What I brought back… 
I ate very well in Israel. I embraced the full experience of the Mediterranean breakfast—fruits and vegetables and fish and olive oil. I loved it because I knew I was eating well, but also it included white bread. White bread makes me happy. And a sweet. I never felt deprived of anything. 

I also lost weight in Israel. It was the considerable distances I piled up on Shabbat walks, certainly, but it was also this diet. I know it. I ingested less sugar. I drank more water. I ate more single-ingredient foods (cucumbers, nuts, olives, tuna). I ate less of it all, but that wasn’t it. So, now that I’m home, I’m trying to stick to that diet. It’s easy in summer—even the ever pesent watermelon is easy to find. I think it will be harder and more expensive (and less flavorful) in winter, but it’s worth a shot. Here is a shot, not of an Israel breakfast, but of my own Boston breakfast table. (Lee)

I think this might be the last post to the Israel blog. I have to admit I feel a little like Ripley in the last scene of Alien where she sends out a message to the universe after blowing the alien out of the airlock: “Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting… . I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off. 

When you blog, you don’t know what you are sending out there and who will pick it up. Ripley rolled around out there in space for 60 years until the sequel. And look how that turned out. Anyway, it’s been fun to keep the blog. I’ll miss it. Thanks for reading. If by chance you’ve just stumbled onto to us, start from the beginning to get the full effect. Going to Israel was amazing and hard and fascinating and disorienting. Thank you for coming along.

What I brought back…

I ate very well in Israel. I embraced the full experience of the Mediterranean breakfast—fruits and vegetables and fish and olive oil. I loved it because I knew I was eating well, but also it included white bread. White bread makes me happy. And a sweet. I never felt deprived of anything.

I also lost weight in Israel. It was the considerable distances I piled up on Shabbat walks, certainly, but it was also this diet. I know it. I ingested less sugar. I drank more water. I ate more single-ingredient foods (cucumbers, nuts, olives, tuna). I ate less of it all, but that wasn’t it. So, now that I’m home, I’m trying to stick to that diet. It’s easy in summer—even the ever pesent watermelon is easy to find. I think it will be harder and more expensive (and less flavorful) in winter, but it’s worth a shot. Here is a shot, not of an Israel breakfast, but of my own Boston breakfast table. (Lee)

I think this might be the last post to the Israel blog. I have to admit I feel a little like Ripley in the last scene of Alien where she sends out a message to the universe after blowing the alien out of the airlock: “Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting… . I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.

When you blog, you don’t know what you are sending out there and who will pick it up. Ripley rolled around out there in space for 60 years until the sequel. And look how that turned out. Anyway, it’s been fun to keep the blog. I’ll miss it. Thanks for reading. If by chance you’ve just stumbled onto to us, start from the beginning to get the full effect. Going to Israel was amazing and hard and fascinating and disorienting. Thank you for coming along.

Words from the Universe…

While I was in Israel, I got throug exactly two complete crossword puzzles. Ihad no time to do my one a day. But,  both times I’ve did it, the word “haggle” was the answer to a clue—two different clues in old Boston Globe’s puzzles from different dates. It was a reminder from the universe to do the thing, with cab drivers and fruit sellers, the one thing that I’m worst at in the world.

Now that I’m back, all things speak to me of Israel.

Words from the Universe…

While I was in Israel, I got throug exactly two complete crossword puzzles. Ihad no time to do my one a day. But, both times I’ve did it, the word “haggle” was the answer to a clue—two different clues in old Boston Globe’s puzzles from different dates. It was a reminder from the universe to do the thing, with cab drivers and fruit sellers, the one thing that I’m worst at in the world.

Now that I’m back, all things speak to me of Israel.

Words From the Universe…

Words From the Universe…

Upon our return… 

During the entire time we were in Israel, we did not see a day dip below 90 degrees, but our return home was met with much, much cooler temperatures, New England mornings, damp and sweet, and rain, rain, rain for a few days at least. Though occasionally a weather report seemed to suggest we were in for a storm while we were in Haifa, nothing ever materialized. There was barely ever a cloud in the sky. 

