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You have reached the blog of Mikvah Bound. I am either writing on paper or away from my laptop at the moment. Because I am in Israel. Until January 5th.

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Srugim

My mom doesn’t always understand why I’m so excited to see Jews in the media. I think any member of a minority group can relate: we’re very rarely in the media, and when we are, it’s not always as a fully-fleshed out, nuanced character. We’re always some plot device or trite archtype.

So when I see us portrayed as PEOPLE, normal human beings with lives and problems and flaws and amazing moments of happiness…who just happen to be Jewish, Jewish people… I get excited. It’s amazing when we’re not the “self-hating” Jew, or the “funny, intellectual” secular liberal Jew, or the “backwards” Orthodox Jew….

And, shock and horror, I’ve found that many of the films and movies I’ve encountered that have “normal” Jewish characters have come out of Israel. Srugim is one of them. I’m talking non-stop about it and encouraging all people to watch.
Srugim started in Israel in 2008, so I am arriving late to this party. There’s a good chance you already went to the party and returned home, kicking your heels off and loosening your tie. But. If you have not been invited, here it is. You are invited to run, not walk, to your closest copy of Srugim, a tv show about five single Dati Jerusalemites approach their 30th birthday. They live in Katamon, aka the Swamp, a neighborhood/district/barrio for single Datim.

I may or may not have finished the first season in three nights. And I’m currently chugging my way through the second at another equally alarming speed: when will the dishes get done tonight? Do I make my bed or watch another scene in the morning? Do I pray in English so I can finish another episode tonight or do I stumble along in Hebrew knowing it will take three to four times as long? Decisions, decisions.

So what do I like about it?

A) The drama. I can’t stand to be around people in my own life that remind me of Grey’s Anatomy characters. But, I recognize that drama is a compelling genre for its ability to capture the tension in life that we run into. We do have to make tough choices, wade through hard situations, and encounter other beings. Srugim is a TV show, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a level of drama, and situational drama, that I find bearable.

B)Orthodoxy. I’m a Conservative Jew. A happy Conservative Jew. I have my beefs with Orthodoxy, but I honestly cringe every time I see Orthodox Jews portrayed in the media. They’re not wife-beaters stuck in the Middle Ages. They’re not brainwashed and incapable of critical thought. They’re not totally unrelatable alien lifeforms with quaint folk customs for us to gawk at. Of all the media I’ve seen, this most accurately reflects the Jews I know who are Orthodox. It may not be 100% accurate, but it comes the closest that I’ve seen. I’d be interested in hearing what Orthodox Jews think of the OJs in this series.

C)Hebrew practice. I’ve already learned new words and phrases from listening. My accent and rhythym are horrible, but I figure they always will be.

D) Israel. Oh boy. I am so conflicted on Israel (can’t wait to see what I feel like then I get back in a few weeks!) and am currently feeling very much an American Jew. Who is happy to live outside of Israel, in the Diaspora that I refuse to call Exile. And yet watching this series provokes a longing in me. How much LESS of a personal struggle would kashrut be there? What would it feel like to not have to negotiate work schedules around Yom Tov? To have people approach you (assuming you’re a man) in the street asking you to make minyan for them? It’s kinda… mind blowing.

So yes. Please watch. And let’s discuss!

P.S. In case you live under a rock, Matisyahu shaved his beard. I’m clutching my pearls and scratching my head. I joke.

I had to turn off the interwebs yesterday.

Everything was going fine yesterday until I checked Facebook at lunch.  First I read a story about a small Baptist Church in Kentucky that voted recently to not allow interracial couples to join as members.  Sure, they could come to worship, but they couldn’t participate in any services unless it was a funeral.  I’m not sure why that matters to the church, why a funeral is different than regular Sunday worship or baptisms or marriages.  But it apparently does.  And they want you to know, of course, that they’re not racist! They’re just… this isn’t appropriate.  Or something.

