HAPPY 65TH BIRTHDAY ISRAEL!
Last night Israel was filled with joy and excitement because today marks 65 years of Israel’s independence! This day is extremely important to Israelis and most, if not all, of them make an effort to celebrate all over the country.
Since it’s my first Independence Day in Israel I thought I may visit my friends in Tel Aviv to check out the big parties and fun-filled shows, but I decided to experience this day on the Kibbutz. I was told that every year the kibbutz holds a ceremony to recognize this incredibly special day by showcasing wonderful Israeli talent.
This experience was certainly unique. The ceremony was held on the lawn near the dining room.
When I arrived, Kibbutznikim were already spread across the lawn with their towels and blankets.
All the kids were roaming around with flags and sparklers before the show. There were several different performances from hip-hop to slow dancing.
One of my favorite performances was the opening dance. It was absolutely beautiful – lots of graceful movement.
Though the first performance was quite lovely, the performance of the kindergartners (Keeta Alef – “Class A) really captured my heart. When they danced, it was as if watching little white butterflies flutter on stage. They were precious!
There was also a hip-hop performance which was also very good. However, after taking several photos of the break-dancers not one of the photos came out nicely.
When the ceremony came to an end everyone quickly disappeared from the lawn to search for the best place to watch the fireworks.
I’m obsessed with fireworks so I needed to have the best view. I was certainly with the right person when Meitar asked me to join him on the roof of the dining hall (one of the best locations to see the fireworks).
When we got to the roof there was a bench. None of the others had joined us yet so we had “dibs” on the bench. (Apparently many people are aware of this romantic spot of the roof).
It wasn’t too much longer after we made it to the roof that the fireworks began painting the sky with colourful lights.
It was the most wonderful way to begin the 65th year of Israel’s independence!
I always imagined myself picking up a new hobby or two on my travels. I thought maybe it would be learning to play the ukulele or improving my drawing skills, but nope…I got into knitting!
It all started when a good friend of mine was knitting one day when we were trying to kill time. We hung out a lot and I was struggling to keep myself busy. I had a book with me, like usual, but I felt restless and wanted to do something more.
I asked my friend if he (yes he!) could teach me how to knit since he was knitting an absolutely beautiful sweater.
I remember my grandmother (a long-time knitter) always told me the story of how she wanted to teach me how to knit, but didn’t know how to approach it because I was left handed. I also had little interest at the time, because it looked like a lot of work.
However, my friend was quite keen on teaching me. He gave me two spare 5.0 needles to knit my newly bought colourful wool containing red green and yellow (colours suited for a beautiful scarf for my man). After countless mistakes I FINALLY got the hang of it.
Now, I can’t stop knitting. I knit in the mornings, evenings and afternoons. I knit when I’m waiting in line or on the bus. I knit all the time now. It has become a wonderful healthy addiction. It’s so relaxing because it puts me into such a calm trance that I can go on knitting for hours.
Here is a picture of me in deep knitting meditation at Zorba the Buddha Festival.
I am about 1/3 of my way done the scarf. When the scarf is finally complete I will share a pretty picture with you!
PS: For all you male knitters out there a wise woman once told me that her father was a knitter and said there was nothing unusual about a male knitter since all it is, is a series of knots.
The last time I heard about Anonymous I was writing an assignment for my third-year communications class. I learned of their hacktivist ways, but I never thought I’d ever be under attack.
After hearing of #OpIsrael and Anonymous’ plan to “wipe Israel from cyberspace,”I was terribly concerned for Israel and for any way I would be effected.
Days leading up to April 7 (the first day of the attack campaign), I was advised by my Facebook friends to do the following :
I quickly read all the bullet points and updated all my passwords making them as complicated as possible. I made a note not to check my online banking accounts that day as well as use my credit cards (even though they’re Canadian). I downloaded MyPermissions, but left LastPass because it didn’t seem necessary. Like usual I also made sure not to click on anything I wasn’t familiar with. I already had enabled the 2-step verification on Google, so I felt good.
I sat back after my mission to protect myself from Anonymous and laughed a little wondering if I was going too far. By the time the 7th came around I was feeling pretty at ease, especially after reading this article by the Israel News Agency.
