Today's word: טקס

We attended the Yom Hashoah tekes (טקס or ceremony) tonight, organized by the neighborhood Scouts and Bnei Akiva kids.

It was very much a small-town tekes. A few things came to mind while I stood and watched:

  • It never occurred to me before how it must have been for the Mizrachi population to get to Israel in the 1950s, meet all these Ashkenazi European Jews for the first time and hear the horrors. What did they think?
  • It is inevitable that there will be loud, disruptive, annoying kids at a Holocaust remembrance event. But isn’t that what our grandparents survived for? To continue the Jewish people? Kids will be kids, but thank god they are here, right?
  • This was the first public Tzur Hadassah event that I saw the community come together for a moment. I took notice of the different languages spoken, skin tones, ages, etc.
  • If my kids end up growing to be tight jeans-wearing, spiky haired, Nike swoosh-donning arsim, I am going to – oh, man. Somewhere my parents are laughing at me.

The final final.

I don’t want to make promises, because you just never know over here… But I’m %99.99 sure that I just finished my last ever final at Bar Ilan University…

…And I totally rocked it. Take that, Ethical Dilemmas in Mediation!

Here’s a portrait of the calm before the final:

It’s not the end of my degree, of course. I’ve got a lot more work to do and the mediation certification course to take. But I’m enjoying this small triumph until I start writing the next paper…

City feature: Caesarea

Caesarea is one of those Israeli cities that, when coming up in conversation, everyone nods their heads and says, “Oh yes, beautiful place, I’d like to get back there one of these days.”

After hearing that for over three years, I decided it was time. We took a day of our chol hamoed and drove up to the coastal city, leftovers of what was once a Herodian entertainment center.

Part of the intrigue was the famous aqueduct built there by the Romans. Here’s what websites have up, beckoning you to come see the magic in person:

Because it’s a historic site, I figured the photos would be true to the reality (or is that the other way around?) but I seemed to have forgotten where I live and who my country men are… Because this is what we found:

Ceasarea aqueduct

Caesarea aqueduct

Despair not, however; Caesarea is still a beautiful city resembling a giant golf resort with mansions surrounding… After all, the aqueduct beach is the only free area in the city, so, you know.

The old city, which is reminiscent of Yaffo and Akko, was worth a walk in the 40 degree sun:

Caesarea old city view

mosaic old city Caesarea

Caesarea old city ruins

old city Herodian pillars

Herodian amphitheater

Ma nishtana ha Pessach ha ze?

What makes this Passover different from all other Passovers? It’s the first one where I’m making my own seder while combining the traditions I grew up experiencing with someone else and his own traditions.

I feel like this is the type of thing we all think about and wonder as kids (ok maybe just those of us who grew up with the Orthodox upbringing): when we get married, what traditions will our husbands have? Will we stand united, stay separate but equal or be dissolved into one another?

My husband and I have a fun mix of Ashekenazi and Spehardi between us; it’s cause for all kinds of different foods and we like to be multicultural about it. Now that it’s Pessach, we’re learning new customs, foods and Ma Nishtana languages from each other.

For example, one of the staples of the seder is the haroset; the ugly but yummy dip we use to remember the bricks our forefathers built in Egypt. Ashkenazi haroset is usually constructed from apples, walnuts, sugar, honey, cinnamon, sweet red wine. Sephardi charoset is more focused on dates, raisins, apples, and some kind of nut. That is why we will have two different charosets at our seder table this year.

haroset

Can you guess which is which?

I have never been a fan of Ashkenazi charoset. It’s kind of awkward to me and looks like chopped liver, another Ashkenazi food I try to avoid. In my house growing up, we all fought over the amazing, sweet pasty charoset my Sephardi grandmother prepared for us. Every year the amount she made grew, and every year, it seemed more like there was not enough.

Well, I replicated it this year and I can proudly say that my Polish husband fell in love with it instantly… although, to be fair, he has decided to have his mum’s version at the seder because it wouldn’t be the same for him without it.

Pessach is definitely my favorite food holiday and it’s probably in the number one spot for all-time favorite holiday. I feel honored to be cooking the dishes my grandmother spent years serving us, carrying on traditions… and even picking up new ones.

A little thing about home(land) cooking.

There is something so completely special – when you can look past the depressing, lonely, sad aspects – about being an olah in Israel, cooking your family’s traditional Passover recipes for your own seder with fellow olim…

My grandmother is far far away, but here I am, across the world, continuing her delicious traditions and recreating her dishes in my very own Israeli kitchen. Like so much of the population before and around me, I am an immigrant here, bringing my own brand of Judaism and Jewish food to this true melting pot of a country.

