Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Because I definitely neglected to post my Jerusalem-purchased kiddush cup before ... here she is!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What can you do in 15 seconds?

It's all too real, no? (Yes, Aish is still on my shit list, but this video is too appropriate NOT to post.) Thanks to Leah Jones for this.

More Wine, Please?

Disclaimer: These posts will be in, well, no particular order. Please forgive me?

On December 23, in the midst of an irritating rain storm, we stopped by the Rimon pomegranate winery in the heart of the Galilee Mountains. This place is the hippest, most random little winery I've ever seen -- the look is very clean, crisp art deco with the most beautiful light fixtures I have ever seen. Someday -- I repeat, someday -- I will find these light fixtures and most definitely put them in my house. It's thanks to this winery that I am now obsessed with pomegranates. The unique thing about these wines is that they aren't just flavored with pomegranate. Oh no, they're made from 100 percent pomegranates!

We weren't there very long, but we were there long enough to try their wines, of which I took to the dessert and port (pictured there). For some reason, the Port was a lot sweeter than the dessert, so I picked up a bottle for the express purpose of my first kiddush home with Tuvia. You see, the first chance we'd had to shop -- out on Ben Yehuda in Jerusalem -- I picked up (after some haggling) the most beautiful kiddush cup, so I needed some Israeli wine to go with it. So I purchased the wine, some delicious chocolate, and a jar of Israeli-made honey.

Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure. I'll let you know how the wine goes over with Tuvia on Shabbos.


Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm baaaaaaackkk!!!

We arrived at Ben Gurion, schluffed through security, I managed to talk the woman at the counter out of charging me for a bag that somehow acquired 11 pounds on the trip, shopped at duty free, and sat down at our gate. I needed a window seat. I walked up to the Continental desk, requested a change, it was processed, and I was set for a row in the 40s on the window. I sat down, chatted with my new friends, and then it was time to board the three-cabin behemoth of a plane. I realized, after taking my seat, that I was rows and rows away from my new friends, placed in the midst of one of the other Birthright groups, for the nearly 12-hour ride home. I took out my journal (that Tuvia's stepmom got me) and began to attempt to write more notes about the trip and the Shabbat adventures I hadn't recorded. Then? The plane took to the runway and lifted into the clear, blue Israeli sky. And I?

I started to cry. Alligator tears. Uncontrollable drops that confused me. I watched as Israel disappeared behind me as we went up, up, up. I peered out my little window, watching as we went away, moving away from Israel -- like the women who walk backwards as they leave the Western Wall, like leaving a loved one, it's hard to just turn around and leave. I watched until my neck hurt from looking backwards and until I couldn't see the coast any longer amid the thinning clouds. And even when I couldn't see Israel anymore, I kept crying.

I can't really explain the emotion, but I feel like I've left something very special behind. Like a piece of me was buried in the desert, dropped while riding camels or sleeping in the Bedouin tent or watching the sun rise slowly and then quickly over the Judean desert. Something was left there, and maybe it's why my stomach feels so empty today.

When we first went on the trip, the trip madrachim told us that they didn't want to be so bold as to call us Israelis, but that they hoped that by the end of the trip, we would be proud and eager to call ourselves as such. I can honestly say, with a full heart and a steady mind that I am an Israeli. Albeit, more of the Jerusalem or Kibbutzim Israeli than a Tel Aviv Israeli (to be honest, T.A. just didn't jibe with me).

I have so many stories to tell. I have people to talk about. Forty and more new friends I made with varying degrees of Jewishness that is as beautiful as the varying terrain across Israel. I have stories to tell about people who touched me and people I touched, stories that are amusing ("welcome to pimp my camel!") and stories of tragedy (visiting the border with Lebanon and Syria and Gaza and the Save a Child's Heart program) that always, ALWAYS manage to defeat the odds in the pursuit of life and happiness.

