Thursday, July 21, 2011

Adventures in Acquiring a Library Card in Israel

This is a popular story in our family and the punch line has become one of Jonah's favorite quotes.

Near Micah and Jonah's first ulpan, Ulpan for Teenage Olim, there is a community center with an English and Hebrew library.  We decided to visit and to try to get a card so that we could take out books since we don't want to buy books here.  Not only are they more expensive here, they are heavy and we don't want to carry them home.

The librarian asked me to go upstairs and talk to Svetlana in order to sign up for a library card.  Svetlana is a very nice woman from Russia who speaks Hebrew and Russian but only a little bit of English.  I am a woman from the US who speaks English and only a teeny bit of Hebrew.  It was frustrating for us trying to communicate about the process by which we were to get our library card.  She kept trying Hebrew and I wouldn't understand. Then she'd try English and didn't know how to explain.  Finally, she says, "sprechen sie deutsch?"  And I said "lo, habla espanol?"  And she said "lo."  So we just kept going on in her broken English and my even more pathetic Hebrew and finally I filled out the paperwork, brought back the blank check for security purposes, and several weeks later, we got our card.  :-) 

The library has been an important resource for us because we need books for Micah and Jonah to read during Shabbat services.  And of course, we got a great story out of it.

It is also fun to run into friends at the library. Micah and Jonah see friends from their ulpan, their first summer camp (Camp Shelanu), and I saw my ulpan teacher Caron with her daughter.  It is a nice place in the community.

Time Flies When You Are Having Fun

It is hard for me to believe that three weeks of Conservative Yeshiva ulpan have passed already.  It has been quite an experience.  I made some friends in my class:  teacher Ouzi, Alex/Yehuda, Samuel/Shmuel, Yohannes, Mary, Henri, Elliot, Miki/Michal, Bonnie, Corinna and outside of my class: Kate, Marjie, Abbey, teacher Edna, Kath, Sarah, Annie, Cornelia, and I'm sure others I have not remembered.  There were many young people studying there - two sisters, some recent college grads, some current college students.  I have learned quite a bit of Hebrew -   new vocabulary, some grammar, and more.  It is less scary to try to do things on my own.  I know what my friend Brad calls "restaurant" Hebrew.

The connections between people here in Jerusalem are just amazing.  The first day of ulpan I met a man named Mark Goodman who used to teach at JCHS and is now moving to Denver, whose wife is also a dancer.  The second day in my class I met a boy named Alex Howie from Cincinnati who just happens to be very good friends with Aliza's friend Jodi AND Aliza and Jodi stayed with Alex for two nights in his apartment near the Yeshiva. Alex knows Glen and Andrea Bochner also!  Such a small Jewish world.
Last Shabbat was pretty special.  Sarah Levine joined us for lunch.  Then Barry came over after his trip to the Israel Museum.  Later, Melissa Werthen stopped by.  And finally, 5 of the 6 Schackers plus Adi's aba David came over.  It was wonderful to see all of them and so special to spend time together here in Jerusalem.  The Schackers went on to Ben Yehuda Street to see Ellie Rosenthal.

The Conservative Yeshiva works hard to provide a sense of community.  There are all kinds of classes, evening lectures, lunch and learns, opening Shabbat dinners, closing lunches provided.  The people are warm and friendly.  We also had a song session to close out the first session of learning.  It was fun.  Some of the students played guitar and keyboard and Mary from my class joined in and played her flute.  Mary is a health food store owner from Virginia.  Shmuel is from Sweden.  Alex, as you saw earlier, is from Cincinnati.  Corinna has made aliyah and is from both Allentown, PA and Nashville.  Bonnie has made aliyah and works at the Conservative Yeshiva, both in NY and Jerusalem.  Yohannes is a Christian from Korea, has lived in Japan, and speaks Korean, Japanese, German, and English.  Hebrew is his fifth language.  Very smart.  Miki grew up in New Jersey (I think) and went to Rutgers.  Ouzi lives in Tel Aviv but commutes to Jerusalem to teach at this ulpan.  Elliot came to class two or three times to try it out and Henri joined us for the last three classes.  I didn't get to know Elliot at all but Henri is from Paris and like many of his generation has quite a story to tell.  Abbey is from Florida and is good friends with Rabbi Linda Joseph who Mark went to school with in Cincinnati.  Marjie is from New York and is a math teacher.  Kate is a Hebrew teacher.  Edna is a fourth generation Israeli.  Pretty amazing!  :-)

