Monday, December 21, 2009

Hanukkah Vacation (The whole country in one week)

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I'm back at the Kibbutz now after a week or so traveling around my very "Big" country...well its pretty small, but man...I saw a lot (and Eilat). 'American Israeli Joke'

My first night of Hanukkah (חנוקה):
I went to Sam's apartment, a friend from my IsraeLinks trip in '08. Caitlin, also from IsraeLinks, was there and one of her friends too. We lit the first candle and then Sam and I went to go find a Shul (Synagogue). We walked to Hadar, a neat community in Haifa. The first Shul we found was closed, but right on the corner we found a Chabad. (My favorite chose of Shul) It was all Russian though, but still the same service I knew from Boulder. We walked back to his apartment afterwards and ready for us was a very nice Shabbat Dinner. After Dinner we had a very strange encounter with a man and his son in Sam's apartment building. The man invited us up to his apartment for drinks. It was very late and all in Hebrew, so I can't tell you much, but it was fun...
The next day we all went back to the Russian Chabad House, came back and ate lunch. After Lunch, the man from upstairs invited Sam and I to his Shul for Afternoon Prayers. It was very close. When we got in, we saw that it was a Sephardic Shul. This was a very rich experience and they treated us like royality. I got to carry the Torah to the Bima and I also got an Aliyah. (Called to the Torah for the reading, a very honorary custom.) THATS it for Shabbat and the first night of חנוקה.

My second night of חנוקה:

I had also planned to meet up with some friends from CPLV (My Summer Camp) in Tel Aviv Motzi Shabbat (After Shabbat/Saturday Night). So after we lit the second candle, I got on a bus from a very wet and rainny Haifa, to Herzalia to where I got picked up by Yogev, my camp friend, and we then drove to Ramat Gan (Just East of Tel Aviv). There we met up with Roni and Anna, more friends from camp. We sat and had coffee and snacks for hours and caught up with each other, while I had a chance to practice my Hebrew...Which I may add is getting pretty good, well...not really speaking, but Understanding.

The time flew by and I had no chance of making it to the Kibbutz that night, so I stayed with Anna in Petah Tikvah, just north a bit from Tel Aviv. The next day, I caught a bus back to the Kibbutz. *I have to add that Anna was amazing and very helpful. I got to the Kibbutz at 11am, four hours late for Class! I also missed the big mid-term test...I got yelled at by my teacher, but it was חנוקה and I got away with it. I then had to start the test on my own, while my whole class started making חנוקה decorations. This was a very hard test, as it was testing us on three levels of Hebrew. So much for day two...

My third night of חנוקה:
Sunday night, the Ulpan had its חנוקה party. We had spent the whole week before preparing. I only had to do one thing for the party, light a candle. My whole class had to light a candle in the honor of something. Mine was, Peace in the Middle East and the World. I felt like I was in the Miss America Pageant. It was very fun night and I ate even more Sufganeot (Jelly Filled Donuts). *I might post some videos of it on facebook... The next day I had to go to Work!

My candle in Hebrew: אני מדליק נר לכבוד השלום. שיהייה שלום במזרח התיכון ושלום עולמי בכל העולם
My candle in English: I light this candle in honor of peace. That there be peace in the Middle East and all around the world.

My fourth night of חנוקה:
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I had to work because the the first level class had off class and work. My class had Thursday and Friday off.

Monday night, a friend that lives on my kibbutz, Tzach, invited me and some girls, Arielle and Ellinor, to a natural hot springs in the north, just off the Jordan river. It was very relaxing and nice.

My fifth night of חנוקה:
On Tuesday Night, I went to the Kibbutz's Hanukkah Play for the Kids. It was really quite the experience for a Theatre Major. One it was all in Hebrew, but for Kids, so I got most of it and two it was a mix of children dancing and adults acting. It had nothing to do with Hanukkah, or anything Jewish, just a play about a puppy that lost his brother and he went looking for him. It was all very nice. Plus we lit a giantHanukiah.

My sixth night of חנוקה:
I left the Kibbutz right after work on Wednesday and headed off to Eilat (The southern most part of Israel on the Red Sea). My friend from College, Katie London, is there for a few months working in a hotel on a program. I packed my stuff and went out to the gate of the Kibbutz. I always Tramp (Hitchhike) to the near town, Kiryat Ata to check the bus. However when I got in the first car to stop, the driver asked what my destination was and I said Eilat, via Jerusalem. He replied with that he was also going to Jerusalem and I could go with him the whole way. WOW! Second time this had happened. I got to Jerusalem two minutes after the earlier bus to Eilat. Damn, the next bus, which I planned to take anyways was in three I decided to get some lunch and wait for the bus. After I ate, I went to the info desk in the bus station and found out that the 5pm Bus to Eilat was sold out! Awww, What! מה? So I had an hour to get to Tel Aviv to get a bus to Eilat. I didn't get to Eilat until 10:30pm! While I was on the bus, I heard the prayers for the sixth candle, on the radio. I got off to meet Katie and we went right out to get some dinner and check out the boardwalk.

