Sports report.

Sports always appealed to me most when I could view it as a patriotic thing.

Go New York! Go U.S.!

Tonight could have been about Israel, but the fact is, the team is a lot of NBA rejects. Americans lost to the Russians tonight, not Israel.

(Seems I was the only one of my Israeli hang out tonight that thought so).

Well, sadly, we lost the Euro championships to the Russians.

But I’ve never cursed that much during a Superbowl…

So far, so smooth.

Everyone told me what to expect: problems, rudeness, long lines, maybe even crying.

“If your parents’ ketuba says ‘temple’ they will automatically assume they got married in a Reform process so they won’t accept it. My friend had to go through hell to prove her parents were married and she was Jewish.”

“If you want your rabbi from abroad to officiate the ceremony, well, expect a fight and then even when you think you’ve won, expect to lose… That’s what happened to my friends.”

“They’ll go on strike the week before your wedding and then – well – my friends almost couldn’t get married.”

My experience at the Rabbanut of Jerusalem wasn’t any of those things, at least not today. The process went smoothly, from one official to the next until we finished as much as we could in one day. Tomorrow I have to go to the Beit Din with two friends to prove that I am single. Fair enough.

Look, the Rabbanut of Israel (the modern version of a religious court system) has many flaws. It basically deals with marriage, divorce, conversion and a few other issues. All Jews must marry through the Rabbinate, so they have to get married a certain way, prone to issues they wouldn’t run into in, say, America. They ask if you are taking niddah classes – and you actually have to have a teacher sign you off, even if you only meet with her once. You have to prove your Judaism (even if you didn’t convert), and Reform, and even sometimes Conservative, is not enough. You also have to prove you are single.

Of course, you can’t marry a non-Jew under the Rabbanut. It also means you have to have a religious process for your wedding – chuppah and a rav officiating. You may not like that, and decide to go to Cyprus and get married without all the religious restrictions – you wouldn’t be alone. The people without a declared religion – without a Christian, Muslim or Jewish clergy marrying them – are forced to do it all the time [that is due to a lacking Israeli law that deals with this type of issue].

But you know what? For me, it works I think. It felt somehow familiar to go through those offices today, to sit in front of this rav with a classic beard, sitting behind a desk equipped only with a phone and a pen, in a dimly-lit room. I kind of felt like for an hour today, I was playing in biblical Israel, an Israelite girl going through just one process of life.

I kinda wish more of daily life was like that here. Maybe a little crazy, but part of me wonders if it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to let in more theology to the government. I realize the specifics are complicated; I realize that modern-day issues are not addressed really, but what if they were? What if everyone participated in a few more unique Jewish traditions?

Me-shirts.

You know that it’s an Anglo when the t-shirt says, “Israel.”

You know that it’s an Israeli when the t-shirt says, “Brazil.”

(And you know it’s my brother when the t-shirt says, “Rami Levi.”)

Remember what happens when you assume…

Taken from the JPost, words translated (April 24th) from Iranian President Ahmadinejad. I took the liberty of explaining some of his more – confusing- terms… Well, in any case, consider the links my commentary:

“The greatest problem from which humanity suffers today, the main problem facing the countries of the Middle East, is the continuation of the processes that took place during World War II … Let’s assume certain things did happen [in World War II]. Why should the people of the Middle East, for over 60 years, be paying for it under this pretext?

“… The same people who claim to have saved humanity, and to have prevented further massacre in World War II, and who avenged the victims of that war – why have they killed over 100,000 innocent people in 60 years… Why do they grieve over some of the victims only? Let’s assume that the [Holocaust] were true – who should be punished for this? This is a serious question facing contemporary humanity.

“… Although they claim that their hearts bleed for the Jews, during World War II and following it they caused the widespread phenomenon of anti-Judaism in two or three European countries. If you support the Jews – how do you explain this anti-Judaism? Why did you turn Europe in its entirety into a place unsafe for the Jews? Could there possibly be any other reason than creating unsafe conditions for the Jews, so that they would flee and find shelter in Palestine?

