Sunday, September 6, 2009

The quirks of the Jewish State

It’s been a very Israeli first few days here. Notably, I’ve accidentally run into three people I know over the first 24 hours in the country. That’s Jerusalem. (Fogey, Aliza Grabin and Ariel Keren, if you’re keeping track at home).

To begin, a story. I went to my favorite barber this afternoon and he immediately recognized me. I told him I wanted about half off, all the way around, and he said, “Yes, of course. The regular.” I last went to him four years ago.

He gives good haircuts, and by his comment at the end of the haircut, he thinks highly of his work.

After finishing he said to me, “"You have no idea how much better you look now."

Welcome to Israel, where the compliments always make you scratch your head and wonder, “Thanks, I think?”

As they say, Israelis are like Sabra (cactus) fruits, prickly on the outside and sweet inside.

I hit a bit of jetlag during day 1, rising to it being pitch black outside, and thinking, “this is not how I planned it.” So I did some work the paper I started over the summer, what some have called my “for fun super-senior thesis” (more on that in a later post).

I received an e-mail from Adam Baldachin saying that he was going to make a minyan at the Robinson Arch for a bar-mitzvah boy visiting Israel. I’m for adventure and we headed out, first for a breakfast at the David Intercontinental Hotel (did I mention they have a nice spread?). Fun family, with lots of laughs over the course of the day.

Bar-mitzvah boy did a good job, as did Rabbi Schlessinger in conducting a service. Noted was the poignancy of a bar mitzvah which culminates continuity in Jewish tradition and memory, directly in front of the rocks of destruction from the Second Temple.

At the conclusion of the bar mitzvah, they had hired 2 klezmer “stars” to dance in front of the Davidson Center. As it was, another bar-mitzvah walked by, complete with drums and singing, and the two sets of musicians joined together, with a few families of Israelis singing along. I’m not saying that this could only happen in Jerusalem, but let’s just say it didn’t happen in Dubrovnik.

Highlights of the shuk right now are most definitely the nectarines and plums. I should also note that I am still figuring out how much different items weigh, and that 200 grams of zaatar should last me until May. And I love zaatar. I should also note I appreciate all that the chickpea has given the Jewish people over the past 100+ years; buying hummus by the kilo is a luxury I will relish.

Shabbat highlight was most definitely dinner at Aliza and Ela’s, friends from when I worked on Ramah Seminar/my previous year in Israel. Of all the goals I have this year, coming home with a Hebrew accent and fluency is most definitely toward the top of that top-5 list. Therefore, a dinner with friends, featuring conversation all but exclusively in Hebrew combined everything I could have looked for in a Shabbat dinner. And that’s without even mentioning the hummus with beef and the fried sweet and sour chicken that Aliza made. As I mentioned in my e-mail for my going away party, Israel features gustatory delight at every corner. No disappointments there yet.

Future posts will have more musings, less biography. I’ll explain the name of the blog and my thoughts about being here. Throughout it all, perhaps I’ll entertain you a bit along the way.

I had not realized that the apartment would come with a tv and dvd player, but here it is. A note of closing on a West Wing episode that had been running in the background on Friday: Josh suggests in the third season that Leo should be Bartlet’s running mate. Somehow that had escaped me. Turn it over, turn it over, everything is in it.

1 comment:

  1. Am I the first to comment on this blog? What a זכות! I love how descriptions of time in Israel always have a strong focus on food - Zaatar, chickpeas, fried sweet and sour chicken. Delicious. May it be a scrumptious year!