Thursday, October 29, 2009

Help me support Israel and the Environment!

Next week I am participating in a 300 mile bike ride from Tzfat to Eilat in the Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride.

As a member of the Hazon community and current student at the Arava Institute, I can personally tell you that these are both very valuable organizations.

I am determined to fulfill this dream but need your help to do so. As a participant in the 2009 Arava Institute Hazon Bike Ride, I am committed to raising at least $3,600 and I need your support to do so. Remember, from $10 - $1000, every dollar counts.
Follow This Link to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts. In addition, please help spread the word. Please tell your friends and family about this important cause and send them to my web page:

With your generosity and my pedaling, we can support Israel in this time of need.
Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution.

Thank you in advance for your help.



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Life Here

Just to keep you posted...

  • Yesterday it RAINED. In NYC we get upset. Here, it's a celebration!

  • I served my toranut (volunteer duty) in the dining hall tonight...

    1. I really enjoyed it. I think this may have been what was lacking in my time here.

    2. I was washing dishes, or unloading after they got washed in the kitchen “car wash” thing; reloading the supplies in the dining hall; sweeping; and cleaning. It was really a lot of fun. And, it was another way for me to interact with the members here.

    3. Best of all, I dropped and broke a few plates and the entire chadar ochel started clapping and yelling “mazal tov!” I felt like I was in camp again…it was quite exciting!

  • They had a memorial service for Yitzhak Rabin tonight, but I missed it because I was getting covered in food slop, while cleaning the kitchen.




Life here doesn’t really change. I must get off of Kibbutz to bring you more worldy wisdom.

Shoutout # 37: Seffi Kogen – It was a pleasure seeing you the other week. Thanks for all your help, even though none of it really worked out in the end. Until you told me, I didn’t realize how much I’ve influenced you. I’m sorry. But, if you ever need a ride, you know who to come to!

P.S. Seffi has requested that I "pimp his blog," so feel free to check it out @


Monday, October 26, 2009

And the Fun Begins

So much has happened since the last time I wrote to you. So, I’ll let you in on some of the fun…

Best Bud Reunion

Jason just left yesterday, after spending five days together, and I am very sad. We had a GREAT time together. We:

  • ENJOYED quality time together

  • Ate a lot (at least he did)

  • Participated in taking pictures for 350 (see AIES album to the right and…one picture actually made it into Yediot (a big Israeli newspaper) on Sunday:

  • Went on three wonderful hikes

  • Hitchhiked to Yotvata and back. DELICIOUS CHOCOLOATE MILK in A BAG and ICE CREAM!

  • Learned a bunch

  • Bummed around in Eilat

  • And just had a “gay ol’ time!”

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to prove any of this. But, I am positive that soon enough Jason will have his novel and photos posted @ So visit his site…he needs the hits anyway…

J-man, you are my best friend! THANK YOU so much for coming. It was truly my pleasure to have you. You made my week/month/semester!

Can’t wait for more adventures when AJJ reunite in Europe (location TBA)…

In Other News…

Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Social Scene

  • Everyone is beginning to settle in.

  • There is a nice balance of Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, and others. Slowly, people are finding their place and becoming comfortable with each other.

  • Everyone (or most people) is very friendly. While I have had some wonderful conversations, both personal and political, there have yet to be any truly heated discussions. I think that’s a good thing for starters.

  • I have already come to the conclusion with many Palestinians that if we could return to the situation after the Oslo Accords, in the mid ‘90s, where everyone was living happily side-by-side, that would suffice. At least as a starting point. I’ll keep you posted as discussions progress.

  • And, yes, I HAVE made some close friends.

  • The Student Life Department ran a very nice orientation. The main day was held in Eilat. I posted pictures two weeks ago.

  • I am not so happy with the schedule, especially on Sunday. I have a 10am class and then two mandatory three hour classes…NOT GOOD. But, such is life. On the other hand, on Monday I only have one class, which begins at 4pm. I wish it were a little more balanced, but it’s difficult since they have professors coming from far away and can only teach once a week.

