Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I've been kicked out of Hebrew, because they realized Level 0 was not for me.

More to come...

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Hottest Yom Kippur

Hope you all had an easy fast.

I write to you from a rooftop, where I am enjoying a summer night breeze (at the end of September!) and stealing internet from another network.

A Brief Summary of My Shabbat Shabbaton

It’s a little different here, in the desert.

  • Location: Kibbutz Ketura

  • Accommodations: Wonderful! My single room with A/C. (But, I did not spend much time in it.)

  • Food: Sub par.
    • They served chicken, hummus, challah, and salad for the last supper. While that would have been fine, they took it away before I could eat a sufficient amount.
    • Break Fast – Well, I successfully did not overeat. I walked away feeling ok. This may have been for two reasons: 1) They only provided dessert plates for the meal. 2) They were not serving the plethora of delicious entrees to which I am accustomed after the fast.

  • Davening: Traditional egalitarian. Facing North (pretty cool)!
    • On my own accord I decided that I would be present for the entire davening experience. I arrived early for every service. I guess this full autonomy thing changes the way you operate and think.
    • Although I was under the impression that services would be shorter here, they were not. Nevertheless, I enjoyed them (as much as that is possible on this day). They had pleasant shlehei tzibor and no English interruptions. Again, I was really able to concentrate on my davening and the liturgy, because I had no familial distractions.
    • It was amazing, especially during Neilah as the setting sun reflected eastward, to look out at the volcanic mountains of Jordan with their beautiful red, purple, brown, and black ridges. How amazing is it that I could daven completely in peace right on the border?! This is truly an extraordinary place.
    • I guess it’s not too hard to make friends in shul, because I was honored with the fourth aliya during shacharit and led ma’ariv as well as havdala.

  • The Fast: I did not think it was harder than usual during the day.
    • But, now I’m feeling it a little bit.
    • Although Rabbi Shlomo Goren, former Chief IDF Rabbi, whom you may recognize from this picture:
      published a t’shuva saying that people fasting in the Arava can drink one cup of water every hour during daylight, I did not feel the need to do so. I spent the day in an air conditioned sanctuary, so I was not feeling dehydrated.
    • As the fast came to an end, however, I felt the onset of a headache, which is not yet relieved. Don’t worry, I’m hydrating like crazy.
    • I don’t mean to complain, but I’m also experiencing some lower back pain. I think this is just from standing in one place for so long. I believe a good night’s sleep will remedy this.
    • Finally, as I drank the grape juice after havdala, I was a bit shocked/electrified. First, I think I forgot that I had not eaten all day and then gulped this sugar high down my throat. Second, it was the best tasting Israeli grape juice I have ever had!

And, now the fun begins in the next few week…

But, tonight is a school night (yeah right…beginners Hebrew), so I must be going.



In shul today I was reading TEN RUNGS: Hasidic Sayings, Collected and Edited by Martin Buber. It turns out that he, through the Hasidic Rabbis, has given us all a good excuse for sleeping in, instead of shul:

Sometimes a man lies in bed, and the household thinks he is asleep, but he is spending this hour in solitude with his Maker, blessed be he… (Buber, 24)

I guess Dr. Buber really believed in the great shul Shaarei Shayna.

Shoutout #22 (redo): Andrew Rosler – I guess you did not realize that I have multiple friends with your name. That’s ok. You’re such a loveable/huggable guy, I just think of this every time I see you. I urge you to reconsider certain decisions…but keep up the valorous service you provide!




Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ketura Continued

Shavua tov!

(Unless you are genuinely interested, I give you permission to skip to the fun stuff at the bottom of the post…but you will miss out…)

Last Week

To bring you up to speed:

  • I spent days visiting friends in Tel Aviv and Haifa. I must say, the Israeli train system is really nice. Had good hummus and good beach time!
  • Bought some last minute essentials and fun things.
  • Moved to Ketura on Thursday (9/24/09).
  • Continuously working on not overeating.
  • It’s date season here!…very important for Ketura.
  • We’re REALLY in the DESERT…hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

The Beginning of the Journey

It is always good to plan for the unexpected.

Here are some of the essentials:

  • Thanks to my cousin Elad, getting to Savidor, the train station in Tel Aviv, to meet the group, was very easy.

