Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coming Full Circle

We have now completed a year of blogging!

Since my first post:
  • I've studied abroad
  • Took part in a multicultural, international peace and environmental institue, while living on kibbutz
  • Cycled across Israel
  • Made many new great friends
  • Travelled to 15 countries (territories, depending on how you count)
  • Went from Europe to Asia within minutes
  • Crossed borders on foot, by car, in the water, and the air
  • Seen a live animal sacrifice
  • Witnessed the true March of the Penguins
  • Had life impacting experiences
  • Continued my adventures in America
    -Leading hiking trips
    -Cycling with groups
    -Hearing GREAT music (John Williams, Yo Yo Ma, James Taylor, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones, and Brain Gelfand...all in ONE WEEK)
    -Enjoying the Dutchess County Fair
  • And, finished off the year at CRB on Labor Day Weekend!
WOW...What a year! THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed to many AMAZING experiences.

Once again, after a year hiatus, I sit in Metuchen and prepare for Rosh Hashana...

Wishing you and your family a year of love, laughter, peace, happiness, and health.

!שנה טובה ומתוקה

All the best,


SHOUTOUT: To my entire family for always supporting and loving me: Mom, Dad, Shira Lee, Hillel, Orli, Savta, and Grandma. I love you all!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Back Home!

After a WONDERFUL trip to London, Paris, and Barcelona...I'm finally HOME (and it's GREAT)! More to come....


Monday, May 31, 2010

Flotilla for What?!

It's an interesting segue to write about my trip to Istanbul and then comment on today's events. But, especially after speaking with some friends and my parents, I felt I couldn't stay silent.

Most importantly, as President Obama said, we need to know the FACTS. We're still working on that. But, I didn't know that humanitarian/peace activists believe in using the following methods to demonstrate their point:
  • Ignoring the international sign for non-violence: The White Flag
  • Metal poles
  • Knives
  • Chairs
  • Fire bombs
  • Stun grenades
  • Kidnapping
  • Lynching
Furthermore, it's ironic that this group who claims to be seeking freedom in Gaza refused to deliver supplies and a message to Gilad Shalit.

While I mourn for the 10-20 who are dead and wish for the speedy recovery of all who are injured, when all is said and done I hope the world will judge this event appropriately.

Lastly, I'd like to share a document that I received at a Free Gaza event in Istanbul three weeks ago as they were preparing for the departure of the Flotilla (which we saw in the port):

Take note that this organization does not even recognize the sovereign State of Israel. How can we discuss peace, if we do not even exist?! Most interestingly, when I asked the activist who was distributing the material about the historical accuracy of the maps, especially the 1946 version, which should be listed as the British Mandate, he replied: "I don't really know much about this, I'm just handing out the papers." Maybe the Nobel laureates, legislators, and activists should have checked their facts and studied history BEFORE they boarded the Flotilla.

Since others can say it much better than I, please check out the following:

As always, your comments are welcomed.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Another Week of No Classes

I literally did not go to class last week. I returned from Jacob's Ladder and then had Daber Fellowship training from Monday to Wednesday. With an all night concert for Yom Ha'Studentim on Tuesday and Yom Yerushalayim on Wednesday the week was filled with celebrations. Then, Thursday I was off to Istanbul with Hillel and Danielle for the weekend (reflections to come; photos here)! Now it's Shavuot and once again there are no classes. Don't forget school ends next week!

!חג שמח

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Monthly Digest

I apologize for my month hiatus from the blog. I’ve been out and about with little time to write. In fact, I just returned from a 12-hour whirlwind field trip (only in Israel!) of ancient sites in the Galil.

From Train Testing

Since my last post:

  • The Segals were here! We had a GREAT time, as you may have seen in pictures. It was wonderful to see my family for two weeks and, although three of us are together in Israel, I look forward to returning home in just over a month.

  • We commemorated Yom Ha’Shoah and Yom Ha’Zikaron, then CELEBRATED Yom Ha’Atzmaut…read more here

  • Northern Exposure…Cycling, Tivon, and Wine Tours

  • Celebrated Earth Day in Jerusalem…see photos!

  • I represented Ramah Berkshires and Outdoor Adventure at the Mishlachat training…more below.

  • AND, visited West Bank settlements, saw a Samaritan Pesach Sacrifice, then celebrated Lag Ba’Omer with all the crazies on Har Meron…click here to read on.

A Blast From the Past: Part II

The REAL March of the Penguins

  • It wasn’t long before we set out on another crazy adventure.

    From The REAL March of the Penguins

  • After a lovely night at Josh’s Aunt Shirley’s in Haifa, Josh, Danielle, and I, made our way to Tzfat. We were looking forward to spending the day there, but most things were closed, because of the Torah Parade. Every Lag Ba’Omer, for the last 170 years, they march a 500-year-old Torah through the streets of Tzfat to Har Meron. For more background information on Lag Ba’Omer, follow this link.

