good morning, scary by 13:00

ulpan is going well, I spent probably four or five hours yesterday writing out flashcards and looking through them and this morning I really felt like everything was coming together in class. It was the last actual day of class till next month. Tomorrow is an optional day (I'm going) and then the test in the afternoon, which I don't have any reason to take.
One guy Ghassan came in a bit late and the teacher asked him if he had brought his Oud. someone was supposed to call him and ask him to bring it for the party. He hadn't brought it.
At the break I talked to him and asked him about music. He spoke english only slightly better than I speak Arabic, so good practice at Hebrew it was. Using mostly Hebrew I learned that he's played the Oud for eight years, studies law at Al-Quds University, and unless I go out of town this weekend we'll probably get together and play at his place.
After the break the class took a small trip down through Ben-Yehuda and to the Ticho House. I wasn't really paying attention to what the Ticho House was about, but it had a nice garden where we sat and ate some food. We disturbed an older Russian woman, who then joined in our small party, and had such a good time that she invited anyone who wanted to come (me and Ghassan it turns out) on a tour of the Russian complex and the Department of Agriculture headquarters.
It was very pretty, an absolutely lovely garden. Hebrew was the language of choice, and I with the least facility of the three, but I think I managed alright. Spread amongst the trees and flowers were old pieces of oil presses from various periods, giant wheels, large screw devices, water screws, a wheat threshing floor* and a very deep well.

After saying goodbye to both the Russian and to Ghassan I walked back toward Ben-Yehuda.
At Benj's building four men were standing in the stairwell, two of them arguing in Hebrew. As I passed them on the way up it turned into three against one with two restraining the unlucky one an the third smacking him on the side of his head. The argument got louder, the only words I could make out were "I did nothing." I hurried into the ICAHD office and told Benj and Joe that someone was getting jumped in the hallway. They ran to intervene and stopped at the edge of the stair well, Joe ran back and grabbed a camera. I, feeling rattled and wanting to hide walked slowly from the office and stopped behind the crowd of maybe 7 people from the building. The three men took the one away, Joe followed them with the camera.

It was a plainclothes arrest. Three police officers, one man seized. Benj told me that they were yelling at him about selling drugs, he protesting innocence. The restrained him, searched him, found nothing, and dragged him away.
It is definitely the scariest thing I've seen in Israel, one of the scariest things I've been witness to in my life.

Joe said: At least our presence probably minimized the violence.

*not for oil, for wheat

(no subject)

I jumped a month or two into the next higher level ulpan (intensive hebrew course) today. I was a bit lost, but I definitely think I'll learn more in the limited time I'm here. One of the people, a recent Jewish immigrant from Delaware, walked with me after class a ways and warned me that most of the class was Palestinian. I must have let my influences show because she then kept insisting that that wasn't a bad thing, just something she thought I should know. the whole incident made me a bit uncomfortable, and made me wonder whether she wore orange. possibly an unworthy thought, unity is important for me to work towards as well.

I went to the Museum on the Seam yesterday with Benj Brian and Joe. All in all pretty interesting, with some amazing animations by some czech artists and filmmakers. For a coexistence museum basically straddling the green line there was a distinct lack of Arabic. When we commented on that to the curator she said it was a money issue. Not that many Palestinians visited the museum so it wasn't really worth paying to translate the exhibit information. Like the great snake eating it's own tail. If you don't incorporate Arabic, Arabic speakers and readers won't come to your museum, If they don't come to your museum there is no reason to translate into Arabic.

Benj called me and I walked out to meet him at his friend Aziz's apartment. A short walk on the map was a bit longer than I thought it would be. It was unfamiliar territory and I guess I was jumpy, as I walked past a garbage niche some stray cats put up a ruckus and a surge of adrenaline pumped into my system. It was good conversation and very good pizza, and a hot tip on a book that is good for learning palestinian dialect. After a bit Benj and I said goodbye and walked to find Rebecca's hotel to pay a visit. the Harvard Yale trip she was on apparently had a curfew, but we could visit the place. Long story short, the short walk to Ramat Rachel was long, punctuated by a cute little old man giving us directions and telling us not to walk because of all the Arabs in the (empty) streets. We walked and encountered no Arabs, unless you call hippie looking american tourists as Arabs.
Still we should have taken his advice and the bus, it was a ways, but worth seeing Rebecca, and I ran into Talya whom I hadn't seen since we were in the same Ramah Seminar group.

Hopefully I will learn how to post pictures (techies care to offer advice?) now that I've transferred some to computer.