One of the really fun projects we did in ulpan was recipes.  For Aliza's birthday, I baked Dawn's banana bread recipe.  Well, Alex told the class about it, so I made some for our last day today.  Yum.  :-)  Everyone had to write a recipe in Hebrew, Ouzi corrected them and we rewrote them, then he copied them for all for each of us.  We also made techina together in Hebrew earlier this week.  That was fun.  We learned the words for put, bowl, stir, cut. 

Here's another funny story:  we were talking about what we eat for breakfast and I said "baboker, ani ochelet ofanayim" which means "in the morning, I eat bicycles."  LOL  Ouzi said "ofanayim?" and made the bicycle riding motion with his hands. I said "lo, lo, lo, ani ochelet melafafonim" which means "no, no, no, I eat cucumbers."  But here you just say "melafafon" for cucumber or cucumbers.

There is another story about me telling my ulpan class about Micah and Jonah.  You see, the word for "now" is "achshav," but it is spelled with a yud like "achshiv."  So the boys are always laughing and saying achshiv instead of achshav.  So, when Ouzi taught us the word and the class asked why there was a yud in it,I said to my ulpan class, "hayeladim sheli midabreem 'achshiv' He He He, 'achshiv He He He" which means "my children speak 'achshiv' He He He..." I should have said "omreem" which means they "say" instead of "midabreem" which means they "speak."  Oh well!  At least I'm learning and trying to get my thoughts to come out of my mouth in Hebrew.  :-)

We have quite a few family private jokes right now, other than "I eat bicycles for breakfast" and "achshiv."  Jonah goes around saying "sprechen sie deutsch?" "atah ohev chemah?" and "atah ohev gevinah chocolad?"  Micah has quotes from a Russian boy David "You play hookey? footbowl?  America footbowl? basebowl?"  "Ata hongary?  Ata pig?" and  "Ata meshugah?"

I am looking forward to another great session at Conservative Yeshiva ulpan.  Three more weeks of Hebrew - hooray!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Congregational Trip

Those of you following our family's blogs won't need me to list out day by day the activities we did with Temple Beth Abraham from June 21 through July 1.  You can read their day to day accounts here, here, and here.  You can sample some congregants' perspectives here and here.  Shout out to Keshet, our tour provider, for excellent planning and adaptation to our needs, as well as superb staff.

My unique additions to this discussion are few.  I can only offer my perspective on some special moments.  The first day, greeting everyone, I had such joy in my heart.  I loved giving and getting hugs from friends of all ages.  It was especially wonderful to see the Bessler/Baums from China, the Jurow/Klein three generations and the Bessler/Baum three generations.  Sad events like Larry Reback not being able to come due to ankle surgery, my sister-in-law Jennifer and her family not being able to come because of Mitch's back surgery, Deborah's luggage getting lost in Las Vegas, Jonah and I leaving his crocs on the bus at the Dead Sea, feeling the burn at the Dead Sea,

and other lowlights stand out in my mind.  However, there were also lots of highlights:

Jerusalem highlights: Walking from our apartment to the King Solomon Hotel. Wine, snacks, and schmoozing on our 11th floor balcony at the hotel.  Havdallah on the same balcony.

Tunnel tour at the wall, Hezekiah's tunnel with water.  Learning from our amazing guides Yishai and Merav at every stop.  Old City scavenger hunt finds like the door on the yeshiva.  Telling everyone about the amazing gooey chocolate rugelach at Marzipan (best in the world!).  Marved Haksamim (Magic Carpet) - possibly Casey's favorite restaurant in Jerusalem.  Trading Jonah to the Mendelsohns for Julia during out time at Machane Yehuda "the shuk."