  • The trip was worth it though, because once again, Josh saved the day, when his friend Rafi, from Lafa Rafi (on Rehov Yerushalayim) provided us with his leftovers, which became our Shabbat meals. When you go to Tzfat, you must visit Rafi, he makes a GREAT shwarma!

  • Next, we headed to Har Meron. As we stepped off the bus, we were swept into a sea of black and white. I had imagined we were going for a nice camping trip on the mountainside; but, apparently we were attending the largest Hareidi convention…and I forgot my 18th century garb from Poland! Families with ten kids or more were lugging suitcases up the mountain and pitching tents anywhere possible. I would have never expected any of these people to sleep outside. This was the antithesis of a camping experience.

  • We found some prime real estate and setup camp. Our small lot had flat ground, padded by crushed high grasses and we enjoyed a vista of the entire mountain. We made alliances with our neighbors, prepared ourselves, watched the sunset, and welcomed Shabbat. After some minyan hopping, we ate dinner, enjoyed each other’s company, and got to bed pretty early.

  • There was a ton of free food (not the healthiest of choices: kugel yerushalmi, challah, rugalach, humus, babaganoush, and more) ALL SHABBAT. When asked who sponsored all the meals, the Chabad guy serving replied: “Rashbi [Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – the founder of Kabbalah, who is buried on Har Meron] provides!"

  • On Shabbat, we escaped the crowds and took a nice hike around the mountains. This was probably the best part of the experience.

  • Motzei Shabbat, when the real festivities begin, as the music is pumped to a max and droves of people swarm the mountain, we were supposed to watch another sacrifice. But, unfortunately, the keves got stuck in traffic and would not arrive until the morning. It was at that point that we decided we had enough and headed home on the next bus to Jerusalem.

  • Factoid: There were an estimated 280,000 people on Har Meron over Lag Ba’Omer…that’s more people than can fit in the largest stadium in the world (Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea)!

And now back to real life.

Up next… Jacob’s Ladder Music Festival, Yom Ha’Student concert with Ehud Banai and Ivri Lieder, and then off to Istanbul…

Until next time,



Q: Is this guy a Texas rancher or Jewish history professor at Hebrew University?

From A TWELVE HOUR Field Trip

A: Good try! The hat, gun with leather holster, full denim wardrobe, cane, and boots, would have thrown me off as well. But, in fact, this picture was taken today on our field trip. He is Dr. Rafi Josphe, guiding us in Tzipori.

Shoutout to Danielle Schindler (again), who consistently travels with only boys and puts up with our antics, just to have a good time!

P.S. If you’ve made it this far in the series of posts, I’m assuming you don’t want to read much more. But, I will pass on one article that I think is important to read. As I have been saying for quite a while, the solution to our garbage problem is clean energy…. Read more here. The U.S. needs to jump on the bandwagon ASAP.


A Blast From the Past: Part I

Ma Nishtana Ha’Lila Ha’Zeh?

....A Samaritan Pesach Sacrifice!

  • This is definitely a unique and probably the most bizarre experience I have had in Israel. For more information about Samaritans, click here.

  • I had heard about the Samartian Pesach many years ago from my friend and former high school teacher, Rabbi Herbert Kavon. So, seeing this was one of my goals for the year. Coincidently, my professor mentioned it in class and I asked how I could attend. A few days later she had information for me. I organized a group of 10 classmates and friends and last Wednesday, we went (over the Green Line) to Ariel in order to meet the bus from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (yes, ironic that an environmental organization led a group to an animal sacrifice) that would be taking us to Har Gerizim, where many of the Samaritans live.

  • Little did we know, we signed up for a tour of the West BankShomron – Jewish settlements. We boarded a bullet proof bus, with mostly people our senior, and began our journey. Interestingly, many of the attendees were wearing kippot. We later found out that this was a big year to go and see this, because for the last four years the sacrifice has been on either Shabbat or yom tov. Until then, I had been to Efrat, Ramallah, and Bethlehem, but this was a little different…

  • Our first stop was a small caravan settlement near Elon Moreh. From there we could peer westward and see Har Gerizim to the left, Nablus in the valley, and Har Eval on the right. While it surely was a beautiful view, it was upsetting to see soldiers, basically wasting the country’s resources, protecting a “community” of seven families. Although they were on a strategic mountaintop, with Askar (a Palestinian “refugee camp”) below, and may have been there otherwise, I was frustrated that such a small group of right-wing radicals could demand that a group of 19-year-old boys waste their service time there. On the other hand, it was amazing to see that Israel really does go to every length in order to protect each citizen.

