Alright, so my first Monday here! Second full day of school/classes.
was a farbregen (celebration) for a girl who has a birthday last night and they
started around 9pm laughing and singing and eating and finished around
3am. I went to bed early, as I do not like long jet-lags. I could hear
the other girls singing outside my window as I fell asleep though and it
was so beautiful.
It has been chilly enough at night here with a good wind that I have a
light comforter I sleep with. During the day we just keep the windows
open for most of the classes; only one room in part of the newer
building actually has A/C. But, for the large part it is not needed. The highs are only barely 90sF, and the lows hit the lower 70sF. There is usually a breeze coming in from the mountains around Galilee which also keeps the city cooler. I did see a lot of stars coming in a night when I arrived. Seems not much light pollution here. I hope to have a chance to really star-gaze later on.
Food has been good; keeping Kosher and vegetarian is really not at all a
problem here and there is plenty for me to eat. We have hard boiled
eggs , tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, cereal, lebni (like a thick sour
yoghurt) and oatmeal that we can choose from for our breakfasts. Lunch
is usually some kind of salad or plates of mixed vegetables, there is
usually a fish based dish to the side (today was tuna) and something
that was pickled. Cucumbers, beets, cabbage... I am trying to try one
new food or dish per day. Dinners are filling and there is a large
salad, some meat dish, fresh bread from a bakery down the street, eggs
or a cooked bean dish, and there is never enough hummus. (Truth. Never enough hummus. It is just too good.) Some days we
also have a soup dish. Usually carrot based. Dessert has been copious:
fresh melons and other local fruits- delicious beyond mention (grapes, mangoes, plums, pears...). There are
some Israeli sweets, candies. A sweet-bread of some kind (like a softer ruggeleh), salted baked
crunchy pita... so much good food. The wine as well is just amazing. It
is all made in Israel, some of it close by to Tzfat (in the Golan region), some closer to the
South. There are pomegranates growing next door, and the garden here has
squash and melons growing, grapes, and we have at least 3 fruiting
olive trees on property. I have been told two of the olive trees in the front are at LEAST 2000 years old, as dated by an expert. The trunks are more than a metre in dia. and have an ancient look to them, while still growing leaves and fruiting.
Classes today covered our weekly Parsha; which is two this week
actually. My Hebrew lessons are continuing and I'm starting to recognize
a few short words outside of just the Aleph-bet. Since I am in the
'lower' classes (for people who have not studied much before, or have
not gone to a Seminary before, or do not speak/read Hebrew fluently) I had lessons this morning on Halachic
laws- today we went over some of the most common issues that come up on
Shabbos that are not halal (proper). Next week we will go over cooking rules (called Kashrut). We
had some history of Israel today too, mostly discussing the 15th Century
BCE and the movement of the Western European Jews from the expulsion
during the Inquisition (both of Spain and Portugal) migrating to Israel. Some of the lessons next
week will also focus on the local geography. We are to study the
geography of Israel from the Torah days and the current. These are real
tough classes; I am taking pages and pages of notes for each class. I
have one notebook but I will likely need two or three more before I
complete my term here. I am not upset about this; I really enjoy a challenge mentally and these classes so far seem like they will challenge, in a good way.
Since it is the Yardheitz (death anniversary) of a Tzaddik (Rabbi or very respect person) today we have a
field trip up to his grave at a local cemetery, and dinner in his honour
tonight. I think my student/tutor class this afternoon will be on the
Tanya, unless I can convince someone to study Hebrew again with me. We have more Tanya classes per week than any others, so I am guessing there will be a lot of material to cover, or else it is dense. Either way, I am excited and hope that it becomes something I enjoy.
I am sleeping well, eating well, and wake up early enough to have plenty
of hot water for my shower. (I have a small WC in-suite with a built in
shower.) Laundry however, is 10NIS per load, which means for now I am
doing most of my gentle washing in a bucket in my bathroom. I am ok with
this; Boy Scout Camp was much "rougher"!
I know it is hot back in Phx, but I am so
glad I am not there! I will try not to rub it in too much.
library is large and wonderful; both in English and Hebrew. I still need
to try a little harder to socialize with the other girls. I am still
bad at that and most of the time just don't know what to say or
contribute. But, I still have time to work on this. There are a couple girls who seem to be making an effort to get to know me, so I am going to try to open up and gain some friends.
From the roof I can see so much of the city, and the architecture is a
mixture of hundreds of years old buildings and homes, and new additions
from this century. We ended this past Shabbos up on the roof, watching the sun set behind the mountains. I need to try and find the time to come back up and take photos of this to share; it is a breathtaking sight, truly. The stained glass here is incredible and I hope I
have time to find and ask a tour guide locally about it. The doors here,
many of them are painted blue, which has significance, but I am not
sure yet of what. I can ask though, and I plan to. I think it is related in some way to Kaballah. There are a few main paved roads, but most of it is
made of small cobble-stoned streets or stairs; plenty of room for a
bicycle, people walking, or a horse, but not so much cars. I rarely hear
traffic even though we are on a paved street in front. However, I find it amusing that drivers here communicate by honking. Often and loudly, but since there is such little traffic it does not disturb me that much.
The "Artist's" section of town was fun to wander through. We did a walking tour through it on Friday before Shabbos. Some of the
things are just breathtaking; there are watercolours here, silversmiths,
jewellers, and many local craftsmen. I have seen such beautiful carved
or smithied meuzzehs I want to take them all home! I will fill in on this past (first) Shabbos experience soon.
I am trying hard to focus on myself, and personal growth here and not just mope about missing Wash, or the kitties, or my "safety" and known life back home. Which is hard, but needed. Mentally and rationally I know I need this to grow, to adapt, to let myself find the "me" that exists without him, but emotionally, I do wish he was around so I could share this with him, tell him about the buildings here, show off the architecture and what I am learning in classes- everything one would share with their best friend and partner. So, it is a hard adjustment to know I lack that. But, I am working on it.
Love and Peace from the Holy Land!