(no subject)

Shabbat was really relaxing, friday night I ran into a kid I went to camp ramah canada with Jordan Roth. He's working at the Jerusalem Post and hopefully we'll get together and hang out this summer. The whole household was together at last for shabbat dinner and hanukat habayit, Me, Benj, Brian, and Val, Renata who is only here for a week, Joe who just needed a place to stay until the Hebrew U dorms open on tuesday, and Eli and Mike who we found near Machane Yehuda and needed a place for shabbat (birthright had finished and neither of them had left).

We sat down to dinner at 9:30 and I quickly realized what had gone wrong with my soup. When Benj put salt on the challah at hamotzi we at it and it tasted sour! Val and Renata had gotten sour salt from the shuk, not table salt or sea salt! The vinegar taste in the soup wasn't because oranges here are more acidic, but because the salt I was adding to cut the sourness was the sourness. It was an alright soup anyway, but had it been actual salt it would have been really good.

The stuffed tomatoes and peppers on the other hand were very good, I think I will add them to my repertoire when I get back to the states.

A few more people (all friends of benj) came over a bit later for an oneg, and we sat and ate watermellon and fruit and the best rugelach in Israel, Marzipan rugelach.
That night a few of us took a long walk through an almost silent Jerusalem. with only the occasional car on the main roads and silence on the byways, it was probably the most beautiful face of the city I've seen.

I didn't get to Kedem in the morning, and so dont know if Josh Ladon was there or not. But lunch was a nice affair of salads and fruit and leftover casserole.
I finished the Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. It was good, I usually only plow through books like that if they are trashy pulp scifi or fantasy. But it had a compelling story and interesting characters, and good language.

After havdalah we walked about on Emek Refa'im and I got to sign with Val's friend Miriam, who had taken about three months of ASL at Oberlin. It was nice, I hadn't expected to get any ASL practice this summer.

I finally got in contact with Beit Ha'am, I go in tomorrow at 8 to sit in on a class.
I went in to talk to Rabbis for Human Rights today with Benj and Eli, who now that he's in israel without a program is looking to save the world, but doesn't know how. RHR are looking for volunteers, especially males, to go and teach english to a beduin tribe, the Jahalin. Which sounded really exiting and seems like a good opportunity to improve my arabic.
So once I fit into the Ulpan schedule (mornings till 12:30) I may try to help out with that.

(no subject)

9 is 'ayin, a pharyngeal voiced fricative!

We woke up a lot later on friday than we intended. Eli called and asked if we were taking the 10:30 bus. We weren't both awake till 11:30 we missed the 1:30 bus to Be'er Sheva and caught the 2:20, we missed the 3:30 bus in Be'er Sheva and caught the 4:20. We got to the Ben Gurion Institute for Desert Studies at around 5:30, managing to leave my sleepingbag on the bus.
Eli and Mia were nowhere to be found. We hung out at a building with triangles and pyramids in, and put on sunscreen. Lucky for us we had neither cell phone, nor cell phone number for Eli. Neither did we have Eli.
After asking around for the residence of the new american girl we found Mia's appartment, but not Mia, we left a note.
It was looking more and more like we would be on our own in Be'er Sheva for shabbat.

Wait! what if we were to knock on an appartment door and ask to use the internet! we can look up Eli's number!
so we did,
but Benj didn't have Eli's number in his mail.

not a problem, call a friend, get the number from a friend, use that phone, now call Eli!

What?!? you've already left? but just fifteen minutes ago! we'll be right down.

its remarkable how much more pep in the step when the going includes a plan.

We started down the snake path and hitched a ride to the bottom.

Hot Damn, the negev is breathtaking, I Love That Desert.

Huge elevation differences, Vast expanses of yellow sand, Lots of sun, Lots of hills to climb, Dunes at the foot of mountains that look soft as pillows but are made of rock.

We hiked a bit, found the campsite and set to work finding firewood.
I climbed the nearest highest hill and looked about. I was right where I wanted to be.

we sang a little bit, my niggun and also Rosh Hodesh Sivan, because we had missed it on wednesday.
built a fire with twigs toilet paper and matches.
passed around the food we'd brought, hummus pita beans cheese tomato.

I noticed something moving in the gloom, a small fox had been attracted by our food smells.
we pack up quickly, left our bags away from where we were sleeping, and settled down.

The stars in the desert are the clearest, the night in the desert is cold, the morning in the desert involves dew.

