Welcome to Journaling in Jerusalem, the blog I share with my girlfriend, Jessica. As she and I have been informing friends and acquaintances that we'll be spending the 2008-2009 academic year in Israel, people have continued to implore us to "Please keep in touch! Let me know what it's like living over there!" So, in order to do just that, Jessica and I decided to keep this blog. We will alternate posts and hopefully each of us will write two or three times a week. It's hard to say now what we'll be describing, but I certainly hope that you, our friends and family, will find it interesting!
I want to start with some initial thoughts about moving to Jerusalem from 3 days and 1 hour before my plane leaves New York for Israel.
Since I was in high school, I've been thinking about becoming a rabbi, and nothing I learned about the rabbinate, Jewish studies, or religious education deterred me from pursuing this path. For over five years, I've known that I'd spend my first year of rabbinical school in Jerusalem, and I've been excited about it for all that time. And it's amazing that the dream is finally about to crystallize into experience.
In some ways, I'm very excited about some things I can expect. I can't wait to accelerate my Hebrew conversation skills, and I'm extraordinarily excited about Shabbat services with rabbis- and cantors-to-be, especially as I haven't regularly attended Shabbat services in over a year. Although I've loved my work at City Year, I'm looking forward to getting back into the classroom and engaging fellow students in a scholarly dialogue. And I'm so thrilled to experience all of this with Jessica!
And yet, I know that there is plenty ahead of me that I can't be prepared for. I read today about a mass murder in Jerusalem, and when I read that the attack hasn't been shown to be politically motivated (and therefore couldn't yet officially be considered "terrorism"), my feeling about the incident changed. Why did I feel more strongly about a man who snapped and bulldozed over thirty innocent people to death than about a hypothetical suicide bomber who may have killed just as many? My feelings about Palestinian terrorism and Israeli security are complex but also muddled by lack of information and experience. How will my perspective change over the coming months of hearing the news from next door?
On a lighter note, I also don't know precisely what to expect from my classes. Will they be, as I hope, mostly in Hebrew? How much will be review of topics covered in my Jewish Studies major at UVA and how much will be stimulating freshness? Will my teachers be Israeli or American ... and does it make a difference? And how will I relate to my classmates, two thirds of whom won't be spending eighty percent of my matriculation with me? Mostly, I'm going to approach each of these situations as they present themselves without worrying ahead of time ... but the lack of surety remains a presence at the back of my mind.
And then there are all the practical considerations I can't ignore. First of all, I'm in the midst of packing. Perhaps I'm not stressed enough about this since I have the mentality of, "I'll take what I bring and use that. If I need anything else, I'll get it there." I'm used to being able to drive home if I forget or need something, but that obviously won't be a possibility this time. I'll try not to forget anything essential, but I can only wonder how successful I'll be given that I'm only allotting a day or two for packing for the entire year. And once I arrive, I'll have to figure out registration, books, cell phones, internet, health insurance, groceries, etc. I'll be seriously on my own as Jessica won't be arriving until early August. While on the one hand, it's scary to be facing all these challenges alone, on the other, I know that I only have myself to live up to right now, and I'm pretty easy to get along with. If the internet isn't up and running the way I need it to be, I can take the time to get it set up, and I'll figure out the book situation once I know what classes I'm in (even if this approach does end up costing me more money). For these practical considerations, I'm taking care of as much as I can ahead of time and waiting until I arrive for the rest. Be here now, and handle what you can. The rest will come at its own time.
But of course, all these concerns aside, there is so much more to look forward to over the entire year. I have two Wexner institutes in the U.S. (more about these later, most definitely), several trips throughout Israel, and a stimulating academic experience awaiting me. Through Jessica, I'll be able to meet students at Hebrew University and volunteers and employees at Yung Yiddish - thus, I won't necessarily have to stick within the Anglo HUC bubble. I want this to be an absolutely incredible year, and I'm excited about working to make that happen!
And I'm glad that you are here to watch it unfold with me. Please, leave a comment so we know who's reading and drop by whenever you'd like some news from the Holy Land!