Sunday, March 30, 2008

Israel Pictures

ISRAEL PICTURES

(mine before I added from other people's collections)

And a really really cute video


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Israel Rest of the Week

The rest of the week:

Wednesday was a lost day of sorts. We woke up late, drove toward Tel Aviv to my Dad’s second cousin’s house. We only had to call 3 or 4 times to find our way. The car ride pretty much drove me nuts, especially because we had pretty good directions that if we’d followed, would have made our lives easier. My cousin actually felt the need ot stand outside her house as we drove down the street just b/c we were acting like a bunch of senile 90 year olds. We spent the afternoon hanging out at their pool, chating with the grandparents and having a lunch outside.

The most significant thing we did all day was hit a suburban supermarket. It was as big as anything in the states and filled with all kinds of those gifts I spoke of before that I needed to bring home. Of course, I couldn’t read the signs on any of the isles, so I was forced to go down each isle….I don’t think I’ve done that in a supermarket ever.

Our hotel is right on the water, and our room is on the 13th floor. Weird that they even have a 13th floor. I know most places in NY don’t have one. Anyway, we’ve got no ghosts or whatever on or floor so I’m not sure what the big deal is.

Speak of our hotel room. I’ve been sharing a room with my little sister for the whole trip. She’s been a surprisingly easy person to share a room with. Considering we grew up together, you’d think that it’s a no brainer that it would work…but things are never that simple.

Our first day in Tel Aviv was the last day of the reunion. While the other foriegners who’d flown into Israel had done a few day trips I’d been to most of the sights. They’d all bonded manytimes over, while we pretty much attended the opening and closing dinner, and the Yad V’shem trip. Today there was a short walking tour of Tel Aviv. Our tour guide wasn’t the best, and as I learned during my trip last year, Tel Aviv was an empty beach 100 years ago…and thus, there isn’t really much history. My whole family ditched the tour, some went to the beach, some wasted the day away, and I went shopping…again. Onto Shenkin, a chique street with boutiques that rival Chelsea’s best. Unfortunately, besides having nice clothing, the stuff is way way way over the top. Designs, beads, all kindsa crap I couldn’t wear…so the shopping wasn’t so easy.

That evening, was our closing reunion dinner. The dinner was concluded with a few skits from some of the kids of the group, a song that some of the participants wrote about the trip, and a circle talk. During the circle talk, we each took turns discussing what our favorite part of the reunion was. As cheesy as this sounds, it was actually really amazing. Story telling circles are a Jewish tradition of sorts, and as people told their stories, they really reflected on how they’d changed. Unlike my family, some of these people had not been to Israel before, some were not Jewish, and some didn’t have any Jewish identity. So it was pretty inspirational to hear them talk about what effected them most.

Thursdsay was also daylight savings day in Israel, which means I lost an hour of sleep again! Man I hate that day. At least when someone asks me how far ahead Israel is when I get back, I can say something like “it was 6 hours on the way there, and 7 on the way home.” That’ll confuse the crowd.

Friday we took a day trip up to Zichron Yachov, a winery town / artist colony about an hour away. My grandfather, who’d been back and forth with us and without us, got to say his good byes to the family before we all left.

Friday night I went out w/some of my 3rd cousins to a club on the water in Tel Aviv. The crowd was young, I got drunk, and stayed out till around 4:30am…that’s 9:30pm US time. Yea, I’m a wild one. We got there around 11:30, and it was empty, and didn’t really fill up till 2 in the morning. After trying to talk to some people I didn't know, I decided just hanging out w/the cousins. I remembered that I don't like talking to strangers, especially in bar situations, and I don't like going out when I won't know anyone. Maybe that's why I drank so much Friday. Of course I texted some kids in the US where were shocked at how early I was drinking.

Speaking of my cousins, they are collectively the nicest people in the world. From calling constantly to take me out, to offering to drive me somewhere, when its 30 minutes out of the way, to my 21 year old cousin buying me drinks all night, they are sooo nice! Of course, collectively, they have likely spent 4 months on my couch in my apartment, but seriously, they're so nice. How do you raise kids that nice?

Today was spent at the beach. Most of the stores are closed today, so I actually let my legs relax, and started my new book, Dianetics (yea, the scientology book. I’m curious ok!). Our other 3rd cousin, Hadar met us at the beach, and we had lunch just sitting there, people watching. After, we met some of Daniella’s friends who were expats or new Israeli’s for drinks (hot chocolate of course) and relaxed. This day was needed, as I head back to the grind tomorrow. Man the grind is really weighing on me…

The thing I love about Tel Aviv is that you can't tell who's from the city, and who's from the US, or England, or Australia. There are plenty from all over, yet walking down the street its almost impossible to guess properly where the person walking towards you is from.

