taylweaver: (Default)
The events of the past few days have led me to realize that, sometimes, whether an experience is good or bad is determined by how you look at it. You can experience an event and focus on everything that went wrong, or you can look at all the stuff that worked out in your favor.

Take, for example, my flight home:

So I flew home from Israel yesterday. And since I am posting, it is probably self-evident that I made it back home.

My luggage was not so lucky.

But I'll get to that in a minute.

It was an interesting experience, flying home the day after the London thing. I am relieved I wasn't flying home a day earlier, by the way. (which had been a possibility when I was booking flights) both because I would have missed a great last day at the Yeshiva and because then I would have been travelling in the middle of the whole thing in London and not after the fact.

Was I worried about flying the day after the London thing, you might ask? Certainly not for the first leg of the flight - I trust Israel security to the point where I knew they wouldn't even need to step it up at all, because even their regular security is probably more thorough than anyone else's. The second part of my flight, from Milan, I was less sure of - but not too worried about even that.

The bigger deal was the inconvenience, I think. And, at the time, it wasn't such a big deal - though I wasn't sure I saw the point of it all, I did understand why they had to remove all liquids from carry-ons and so on. I do wish they'd posted some sign before the security lines, though. I was lucky I got some advance warning from my parents, whose (direct) flight was about five hours before mine.

Yeah, so I spent the night at Ben Gurion airport on Thursday. Not because of a flight delay - my flight boarded almost on time - but because that was just the way the flights were scheduled. It was easier to hitch a ride with my parents than to try to get from Jerusalem on my own at 1 am of whatever.

Turned out it was good I was there early. But I'll get to that detail in a moment also.

Anyway, so from about 10 pm, when my parents headed through Passport Control, I was on my own in the little shop area that is accessible to anyone in the airport. I hung out there until about 2 am, browsing in stores, writing and reading. Then I headed over to the bathroom to remove my contacts (no liquid means no eye drops and also no saline to remove them on the plane, so I took care of that before checking in.) and to pack my travel toiletries in my suitcase.

At this point, I felt a bit inconvenienced, because if I got stuck in Milan over Shabbat, I would have no toiletries. (Plus, in the process of repacking, as I was shifting my suitcase to open it and such, I managed to break not one, but three nails - and I know that might sound petty, but it *hurt*!) Still, I decided I could deal. I still had my emergency Shabbat outfit, and I could always buy a tube of toothpaste and use the hotel shampoo or whatever.

Then I went to check in.

Now, in Israel, they run all of your bags through an x-ray machine before you check in - this is part of the reason I feel safer - they add these extra steps as part of their standard check-in procedures. So, 45 minutes later, I reached the check-in desk.

Good thing I was running early. There was no one waiting in line behind me when the woman at the check-in counter told me that not only did I need to remove all my liquids - which, at that point, just meant I had to throw away what was left of my water bottle - but that I could not take any carry-on because I was flying to America. (mind you, my parents, who also flew to America, were allowed. So either the regulations changed over those five hours, or it was because I was going to be flying from *Europe* to America - I am not sure.)

Yes, that's right. They were not allowing carry-ons.

Now, I somehow got away with taking my "purse" - that is, the bag I bought for Italy that held camera, water bottle, tour books, etc. and, while in Israel, was just large enough to hold a notebook for the yeshiva.

This was a good thing, because I got away with carrying my writing (remember the 1000 words a day? well, wrote maybe 3000 words the entire month, but point is, I had it with me), my journal, and all of my jewelry, plus a few other little things.

She also told me no food - and that was when I almost cried. My kosher meal from Italy to Israel was inedible, and I couldn't go 8 hours (on the second flight) without food. Fortunately, I realized she meant the second leg of the flight only, and I decided that I would let the people in Milan tell me if they wanted me to throw the food away, and I packed it in my small bag,

It was only after I send my backpack under that I realized it didn't have my name on it. Oops.

Then an hour before boarding. Spent most of it in the Michal Negrin store treating myself to a necklace.

And just barely remembered - and only because I walked past the stand - that I needed to get back my VAT money (VAT being Value Added Tax, the Israeli sales tax that foreigners technically don't have to pay - so you can get it refunded on purchases over $100.)

My first flight boarded almost on time - a good thing, since I only had an hour layover in Milan.

