Rucheli's Writings

Readings, Ramblings, and Religious Rantings

Back to the Bunker October 10, 2010

Filed under: My Blog,Photos,Travel — rucheli @ 1:38 am
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In a country constantly war torn and subjugated to terrorism and political strife, finding a stretch of white powder sand, turquoise waters, and clear blue skies is literally heaven on earth. The air was heavy with humidity of the surging ocean waves rolling onto the stretching shore; breathing it in was a taste of home. Close your eyes. The worries of the world melt away with the sound of water pouring over and over itself as the tide fades out to sea. Gorgeous colored seashells are scattered over the pristine sand that is so fine that it’s as if you’re digging your toes into a cloud. The beach is almost empty. No boys running around and ruining the calm of this paradise, just beautiful women enjoying the beautiful weather on one of the most beautiful beaches on earth…

This Tuesday was the last day before we went back to classes and it also happened to be Sabrina’s birthday… sounds like a perfect day for the beach! We all loaded onto the Ashdod bus and just over an hour later we found ourselves back at the bunker. And this time I brought my camera! Enjoy the pictures below!

Ashdod Beach

The Infamous "Beach Bunker" in Ashdod

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Five Beautiful Reasons the Israeli Government Should Never Give Up the Golan Heights October 8, 2010

Filed under: My Blog,Photos,Travel — rucheli @ 4:16 pm
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Nahal Yehudiya - Golan Heights, Israel

Due to my personal principles as an engineer, I usually refrain from involving myself in social sciences. Especially politics. However, this year I’ve found myself in a place and a situation where abstaining from politics is impossible. In a country constantly pummeled for its stubbornness in the “peace process”, one is forced to take a stance. My stance is for Israel.

As a country, we’ve already given up HALF of our land from the 1967 war in efforts to bring about peace. It didn’t help at all. So now we’re in peace talks again and Netanyahu keeps talking about giving up more land, including the area called the Golan Heights. This chunk of land in the northern tip of Israel has constantly been argued over, and has been subjugated to attacks and power struggles since the dawn of time. But the fact is that it’s OUR land, and we can’t give it up. And for all of you wondering what the big deal is, I have one suggestion. Go there.

I spent two days in the Yehudiya area of the Golan Heights. It’s about as deep into the Golan as you can go, and it’s 150% worth the trip. We caught a bus to Tiberias Sunday afternoon and after exploring the Sea of Galilee for a few hours, we took another 45 minute bus ride up to Nahal Yehudiya Campgrounds. We got there just in time for sunset and spent the next 24 hours basking in G-d’s glory. The views were amazing, the sunset was heavenly, the hike was one of the most challenging I’ve been on but was by far the most rewarding. Tumbling waterfalls, gorgeous cliffs, deserted village ruins, and a chilly swim across a natural pool all contributed to the best day of my time is Israel thus far. The result was a newfound appreciation for this area of Israel that we are constantly challenged over, and the realization that we can never, ever, give this land up. That being said, I am please two present five incredibly beautiful reasons that the Israeli government should continue defending our right to the Golan Heights:

Favorites from Yehudiah

5) It's the same land our Fathers inherited thousands of years ago.(View of Yehudiya Valley from the top of the hike)

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Park-Hopping

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 3:20 pm
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One of the great things about Israel is that parks are everywhere. In fact as a country, Israel has one of the highest number of parks per capita in the world. And we at Mayanot like to enjoy these parks as frequently as possible 🙂

After Simchat Torah in Israel was over, everyone outside of the country of Israel still had 2 days of the holiday left. If you’re wondering why that is, I recommend this article from AskMoses.com which explains it pretty well.  In any case, because the rest of the world was still celebrating Simchat Torah, Israel didn’t want to miss out on the fun… thus the concept of Hakafot Shniot was born. Literally meaning “second circles”, it’s a celebration of the fact that everyone else is still celebrating. The only difference is that since the holiday itself is already over, we get to use live music, microphones, special lighting, and huge open expanses filled with food vendors and popcorn machines. These Hakafot Shniot celebrations happen all over Israel, with the larger ones in Kfar Chabad, Bnei Brak, Chevron, and here in Jerusalem.

Photo by RealJerusalemStreets

While the original plan was to take a bus to Chevron, none of us felt like rushing to the bus station and traveling after the chag was over. Conveniently, the biggest Hakafot Shniot was at Gan HaPa’amon (Bell Park) just down the street from school (15 minute walk). I had no idea it was going on, but while I was at dinner with a few of the other girls, I got a call from Menucha saying that we should head over after we ate. So after we paid our tab at Tal Bagel, we walked over and found a huge crowd of people flooding the entire park.

We grabbed a spot on a hill to the left of the stage and sat back and enjoyed the show. The live bands were great, the dancing rabbis were entertaining, the Head Rabbi of Israel was there and inspiring, and the company was the best ♥ What an amazing way to appreciate the fact that this was the best possible year to be in Israel during the chagim (holidays)! While the rest of the world had three different weekends where they couldn’t work or clean or drive or use technology for three days in a row, we had one, and the rest of the time we had breaks between the holiday and Shabbat. Perfect!