I’ve been pretty anxious all week. Its probably made hanging out with me a little unpleasant, as I’ve snapped at my rents a little too much…and its probably why I’ve been checking my phone every 10 minutes to see if I got an email or text, even though its 10am in israel (or 4am in the US) and thus, I’m not likely to get a text. (Apparently I’m mentally ill) It could be because of work stress, where I feel like I always have to be on top of things, even if I’m not around, because we’re such a small company. It could be related to my life in general, which has obviously stalled. Or maybe its related to square. In any event, I’m kinda excited to get home, and not to work, but to give out my gifts, and meet up w/some people, and get away from my family and sister.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Israel Tuesday

Tuesday:

Today I ditched my parents / sisters / grandfather / brother in law and nieces to spend the day with my favorite person, me. After 5 days with the rents, I needed a little space, and since it was pretty much a free day in Jerusalem (no real plans), I took advantage.

I got quite a few requests for gifts on this trip. A few more than normal. I got 2 requests for Mezuzahs, one request for Bisli, 2 requests for lotion, one set of earrings, a few requests for chocolate, and 1 request that I go have hot chocolate at Aroma. Thus, shopping, will be the purpose of most of my time here in Israel…well...that and seeing the family. I took this free time to attempt to fulfill these requests.

I walked a mile or so from my hotel to Ben Yahuda street (a pedestrian mall), then to Machanai Yehuda (a street market for food), then back to Ben Yehuda, where I purchased the 2 mezuzahs. Machanai Yehuda was a little overwhelming. The smell of FISH made me GAG, the smell of ONION made me CRY, the smell of FRESH BREAD made me HUNGRY, and the smell of the SPICES made me SNEEZE. After 5 minutes of that, I felt quite alive, though the sneezing could have been caused by the dust storm that had traveled from Arabia that day and was sitting over a sunny city, creating a haze.

I was supposed to meet the family at the beginning of the Shuk in the old city, but they were delayed at the “Biblical Zoo,” so Ariel, Lilah and I walked through the Shuk, looking for some of the above objects. Instead of turning around at the end, we kept walking until some guards told us that Jews were not allowed on the temple mount (Ariel had a Kippah on). Before they could remove us from the temple mount, we were able to get a slightly obscured picture. (To be attached next week).

We met up with the rest of the group an hour later, visited the western wall, or the Kotel, or the wailing wall. They headed home and I needed just a little more time alone… so I walked. I would say my day as a shopping day was mostly unsuccessful. I didn’t purchase much, as there will be many more days for that, but did see most of Jerusalem via foot.

In other news…. Driving through Jerusalem, and even walking to a certain extent, is really difficult. Not only is the city 4,000 years old, but also the city is built on the top of the mountains (unlike most cities which are built in the valleys near rivers). The roads are hilly and none go in straight lines. I must have walked 10+ miles today…and I’m extremely exhausted.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Israel Monday

Monday

There was only one purpose to my day on Monday, to experience Yad V'shem, the Holocaust museum in Israel. As many of you know through conversation, and my other articles here (Israel last year talking w/my grandfather), here (3G Coffee), and here (Lithuania), I have thought quite a bit about my Jewish identity (strong), my religious identity (nonexistent), and my thoughts on a higher power (still unclear). My experiences at Yad V'shem only solidified all three of those positions…yes, you can solidify an unclear position.

As you go through the new museum, you are forced to see, how Europe slowly progressed to such a low point and how humans could act so low, all as you slowly descended underground, to the lowest point of the museum. You are shown videos of Hitler yelling phrases like, “The age of exorbitant Jewish intellectualism has come to an end!” as the crowd burns books in the background. You see images of how the Jews were being blamed for all of the German economic problems. There were cartoons of Jews in magazines which depicted them with both dollar signs along side that symbol in the Russian flag. Which means they were calling Jews both capitalists (bankers) and communists (Karl Marx), which we all now know aren’t really compatible philosophies. Yet these depictions were placed throughout Europe, so when the Jews were systematically shipped to Ghetto’s, their leaders killed immediately to quell any chance at organized resistance, the general public turned a blind eye, and sighed a relief.
As Jewish rights were slowly stripped, why didn’t they leave? When public sector jobs were taken away, when stores were boycotted and destroyed, and when ownership of property or companies was forbidden why didn’t they leave. Well, some tried, my relatives did leave thankfully. But there wasn’t anywhere to go, and these people had lived in their towns for hundreds of years, many of them were much more German or Polish or Austrian than Jewish. As Germany’s economy thrived in the late 30’s, and the Jewish people were out of sight and out of mind, most of the regular people forgot about what they’d given up to get to that point. Anyway, from this we dive into concentration camp life, and onto the death camps. We saw videos from the lone survivors of massacres, telling their stories, as none of the hundreds of people solemnly walking through museum actually spoke (besides the tour guides).

