September Update (and a bit of October)


Summer is gone, the holidays are finally over, fall and reddish colored leaves are not really something you see in Jerusalem, but October in the holy land will always be my favorite kind of October.

September was a shaky month, I faced some down thoughts and emotions. They related to a few uncertainties and challenges that are going on in my life. But that’s life. And I am working on embracing them. Overall, I think the changes are good for me.

In a month and a bit, I will be heading to the US, for a long period of time. I am planning on taking part in an Artist in Residency there this winter; something I’ve been wanting to do for the longest time.
My parents, who had their green card for a while, will soon be able to vote, which excites them. I, the only american (on papers) in the family, have been feeling very detached from the political scene there. Honestly, my interest mostly comes from how it influences Israel/Palestine. But lately, I’ve been far from that too. It’s probably better like this, for now. The things I am looking forward to the most in the US are simple: going groceries with my mom (checking out all the options Israel doesn’t have), sit at Barnes & Nobles with my dad and talk about nerdy things (I can do this for hours) and hear from my sister (who isn’t american on papers) about the american slang I never heard of (none of it basically).
One of the doctors I visited this past month told me: “you are very close to your family but you are trying to run away from that. Don’t worry though, once you form your own family you will feel better”. Sweet of him. Though I don’t think I will “form” a family anytime soon. There is still so much I want to explore on my own.

On Sukkot, I traveled north to the Golan to visit my aunt, who keeps with the mitzvah of building a sukkah every year, without a man. Women are not committed to a sukkah according to the texts, but here it is anyway, and it is marvelous. 

It’s a shame sukkah’s lifespan is 8 days and then it ought to be gone.    

Drawings of earthy growing foods. Seriously the most beautiful sukkah ever. My aunt is traditional and does things according to the halakha, but always adds her own artistic touch to everything. 

The round table in her studio 🙂 
A mountain monster in my sketchbook

The area where my aunt lives
Part of our breakfast. 
The candle is for my grandma who recently passed away

I’ve been meditating regularly for the past two weeks. I have a long way to go in my meditation journey, but I try to gently focus on the moment, on each morning, and each breath. 

Another Sukkah. Karen and I made drawings for it in my living room. It supports the Palestinian Beduin community at Khan Al Ahmar as they face the threat of demolition.
I am still thinking about the concept of sukkah against demolition. There is room for more on this topic, for sure.

Old City discoveries. Matilda (who speaks and reads all the languages) translating some Arabic as I take a photo. 

More from the old city. Some very beautiful calligraphy. 
I especially like this one.

Another page from my sketchbook

My Tu Bishvat Story

Before I got miraculously accepted into Bard, I went to a New Jersey community college to work on my English. The place, and especially my English Composition classes, was full with immigrants and busy people who already had children. I became friends with a girl from Kosovo who won her green card in a lottery (“I am incredibly lucky.”)  and a Korean girl who wasn’t half as shy as she first looked. Both never heard about Israel. “There is no way your country is smaller than Korea, I can drive across Korea in one day!”
One morning, an Israeli girl appeared in one of my English composition classes. We discovered each other faster than the speed of light (“How did YOU end up HERE?” she demanded). She was older than me, very confident, with straight impressively long black hair that used to be curly. We shared a desk. Class started and we got an assignment to write a short essay about something from our home country that we missed. There were so many things I missed. But I didn’t know how to name them or how to pick one. Eventually, I wrote about Tu Bishvat.
In that moment, Tu Bishvat symbolized the earthy atmosphere I grew up in and the countless trips I took with family and friends to visit nature, a specific kind of wilderness New Jersey simply doesn’t have. Tu Bishvat also tends to arrive when winter is weakened and you can finally take off your coat. One of my favorite moments in life.  
“Oh Metuka Ktana At ! (you little sweetheart)” she laughed, so amused by my topic.  After class, she sat with me outside and told me all about her essay in details. It was about the IDF. The experience there, apparently, was very meaningful to her. While listening, I couldn’t help but feeling as if she was striving to educate me. She was telling me to grow up. And not to write about Tu Bishvat next time. Maybe it was only in my head. Surely I focused on the differences between our choices instead of listening to her.  
A few hours later, my other friend told me about the war in Kosovo during the 90s. I didn’t know much about it. She told me it was horrible. People she knew died. I found myself gazing at a specific spot on the wall. I was about to cry. God knows why. I went to the bathroom to do just that.
I missed Israel but I also didn’t miss it or the obligation to protect it.
I grew up a bit and I have a similar feeling today. 