Then there was a sick passenger, which led to nearly an hour delay. So much for on time.

This meant I spent a very stressful four hours on that plane - worrying about catching my second flight and about making it home in time for Shabbat - worrying about getting stuck in Milan with pretty much the clothes on my back - certainly no good for Shabbat - and worrying about landing in Newark airport close to Shabbat (that was the next Alitalia flight that I knew of after mine) and my luggage going to JFK or not making it at all, at which point I would have been at home, but still without Shabbat clothing...

Let's just say that it was a great relief to get on that second flight - and, as it turned out, I boarded five minutes after the scheduled *departure* time - good thing the second flight was more delayed than the first! Apparently, this was where the added security worked to my advantage.

I also had about the best coach seat on the plane - the bulkhead row behind business class. Only I was in the aisle seat, and the bulkhead was only in front of the window seat and middle seat. Which meant I had more foot space than I could use. Plus, the TV screen that comes out of the side of the seat. Too bad the movies weren't working... let's just say it was impressive to walk down the aisle and see all these adult passengers playing silly video games on their screens...

And the meals turned out to be edible after all, but they didn't confiscate my food, so I had both.

Then I got to JFK - and discovered my luggage had not made it. The good news is, it is in good company with all the luggage from the other passengers who transferred from Israel. But I still didn't have it. Again, I was pretty much in tears - but I was also coming off an all-nighter with only a few naps, so I had an excuse this time. And I had a plan - report the luggage, then go to my apartmennt and get clothing.

The best part was, my parents surprised me when I got out of Customs - it felt weird to declare all this stuff that wasn't with me - by meeting me at the exit. Which was before the lost luggage office, and it was good to have the company while I waited in a line that took a forever.

And then, back to my apartment for clothing, and home for Shabbat with my entire family, which was really wonderful.

Now, like I said, it's amazing how your perspective on things can really change how you experience something. My flight home was a mixed bag - but ultimately, I came home in a pretty good mood. I chalk this up to constructive worrying, in part. Once I was on the second plane, I knew I'd be home with plenty of time before Shabbat, and so, in my head, I said to myself, well, even if my luggage doesn't make it, I will, and I will just have to go back to my apartment on the way home. So when it happened, I was ready. In fact, he says that I didn't even bother to greet my parents. I just walked up to them and said something like, "hi. We have to go to my apartment now. My luggage didn't make it."

I could have been upset about so many things. The all-nighter in the airport. The delay for the sick passenger. Needing to check my backpack, and then not getting my luggage back at the end. The lack of movies on my seond flight. Etc, etc, etc.

But, other than the stress level on the first leg of my flight - worrying about being stranded with no luggage - I was much more focused on what went right. I had warning on the liquid thing. I had time to reorganize my bags. I didn't have to gate check the backpack because I checked it at the counter, bar code and all. I had time to shop for jewelry. I got edible (not good, but edible) kosher meals. I had the best coach seat on the plane. And I made my second flight (thanks, ironically, to increased security) and got home with plenty of time. My luggage was lost, but my mom had many of my toiletries (because my bag was too heavy) and her luggage made it, and it was easy to get clothing from my apartment. And my parents surprised me at the airport.

Plus, I ended up with a story.

So, overall, not so bad.

Now, let's just hope the luggage gets back to me...
taylweaver: (Default)
In Israel, people don't plan ahead as much as they do in America. They go with the flow, and plans change with impressive frequency. This means you end up having all sorts of experiences you didn't plan on having - and sometimes, they are rather pleasant surprises.

Last night, I had plans to get together with [livejournal.com profile] boroparkpyro and another friend (if she has an LJ, I don't know it) for dinner. In the end, the second friend could not join us - but instead, [livejournal.com profile] maric23 joined in for one more visit before I head back home - and also five of [livejournal.com profile] boroparkpyro's friends, all in for a wedding today.

It turns out, the eight of us (well, for a while it was eight, but one left before we headed out to dinner, so then it was seven) had an amazing time. There was about an hour of hanging out down at the bottom of Agrippas Street, and then we went to this Italian restaurant that [livejournal.com profile] maric23 knew of. The food was okay - good, but not enough of it, really.

But the food was not the fun part.