It took me a while to calm down.  It boggles my mind that in 2011 we are still having these discussions, even in rural Kentucky appalachia. What’s even more disgusting is that 9 people voted for this, 6 people voted against, and approximately 25 other people in attendance “abstained” from voting at all.  I’m sorry, is this a convoluted gray issue? Are you too chicken-shit to call out your “brothers in Christ” on their crazy stupid idea that some of us are “more” or “better” Children of G-d than others, based on pigmentation levels in skin?  I guess the one benefit of stumbling across this article is that it provides excellent ammunition for the next person I meet who denies that racism is still alive and well in this country.

But then, I realize another of my friends posted this article from the Atlantic about an ad campaign airing “in at least five American communities that warn Israeli expatriates that they will lose their identities if they don’t return home.”  Okay.  Fair enough.  The pressure to assimilate can be strong, I get that, and we ARE two different cultures and societies.  But then I actually watched the videos.  I’ll let them speak for themselves:

(I guess the one small benefit is that I could read 75% of the Hebrew on the screen and understood about half of it.)  This Yom HaZikaron ad is at once hilarious and perplexing.  The male actor looks nothing like 90% of Jewish young adult men I’ve met in my life (save the Renewal crew in the Berkeley area…), what with his long pony tail and awkward accent and intonation when speaking in English.  And why is this guy supposed to read her mind? Why is she not capable of saying “Hey, you know what, I’m not all that interested in hanging out with friends tonight.  Today is Israel’s Memorial Day, and I always feel sad about all the lives that were lost in the wars and how my cousin was affected by his time in the IDF. Can we just stay home and let me have some space?”

Instead, this ad makes it seem like American significant others are deliberately obtuse or that Israelis live on some other planet and are alien creatures that are impossible to relate to.

I’m sorry, but what?! If little Nuraleh doesn’t understand the significance of Chanukah (and of COURSE the government chose the holiday specifically about assimilation!), isn’t that the fault of the “will always remain Israeli” parents?  The parents who haven’t taught their Jewish daughter enough about Judaism or Jewish identity?  I know plenty of Jewish kids in America who wouldn’t fail that “test” administered by the grandparents. But once again, no, it’s our American Jewish culture and education that’s inadequate, not at all the precious Israeli parents.

It’s a backhanded slap in the face to American Jews and I can’t believe the Israeli government ever thought this was a good idea. Klal Yisrael and Am Israel! Right?! Not.

I think I’ll just copy and paste the last paragraph of the Atlantic article here to finish my thoughts on the matter:

These government-sponsored ads suggest that it is impossible for Jews to remain Jewish in America. How else are we supposed to understand the “Christmas” ad? Obviously, assimilation and intermarriage are issues in America in ways they aren’t in Israel. Israel has other problems of course, such as the fact that many of its rabbis act like Iranian mullahs. (I’m not even going to try to unpack my complicated beliefs about intermarriage and assimilation and life in the Diaspora here; that’s for a book. But let me just say that intermarriage can also be understood as an opportunity.)

The idea, communicated in these ads, that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik (if you don’t mind me resorting to the vernacular). The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid (and what a great show you put on at the AIPAC convention every year!) but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.

It’s not stealing if there’s attribution

Erika, blogger extraordinaire of Black, Gay, and Jewish, got back from Israel and I’ve been reading through her posts, and those of other people who went on her trip.  I found the blog of one extraordinary writer who traveled as well.  I’ve copied and pasted a few of my favorite passages from Scott’s Blog below but you should totally go check it out yourself:

Finally on the plane, two rows in front of me, there is consternation with seat assignments.  Apparently, a woman has a seat between two haredi men.  The men are youngish.  The woman is probably in her 60s or so.  She is no Bar Rafaeli.  To the extent I am able to tune into the conversation, it seems that the man who has the window seat is offered a seat in, as they say in Hebrew, “biznez.”  I wanted to blurt out, “Lama lo notnim lagveret lashevet bebiznez?”  Why don’t you let the lady sit in business?  Seems like the easier way to solve the problem.  But I try not to yell on planes, even El Al, and don’t want to antagonize my neighbors.  Besides, maybe the man is a premium frequent traveler and is entitled to the seat.  Maybe he offered to pay the upgrade and I didn’t hear.  Mostly, I guess, it’s just not my problem.  The woman looks PEEVED AS HELL, but keeps quiet. 