I didn't sleep particularly well, I was too cold, and kept waking up to the russling of the fox trying to get in the backpacks. At one point I lay awake looking at the stars for maybe an hour.

The last time I woke up I could see the outline of dawn, and decided to not try sleeping any longer.

My rising woke benj but not the other two and we climbed the hill I had topped the previous evening.

Davening Shacharit on that hill in that desert with that sunrise was the best davening i've had in a long long time.
We watched the fox trot past along the path, much cuter in the daylight. We finished aleinu in time for the sun to crest the hills and wake Mia and Eli.

It turned out to be the same hike I had done four years ago on Ramah Seminar, up a tall cliff, up a tall mountain on the tall cliff, down the other side. It is amazing how quickly you can change altitude in the Negev.

Coming down the mountain landed us in an oasis. Ein Ekev, a gorgeous swimming hole lush with vegetation in the middle of the arid region. we got there as a small crowd was just leaving and swam about for a half hour till lunch, when we ate and went to camp out durring the hottest hours of the day.
We had beaten the rush, a horde of kids and parents showed up halfway through our siesta. It was hot and noisy, but nice in the shade.
We shared coffee with some other hikers, gathered our things, filled one water bottle, were warned against drinking it, and set out.
I had aquired a nice sunburn about the shoulders.

The way back was glorious. We stopped and sat and talked of gender on the edge of a cliff looking down into a canyon, resting on rocks that looked to be made from melted marshmellow.

We decided to take a trail up rather than the paved serpentine road, and set of near nightfall to the east of the road.
The green trail it turns out does not go up the cliff, rather it goes into a cull desac with some things that look at first glance to be paths, including features such as ladders and ropes, but end rather abruptly in steep and crumbly limestone cliffs.

We walked back to the serpentine trail in the late dusk and made it up under the star light.

That shower was one of the nicest I've ever taken. we forced fluids and salts and ate a wonderful meal, and woke up early to catch the bus back to Jerusalem. Because after all, benj had a NGO to go work for.


What a funny little airline. The plane and all it's accoutremonts were hand me downs from Island Air, to which I was tipped off by the sign in the bathroom that read approximately: Smoking in this lavatory is prohibited by Icelandic Law Section 11.34c Paragraph 3b and is punishable by a fine of up to 5,000 euro

The food was pretty good, or it would have been. Benj and I are both vegetarian, we had ordered vegetarian meals, Benj had called a day in advance to confirm the vegetarian meals, and we had asked at the luggage check in to make sure there were meals for us. All these things aparently were not enough to ensure meals on the flight. When dinner was served we were handed turkey sandwiches, and when benj requested the vegetarian meal he was told (in hebrew) that these things had to be reserved in andvance and even though he was cute he couldn't just ask for one in mid flight. They finally found one extra vegetarian sandwich, which we split, and managed to be pretty good, but sort of a bummer of a first meal experience.

We arrived at Ben Gurion airport. Very big, Benj told me that if the West bank weren't counted as part of Israel BGairport would span one third the width of the country at that point.
We hopped a sherut (group cap, not to be confused with shirutim: toilet) and got dropped off in Israel at our landlord's place. Snacked on crackers and lebane and zahatar, looked over the lease, paid the down payment (these are things I was present for, not things I did) and got to our apartment in time for it to be dark. After some cursory moving in we walked out to Emek Refa'im, a heavily anglo section south of Jerusalem proper, and bought some pizza sababa.

Slept the sleep of the exhausted, and went out walking in the city. It is all covered in yellowish white "Jerusalem" stone, city ordinace from what I hear. We went to Machane Yehuda, the shuk in the new city. A marvelous place, huge amounts of good cheap produce, lots of people, we were forbidden to go when I was on Ramah Seminar in 2001. After buying some and walking some we made our way to the trendy pedestrian mall in central Jerusalem: Rehov Ben Yehuda, another place verbotten during Seminar. There we said hello at Benj's office, went to an internet cafe to let the friends and family know we were alive, and ate the first felafel of the trip. Huge and good, and while a bit pricy by the standards of some neighborhoods in Israel still only cost about 3 USDollars.

When we got back Benj called his friend Jenny just in time for her to invite us to her going away party. Saw some people I had met briefly ate some food, took some crayons,and ran into Dave's brother Josh who gave us his take on the minyanim in the area.