  • But, when I arrived, I found out that I had the best Hebrew in the group. The staff member who was “chaperoning” us to the Kibbutz is a very lovely, broad, six foot, blond hair, blue eyes, (non-Jewish) Australian, who doesn’t know the language.

  • So, I had to convince the bus driver, who refused to go ANYWHERE within 500 feet our gathering area, to come closer so we could load the bus with all of our stuff for a year. It didn’t work when I tried, but then Elad gave him some Israeli and he decided to move. SUCCESS? Not really…the bus driver pulled around once, didn’t think there was a place to stand/park, so went back to his original spot…very far away. The whole group ended up schlepping their stuff to the bus. WELCOME TO ISRAEL!

  • For my peers with whom I took Besner’s Honors Hebrew…I passed the Vishay factory form that movie on the way to Ketura.

  • I got my own room, share a bathroom with one other person, and a common area with two more. It’s GREAT, but not for long. Once all the students arrive, they will be moving the undergrads to the “Quad,” which is also very nice, but has doubles. So, for all those who were worried that my room looked very bland in the photos, fear not, you will be smiling on my wall soon enough.

  • After almost burning myself in the shower and combating ant infestation, I really feel settled and comfortable.


    • This is a truly an extraordinary group. Just within the participants from abroad we have gap-year kids; junior year students; people pursuing masters; and even a guy who was a mechanic for six years and has been unemployed for eight months, so he decided to change career paths.

    • Unlike years past, we are predominantly male with only one female. I like this wonderful mix and we all seem to be getting along.

    • I’m excited for more people with much different backgrounds to join us as we pursue a common goal.

  • They gave us all these forms and made us sign our lives away, out of the liability of the kibbutz…a comforting feeling. They also have talked to us about the close-knit 24/7 living experience and trying to prevent burnout as well as ensuring group cooperation such as creating a “nikayon” chart for the houses. But, as I camp person I just thought that was common sense / second nature.

  • They had us going from the very beginning. On Friday morning, after a night at the pub and many jet lagers, we were on our bikes at 6 AM for a wonderful desert ride. That’s ok, because pool time in the afternoon gave me sufficient time to nap before Shaabat.

Shabbat on the Border

I had an action-packed Shabbat with many new experiences.

The highlights:

  • I left Friday night services glowing as I witnessed our family friend, Advah (who is a high-functioning, wheelchair bound, twenty-year-old women, with cerebral palsy) lead Ma’ariv. It was a spectacular sight! I happen to be here on the right Shabbat, because she is leaving the Kibbutz to live and work on her own with similar young adults in Sderot. The community threw her a lovely party after dinner. This whole thing brought a lot of joy to my heart.

  • This morning I awoke at 7AM to meet a few members of Ketura who bike every Shabbat morning. Even though EVERYONE has warned me to stay off of Route 90 (PARENTS, DON’T WORRY), on Shabbat morning it’s very quiet and we took it to Route 40 to tackle the mountain. It was about a 400m climb. It was GLOURIOUS! I know this is just the beginning of a phenomenal riding season. I have highlighted our route here for you:

Click on the map for a larger image. And, look at the post below (“My Bike Ride and Area”) for a better map.

…The best part is we made it back for shul…now, that’s Judaism at its best!

  • At kiddush I was treated to some homemade date liquor. It was unique, interestingly tasty, and VERY potent.

  • Ben and Adi Go Walking

    • After some time at the pool, my new friend Ben (one of four Ben’s) and I took a splendid walk. We get along very well. He’s from Toronto and just graduated from Kings College this spring. We have similar interests, both wanting to integrate environmental studies and medicine. This is the second walk we’ve taken in less than 24-hours.

    • We left the front gate and walked across Route 90 to Ketura’s fields. Before we departed, no one warned us about fatal traffic, scorpions, or the heat. BUT, many cautioned us for the hundredth time – DON’T GO NEAR THE BORDER. It’s actually quite funny…if the army finds footprints, they go around to every kibbutz and find the matching foot.

    • Our first stop was the Date Orchard. As I mentioned, it’s date season! Miraculously, we found an open net of dates. So, of course, we had some. THESE ARE THE MOST DELICIOUS DRIED FRUITS I HAVE EVER HAD! It’s a like biting into condensed honey goodness.