  • Next, we travelled to Itamar. This is a family farm, which produces organic goat milk and related products. I was very confused by the people who live and work there. On one hand, they are down-to-earth, environmental hippies; while on the other hand, they are right-wing fanatics, who want to hold on to every little bit of land. The photo below explains it all:

    • Although this is a magnificent piece of land, its location is quite controversial. While I believe that at some point soon Israel will have to officially give some land to the Palestinians, this visit got me thinking again. As liberal as I am, I am a bit scared to give land to the Palestinians, who have yet to show any national initiative for peace and/or development in the last 62 years, especially in light of what happened in Gaza after the 2005 unilateral withdrawal by Israel. How do we balance peace with national security and productivity?

    Next, came Har Gerizim and the Samaritans…

    • We got there around 2:30pm and the area was empty. I had no idea what we were about to experience in the next 6 hours.

    • While walking around, I spoke to a Samaritan kohen. I asked about the different garbs people were wearing, their culture, and Pesach. He explained that everyone wears white today as a sign of purity; the kohanim adorn special dresses and caps; and just on this day, they do not eat bread. There are only 5 families – hamulot – but about 700 Samaritans in total. Most live on Har Gerizim, but there is also a small community in Holon. Today, they were sacrificing 50-60 sheep (…I thought I was just going to see one…but 50…wow)!

    • It seems to me that the Samaritans on Har Gerizim have a confused identity. They speak Arabic, as they live among Arabs; they speak Hebrew, since they are Israeli; and religious services are conducted in Aramaic. They are not accepted as Jews, but they are definitely not Muslim or Christian. And, to top it off, they live on this small island in the middle of the West Bank, but serve in the IDF.

    • We went off with the guide to explore the ancient ruins and receive an explanation of the area. When we returned after about an hour and a half, the place was packed with a couple thousand spectators. This religious ritual for the Samaritans, the holiest day for them, has become a spectacle for many more.

    • The mizbeach was set and the Samartians were gathering as they brought in their sacrifices to be. The young men, dressed in all white with butcher-type hats, stood along this trough, with the sheep between their legs. Eventually the Kohen Gadol arrived, the crowd quieted and he began reciting their t’filot. He read Aramaic phrases and they responded aloud. Finally, after about 15 minutes of prayer with hands swaying in the air, he said something, the men raised their knives, they said something, and all at once, in one swift motion schechted the sheep. (Don’t worry, there were too many people crowded around, so I did not get to see/photograph this actual moment [a bit disappointing, actually]).

    • Now the fun begins... They dip their fingers into the newly drawn blood and smear it on each other’s foreheads and kiss on the cheeks. Interestingly, the Kohanim do not actually do the sacrifice; they stand in the middle of the action and continue to sing/chant t’filot…kind of like the Pesach Seder. At this point, many more boys and men of all ages get involved, skinning the sheep and removing all the “forbidden” body parts. Then, they take these 12-foot wooden skewers (looks like a HUGE toothpick) and slide them through the entire animal, creating a large shish kebab. Next, it’s barbeque time! They carry it off and place it over the alter. After watching this done to over 50 sheep simultaneously, it was time to go.

    • This is when the challenge actually began. First, in the dark and cold wind, we had to locate our bus, among at least 60. Ours, of course, was parked the farthest away, behind three rows of buses. We also realized that we were not going to return to Ariel on time (as originally told) to catch a bus to Jerusalem. So, being the de facto rosh edah, I scrambled to find different options of returning home. In the end, I was able to find tremps (rides) with various people on the bus in order to return the entire group home safely. The hero of this story is really my main man, Josh Goldberg, who writes more about this @


From Sadness to Celebration in 62 Seconds: Part II

Country-Wide Party

  • While I usually like to travel around and get a taste of everything, I decided to stay in the capital for the entirety of Yom Ha’Atzmaut and really enjoy my Jerusalem experience.

  • And that, I did. I went from party to party seeing what it was all about. With Josh, Danielle (and some Nativers), we ventured out. We took a journey through the generations:
    • Tayelet – for young families
    • Fireworks over the merkaz for everyone to enjoy
    • Down town (Rehov Hillel) – for high schoolers
    • Shuk – for 18+ - this was spectacular! Mahaneh Yehuda was literally jam packed with people just having a good time. The area was so crowded it was hard to move.

    • Rikudai Am in Safra Square – for the older crowd (but not really). Even arriving at 2:30am, this is one of the most amazing things I have seen during my time here. It was a municipal plaza filled with hundreds of people of all ages dancing Rikudai Am(both folk and modern) together (WATCH HERE)! I have never seen so many people, from all walks of life, be so coordinated and dance together. This, I believe, was a TRUE Israeli moment.

  • There was just something about the celebration that made it very different than July 4th. Here, there is simply a lot of national pride and people celebrate the country’s independence like their best friend’s birthday.

  • The next morning, after waking up to Yerushalayim Shel Zahav on the radio, we set off to make a mangal. Lee, Danielle, and I organized a group of our friends and BBQed, like everyone else in the city, in Gan Soccer. Thank you to the Epstein Family for sponsoring this event. It was a blast! In true Israeli spirit, since our Mini (crap) Mangal stoves didn’t work, we borrowed our neighbors’.