Tu Bishvat was my lonesome then, I would still write about it today, with love. 

A quick visit to the north

On Saturday last week I moved to my sublet in Jaffa, I was really lucky to find this place on a relatively cheap deal. The apartment is somewhere deep in the sphere: southern to Old Jaffa and the port, and most voices around us speak Arabic. I will be living here for a month. My roommates are both older and more experienced in life. But it’s probably only my low self-esteemed first impression. I have done things in my life, I am just having this unusual order of them.

On my first night here a shabby guy followed me down the street and scared the shit out of me. I must learn how to inform creeps to go the hell away. A qualification I should obtain before I become a valid woman.

Anyhow, a day later my aunt came to visit the area and critically wondered in my ears about how could I move somewhere on the Shabbat. Because on Shabbat you definitely not suppose to do anything but sitting down and smiling to yourself. Which sounds great, maybe I should try it sometimes. 
My aunt, how do you say this in english, found god and all the answers few years back. Somewhere around the birth of her only child, Noa. Since then most of the family sees her as a crazy sheep. But she has always been this distinctive individual , creative artist, a bit different in any possible way. As a kid I admired her style. I still do.
She makes everything herself, the furniture in her house, her clothing. Everything around her is always very beautiful, yet simple. 
Therefore, even though she now lives under many strict laws of Hashem, the Rabbis, and the books, I still appreciate her and the lifestyle she has chosen for herself. Though since I am part of the Chosen (ugh) as well , she does feel like I should be more into that myself, but I have my own ways to be Jewish. Sorry to disappoint. I do believe we can still love each other and that is what most important.!
Hence, I was invited to come visit her home in the Golan Heights, which by the way took me some time overseas to realize that only the maps at my school showed it as Israel. It doesn’t change the fact that it is a very beautiful place. I was happy to go on a family bonding trip as well as get out of the city, and the unfamiliar apartment I just arrived at…

Before we arrived at the Golan we stopped at this wonderful vegan restaurant in Pardes Hanna. They had a supper religious wall covered with charming works by a local artist. So from there we went to visit her in her studio, you can find other works here. I bought this one:

It says “Time to Love”. 
I have a thing for mandalas.
So yeah, my aunt and Noa are pretty much vegans(and very much Kosher). I had three days of veggies, fruits, beans, almond milk, lots and LOTS of tahini (which I eat ALL the time anyway) , hummus and everything else that grows from the earth when you water it. It was good. I felt light and fabulous about it. 
My Aunt is very continuous of Shemita (no idea what’s the english), which means that after we done eating a veggie or a fruit there is a special place to “throw” each thing because you do something with it afterwards. There is no jiffa, no waste. So I had to carefully consider where to put the lemon’s peel or the apple’s seeds.

As far as Kosher goes, you should keep in mind which utensils and tools are for meat, dairy or pareve because each has their own. But we ate mostly pareve so it wasn’t a big deal for me.

a cute corner of the kitchen
My aunt lives in a small settlement very close to the border with Syria. People there are mostly young with many children and a strong belief that God will take care of everything. 
While my aunt told me how in this place the air is exclusively fresher, the sky is close and so is he, I was thinking about Syria. The smell of blood, the crying earth from nearby.
People in the settlement don’t read or listen to the news, ever. And so they don’t talk about Syria. Nobody mentions the close danger, or what might happen here one day. 
At some point I had to confront my aunt about it. She said: “It is better to light a candle than to cry over darkness.” I let this phrase sink in me for a moment. I like it a lot. It sounds so comforting, so warm and right. Yet, I couldn’t find peace with it. Syria is still bleeding right next to us. Denying the horrors won’t hold the candle for long.
Around me I could see mostly children. Living their very young lives in their strict, closed Jewish community. I would never raise my kids here, I couldn’t help thinking, I would be too worried to even look at them in the morning.

Sushi and Tahini that I made
(not a big fan of sushi with no raw fish
in it )

Me trying to fit in with modesty
(way too hot for summer)

the Studio, a really fascinating room

and one of the many things I’ve found there: a childhood photo of my aunt and my mom

One of the days we drove down to Tzfat( Safad in Arabic). Tzfat is considered a major city in Judaism, maybe the most important after Jerusalem.

Reading about it a bit before going, to refresh my memory, I can tell you many Jews died in this damn place wow. Massacres, earthquakes, plagues, persecutions, what not. Why is this place still considered Holy ??!

Still pretty though