The other haredi man, who has the aisle seat, asks the man sitting in the aisle seat in the row between him and me if he would change seats with him.  There are only men in that row.  The man says fine.  I’m glad I’m a row back and he didn’t ask me.  What would I have said?  The woman glares quietly at the haredi man as he packs up his stuff and moves.  He doesn’t notice, of course. 

I can‘t help but wonder when humiliating a random Jewish woman on an airplane became a Jewish value.  

Probably around the time conversion could be undone, retroactively, and not even for your own error but that of some other ger sponsored by your rabbi?  Or the time some Orthodox stopped eating strawberries and broccoli because their rabbis said there was no way to verify they were clean enough (i.e. devoid of insects) for their hechscher? 

One can certainly criticize Israeli government policies.  One can believe that Israel has made many mistakes, even committed sins, over its history.  It’s especially easy with 20/20 hindsight.  But none of that, nothing at all, can convince me that it is a legitimate position to maintain that of all the peoples in the world, Jews are the only ones not entitled to their own nation-state.  The denial of the national rights of the Jews smacks of anti-Semitism, (or anti-Jewish prejudice, if you prefer that term).  Yes, I know there are people of good will, including some Jews and Israelis, who reject Zionism and believe in a one-state solution in which everyone would be equal.  There are people who say that that Jews and Palestinians have much in common and would quickly learn to live together in peace.  I’d like to think so too.  Maybe that day will come.  But in the meantime, there needs to be two states.  Let them learn to live together.  Then we will see how idealistic the future may be.  In the meantime, the Palestinians are stuck with checkpoints and barriers and collective punishment.  I cannot deny that it is oppressive.  But it is a lesser evil than suicide bombers’ blowing up teenagers at a pizza parlor.

Amen, amen, selah.

Profound Truths

One of the thoughts that the leader of our tour asked us to keep in mind as we began our journey is that the opposite of a profound truth can be another profound truth.  Nowhere is this truer than in Israel.  Pick a side, or embrace the contradictions, or both. 

Holy Moshe, that blurb should be required reading for all of humanity.

Operation Get to Israel

I’ve purchased my flight to LAX.  I really wanted to fly down on Christmas Eve, rent a hotel, and take like a 6 am taxi to the airport even though my flight leaves at 1:30 pm on Christmas Day.  Instead I leave at 6 am on Christmas morning.

Birthright sufficiently frightened me with their warnings of arriving at least 4 hours early because apparently flights to Israel are always overbooked AND not to mention there are always possibilities of storms or fog that mean  you might lose out on your ONE chance to go to Israel.  I’m really just trying hard NOT to think about this anymore.  Thinking leads to what-ifs, and that’s a horrible road to travel.

So, to save some money and to not completely alienate and upset my parents (note to self: do not look at mother’s face when you say you’re going to Israel… and leaving on Christmas Day), I decided to leave very, very early on Christmas morning.

I’ve also received all vaccine updates.  None of them were necessary for traveling to Israel (can you tell I’m used to Latin American destinations?), but rather for general life.  However, I do appreciate a mobile jaw, and I assume they have rusty metal in Israel just like we do here.  I’ve also received new inhalers and was pleasantly surprised to see that a formerly way-too-expensive preventative inhaler has been added to the list of covered meds under my medical plan. Woot.

I received my order of shekelim I ordered from BofA (one of three reasons I will never entirely disassociate myself from the Big Banks, sorry Occupy movement) after arriving to an airport once that had no open exchange offices.  I don’t even know how that’s possible, but leave it to me to encounter it.

I started making packing lists.  This weekend I will begin assembling everything into one corner of my bedroom that I want to take but am likely to forget.