  • I am currently enrolled in:

o Sustainable Agriculture

o Intro to Environmental Science

o Alternative Energy Policy and Management

o Research Methodologies

o The Bible as a Key to Environmental Thought – GREAT TEACHER!

o Eco-Health – MOST EXCITING…MY PASSION! And…love the professor.

o Peace Building and Environmental Leadership Seminar (PELS) – pretty cool – not for credit, but compulsory for all students.

The semester is going very well. Many of the courses seem easy so far, because they are introductory or surveys. But, it's only the second week, so I will refrain from judgment as of yet. Nevertheless, the experience is phenomenal. To live in the desert, in the middle of nowhere, with Arabs, Israelis and others is truly amazing. Since there is REALLY nothing else to do, we have plenty of time to hang out, become friends, share interests, and THEN discuss the things that may divide us. I believe this is a unique experience that will greatly influence my life.

Off to build a grey-water system…



  • I am truly amazed. I do not understand how Americans, who move to KIBBUTZ KETURA, fumble for words in English. Is there something in the water?

  • Eilat is really a boring place. You know it’s bad when a seaside city, which prides itself on its beaches, has more cement than sand.

Shoutout #32: Navah Kogen – You have very orange hair…and I love it! I’m glad I could inspire you. Visit Navah’s entertaining blog @

By the way, while I love it here, I completely understand why you chose not to live in this country. I, too, will return home in June.

Shoutout #33: Oren Pollak – I’m assuming this is you, since you didn’t put a last name nor a picture. First thing that comes to mind about you is when you spelled deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in NITZANIM…you’ll always be smarter than I! Whatever happened to you and the CRB Green Team? There’s always next summer. I hope you had fun this weekend with our boys. Can’t wait to see you in Kayitz 2010!

Shoutout #34: E-loosh, Baby! Thanks for finally signing on. I always knew you would come through. I hope you are having a GREAT time in college. (I know Cornell can get cold, so I just wanted to remind you that it’s 86 degrees here!) I miss you and the entire gang. L’shana haba b’Teaneck Ha’b’nuya.

Shoutout #35: Yasmin Khoury, you are the Arab (girl) I’ve always been looking for. We became such good friends in such a short time and then you left. We miss you here. Tell the UN they can wait. Come back ASAP.

Shoutout #36: Rachel, Rachel, Rachel (Steinbach). You are very special to me. From the day you were born, I knew we’d always remain close. I can’t wait to have another event in Connecticut. ALSO, I urge you to reconsider your decision and come to Israel this spring…

P.S. For those of you, especially the non-outdoorsmen and OA ’05, who didn’t catch this article a few weeks ago, you may enjoy it. I’ve hiked in these exact mountains and they are truly glorious: Adventures in Washington State’s Wonderland.

P.P.S. For the last few years, after Rabbi Herby Kavon showed me this clip, I’ve held Wafa Sultan’s view as very, very important. Unfortunately, she may be the silent or SILENCED majority. As I move forward with my journey here, I wanted to share this clip with you. I’m hoping to plan a program around this for PELS:


Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I've been working on this for awhile. This is my first cinematographic production and I'm really proud of it. I now truly appreciate the film industry.

For those of you who know what this is, I think you'll REALLY enjoy it. All others, I hope you will too.

Due to security precautions, I have only publicly released the trailer. For the FULL version please e-mail me at AYSEGAL@GMAIL.COM. Then, you can really indulge.

ENJOY and let me know what you think...


P.S. A real update with Befuddlements and Shoutouts to come soon!

FYI...All is well and I am making great new friends!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Have You Seen This?

The feud between Conan and Cory Booker...
Click here to see the rest of the Conan clips.

As an Urban Studies major here are my thoughts:
  1. I think Conan is obnoxious and not that funny
  2. Cory Booker is the MAN!
  3. This is RIDICULOUS that a mayor of a major city, a late night TV host, and the U.S. Secretary of State are involved in a mock feud.
  4. Most importantly, Bob Herbert is right! There is actually a real urban problem in our country. Read his column, Behind the Laughter.
Feel free to share your thoughts....


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Room

I am now completely moved in and unpacked. You are somewhere on my wall...

Bonus Befuddlement

When you're searching for the best room, no one ever checks to see if the toilet seat stays up on its own.