    • After roaming through a cactus growing area, we decided to explore the depths of the property, hoping to hit the border. And, that we did. We eventually left the cultivated area and it finally looked like what everyone thinks of as desert, with beautiful rolling sand dunes. About ten minutes later, with lots of flies following us and swarming our heads, we found the trilingual sign reading: “STOP! Border ahead.” Although tempted to continue, we left our footprint and walked back… (don’t worry, it was legal there)

    • Following some sand dune skiing, we approached the experimental orchards of Dr. Elaine Soloway. Since this is the project Ben will be working on, he knew a few things. We found limes, pomegranates, and lots of argan.

    • We returned for some more pool and sun napping.

Time for the pub…again (don’t worry I don’t actually drink every night….it’s expensive. I just pretend to be cool)…

G’mar Hatima Tova,



  • Since I’ve received a lot of comments about my mehitza Befuddlement, I must clarify: Among other things, I was pretty much saying that just as women can highly influence and improve scientific research, there’s no reason why they cannot have the same effect in a spiritual/religious setting. Does that make sense to you? Leave your comments below…

  • I mentioned not wanting to be a journalist. Coincidently, Karon wrote last week: “Recording every observation that pops into my head every hour of every day is neither normal nor healthy” (Ruminations #159). I have found now that I have started thinking this way, Shabbat is particularly difficult for this habit. As soon a Befuddlement comes to mind, I begin thinking of ways I can remember it until after havdala. OY!

  • I finished reading that NYT Magazine cover-to-cover (including ads) and now have this weird sense of accomplishment.

  • Why is it ok, even on a Kibbutz, for a toddler to walk around naked and urinate wherever he wants AT A PUBLIC EVENT?!

  • I and everyone else have fond that although this is probably the strongest heat we’ve ever experienced, you don’t burn for some reason. We’ve come up with various hypotheses about the ozone, UV rays, sea level, etc. But, until I’m further advised, I think I’ll still apply sun block (at the pool).

  • In the last two weeks I’ve seen a lot of mopping. At first I thought it was so silly to put a rag over a squeegee and call it a mop. However, it’s actually genius! Why don’t we do this in America? It’s cheaper, you can always clean the rag, and it’s less expensive to replace. So, in our land of technology, we’re actually screwing ourselves over by spreading dirt while cleaning. Go figure!

  • With so many stray animals wandering the property and lots of livestock, I was afraid I may step in pooh. But, it’s worse…After my walk today, I found a big glob of irremovable dirt on the bottom of my sandal with DATES as its cohesive! ‘Tis the season…

  • I’m beginning to reconcile that as much as I love the kibbutz life style, there’s REALLY nothing to do here at night. No more city boy. There’s something to be said for this, but I’ve decided we’re in “communal confinement.”

  • Finally, why is it that the only assimilation that Americans undergo when they arrive here – no accent, no attitude, no clothing - is acquisition of the word “EHHHH…”?

Shoutout #21: Me – What can I say, I wanted to join my own adventures!

Shoutout #22: Andrew – I don’t know who you are. Please reveal yourself so I can give you due respect.

NOTE TO ALL – if you join without a picture and/or last name I can’t give you a shoutout.

Shoutout #23: Eliezer (SHINER) Shinnar is truly one of a kind. You continue to amaze and confuse me between not finishing high school, completing college in three years, and especially the various presents you have given me. Keep doing whatever it is you do! I can’t wait to see you in Thailand.

Shoutout #24: Queen of THA, Rachel Podell (RpO, for those who don’t know her full name). Finally, you found the secret…welcome! You are truly a fun adventuress. If only we didn’t have jobs / were responsible staff members in Camp…

Shoutout #25: Cindy Gallin – In the name of RMM, “WOW, Cindy, that is truly a spectacular and unique thought!” Your strong personality keeps us all in line, but you still know how to have fun. Keep up the good work!

P.S. To inaugurate my first official post at the Arava Insitute for Environmental Studies, I thought I might share this sad, but funny clip: Cute Polar Bear Shaving

P.P.S. Please Note: We switch back the clocks tonight, so Israel will only now be six hours ahead (makes for a “shorter” fast!).


My Bike Ride and Area

Play around with this map to see the area in which I'll be hanging out and riding. I recommend clicking on the link below for a better view.

View Larger Map

Thursday, September 24, 2009

To Ketura and Beyond!