Galilee Highlights:  Creating, tasting, drinking, and buying chocolate at de Karina in the Golan Heights.  Wine tasting at Dalton.  (The wines weren't so good but it was still fun!)  Watching the kids swim and play soccer at Kibbutz Gonen.  Meeting soldiers at Kibbutz Malkiya and an armored corps in the Golan.  Shopping for shoes at Neot.  Poker night organized by Barry Barnes and won by Hugo and Noam with Jason breaking even by taking third.

The three youth counselors, Ilana, Noam, and Tehilla.  The counselors yelling "all kids over here" so that the adults and kids were doing separate activities.  Each and every bus ride sitting and talking with friends like Denise, Barbara, Freya, etc.  The echo mountain at Masada "Never Again" in both Hebrew and English.  The bomb shelters, borders, soldiers with guns, checkpoints, fences, walls, and yet beautiful vistas at every turn.  Kids eating ice cream popsicles whenever they can. Jonah's favorite is the Magnum Gold.  Both Micah and Jonah also like the watermelon shaped and flavored popsicle.

Shopping at Old Yaffo.  If it were not so hot, this would have been even more enjoyable.  Since our last visit there as a family, I had regretted not purchasing a Shabbat skirt in the shuk.  I made up for it by purchasing two!  :-)  Micah got some jewelry both here and in Tzfat, and he also got a new T-shirt "Shabbat Just Do It" with the Nike logo.  Jonah ate hot dogs with Ben and Abe Barnes while I got the cheap and yummy falafel on the side street.  Merav gave us a splendid tour of parts of Yaffo and we walked along the waterfront.  Lovely.

Listening to Yishai tell the story of David and Saul in Ein Gedi under the waterfall.

We were SO hot on our very short hike to the two waterfalls. First a mini-waterfall, then further up a larger one.  The water was so cool and refreshing.  Lots of kids and adults were relaxing in the water, letting the strong waterfall pound on our bodies to cool us down, and simply having fun in nature.  A memory I will treasure.

Living here is a treat.  Sharing so many wonderful memories with wonderful friends is icing on the cake.  Our evaluation and closure session brought tears for both me and Mark - both happy and sad tears.  5 more weeks or so and we'll be home in Oakland.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July brings new ulpan and hotter weather...

Well, it appears I am behind the 8 ball in the realm of blog posts.  The end of June brought the TBA Congregational trip to Israel and we spent a fabulously busy 10 days touring the country with our friends from home.  Sadly, Mark's sister Jennifer and her family had to cancel at the last minute because our brother-in-law Mitch had to have back surgery.  Speedy recovery, Mitch!  We missed all of you Crenins a lot during the trip and wish you could have been here with us.  We are excited because the Crenins have recently moved back to California (living in Davis) from Pittsburgh, PA and now we will get to spend more time together.  Hooray!

I'll write a separate post about our 10 day trip with the congregation but here's an update on our summer life in Jerusalem:

I've started a new ulpan at the Conservative Yeshiva.  Using my 5 or 6 years of childhood Hebrew school knowledge plus all the great stuff I learned in the alef class at Ulpan L'Inyan, I placed into kitah bet at ulpan.  The first day was Sunday.  We had an orientation and then went off to our separate classes.  My teacher was Edna, and I really enjoyed the first part of class when we were all taking turns introducing ourselves in Hebrew and telling about where we are from, where we live here, etc.  She would ask us questions, and we would try to answer in Hebrew.  I was following MOST of what was going on during that time, but there was a small percentage of things I didn't understand.  Then we took out our books and started to read the very first essay/story.  Well, it was WAY over my head.  I couldn't even understand half of it.  At one point I got so overwhelmed that I started to cry.  Edna said she would explain every word, but I couldn't pull myself together enough to listen and understand.  It was very close to the end of class so we all dispersed, and I had a very good cry. Then I went to Rabbi Gail Diamond who was in charge that day and told her I might be in the wrong class.  She encouraged me to try to stay in kitah bet.  I took home both the alef and bet books and went over them.  It turns out that I could figure things out and get them right on the test but not really know them yet fully. Like the past tense - I know the singular conjugations but not the plural.  And I don't know most of the irregular verbs at all.  So, after looking through the alef and bet books and seeing the curriculum of each, I decided to try kitah alef plus.  It was a wise decision.  I am enjoying myself in the alef plus class and still learning a lot - filling in the gaps that I didn't even know I had.  My teacher's name is Ouzi and he is SO patient.  He explains things over and over and over again when people ask the same question over and over and over again (including me!).  He's really good at teaching us and getting us to speak and read and work together.  It's definitely the right place for me right now.  It would have been much too difficult for me if I had stayed in bet.  But maybe next time!  :-)