Lunch Time!

Lunch Time!

Another unrelated but equally enjoyable parks experience was the picnic in the park that a group of us decided to have last week. Another park down the street (this one only 10 minutes away) is situated on this plateau above the surrounding area and has beautiful trees and grass and landscaping… something that takes a lot of effort in most of Israel. So we decided one day during lunch that we were going to drop by the local market, pack some lunch food, and enjoy the amazing weather we’ve had recently. The result was 2 hours of worry-free relaxing and food with some of our favorite girls.

It really is incredible how a country in the middle of the desert can turn itself into such an oasis. Then again, anything is possible.

 

The Torah’s Feet October 6, 2010

Filed under: Poetry — rucheli @ 1:56 am
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silent shuls but sukkahs filled
one last wave of the species as
Hoshanah Rabbah brings closure
to the homes Hashem willed

parchment rolled
inanimate scrolls
ink and hide hidden
under velvet and gold

men start circling
wooden doors open
dancing and drumming
and circles of singing

whats this? are you seeing?
the parchment moves
up and down and around and around
the Torah starts living

once a year it happens
hide and ink come to life
and Jews forget strife
for the sake of these actions

these yidden all meet
at the shul to dance and
sing and give for once
the Torah some feet

 

Finding Freedom October 5, 2010

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 10:42 pm
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The Mayanot girls were lucky enough on Sept. 28th to have Rabbi Shmuley Boteach join us for breakfast and Chassidus in the sukkah. If you’ve never heard of “America’s Rabbi”, he has authored several books including the best-seller Kosher Sex and he is also the host of the TV show “Shalom in the Home” on TLC. He is a world-famous lecturer / life coach on all subjects having to do with getting over the broken relationships of your life, whether with yourself, your parents, your spouse, your children, or G-d. He also happens to be one of the most compelling speakers I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.

Last week Rabbi Boteach stopped by with his wife and daughters to take a look at the school. His daughter is joining us here as of tomorrow, so they got the full tour. Afterwards he sat down and said a “quick 30 second thought” for about 30 minutes having to do with the root of all fears… the fear of being insignificant. It really hit home for a lot of us, and it’s true. Every true fear (not talking about phobias of spiders, etc.) that we have in life has to do with the fear of being insignificant. The fear of death, the fear of being alone, the fear of being poor; all of them stem from the insecurity generated by the fear of being insignificant.

The result of this fear is that we spend our entire lives trying to do something to prove our significance to the world. We work hard for good grades so that we can get into the best college to get the best degree to make the most money so that we can “be someone” in the financial world. We sacrifice our family lives in order to work extra hours for that promotion so that we can “be someone” in the company. We give up our own needs and wants to fulfill the needs and wants of others so that we can “be someone” that the people around us want us to be. We spend so much time doing things that we never actually get to just BE ourselves.

Something incredible happened when Rabbi Boteach was telling us all of this… a revelation of sorts about why I’m here. I worked in high school to get good grades and good SAT scores so that I could get a scholarship to go to college. I went to college on this prestigious scholarship and worked hard to get good internships. I held countless leadership positions in countless extracurricular activities to boost my resume. I worked my butt off to get a great job when I graduated so that I could do something with my life.

The time came to graduate, and the job offer that I worked so hard to get came my way. And I turned it down.

People called me crazy. My family worried that I did so much to get to where I was and then I just let the offer sit there; they worried I would never use my degree. My friends couldn’t believe that I was turning down the kind of opportunity that we had all had our eyes set on for the last five years of our lives… longer, 18 years of education! But I said “no thanks, I’m going to Israel.”

Maybe I’m crazy.

Or maybe I’m tired of doing, doing, doing.

So I bought a one way ticket to the other side of the world, to a place where I don’t have to DO anything. Here, I can just BE. I can be myself, I can return to my essential soul, to my natural state of existence. Yes, I’m still learning. Yes, I’m still “doing” things. But the reasons for my actions have changed entirely, because for once I’m not trying to do something in order to do something else in order to get something that society sees as a quintessential part of being significant. Instead, I just get to live.

I think that for the first time, I’ve finally realized what it means to be free.

 

Farbrengen Time! October 2, 2010

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 9:34 pm
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Photo by Chana Miriam

There is a phenomenon in the Chabad world. It’s called a “Farbrengen”. What is this foreign sounding word? It’s Yiddish for a gathering, specifically a Chassidic gathering. It is characterized by a long table, lots of people, good (or not so good) snacks, deep mind-blowing conversations, songs and niggunim (wordless melodies), and almost always enough alcohol for each person to have their own bottle.

Let me explain the last part of that sentence… Yes, Orthodox Jews drink alcohol. No, it is absolutely nothing like a college party. The purpose of a farbrengen, according to the Rebbe, is  “to encourage each other in Torah learning, the fulfillment of the Mitzvoh with Hiddur [beauty], and the spreading of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general.” Alcohol is sometimes used as a way to open up people who are generally more reserved in a way that encourages participation in the intensely deep and often personally involving conversations. Getting drunk is never encouraged, and one should always be in control of their mental faculties.