I have arrived safely to begin the first official segment of my journey!

It is great! I have some much to share, but very little time. I must leave now for socializing at the Kibbutz pub (a very different first day university experience than in the US) and then up tomorrow for a 6AM bike ride.

More to come tomorrow....

Please enjoy the new web album.

Much love,


P.S. Sorry for no shoutouts or Befuddlements today. I promise I'll have them before Shabbat.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The BIG Rosh

A Brief Summary of the Weekend

  • Location: Ra’anana @ the Rosens’

  • Accommodations: AMAZING! – Second level of a fifth floor, penthouse apartment. I had the entire level, including a private bathroom and a very large balcony to myself. I woke up with the sun beaming in with a beautiful vista of western Ra’anana and watched the gorgeous red and orange sunset over the hills each night.

  • Food: PHENOMENAL! I ate too much. But, there were tons of dishes at every meal and EVERYTHING was delicious.

  • Davening: Orthodox. Shul is shul. But, it WAS shorter than Metuchen, yet still too long for my liking. As much as I seriously LOVE spending the hagim with my family, the time alone in shul, with no siblings to talk to or with whom to leave on a walk, plus the added bonus of no English interruptions, really allowed me to concentrate on the liturgy for the first time. This, I enjoyed (somewhat).

  • Entertainment: Sleeping, reading (more of the Infrastructure issue), and walking. Today I walked for three hours through western Ra’anana. It was GREAT!

As promised, I’m done for now.



  • Why does our body have an internal automatic mechanism to maintain homeostasis and prevent us from overheating, but nothing keeps us from overeating?
    It’s truly a problem for me. I'm working on not overeating here, so I don’t feel like I'm going to keel over after every meal. There's so much to eat in this country and everyone wants to feed you! It's overwhelming. I think I'm getting better at it though; By lunch today, I limited myself enough so I could take my three hour walk and not feel like I had to throw up or lie down. This will be a continuous goal throughout the year…

  • The mehitza in a modern context still baffles my mind. It just doesn’t make sense why so many progressive people I know enjoy it. One of the main reasons for it is to not be distracted by the opposite gender. But, in today’s society, why should there be a separation between the mindset in davening and something like science research? Along these lines, one could argue that it is more important for a cancer researcher to not be distracted by the opposite gender while searching for the cure, yet no one would ever think to put a mehitza in a laboratory.

  • I’ve decided I don’t want to be a journalist. Because, ever since I started writing for the blog, all I can ever think about is what I am I going to tell you next.

Shoutout #14: My dear big sis’, Shira Lee Legman Segal. Welcome aboard! I will truly miss being with you in the City this year. But, fear not, our adventures shall continue when you arrive in J-town.

Shoutout #15: H.Y. Segal, my beloved lil’ bro’. I hope you are enjoying the empty room, with the new light socket. Good luck with all your plans this year. I will miss coming home and having a 2am conversation before bed (or at least before I hit the sack). Good luck with all your plans and can’t wait to have you in Israel as well! Bless you child…

Shoutout #16: Hannah Elkin – You do good things. Take it easy sometimes. Good luck with senior year!

Shoutout #17: While we haven’t been TVAC AAA for awhile, Ari Lifschitz, you will always be my Shabbos Crew (don’t forget your belt pulse ox!). Keep Teaneck safe while I’m gone. Looking forward to returning and meeting up on Friday nights again.

Shoutout #18: Jonah Rank, you are QUITE an individual and talented human being. I love it! Great work on your most recent release! Everyone check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lBKvka3dUA.

Shoutout #19: Ha’Rav Gabriel Seed. Where would I be without your shvaim naim? Keep dancing and see you soon!

Shoutout #20: Joshy Mandell, I knew I could count on you to round out my numbers. You are a great friend and wonderful tripod travel mate. I can’t wait for the next AJJ adventure (wherever that may be…Jason?)! Yours truly, Z-I-N Z-I-N DO-RF…

P.S. You may find this funny:

(Explanation here: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1027376.html)

P.P.S. My Befuddlements got published on the Ruminations website:




Thursday, September 17, 2009

Culture Shock!

Reaffirming My Promise

I know I promised publicly, and to many of you privately, that I would not post everyday nor publish such long entries. Well, I guess I’m beyond myself, because I have more to tell you. But,

    1. This will definitely be the last post for a few days.
    2. I’m pretty sure once I hunker down at school, there will be less to tell you about on a daily basis.
    3. So, do not fear my blog (as I do others'). Read On. And, please visit often.