The next day, we woke up and got some breakfast with Katie's Boyfriend on the boardwalk. This was the first I got to see Eilat in the light. It was pretty dusty and I couldn't even see across town, which is mostly hotels. It was warm though and I got to wear shorts.

My seventh night of חנוקה:
We went out to dinner at one of the hotel's that Katie's friend, Kara, works at. It was pretty bad, but I got another Sufganeot... After we went to get ready to go out for the night. It got kinda crazy and I met a ton of their friends. We all lit the seventh candle together in another hotel lobby where only staff live. I met two 17 year olds, one from Russia and one from Kazakhstan (Yes, it really is a country). These guys were working at a hotel, but they just got fired and are moving to Kiryat one wants to live there, by the way, its the town right by my that was cool meeting some guys from where I live in the north. 

The next day, Friday, I had to head to Jerusalem for Shabbat. A few minor problems though...The only ticket I could get to Jerusalem was at 1pm and would not arrive in J town until 5pm, 30min after Shabbat starts. (I wanted to keep the Shabbat and I was staying at a religious family). So I went to the bus station at 10am to try and get on the first bus to Jerusalem, but no I got another great idea! There was a 11am Bus to Tel Aviv. So I got on it... Well that was a mistake, as I soon realized. I thought it would be the same amount of time to Tel Aviv as Jerusalem...I don't know why, but I did. I thought I would get to Tel Aviv at 3pm and then be able to make it to J town in time...well the bus would not get to Tel Aviv until 4:25pm...No Good/לה טוב, but I was going to an amazing person's house. Rivkah, my friend/fellow guide on this summer's Birthright trip. She got on the computer and started cross refrenceing my buses stops and buses to Jerusalem. I ended up switching buses and making it to Jerusalem at 4:20pm!!!!! 10 Minutes to Shabbat, not 10 minutes to the grace period of shabbat. I ran off the bus and right to a taxi. I told them the address and to go fast! I arrived at Rivkah's house right as the sun was going behind the horizon.

My eight night of חנוקה:
I was to late to light candles, as they had to be lit before Shabbat. They had eight hanukiahiot lit. Which was very spectacular. I went to a Shul across the street with Rivkah's Brother for Shabbat. Dinner was great for Shabbat. Rivkah has one older brother and six younger sisters. Plus three other guest where at dinner. I love a large Shabbat dinner with a bunch of loud Israelis! Really, it was a lot of fun.

Shabbat Day was amazing, as I went to Shul once, ate another large meal for lunch and took a walk with Rivkah. I really had one of my best and rememberable shabbats. Her family was amazing and I felt very welcome. I really got to practice my hebrew too!!!

That night I met up with a friend from the Ulpan and caught a bus back to the Kibbutz. I wanted to get back and get some rest, because Sunday and Monday the whole Ulpan was taking a trip to the Negev (Israeli Desert).

Ulpan Trip to the Negev:
The Ulpan I'm in takes a few trips durning the program and this week's trip is of the Negev, for two days. We left at 7am and took a bus to our first destination of Maresha (Click for Link). It was a very old site of city with a ton of underground tunnels and rooms. We spent a few hours on our hands and knees and see massive rooms under the ground.

Next we went to a "Hot spring" at the edge of the desert, just north of Ber Sheba. It wasn't really so much as a hot spring, but a full on Spa, with some hot pools. Very nice and relaxing, but not like the one I went to in the north the week before. Here is a great pic of the sunset.

Then it was getting late so we headed to the famous, Bedouin Tents , at Kfar Hanokdim. I was at the same place with my Birthright group this summer. So about the same...Food, Music, Fire, Desert walk/prayer. I really had a good time, even though, my group drives me crazy at most times.

On Monday, we woke up and ate, and went Camel riding. My third or forth time... It was just the same as all the times before, but a bit longer. Not a good thing...My eggs were in my pun intended.
Then we set out for a three hour hike in the desert near the Dead Sea (ים המלך). It was a very easy hike, with amazing views! I really enjoyed it, more than any other part of the trip.

After the Hike, we went to Dead Sea to Float! Been there done that, but in the Summer. The water was very cold, well pool temp. We floated for awhile and then headed back to the Kibbutz.

The End!

Now back to class and work!

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