Archive for the Israel Category

I Almost Saw This Girl Get Killed

Posted in Israel, Me on June 18, 2009 by frumpunk

A few shabbosim ago while walking to our hosts on Friday night I almost saw this girl get killed. Yes, I’m trying to hook you in with the first sentence. Keep reading.

It was around a forty minute walk from yeshiva and led us through Geula and past the massive Brisker Shul, ‘The Castle’ as my friend called it. One thing that cracked me up during the walk was passing a different chassidisher shul just as they were leaving from davening. The shul was set up on a small hill, with stairs leading to it winding back and forth. With hundreds of identically dressed people going back and forth down shallow steps I had flashbacks to the classic game Lemmings. I’m not proud of it, but from my vantage point on the street it looked as though I should be able to click on them and start assigning them to start climbing or digging their way out of there.

As we neared our hosts we reached a roundabout with hundreds of young families and their twelve hundred children each milling about on the road. Suddenly we heard the wail of an ambulance get closer and closer. People started to move onto the sidewalk, but at a much slower rate than I would have expected. As the ambulance wailed into the roundabout, a young mother was pulling her double stroller onto the sidewalk when her little girl fell back onto the road, right in front of the ambulance.

One of my friends played hero and ran between the toddler and the ambulance with his hands outstretched like Moshe at a battle. The ambulance stopped short and in the midst of this surreal scene, I was most shocked by how the mother took her time picking her girl up and carrying her onto the sidewalk. I would have expected motherly instincts to provoke a rescue reminiscent of the Flash after going through a carton of Red Bull, but she seemed to lackadaisically pick the girl up, calmly walk back onto the sidewalk and only then let the ambulance back on it’s own lifesaving mission.

When we got to our hosts, I noticed it was a neighborhood with shabbos gates blocking cars. I asked what happens if someone needs an ambulance. Noone seemed to know.

On the way back we stopped off at the Brisker Castle so my friend could use the bathroom. While waiting for him, I counted how many people left without washing their hands. And we were offered bananas. I wondered if the Rebbe gets the bananas to ensure that his chassidim eat fruit at least once a week. And the rest is for another post.

Bugging Out

Posted in Israel, Me, Rants on June 9, 2009 by frumpunk
It’s never quiet here. It’s summer and it’s hot so we sleep with the window open. Last night at around 3am I hear a loudspeaker announcing something. I couldn’t tell if it was hebrew or arabic but I couldn’t decide what the tradeoff should be. Do I close the window for quiet or keep it open for the breeze? I’ve decided Israel is a second world country, by the way. First world technology, third world culture. Maybe thats a bit harsh, but the Israeli mentality definitely grates on me a little.
And the insects. I don’t like bugs. I’m not scared of bugs, I’m just protective of my body and when I see something that looks like it could sample my leg while I’m sleeping, I step on it. Israel must be a haven for ectomologists, because the sheer variety of creepy crawlies could make one shiver with glee. On shabbos we had ants crawling out of both sinks. This is doubly annoying, because it means you can’t wash your hands without someone shouting at you that you’re going to hell for killing on shabbos. Plus these little suckers had wings. WINGS. All of them, not just the queen. And last night I went to take a shower to find out they’d migrated and I was exposing myself to thousands of little friends. I hope none of them were female, or I might have been over an issur of yichud, not to mention indecency. I took a close look, but it’s so hard to tell, and I didn’t feel like trying to flip them upside down. 
I did the honorable thing of  course, and aimed the shower nozzle at the walls, giving them both the waterpark ride of their lives and a viking funeral. 

 

It’s never quiet here. It’s summer and it’s hot so we sleep with the window open. Last night at around 3am I hear a loudspeaker announcing something. I couldn’t tell if it was Hebrew or Arabic but I couldn’t decide what the trade-off should be. Do I close the window for quiet or keep it open for the breeze? I’ve decided Israel is a second world country, by the way. First world technology, third world culture. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but the Israeli mentality definitely grates on me a little.

And the insects. I don’t like bugs. I’m not scared of bugs, I’m just protective of my body and when I see something that looks like it could sample my leg while I’m sleeping, I step on it. Israel must be a haven for ectomologists, because the sheer variety of creepy crawlies could make one shiver with glee. On shabbos we had ants crawling out of both sinks. This is doubly annoying, because it means you can’t wash your hands without someone shouting at you that you’re going to hell for killing on shabbos. Plus these little suckers had wings. WINGS. All of them, not just the queen. And last night I went to take a shower to find out they’d migrated and I was exposing myself to thousands of little friends. I hope none of them were female, or I might have been over an issur of yichud, not to mention indecency. I took a close look, but it’s so hard to tell, and I didn’t feel like trying to flip them upside down. 