The Good Life Continues

I have not opened my wallet since I’ve been here.

A synopsis of yesterday:

  • Slept ‘till 11:30 AM.
  • Ate a lovely Israeli breakfast.
  • Drank espresso.
  • Checked the news and e-mail.
  • Ate lunch that was cooked for me.
  • Went to the BEAUTIFUL beach in Hertzliya for five hours, where I sat and read, went swimming, and took a jog.
  • Went “home” and showered.
  • Went to a FREE concert in my own backyard (see photos).
  • Ate dinner that was waiting for me when I returned.
  • Relaxed, again.

Some notes on the above:

  • SLEEP - I realize I slept so well because I was very tired. But more importantly, for the first time in about five years, I had no interruptions (like an ambulance pager or cell phone), a completely dark room, and nothing for which to awake at a certain time. This is truly living freely!

  • BEACH – I usually do not like to just sit. But, yesterday it was quite a pleasure. Moreover, I ENJOYED sitting and reading. I had the June 14th issue of the NYT Magazine about infrastructure (which most people probably find boring) and I actually read it page-by-page. I realized the beach can be REALLY NICE if:
    1. I have nothing else to worry about.
    2. The water is WARM and clean.
    3. The weather is hot.
    4. There are few distractions around me (my inner, undiagnosed ADHD)

  • LIFE HERE: What can be bad now? I get up every morning when I want. I make myself an espresso with the machine in the kitchen and eat delicious free food. Then, I sit and read the news and my e-mail. When I feel like it, I go out and enjoy the day! (I’m not sure I could do this forever, or much longer, but it’s GREAT right now!)
    I would like to thank the Amit family for this experience and hope I can provide the same for visitors when they come to me, wherever that may be.

Concert in My Own Backyard

When I awoke yesterday morning, I heard these very loud sound checks (“1,2,A,A,A”). I asked my cousin if we were near a venue and he said no, but there are often events in the plaza of the nearby mall. That was the last I thought about it all day. A few minutes after we returned from the beach he told me he just found out that the noise from the morning was preparation for a free concert for the town youth. It just so happens we had been talking about music earlier in the day and one of the bands I mentioned that I like – Monica Sex - was performing! So, I ventured over there for another wonderful experience. Some reflections:

  • AGE: When I arrived at the concert, I found myself surrounded by crazy high schoolers and couples at least five years my senior. Then I remembered, for the last three years when I’ve visited Israel, I’ve always felt a little inadequate. Every Israeli at my point in their life is in the Army. And, here I am, silly little American, touring, going to the beach, and enjoying concerts. I feel I should be doing more. I think it would be a really great personal experience to join the military and more importantly I would love to serve Israel in the Tzahal. As I was contemplating this, however, I realized, there has got be a better way to help Israel, because I actually have NO desire to be in any army.
  • RUDE AWAKENING: Let me paint a scene… As I stood in the middle of this plaza, I was surrounded by jumping teenagers, who were unapologetically bumping into me, while blowing smoke in my face. WELCOME TO ISRAEL!
    But, then something hit me (besides the kids) - Israel is a great place. Where else in the world can you find scantily dressed 15-year-old girls partying side-by-side with fully clothed boys wearing kippot? That’s pluralism (well, not really)! While we have much more “religious development” in America, the sects don’t often mix. Here, despite many issues, we’re actually a nation. I’m not sure Bernstein would attend such an event, but I could totally see Herschel here!

That’s all I got for now.

I think I’m going to buy myself falafel for lunch today…!

This will be my last post before the ROSH, so


(I tried inserting Hebrew text but it didn’t work.)



I’m starting a new section today called “Befuddlements.” My inspiration for this comes from the comedian Aaron Karo, who began writing a weekly column, Ruminations, for an internet listserve as a freshman at UPenn and is now a successful, full-time comedian. While I do not have the same career aspirations, we see many of the same absurdities in life and often times the same things rack our minds.

  • While sitting on the beach reading, I heard English approaching me from behind. It was a young American couple, probably no older than thirty each. They began to settle down and get ready for their time at the shore. As I watched them (from behind my new sunglasses!) I realized….I dread the day when my significant other must lather my bald head with sun block!