Today, the day after, nothing has happened to any of my accounts. However, it isn’t over and only time will tell what will happen next.
Purim is probably my FAVORITE Jewish holiday because you get to dress up. In short, the story of Purim celebrates Queen Esther saving the Jews from the evil King Haman who hated the Jews.
This year, Purim was incredible because, for the first time, I celebrated it in Israel. What made it even more special was I celebrated it on Kibbutz Maagan Michael a kibbutz that invests thousands of Shekels to make this the most memorable celebration every year. In Canada, Purim is not such a big deal (at least not when I’ve celebrated it) because when you’re in Israel EVERYONE celebrates Purim and it feels more like Halloween then anything else.
I absolutely love dressing up and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to be. Meitar knew he was going to be Peter Pan because if he could be anything in the world I think he’d be a kid forever. So, this made my decision a little easier when I thought we’d pair up and I’d be Tinker Bell.. and boy did we look great!
The whole event took place in the dining hall of the Kibbutz. The interior was transformed into a place appropriate for a fashion show which followed their “Fashion TV” theme. The walls and floors were covered in silver stars (you can see some of it in the picture below of Meitar’s dad)
All my friends from Ulpan were there. I did what is called an “Ulpan” which means studio in English. Why they call it this I am not sure, but the program was a 5-month long work/study program which I completed in December. This program is how I ended up on the kibbutz in the first place (See PAST POSTS for information on my uplan experience).
The whole night consisted of good food, great music and, of course, lots of alcohol. On Purim you are supposed to get really drunk. Why? Because…
A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai
Not everyone accepts this answer or even believes that you should get drunk, but I think why not!
If you ever find yourself in Israel during Purim make friends with someone from this Kibbutz, you will have a blast!
After having the wonderful opportunity to see and work on Van Gogh: Up-Close at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) in Ottawa, I had the opportunity to experience Van Gogh: Alive in Israel.
The Van Gogh exhibition in Israel was quite the experience. I didn’t do too much research on what to expect for the exhibition. I assumed that an art gallery would be showcasing most of the same pieces I saw in Ottawa, but taking a different approach on how to view them. However, I was completely wrong.
When I arrived at the exhibition area I saw a small white dome with a big billboard indicating that the exhibition was inside. This immediately made me question my decision to go. It wasn’t in an art gallery and it seemed extremely small to showcase Van Gogh’s work.
I entered the white dome where I saw the cafe/gift shop area to my right and the entrance to the exhibition on my left with a wall giving short summeries of some of Van Gogh’s most famous artworks. At first, I didn’t bother looking at it. I was familiar with Van Gogh and I was too eager to see the real deal so I just went inside.
Much to my amazement, there was no art in the way I imagined it. There was a dark interior filled with white screens acting like canvases for projected images of Van Gogh’s work. I was confused, but intrigued and decided to go back out and read the description.
Venture into an exciting new world; forego all preconceived ideas of traditional museum visits, dispel all notions of tiptoeing through silent art galleries to view masterpieces from afar, change how you engage with art, stimulate your senses and challenge your beliefs of what an “exhibition” can be.
- VanGoghAlive The Experience
After reading this I finally understood and walked back in. It was almost impossible to take it all in. An hour-long video collage of works by Van Gogh spread across the interior of the dome blown up to enormous proportions. I was in a trance unable to take my eyes off the moving images. It was an absolutely incredible experience. Though I felt some disapointment since I was not in front of the original peices. Yet, the unique experience of the harmony of these images projected onto the screens all over the room was an experience I will never forget.
Though, I will say that if you are on a budget, this outing is quite pricey. The cost per person is 99 shekels which is about 28$ (CAN). The exhibition is constructed to guide your viewing. In other words, for lack of a better way of putting it, the projections run for an hour before the repeat. However, you really can’t grasp everything in one round so it might be worth it to see it again.
For more information you can visit the website here (it’s in English!). You can also like their Facebook page for updates.
UPDATE: This exhibition has been extended to April 30, 2013.