  • Although the polls say that Israelis entered this Yom Ha’Atzmaut with few expectations for peace and their government in the coming year, the sight of a park filled with every type of citizen – black, white, eastern, western, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, doctor, and driver – all celebrating side-by-side (admittedly a bit of a rosy picture), gave me a glimmer of hope for the future of Israel.

    From From Sadness to Celebration in 62 Seconds

Mishlachat Extravaganza

Speaking of Israeli spirit, if there’s one thing we don’t understand in Camp, it is Mishlachat. Well, I didn’t until this year…

  • In February, I, with some other Berkshires peers, helped conduct interviews for the Summer 2010 Mishlachat. After many forms, tests, and other interviews, this was the end of the application process for them. But, for me, this was the beginning of understanding a different side of Camp. The shlichim we have in camp are essentially the best of the best Israelis (which is why many American kids think that all Israelis were commanders in elite combat units).

  • Once the Mishlachat is selected, they must go through intense training before coming to America. The main seminar, with over 500 shlichim, took place two weeks ago. They learn how to be representatives, work with American campers, and most of all they are psyched up for an amazing summer. Josh (Goldberg), Lee, and I were privileged to see this in action.

  • It was an incredible Shabbat!!! Now that I have seen almost the entire process forMishlachat, I have a new found appreciation for them. We had the opportunity to hang out with returning members of Mishlachat with whom we never got the chance to speak in camp. This year's group is wonderful!

  • We hope to convey what we've experience and seen on behalf of the Mishlachat to the rest of the American staff. I think if they understood what the Israelis have to go through in order to come to Camp they would better appreciate, befriend, and utilize these fantastic and talented people. In addition to gaining more appreciation for Mishlalchat, being at the seminar made me super excited for camp!

With the spirit of Am Yisrael,



· I don’t get it, it takes 6 million Jews to perish for Galgalatz to play three Hebrew songs in a row!

· Israelis love the tekes!

· I’m a native English speaker and have no idea what this means...


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

From Sadness to Celebration in 62 Seconds: Part I

Days to Remember

Yom Ha’Shoah

  • The week following Pesach life went back to normal, but not for long. On Monday, April 12, a siren sounded at 9am and the country commemorated the Holocaust. I took part in a Rothberg ceremony. Click here to see photos.

  • (In case you didn’t know, Israelis take ceremonies and their preparation very seriously. If you are ever in need of a good ceremony, find an Israeli to run it. For a simple Holocaust reading, we had 4-hour rehearsals into the late night and starting in the early morning, decorations at the entrances as well as on stage, and sound checks galore.)

  • Although during the siren I would have preferred to be at a major intersection to see the traffic stop or at Yad Veshem the night before, in a way it was very interesting to participate in an international ceremony. We had students read in their native tongue, totaling 7 languages, including German.

  • Nonetheless, since I missed the observation opportunity this time, I was committed to seeing the country freeze the next week on Yom Ha’Zikaron.

Yom Ha’Zikaron

  • Well, needless to say, next Sunday night this plan didn’t exactly work. I was with Lee and his parents in a taxi on our way to the national tekes at the Kotel. Many streets were closed and our taxi could not get too close to Zion Gate. So, we had to walk. What we thought was going to be a quick loop into the Old City, became a ½ marathon, leaving us in the middle of nowhere, between the City of David and the Southern Steps for the siren. While there was nobody around except for the four of us standing at attention, it was quite interesting to watch East Jerusalem traffic continue with business as usual.

  • We eventually made it to the Kotel. Although I couldn’t hear or see much, it was still an amazing site. Hundreds of people gathered to remember the countries heroes. After the ceremony, we were pleasantly surprised to see our friend, Dave Teitelbaum, who graduated college in the U.S. and (after being Rosh Al Hagova this past summer) came to Israel to serve in the IDF. Now as a tzanchan, there he was, in uniform, vest, and M-16 in hand, not in the tekes, but just doing his assigned guard duty. This was a moment to schep nachas!

  • There is a striking comparison between our Memorial Day sales in the States and stores closing on erev Yom Ha’Zikaron. Here, the streets become quiet in the afternoon as everyone goes home to prepare to attend a ceremony. You can’t even get a cup of coffee. The obvious difference is that in Israel, everyone, unfortunately, has been affected by the army and war in some way. Whereas many of us in the suburban northeast don’t even know one soldier and our closest connection to the U.S. Military is a grandfather who may have been drafted in WWII.