Thursday night, exhausted though we were we went to Boogie, the best dance party in the world. This is the party after which the many Barefoot Boogies in the US were designed. Awesome hippie and club dance music from all over (though mostly middle east russia and good ol america) lots of people having a good time, lots and lots of dancing. We got there at 10, by 12:30 I was almost falling down with exhaustion. And my legs hurt.
We got back and went to sleep around one thirty.


I got into JFK without incident at around 12:30, and ran into one Ari Atkinson on the airtrain. he had been in Rochester for the Israeli Dance weekend and had caught the same flight I had. I felt like a genuine bumkin fumbling with the metro card machines and my bags and my wallet, but with a bit of help from Ari I managed all right. Jesse caught up with me at Jamaica station and guided me back to his appartment. very cosy.

After a bit of a set we headed into Manhattan to meet up with his friends and attend the Guerilla Dance Party that his friend had organized. The gist was: bring some friends, bring a boombox, dance in the park, hopefully other people will join you. It was a blast. After dancing in the park we walked to one of the piers on the hudson, probably the nicest part of the city I've seen, there was a cool cool breeze and lots of water around. Danced for a bit more till my brother and I caught a train uptown to have dinner with our dad's cousin Herman.

The Candle Cafe is probably the nicest vegan restaurant I've ever been to. A little bit pricy for my upstate new york sensibilities, but really good food. Herman had a Ravioli dish that was very good, but not a patch on the grilled tofu dishes that Jesse and I had. Jesse's was over nettle and greens with corn and an nice aioli, mine was with a chipotle sauce and came with half an avocado stuffed with beans and rice and a mango salsa.

Monday I went out and had lunch with Sara and Phillip to a very pleasant little cafe in brooklyn. Sort of a middle eastern/israeli breakfast place with a surprizingly beautiful little patio in the back. I had a moroccan egg dish with tomatoes and peppers called Shakshouka and they had lots of sandwitches with tomato and avocado. My eggs came with some of the best Humus I've ever had. It was nice to see Sara and Phillip and was the last I got out of the appartment that day, sleep and movie and video games were the rest.

I went in and saw Jesse's workplace the next morning and then lounged in Washington Square Park reading Margaret Atwood's Robber Bride. We hiked over to the smallest cheapest Indian food joint I've ever seen. Panjabi didn't have the absolute best food, but astonishingly good and plentiful for the price. After lunch I caught a bus up to the Met and powerwalked through the modern and european wings stoping to take in a really nice Ernst exhibition. I was tooling around the strange musical instruments exhibit when Benj call, he was free and I went to meet him.

We went back to washington sqare (laden with all his bags) and sat and talked to Hannah for about an hour, good to see that girl, we'd have had more time if I had a better idea of travel time in NYC, I underestimated it nearly every run.
Then we caught the train back to Jesse's appartment to pick up my bags said goodbye to the brother and went off to JFK.

week before israel

I'm in a local semi professional improv troupe. So they pay us, but maybe enough for a tank of gas a month. We had shows Friday and Saturday and by the end of the saturday show I was legally 21 years of age. Most of the troupe went out to a bizzare bar named Bulwinkle's after the shows. It's been best described as walking into a David Lynch film. Oozing faded glory, no beer on tap, the owner, Betty Meyers, plays the piano and sings pop songs from before 1960. There are lyrics sheets and you can play along, as I did on mandolin. I had a great time.
Due to some imprudent mixtures of alchohol I woke up the next day with what Michael reffered to as the 21st birthday flu. Pretty useless for the most part, but all better by the next day.

I tried to pack as small as possible, and as a result brought:
clothes for 5 days
including one set nicer clothes
black kung fu slippers so I don't have to wear sneakers with nicer clothes
compact conga

that's about all.

then waiting, and reading pulp fantasy novels, David Eddings and the like.

I went out with Megan and we exchanged birthday presents at best buy, she got a portable DVD player with 7" screen, I got a nice digital camera with 512Mb flash memory card.
Last time I traveled I was great at taking pictures and did a miserable job getting them developed. Hopefully I can upload some here.

today, jetblue down to JFK to see the brother, more later today
  • Current Mood
    going to Israel

the grand visier

So I talked to my adviser, the good news is, I will basically have the background of a masters student in theoretical linguistics, especially true if I pursue an honors thesis next year.
The bad news is, there is no market for linguistics PhDs. None. Well some, and maybe it will be better by the time I have such a degree, but it don't look good. He himself was hired at the university for four consecutive one year contracts before he got on a tenure track. Some of his friends had similar situations, but at different institutions each year. So I'd have to be really good.
  • Current Mood
    sore sore