Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chief Rabbi's and Stir-Fries and the latest from The Negev!

So it's Motze Shabbat (end of Shabbat), and I've just rummaged through our papers only to find that the horrible forrest fires in the North still aren't under control. 6 years ago I attended Haifa Universities Summer Ulpan for the first time, and I have a least one friend from that time that ended up staying in Haifa. I hope she is OK. Except for the fires, I've lived through the below action points as of late.

* Spent Shabbes with my Rabbi, eating his wife's good food and drinking his booze and playin with his kids and discussing Torah. As it's Chanukah leave most of the family was gathered as his older sons had vacation from their yeshivot. We had a good time and it's striking how easy it is in this country to combine a frum life with a modern one. I'm amazed that so few people here choose not to.

* Wednesday last week I was invited to my FB friend Shaul Boaz who I've never met IRL before, as he and his girlfriend was taking the opportunity to celebrate their Eruzim (engagement) on the first day of Chanukah. So I went to Jerusalem. It was a very nice crowd that gathered but I felt a bit out of it as all his friends were 25 year old Americans. It made me feel a bit old, as well as badly anti-social. There is something with college-age middle class Americans that I can't deal with. They seem to be competing in the art of saying the most amount of words per minute. They are usually very likable, I just never know what to say in their company. I did however have a couple of interesting conversations with the guitar guy (all parties have one and I used to be one myself) and with a Sofer who was actually older than me and who left almost immediately.

Jerusalem, if I forget thee....

Chanukiya outside Jaffa Gate
* When I left the following morning I was reminded of how much I hate the "Nytorget" kind of neighborhoods (Nytorget is a park in the southern island of Stockholm), as Shalev Boaz lives in one. Basically the kind of neighborhood where people hang around in over-designed coffee shops, drive BMW's and eat "brunches" on Sunday mornings, while still believing themselves to be artists and intellectuals and keeping track of the coolest famous people while dissing American Idol fans. Arty Farty luxury Bohemians who hasn't thought a single interesting thought in ten years but still managing to fool themselves they are avant-guard, curtesy of their bookshelves being full with heavy coffee-table books full with black-and-white photos. Basically the kind of people who show up when the gentrification of the neighborhood is a known fact. To be clear, it's not really the people I dislike, but the fake and false environments that follow in their footsteps. In Hebrew it's called "falsanit". No such in Beer Sheva. Not by a long shot. Baruch Hashem.

Woke up in a.....

counterpart to.....

Nytorget in Stockholm....

Très Chique.......Meh.
* The Benji Mystery has been solved. Or rather everyones is now agreed that there wasn't much of a mystery to begin with. Benji is in South Africa fair and square, hanging out with his kids and having as far as can be determined a good time.

* The Vibe has moved in to the apartment. This truly likable man spends his time in Ulpan, or in the apartment listening to The Matrix Soundtracj at high volume in the speakers he has bought for his cellphone. He is still having conversations with his spleen, and even with the intestines of a few clients. But his vibes are good and he is a great guy. Last week I had dinner with him at Beer Shevas best kosher stir-fry place.

The Vibe enjoying his toothpick, post stir-fry orgy.

* Speaking of Americans - how do they stand moving here? The slightest hint of state involvment in the US is greeted with hysterical claims of the immediate advent of Communism. But do believe this – Israel is the DDR. If you change address, phone number or scratch your head, you can expect some non-name bureaucrat to show up and demand the you identify yourself and sign a bunch of papers. Last week one of them called on my cell phone and demanded that I give her my ID Card number. WTF?? I was seriously tempted to ask her : "If you DO have my cell phone number, how can you conceivably NOT HAVE MY ID NUMBER DUMBASS???". ID's are - after all - issued by the the state shouldn't call me and ask for it. But it's Israel, no point in arguing, so I gave it to her...

* What's in a name? After long deliberation I decided to change my name to my Jewish name, fair and square, instead of going with one of the compromises I've been considering. I am who and what I am in any case, a son, a brother, a friend. I'm not my name. And if I'm gonna live here, I might as well have one that Israelis will know how to spell.

* The Kotel (or as the xstians horribly call it, the "Wailing wall"). So I was in Jerusalem, but I didn't really have the energy to go to the Kotel. In any case I ended up in The Old City anyway, and so I went down there to say Aravit. The place was almost empty except for a minyan in the one corner. I started davening, and I noticed the Shaliach Shibour (The Prayer Leader), was using a microphone. After a while I looked to him, and Lo and Behold! - the dude leading the prayer was the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar! I managed to snap a few (bad) photos when he and his bodyguards left. An amazing experience no doubt.

Rav Shlomo Amar leaving after...

...leading Aravit prayers by the Kotel.
* Went to Meah Shearim, the Charedi (Ultra-Orthodox) Neighborhood in Jerusalem. Managed to get hold of a Machzor set and Sephardic woollen Arba Kanfot (it's slowly getting colder here, at least by night).

Wall Newspapers in Meah Shearim
Well, that's about it, except that Ulpan ended with a finals exam where the Russians cheated themselves blue in the face, to what end I have no idea. Everyone is talking about the draught which is the worst since 1941, along with the warmest November since said month. We dearly. dearly need rain, and not just to put out the fires in the North.

Leaving the din of Ir HaKodesh...

And going home to the Negev....seated on the entrance stair 
after a short shouting match who didn't want to let me on
the over packed bus. 

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