This particular farbrengen was at Rivka Marga’s house… She is a teacher/administrator at the Mayanot Women’s Program, as well as the wife of Rabbi Gestetner, who is the Executive Director of all of Mayanot and the Rabbi at Mayanot Shul. They’re pretty much an awesome family. During Sukkot they had a farbrengen for the guys on Sunday night and for us girls on Tuesday night. Rivka Marga kicked all the boys out of the house so we could have the Sukkah to ourselves. This allowed for deeper conversations and of course, open singing.

Singing is one of those things that we don’t get to do so often since guys aren’t allowed to hear a woman sing unless it’s their wife. And since we are so kind, we try to make that easy for them. The only exception is if there is a large group of girls singing and they can’t see the group or identify which voice is coming from whom. I know this concept can be a little difficult to process, so if you have any questions about it, feel free to post in the comments below and I’ll provide more information. Moving on, singing was a go for the night, and it was a blast. We all sang the night away, and shared “Dvar Torah”s [lit. word of Torah] about Sukkot and what we’ve learned in classes our from the families we’ve been eating our meals with. It was a great “bonding time” with the girls, and hopefully the first of many, many more farbrengens with Mayanot to come! ♥

 

Sukkot in Nachlaot October 1, 2010

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 4:01 am

Several times this Sukkot I found myself in the Nachlaot area of Jerusalem. If you’ve never heard of Nachlaot, it is one of the Carlebach-style (i.e. somewhat hippy-ish) neighborhoods here in town. It’s characterized by narrow & winding alleys, long flowing skirts, bright colors, and the constant presence of music. The people in Nachlaot are usually on the more observant side of the spectrum, but in a very different way than (for example) Chabad. They are intensely spiritual people, very focused on connecting to G-d, and they often use music or meditation to do so. They are also very artistic people, obviously with music, but also with jewelry, weaving, painting, and random arts & crafts. In other words, if you’re looking to get away from “the grind”, Nachlaot is a great place to visit without traveling too far.

During Sukkot, there is live music, festivals, fairs, and good times to be had all over the country of Israel. And while there were times that we felt like getting out of the city for an adventure, there are also those times where a 30 minute walk sounds much more appealing. Sunday night after a long day at the Kotel for Birkat Kohanim, there was a group of us that walked over to the center of Nachlaot in search of some live music, and we found it! Festival Regalim (regalim means festivals) in Nachlaot happens twice a year for Pesach and Sukkot. It’s an all-day live music festival and craft fair, with people from all different walks of life passing by throughout the day.

When we got to the festival it was already well underway, with a crowd of people around the stage and many more strolling the sides of the square where all of the artists had their tables set up. We ran into a few other girls that we know from seminary or Shabbos meals, and found a place to watch from. The music was lively, and the crowd was just as entertaining to watch, if not more so. The characters in Nachlaot are a show themselves. My personal favorite was the 20-something year old guy wearing a bright purple shirt with tzitzit on the outside instead of underneath. He was clearly inebriated, but he was dancing around like crazy and made a point to give every single guy at the entire festival a hug at some point during the evening. Watching everyone’s reactions was like having our own personal soap opera. After a few hours there, we headed into town for a little while to meet up with some friends visiting from the states before the walk home. It was a successful night 🙂

The next day there were a few huge music festivals going on all over Israel. The two major ones were in Chevron and in Moshav Modiin. I heard that they were going to be amazing, but after dealing with the thousands and thousands of people at the Kotel the day before, I just couldn’t bring myself to be around huge crowds for the second day in a row. I’m really not so much of a people person and crowds tend to be very emotionally and physically taxing for me, so I decided to stay local while everyone got their fix of pushing and shoving.

Hanging Out Instead, I walked back to Nachlaot. There is a group called the Jerusalem Soul Center (JSC) that is based out of Nachlaot and the Old City. The Rabbi who runs it, Ezra Amichai, recently married a friend of mine from the states (Carly, now Malka Chana). I decided it was time that I paid Carly a visit and met this husband of hers. Since JSC was having a Sukkot event on Monday evening, it seemed like the perfect time!

It was a great decision. Their sukkah is on the porch of their gorgeous house, overlooking Jerusalem. It’s decorated with rugs and drapes, filled with pillows and cushions. A table is in the middle of the room with a hookah on it. It’s lit by candles and filled with 20 of the most random and laid-back people you’ll ever meet. Throw in a few guitars for some live music and Carly’s great food, and it was one of the most relaxing nights I’ve had in a long, long time. Needless to say, I’ll be returning to JSC soon (IYH) and bringing friends!

Moral of the story is: if you’re in Jerusalem and you need a place to chill out for a day, the 30 minute walk is 100% worth it. Thanks to all of those in Nachlaot for making Sukkot a week to remember 🙂