Happy Tu B'Shevat, chevri! Happy Jewish Arbor Day!
I have officially completed my first week of classes at Pardes. What a week it was. I love it. I'm taking Chumash, Talmud, Women and Mitzvot, Hassidut, Midrash and Modern Jewish Thought. A lot of text study, learning of common Talmudic phrases (in Aramaic). Mainly I'm getting used to a very different way of thinking about Judaism. Many of the values and beliefs of a Jew engaging in halacha are just different, especially how people relate to G-d. You don't understand everything, and you don't have to. That doesn't matter. We need a lot of boundaries in our lives. Structure and rule keep a community together and keep individuals from going out of control with their emotions. These are some basic messages. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to study like this and engage with text. It's so vital.
In case you're interested, in Talmud, which I have three mornings a week from 8:30-11:45, we are studying masechet (tractate) brachot. We're mainly reading about proper conduct and state of mind regarding t'fillah, but last class we got into some laws regarding nidah (menstruation). Baffling and interesting at the same time. This topic made for some inappropriate, TMI kind of conversations. One young man informed me what sort of nidah rule he and his wife follow, in regards to when they can touch and when she's impure. "Oh. Uh-huh. That's interesting."
An oily red pepper stuffed with meat that Dafna ate at a great little hummus place near Pardes. The restaurant doesn't have a sign and is basically in a circus tent. The oily, eggy, hot hummus is a delicious Baka secret.
This week Dafna and I went to a pretty infuriating panel discussion held at PresenTense in Jerusalem. One speaker was a professor of holocaust studies at Hebrew U who works with Israelis against home demolitions, one was a young woman who refused army service to protest Israel's presence in the territories and the last one works to educate Israelis about the nakba. I disagreed with so much of what they said it's hard to express it all. I certainly respect them though. Two of the speakers made some fascinating points regarding the psychology of memory and facing the past.
Overall, it made me sad though how much the speakers believe if only Israel would leave the West Bank and meet the Palestinian people as equals, then...THEN WHAT? And what does that even mean? I despise when people speak in lofty terms but don't say anything concrete. I asked them what they would like to see happen if and when Israel left the West Bank. First, they dismissed the question a little, saying first and foremost, Israel just has to leave the West Bank, then we'll talk about next steps. Let's just wait and see what happens. Ultimately though they said they would like a right of return law for Arabs and a one state democracy, not a Jewish state. Fine, that's one perspective, but G-d help us.
I would like to see a two-state solution, East Jerusalem as the capital, a big, weird highway connecting Gaza and the West Bank, who knows. I just want to still be able to visit the Museum on the Seam in East Jerusalem. Mainly I want there to be big borders.
Dafna noticed that none of the panelists or audience members were Sephardi Jews. We thought a Jew with memory of living in and being expelled from an Arab country would have a very different reaction to all of this.
In lighter news, Carmela and I went to the Shuk this morning. Dafna too. I bought some beautiful fruit and challah. Dafna and Carmela bought kugel yerushalmi (Jerusalem Kugel, basically noodles, black pepper and sugar).
A man selling cabbage thought Dafna was leaning on his produce and he violently shoved her. Shabbat Shalom, sir!
Mushrooms and the cabbage leaner at the shuk
Tonight for Shabbat I'm going with Keara and Carmela to an HUC service and potluck Tu B'Shevat dinner. I look forward to mingling with some new people and celebrating vegetarianism.
My new alarm clock
Dafna has some big, wonderful news to share with you all...