catch them in your mouth.
You catch them because
you are in the right land at the right time and because
they are standing in the same land as you and because
they have decided that this is the right time
to sing, to love, to show you the rightness of it all.
And within minutes,
the woman on your left has introduced herself and invited you for dinner.
And when the singing is over,
the woman on your right stands up and you tell her that her voice is sweet and right
and when your voice melted with hers
you knew what Israel meant.

This poem refers to the pattern of days known as Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day for Fallen Israeli Soldiers) and Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Israeli Independence Day). These days are “celebrated” all over the world, but only in Israel can one understand their true importance. I know that now.



Banana-Walnut “Pancakes” (no gluten)

Make sure they are mash-able, but not 100% brown.

Make sure they are mash-able, but not 100% brown.

  1. Mash some ripe bananas in a bowl.
  2. Add an egg
  3. Add some almond flour, potato starch, quinoa flour, one or two teaspoons of baking powder, and a sprinkle of salt. Oh, and some cinnamon (Note: the majority of the batter is banana. These pancakes have much less flour than the gluten version. These “pancakes” are essentially banana with some egg and flour to hold them together and some baking powder to help them rise. Make sure the batter is pretty liquidy).
  4. Add some chopped walnut pieces.
  5. Spray a griddle or frying pan with Pam. Drop batter onto hot pan in circle shapes. Flip when air bubbles begin to form.
  6. EAT!! Sprinkle with coconut or maple syrup if desired.

Note: These came out pretty dark when I made them, so try to flip them as soon as you can.
Note: These are pretty healthy. They have no added sugar (the bananas make them sweet). Feel free to eat a lot of them. They are yummy. I am a culinary genius. Thank you.
Note: There are no pictures because I ate them all.


9When I heard the doorknob click last night,
I realized I had been waiting for you.

I had filled the night
with food I did not want
and a glazed screen
that had nothing to tell me
– except for the color blue.

Hours ago
my eyes pulled down
and my forehead tensed
with the effort of the tired
to squeeze out a few more moments of light.

And the light bruised my eyes
and the food ached my stomach
and the waiting hurt my heart.

And when you walked in,

I said nothing to you.
The hurt flared into anger,
and I said nothing to you.
I hoped you would take my shoulder
and shoot your eyes to my eyes
and make it go away.

Because you did not deserve any anger.
All you did
was not wait for me.

What I did
was much worse.
I told myself a story
about the space behind your heart.
And this story left me waiting