Archive | August, 2006

Shopping Healthy, Speaking B’Ivrit

Pictured below are the results of my first visit to the little grocery store here on Kibbutz Tzuba. The orange one is a bag of Bamba, which are sort of like Cheetos, but they taste like peanuts (sort of) instead of cheese (sort of). The red one is perhaps the greatest development in snack foods since Moses croaked. It is a bar of milk chocolate with flavorless pop rocks in it. Like a Crunch bar, but way better.

One part of the program here at EIE is a Hebrew ulpan. The Israeli tradition of ulpan began with the inception of Israel as a state in 1948. Faced with bazillions of imigrants Jewish immigrants from all over the world, Israel created ulpan as a type of class for intensive Hebrew study. It is still utilized today for Jews and other who make aliyah or travel to Israel for a considerable amount of time and wish to learn to speak adequate Hebrew.

Earlier today we took a test to see which level of ulpan we would be placed in. There are several levels taught by different teachers. Each of us has come here with different levels of Hebrew knowledge. I think I did okay on my test. I’ll probably be in the second or third level. I hope.

Fun fact to know and tell: In Wales, the local government has instituted a similar program for those who wish to learn Welsh. They call it Wlpan.

Several guys just stormed into my room, only one of them a roommate of mine. They want to play tennis. All of them brought tennis rackets to Israel with them, but they seem to be having trouble fidning any actual tennis balls. I do not know how one could bring a tennis racket with one halfway around the world, but not tennis balls.


Good night and good luck.

Expect a big post later today or later this week about the truly interesting history of Kibbutz Tzuba as well as a look at Reuven Kaliphon, a prehistoric flightless bird.

As always, email me at if you’d like to recieve email notices of updates to this blog.

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Travel Journal

August 28th
7:30 AM US Central Time
Austin Bergstrom International Airport
Gate 17
Two rows over from the main walkway, near a large trash can, across the aisle from a weird-looking guy who is asleep. And snoring. I wish he would stop.

I was alerted by the sign pictured at left that today’s terrorism alert level is Orange.

I awoke at dark:00 this morning. My Dad shuffled in, obviously unhappy about this early twist to his regular morning routine, as was I. I showered, ate pop tarts, almost forgot to pack my toiletries, and discovered that, somehow, I had packed lighter luggage for these upcoming four months than I had for three and a half weeks I spent at camp this summer. Mom dropped by at slightly-less-dark:00 AM to take me to the airport. Sophie (the dog) did not seem to understand the gravity of this particular goodbye. Mom and I harldy spoke in the car. We were tired.

At the airport I checked in and discovered that, to my surprise, we here in Austin no longer have to check in and then take our bags to the TSA guys ourselves. The people behind the counter have acutally resumed their use of the conveyor belts.

I had breakfast tacos at the Waterloo Ice House in the airport . For those of you who do not live in Austin, our airport is better than yours. It is the best. There is no McDonald’s and no Pizza Hut Express. We have branches of locally-owned restaurants in this airport. At Waterloo I pruchased two breakfast tacos and, in a moment of weakness, broke my Shabbat-only Coke rule and had a Coke . While drink it, I was struck by how dangerous it looked and took a moment to thank God nobody can bring these on planes anymore! One of of the tacos had egg, cheese, and potato and the other had refried beans, potato and bacon. Anybody says anything about the bacon, this blog is rigged to explode your computer. I’m about to spend four months in a country with no bacon and, by God, I’m gonna have some before I leave.

I have just been informed that my flight is delayed. Oh boy. Flying sure is fun.

When we finally get on the plane, some shmuck waltzes right onto the plane with a coffee.

August 28th
11:59 AM US Central Time
American Airlines Flight (insert four random numbers here) to JFK
Row 35, Seat H
Next to a guy who is sleeping and hoggin the arm rest, behind Hannah, a girl who is also going on EIE who I alread know from NFTY.