Before the congregational trip, when we were at Ulpan L'Inyan, we walked through the German Colony, Baka, and got to know Talpiot where AACI and the ulpan are located.  Now I have to go in the opposite direction to the Conservative Yeshiva, so I don't even really pass any stores on my way to or from ulpan.  :-(  I am halfway to Ben Yehuda Street, and Machane Yehuda is just a ways past that, but it isn't as convenient has having a mall and two supermarkets across the street and another mall and supermarket around the corner of AACI.  Oh well.

Today at ulpan I did a load of laundry!  There are 2 washers and 2 dryers in the guest house that are available for students to use.  A load costs 15 shekels to wash and 10 to dry for 60 minutes which took care of the clothes just fine.  So before class, I put the clothes in the washer.  I paid two shekels for soap but none came out, so I went across the street to the supermarket and bought detergent.  Then I got the washer going and went to ulpan.  During hafsaka (break), I changed the wet clothes to the dryer and got that going.  At the end of class, I went back and folded the clothes and put them in my backpack for the long walk home.  Luckily I had some company during the folding.  Corrina, a woman in my class, chatted with me the whole time, then we practiced some Hebrew together before she went to her afternoon class.  I did have a lot of schlepping to do to make this laundry thing work, but using Mark's backpack helped.

Micah and Jonah had a playdate at Nadav's house so I had some extra time.  Nadav is a friend they met at Camp Shelanu, which is a community day camp off Emek Refaim at the pool.  Only a handful of children speak English; they are mostly Israeli.  Nadav speaks English (his dad is from New York), Swedish (his mom is from Sweden), and Hebrew (he is growing up here).  Micah and Jonah are very impressed.

Recently I realized that I am going to run out of the B2 vitamins before we leave.  I take 200 mg twice a day to prevent migraines and it seems to really work.  I've shopped at two stores already and not found them.  Mark went to just one store tonight and found them!  So he bought me the one bottle that they had, but I still need another to cover me until the end of our time here.  Hopefully I'll be able to send them to my brother-in-law Barry via Amazon prime overnight shipping, and he'll bring them when he comes to visit next week.  We'll see.

Yesterday we had a lovely dinner at Caffit with Mark's friend Ilene Sandberg Sunderland and her mother Edie.  It was fun to meet them, and Ilene brought Micah and Jonah 4 cans of Spaghetti-Os and a game called Blink.  So sweet!!!

A few days ago, we had dinner with the Carey/Schoenblum family - Jonathan, Amy, Jordan, and Sasha.  We ate a Burgers Bar - yum.  It was really great to see them.  Then the next day, Jordan and Sasha came over for the afternoon so that Jonathan and Amy could go to Yad Vashem.  We had a fabulous playdate at our apartment, two parks, and of course the ice cream/juice stand around the corner.  :-)

At the park, we had a little adventure when some Arab boys and a girl took our soccer ball and claimed it was theirs.  It was very difficult to communicate with them because they spoke Arabic and not much Hebrew and no English and we were speaking English and not much Hebrew and no Arabic.  After much following and then chasing them around the park, their mothers finally intervened and told them to give the ball back.  ARGH!

At the kiosk around the corner from our apartment, the kids each got a popsicle, and I got a fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. Then after they finished their popsicles, they all wanted juice too -- Micah got apple, Sasha got orange, and both Jonah and Jordan got the grapefruit, all three kinds were fresh squeezed of course!

My first week of ulpan at CY ends tomorrow, and it has been a very good week.