Now that we are home, news of the drought that is plaguing the midwest is everywhere. While I was in Israel it barely registerd with me how bad it was.  I read a book a few summers ago called “The Worst Hard Time; it was about the man-made tragedy of the dust bowl in the thirties. I don’t think it is that bad, yet, but I’m not a farmer waiting on crops. My landlady said that there hasn’t been much rain around here either. I can feel it in the farm box these past two weeks. They are skimpy compared to years past.

Upon our return…

During the entire time we were in Israel, we did not see a day dip below 90 degrees, but our return home was met with much, much cooler temperatures, New England mornings, damp and sweet, and rain, rain, rain for a few days at least. Though occasionally a weather report seemed to suggest we were in for a storm while we were in Haifa, nothing ever materialized. There was barely ever a cloud in the sky.

Now that we are home, news of the drought that is plaguing the midwest is everywhere. While I was in Israel it barely registerd with me how bad it was. I read a book a few summers ago called “The Worst Hard Time; it was about the man-made tragedy of the dust bowl in the thirties. I don’t think it is that bad, yet, but I’m not a farmer waiting on crops. My landlady said that there hasn’t been much rain around here either. I can feel it in the farm box these past two weeks. They are skimpy compared to years past.

Meanwhile back at home… 

I divide the summer into going to Israel and cleaning the house after being in Israel. I’ve unpacked my bags. The laundry, only modestly rinsed during our stay, is finally done. I’ve returned to my routine. While I was gone the garden came into full bloom. The black-eyed susans are out. So are the neighbors sunflowers. The tomato plants look like we should be awash in the things, but not so much.  But cucumber salads are definitely the order of the day.

Meanwhile back at home…

I divide the summer into going to Israel and cleaning the house after being in Israel. I’ve unpacked my bags. The laundry, only modestly rinsed during our stay, is finally done. I’ve returned to my routine. While I was gone the garden came into full bloom. The black-eyed susans are out. So are the neighbors sunflowers. The tomato plants look like we should be awash in the things, but not so much. But cucumber salads are definitely the order of the day.

Etgar Keret, by Caragh

When we were asked to choose a book for “Team Haifa” to read collectively, my mind immediately went to Etgar Keret. I was completely unfamiliar with his work (or so I thought), but had heard his name pop up enough times in conversation and on various websites to put him on my mental “Read Me!” list for later. I already knew that he was an Israeli Jew and that his books were described as humorous… what more could a girl doing a project on Israeli humor want?

I was surprised to see that I was unknowingly somewhat familiar with Keret. In 2006, I watched a movie called Wristcutter’s: A Love Story. Though it is by no means a great movie, it did tug a bit at my heart. It’s sad, quirky (perhaps too quirky — borderline Diablo Cody’s Juno quirky), funny about depressing topics, has a cool dog, and features Tom Waits, of all people, as an actor. Any one of those things can draw me into a flick, never mind the combination of all of them together.

Wristcutter’s, it turns out, is based off of Keret’s “Kneller’s Happy Campers”, from his book of short stories, The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God. I chose this particular set of short stories just for that reason. The text itself was riddled with more typos than papers I’ve written the night before they were due, which Lee pointed out was most likely due to the fact that it was translated from Hebrew.

Born in Tel Aviv, Keret is described as “the voice of his generation” for Israelis. He has a knack for the absurd, and his stories are, dare I say, downright whimsical. There’s a sly, sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek humor that rears its head even through the translations, and I think that’s exactly why Keret is hailed as being such a representative voice of young Israelis.

In Tel Aviv, a few of us went to an Irish pub that was staffed entirely by Israelis. Upon learning we were from Massachusetts, the friendly bar tender sarcastically pumped his fist in the air (believe me, the action was dripping with sarcasm) as he dead-panned “Go Sox.” After a bit more joking, he admitted that “baseball is the most boring sport. It’s terrible.” He paused before laboring a “…but… Go Sox!” with a sly smile.

In Jerusalem,  I watched a man shift his yarmulke in the middle of our conversation so he could scratch his head and my jaw dropped. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry, and I know I’m showing my ignorance, but I had no idea you guys were allowed to take those off in public. I thought if you decided to wear them, you couldn’t be seen without them.”

"Don’t tell anyone," he immediately replied, so serious that it took several moments for my gullible self to realize he was joking. "If we take them off completely, we turn invisible. We really can’t be seen without them."

