Rucheli's Writings

Readings, Ramblings, and Religious Rantings

Urban Exploration: Lifta October 18, 2010

Filed under: My Blog,Photos,Travel — rucheli @ 3:58 am
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Urban Exploration, or UrbEx, is defined (in Wikipedia) as “the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas or industrial facilities.” Well today I had the opportunity to join the ranks of photographers and adventure hungry people that partake in such an odd hobby. And it was amazing.

Last night my friend Talia and I were discussing how we really needed to go on a photo-hunt sometime soon, and I had heard of a place named Lifta that was supposed to be easy to get to and amazing to explore. So we were thinking about skipping our Sunday afternoon class at some point in the next few weeks to head out for a few hours… Lo and behold, this morning our Rosh Yeshiva came in and told us that our afternoon teacher was not feeling well (refuah shleimah) and that we wouldn’t be having class at all between 1:30pm and 7:30pm… In Judaism we call that Hashgacha Pratis, or Divine Providence. Perfect 🙂

Right after classes and a quick lunch, Talia and I caught the bus to Tachana Merkazit (the central bus station). From there we walked across the street, behind a sketchy gas station and down a dirt path until we got to a spiral bridge that led to another dirt path… Within 10 minutes we had reached the edge of Lifta, an abandoned Arab settlement that was evacuated during the 1948 War for Independence. With the exception of some hippy-ish squatters that have settled into a few of the buildings that are more intact, the entire town remains in a state of ruin, untouched since the war. There are about a hundred stone houses and buildings that are scattered across the mountain side. Some are easy to reach and some take a little more creativity, but as a whole it was a great first exploration trip. It had a little bit of everything… crazy people, buildings with the floors blown clear out by rockets, houses filled with trash from the local squatters, a mikvah, water tunnels, stone paths overgrown by nature; you name it, it was there somewhere.

Talia and I explored for a few hours until it started to get dark and our reason got the best of us. Although we saw a lot of the area, we will definitely be taking another trip in the coming weeks. And next time we’ll have better flashlights so we can see where those tunnels really lead to… Until then, here are some photos of our trip:

 

Best of Lifta

Overlooking Lifta

 

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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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Ra’anana – A Taste of Home September 26, 2010

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 4:53 pm
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Ahuza St. - Central Ra'anana

One of the great things about Mayanot is that they set us up with host families for Shabbat and holidays. You can choose to stay in Jerusalem or travel around Israel a bit to visit some of the families that volunteer to have seminary girls crash their houses for a weekend. I spent this Shabbos in a cute little place called Ra’anana, and it was a taste of home.

The main road is Ahuza Street, lined with palm trees and pretty landscaping – a rare sight in Israel. The houses are more modern and more spread out than most places in Israel, and it’s a quiet neighborhood. Another great thing is that there aren’t very many cats. This may sound like an odd statement, but in Israel there is a serious cat problem. When the British ruled this area, they brought over cats from England to take care of the rats… but now the cats are Israel’s rats and they are everywhere. While they still exist in Ra’anana, they are there in much smaller doses and it’s nice.

Another amazing thing about Ra’anana  is the huge percentage of immigrants. There are just as many people that speak English as there are native Israelis. Granted, they all have accents… Canadian, British, South African, or Australian… but it’s English none-the-less.

I went to two different shuls there, a small Chabad shul and a gorgeous Sepharad shul named Kehillat Shivtei Yisrael. The Chabad shul was mostly Israeli, but Shivtei Yisrael was completely Anglo. It was beautiful and the men in the shul must have taken choir classes because they all had amazing voices.

It was a very quiet, relaxing weekend with a very sweet family. The father went to Mayanot Men’s Program 13 years ago, so he knows the system. He and his wife have 4 kids, and the girls were very attached to me after treating me like a jungle gym for 3 hours straight. It reminded me of my Rabbi’s kids ♥ Ra’anana was a great break from the craziness and on-top-of-each-other living of Jerusalem, and was a much appreciated taste of home (humidity included). Yet another successful Shabbos 🙂

 

Bunker or Beach? September 23, 2010

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 7:41 pm
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The Beach Bunker

There are some things in Israel that you just won’t find anywhere else in the world… One of them is what I’ve started calling a “beach bunker.” This unique Israeli innovation is used to allow Orthodox Jews (like myself) the fun and sun of going to the beach while still maintaining a level of modesty (tznius) not usually possible in such an environment.

How do we manage such a thing? When walking up to the Ashdod “separate beach” on Tuesday, I thought we were walking up to an oceanfront military base. Metal walls, concrete gate houses, and a lookout tower in the middle of the “base” all contribute to this odd scenery. But when you are finally able to decipher the complicated timetable posted on the outside walls of when girls are allowed in and when guys are allowed in, you walk inside to find that there are no armed soldiers or personnel vehicles… There’s just sand.