Once we hit the bottom, there was only one way to go, up. We learned about the resistances, the righteous gentiles who saved lives, and we learned about the end of the war, the liberation. But while there were parades as Americans and Russians liberated the cities and countries from German rule, we, as a people, could barely smile, how could we be happy? While my emotions were supposed to be uplifted toward the end, they were not. I was left bitter, I was left angry, I was left looking at my relatives, skinny, barely able to move anymore, having lived on 183 calories for 3+ years (3 pieces of bread). They looked bitter, and lonely, and unsatisfied. And I was left thinking about my grandfather, whose parents, brother, sister, and most of his aunts and uncles and almost 200 hundred people he once knew weren’t even lucky enough to be one of those skinny, lonely people. While the liberation was a time of celebration for much of the world, for us, it was a time of confusion, a time of finally being allowed to mourn, a time of long journeys to the US, Israel, and maybe back home, to find out if anyone else was left.

As the museum finishes, there’s a room that reminds you not to forget, but to remember the past, and these atrocities forever, as to honor those who didn’t live through it. You walk up the last few steps, back to ground level, and are left with a magnificent, uplifting, view of the hills and valleys of Jerusalem. It’s as if the museum is trying to tell you, “Out of all that, came this.” And as we’re standing at the exit, there are kids playing games, and people are smiling and talking again, and I really did feel happy for what had happened since, but it didn’t quell my bitterness at all. Today, Tuesday, I’m still angry, and want to get up and FIGHT for those who can’t, for those who didn't, for those who are not with us anymore. AND I want to fight an enemy that doesn’t exist anymore. Then I realize that my inspiration to fight, is likely similar to those who did survive, and who did see in real life what I have just seen in a museum. Those people, decided to fight starting w/the liberation, and have been flighting ever since. That is what Israel stands for isn't it? It’s a group of Jews who will fight back, constantly. Appeasement doesn’t exist here.

What have I thought since? I have wondered since, as it’s an ongoing issue here in the US, about what would have happened had the Jews had the right to bear arms. Had Jewish Europeans, who’d been living in their homes for hundreds of years, had guns to fight back on Kristalnacht, if a better resistance could have been formed. But then I think that since it was such a slow, systematic, racism, that the right to bear arms would have been stripped well before any Jew could have expected they would have been targeted for extermination.

How do I feel now? I feel pride in my Judaism. I wonder about God and think that if there is a god, he favors those who die for him/her, without giving up their loyalty to him/her, above those who kill for him/her. This was the main theme of the play I finished reading last week, which coincidentally dealt with Jewish pogroms, and the question of “Where was god.” Do I believe he deserted my family? ABSOLUTELY. But that is as an outsider looking in. If you ask those who actually died, if they would be willing to denounce their beliefs in God to save their own lives, I don’t believe they would. And thus the quandary, if those who these terrible things are actually happening to don’t turn their backs on God, and stay truthful, to the death, how can I blame God for letting all of these terrible things happen, and turn my back on him / her.

On the question of Israel, and whether I believe that without the Holocaust, there would be no Israel, I think Doron (not my dad), a member of our reunion said it best. “You can talk about if there was no Holocaust, there may be no Israel, but you cannot answer the question. It did happen, but it is a question with no answer.”

And thus, at the end of the day, I’m still very Jewish. I’m still very non religious (considering the systematic extermination was surprisingly efficient at killing religious Jews just as effectively as secular Jews who never practiced, thus I don’t see any advantage to the dogma. That doesn’t mean I don’t like some traditions. And I’m still ambiguous toward God. If I were to meet him/her, I’d be pissed, and would likely give him a piece of my mind.

The rest of my day seemed pretty insignificant.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Israel Sunday

Sunday:
I took a run this morning for the first time in way too long. I decided to take time lapse pictures of my face as I skip shaving for the week and realized that my chin has split, and is now tow chins...thus I ran. I ran to the end of the Kibbutz next to my cousin’s kibbutz and back, stopping half way at my grandmother’s grave to pay my respects. Was probably a mile run, each way, which is a mile more than I’ve ran in the last year. Boy I hate running. It’s so hard on the knees and so boring.