“Why do you think they are safe in Palestine? These people, who left their homelands as a result of your pressure and anti-Judaism, went to a country that did not belong to them. Different minorities from different countries came to live side by side, just like pieces of paper joined together with a paper clip. They live in an atmosphere of insecurity on a daily basis. I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again: Open the gates of this big prison. Allow these people to decide freely, and you will see that they will return to their homelands. Of course, you must first let go of your anti-Judaism. You must let go of it. We believe that just like the rest of mankind, the Jews have the right to live a life of prosperity, freedom, and security. Set them free, and let them return to their homelands.”

“How come whenever someone criticizes you or exposes your mistakes, you attack him through the media that you finance, and portray him as a criminal? Wrong! Ahmadinejad is a schoolteacher and a very peace-loving man. To this day, I have never harmed an ant in my life. Allah willing, I will never harm any living or inanimate object.”

Part of the whole story.

Someone asked me to tell them about my aliyah experience for a school project so I ended up writing out a lot of the whole story, the first time I ever did that. Here it is, for me to remember, and in case there are holes elsewhere that needed filling in.

I grew up in Staten Island, NY, in a fairly average family and we slowly became modern orthodox over time. I went to co-ed yeshiva schools and my high school was very Zionistic. The first time I went to Israel was for a Bat Mitzvah trip with my dad when I was 12; it was a proper two week tour. He gave me a choice between a big party or a trip to Israel and I chose the latter, probably because I was very influenced by the bibilical aspect of Israel that we learned in school. The trip left me confused because I was amazed with the biblical aspects of Israel but the modern country was kind of a letdown (I don’t know at 12 what I was expecting).

 

In high school I became passionately involved in AIPAC and lobbyed in Washington twice. I was also in the Israeli Awareness Commission and I think that is where it kind of started.

 

Then I got to Binghamton and wanted to be involved in Jewish action, and found out the Israel post was open in Hillel and there weren’t very many activities planned for Israel at all. I guess at that point I felt really strongly already (I don’t remember so much) and I took the post and along with some friends we revived the Israel Action Committee.

 

Over the four years of college, I made the committee a huge part of my ‘studies’ and I went to Israel 4 times, half of that was with organizations and half on my own.

Aliyah budded as a reality in 2002 when I was on Hillel’s Mission to Israel in the summer. It was only a ten day trip but something about it really hit me. It wasn’t like the facts or information was new to me, but something hit me and the idea started to grow. I went to England for a semester in 2003 and there it became clear that I could live outside the States, and in fact, it was preferable to do so… So I knew that I could do it, and I knew I wanted to do it, and while I was in England I “came out” to my parents, giving them a 2-year advanced notice. I’ll add that my parents have been very supportive all along, albeit not ecstatic, considering the situation. I started looking into the process in England. I decided that the summer after that semester I would spend in Jerusalem as an intern so that I could really ‘live’ there for a bit and make sure it made sense. I got an internship with the Jerusalem Post through the Jewish Agency’s Staggerim program and a room in a Jerusalem absorption center. That summer, I made a few really amazing friends and had an inspirational experience. It solidified the whole thing further.

 

I used the Jewish Agency for the aliyah ‘thinking process’ and Nefesh b’Nefesh to help me get there financially. I didn’t speak to any former olim; I probably just didn’t know any. I had one Israeli friend who I spoke to about it which was an interesting perspective because he was generally a bit skeptical that I’d come back and thought I was a bit crazy for wanting to do it. But he was definitely a very strong influence on me.

 

I didn’t have any close or even remotely close friends in Israel when I got there in January 2005. I used my 1 or 2 connections to branch out and network (very easy to do in the Anglo Jerusalem community). I also attended Ulpan Etzion which not only teaches you Hebrew but also helps you build a social life as well. The first 6 months were a tough adjustment, mostly in the social life arena. It’s not easy even though you’d think that would be the easiest part.

 

There’s so much to get used to as well. Disorganization; waiting, chutzpah, culture, etc. So many things are different – going to the doctor, going to the store, visiting government offices, walking into buildings, security checks constantly. A lot of it I was already used to from my summer visit. Also, I spoke Hebrew decently because of my high school education and my prior visits and some practice I would do at home before I left.