It will take me weeks. It might take months. But eventually I hope I can really explain what Israel has done to me. Watching, while we were still in Israel, as missiles and bombs flew out of Gaza onto homes and hopes, I was devastated. I knew IDF soldiers who, after our departure, were likely heading there, into Gaza, in order to protect Israel and the Jewish people. One of the soldiers? His family's home was destroyed in the attacks. Listening to the stories and hearing how people live day-by-day and how they just want to do that -- live -- has given me a newfound respect for the Israel Defense Forces, the soldiers who are there fighting for ME, and the entire country and its hopes and efforts. So, being here, in the U.S., the place that the customs man called "home" when welcoming me back, is difficult. Incredibly difficult. Because I now know what is on the other side, and I know what I have left behind.

At any rate, I have lots of unpacking to do, a stomach to make better, more sleep to get, and pictures -- of which there are hundreds -- to look through. Until then?

Am Yisrael Chai!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bon voyage!

Okay. I'm about 95 percent positive I'm going to leave my computer with Tuvia and not take it with me to Israel. I was gifted a notebook for journaling, and I think most assuredly that this is a sign (since I have another, as well) that I should be WRITING, not TYPING, my Israel experience. It'll be therapy for me -- someone so plugged in 24/7. But, you know, if there happens to be a computer there for my use? I'll whittle away at my likely ever-growing inbox, never fear. 

Catch you all on the other side of the trip! L'hitraot!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shabbos and ... I'm heading to Israel now!

Well, in 24 hours I'll be sitting at the airport with dozens of other Birthright attendees, waiting patiently for our 3 something flight. Thus, I should be packing right now, but I'm blogging. Why? Because I'm a wholly devoted blogger, you know.

Over the past month, plus a little, the significant other and I have been keeping Shabbos -- both here in Connecticut and when we've stayed in the Poconos. There have been a few exceptions to the rule that I'll explain, but for the most part, we've gone all out -- cooked dinner a night or two early, warmed up in the preheated oven on Shabbos; turned off all unused lights pre-Shabbat (and taped the light switches up to keep us from turning lights off accidentally); purchased canteens to keep water hot throughout the holiday; and all other Shabbat-friendly things. The exceptions to the rule have been few, but they involve going to shul and coming back. Usually when we come back the house is all ready to go -- the SO having set everything before work in the morning. The debate continues over going to synagogue, and I know the rabbis have ruled that it is better to not go to shul than to operate a motor vehicle on the sabbath, but we live nowhere near a synagogue, as they're all in West Hartford for the most part. Barring picking up and moving, the only option right now is either no shul or driving to shul pre-Sabbath and making our best happen after synagogue.

This past week we did probably the ultimate no no -- we hit up an Orthodox shul, only to drive home afterward since we were miles and miles and miles from home. But I'd wanted to go to the synagogue for some time and there was no way *to* go without driving. Everyone was very welcoming, and although the women's section included just me and two other women, the melodies were familiar and the service was more what I had become oriented to living back in Chicago. I felt at home, and on a Shabbos like that -- right after my father's diagnosis -- I need that mechitzah and the separation and the time to pray within myself. Add to this that they didn't have the Artscroll transliterated, and, well, I was incredibly focused on the words. It was a truly excellent experience and just what I'd needed. The only dilemma now is figuring out how to make that kind of experience happen when I live so, so, so far away.

The semester ended so abruptly, and so busily, that I've been feeling quite overwhelmed and I'm feeling a bit out of sorts emotionally and Jewishly. Thus, I guess it's probably a stellar time for me to head to Eretz Yisrael, to get a dose of the homeland, to stand and walk on ages-old streets and daven with the best of them, in the places our ancestors breathed and ate and read and drank. I'm not sure what to think at this point, as I'm filled with a mixture of excitement and -- not fear -- but apprehension. I'm not sure why apprehension, but it's the best word I can come up with at this point. I'll have a friend on the trip, and I'll know plenty of others in Israel at the time, but there's still a bit of nervousness. It is, after all, my first trip out of the U.S. -- EVER.

Anyhow, enough about the trip. Hopefully I'll be doing a bit of blogging from the road because the hotels we're staying at (when we're not out in the Bedouin tents) have free WiFi. But there will be pictures (I have 12 GB worth of storage space, I hope it's enough!), and stories (a paper journal is armed for these things) and plenty of goodies for friends and bloggers alike.