Project Excerpt — Caragh

    Just outside the heart of Jerusalem, at the corner of King George and Ben Yehuda, an American born Jewish man spends 6 nights a week telling comedy to a minute level of fans before he turns his club into a karaoke bar for 50 or 60 people. Despite the extreme difference in attendance between the two events, the club is billed under the moniker The Comedy Basement. The only mentions of karaoke are small, printed text at the bottom of the highlighter yellow paper signs you can find posted on poles and fences in the surrounding area and the chalkboard that sits beside the front door. The posters claim karaoke starts between 1 and 2 in the morning, though both nights I attended the karaoke started between 11:45 and 12:30.


    The first thing you notice about The Comedy Basement is how difficult it is to notice it at all. Hidden down an alley by way of a flight of stairs, it’s literally impossible to see from the street. It shouldn’t have surprised me to see how small the interior was, but it did. Small and cozy. When you walk in, you’re presented with what feels like The World’s Smallest Bar to your immediate left. In front of you is The World’s Smallest Stage set a mere five inches higher than the floor, which lays claim to three worn and beaten up — but inviting — blue couches surrounding it, with a smattering of 15 or so old, marred wooden chairs surrounding them. Some of the chairs surround tables just big enough to house a few drinks. Good luck ordering a good beer, because they absolutely have The World’s Smallest Beer Menu on Tap — one 11% ABV pale ale, made at The Dancing Camel brewery in Tel Aviv. All comedy clubs should have as much foresight to only serve hard liquor and a single beer with such high alcohol content.


    The cover was 50 shekels, and taken by the bar tender as a man in a yarmulke walked by us, nodded and offered a friendly “Shalom” before he walked outside. I immediately recognized him from the poster; it was the comedian himself, David Kilimnick.


    When David took the stage, he had no trouble poking fun at the small audience. I strolled in with two of my Bridgewater State University peers. We were three out of five audience members and the pressure to laugh to keep it from being awkward was enough to make us talk about running away before the show began. We ended up staying, though I can’t promise that would have been the case if I didn’t have a paper riding on the two nights I had planned to sit in the audience.

Liz Lemon Goes to Israel (according to Kirsten)

None of us could believe what an incredible opportunity we’d been given with the chance to go to Israel.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/2p1dS9hoptU

But after several months of anticipation and a long, somewhat unnerving flight

http://www.youtube.com/embed/T6y4iZe1Dr4

we were finally there!

http://splicd.com/KZx6TnBRuAk/10/16

And once free of our domestic shackles, we went pretty crazy.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/gMkzLHwe4-c

There were art shows in Haifa,

http://www.youtube.com/embed/buGiIblO_t0

beaches in Tel Aviv,

http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/lol-banyani

and karaoke in Jerusalem.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/HIaBrH_uVQg

The language barrier was intimidating at first.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/VreoJn6YoyQ

Fortunately, though, almost everyone spoke nearly perfect English.

http://cdn.hark.com/swfs/player_image_fit_image.swf?pid=hbplhzsrkl&quote_hoffset=16&quote_voffset=163&quote_width=396&quote_size=12&quote_color=ffffff

We got familiar with public transportation,

 http://splicd.com/KZx6TnBRuAk/0/3

because driving on those streets can be tough if you don’t know what you’re doing,

http://www.youtube.com/embed/zujZ13uzMJM

and every time we’d flinch at the screeching horns and skidding tires that seemed to follow us between cities, we’d feel the value of our six-shekel bus tickets ever-rising.

 http://splicd.com/rz0JpiGGo9M/0/9

It took us some time to find our way around, but we always found great places to eat and end the day––because although some folks didn’t quite know how to direct us, others really knew where to go.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/i_VahrHVX8Y

We found that each city had about three best-falafel-joints-in-the-world. It was in places like these that Bligh found his cultural common ground.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/DwelAib-DyQ

Meanwhile, Caragh sought out the comedy scene

http://www.youtube.com/embed/MinLxerqc_s

and I tried to find some music.

http://splicd.com/cdnSc12bx5c/5/19

Margie excelled in her every endeavor, and has once again set standards very high. She is, most definitely, a star.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/20FAAZnKFH4

And Lee took exceptional care of us all.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/ajUkm3-LDGk

