I finished reading a book called, “And I Knew It Not” by Erika Elinson (http://www.amazon.com/And-I-Knew-It-Not-ebook/dp/B003I64CCU). I was really enthralled with the book and could only put it down because of homework/sleep/general things in life I had to do. It is a memoir of a member here on the kibbutz that I have the pleasure of serving lunch to every other day. She is elderly, but still takes great care in her appearance, has wonderful manners and a personality that puts anyone at ease. She can easily play the role of a loving grandmother to anyone.
The book, originally written in Hebrew and then translated to English, follows her life from soviet eastern Europe during the holocaust, through the end of the Shoah, to her families escape from the Iron Curtain to France, and finally to her life here in Israel. Her details and way of writting make it as if you are sitting right there next to her as she tells her stories. I was fascinated to read about her life and thoughts in Europe but I must admit: my hair stood on edge while I was reading about her times here in Israel. She came straight off a boat to this Ulpan, perhaps even this building of the ulpan. She did the exact same job that I am now doing. The details she writes about are not only visual in my head because of her style, but because they are my routine every other day. There is something wonderful about having that connections – and quite motivating as well!
I won’t get into too much about the book other than to say it is not a historical dates and actions type book. She tells stories, she invites you into her minds eye. The book really draws you in if you let it. And there are parts about her finding her path towards G-d as well. The book is 4 dollars online, you should really go pick it up.
Family has been on my mind a bit more than usual lately. Some of it is because of a Brandi Carlile song I’ve listened to on repeat but I think most of it is this family tree I am working on. Every Israeli student has to do a project in middle school that is about 20 pages (if I remember correctly) on their family history. That is something that I just don’t have. So, I’ve started working on it in earnest by putting each family member on a note card and pinning them to my bedroom wall. It is still rather patchy, but I have gotten back to my great great grandfather on my fathers side. I work on it every Saturday night, usually by sending out emails or Facebook messages badgering family members for details.
Family has also been on my mind today for another reason. I officially changed my first name today to Yuval. I have been going by this for some years now but the officiality of it all suddenly got very real. There is no going back for me now. It is both liberating and terrifying. I can’t help but question and hope that my (Christian side of the) family doesn’t see this as an insult or me running away from them. But some time ago I realized what I find meaning in spiritually and that is Judaism. So I have chosen to embrace that. It has, by default, brought me closer to those Jewish family members and ultimately lead me to chose a distinctly Jewish/Israeli name. It doesn’t mean I am any less a product of a loving Christian mother and it doesn’t mean that growing up in the bible belt of America isn’t exactly what I needed. This is just the road I am on and it has lead me away from that culture.
I hope they are proud of me.
We had our official spoken test today. I scored 75 ב which means I moved up from total beginner to the next level up. This test will add 27% to my overall diploma, the rest of which is determined by the written test I take in two weeks. I am told I should be very happy with this score but truth be told I’m not at all. My roommate, who is in class א with me, went up to ג level (the 3rd level). There are two other classmates who also scored in ב but higher than me. Only 2 classmates scored lower than I did, they are still in א. A number of people were not allowed to sit for the test because of attendance. The overall story is this: I did reasonably well but could have done better. I need to study more.
A few thoughts on security in Israel: I don’t know how much of this is true because I am hearing this second (or third, or fourth) hand. They are saying the reserves are being called up in preparation for something, possibly an Arab assult. One of the girls in the ulpan was also told to take extra caution. No hitchhiking, no huge public crowds, things like that. I don’t know how much of this is a result of the kidnappings (see next paragraph) or if it is something more. But this particular person in the IDF who talked to that girl in the ulpan certainly seems spooked.
On the kidnapping: first, I want to say I feel for the parents of these three young men (16, 16, 19). I can’t even fathom what they must be going through. And I certainly hope that the IDF is able to locate these boys and bring them home safely. But I think we would be doing everyone a huge disservice if we did not also talk about the current state of the Palistinians. A group of people who have been denied true self rule for so long and have lived under military occupation (which no side denies) for almost 50 years. We have to know the other. We have to realize the pain we are feeling over having 3 young men/teenagers is a pain they feel on a regular basis. The IDF can detain any Palestinian for a number of weeks without charge. This can and does happen. And it is not only the middle aged man whom our minds eye says could be a terrorist, it also happens to children. They have children taken in for weeks at a time and, sometimes, there is no real hurry to notify the family. This is a part of their reality. In the same subject but another point, we must also ask ourselves what cost we are willing to pay to continue to protect Israelis who choose to live in Palestine (commonly called Judea and Samaria) like these kidnapped children’s families have choosen. I am of the mindset that not even one drop of Jewish blood is worth it. The IDF (Israel DEFENSE forces) are required to defend these people. The government allows these settlements to be built on the Palistinian side of the green line and then the IDF has no choice but to go, and protect these people, often time religious fanatics. This has to end. The government needs to follow suit from Gaza and evacuate all Jews from the occupied territories. That, for me, is a no brainer (admittedly, I am in a minority on this train of thought). Then we should continue and ask ourselves just what in the hell are we, the first Jewish nation in so long, doing occupying our neighbors for almost 50 years. What are the other options, what would their implementation look like, what are we looking for, and what can we accept to live with.
Anyway, these are things that have been on my mind.
My bad! I’ve been meaning to update, but such is life.
So, first things first: I got a phone. It is a smart phone. And since I haven’t owned a phone in 4 years, this said smart phone is indeed smarter than me. Awkward!
Also, I’m in the middle of trying to sign a rental at kibbutz Lotan. Apparently they have a lot of demand so it could go either way. We will see.
As of right now, I am in the Olim Reserves of the IDF. The only thing I know about that is they have only ever been called up once – during the Yom Kippur war. I’m still trying to figure out how to do a years service and thanks to an infinitely more helpful lady, I might make real progress this week. The original IDF lady I was working with …. well bless her heart.
So that is life. I have another month here, then who knows?