The fun part was that all of us (I hope all of us) had such a wonderful time. It was a fairly random assortment of people - five who knew each other, true, but then there was me, who only knew one member of that group - and knew of a second but hadn't met him - and [livejournal.com profile] maric23 who only knew me.

And yet, we were chatting away almost at once, about everything from archaeology to Firefly. ([livejournal.com profile] maric23 and I were pleasantly surprised to hear [livejournal.com profile] sen_ichi_rei call her dessert "shiny"!) We had such a good time, we felt a need to take a group photo - see [livejournal.com profile] maric23's blog for that.

It was really great to meet everyone, and the fun part is, every one of us has a livejournal. Unfortunately, I didn't quite remember all of them... Of course, I already know mine and [livejournal.com profile] boroparkpyro and [livejournal.com profile] maric23, but I also met [livejournal.com profile] alanscottevil, who, buy some odd stroke of happenstance is related rather closely to [livejournal.com profile] boroparkpyro - but don't tell anyone I said that - and whose name I heard many times growing up from [livejournal.com profile] orisnori - so it was exciting to finally meet him in person. I also met... let's see if I get the names right... [livejournal.com profile] sen_ichi_rei, [livejournal.com profile] attackpenguin and one or two others whose user names I am missing.

So if someone wants to fill in the ones I don't have...

Anyway, it was so much more fun that I ever could have expected. A big thank you to all of you for being a part of a fabulous penultimate night in Jerusalem (well, penultimate for this trip - I hope to spend many more nights in Jerusalem in years to come, of course).

I hope all of you who came in for the wedding have a wonderful time.

It's such an amazing feeling to meet a group of people and mesh with them almost instantly - mesh so well, I think, that any stranger who walked by would have thought that each of us had known every one of the others for a long time, not just a matter of hours.
taylweaver: (Default)
Yesterday, three Israeli soldiers died in Lebanon.

One of them was American. His name was Michael Levin, and he was 21 years old.

He grew up in Pennsylvania and worked (and may have attended camp at) Camp Ramah in the Poconos.

He was also a Boger Nativ (an alumnus of the Nativ program, USY's year program in Israel). He went on Nativ the year before my youngest sister.

She's in college now. Had he not made Aliyah (moved to Israel), he would probably be in college now too. Instead, he was serving his compulsory time in the Israeli army.

Tomorrow or the day after, my father will be going to his funeral.

It's scary sometimes how things hit so close to home.

I don't think I knew him, so it doesn't affect me personally, but still... it's kind of strange.

It's Jewish Geography turned on its ear - everyone knows someone or knows someone who knows someone. My father's former boss lost his great nephew (as I mentioned before); one of my father's office staff lost her best friend's brother. One of my sister's group staff members was dealing with a very distraught boyfriend - he lost his chevruta partner (study partner).

On top of that, one of the members of the office staff is serving in the reserves, and the Israelis who are on the summer program staff keep getting called up - one from my sister's group had to go serve for a day or two before they let him return to his group. And then there are the families who hope and pray that their children will not get called upon next.

And tomorrow or the next day, my father will be attending a funeral of a fallen soldier.

It's strange - I feel like on the one hand, we lose few soldiers - three here, eight there - it could have been a hundred - and yet, every one of them belonged to a family and a network of friends. And so many of those few have networks that connect back to people I know.

Which makes every individual soldier who has died significant, so that it becomes harder to fall back on numbers and harder to say, "only" three.

Like I said, I did not know Michael Levin. I only know of him. I know people who knew him. But still, it has made me think.

Baruch Dayan Emet
taylweaver: (Default)
So when people decide to go to Israel (or not to), the first things they often consider is security. They worry about things like suicide bombers, and now the missiles hitting the north. I am not so concerned with these things in terms of my personal safety. (While it is true that I am not riding the busses - at my father's request - I don't think they are any more threatened by terrorists than the New York City subway system.)

Going to different places raises different kinds of concerns. When we went to Italy, [livejournal.com profile] mbarr and I guarded our valuables carefully at all hours of the day and night because we were told the biggest danger we faced in Italy was that of pickpickets.

But it turns out all cities, no matter how holy and safe feeling, have their share of criminals.

Which we discovered the hard way when we (my parents and I) woke up yesterday (Monday) morning.