I did the honorable thing of  course, and aimed the shower nozzle at the walls, giving them both the waterpark ride of their lives and a viking funeral.

Yeshiva Food

Posted in Food, Funny?, Israel, Me on May 26, 2009 by frumpunk

I forgot what it was like to subsist entirely on yeshiva food. I thought at my age, Mystery Meat and Unidentified Stew were things of the past. Unfortunately I forgot just what yeshiva food is like sometimes. I was ill for the past two days, apparently throwing up the contents of my stomach from the past few months. When I wasn’t hugging the porcelain I was alternating between sweating and being freezing. At one point I seriously considered the possibility that I’d caught swine flu from the yeshiva food. Most people can take it, but they’ve been here long enough that they’re hardened and acclimated to it, like the way a championship boxer thinks nothing of several blows to the skull. I spent forty shek on a bunch of pink tablets that the guy at the pharmacy assured me would make me feel better. Or maybe he was saying it’ll help me grow a third nipple. My Hebrew is terrible and he didn’t speak English, so either one is a possibility. Plus, Israeli medicine… it could be for my stomach with the extra nipple being a side effect. If I could read ivrit I’d probably realize it has “additional nipple” listed as a possible effect, right after “anal leakage”.

Now for my generic Israel complaint. Why can’t you buy juice? I have a Pepsi Max addiction, and I thought I’d hit the perfect drink (tastes great, no calories) until this girl who seems to have this ridiculous ability to make me want to make her happy asked me to healthen (no, not “heathen”) myself up a bit. I told her you can’t drink the tap water here (I have, but it tastes terrible) and bottled water isn’t cheaper than soda. So we agreed on juice, except that the only juices I could find were basically soda or syrup anyway. No normal not-from-concentrate apple juice or anything. I found the prigat apple nectar, but I’ve had it and it’s not the juice I’m looking for. I did find juice later, at the other end of the supermarket. The prigat organic freshly squeezed orange juice. For twenty shek. No thanks. That would buy me four Pepsi Max’s with change left over. I think the prigat company is in cahoots with the sun to make me thirsty all the time. And they’ve paid her to make me feel guilty for loading my body up with sugar. It’s a massive conspiracy against me, I tell ya.

Israeli Buildings Are Too Conformist

Posted in Israel, Me on May 17, 2009 by frumpunk

I’d always suspected it, but it wasn’t until I learned how to drive that it became official that I had zero sense of direction. North, south, east, west, maps, grids, visual layouts, I’m lost with all of them. I can only find my way around by recognizing landmarks such as parks, buildings and sometimes, a certain car if it’s always parked there. Before I go somewhere I need to head back home or somewhere familiar so I can figure out which way to go. I can’t visualize streets and their layouts to know shortcuts or which general direction to head in. 

So Israel is horrible for me. What’s with the rule that every building has to look the same? What might happen if they allowed you to live somewhere that’s not made of yellow stone? And it’s not just the colors, but the architecture, every building is designed exactly the same. I have absolutely nothing to go by to figure out where I am. I get the general idea behind the rule, I agree that putting a steel and glass highrise in the Old City might ruin the atmosphere a bit, but why even in places as far away as Ramat Beit Shemesh does everything have to look the same? I know it sounds like hyperbole, but I’m literally not ready to try and go anywhere on my own yet. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

Speaking of Ramat Beit Shemesh, what’s with the graffitti in the little parks? As far as I can tell, the entire population consists of young black hat families and their hyper little kids. Who exactly is going into the park to spraypaint dollar signs on the walls? And why dollar signs? A sign of the recession? The only way to get close to a dollar in Israel these days is to paint it yourself? Also, the air in Ramat Beit Shemesh smells like marijuana. I’m serious, I asked someone else if they smelled anything. They sniffed the air and said “weed”.

More to come, basically whenever I get on the internet. Sorry for the lack of polish on these posts, I’m not used to being timed. 🙂

So I’m in Israel

Posted in Israel, Me on May 15, 2009 by frumpunk

Have you ever looked up at the ceiling of the arrivals terminal in Ben-Guerion? It’s littered with helium balloons, just stuck there. My flight got in early and I landed in the middle of the night, so I had to hang around for a few hours just so I wouldn’t be showing up at the dorms at 5am, waking people up and raising a chorus of “…uh, who’re you?”. It wasn’t bad, if you like people watching. I saw the crowds come and wait for their loved ones, helium balloons in hand, shriek when they arrived and then I watched the balloons float towards the ceiling on their way out. I guess because it’s fun to get a balloon, but do you really want to have to carry it around all day? I was wondering what they do at the end of the day. Do they have a guy with a long stick whose job it is to get them down, or do they just hang around up there until they deflate?

