Saturday, November 18, 2006

Out and About

As the winter slowly begins to descend over the hills of Jerusalem and the temperature starts to drop, so to does the general feeling towards Kiryat Moriah. Thankfully this week I was given several opportunities to get away from it, for various periods of times. On Monday we went to Tel Aviv to visit the Independence Hall and the Palmach Museum. I had been to both on tour and neither had changed within two years. Unsurprising really considering the sole exhibit of Independce Hall is the Hall itself, where the Declaration of Independece was signed, it had been made to look like how it was when the Declaration was signed almost 60 years ago. We were in the hall for abour half an hour where we were given a short, and thorougly uninformative talk (we had all before, ad nauseam). After the halls the group split into two groups one going to an area of Tel Aviv called Neve Tzedek and the other going to the Palmach Museum, having done both on tour I opted for the latter, the reasons for which will become immediately apparent.

The Palmach was the elite unit of the Haganah (the pre-state army). The museum is one of those new fangled museums which does away with the idea of interesting artefacts and documents and relies totally on films. The group of around thirty is required to go through a series of rooms where there are a series of films which narrate the story of a unit of the Palmach. I suppose the museum was so good because whilst it was very informative there were lots of great special effects and bomb sounds which appealed to the young boy that still lingers within me.

The following day during Ivrit we went to the Zoo. Yes, I too found it very difficult to work out the link between the two, but it seemed that the Ivrit department thought that a visit to the Zoo would help us with out Hebrew, I told you it was bad. In order to fulfil the Ivrit part of the trip we were given a questionare in Hebrew to fill in as we went around the park. Needless to say it was completely ignored, and once again the spirit of the young child came through as I found myself immersed in the mating and fighting rituals of the squirrel monkey, just how big a pelicans beak is (and its big) and the elephant doing its business right in front of you. I failed to mention that the Zoo was a biblical one, which either means only the animals found in Israel during the time of the bible, or every animal on Noah's Ark which, last time I checked, was all of them.

This shabbas I had my first weekend in a while away from the Kiriyat, although not Jerusalem. The reason being, I attended the Tribe Shabbaton. Tribe is the youth wing of the United Synagogue, and a Shabbaton is where you stay somewhere for Shabbas and you do lots of Shabbasy things, thus making it (in a rather round about way) a Shabbaton. Around 200 people attended the Shabbaton, which took place in the Jerusalem Gate Hotel. The participants mainly included Yeshiva Boys, Sem Girls (Yeshiva is a school for pure Jewish learning for boys, a Seminary in the same for girls) and those on programs like FZY and Bnei Akiva. I was part of a contigency of around 11 or 12 from the Machon, and two from Noam. Owing to the make up of those in attendance, for the first time since I had been here I was exposed to some very religious (and occasionally right wing) views, which was refreshing Machon being a very left wing place. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, especially I was able to see friends who were on different programs in Israel and also old youth leaders, one of whom I hadn't seen since he made aliyah four years ago.

The program of the Shabbaton was jam-packed, when we weren't eating we were praying and when we weren't praying we were attending talks on various issues from torah, jewish identity, trading soldiers and the gay parade. One talk I want to give particular attention to was given by a Dayan (judge) of the London Beth Din (Rabbinic Court), who was good enough to share his 'wisdom' with those present throughout the course of the weekend. With his high-standing he was given the chance to speak several times, and on the whole he spoke on the same message. His message was make the most of the opportunities you have been given by your parents and use them to your full advantage. No problems so far. He then made the seemingly logical step that this meant spending every moment of your waking life in the study of torah, and that apparently is a fulfilling use of your gap year. Admittedly he did praise those on other programs and those volunteering, but it was quite clear in his eyes studying Torah was the most noble pursuit a Jewish teenager could engage in. His words angered me, what infurited me came not from the Dayan but from one of the organisers of the event. I should note I have this story second hand. My friend mentioned to one of the leaders of Tribe Israel that one of the weekly Tribe Shior (torah talks), was going to be happening at the same time as a rally for Darfur, to which she replied "I actually think that going to the Shior and learning torah will be more helpful to those in Darfur than going to the rally." I pray she was not being serious, and was just trying to sell the talk, nethertheless it was still the icing on the cake, and the idea that studying torah can do any good for anyone other than yourself became even more far-fetched. I apologise, I feel that that mini-rant has marred my opinions of the weekend. I should reiterate that I really enjoyed the weekend, although that could have been because the food was so nice and plentiful.

Other things I have done this week included on Thursday going to see the new Bond movie Casino Royale. The film itself was very good, Daniel Craig is excellent as Bond (even though he may not look the part) and the film is well worth seeing, it is however a somewhat unconventional Bond film. If you have ever been to a cinema, they have something that I don't think they have anywhere else in the world, a break in the middle of the film, and I mean in the middle of the film. It does not matter if a character is mid-sentence, if the film reaches its half way point the film will stop. Luckily the stopping place was rather appropriate this time round, but that didn't stop my surprise when half way through the film the screen went blank.

The same point was also raised on Saturday night when I went to my first Israeli Comedy Gig. I had been rather scared that my year in Israel would mean a year without comprehensible stand-up comedy, an integral part of my life, and I was dreading a year without live comedy. So imagine my joy when I was told that some of the group leaving the Tribe weekend after Shabbas had gone out were going to a comedy gig. The venue was in the unlikely location of the basement of the Orthodox Union, the comedians however were very funny. The theme of the night was being an olim (someone who has made aliyah (someone who has immigrated to Israel)), and I left in a very good and fulfilled mood, a lovely end to the week.


P.S. Please check back very soon because I have a feeling I will be posting my most interesting entry to date within the next couple of days.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another great blog. We saw the Bond Saturday night and believe it or not half way through the screen went blank, and the only sound seemed to be a local mini cab company. Normal screen resumed after about 30 secs. Nice Bond girl, must have gone down well in Israel, looks Jewish??

5:18 AM  

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