Valentines Day in Israel. This is unique for a couple of reasons. Firstly, V-Day is actually undeveloped ( in my opinion) because it’s really a “Hallmark” Holiday which is an American company. Israeli’s have a similar holiday called “Tubeav,” but it’s celebrated slightly differently. Secondly, I have never been in a relationship on V-Day so I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out (now that I have been in a relationship for 6-months now).
Meitar (my Israeli boyfriend) and I have been in a relationship for close to 6-months now and it has been great! He is what is called a “Kibbutznik” (someone who lives on a ‘kibbutz’ – a community settlement, usually agricultural, organized under collectivist priciples… according to Dictionary.com.). This matters because most kibbutzniks by reputation live simple lives so I wasn’t sure how extravigant my valentine’s day experience would be.
Much to my amazement the day began with a bouquet of absolutely beautiful flowers, roses and all.
He had told me days before that he had a surprise for me and we would be staying somewhere overnight, but wouldn’t tell me where. I thought maybe a hotel, but again much to my amazement it was a beautiful cabin in “Fountain Valley” near Beit She’an. It was among people’s homes, but once inside the gate I really felt like I was in the middle of paradise.
Our little cabin contained a queen-sized bed and a beautiful hot tub which was all we needed for our one-night stay. The room smelled of cedar and reminded me of the nights I spent in the cabins at camp (but of course with way better accomidations). Meitar really outdid himself. It was incredibly romantic and thoughtful and overall the best Valentine’s Day experience ever. I don’t think anyone will be able to top this one off!
I think what amazed me the most is the ability to drive an hour away from the kibbutz we live and find a gem like this hidden away. However, it didn’t end just there. We spent the next day traveling around the area.
We found a great location to check out called Kokhav Hayarden National Park as part of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The park features the remains of a crusaders fortress built between 1168-69.
The view from the fortress is probably more spectacular than the fortress itself. I was completely mezmorized.
The exterior walls of the fortress were quite large for what was left of them.
Parts of the interior were still intact, mainly the arches.
We found the laundry area which was completely intact. In the image Meitar is looking down the well where the women used to draw water to soak and wash the clothing.
I think the coolest part of the fortress (literally) was the Water Cistern which was used to store large amounts of water which was incredibly important.
We also had a little fun taking photos…
This was my favorite site from the fortress. I will definitely come back here, even if it’s just for the view.
So, if you ask me how my V-Day was this year I think you’ll know my response!
I had planned to go to Jerusalem from Kibbutz Maagan Michael with Meitar and his family to a wedding. I had heard a few days ago that Jerusalem had gotten a lot of snow. I laughed. I couldn’t imagine what Israeli’s thought “a lot” of snow was compared to what I would think (coming from Canada).
We drove to Jerusalem in the evening, so it was hard to see how much snow there was outside (from the car window). At one point I saw a bunch of cars pull off to the side of the highway and get out of their cars. It wasn’t too much longer before we also stopped and got out of the car. When we got out of the car, I couldn’t believe how much snow there was.
Meitar and his brothers went crazy in the snow. It was great fun to see. Though, being part of my entire life I wasn’t too thrilled to see the snow since I traveled with the hopes that I wouldn’t have to see snow until I returned to Canada. What struck me most was how excited Israelis are about snow. At one point Meitar’s brother Gev (10 yrs. old) turned to him and asked him why I wasn’t excited about the snow. I thought this was very cute. I truly was amazed that Israel actually got snow!
In the morning the snow was still covering the ground. Here is a picture of me holding snow.
Yes, of course we built a snowman. I kept thinking about Gev and how exciting this was for him to build a snowman (something I did every year for my entire childhood).
After lots of hard work and very cold red hands we created a fabulous snowman. He was an unusual one. We weren’t quite prepared so it was hard to make him look nice. I think we were trying to go for the Greek theme… some ears, a laurel crown…?? We loved him anyway.
Here is Meitar and I with the snowman.
After building the snowman Gev and Meitar decided to have a snowball fight…
Obviously Gev won!
The funny thing is that when I was playing in the snow here in Israel, back in Toronto, Canada there wasn’t a single flake of snow to be found. They had incredible mild weather – so much for escaping the snow!