  • It was at this time that my personal conflict with being in Israel at my age was most strongly reinforced. As I have mentioned before, throughout the year I have felt a bit displaced in society. In anything I do, be it eating at a restaurant, studying in university, going to a concert, or attending a ceremony, the people are either older or younger than I. How can I merely enjoy the benefits of Israel, while everyone else my age is risking their lives, serving their country and protecting me? Moreover, while here, I have gained a large appreciation and felt very patriotic for America. Should I serve my country? If so, which one? And, is the army the only way to do so? For now, I continue to struggle with these questions.

  • Monday morning I was determined to watch the streets come to a standstill. I boarded Bus 4. While riding, a debate broke out. The bus could not follow its normal route because of protests in an ultra orthodox neighborhood. One old lady yelled out “blame the religious for all our problems.” Another more senior man replied, “it’s not them, it’s the Arabs!” Before we knew it, half the bus was involved in this classic left-right battle. Fear not, it wasn’t long before Lee and I got involved as well. But, the heated argument came to an end when an even older lady sitting in the middle of the crossfire shouted, as her dentures fell out, “stop making so much noise!”

  • At 11:00am we were at the intersection of King George and Jaffa St., a perfect place to be. It takes a moment for everyone to realize the siren is sounding, but just then, even though we had a green light, the bus driver stopped and stood up. Everyone on the street, even half way through crossing just stood at attention. Then, as the siren wound down, life continued on as normal with traffic flowing (or not), horns blowing, and shopping at the shuk.

  • Later in the day, we visited Har Herzl. Each grave was laden with flowers, candles, and flags. It was remarkable to see the site filled with visitors, including Israelis, foreigners, family members, and people with no connection to any of the buried. Har Herlz probably gets more visitors on Yom Ha’Zikaron than Arlington Cemetery all year.

  • One of the most noticeable changes in pace is on the radio. Yom Ha’Shoah and Yom Ha’Zikaron are the only two days when Galgalatz plays only Hebrew, and specifically sad music.

  • The most bizarre thing, however, is that within in seconds of sunset, the entire country transforms into one big celebration.

Monday, March 29, 2010

חג כשר ושמח

With the entire country in a frenzy, kashering on every corner, and the whole town smelling like burning Hametz...Pesach is almost here!

From the entire Segal clan in Israel...
!פסח שמח

Above: Midnight Bike Tour of Jerusalem last night.
HIGHLY Recommended:

P.S. Don't forget...just because it's Pesach, doesn't mean you have to eat matza all week.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

אביב הגיע, פסח בא....

Sorry I have not posted in a long time...

All is well here. Things are getting very exciting as the country is getting ready for Pesach, vacation is a day away, and the Segals will be here on Thursday!

I have been on many adventures recently. I am trying to get a real sense of Israel by seeing, hiking, cycling, walking, tasting, talking, and hearing. Besides listening to the radio and interacting with people on the street, I believe that one of the best ways to immerse myself in culture is to go to musical events.

Since the last post, I went with a bunch of friends to the Big Tisch with Moshe Lehav @ the Yellow Submarine, a landmark venue in Jerusalem. It was amazing to see over a hundred Israelis, of all ages, sitting together, singing songs to which each person knows every word. It was a lot of fun and quite an experience. I don't think you can find such a thing in America.

In other news....last Thursday, for the first time, Hillel ran a 10K AND Shira Lee ran a HALF MARATHON! KOL HAKAVOD and MAZAL TOV! And...I was there to take pictures:

I am very much looking forward to the next few weeks with my family.

More to come before Pesach....


P.S. I am so happy that finally yesterday we got HOPE and soon we will see CHANGE! A healthy America will be a happy America.

P.P.S. Good advice.... Talk Deeply, Be Happy?

P.P.P.S. You got to watch this: Neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor describes her stroke... a cool website in general.

  • Why is the most organized thing I've seen in this country a rock concert?

  • It was very interesting sitting in class, on an island in the middle of East Jerusalem, Har Ha'Tsofim, while listening to gunfire in Issiwiya on Hamas's Day of Rage. Don't worry, it's over now and Bibi and Obama are making nice again.

  • Israel is so interesting, it seems they just like to party. I've now celebrated Purim in TA and St. Patty's Day in Jerusalem...and neither were religious celebrations.

  • Every time I travel and get out of Jtown I remember.... Israel's a real place outside of Jerusalem.
Shoutout #45: Josh N. Goldberg... We have grown so close so seems b'shert! You are the best and so is your blog:


Monday, March 15, 2010

Yudit in Concert

I am trying to experience a bit of Israeli culture each week.

Thanks to my father's influence I was VERY excited to attend a Yudit Ravitz concert last week!

...Lee and I are traveling around the country finding new Zimriyah songs for this coming summer...


Monday, March 8, 2010

Photo Update


Got to love when you can celebrate Purim twice in a row!

Sunday, February 28, 2010


It’s been over a week since my trip to Italy, so here are some thoughts. It was truly a great experience! We saw a lot of ancient landmarks and renaissance art. But, most importantly “we ate and we were satisfied.”


