It’s been a while since I’ve written, and a lot has happened. This post will be a quick play-by-play of the last several weeks, which will hopefully get me on track to discuss in greater depth the many exciting moments coming up over the next few months.
Here’s the rundown (I’ll go into more detail on some of these below):
I survived finals. I even did pretty well.
My friend Chris (a good friend from CPE last summer, and also a close friend of Becky’s- she was the source of our roommate shidduch) came to visit.
My Eema came to visit.
I went to Dublin.
I went to Hebron.
I went to Bethlehem twice- once with Chris and Becky and a couple of other friends for fun, and once with Encounter- this time as a facilitator.
I traveled around the Jerusalem area, taking my visitors to various holy and other notable sites.
I went up North (to Zichron Yaakov, Tzfat, and the Kinneret).
At the end of all of this, I started a new semester of school, and began to reconnect with the world that I’ve ignored for the past month.
Many of these travel experiences happened when Chris came to visit. She arrived the day before I finished my finals so I scrambled to finish my papers (can’t say it was pretty, but as Becky told me, “done is better than good”) in order to join in the fun. We had a couple of days to explore Tel Aviv and Jerusalem before heading into a very relaxing, rewarding, and ridiculously fun Shabbat.
Saturday night the two of us left for Dublin. I had a real vacation! Chris had studied abroad in Ireland and has a lot of connections there so she had various friends who fed us, gave us a place to sleep, and provided excellent entertainment. We explored downtown Dublin, toured the Guinness Brewery, shopped til we dropped, went out on the town, drove into the country (between driving on the left and the standard car, there was no way I was driving in Ireland- Chris did a rockstar job), saw Newgrange (a 5000 year-old megalithic tomb), hung out in the town of Drogheda, and stopped by an Irish Dance competition where Chris’ mom happened to be. I came back to Israel refreshed, relaxed, and motivated to keep on having fun.
It was hard to not to notice that Chris and I were each hosting the other in our own religious/national/spiritual homelands. Not only did each of us get to see a new place, but we got to experience for ourselves why it was special to the other. This elevated the trip to a whole new level for me, and I was deeply grateful for the opportunity.
The tail-end of Chris’ visit involved a day in Hebron (important and intense, and not in the fun category), another great Shabbat, a touristy day in Bethlehem, and some more time exploring the beautiful and holy places in Jerusalem. The day she left was when Eema (my mother) came. We had an incredible visit, spending time in Tel Aviv, going up north for a few days, and just relaxing in my apartment. More importantly, I REALLY needed a dose of home and I got it. I made sure to get plenty of hugs, and I’m just now finishing up all of the Trader Joe’s chocolate she brought.
Sadly, also over this break, my cousin Marty passed away. Known to the wider community as Rabbi Martin Menachem Gordon, Marty was an important fixture of the time I have spent in Jerusalem. I first spent time with him here over my free weekend on my 8th grade class trip to Israel in 2000, and have seen him on almost every trip since them. When I spent the year at Hebrew University, he (and his wife Bilha) lived less than a ten-minute walk from my dorm, so I visited them frequently. Unfortunately, Marty’s health over the last few months made visits challenging this year, and I wasn’t able to spend the time I would have like with him. He was a true champion of modern Jewish living (he was able to see his last book published in January on this subject), and deeply valued the challenge and intellectual effort required to adapt Judaism to contemporary times. I’ve deeply admired his hashkafa (way of viewing the world), and am dedicating the rest of my learning this year to honoring his memory. Eema and I were able to visit Marty’s family (our extended network of cousins here in Israel) during shiva, and I am grateful to have had that time.
At the end of my first week of school, I went on Encounter for the second time, this time from the perspective of a facilitator. It was incredibly powerful to experience something that is now familiar through an entirely different lens. I had heard some of the speakers before, yet somehow heard completely new things from them this time. The new speakers were, depending on who they were, moving, challenging, and provocative. The weather prevented us from doing much touring (it snowed in Jerusalem and Bethlehem!), but enabled us to spend more time sitting and processing through our experiences. Through enabling intense conversation and facilitating processing in my small group, I ended up coming away from the trip with a deeper personal experience than I could have even hoped to expect. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this again in my time here, but I’ll be thinking about this trip for a long time.
So this is it, I’m officially well into the second half of the year. No more “I just got here” excuses. Time to take the rest of the year by the horns and leave nothing on the field. Okay, enough with the motivational cliches- I just really want to make the most of my remaining time here. Stay tuned for a report on Purim (starting Wednesday night for the world, and Thursday night for Jerusalem), and the transition into Passover. Time to stop writing now because I need to go figure out a Purim costume. Don’t worry, I’ll share photos.