Today marks the last day of my Taglit-Birthright experience. Unfortunately, due to the intense nature of the trip I didn’t get a chance to share my day-to-day experiences with all of you as they were happening. However, now that I’m at Maxim Hotel in Tel Aviv post trip and have time I can write some blog entries from the computer lounge in the lobby.
OK, let me take a breath. I feel like I’ve been on a 10 day high without a minute’s rest. How do I sum up this 10 day life-changing experience into one blog entry? I think it’s close to impossible, so I will give you a little intro and then break down the trip into various short blog entries that go day-by-day.
And it begins…after saying my goodbyes to my Dad and brother at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, I met the group of 39 people I would be traveling with. Two people I knew, most people were from Toronto and Ottawa and there were a few from other provinces in Canada.
Before boarding the plane I had my last Tim Horton‘s coffee that I would have for a while. I then boarded the EL AL plane to Israel. The flight was 12 hours long and due to the incredible excitement I contained I didn’t sleep, but I spent those hours getting to know the other participants. I became friends with most, but became best friends with a girl named Rebecca who is originally from Canada, but now lives in L.A.
Anyway, when we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport I was overtired, but still extremely excited. The most fascinating memory I have from first touching Israeli soil outside of the airport was the thick moisture in the air. The air was so thick you could almost put it in a bag and take it home with you. It was an experience hard to describe in words, but I can still remember how amazing it felt – warm inside and out.
Below is our group shot that was taken minutes after getting out of the airport.
When we arrived to our first stop it was about 7 am. We were greeted by a Canada-Israel Experience (the Canada division of Taglit) leader in Israel who gave our group a brief overview of what we’d be doing in Israel including the rules and regulations. He explained how valuable the experience would be and also how important it was to take good care of ourselves. The most important rule was to be responsible because if you happened to get sick or hungover you were out of luck. You had to move with the group they would not leave you behind. If you were too sick or you happened to be kicked out then you would have to pay back the worth of the trip which is something like $5,000 CAN.
In general, most days began at 6am and ended at 8pm (programmed hours) and of course because most people were only here for a short time most days ended at 4-5am. Many days I functioned on about 3-4 hours of sleep at most. We did at least one type of physical activity a day. We also spent A LOT of time sleeping on the bus with our heads cranked back and our mouths open.
The next few blogs will be short summaries of each day.
It’s OFFICIAL! I have the opportunity to do Birthright’s 10-day FREE trip to Israel in July. I was sure I wasn’t going to get in, but to my amazement I received the confirmation email with an acceptence to the National trip (meaning a group of 40 who go to Israel from all over Canada).
This gift is so special and it will be wonderful to go to Israel in the summer. As mentioned in my bio, I have planned to do a one-year trip to Europe and Israel (spending the majority of my time in Israel). However, even if I did not get accepted to do this trip, I was going to go to Israel regardless. Now that I have been accepted, I can start planning the rest of my time in Israel.
Both my parents traveled to Israel in the 80s for a long period of time. Israel is actually where they met! My Dad is from Montreal and my mom is from Australia. Since they both had an incredible time, both romantic and adventurous, they encouraged me to follow in their footsteps. When they were in Israel they both did something called “Ulpan” Ulpan means studio in hebrew, but actually has nothing to do with what the program is about. The ulpan is a 5-month work/study program where you live in a Kibbutz and learn hebrew while also being part of the community by taking on a job there. When my dad did ulpan he worked in the “refet” which means farm – with the cows. This is now my goal. I think it would be an incredibly unique experience.
My Dad also did a program in Tzfat called “Livnot” which is a hike/volunteer program which can be anywhere from 10-days to three weeks. When my dad did this program in 1984 it was just beginning. He was one of the first participats in the program and back then the program was 3-months.
I hope to do both of these programs after Birthright! I also hope to travel back to the places I visit on the 10-day trip. Since the trip is extremely intensive (fitting a whole country into a 10-day trip, your bound to miss things and never spend enough time in the places you enjoy), I’d like to go back to the places I really enjoyed.
Now that I’m done university and have all the free time in the world I can start planning this exciting adventure!