I’ve got lots more to write but I’m running out of internet time and the owner is starting to glare at me. I didn’t expect it to be so hard to find an internet cafe here. If anyone knows of any good ones, please let me know. This post is from a borrowed laptop and wifi.

Have a good shabbos.

Heading To Izzyland

Posted in Israel, Me on May 13, 2009 by frumpunk

So it’s summer, school is over and I’ve just finished paying off every debt I owed. I’m heading to Israel for the summer, because I always figure the best thing to do when you stop owing money is spend more money so you can continue the cycle. I’ll be in Yeshiva through July, and I will be blogging from internet cafes several times a week.

This was really a weird decision for me. I’m 24 now and I haven’t been properly learning for four years. I figured I could do with a summer semester of inspiration. Hope it won’t be difficult to get back into it.

Sorry for the short post, I’m leaving to the airport the second I hit ‘Publish’.

Stay tuned.

You Could Have It So Much Better

Posted in Girls, Israel, Rants, Sem, Yeshiva on October 29, 2008 by frumpunk

As a further sign I’m getting older, my sister is currently looking into seminaries for next year. (A different topic, but seriously, I remember dunking her in the laundry basket to make her giggle, and now she’s off to sem!?) The one she’s currently almost decided on happens to be the sister school to the Yeshiva I went to, so naturally I checked out the brochures she had to see how they differ.

Now guys are naturally a bit rougher so I was expecting their creature comforts to be a bit more flowered up, but seriously, this place sounds like a hotel: ” The apartments are pleasant and cozy, heated and air-conditioned” Air-conditioned!? I used to freeze a two liter bottle of Coke and put it under my pillow just to try and feel some semblance of cool. We had a fan that we hung from the ceiling using duct-tape. And they get bloody air-conditioning!?

“With American-style mattresses, living room suites, and full kitchen facilities (stove top, microwave, toaster oven, sandwich maker and hot water urn).” We had three American mattresses in yeshiva, and they were well fought over, with seniority or coolness usually managing to clinch them. You know what the rest of us had? Foam. Foam covered in some Israeli sandpaper sheets. If you were really lucky, you might get a second foam to make it a bit more comfortable. Living room suites? The closest we got to a living room suite was throwing some pillows on someones bed, ten guys squeezing on it so we could all watch a downloaded movie on someones laptop. Kitchen facilities? Maybe if you bought them yourself. Even then you might not be allowed to keep them (fire hazard).

“Well balanced nutritious meals are provided; vegetarian and other special needs can be met by prior arrangement”. We had nutritious meals too. Chicken-based substances are nutritious, right? Basically, we had whatever came out of a big bag, or the cook could easily make. Forget nutritious, it was of questionable edibility. And I can’t imagine the response to requesting special needs meals. Actually, I can. Laughter?

I could go on about creature comforts, but that would take all day, and I’m anxious to move on. Recreation. They have a choice of extra-curricular activities, including Art, Choir, Kickboxing, Aerobics, Pilates, Karate, Dancing, Choir (yes, they listed it twice), Challah Baking, Scrap-booking, Cake Decorating, Sewing, Jewelry making, and Basketball at an indoor gym. I can’t complain, we had activities too, like basketball a couple of times a week. And learning, you could always have extra-curricular learning. Basically, I’m jealous. How awesome would it have been to be able to do kickboxing in Yeshiva? This is why guys go to town at night, there’s nothing to do in Yeshiva to keep them there. And it annoys me how guys are all assumed to be sports and fitness obsessed. When we had reps scouting us in 12th grade we asked what amenities the Yeshivas offered, and almost all of them had nothing to offer but gym and a basketball court. I’m not exactly pushing for Yeshivas to offer challah making, but they could make an effort to take care of the guys as much as they do the girls.

I’ve also got the brochures accompaniment here, a course catalog. I’d like to review it but I can’t, its just too thick. They may not learn Gemorah, but to their benefit, as they get a course on almost everything else, in almost every area of interest. From hashgafa to history, from halachos in every practical area to more esoteric stuff. This is why girls tend to know more practical stuff than guys. They get the straight scoop. While Yeshvos are obsessed with plowing through mesechtos, one size fits all, the sems are offering the girls a choice of interests and they get to hear what to do while guys are pretty much trying to learn aramaic.

All I can say is, I’m going drag and enrolling in sem. Seems like a better post-high school experience.