We interrupt this blog to bring you the latest headline. David A. M. Wilensky has scientificially determined that Dallas-Fort Worth International Aiport is the stupidest airport ever. We take you back now to his blog, “live from Israel: DAVID SAYS THINGS” where he will expain this not-paticularly-surprising conclusion.

That’s right folks. DFW is the stupidest airport ever. Nine out of ten halachic scholars agree. “What happened to the tenth one?” you might ask. The tragic truth, folks, is that he got lost in DFW, never to be seen or heard from again.

My flight departed Austin a full fifty minutes late. Drat. Curses. Etc. On the plane I was cleverly seated next to a really incredibly hairy fellow and right in front of a small, loud, kicking child. The child’s mother, rather than engage in the exhausting work of trying to figure out why her child was upset, just turned into the bitchy type of mother we all see in public and love to hate for their incompetency and their cruelty to their own child and to us.

Had my flight gotten to DFW on time, I could have taken the chance to grab some lunch, which as of now, I have still not had even though my stomach is making obscene noises. Instead of having lunch, I had to rush from gat A39 to gate D33. For thoses of you not familiar with DFW, it is stupid. It consists of two rows of horseshoe-shaped terminals which face eachother, a highway running between the two rows. I always arrive at DFW late and in terminal A and then have to rush to terminal D, which is long dman walk and a slightly less long SkyLink ride.

I have just been informed that a snack box including La Petite Formage cheese spread, crackers, dried fruit, Lorna Doone cookies, a summer sausage stick, and some other proccessed crap is available for purchase from the flight attendants. It clocks in at a whopping four dollars and eighty-five million calories. Oh boy. I’m so hungry I could eat a horse. I guess I’ll have to settle for a snack box.

12:26 PM

I’m still waiting on the damn snackbox and I’ve just discovered that the alleged electrical outlets require some ridiculous adapter. Isn’t flying fun.

12:30 PM

Never mind. Here it is. Ewww.

August 29th
9:30 AM Israeli Time
Israir flight 102
Row 34, Seat A
Next to Amy, a fellow EIE student and the first pleasant chat I’ve had with the person next to me on any leg of this trip so far.

Israir is quite entertaining. Traditionally, it is a rite of passage for American Jewish teenagers to be introduced to Israel by the national airline, El Al, whose staff has reputation for having, shall we say, colorful ideas about what service means. Israir, however has just begun to have flights from the US and as far as I can tell, this is the only flight they have today. The plane seems to have been purchased used from Icelandair, as indicated by the displays in the cabin. The Israir check-in line was ridiculously long, but it moved quickly and efficiently. I recall Paul Reichenbach (a.k.a. PJR a.k.a. The Voice Of God), the director of NFTY’s Israel programs complimenting the manager of the Israir desk, Tammy, on how efficient and quick it was. She responded, “I know what you mean to say. It’s like you mean, ‘We are not like El Al.’ All you need is a little bit oforganization.” She looked disdainfully towards the El Al ticket counter.

Shortly after we took off, we ate something that was sort of similar to chicken in several ways for dinner. Breakfast is claiming to be an omlette. I beg to differ.

One of the in-flight movies was what looked like a disastrous romatic comedy called “Failure to Launch.” The irony of title was not lost on me. I actually kind of liked it. The first pleasant surprise of the trip!

I suppose I should have expected this, but I am surprised by the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews aboard. They have begun to indivudually daven about the cabin as we fly into the sunrise. As far as I can tell, east, the direction they ought to be facing is straight ahead of us. We are flying eastward, after all. However, half of the praying men seem to be facing north, while the other half has firmly decided on south. I am mystified.

They gave us free slippers when we got on. Mine are too small.

August 29th
9:50 PM
Kibbutz Tzuba Hotel
Suite 122, the Kitchen Table
Near two of the three Erics here on EIE.

So. This is Israel, then.

Dinner didn’t agree with me.

If I can get all these damn pcitures to work, I’m gonna post this and go to bed.

