Thursday, July 26, 2007

11 Av, 5767: Yom Huledet Sameach!

I’ve never celebrated my Hebrew birthday, but Israel seems like the place to do it. So yesterday, I went and got pastries and today I passed them out and told everyone I was fifty. It was a good day—our teacher is so impressed at having a rabbinic student in class that she’s been doing a mini-Shabbat at the end of class. I’m not hugely impressed by the student—she’s eager and diligent, but just isn’t that on the ball—but it is a great excuse for a party. Today the teacher played guitar and sang and we sang along with her. After class the anthro prof and I had lunch and she commented that the divisions between Jew and non-Jew stood out clearly (not surprisingly). I also noticed the divisions between young and old, in terms of comfort with self. (Those of you who are young—yeah, so really, while life continues to throw challenges along the way, fact is, you do learn how to deal with them as you go. Savlanut (patience).) My birthday wasn’t particularly acknowledged at the celebration (which included two classes), but my class knew and my friends here knew—it was just enough.

I’m continuing to contact people to stay with—slowly I’m getting comfortable with asking to stay. We’ll see where I end up in Jerusalem

While I was emailing, Emma, the recent Caltech grad with the Israeli boyfriend, sat down beside me and we exchanged medical stories. She had gotten a raging UT infection and spent a good deal of time in the ER in Haifa. So she beats my heatstroke story (which, based on previous comments, I would now identify as electrolyte and carb deficiency) pretty handily. Then we had a lovely time discussing the state of American and Israeli Jewry. Which is one thing I love about this place. The streets have Jewish names. The language is Hebrew. And even the secular Israelis know their heritage—they learn Tanakh with commentary in school.

Then I spent the evening watching a movie—Walking on Water, which is terrific, but largely in English, so it didn’t do much for my Hebrew skills. Not that I’m complaining—I’d watch it again, given the chance.

One more story—when we got to the Diaspora Museum Tuesday, the first thing we did, of course, was to find the bathroom. Two stalls, one of which had a soiled seat. So there’s this line of women all turning their noses up at the seat. I looked at it, sighed, grabbed a paper towel and got it wet and soapy and cleaned the seat. One of my roommates loved this—she laughed and said, “The only one of us who’s a mother! The rest of us are wimps, but she just does what needs to be done!” We all cracked up (and it being Tisha B’Av, this caused the madricha to come in and yell at us to be quiet), but I must say, I really appreciated that connection.

By the way, I still haven’t gotten the time really down. Sun is down now—it’s a new day, 12 Av, so my birthday is over—for a few weeks! And finally, I’ll be in Jerusalem tomorrow, then in Tel Aviv with Nurit and Colin Price for Shabbat, so out of internet contact til Saturday night.

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