The last week of Ulpan—it went very quickly, almost without my noticing.
On Sunday, one more movie—Kayitz Aruch, which I found with the English title of Summer Story. Takes place during 1982, with a background of the first
Two interesting things resulted—the next day, in conversation class (weekly session in trying to speak), we described the movie to the one person who hadn’t been there. This was a terrific and not entirely successful exercise that included lots of drawing on the board (maps, arrows indicating direction, and so on). Highly amusing and pretty instructive. Then, after class, I spoke with Jacob, grad student from Harvard. His original take on it was that it was highly symbolic, with the boy representing a new approach to life in
Monday, there was a lecture on Jewish music. Here are the notes I took at the time:
“An expert from Beit HaTefutsot is discussing Jewish music. It’s a fairly academic lecture, which makes me happy. As in, he begins by explaining why it isn’t possible to define Jewish music and then explained the problems with defining it in depth and with examples. So, if Jewish music is music written by Jews, for Jews, and with Jewish uses in mind, what do we do with the Kaddish melody, which was composed by Ravel—yes, that Maurice Ravel? Or with all the old German and Hungarian melodies that become part of Hassidic tradition?” A few days later, I find myself still interested in the way that Israeli Jews understand their relationship to the Diapora—whether through music or anything other artistic medium.
Tuesday afternoon, I finally met with Avi and Amira. Avi had been a student of my dad’s back in the late 80’s. Turns out that Avi is just my age and their oldest child is Deborah’s age (a few months older). They were incredibly hospitable, but I must say, I felt quite uncomfortable with the effort they expended—sort of “I only deserve it because of my folks and why should that be enough?” I know people make connections with friends of friends, and I’d be happy and interested to be on the other end—it’s interesting to meet people who know people, etc, but I’m still not good at being taken care of. Much more comfortable on the other end.
The events however, are worth detailing, partly in and of themselves and partly because I know my parents want to know (hi, Mom!). First, Avi picked me up and took me to tour the Technion. I had commented that I was interested in it—really, just to be polite—but it was, in fact, fascinating. The kind of work (computers, robotics, biotech, security) all was interesting and all was part of a solid, intense world that is what comforts me about hard science—the idea that there are problems and that they are interesting, concrete, and ultimately solvable. (Yes, I know that is not the whole story, but that is the feel of institutes of hard science. This is somewhat refreshing after soc science, which tends to identify problems well, but is less successful in finding solutions.) I got to see where Avi works, including the plaque that commemorates those who died in the Lebanon War. These plaques are everywhere, he said. As in the movie, the plaques aren’t the story of the people who live here, but part of the background and demonstrate how that background intrudes into the story with great regularity.
We picked up Tal, a very silent fifteen-year-old, then continued our tour. There were two things that stood out to me as we walked around the campus: the intensity and focus of the students, all of whom seemed to have to get somewhere in a hurry; and the lack of traditional or religious dress of any kind. No tzitzitim, no veils, no long sleeves. Religion seemed not to exist. Avi pointed out the synagogue and also noted that he had never been in it. Later I commented on the difference between the campuses and he told me that when Technion had been established, they had agreed that it would be a campus without politics. This was a fascinating statement and I am still chewing on it. It implies that all religion is political and that dress is always a political statement. I think there is some truth to that, but the relationships are complex—what religion, what dress, what are the cultural and political structures and how does religion relate to them? It is clear that some groups very definitely dress to define themselves and, by doing so, state that their adherence to religion trumps all else. But I don’t see a compromise—there is a clear sense of either science or religion, not both. And that last sentence doesn’t really deal with the political piece and how Avi equated the two. Okay, I’m tired and not making much sense. In addition, it is complicated…
From Technion, we went to pick up Amira from their apartment. (As a side note, in both Europe and
We drove to the Druze villages. Okay, here’s where I confess. Somehow the phrase “Druze village” conveyed “villagers in traditional dress, living in small houses, and herding goats.” Uh, not so much. The “villages” were small cities, seemingly quite prosperous, and apparently suburbs of
We went to a special bakery where Avi insisted on buying a delicacy made with honey, cheese, and pastry to take back to the other students (all of whom really appreciated it). And then we had dinner. They wanted me to experience many Israeli and Druze delicacies, so we went to a terrific Druze restaurant overlooking
Lovely and tiring evening, although I never did hear any good stories about my dad as an advisor.
Wednesday was the day before the exam, so there isn’t much to say about that. We simply studied. And there was much exchanging of emails, taking of photos, and all the hullabaloo that goes with knowing you’ve been part of a temporary community that is about to end and that you want to hang onto. The day also included a rather odd conversation. Miri, the young woman I mentioned who had also taken a class from Rosanne in Berkeley and also sort adopted me a surrogate mom (yes, there were a few who did that—actually at one point, I said I needed a shirt saying “this is a Jewish mom” and someone else said that there was no need for the shirt; it just kind of radiated out from me), is a lesbian (or queer, or bisexual, or whatever—wasn’t clear and I didn’t particularly care). In the course of a conversation about the Jewish politics of dress (what does it mean when a man wears a kippah on the street in the States? In
Finally, Thursday—the exam went well, I think. I had worked hard on the grammar so that was okay (I hope!). The reading wasn’t too bad. However, I found myself reaching for words in the essay, so I have no idea how that went. In any case, I don’t care. The Ulpan did precisely what I wanted it to and perhaps more. It provided a structure for the language. The emphasis on grammar and the clear exercises helped me organize the knowledge I had. While some people found the explanations difficult, I did not—maybe, too, because I had seen the material before. So it was really affirmed my ability to read and to write. And, by the end, I was more or less comfortable speaking when I need to (and the last few days—see upcoming post—I have needed to!).
Not much else to say—the last event of the Ulpan, a picnic; a trip to the mall (first and last) to buy a sleeping sheet for traveling; a visit to an Irish pub in
Next morning, up early, did my laundry and packed and headed out the door for Tzfat. I don’t remember if I mentioned in a previous post that I’d be traveling with someone from the Ulpan who is, like me, hanging around