On the other hand, the pictures won’t work. It’ll have to wait till tomorrow.

August 30th
6:50 AM
Kibbutz Tzuba Hotel
Suite 122, Back Bedroom
In the bed next to Mac.

There is in fact a rooster outside doing what the stereotypical rooster does in the morning.

August 30th
12:16 PM
Kibbutz Tzuba Hotel
Suite 122, Back Bedroom
Near Mac who is cursing (loudly) the loss of hi composition notebook.

I have attempted to add more pictures to this post, but blogger just isn’t working properly today. I took a lot more pictures on the plane. I’ll try to add them later.

For those of you who were Jewies with me at Kutz, I had the KB this morning. Damn, that’s good.

More pictures added as of 1:40 PM on the 30th.

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Release Forms, Goodbyes, Anxieties (mine and yours), etc

I suppose a proper welcome is in order for those of you just making your way here today in the wake of my email to everybody in the world about this here blog. Welcome! Thanks for reading.

And now (drum roll, please), my first real post.

This morning while signing a release form two things occurred to me. The first was that I feel like I have spent the last several months of my life doing nothing but signing releases. In this over-litigated culture, we have release forms for everything, constantly protecting our asses from lawsuit by having people sign pieces of paper.

I digress.

The other thing I noticed, as I put down the date, was that today is the 24th of August. I leave for Israel (not sure that one’s quite clicked in my head yet) on the 28th. I have four days left here in reality. I mean Austin. I mean… I haven’t started packing yet! Knowing me I won’t do any real packin until Sunday afternoon. Sunday, of course, being the 27th. The departure date, once again, being the 28th.

I have felt like I’m in a constant state of saying goodbye since May. I went to my school’s graduation. I said goodbye to them. I left for camp. I had to say goodbye to everybody before I left. Then, before I knew it, camp was almost over. I had to say goodbye to everone at camp. Since then, I’ve been in a constant state of telling people why I’m not in school. Then they want to say… (you get three guesses and the first two don’t count)… GOODBYE! I got back from camp a month ago. Since the moment I got back everbody wants a hug goodbye all time on the off-chance that I don’t see them again before I leave. On top of it all, a number of my closest friends are going a way to college. Again, goodbyes must be said and hugged.

Then, when it’s time to come home, I’ll have to say goodbye to everyone in Israel. Then I’ll come home, say hello for a while, then go away to college myself and have to go through this whole damn routine again!

When I tell people I’m going to Israel, there are three possible responses. If you thought yours was original, you were wrong, because there were really only these three what follow. The first is a blank stare or complete lack of interest, which scientists have yet to develop a response for. The second is (usually from another Jew) “Wow! That’s great” or something similar in not so many words.

The third, and most important for this post, is “Oh my God! Don’t you know there’s a war on!” or “You’re still going to do that? Are you nuts? I though you’d come to your senses evetually!” My personal favorite from this category, and more common than you’d think, a deadpan recitation of “Don’t come back in a casket, alright?”

To put your mind at ease, I shall illustrate the situation with this crudely rendered map (Amanda Wright, eat your heart out), which was made in the highly verastile program known as Microsoft Paint, which you see at the right. I know the text has turned out to be fairly useless. Perhaps I’ll ignore the map and get on with my attempt at putting your mind at ease. The point is that I am staying FAR AWAY from rockets. There is currently (thank God) a cease fire that seems to be tenuously holding itself together so the danger is fairly lessened. I believed that on the U.S. color-coded terror level indicator, Israel may have gone down from Plaid to Mauve, if that tells you anything. (If, by the way, the color-coded terror level thing has ever had any real meanin to you, you should check into a mental institution. Now.)

Point being, don’t worry. I will be fine and I will be far away from rockets, death, etc. If anybody should be worried, its me. And I’m not. So you should cut it ou too.

Goonight. See you later. Same Bat-time. Same Bat-channel.

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