My thoughts about the Israel Food Tour I participated on earlier this month were just published on The Jew & The Carrot, Hazon’s blog. You can read the full text on their site or below the jump.

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"I am also one of the million"

I suppose I have something to say too given that we went to the protests both this week and last. Admittedly, protests aren’t my scene — they’re loud and crowded and a bit overwhelming but it seemed too important not to go.

For those of you who haven’t been following this part of the news from Israel you can learn about it here. I’ve been away for much of the summer and missed a lot of the energy, but I was here for the “biggest protest in Israel’s history.” (A couple more links to the Guardian and the NYTimes.)

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Tuesday was our last day of volunteering with the Yaakov Maimon program at the absorption center just outside of Jerusalem. Each week, a vanful of Pardes students went to be big brothers and big sisters to groups of children on the periphery of Israeli society. The people living in Mevasseret are the most recent and the final olim (immigrants) from Ethiopia. The story of this aliya (immigration) is fascinating and worth learning about. Our work involved lots of activities for the children – blowing bubbles, playing ball, making masks for purim, doing homework…the experience was hugely challenging for our group in – what does it mean to be role models for children? How do we communicate with kids with whom we barely have a common language? How are we supposed to welcome them into “Israeli society” when we’re the sojourners and they’re the immigrants? What happens to them after we disappear from their lives? Obviously these are important questions that will remain relevant and I was lucky to have Pardes’ support with time and transportation and other logistical needs that enabled me to do this work. I certainly will miss it.

Too busy living these last few months to be good at putting my thoughts down on the blog – but I just wrote this piece for Pardes about why I decided to learn Talmud as a grown up. Enjoy – and if you’re considering doing some adult Jewish learning Pardes is a place worth considering. I’m happy to answer any questions, obviously!

Read the post here. Photo credit goes to Ilana HaCohen.

I have lots to learn about the Ethiopian immigration to Israel – and will likely start by reading this wikipedia article. But it is especially relevant as I spend every Tuesday afternoon as a “big sister” hanging out in an absorption center just outside of Jerusalem. The family I’m assigned to is a mother about my age, a father I’ve never met and 4 kids (ages 12, 9, 6 and 1.5). I spend most of my time with Mom, the 6 year old and the baby. Mom and I communicate in poor Hebrew (hers is sadly, poorer than mine) and the kids and I make do in Hebrew as well. There’s a lot to say about race and class in Israeli society – but what I’ve observed (in the simplest and most micro terms possible) is that 1) mom doesn’t have a lot of extra food in the pantry; 2) mom is illiterate in Hebrew and Amharic; 3) the playground we play in is covered in broken glass and has no play structures in it. It would be nice if by the end of the year of volunteering I knew a bit more about the experience of Ethiopians in Israel and the process of making Aliyah as a non-Anglo. You can see a couple of photos from my experience here (mostly of my photogenic and charming 6 year-old friend).

The long weekend I spent in Cairo hardly does justice to understanding the city of more than 7 million people, established over a thousand years ago which serves as the “capital” of the Arab world. We traveled as a gang of 5 — 2 men (one of whom spoke good Arabic from having lived in Egypt for nearly a year, the other who could say just enough to get a big grin and a pat on the back for being so cute) and 3 women. Various friends of mine have spent a bit of time living in Cairo – and so with warnings from them not to travel alone as a woman, I was particularly glad to go with this gang. Read the rest of this entry »

These last few weeks I’ve been based in Haifa, spending a lot of my time at the University attending ulpan. I’m in ‘כתה ג which means I’m basically an advanced beginner and our classes are conducted entirely in Hebrew — though spoken clearly and slowly by our teacher Devorah. The class is a huge mix of people. About half of us are American Jews ranging in age from 20 to 30. There’s one “new” oleh who’s lived in Israel for 7 years and came here from Sibera. There’s a set of Moroccan brothers who live in Paris and who are working towards making alyiah and a retired doctor who lives in Angers, France. There are 2 Poles, both of whom study Jewish history in Krakow, one of whom sings in Yiddish beautifully and neither of whom are Jewish. We also have the only student from Azerbajan to ever attend ulpan at the University and 3 people who live in Germany, one of Spanish origin and one of Aramaic origin (if anyone can explain to me what she means by this, please let me know. She’s Christian, but I can’t quite sort out what it means to be ethnically Aramaic). Not everyone is pictured above, but many of us are.

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This weekend I got invited to join old friends of mine, Annie and Shimron at their friend’s home in Akko. I was excited to see them, especially because the last time I saw them together they came to stay with me in NY on their way to Israel 2 years ago. They have a friend, Anna, who lives in Akko and studies in Haifa — and so we stayed with her for shabbat. Besides the wonderful food (I’ve got to get the recipe for the fish stew she made for us) her apartment was amazing. We had views of the ocean from the spacious living room, which had tall ceilings with amazing details and bright colors. We watched the sun set into the sea on Friday night from Anna’s rooftop, and then again on Saturday night from the top of the walls of the old city.

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At the request of my uncle, I sit down now to pen a few more thoughts about Cambodia.

Most of the second week I spent in Cambodia I was in Siem Reap (defeat of Siam/Thailand – classy name for a city, eh?). Ever since tourists have traveled to Cambodia, as far back as the French at the turn of the last century, they’ve gone to check out the Temples at Ankor. The airport was the nicest I’d traveled through in Asia and the city itself certianly makes itself a comfortable destination for tourists from around the world with lots of yummy food and fish massages. Read the rest of this entry »

In case you’re keeping close track on where in the world I am, I’m currently on Kibbutz with my family and no longer touring around in SE Asia. But, I owe people some further reports from Cambodia. As my friend Sarah would agree, one of the MAJOR highlights of our visit to Siem Reap was an invitation to a Cambodian wedding (I’ll share more about the temples we saw another time). Over the course of many days we had the same tuktuk driver, Thon, and over lunch on the first day his friend (also a tuktuk driver) invited us to Thon’s sister’s wedding. Sarah and I didn’t really believe that we’d truly been invited, but over the course of the next few days the invitation was repeated and arrangements were made to get us to the wedding.

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