I rented a cell phone, with an American number, so I can call home and even text.  I’m hoping this will be easier for my parents than having to figure out the enigma that is dialing a cell phone in Argentina from a landline in the United States.  This expense is entirely so my parents have SOME peace of mind.  They have no conception of Israel beyond the headlines involving rocket explosions and are (naturally worried).  Of course, I have not mentioned the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations.  Nor the Palestinian bid for statehood in the UN general assembly and their award of membership in UNESCO.  Nor that Gilad Shalit has returned home, at the expense of releasing hundreds of terrorists.  That Israel and Gaza have experienced an escalation through the tumultuous “negotiations” for statehood.   Before the approval of additional construction in contentious sites.  That Iran and Israel seem to be involved in a nuclear peeing contest.  As Almost Jewish said, “The prospect of all-out war seems much closer and more real than it did when [I] thought, “Hey, let’s go to Israel!”

I also rented a cell because I have no idea how I’m going to survive 10 days without any contact from The Boy.  I never thought I’d turn into THAT girl, but I have.  Haven’t exactly determined how I feel about that yet.

Last weekend’s task, besides housework, was researching a new digital camera.  There is a really amazing camera shop in Palo Alto that has many models and will actually let you PLAY with them, no pressure, until you decide which one to buy.  If you even decide to buy.  The Nikon Coolpix P300 was on sale until the 19th, so I ordered one from Amazon on the 18th with the idea of returning it in 30 days if my hands-on and virtual research turned up another contender.  Good thing Black Friday and Monday are so soon!

Those are all the practical preparations.  My coworkers keep asking me, “are you excited yet?”  And the answer is, “I haven’t even gotten there yet! Seems so far off, so distant, like any other day in my life.  Why would I get excited about that?”  I don’t know why I’m not more giddy, but I’m not.  I tend to be of the philosophy that given the choice, look at the glass half empty because if it turns out to be half full, then you’re not let down or disappointed by the demands of your expectations.  So far it’s seemed to work out well for me.  I’m planning on entering the Holy Land with a clear and open mind.

Horizon: line that recedes as your approach it

My leave request for the two weeks needed for Birthright has been (initially) rejected.

Three minutes after the email announcing that arrived, my manager sent another one, asking everyone in the office to submit their leave requests by COB today, begging us to be flexible while understanding that no leave request could be guaranteed unless there will be sufficient coverage for the office.   She emailed me privately after that to ask that I resubmit my request for consideration.

We are submitting our requests today, and our director will try to let us know by tomorrow, Wednesday afternoon, whether we’ve had our requests for time off approved or not.

The problem? Tomorrow morning, by 6 a.m., is the last opportunity for me to cancel my trip with BIrthright and get my $250 dollar deposit back.  It’s not the largest sum of money in the world, I know, but I am quite upset right now to say the least.

I have wanted this trip for years. I did not do “easy” conversions offered to me by two different rabbis for the purpose of having conversion papers that would enable me to go on this trip.  I waited.  I did the “right” thing.  This is my last opportunity to go before being aged out of the program.  This is also my first opportunity to go as a Jew who felt the process had been respected and that this conversion met my understanding of the halakhic requirements for conversion.

I get that we need to be fair.  I get that my wants are not more important than my coworkers’ wants.  But in this one instance, I can’t be flexible.  I need both of those weeks or else I can’t go. And I feel that I have been willing to be flexible in the past–when they inadvertently approved too much leave or people were out sick and the office was empty–to ensure office coverage, changing my schedule around when others needed it.  I get that since it is Christmas, it wouldn’t be fair to pressure my coworkers to be flexible for me.

So basically this whole post has been my attempt to sound like an adult.  Because the real Mikvah Bound is already crying inside. I just have to keep telling myself that Israel isn’t going anywhere.  That if I don’t go here, I will go eventually.  Somehow.

Man plans and G-d laughs.  I just sometimes wish G-d didn’t laugh so loudly.

 

Please consider helping a fellow blogger get to Israel!

http://www.blackgayjewish.com/ is the blog of Erika Davis, a good virtual friend of mine. We started our blogs around the same time. We are now Jews. And she applied for a scholarship to go to Israel. And she won. It covers 10 days of expenses in country, she just has to buy the plane ticket. She was laid off in June.

Hence, I know the economy is bad, but if you are in the position to help, I’d be incredibly appreciative, and so would she.

Id you can’t please post so your friends can consider.