  • In my intriguing time with the NYT Magazine, I found a recipe as part of an article about buying local chicken at your farmers’ market. Isn’t it ironic that the second ingredient listed, after yogurt, for making raita for chicken meatballs is Kosher Salt?

  • Security Breach – If you are a parent or get scared easily, skip this next bullet.
    I walked straight through security at the concert last night without being checked. I had loaded pockets (camera, wallet, phone, etc.). Scary but true – all the terrorists need next is a white loony to go explode himself in a crowded area and they’ve defeated the profiling game. My hope is that such plans would be foiled through intelligence way before they ever get to the victims. (I also hope they’re not reading my blog….but if you are, become a follower!) Just a thought.

  • I do a lot of thinking (really about nothing, but…) Since I never bought myself a magnetic doodle board for the shower, I think it’s about time I purchase a nice wallet-size journal so I can always bring you my latest Befuddlements.

  • I’m not sure I’m satisfied with the name of this section. If you have a better one, please let me know.

Shoutout: I forgot to mention in the last post Mr. Levin, my sixth-grade, Israeli, science teacher. He’s not a “follower” and I have no idea where he is today, so he doesn’t get a numbered shoutout. But, he taught us about symbiotic relationships in the eco-system. His famous saying was: (in an Israeli accent) I elp you, you elp me.” He seems to have been influenced by his upbringing here, because ever since I began my journey at Newark Liberty International Airport this appears to be the model for life.

Shoutout #11: My dear baby sister, Orli Segal. Finally, after making fun of me for so long, you’ve realized how fun blogging can be. I hope you’re enjoying it! Remember, keep chugging – HS will be over soon enough. OK…go save some lives now.
P.S. Where are the other two sibs?...Please tell them what they’re missing.

Shoutout #12: Karen Legman Segal (a.k.a. Mommy) – Mom, to you and Dad I will always be indebted (literally and figuratively). Speaking of which, where is Dad (I know you’re reading, so join already!) Thank you so much for providing me with this amazing opportunity. I love you.

Shoutout #13: Lauren Averil Schneider… I know you from camp. Hope all is well. Thanks for joining the fun!

P.S. For those of you who could not find the photos – look on the right sidebar where it says “Shot of the Day.” Click below.

P.P.S. I received this from the Orthodox minyan listserve at Columbia. Enlightened, like Herschel?...Not sure. Creative and funny?...absolutely. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tv60452DKvA

P.P.P.S. I am experimenting with many different formats on this blog. Please let me know which one you like best and find most comfortable/enjoyable to read.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Bottom Line: I have arrived safely and am very excited to be here!

I also want to apologize for bombarding you with a second post in less than a day. I promise this won’t happen too often. I personally don’t have the patience to write all the time. Plus, I know you won’t read it.


I write to you from 40,000 feet in the air. I am eight hours into the flight and wide awake. So let me reflect on the hours leading up to this moment:

(Coincidently, in the time between the colon above and the bullet below, the flight attendant came to my seat with a warm facecloth and said “boker tov.” So, I guess I won’t be going back to sleep now that they’re waking up the passengers and the cabin lights are on. As an aside, I must say I am always disappointed with those face wipes, because it’s steaming hot when you get it, but by the time you open it up to spread across your face it is freezing cold. I guess either way it still feels good!)

  • Getting There:

    Well, you know that I wasn’t ready to go until about a minute before we left the house. I never worry though; I leave that to others in the household. But, as per usual, we made it to the airport with lots of time to spare.

  • Checking In…The Great Adventure:

    I went knowing that I could only have two pieces of luggage. But, I thought I would try to convince them that I am a student flying over for the year and was under the impression that I could have a third piece. (Reason being I am bringing my bike. El Al has a nice policy where they don’t charge extra for a bicycle if it is one of your two pieces. But, this doesn’t work if you have three pieces of luggage.) After many discussions with various personnel at the counter, who spoke to their supervisors in the New York, etc, I was out of luck. It was going to be no clothes OR $230 to check a third piece of luggage. But I would not settle for such nonsense.

    After speaking with an Israeli/El Al security agent, I found a nice Israeli named Avi who was checking in. He only had one suitcase. PERFECT! So I courted him with my eloquent Hebrew and soon enough we had a deal. I’m not sure he understood what was going on at first, but he agreed to help. Plus, he needed a translator for the whole check-in process. A match made in heaven!

