Thursday, June 2, 2011

Setting the City on Fire

Alana is a 5 month Social Action track participant and University of Connecticut graduate. Here's an excerpt from her recent blog post:

Friday night we had another family seder at the house. I have to say that my roommates are pretty much the best chefs ever. I’m not really sure how they do it, but everything turns out amazing. It’s incredible! (And usually 100% veggie friendly!)

We had quite the potluck spread!

And invited over a few guests to share in the glory–including Lisa’s dad (visiting from the U.S.) who did the Challah-cutting prayer honors.

There are 3 prayers, which are traditional on Shabbat. The first is the prayer over the candles, the second is the prayer over the wine, and the third is the prayer over the bread/Challah. I’m sure there are more, but with my “relaxed Jew status” I’m only familiar with the three.

We all sat on the roof and enjoyed the night :)

Later Maya and I went out with some friends to this cute bar in North Tel Aviv. The night may or may not have ended with Maya flying down the Ayalon (the local highway) on the back of a motorcycle. Pretty epic.

The next day (Saturday) was the start of Lag B’Omer–yet another Israeli holiday (because, let’s be real, it would be wrong to go one week without a holiday in this country.) At first almost all of us were completely unaware as to what this holiday actually was.

Upon inquiring as to what we were getting ourselves into the only response was that we were going to set things on fire. No explanation as to why we were setting things on fire, just the simple fact that that was what was going to happen. Hm. Okay?

Tikkun Olam organized a bonfire in a local park so that we could participate in the festivities. We had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into. The bonfire was a lot of fun–we roasted veggies, marshmallows, hotdogs, potatoes, etc…delish!

Eventually we discovered what this holiday was all about (and by discovered I really mean that I googled it when I got home). Although there are many reasons for this celebration (including something about the 33rd day of the Omer, which is so confusing that I’m not even sure I fully understand it), the main reason for the holiday revolves around a battle against Roman occupation of Jewish lands during the years 132-135 AD. The fires are meant to symbolize the smoke signals which were used to communicate the end of the war. Put that bit o’ knowledge in your pipe and smoke it.

While we dined on barbecue deliciousness there were huge bonfires throughout the entire park. People came out to set broken chairs/various slabs of wood alight. It was nuts!

The synagogue next to our house (which is usually pretty Orthodox) was blasting reggae music as kids ran around a gigantic bonfire in the yard.

And this is reason number 46593 for why I love Israel.

After Lag B’Omer life resumed as usual, but there are a few new updates:

1) Apparently the high school students in Israel stop coming to class for the last month of school in order to study intensely for the Bagrut. This seems very counterintuitive to me, but nonetheless my students have departed. I’m a little sad because I liked them all a lot, but soon they’ll be headed for the army (which will actually benefit a lot of them in regards to education) and beyond! And I feel like I’ve had a small part in helping them get there.

2) I’ll now be helping at Etgarim, which is an after-school biking program for students with mental/physical disabilities. It’s going to be challenging, but I’m excited to work with kids in a less structured environment :)

3) I joined a gym! It’s getting a little too hot to be running around the neighborhood and now that I have pool access my life will vastly improve.

Next week I’ll be heading into even warmer weather, however, as I journey to Eilat! Eilat is one of the few major places in Israel that I’ve never been before. Birthright doesn’t take participants to Eilat, but it’s location on the Red Sea makes it the “Miami” of the holyland. We are allowed to take one week off from volunteering so I decided that Sunday through Wednesday I’ll be heading south to Israeli paradise! I am beyond excited..apparently there are glass-bottom boats and dolphins involved. That can’t be bad! It just can’t!

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