Hi guys. Sorry to keep you anxiously waiting for a new post; it's been a CRAZY couple of weeks here in J'lem, and since my computer has been broken (though it will hopefully be fixed very soon) I've been unable to spend a lot of time posting about everything going on. This week has proven to be way more interesting and a much better week than last, so the focus of this post will be on the last few days.
First of all, Steph, Erin and I led our morning service this past Monday. We all felt really good going into the service, and I am happy to say that it came out way better than any of us could have imagined. I did a lot of singing, including some new (to me) Nusach, some of my favorite pieces, and some congregational favorites. I took a risk and sang the Debbie Friedman Mi Sheberach, which everyone loves EXCEPT Eli Schleifer--after the service he congratulated me on a job well done and told me I could throw the piece out a very high window--that's our Schleif! Also, my friend/neighbor Nicole delivered her d'var torah, which was incredibly smart and meaningful, and it made our service complete. I was also so proud of Steph and Erin; they had this one chance to put together a great service, and they did it with flying colors. Their hebrew was great, their teaching moments were unique and useful, and the the Nusach they were risky enough to lead turned out beautifully. I am very proud of both of them, and it was such a pleasure to be a part of their team :)
At our review later in the day, all of us recieved nothing but compliments and simple constructive critcism. I am happy to say that all of the review panel was thrilled with my parts of the service; Gingy mentioned he could tell a huge difference from the beginning of the year, and Tamar (the assistant director of the cantorial program) mentioned that my service leading was the kind that made people want to be Jewish. Both of those comments, especially the latter, were so great to hear--I really feel now like I am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing with my life. The chances to lead a community in prayer, whenever it may be, make every struggle and hardship of this year completely worth it. I realized the other day that nothing makes me happier than singing Jewish music with a community of people, and leading that community in praising and praying to Gd. It's an incredibly beautiful thing to realize that you are GOOD at doing what you love to do--it's something I hope I never take for granted. I give y'all permission to smack me if I turn my positivity into a divatude :)
Tuesday, we woke up to the second snow storm in Israel in the last month. It's rare that Israel ever gets snow, and we've gotten it twice now! The snow was sadly gone by the end of the day, but we got to sleep in (yay for late-start days!) and once again see how beautiful J'lem is in the snow.
Yesterday, as part of our Israel Seminar class, we had the chance to go out into the streets and talk to real Israelis about topics that matter to them. We were encouraged to talk to people in cafes, bookstores, shops, etc and ask them questions about what it means to them to be Israeli and the future of Israel. When we met in the morning for our introduction to the day, I had to admit that I was terrified about the day; I don't like talking in my good English to strange Americans, and I was supposed to go out and talk in my mediorce (at best) Hebrew to strange, pushy, mean Israelis.
It was helpful that we began the day not in the streets of Jerusalem, but in an average Israeli high school. The purpose of going to the school was to talk to the kids in English about their lives, their schooling, their parents, their future army careers, etc. When we arrived, there was a class of kids learning Israeli dances in an outside courtyard. Right away, the kids ran up to us, grabbed our hands, and forced us into their circle to dance with them. They didn't care who we were or what we were doing--they didn't care if we spoke great hebrew or had good dancing skills. All they cared about was sharing their joy and spirit with us and welcoming us wholeheartedly into their community. Aside from laughing and dancing, we were experiencing real Israeli culture and seeing a side of Israelis we don't usually get the see. Israelis, once you are able to get past their tough skins, are actually kind and joyful people. It was nice to be reminded of this and actually experience it firsthand, and I know that this was one of those year-in-Israel moments that I will never forget.
After the dancing and discussions with the high schoolers (and the reminder that I am SO HAPPY that I will never have to be in high school ever again) we were dropped off on Hillel street, in the middle of downtown Jerusalem, to begin our discussions with "real" Israelis. It took me awhile to gather up the courage to speak to anyone (and thank goodness PJ was there to help me get things started.) After chatting it up in a cafe, Steph and I went to talk to the woman who waxes our eyebrows; she is Israeli and always chats us up whenever we're in there, so we figured we could ask her some questions. So, I had an eyebrow arch while Channi talked about life as an Israeli. Her hebrew is very fast, and it was hard to understand her, but she happily talked to us about her life, her family, her struggles and her hopes for the State of Israel. Israelis are amazing like that; once they know you and can trust you, they will gladly tell you anything you want to know about their lives. Unlike the USA, in Israel you can ask personal questions, even to those you barely know, and people will give you honest answers. If you can get past the fear of being too personal, you can learn some very interesting things about people.
The whole day was a lesson in anthropology and learning about the lives of people who built their lives here. It was incredibly special for all of us.
Anyways, I'm off to my Israeli art song class. I really hope everything is well for you, and that I'll be able to post more often in the near future. Keep your fingers crossed that my computer can be fixed and I'll get it back with all of my music, pictures, videos, and programs. Miss you and love you all!