The adventure started like most in Israel, with a sherut driver that was out of his mind. He changed where I needed to meet him three times and yelled, more than I’ve ever heard anyone before, at EVERY patron. Since Jeff and I were the first pickup, we got the full experience. Most of the ride consisted of this weird interaction where he’s complaining about his life, his job, and the customers, and you are not sure whether to respond or not…


We decided to save some money and stay in a hostel, which did come by recommendation of a friend. BUT, you really do get what you pay for! This place was one of the sketchiest I’ve ever been. They do not have sign, so we had to look for the addresse and get buzzed into a random apartment building. Then, we enter the lobby, and some strange guy is sitting behind a small counter in a cramped room with fluorescent lighting. Next, he tells us we have to pay in cash, because the credit card machine is broken. But wait…the plot thickens. Once Jeff returns from withdrawing enough money from an ATM on a dimly light corner at 1AM, the guy tells us that our room is not in the same building. So we take our stuff, venture back out in the dark, cold, rainy night, to a building around the corner that is under construction. We walk up the first flight of stairs and the guy gives us not one, but FOUR keys, for the various locks we we’ll need to open in order to access our room. We finally get into this room and it is the size of our two beds. There was literally no walking room. Of course, we try to turn on the heater, but it blows cold air and sounds like it was going to explode. The nice part was we never had a problem with the shared bathroom down the hallway. Bottom Line: Although this place perfectly served its purpose for us (a roof over our heads with something on which to sleep), we’ve decided that we DO NOT recommend the Freedom Traveller Hostel.

Nonetheless, we had a phenomenal adventure…


  • Firenze
    • Piazza Michelangelo
    • Piazza Del Duomo & San Giovanni
    • Michelangelo’s David Statue @ Galleria dell’Accademia (cost a few Eruos, but totally worth it).
    • The Great Synagogue
  • Roma
    • All the great antiquity
    • Coliseum (no need to wait on the long line and pay a lot of money to go inside)
    • Republica
    • Piazza Nuvona
    • Pantheon
    • Fontana di Trevi
    • The Great Synagogue (not as nice as the one in Florence) and Jewish Museum
    • We went to Sinagoga Di Castro (an authentic Italian shul) on Shabbat. They were not especially friendly, but I did receive an aliya.
    • Galleria Borghese and Borghese Park - wonderful Renaissance art, which was the original decoration for the villa. The park is a great place to walk around in nice weather. It is similar to Central Park in NYC. The Borghese Estate was definitely a trip favorite!
    • Basilica S. Pietro – Free and amazing (don’t be turned away by the appearance of a long line, it moves quickly). We chose not to go to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel when we found out that we would have to stand on line for two hours, pay 15 Euros, and not really see too much (except, of course, the Michelangelo works in the chapel. Next time…)

Must Eats!

Our most important mission on this trip was finding the best places to eat. In fact, the most complicated and logistical decision we made was finding the perfect place to get gelato and have a crepe.

  • Firenze
    • Osteria Belle Donne – hole in the wall restaurant with real Tuscan food and feel. Delicious Fettuccini al pesto!

o Tira…Baralla (Via della Scala, 28/r) – BEST local pizza and wine, all for 8 Euros.

  • Roma

o La Famiglia (Via Gaeta, 66) – amazing pizza and atmosphere (cloth napkins and free bread), for just 5 euros.

o Melograno (Piazza di Trevi, 101 – next to Trevi Fountain) – BEST gelato we had (I recommend the Nutella flavor)!

o Bar Senato (Corso Rinascimento, 67) – our FAVORITE - best deal and amazing food – you get fresh brochette, pasta or pizza of your choice (great four cheese gnocchi!), and specialty Italian coffee, all for 7 euros.

· The size of portions is just right here! They really know how to eat!

· While we understand that all the food is good in this country and everyone will come back with their recommendations, these were our favorite eateries and suggest that you visit them the next time you are in Italy. But, more importantly, as this was a major part of our experience, we encourage you to find your favorites as well. Bon Appétit!

Other Thoughts

· Both cities are very walkable and have fine public transportation. There is no need to do the tour buses. In fact, you can often find free walking tours.

· ITALY, as we know, HAS GREAT FASHION! In a very un-Adi instance, I purchased two dress shirts and three pairs of pants. BUT…here’s the best part…I got all this stylish Italian clothing for just 25 Euros. You can’t even do that in the States!

· Never eat at the places that distribute the flyers with the deals. It’s a scam, because they all sell terrible food.

· Finally, although Rome is a large city with more to do, I would have liked to spend more time in Florence. I think it is prettier and less expensive, with fewer people. But, alas, that just gives me a good excuse to keep traveling and return to Italy.

And, in order to make sure the trip came full circle, while we were checking in at the airport, really in the middle of the process, the clerk turns off the overhead light and just left the counter! Rest assured, we got home safely.