And even though Lee and I argued over hometown superiority

http://www.youtube.com/embed/gdwqXQr-UFM

and Caragh and I learned a lot about sharing space,

http://www.youtube.com/embed/aFHMQ64vRUM

http://www.youtube.com/embed/oKFb7uyZRtA

everybody respected my obstinate refusal to be photographed.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/4NapA2Y7qEg

And I can say with certain positivity now that these are some of the finest folks in the world.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/3BObWxGdnzE

Excerpt, by Bligh

How the idea to write about Israeli cuisine was born: I remember watching comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, known for his candid-camera/sketch-comedy-hybrid, The Ali G Show, acting as one of his staple characters, a foolish, fashion-obsessed Austrian named “Bruno.” In this particular episode, he’s trying to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians by conferencing with a spokesmen of each group. He mispronounces “Hamas,” calling it “hummus,” and tries to get to the bottom of why the Jews dislike hummus so. Hilarity ensues, of course. The Israeli bigwig, in a desperate attempt to reason with the nitwit, explains that hummus is not the issue. He says “We eat it; they eat it—”

“It’s vegetarian; it’s very healthy,” adds the Palestinian bigwig. In spite of it being a joke interview (unbeknownst to most parties involved), Bruno uses a tried-and-true negotiating tactic—he begins by finding common ground. Hummus is common ground. Religious experiences and social experiences differ to varying degrees within Israeli society, but the eating experience at large is shared. What if hummus really does hold the key to peace in the Middle East? After all, food is important. It may seem trivial in relation to a centuries-long conflict between peoples, but on the other hand, all of us need it to live.

The cultural divide between Israeli Arabs and Jews makes the Great Wall of China look like a velvet rope. Arab Israelis go mostly to private schools—the public schools cater to Jewish Israelis. They teach primarily Arabic in Arab schools and primarily Hebrew in public schools. Though most Israelis can understand at least bit of Hebrew, Arabic, and English, there’s a distinct linguistic divide between cultures. All marriages in Israel must be sanctioned by the Israeli government, and they must by law take place within a particular faith. The fact that a party must convert to be intermarried makes the act exorbitantly rare. It’s not even a “faith” issue—the social pressure becomes prohibitive. Jewish kids are required to serve in the military, but most Arab Israelis are prohibited from serving, even voluntarily. But everybody eats hummus. Everybody loves falafel. My mission for this project was to discover the role that food plays in Israeli culture—within each subset, but more importantly, across the board. In this sharply, often despondently divided society, is there a common culture? Does it come with pickles?

Retrospect, by Bligh

When I wonder what my trip highlight might be, my mind always gravitates toward Tel Aviv. It has what you’d expect in any cosmopolitan burg—world-class art, fine dining, and diversity galore while maintaining a distinct Israeli identity. The warm Mediterranean borders the city via beautiful beaches, and you can sit by it any hour of the day sipping cocktails (and we did [some of us did {I did}]).

Still, there’s one seemingly trivial aspect of TA culture that stands out for me—people ride mopeds and mountain bikes up-and-down the sidewalk any which way they want, as fast as they deem appropriate. TA’s streets aren’t as packed as they are in larger US cities, but still, it can be a bit jarring. Also, my mind goes to the window in my hotel room in Haifa, the first time I opened it. It swung wide open, and there was the city, and there was the outside air fifteen stories up—none of that “screen” nonsense—just a hole in the building from below my waist to the ceiling.

It all relates to the same thing. It’s the lack of police presence on the streets; it’s the odd eighteen year-old soldier, lugging an assault rifle home on the bus; it’s the highly aggressive sales tactics of merchants and the free-for-all that is an Israeli queue. If you want to walk out onto that construction site, be my guest. Watch out for the wildly-swinging excavator boom. It makes American life feel coddled by comparison. So, what does it all mean? you wonder.

I guess my highlight is an abstract one. It’s not a specific thing or event—just a certain feeling of wildness—tempered wildness, but wildness still. The first time I crossed the Atlantic, many years ago, I was struck by how small the world had become. This time, the world got bigger. Things that existed to me two-dimensionally, as parcels of information, have become texturized. From now on, when I hear about an event in Israel, I will understand it in full color, with a “street-level view” that Google can only dream about. There’s more to see. Like my boy, Alfred Tennyson says, “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink/ Life to the lees…/ To follow knowledge like a sinking star,/ Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.”