So, stay tuned. I'll be around, but if you don't see much of me in the next 10 days, well, you know I'm probably scaling Masada or davening at the Western Wall or purchasing goodies with shekels or something. I'll have all of you on my mind, though, the entire time I'm away. After the drama earlier this year with Birthright, I'm so happy I'm finally on my way.

If there's anything YOU'd like while I'm in Israel, shoot me a comment or email STAT! I'll be out of communication starting around 3 p.m. tomorrow -- when our plane leaves -- until Thursday night at the earliest.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Haveil Havalim and a Viral Video!

I know, I know -- I'm late to the party. The carnival party, that is! This week's edition of Haveil Havelim, everyone's favorite Jewish blog fete, is out and proud. That is, it's up and over on Jack's blog , which, might I add, is sporting a new handle: "Life is a tale told by an idiot: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Hopefully, sometime in the not-so-distant future I'll be hosting the carnival, so stay tuned for details!

I have plenty to say, but it's late and I have much to do and laundry to start, because, well, in three nights I'm going to be floating over an ocean somewhere, hopefully asleep (I neglected to visit the clinic to get an in-flight drug, unfortunately). So in the meantime (that is, until tomorrow afternoon), I leave you with this awesome pre-Chanukah Chanukah delight. Be sure to look out for one of my favorite bloggers, the always eloquent Esther K (she's in front of the HOLLYWOOD sign!).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chavi is BACK!

Brace yourselves, folks. Chavi is BACK in business. The first semester of my graduate career is officially over, and I'm praying for all As on my first, official, graduate school report card. But in truth, I'm done thinking about academics for the next month, I think. We all know this is a lie, as the moment I have a free second, I'm going to be starting in on "The Essential Talmud " by Adin Steinsaltz in preparation for my Talmud course next semester.

This week, though, has been one of highs and lows. Ups and downs. Emotional extremes.

The highs? The significant other (known henceforth as Tuvia) gave me some early Chanukah gifts -- a much-needed toaster oven, a much-needed HP printer/scanner/copier, and most beautifully, a glittering, shiny Star of David necklace. I started packing for my Birthright trip, with the knowledge that this time next week I'll be basking in the sun of Israel, davening in the land of my ancestors, exploring the land.

The lows? I realized that my knowledge of New Testament studies is nil. I found myself frustrated studying for my Bible exam because of my inability to comprehend the unresolved (academically and theologically) issue of Jesus as G-d (Jesus can suffer, G-d can't, but Jesus is still G-d -- note: not the SON of G-d, just G-d, a common misunderstanding of our Christian brethren).

The lowest of the lows? I found out, around 5 p.m. yesterday while stressing about my Bible exam, that my father has lymphoma. They don't know just yet whether it's Hodgkins or non-Hodgkins. They don't know what stage it's in. They, of course, being my parents. Until they meet with the oncologist, we don't really know anything.

My brain was frazzled this morning. I couldn't get my toaster to work. I spent 10 minutes trying to fix it. I realized later, after throwing my bagel frustratedly into the trash, that I'd unplugged the power strip with the toaster and microwave instead of the refrigerator plug, which had been my original intention. I got all the way to class and then realized I'd left my term paper (which I needed to hand in) back in my room and had to schlep back to get it before the test. This morning was a head explosion, can't focus, struggling to breathe kind of morning.

The best way for me to describe my current emotional state is stunned. Not upset or sad or depressed, just stunned. I don't know if that makes sense, but it makes me feel bad that I'm not bawling my eyes out every five seconds. Although, when I informed my professor of the news, I nearly started crying, which would have been a travesty, as it was moments before I started the exam. The thing is, when I was little, I freaked out about death. I spent some amount of time crying at night, unable to sleep, devastated at the idea of death and everything just stopping. And then I had a realization and I realized that it was so insignificant -- life was important, this life, this existence. Ever since then, I've been unable to get really depressed about death. I haven't been able to overwhelm myself with loss. My grandfather died in April, and I was stunned more than upset. My great uncle died maybe 12 years ago, and I wrote a poem about how happy his memory was for me (he used to always steal my nose). And now? I'm just stunned. Empty, stunned shock. Maybe I don't know what to think.