Now it is Purim and Israel is going crazy. Last Wednesday I went with some friends to the shuk to buy costumes at a vintage store, last night/this morning I was in Florentie, Tel Aviv (more of a Halloween scene like in the Village, and tonight is round 2 with festivities in Jerusalem.

Hag Purim Sameach!



· Why do they force you to buy “mineral water” at restaurants in Europe…

· We stayed in a terrible hostel. BUT, it did have a bidet. Yet, after five days, I still have no idea how to use it.

· They love the motorized scooter (aka Vespa) here (see album for details)!

· Why do they put the street signs on the buildings, so you can only see it once you’ve turned the corner? It makes navigating while walking very difficult, I can only imagine what it’s like to drive.

· I’m not sure who stands around more, Roman or Israeli police (see the Lee Collection in the album).

· Sometimes when I travel I feel like I’m a spoiled tourist coming from NYC and Israel. After you’ve lived in the best city in the world and seen archeological sites from biblical times, there’s very little that blows your mind. Nevertheless, I love adventures…

P.S. I decided not to pass on too much reading this time. But, I think this one is valuable: Rules to Eat By.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

When in Rome...

Just a quick update before I go to bed...
  • Florence on Friday was great!

  • Saw lots of wonderful things and had great pasta, pizza, wine, and gelato!

  • A note about GELATO: It is an amazing food. The texture is so creamy and flavors so rich that you can actually taste its name - cafe, mint, caramel, & Nutella!

  • We went to an authentic Italian shul today and walked the entire breadth of Rome.

  • While we've now seen a lot of the sites, tomorrow Jeff and I will return with our cameras as real tourists.

More to come...

Shavua tov!


The Romans love phallic objects. Anything of importance is itself or is centered around something tall and straight. You do the psycho-analysis...

Shoutout # 44: Lauren Abraham - You are so wonderful yourself, both as a Residence Director and a friend. But, thank you for sharing your husband with me, for a six day trip to Italy!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On the Road Again....

But before I leave, I thought I'd share this photo
of LC @ HU!

I am continuing my adventures with Jeffrey Abraham as we explore Italy for the next six days.

As they say: "When in Rome..."

To pasta, gelato, and beautiful antiquity....

'Till next time,


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Big Move

Now that I have officially spent a week living in Jerusalem, I feel it’s time for an update…

From The Big Move

A Brief Timeline (see photos at right):
  • The day after the flashfloods, Ben (Langer) and I got in our rental car (with sick Lee in the backseat) and headed up north.
  • Lee was with a Pardes trip to Ketura and literally got sick to his stomach. So, I became his surrogate parent and caretaker. We drove him back to Jerusalem, where all three of us went to the Wolfson Health Clinic to get him checked out.
  • Moved my stuff into my apartment.
  • Stayed with Lee and Evyatar. Thanks guys!
  • Went with Evy to surprise all of our friends who came on the HU group flight @ 7AM at Ben Gurion Airport.
  • Moved Ben into the Save a Child’s Heart center in Holon, where he will be volunteering for the next two months.
  • Spent Shabbat in Jerusalem. It was really lovely to be with Lee, Shira Lee, Josh Ackerman and Company, Michal Chacham, Ben and others.
  • Hebrew U began two Sundays ago.
  • Rented another car with Lee and Danielle to welcome and retrieve Hillel from the airport.
  • Spent my first Shabbat at HU.
  • Segal Sibs (minus Orli....we miss you) reunite for dinner on Emek Refaim!

Life here is GREAT!

  • It feels so good to live in a city again and be mobile, with things to do.
  • I have my own room!
  • From The Big Move
  • I have met so many great people and there already seems to be a nice community forming.
  • My apartment is wonderful! We have an Israeli studying Hebrew Language, a Brazilian oleh in the Betzalel Art School (where Hillel will be for the semester), a Protestant American from Bible Belt Arkansas getting a masters in religion, some other guy, and me. We constantly have visitors from around the world including Argentina, Italy, and the West Bank. It’s really like a mini UN! (…Accept we are functional.)


  • Finally, I see that Hebrew can actually be taught in a methodic, logical, and fun manner.
  • My teacher wrote the curriculum we are using so she knows it inside and out.
  • She is a real linguist and therefore can truly explain the meaning and origin of many words. Some of the most interesting moments have been when she described how Ben Yehuda created the word GLIDA and when I discovered through Hebrew why Visa is the name of credit card company.
  • In addition, she supplements the class material (which includes reading, writing, and lots of discussion) with newspaper articles, walks in the botanical garden, and stories about growing up in Jerusalem pre-’67.
  • If this is how Hebrew was taught for my 16 years of education, I would be in the Academy for Hebrew Language.
  • I really wish that all Hebrew teachers in America could come to some sort of boot camp at HU.
  • This is the first time since Morah Ziona’s first grade class, that I am actually enjoying Hebrew lessons again!