 

My second year in Israel has proved to be a complete turn around from the initial roughness. I have a job I love; I work in creative marketing for Answers.com. I’m studying my Masters at Bar Ilan University in Conflict Management & Negotiation (in grad level Hebrew!). I have a few close friends who are more like family because you lack blood-family here. I’m engaged and living in the Katamonim area of Jerusalem (it’s a Mizrachi family area, so it’s full of culture and it’s very different from the Anglo community, and more fun. It’s close to the Anglo community so we are not cut off).

I love living in a new place with different values and ways of life. I love the easy going atmosphere, laid back attitude. I love not worrying all the time about money and future. I like being in a place I can call ‘home’ with all kinds of different people who are somehow related to me, if they’re pale or brown or gold or black. I like being friends with people from all over the world. I love seeing piles of powdered doughnuts around the malls at ‘Christmastime’ and boxes of Matza stocked at ‘Eastertime’. I love living in a Jewish country.

I don’t love the government here. I don’t love trying to get through the bureacracy. I hate the medical system, I’m not a fan of paying high taxes. I don’t like the claustrophobia of living in such a tiny country. I don’t like the religious intolerance on either side. I don’t like having a certain ‘security’ seat on the bus because I play mind games in order to feel safe.

 

I came for a mix of social, cultural, religious and ideological reasons. I believe in a Jewish state in Israel.  I believe “If not me, who? If not now, when?” I didn’t feel 100% at home in America, even though I love New York City and it’s probably my favorite city in the whole world. I wanted to be somewhere where I could feel comfortable being religious. I wanted certain values that I felt I could better teach my kids here.

 

But the problem is, many think that all that fantasy I just wrote is the be all-end all. The fact is, there is more religious freedom in America, if you look at it from a certain point of view. The fact is that here, intolerance and hatred abound. Secular Judaism is distrubing, and so it Charedi Judaism. and so it everything really. It’s frustrating to try and work to not hate people and all you want to do is hate people, even your own. American olim get on my nerves because it seems a lot of them are here for the wrong reasons; yet who am I to judge? Also, this country is not Messiah having come; people forget that I think. They make aliyah to Jerusalem and not Israel. It all needs a lot of work, and Jerusalem does not make me feel proud of modern Judaism. Poverty here is ridiculous. Social issues are plenty. There is a lot of work and it’s not enough to think you can just come here, get a job and be happy. You have to give it time, patience, creativity, and a sense of humor to make it long term.

 

Did anything surprise me? That I made it in only a year!

 

I think aliyah is a process with many layers that requires a lot of thought, but I don’t think it’s too complex or impossible.

Curious religiousity.

Apparently, my odd version of religious observance is stirring increasing curiousity amongst some coworkers. My office is mostly observant, from American-style modern orthodox to Israeli national-religious to Beit Shemesh black-and-white to full on Charedi.

Me? I don’t really talk about my religious observance style much. I never really consider anyone interested, but the more people I meet here the more I realize everyone is interested. As a rule.

Well then: Yes, I wear jeans and tank tops. Yes, I live with my fiance. No, I don’t keep strict halachic kosher when traveling abroad. Yes, I keep strict kosher in the house. Yes, I cleaned the apartment according to halacha for Pesach. Yes, I plan on keeping nidah laws when I’m married. It’s true that I’m considering covering my hair. Yes, I believe it is a paradox to wear 100% real hair (or fake for that matter) in sheitals (wigs). Yes, a lot of Charedi-Jewish behavior trends piss me off. Yes, a lot of secular-Jewish behavior trends piss me off. Yes, a lot of middle-of-the-road-Jewish beahviors piss me off. Yes, I believe there is such a thing as an Orthodox homosexual.

The list goes on and probably gets more confusing but that is how I feel. There are practices I’d like to get better at. There are struggles I am a failure at but I still believe in the importance of tradition, halacha, religious observance, and belief. Even, dare I bring it up, a Jewish theocratic state.

One time in college, the Hillel director asked me to participate in a talk about Orthodox Judaism to students from all different backgrounds. I asked him why he’d want me to do it and not some my skirt-wearing shomeret negiah friends.
“Exactly because of the way you look. You’re wearing jeans and a tongue ring, but you keep Shabbat.”

I guess that works in pluralistic America; here in Jerusalem it just results in everyone feeling confused. And perhaps threatened.