While getting ready for his day, my father opened his wallet, and discovered that his cash was no longer inside it. He was certain he would not have left his cash anywhere else. My mother and I kept suggesting other places he might have put it, confused as to where it could have gone since the day before.

Then my mother opened her own wallet. Also empty.

It seems that, overnight, a thief snuck into our apartment.

At first, the loss of cash was the more upsetting element - two hundred shkalim here, a hundred American from there, etc.

More disturbing in the long term, however, was the fact that the money was stolen WHILE WE WERE IN THE APARTMENT.

The money was there, my parents are sure, when both of them went to bed - and when else would their money have been in the same place? The thief, it seems, somehow got onto our balcony and through the open doors (we didn't think anyone could do that, and the doors don't lock anyway), took my mother's money from her wallet where it sat on the table in the livingroom, then took my father's from his wallet in my parents' BEDROOM.

They were asleep, and a stranger was in their room.

He (or she, I suppose) may have entered my room as well. Every pocket in my purse was unzipped (good thing they were all empty to begin with) - and I am not sure if I left it that way or not.

Then, when he was done, he unlocked the front door, and left.

The reality of it hasn't quite hit me, since my money was in a random pocket, not a wallet, and thus was not stolen. (Hooray for not having a wallet, I suppose.)

But even on the rational level, it is disturbing. A stranger in our apartment, in our bedrooms where we slept.

The bad news is, there's no way to catch someone who stole only cash.

The good news is, he only took cash, and cash is not too hard to replace, relative to other stuff. He did nothing to physically hurt us. He also left all of the credit cards, and did not take any other valuables. There was no stress of cancelling cards and ordering new ones from a foreign country, and there was also no loss of irreplacable jewelry or digital cameras with uncopied photos, etc. So it could have been worse.

Still, we had to learn how to close the "trisim" - I don't know how to translate that word - it's the barrier on the window that blocks out the sun - but also does what the barriers stores put down overnight do, in this case - it will keep people from getting in from the balcony.

But who would have thought we'd need to worry about that?

People talk about not feeling safe in Israel, but who would ever have thought that my family would need to feel unsafe in this particular way, not from the threat of terror, but from that of the common thief?

It's very strange.
taylweaver: (Default)
So we are now in the "Nine Days", that is, the nine days leading up to (and including) the Ninth of Av, the day that commemorates the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (the Temple) not once, but twice.

And so, some random thoughts and random experiences that I have had over the past few days:

First, the war is still going on and they have called up more reserves. These include one of the staff members from the group my sister is in charge of (sorry to be so vague, but this is a public post). We also have family friends with two sons who could be called up - and they worry about that.

When I went to shul (synagogue) on Friday night, I was two seats down from the wife of someone who works for my father who is now serving in the reserves. I thought, as I sat there, about something a friend had told me, about a gay man who had said he likes davening (praying)with a mechitza (separation between men and women) because then it is less obvious who is in shul as a single person and who has a wife and a family - that he therefore does not feel as left out. I was wondering if the mechitza served the same role for women whose husbands have been called up for reserves - that maybe, after being home by themselves or with their children, missing their husbands and worrying for their safety, they might feel a bit more "normal" sitting in shul as they always do, surrounded by their fellow women.

On Friday, I went to visit the kotel tunnels - the underground excavation that shows the continuation of the Western Wall that we call the Kotel - that is, the western retaining wall of the temple complex from way-back-when that was destroyed about two thousand years ago. It seemed like a verya appropriate place to visit during the nine days - though it was just coincidence in terms of the timing.

The first section of the wall that we saw included this huge stone longer than a school bus. The stone had rectangular holes cut into it at regular intervals - they were added about 1000 years later to hold up the outer wall of a cistern - whose pattern somehow made me think of the slurry wall at the World Trade Center site. Which was a strange connection to make - and yet it seemed a bit less strange as I thought about it.

We learned all about the destruction of the wall - how the Romans wanted to leave no remnant - how they wanted nothing that the Jews could even point to and say, this is where our temple used to be - so they pushed down each stone one at a time, into the marketplace below - the economic center that existed against the retaining wall, for obvious reasons. (Our tourguide referred to it as Wall Street, which she said was for both literal and figurative reasons - as it was the street that ran along the wall, but also the economic center.) When they got to this large stone, they could not budge it, so they chiseled away at the top, until they got tired of it and left it as it was, the bottom whole, the top broken off - newer stones now above it.