    I re-explained the situation to the lady behind the counter, who, like everyone else there, was already familiar with it. I told her that Avi was going to be checking my bike as his second piece of luggage. Following a quick check with security and a look at both of our passports, Avi was my new carrier.

  • My New Friend:

    Avi then met my parents and we all went off together. After some mini introductions we were all well acquainted. Avi is probably about my age, maybe a year older, and he was in America for three weeks with some friends as a gift from the Army. He didn’t quite understand until tears were shed and I started hugging and kissing my parents that they were not joining us for our journey. So, the Segals completed their heartfelt farewells and Avi and I were off. We walked through security successfully and then got some breakfast. I treated Avi. In our last minutes before the flight, we sat together in the gorgeous Newark International terminal, looking out at our El Al 777 on the tarmac, enjoying parfaits!

  • Seating Situation….What Surprises:

    I sat in 50H. For those of you unfamiliar with the 777 seating arrangement, that is the aisle seat on the right side, about 10 rows from the back. I was the first to arrive in my row. Next came a dude who put his laptop in the overhead compartment and then slept in the window seat for the rest of the flight, from take-off to landing. As it got closer to pushback time, I was hoping that we’d have an empty middle seat. And then, of course, my neighbor showed up. An older gentleman, with a longish, scraggly, grey beard, wearing a black hat, and holding various sifrei kodesh. He had a fold-up handcart so I assisted him in stowing that above. Then he moved in.

    On flights to Israel I never know whether to speak Hebrew or English. I have found that starting in Hebrew is a safe bet and then changing over can be easily executed if the circumstance arises. In this case, he started to talk to me in English, with an American accent. He first asked me if I am a doctor (because I am wearing a Holy Name Hospital ER t-shirt). One question led to another and I told him I was from Teaneck; to which he responded, “My brother’s from Bergenfield.” So, I then told him the truth about my residency and it turns out that his brother lives around the corner from us!

    Then we began talking about school. He asked where I go and I told him Columbia. But when he asked what I was studying I told him that I’m getting two degrees, one in Judaics and one in urban studies with a concentration in environmental studies. Here’s the kicker…this guys says, “You don’t happen to be in the program with the Seminary?” I said, “WHAT?! How do you know about that?” To which he replied, “Doesn’t everybody?” …I didn’t think so!

    Turns out, my friend, Herschel, is a pretty worldly man. He is a graduate of Brown University (he actually grew up in Providence, RI), holds three law degrees, a father of six, grandfather of 19, and now a follower of the Chabad movement. Furthermore, he is friends with Jacob (a.k.a. Jack) Nuesner! Herschel splits his time these days between Crown Heights and Kfar Chabad. We enjoyed mini-conversations the rest of the ride to Israel.

  • Frustration Already:

    Soon after the flight began, I was reminded why I often leave Israel (and Teaneck) frustrated. I LOVE JEWS! But, it kills me to see some of them. It just really gets me when the captain turns on the seatbelt sign, the flight crew asks passengers to sit down, specifically the ones “praying in the corner” and such requests are outright ignored. What makes your “spiritual” moment more important than everyone else’s safety? All I can say is, it’s a good thing I am steering clear of Jerusalem for awhile. Why can’t more people be like Herschel?

  • Movies, Sleep, and Rachel Carson:

    I watched two movies – Ringer and Sentential. Slept for about two hours. And, caught up on my biochemistry history through Silent Spring. But as I tried to read, Herschel’s big brimmed hat, which he never removed, kept on getting in the way of my light. It’s ok, I finished the chapter anyway! Just keep in mind though, whenever I was up, as much I love Herschel, I didn’t always appreciate the fragrance of pipe smoke and coffee constantly wafting my way. HEY…such is life!

  • Tolerance:

    As I stood in the open area, near the bathrooms and kitchen, munching on a cookie and sipping lemonana, I met one more character. He was your typically dressed Chasidic man (really, the full garb!), but he seemed awfully cheerful and kept smiling at me. So, we began talking. This conversation was entirely in Hebrew. We discussed what he was doing in America (visiting relatives in Minnesota), why I was going to Israel, what he does for a living (studies/teaches!), and what I study. Our conversation was very cordial and he seemed to respect my future plans. It appeared that Bernstein and I could develop a stronger friendship. But, alas, I wanted to return to my seat to watch a movie.