As someone born and raised on the beach (South Florida style), having to restrain myself from going so often because of modesty was hard. But really when you think about it, most of the time when you go to the beach, there is someone of the opposite gender staring awkwardly at you and making you feel uncomfortable, so it’s not even just an Orthodox Jewish thing. Separate beaches are a way to eliminate that awkwardness and not worry about, “I wish I didn’t have such a big breakfast this morning” because who are you trying to impress anyway?

Of course, it isn’t idiot-proof. (I’m using that terminology on purpose.) There are always local Israelis that like to play the game of “How long can I sneak into a separate beach for before I get kicked out?” It’s very disheartening when you are in the ocean in something you would never let a guy see you in, and all of the sudden, three Israeli guys walk up and park themselves on the beach right between you and your towel. The result is that you are trapped in the ocean with the jellyfish and those guys are playing handball on the beach. You may ask why the lifeguards don’t make them leave… interestingly enough, it’s a catch 22. The lifeguards are men, so for modesty reasons, they stay in their tower on the other side of the separate beach from the swim area unless in the case of an emergency. So they’re stuck there, you’re stuck in the water, and the Israelis are still playing handball. Jerks.

Of course eventually the lifeguards say “forget it” and walk over, and the second they start heading our way, the Israelis pack up and leave. We were trying to give them the benefit of the doubt that they really just didn’t know, but clearly that knew exactly what they were doing.

Funny guys, realllll funny.

 

Stars, Stairs, and Soulmates September 22, 2010

Filed under: My Blog,Photos — rucheli @ 3:31 pm
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I’ve realized that I really enjoy using alliterations in my titles… Hope you like them as much as I do 🙂 And I also enjoying tweaking the blog design of my page, but I think that I’ve found one that I really like, so it should stay like this for a while at least.

Anyway, since my last post was mostly about the holiday of Yom Kippur itself rather that our experiences in Northern Israel, I figured that another post was in order. Like I said earlier, Northern Israel is similar to central California, with vineyards, mountains, rivers, forests, and amazing views. The city of Tzfat is no exception.

Tzfat is a city with some amazing history to it, with some of the most famous kabbalists of all time setting up shop there over the years. It also is a city of some amazing sights. The place is thousands of years old and built into the side of a mountain that overlooks most of Israel. Because of that, there was a citadel that was built on the top of the mountain. It was built by the Crusaders and has been used in every major war for reconnaissance. Since Roman times, the city of Tzfat has been fought over and whoever controlled it has controlled the entire Northern Israel/Galilee/Golan Heights area. Now the top of the mountain where the citadel once stood has been turned into a beautiful park with incredible overlooks and a monument at the top for the fallen soldiers of Israel’s Independence War. The ruins of the Crusader’s citadel is still there and we had the pleasure of exploring the area by the light of the moon the night after Yom Kippur ended. When we reached the peak of the mountain where the monument stands, what did we find? An Orthodox Rabbi with a bunch of secular Israelis, all playing guitar and singing under the moonlight while passing LChaims around the circle… Only in Tzfat 🙂

Citadel Park

Entrance to Citadel Park

Lonely Chair

Lonely Chair at the Overlook

Independence War Memorial

Independence War Memorial

All over Tzfat you’ll also see ruins from the various wars: houses that were never rebuilt, bullet holes in the sides of walls, and demolished buildings turned into local hangouts. (more…)

 

Day of Atonement, Day of Ascent

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 12:55 pm
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I’m going to attempt to catch up on the missing blog posts from the last few days, we’ll see what happens. I think we left off just before Yom Kippur, so here we go.

Last Friday morning I got on a bus from Jerusalem to Tzfat with Menucha, Talia, Chana, and Amy. It was a 3.5 hour bus ride, which in Israel is a very long time since the entire country is the size of Rhode Island. It took so long because Tzfat (or Zefat or Safed) is almost as far north as you can go before hitting Lebanon or Syria.

Map of Israel

Tzfat is in the Top Right Corner

The ride wasn’t bad though because the scenery was great. Israel is one of those places where you are a few hours from everything… Beaches, mountains, deserts, living history, modern skyscrapers, snorkeling, surfing, camel riding, whitewater kayaking, you name it. Northern Israel in particular looks like central California. Green mountains, vineyards, flourishing farmlands, large bodies of water, it’s just gorgeous.

We got into Tzfat at about 1:30pm and found our way to Ascent, a hostel and retreat center in Tzfat. Ascent is a great place to go for a cheap night of sleep, meals, holiday programming, and great classes with local Chabad shluchim (emissaries). For Yom Kippur they were completely full, with about a hundred of us staying and participating in the holiday programming. We had called and made reservations for 4 people…. and there were 5 of us. And since I was the last one to join on the bandwagon, I was left without a place to sleep. So when we got there we asked if there were any beds that had opened up. No. Any cots or extra mattresses? No. Any extra pillows and blankets so I could sleep on the floor? NO. Great… (more…)