We also stopped at the "holiest" spot along the wall, the spot that is closest to the holiest point in the Temple. People stopped there to daven, and on the one hand, it felt weird to me to daven in a specific spot, but on the other hand, when I could think of nothing to say, I felt like I had missed some sort of opportunity.

Before our tour, I also davened shacharit (morning prayers) at the kotel. This was not because I wanted to daven in that specific spot, but because I hadn't had time as we were rushing out of the apartment. I have to say, it felt like I was davening to a wall - a very disconcerting feeling. Nothing about it felt holy.

So that was Friday. I also ordered a necklace with a Hebrew quote on it - which I'll be happy to show off when I get back.

On Shabbat, I had another meaningful experience. We ended Shabbat with one of the youth groups. We joined them for dinner before Shabbat ended, and after dinner, they sang and sang and sang - both Jewish and Israeli songs. It was so beautiful. I forgot how great it was to do that back when I was in high school and in college.

The second song we sang was "lo yisa goy..." : "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they study war anymore."

From our mouth to God's ears.


Jul. 25th, 2006 08:11 am
taylweaver: (Default)
So it's still wonderful to be in Israel - and did I mention how pleasant the temperature is once we hit evening in Jerusalem? (and it's not like I get out much during the day...)

Yesterday was my second day studying at the yeshiva (by which I mean, for those of you who have not been paying attention, the Conservative Yeshiva, located in the middle of Jerusalem), and while the first day was so-so, the second was wonderful. Granted, I fell asleep in the middle of Talmud class... but that's what happens when I sit for too long. I hope to have solved that problem today, high school style - which is to say I have revived my 9th grade strategy - I bought chocolate. Hooray for caffiene/sugar/something to keep my mouth busy.

Most of my classes - maybe all of them - happen to be in the same room - the beit midrash, or study hall - that is, the main room of the yeshiva. It's a "basement" - which, in the hilly terrain of Jerusalem means one side of it is aboveground - and there is one door that leads directly outside, and another that leads upstairs. So it doesn't feel like a basement. But it is the bottom floor of a heavy stone building, so it has vaulted ceilings with thick columns. They look cool. And the ceiling is all fuzzy - to keep things from echoing. It's full of tables with decent chairs, and book cases with Jewish books. And there is an aron there for the Torah - because the room is also used for tefillot (prayer). It's a wonderful setting for learning - though a bit more air conditioned than I like... (better than not having the AC at all, though.)

As for the classes themselves, I have found that studying in chevruta (pairs/small groups) to prepare a page of Talmud before we learn it as a class is something I enjoy - it's a challenge, and I don't get tired of it. But learning it as a class for an hour and a half afterward is a bit harder - that's when I will pull out the chocolate. I really did fall asleep, head on the table, yesterday.

Then we had an optional Lunch and Learn - and they sell salads and sandwiches for about $2.50 each beforehand! Hooray for cheap salad. That was okay... today, we will have the option of meeting a soferet (scribe who writes things like Torah scrolls - in this case, female.)

Yesterday afternoon, we also had two wonderful classes - one on "women in the bible" - we are doing a close text study of the story of Sarai and Hagar - and one on the siddur. Those two are on Monday and Wednesday. The other days, I have one class in the afternoon - on Conservative Responsa. Yesterday was more of an intro, so I will have a better sense of it tomorrow.

It is also fun to be studying with my mother - and yet studying apart from her also.

Anyway, time to go to class. But it's going well.
taylweaver: (Default)
Hi from Israel. Yes, I am in Israel! When I landed in Italy, it was fine, but when I landed in Israel, I felt so happy just to be here. It feels so familiar, and it has been too long. Oh, and did I mention the part about there being so much kosher food? I had a great dinner this evening - just basic food, but it was real food.

Also, the new airport in Tel Aviv is gorgeous! It is so full of wide open spaces, lit with plenty of sun that comes in through broad banks of windows. There are no stairs that I could see - only ramps and moving walkways. It flows.