Six Shuls in Two Days

I just returned from dropping off some laundry. That’s right! As I mentioned in my first real post (“Here We GO...” – 8/27/09), the kibbutz does our laundry. While this seems like quite a luxury…which it is…there’s no guarantee on how long it takes or if it ever returns. I’m A04. I keep a meticulous spreadsheet of what goes out and when it comes back. The trick is, instead of waiting to do laundry every two weeks, to have a consistent flow of laundry all the time. So far, I have not lost any items, but I have been waiting over a week for certain things to come back….

Weekly Recap

  • Eilat day trip

  • Eilat Beer Festival (I had a great cider!)

  • Overnight hike

  • J-town for Hoshana Rabba (Happy B-Day, again!) and Shabbat/Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah

  • Midnight bus back to Ketura

  • Mud building fun

  • Preparing for the arrival of the Israelis and Arabs

My Journey to Jerusalem

You have to do this to understand it.

Getting the Bus:

  • I preordered my ticket for the Eilat-JLM bus to ensure that I would have a seat, especially during the busy holiday week. (It also saves a good amount of money to buy roundtrip.)

  • The bus was about 15-20 minutes late. I was getting worried…
    Picture this:
    • I’m standing out on this two lane highway (90) in the middle of the desert, where people drive crazier than a raging bull.
    • It is MY responsibility (not the driver’s!) to stop the bus.
    • So, I keep looking and every other line besides 444, the one I need, passes.
    • I thought I had missed the bus, because I glanced down at my phone for second, taking my eyes off the road.
    • Eventually it came.

The Ride North:

  • I get on and it’s packed with many people standing. Luckily I have a ticket!

  • The bus driver tells me that my seat is the middle one in the last row, with the fat women sitting in it. I thought, GREAT… a bad seat and now I have to tell this lady to move!

  • But…no problem. She got out of the seat and sat on the floor in front of me. AND, this seat actually has the most leg room on the entire bus!

  • A few rows in front of me there were two children fighting the whole time. Next to me, the old man was shouting at these kids to behave. And, directly in front, to my right, this guy had a ringtone that sounded like birds chirping, which didn’t stop the entire ride.

  • We made it safely to Jerusalem…ONE HOUR behind schedule.

J-Town, Baby!

The not so holy city...

Night 1:

  • As soon as I got to town, I jumped on Bus 21 to meet my friend, Mike Schwartz, in Baqua, where he is staffing Young Judea Year Course.

    Mike, TODA RABA for hosting me; I had a great time!

  • I called my bro Hillel to wish him a HAPPY BIRTHDAY. He’s getting so old J

  • We went to hang out with some Israeli friends in Ein Karem, far away from all the Americans and tourists.


  • Early wake up to get to the Kotel

  • Birthday davening at the wall (where I was once again frustrated just by being there). I got to beat my willow (that’s a Jewish reference for those who did not understand…learn more here) and I was honored with hagba.

  • Walked around, bought some books, and went to the shuk.

V’Samachta V’Hageha:

  • I stayed with Adam and Maital Baldachin in Katamon, where they are living for the year.

    Thank you so much for having me last minute. I really enjoyed my time with you!

  • Throughout both days I went to six different shuls and was able to get the full service!
    • Minyan Shivyoni – basically Conservative with a mehitza…they’ll get there one day. Pretty good though. I liked it here.
    • The French Shul – Orthodox, but the members don’t appear to be “orthodox” in their daily lives or even at shul. But that’s how they do it!
    • Shira Chadasha – Orthodox, but lets women lead non-essential services and read Torah. Too sing-songy for me.
    • Kedem – Like Hadar in NYC. I surprisingly liked this one, but it was VERY American and took a long time.
    • Bet Knesset Nitzanim – Orthodox, stam.
    • Kehilat Yedidya – Modern Orthodox, Carlbach-ish. Also, a very nice service. I think many of these people would actually go to traditional Conservative shuls in America.

  • I ate dinner with Nativ (Thanks, Shosh!) and ran into the SSDS-EU 9th Grade Trip. Of course, Yemima Besner made me give a speech as soon as I walked in!

  • Since Israel does not have a second day yom tov, for Simchat Torah they have these crazy parties afterwards called Hakafot Sheniyot. Check out the pictures and videos HERE. However, after being at BJ in the City for hakafot, this lames in comparison.