My allergies are just killing me today. My eyes are watering, I’m sneezing every 30 minutes and my nose is starting to hurt. When we finally meet up w/my older sister in Jerusalem this evening (she’d spent the weekend there instead of at the Kibbutz), I take some Clairton, from Ariel, which seems to help.

Most of the day was spent in transit from Hefzi Ba, in the north, to Jerusalem, about 120Km away. We stopped at a cheese factory, to pick up some kosher cheese and stopped at a winery to buy some wine to have w/that cheese.

In-between these stops, I should have been listening to stories about the landscape, and viewing the countryside, but instead, I was drifting in and out of consciousness. I was so tired I would have thought I was sick, had I not been seriously jetlagged.

Our last stop, 30 minutes outside of Jerusalem, was at an awesome lunch place in an Arab village. No one ordered food (except me foolishly), and the waiter brought out about 20 different dipping dishes and such to dip our homemade fresh pita in. Yummy!

Jerusalem is where our “Kissinger Family Reunion” begins. Around 6pm I walk to the basement conference area to see a group of overly friendly over 50 year olds all talking to each other. Yea, I was really excited to be there. I kidna listened and watched the speeches being given, and the power point presentation on our family and its origins, but didn’t really talk to anyone. I didn’t really feel that close to these people who were supposed to be my family. And they were all sooo friendly. The event probably should have separated the 10 under 35 year olds from the rest of the group, so I wouldn’t have to explain to a 70 year old man from Sweden what I did for a living. Man I hate that question. I should lie more often.

At 10pm, I was as wide awake as I had been all day…yet we decided to try to sleep for there was a big day planned on Monday.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Israel Saturday Quickie

Saturday:

Woke up at 11am, which was supposidly sleeping in, though it felt really really early. Ok, I’m done talking about early/late/jet lag related topics for the rest of the week.

Anyway, we hit up a mall in the morning, though most of the stores weren’t open b/c of Shabbat, I wanted to see what kinda styles were popular, so when I shopped later in the week (for a years worth of clothes) I’d know what to look for.

You gotta love moms. I may be 28, and we may be staying at my aunts house, but when I asked her to make me lunch (eggs and toast), there was no hesitation.

I really did nothing today, besides a siesta, writing on here, and some Itunes organizing. Oh, and Dinner up in the mountains. You know it’s a good dessert when you remember that it took 20 minutes to prepare last time, a year ago, so you order it just before you finish your main course. Yummy.

My phone is pretty much fully capable out here. Last year I text messaged during my trip and I don’t think it cost me anything (bills still go to the rents, though I pay them monthly, or annually). This time, I’m texting, emailing, and receiving facebook messages…of course I have my laptop here too, so I’m pretty much as connected as I would have been had I been home.

Took me two hours to fall asleep last night. Oy, spent the whole time thinking…that was weird. I totally over thank a few things, texted a few people too many times, and thought I scared away “square”, but I was wrong, thankfully. Wow, I’m never dating someone who can’t sleep…you def over think everything staying up in bed.

Israel Friday

Friday:

Woke up on the plane around 6:30am Israel time, 12:30am New York Time. Its quite strange waking up earlier than I normally would have gone to bed on a quiet weeknight. We landed at 8:15 and was through security and had my bags by 8:35. Its amazing the difference between being in row 18 and row 45, in terms of how long the passport control line is. I thanked my single serving friend for our friendship, jumped into the car with Lori and Maureen, my cousins, and headed up north toward their kibbutz.

Slept fo 1.5 hours on the couch, and then had 2 other 30 minute naps throughout the day. I had cereal at 3pm for lunch, which didn’t seem that strange at all considering it was only 9am for me.
We took a little walk up to see the horses and the mountain (pictures to follow when I get back).
The smells of spring were almost overwhelming. I noticed them right away when my eyes watered and my nose stuffed up, but the scent of lavendar and flowers in the air was so strong everywhere we went, accept near the far (smelled like cows).

Friday evening was the big party of the year at the Kibbutz, the Purim party. We dressed in costume (picutres to follow though I repeated from a couple years ago). Most of the people from the kibbutz where there, well the 18 – 35 crowd, and a few older folks. Free booze and 3 hours later, everyone was dancing.
















Israeli dancing is very different from american dancing. They jump around a lot, like from one foot to the other, instead of just bouncing. Its almost like a controlled mosh. Because of this, they get sweaty and tired pretty easily, especially after drinking all night. I think out of everyone, at 3am, I had the most energy, considering for me it only felt like 9pm.