The Duty Free area is circular, with a beautiful fountain in the center that is vaguely reminiscent of a rain shower - the ceiling is an inverted dome, and the water pours out, along with what looked like daylight, from a hole in the center, down into a circular pool below, where the water ripples with the constant cascade. Around it, there are armchairs and tables, cafe style. Even the sound of it was beautiful as I walked past it one floor up - the sound of falling rain.

And then the next corridor is all window on one side, and classic Jerusalem stone on the other - there are even things that look like mosaics or something from archaeological sites on the walls.

The whole thing was just beautiful to walk through. Plus, I'm in Israel now!

Anyway, here, at last, is the final Italy update:

Yesterday, we began at the Pitti Palace - after being smart this time and storing our bags in the train station - for less than $10 between the two of us and well worth it. The Pitti Palace has two sets of museums and we chose the one without the art. We didn't need any more art. The one we chose had a costume gallery - ballroom gowns and such - but we didn't get too much out of those. We thought it would be cool, but we were disappointed. The good news is, beyond the ballroom gowns was a display that was anything but disappointing. I don't remember whether it's called Florence Mosaic or Florentine Mosaic - but if you have seen tables and such with inlaid stones in patterns - the sort where the table turns out shiny and smooth - well, it was that stuff, only fancier. They used the color and patterns in the stones to the full effect. For example, they had flowers in which the petals were shaded appropriately through using pieces of stone that were light on one end and dark on the other. Even better, there were mosaics based on paintings - and most of them looked better than the original paintings - in fact, from a distance, they look like paintings instead of smooth, flat, joined pieces of semiprecious stone. It was just amazing.

There was also one room in the ballroom gown section that really caught our interest - they restored - or tried to restore - some of the clothing that a family of the Medici line was buried in - so the clothing - or pieces of it - was laid flat, and there were explanations on the walls - thankfully also in English. So those two rooms were pretty cool.

We also went to the "Silver" Museum, also in the Pitti Palace, on the same ticket. I put silver in quotes because while some objects on display were silver, many were just other examples of expensive knicknacks. They had stuff carved out of ivory and china plates and jewelry... all sorts of fancy stuff. Plus, the rooms themselves - throughout the palace - were fascinating. One room, a ballroom, was painted in such a way that it created an illusion of 3-d columns and arches where there was only flat wall - a way to make the room look, well, maybe not quite twice as big, but it created quite a sense of space.

Our ticket also allowed us entrance into the Boboli Gardens - but we were so tired, and the gardens were so huge - that we barely looked at one end of it. Then we walked back to the center of the city - hooray for cities where you can walk places in 15 minutes - and took some more Duomo photos on the way to our train.

Once in Rome, we checked in to our final B+B, then headed out to the Jewish Ghetto to find the synagogue and accurate kosher restaurant info. We arrived at 5 PM - just in time for a ghetto tour - then returned to the museum just in time for a tour of the shul itself. It has two shuls in one - there is a sfardi shul in the basement - and both had fancy pieces that used to be in the shuls in the Jewish Ghetto before the ghetto was torn down in the early 20th century. The dome in the main shul is square, and the inside is painted in a rainbow pattern - a Noah reference. It's beautiful. We also learned that in Rome, you don't belong to a shul - you pay membership dues to the Jewish community - which then gives money to all of the shuls.

Then, off we went to the Trevi Fountain - not as romantic as promised. A beautiful fountain, but way too many people sitting around it. Same with the Spanish Steps - only those were not as beautiful. But we did give our feet a short break there.

Our last stop of the night was real food at last at a fancy restaurant called La Taverna del Ghetto. The prices were not bad, the food was okay, and we were seated out on the sidewalk in the pleasant evening air with some guy playing accordion nearby. It was just what we needed.

We got back late after one more walk down the square near where we were staying. And then, this morning, we headed to the airport and on our separate ways - [livejournal.com profile] mbarr to America, and me to Israel. I arrived mid-afternoon. He should be back by now as well - just barely.

No clue how often I will update from Israel - I am studying, not touring. I hope to relax, hang out, shop and enjoy. It's as familiar in some ways as a second or third home - but I have been away so long - seven years! - that there are changes as well.

I will also try to keep you posted in terms of the war. For now, I don't feel so affected - I am in Jerusalem, away from the danger. I don't intend to go anywhere further north than here. So I am safe - and looking forward to three weeks of enjoying myself.


taylweaver: (Default)

April 2012

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