  • Arrival

    We arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport (Tel Aviv) on time. As we seamlessly touched down, the landing was met with applause…ah, that means we’re in Israel! I wished Herschel a Shana Tova and I was off. I met up with Avi and we walked to baggage claim together. We were both ecstatic to be returning to Israel. Walking through the corridors I received a call from Yisrael. I was officially welcomed to Israel as my ride awaited me on the other side of the gates!

    The deal was not complete yet…Avi informed me that he had purchased one too many bottles of scotch in order to get through customs. So, I helped him out. He took my bike and I took his extra bottle. After waiting a long time for our bags and bike, we made it into Israel! We exchanged items, shook hands, and wished each other well. Who knows if we’ll ever see each other again, but he was a great friend.

(If you know of anyone flying home from Israel with only one bag in June, please tell me.)

I found Yisrael. With great glee we embraced each other. And, with two large yellow suitcases, a pack, a backpack, and a bike, we were off!


I sit here in Kfar Saba now, showered, fed, and enjoying the day at our wonderful relatives’. My computer is charging, I’m hooked up to wireless internet, and I’ve already received calls from Israeli friends wanting to make plans. LIFE IS GOOD!

As mentioned above, I promise to keep the length of posts to a minimum in the future. Please come back for more fun very soon…

All the best,


SHOUTOUT # 7: Elliot Gordon, my good friend as well as Co-Founder & President of Team Homeland Adventure, a true inspiration for fun. I am following in YOUR footsteps as we expand the THA Middle East Borough.

SHOUTOUT # 8: Mara Feinberg – Thanks for all the late night talks and always sticking around as a true friend and mind of reason. Welcome aboard!

SHOUTOUT # 9: Mista... I can always count on you for a good laugh and intelligent discussion. Thanks for always looking out for me at TVAC. Since the last blog didn’t work for any of us, maybe this one will…

SHOUTOUT # 10: Mike Schwartz, my ECO-man! Can’t wait to spend time with you over here. And, thanks for being the tenth follower!

P.S. Check out the homepage picture here: http://www.bibleraps.com/

Monday, September 14, 2009

I'm off...

I sit in my boxers right now, looking out the window in my room at the beautiful vista of the intersection of Westminster and Norfolk Avenues, with the sun rising in the east over the hills of Bergenfield.

In the name of Jason Steinberg, who surprised me with a call from the Netherlands this morning, I blog...

I don't have much to say at this point, except that I'm extremely excited to be leaving. Of course, there are many sad things about vacating a home/country/community for a year. But, I am slightly blinded of trepidation by the adventure that awaits me.

Thank you to everyone who has called or come over to my house to wish me well. I truly appreciate each one of you and can't wait to share more with all of you...

That is all for now being that it's 10 minutes before I'm supposed to leave and still not dressed.

See you in Israel!


P.S. Thank you to my new followers, your shoutouts will come with the next post.

Monday, September 7, 2009

One Week and Counting...

I have really been enjoying the free life at home. I've been doing a lot of local traveling and spending quality time with my precious friends.

However, I am extremely psyched for my departure in less than a week. Although I am not at all prepared (a.k.a. packed) for this journey tonight, I am ready to go right now. I don't know much more about the program yet, but here's what I recently found out about the demographics of the student body:

  • North Americans = 12
  • Jewish Israelis = 10
  • Arab Israelis and Palestinians = 9
  • Jordanians = 8
  • Australians = 2
  • Singaporean = 1

These numbers are approximate, but they make me so excited for this experience.

I have nothing else to share right now....

BUT, I mustn't forget the shoutouts to my loyal followers:

SHOUTOUT #3: Rachel Schindler....thanks for joining your sister to make the first sibling group out here.

SHOUTOUT #4: Ariel Siegel... you can follow her blog @ ariel-abroad.blogspot.com

SHOUTOUT #5: Yoni Nadiv - My Boy! - GREAT roommate and BEST host.

SHOUTOUT #6: Ariel Douek... Where would I be without my Captain?

P.S. If you get bored, check out this innovative idea: SOLAR ROADS!

P.S.S. Don't forget to feed my fish below; they get hungry...