  • The best part …on Ben Yehuda, right up the block from the Nachman party, was this Chrisitan Korean choir performing for everyone:

  • Finally…I had to catch a midnight bus back to Ketura.
    Try making an express bus from Jerusalem to Eilat stop somewhere in the middle of the desert at THREE IN THE MORNING!

That’s all for now. The rest of the students arrive tomorrow. So, in good Israeli fashion, I am being evicted (or relocated) so an Arab can live in my room!

(DISCLAIMER: That was just a joke and does not truly reflect my political views.)



  • Only in Israel will you find two unattended/unsupervised children on a bus traveling the entire length of the country.

  • Moreover, only here will you see a total stranger yell at them as if he were their father (although he had every right to).

  • I am still perplexed by the economic structure / functionality of a shuk. I am not a business major, but to me it does not make sense strategically to have 50 stores lined up next to each other…ALL SELLING THE SAME THING.

  • I’ve come to the conclusion that it is both sad and amazing that, coming from Teaneck and NYC, the religious wonders of Jerusalem do not faze me.
    It’s phenomenal that we have created such a rich Jewish culture in the Diaspora, but it is also upsetting that the JEIWSH STATE cannot outdo that.

Shoutout #31: Ross Family - Carol, it is pretty cool that we went from you being our babysitter to good family friends. And now, we’ve watched each other’s families grow up. I look forward to seeing all of you when I return to Teaneck…unless you’re coming on a business trip here sometime soon.

Carol, I hope you can figure out how to get to this website to read it. If not, Juliana, please show Nana what to do. Thanks!

P.S. Did Obama really win the Nobel Peace Prize?! I love the man, but REALLY? Just because you’re not Bush, doesn’t mean you deserve the prize. Well, there have been a lot of columns out there, some cute and some serious. I happen to agree with Tom on this one: The Peace (Keepers) Prize

P.P.S . If you didn’t like that one, you’ll most definitely agree with him on this: Where Did ‘We’ Go?

P.P.P.S. I know most of the posts have been doused with Judaism up until now. The reasons are probably twofold: 1) I’m in Israel, and 2) It’s been the haggim. Now that they’re all over, I hope to bring you some alternative content in the near future.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Befuddlements SOLO

Two things I just came upon that I thought you might enjoy:

  1. It turns out Ahmadinejad might be JEWISH!

  2. Jon Stewart slams Sean Hannitiy about history and the food chain....
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Where the Riled Things Are
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sukkot @ 37°C

In case you were wondering… 37 degrees Celsius = 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit!!!!

I just got back from a tour of the experimental orchards here. It’s pretty cool stuff. More to come below…

Weekly Recap

  • I got kicked out of Hebrew, because I knew the Aleph Bet. Now I’m supposed read newspaper articles, write questions about what I read, and then answer them (kinda silly?). But, instead I do things like apply to Hebrew U and write to you (more practical I think).

  • Went for a lovely hike on Thursday afternoon. See more HERE!

  • Celebrated my Birthday and Sukkot!

My B-Day

  • It was surely a 21st. As you may remember, Thursday night is pub night. Again, I will give you more detail if you e-mail me.

  • I spent some relaxing time at the pool.

  • As you can see in the pictures, they also baked me a DELICIOUS cake and gave me a very nice card.

  • While I missed all of you at home, I very much enjoyed my birthday as it led right into my favorite holiday – Sukkot!

SUKKOT @ 37°C!

I never thought I would not want to sit in the sukka because it was too HOT!


  • It started on Thursday night when I went with a few friends to help decorate Ketura’s very large (bigger than those of JTS) sukka. It was empty when we started and by the end, with an army of little kids making paper chains and drawings, it was masterpiece! Take a look:

    From Fall 2009 - MASA

  • The next morning, we went with Rabbi Michael Cohen to pick our own hadas and etrog. Then, we sat under date palms as we discussed the meaning and significance of Sukkot and land-based holidays. Being surrounded by the 4 minim (except willow, which doesn’t grow in the area) and picking our own for the holiday is a pretty neat feeling.

  • The entire Kibbutz ate together in ONE sukka that night. Overwhelming, but amazing!

Shabbat / Yom Tov (one day hag!):

  • I took my weekly bike ride @ 7:30a.m.