Unfortunately, that meant I had to try to fall asleep that early again (not as early as 6pm the previous night, but still early). No drugs were necessary this time as the Alcohol did its job.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Israel Thursdsay

Thursday:

I have been inspired by Sue to live blog kinda…or post on daily basis. She’s in Bucharest, or Budapest, or Prague…and has been posting daily tidbits…which I really enjoy. I'll be adding links and pictures and whatnot, once I get back.

As I get older, I don’t fly as well. I def get sweaty hands more often than I used to upon take off. Landing I’m fine as long as there’s no turbulence, but those steep take off arcs really get to me.
Kinda funny finishing the last 2/3 of a book that takes place on Purim, on Purim. I highly recommend “The Trial of God” which is a play, that is supposed to be performed on Purim, and discusses where is god when the world goes wrong? Of course it asks more questions than it answers. The great thing about reading a play, which I had not done since high school, is that a play should only take 2 hours or so to perform. So if I can read close to as fast as people type, it should take only a few hours to read, which it did.

$15 for lunch at the airport, damn…but I could never stay upset at The Steak Escape for too long.

No one in middle, though it was still taken when I checked in…someone probably missed their connection.

The person I share the middle seat with, Hadar, was a great single serving friend. Her parent were flight attendants, so she was hooked up constantly with first class amenities, which she shares. Of course she wanted to hook me up with her 35 year old Philly friends, but that isn’t an option right now. Turns out a real upgrade to first class would have cost 30,000 miles and $400.

Poor David, a bachelor all alone, couldn’t sleep w/o his wife. I kinda hate sleeping alone too.
The movie selections were terrible. Enchanted is what I would have watched and I’d seen it already but that channel wasn’t working. Had to choose between Becoming Jane and Evening. I chose Ambien.

Besides sleeping and reading my book, I did some Itunes organizing. I’ve moved most of my documents and songs over to my new computer, but I didn’t want to move everything, so I’ve been spending a few hours reorganizing my Itunes, all 3,000 songs, putting them into playlists. Its kinda fun, but quite tedious.

I kinda think a TV show w/a Blog attached would really interest people. Like if Carrie’s articles from Sex and The City were actually published every week w/the show in USA today or something.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Eyesight

How did the bad eye sight gene ever survive evolution? If I were to ever meet Darwin, this would be my question. I just don't understand how humans, as a whole, can be so close to perfect evolutionarily, yet have such terrible eyesight. Wouldn't those with bad eye sight have died earlier and thus not been able to reproduce? Wouldn't they have walked into trees, off of cliffs, and broken their ankles in ditches? How did bad eye sight people hunt before glasses? I feel like evolution would have split humans into two races, an ugly race of people with bad eyesight, and a good looking race of people with good eyesight. Maybe that's why there are sooo many single people in the world now a days, because now, with glasses, they can actually see how ugly the person they are talking to is. Can you imagine a cat with bad eyesight? It would have no shot in the wild, and that goes for most animals, especially those who hunt. Those animals who graze, and just eat grass and leaves might not need eyesight as much. Maybe the hunting vs gathering concept is not a boy/girl thing, but more of a good eyesight/bad eyesight thing.

In other news, I apologize for not posting more often but I can tell you that I have been writing. This writing, however, is not for the public forum right now or ever, but it has been very good for me to write. I think it does help. In total, I've got about 70 pages of single spaced text, which I'm actually considering using my organizational skills to offset my horrible writing skills, and possibly convert it into a book. I don't know what the book would be about, or what it would be titled. Right now, its just full of streaming thoughts. Likely, if I were to publish it in some form or another, I doubt I'd tell anyone, and use a pseudonym.

The Links:

A vidoe of a plane in Germany that scrapes its wing on landing and decides to just try again later

We should slice this guy open and count his rings, because there is no way a 101 year old can run a marathon, even in 12 hours.

You know you are a redneck when...

A high school cheating ring that was exactly like the one Steve Sandars got caught doing in 90210.

Miss Umbrella says no umbrellas

Why I'll never get over my French girl

Daylight Savings Time is Proven Not to Work at All

McCain was not Born in the 50 states

The 9 coolest places on earth for really dorky people.

Our northern most inhabitants making noise

How to be a better man, infront of the ladies

A Great Obama Bumper Sticker

The largest TV Character / Real Person Age Differences

Interesting blog on how to give a good one (Not Safe For Work)

Video of A College Prank that likely took way tooo much time to do

Video of Jimmy's Response to his Girlfriend's Admission

A Really Really Sad Self Written Obit

Video Marriage Proposal Rejected at a Basketball game

Video of the top 10 dunks on Sean Bradley (I was at #3)