Beyond class, the weather has been lovely. Yesterday I went for a jog around French Hill and today I had a Frisbee catch on campus. More to come soon…

Happy Groundhogs Day,



  • And now for a guest Befuddlement by my good friend Lee Epstein, who has been in Israel for less than a month:

… Israel's really a cool place because it's like a mix of ancient and modern and a mix of American, European, and Arab. That is, sometimes it's awesome and the people are so hospitable and accommodating and other times it's a half backwards Middle Eastern country where people have their heads in the sand. Case and point: I went to the post office this week and asked what the zip code was. The lovely bureaucrat told me that I should ask someone who lives on the street. I mean what did I think she was… The freaking post office?!

  • You don’t really understand the energy crisis here until you need to wait an hour for a hot shower while the dude warms the water.

Shoutout #43: Sarah Lefsky( - We just met, but we’re off to a great start! Whether it’s hanging out during an ulpan break or sharing pinecones, we seem to always have a good time. Although it’s difficult differentiating you from Rachel without the necklaces, I think I got it. Looking forward to a great semester!

P.S. I think I’ve spent more money in the last week, living in the city, than I did all of last semester…got to love socialism!

P.P.S. As we all celebrated Tu B’Shvat on Shabbat, some in more spring-like climates than others, I would like to share this piece written by my teacher and friend, Rabbi Michael Cohen: Heal the Word


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Flash Flood Chasing

Imagine the sound of water in the shower; now think about drops of rain hitting your roof; remember splashing in puddles after a summer downpour; then picture yourself hiking next to a flowing stream on the Appalachian Trail; finally hear the sound of Niagara Falls…These are sounds, images, and thoughts, are unfamiliar to the desert dweller.BUT, on Monday, January 18, 2010, for the first time in 25 years…

AMAZING!...Keep in mind, this is in the DESERT!

Here’s What Happened…

  • All semester I had said, I will leave here a happy man if I see flash floods.
  • While on my final Shabbat bike ride, Rabbi Michael mentioned the weather forecasts…LOTS OF RAIN.
  • Sunday afternoon, during our semester presentations to the community, we received a meteorology report from our professor. We were told that rains were on the way and we were going to experience a VERY unique event.
  • Since we had spoken earlier, Michael and I made plans to CAREFULLY chase the floods…

  • I awoke at 5:50 AM. With that feeling of doubt that always occurs when getting up early, I went outside to see if the rain had started. It was raining, but not the torrential downpours that I had imagined based on the reports. But, then I realized, it doesn’t need to be “torrential” for it to be serious in the desert.
  • Still dark outside, I went to meet Michael and his son Roi at the car for our adventure.
  • We drove up Har Ayit and began our hike with the UTMOST SAFETY…

  • At first it was merely raining.
  • Then, we began to see tributary streams forming.
  • After about 30 minutes of hiking and completely soaked, we got to a large wadi and saw some flowing water, but most was still dry. We continued…
  • In one corner we saw water foaming, we thought it was interesting.
  • In the distance, Rabbi Michael pointed out some water pouring out of a hole in the cliff. It looked cool, but it was far away.
  • All of a sudden, we see the foam become water…it begins to rush….it fills this 10-foot hole within seconds, and heads towards the cliff.
  • We move to higher ground…
  • AND, within in less than a minute, there’s a WATERFALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT!

  • Indeed, we witnessed the beginning of the flash flood!
  • People thought we were crazy, as inhabitants of water-filled areas, to go see this so early in the morning. BUT, it’s not often that you can see a natural phenomenon created!

In other news…

  • I’m on the road again.
  • I’ve officially left Ketura and made my way north. Thanks Ben (Langer) for driving!
  • Although my bags are already in my apartment, I will officially be moving in on Sunday.

More to come soon…


Shoutout #42: Sam Langberg – we have so much in common and it’s like we’re great friends, but we really only met once. I can’t wait to see you in May at Sulam Yaakov and look forward to a flourishing relationship!

P.S. If you have not read these yet, I think you’ll enjoy (well said, boys!):

P.P.S. And, if that wasn’t enough:


Thursday, January 14, 2010

When Nature Calls, We Must Respond

Destruction in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake
struck on January 12, 2010. (Photo Credit: Reuters)

Dear Friends,

When nature calls, we must respond!

While it might be difficult to get to Haiti right now, there are many relief organizations that are fundraising in order to have the proper resources to help. Here are some that I recommend. Please follow the links to see how you can give your support:

-Breaking News from the field
-Donation opportunity

-Jews helping non-Jews around the world.
-Donation opportunity

Google has also setup a site with information about the situation and organizations to support.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out how to get to Haiti. I've already been in contact with the Israeli Mission and Partners in Health. If you have any other connections, please let me know.

Thank you for your support!

Hoping for a well-managed and quick recovery,