    • But, I got to the top of the mountain way before the other two guys. So, I kept going a few kilometers to Kibbutz Neve Harif. Our timing was pretty good, because as I was passing the rest site, they were leaving and we rode down together.

    • BEST PART… since one of the guys, Bill, is a member, he has a key to the pool. So, went directly from our bikes into, literally, our private pool. It was WONDERFUL! This was also good training for my triathlon one day.

  • While listening to the Haftarah in shul, I realized that it mentions the Arava:
    “All the land shall be turned as the Arava…” (Zechariah 14:10). First, I thought that was pretty cool in it of itself, since I was there. Moreover, Rashi comments that this is implying bad things because this area was seen as a wasteland. HOWEVER, I can attest that this is no longer the case. Things are flourishing left and right. That, I think, is even cooler! (…Once again, proving that religion must change with time…)

  • Kiddush, lunch, nap, POOL!

Seed Spitting Ceremony and Party

With the new moon, we used the principles of biodynamics to infuse our positive energy and happiness into the seeds. I don’t really buy this stuff, but Yair will explain his beliefs:

See more shtuyot HERE!

Touring the Experimental Orchards with Dr. Elaine Soloway

“I want to grow trees that rejoice in the desert.” – E. Soloway

Read more here: The Center for Sustainable Agriculture

What We Saw:

  • We walked through and tasted almost all 7 minim.

  • Marula (relative of the mango)– good for brandy, ice cream, sorbet, soft drinks, oil, and table fruit.

  • As we sat in a small forest of Neem Trees and felt a breeze that didn’t exist 10ft away in the open air, Elaine tried to prove to us that planting trees is the best solution for climate change. The Neem is especially good, because even in the desert it creates its own soil!

  • She grows a lot of plants for Hadassah Hospital for medicinal purposes.

  • The tour was a bit long, but very interesting. We all requested a sequel.

Tomorrow we go to Eilat for the day….

Moadim L’Simcha!



  • Many of you have said I sound bored. That’s not true. There’s just nothing to do.

  • Thus, I am learning how to relax. I have come to really appreciate just sitting after a meal and letting my food digest, while enjoying the company of my friends. This begs the question…For what are we always rushing in the New York?

  • While riding, Bill was telling us about his friend who is a professor and never sleeps. He said, “Now there’s a guy who wants to achieve something…I have no interest in that!” That’s when I decided, I’m not sure the Kibbutz life is for me.

  • Finally, after a lot of people watching, I look forward to the day when I’m settled and satisfied enough in life that I can wear whatever I want, with my socks up to my knees and my belt above my bellybutton, and not care one bit!

Shoutout #26: Amy Winiker, you are phenomenal. As a good friend and having worked with you in many capacities, I can honestly say, you are a superstar! I miss you and the entire Teaneck/CRB gang.

Shoutout #27: Allen Lipson - A good camper and a good guy. I love that you are always so interested in how and what I’m doing. You have a bright future ahead! Come back to camp… it’s good for you.

Shoutout #28: Oren, you are clearly a new reader, because we’ve discussed this before. I can’t give you a proper honor without knowing your last name or at least seeing a picture. Who are you?

Shoutout #29: The young Gabe Pincus. Well, we should probably be doing our alternative ulpan right now, but heck with it! I like living, discussing, and hanging out with you. Keep up the good work!

Shoutout #30: Ben Langer - I already gave a half a blog post, so ‘nuff said. I look forward to our friendship growing and maturing. Thanks for rounding out my “follower” numbers!

P.S. I created a collective photo account for the entire group. You can view our fun at Or, just click on the photos under “AIES Photos” on the right.

P.P.S. You can also view some of my photos with captions at:

P.P.P.S. I just remembered as I finished writing this post that it is still yom tov in the States. So, Hag Samaech and Shavua Tov!


Arava Institute for Environmental Studies
מכון הערבה ללימודי הסביבה
معهد وادي عربه للدراسات البيئية
Fall Semester 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Esrim v'Echad...v'halla!

Thank you everyone for your warm wishes here and on Facebook.

We had a very good celebration last night...even though it was in Israel, it was very much a 21st Birthday party! I'll share more with you offline.

The celebrations continue.

Off to the pool....

Shabbat Shalom v'Hag Sameach!