But the important thing is? I'm back. After Shabbos, I'll be writing about, well, Shabbos. I've been doing the Shomer Shabbos thing, and tonight Tuvia and I are heading to to a modern Orthodox shul. We'll see how it goes. But tonight, I'll be thinking of my father. And if it isn't too much to ask, I would hope y'all could donate some of your prayers tonight to my father. He has no Hebrew name, he's not Jewish, but he is my father.

I'm back, baby. I'm back!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Haveil Havalim #194!

I'm still alive, still suffering through papers and studying for finals. In the meantime, the new edition of Haveil Havalim is up. It's #194, and it's being hosted over at Shiloh Musings, and wow is it a GIGANTIC list of links. It might take you days to weed through the Jewish goodness!


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hilarious Video ... STAR STUDDED ...

Hat Tip to Jack for this Prop 8 Musical -- Jack Black, Margaret Cho ... DOOGIE HOWSER ... wow.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Monday, December 1, 2008

Taking a Mini-Break ... sort of.

It's a new month, and 2009 is nearly upon us. Thank G-d it's already 5769 and I don't really have to think about a new year! But I wanted to pop in to let everyone know that for the next week, perhaps two, I will be really MIA. I have a lot of things I want to write about -- keeping Shabbos over the past month with a significant other, hot water pots, already-on ovens, separating meat and dairy and the interesting conundrums it has presented, getting to shul, and more. But I have two term papers (one of which is presently 20 pages and the other of which is about 15 and growing) to work on and a few finals to focus my attentions toward. As such, I just can't be present on my blog in the way I'd like to be. So there will be short snippets of news stories and what have you, but nothing really that fascinating, and for this? I ask for your patience until I return fully and for your continued support! This blog is my world, and having so many readers means so much to me. I'll be back for about a week after my finals, and then, on December 17, I trek off to Israel for a life-altering experience on Birthright. I won't be live blogging, most likely, but I will be alive and well. If I can figure out how to text a post, I'll be sure to do it!

On a similar note, another reason I'm stepping away is because my energy level is at a bottom right now. I feel like the Freddy, the dog in this photo. I just want to sleep! As you all know, I was dealing with strep throat about three weeks ago. I took a 10-day dose of penicillin, and I was better for about four or five days, after which I started getting some similar symptoms. I couldn't swallow anything, not even water, without excruciating pain. I was exhausted, my glands were the size of baseballs, and there was a pressure in my head, nose, ears, and neck that I cannot even begin to put into words! Luckily, things only got really bad after Thanksgiving, so I was able to enjoy some time with the S.O.'s family. But on Friday morning, we had to drive about 45 minutes to the nearest urgent care/hospital in the middle-of-nowhere, Pennsylvania, so I could be diagnosed. The doctor immediately surmised it was mono (although he mentioned that since it had been 2.5 weeks, I likely was outside the window for showing positive for mono), took a swab test for strep (which I'm still waiting on) and sent me off to the hospital for blood tests. Later Friday, he called to tell me that he couldn't tell for sure whether it was NOT mono, but he did know that I had developed a bacterial infection. I was sent to the pharmacy just after the start of Shabbat (which bummed me out, but was necessary) for a prescription that was penicillin + more antibiotics to help fight the infection.

Needless to say, I'm feeling a lot better than I was Thursday night and Friday during the day, but I'm not even at 60 percent right now. I'm fatigued, my glands are still swollen, and my skin is more ghostly than normal! One friend quipped that I even looked like I had mono. Ach! So I'm going to be sleeping a lot, working on papers, and messing around with Hebrew while trying to get better.

And maybe ... just maybe ... I'll get around to reading the nearly 300 blog posts I'm behind on. You bloggers have been busy over the past six days. It's frustrating to be so behind. If you have a blog post that you think I should most certainly spend some time on -- email me or put the link in the comments below.

Until I return with stories of Shabbos and crazy racists in the Poconos ... be well!