Something for all Jews to remember around Pessach.

There is a lot going on in these days before Passover. Cleaning our houses, shopping for food, cooking that food… and then of course, eating that food as we tell the story of our freedom from the slavery of Egypt. We are catching up on halachot (laws) of keeping kosher during the Pessach holiday. Some of us are giving charity to the people who need help making their own seder night come true.

In short, we are getting ready for one of the biggest mitzva-observing weeks of the Jewish year.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but realize there is one mitzva (commandment) that many Jews do not keep at this time of year – or any time of year, in fact. That is the laws dealing with converts to Judaism. It’s interesting, because it is very much related to the fact that we Jews were strangers in Egypt, and from that experience God commanded us not to make converts to Judaism feel like awkward strangers once they have accepted Judaism and been accepted to Judaism. The Hebrew/Jewish word for convert from the Talmud is “ger tzedek”, a righteous stranger; it was meant to be a term of endearment and respect.

Why does this get ignored? Why do people insist on taunting converts about their status, about being a ‘real’ Jew or not, after they have gone through the processes? Why does the State of Israel, of all institutions, do this to fellow Jews? What happened to a person going through the intense trial to becoming a Jew and then being able to live as though they were always Jewish in the eyes of their peers? What happened to “דן לכף זכות”, benefit of the doubt, and also not making assumptions? More importantly: What happened to the Jewish tenet that embarrassing your fellow man being equal to murder in the eyes of God?

That is how I learned it growing up in yeshiva – that was the happy clappy theory. In reality, it is completely different. In practice, ‘religious’ Jews couldn’t give a crap about this issue in Judaism. And that infuriates me. This is not like the gay issue; this one is spelled out: be kind to the ger tzedek once s/he has stepped out of the mikva, and don’t taunt him with his/her past.

Like so much else in Orthodox Judaism, halachas and mitzvot and laws have been bastardized and fenced in by ridiculous cautions that make spiritual experiences become painful unnecessarily.

Not that this is a direct correlation, but this rant makes me realize that I haven’t called or considered myself Modern Orthodox in a really long time. And I don’t think I ever will again.

The Computer Engineer's Haggadah.

Had to share this email I got at work today. Bear with me, I work in the hi tech realm; therefore, I thought this was funny:

The Computer Engineer’s Haggadah

Release ISRAEL

ISRAEL running in slave mode, cannot release

Set ISRAEL;mode=master

Pharaoh already running in master mode, cannot change ISRAEL

Set Pharaoh;mode=slave

Command ignored

Load Moshe

Done

Deactivate Pharaoh

Pharaoh account hard locked;cannot be deactivated

For i=1 to 10 do plagues

Are you sure? Y

Done

Release ISRAEL

error: ISRAEL uninitialized

Set ISRAEL = 600,000

Done

Release ISRAEL

ISRAEL released

Declare Matza;array(width=20,length=20,height=0)

Done

Move ISRAEL to Sinai

OPERATOR WARNING! SYSTEM ABOUT TO CRASH! PHARAOH AND RED SEA

HAVE LIMITED YOUR MEMORY SPACE! SAVE YOUR WORK!

Save ISRAEL

Specify save device

Save ISRAEL with miracle

Done

Move ISRAEL to Sinai

Done

For I=1 to 10 do commandments

Allocation conflict: Commandments cannot be operated with active golden

calf routine. COMMANDMENTS CRASHED!

Destroy calf

Done

For I=1 to 10 do commandments

Done; commandments stored on hard rock device

Move ISRAEL to desert

Warning! Command could lead to infinite loop

Move ISRAEL to desert;limit=40 years

Done

Build Mishkan

Syntax error

Build Mishkan;owner=Betzalel

Done

Move ISRAEL to ISRAEL

Warning: operand terms must be unique

Move ISRAEL to CANAAN

Overload: cannot move all of ISRAEL to CANAAN

set ISRAEL = ISRAEL – (SPIES * 10)

Done

Move ISRAEL to CANAAN

Done

A Passover bonus for everyone.

This is sweet. My company gave us our usual Passover bonuses in the form of gifts bought via Sderot, so that Sderot vendors make some money off of the deal as opposed to vendors elsewhere.

Since the population of Sderot has been suffering for years now, and business has suffered along with it, there has been a movement to purchase groceries, gifts, shoes, etc. within the city. A lot of people are doing this all over Israel, though it seems to be an especially Anglo thing.

I’m happy my company had the mind to share our Passover bonuses this way. Warm, fuzzy, Israeli, Jewish, happy.