Friday, April 24, 2009

Long time no Talksies

So it's been awhile since I've made my voice heard, what better time than now, right? A lot has happened in the past few weeks, and I will try to give you some highlights/relevant updates. And I'll deliver em in numbered outline form. Cause that's how I'm feeling right now.

1. One night a couple of months ago I was drinking tea and playing shesh besh (backgammon) late night at my friend's Noa and Monique in the Be'er Sheva dorms. Noa was dj'ing with her i-pod and put on the one and only album by a band called HaKeves HaShisha Asar (the 16th Sheep--alluding to the 16th sheep you count when going to sleep at night). It is a children's album written by the famous Israeli poet, Yonatan Geffen, and the singers who sing his words are all famous Israeli musicians (David Broza, Yehudit Ravitz, Gidi Gov, and Yoni Rechter). Let me tell you now, when I heard these songs for the first time, התלהבתי, I immediately fell in love. Like, this album is amazing. I begged Noa for the album and when she came through with it a few weeks later, I was a very happy man. And a happy man I remain. Now, every morning I hop on my bus from home in Yerucham to class in Be'er Sheva and pop on some Keves, and my morning is brightened. I can't think of a better way to start my day. Yes, this album is for kids. And no, I do not care.
Here's a link, a sampler of one of my favorite songs:
The Prettiest Girl in the Pre-School

2. I am currently (finallllly) reading Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, and it is excellent. Parts of it remind me of what Daniel's facebook profile looks like (filled with 'facts' about himself that are simply false but still hilarious), while others remind me a little of the movie, Borat. I'm not done with it yet, but it's prettttty good so far.

3. I took part in a really great hike over Passover break in the North. We did the first four days of the national Israel Trail from the starting point in Tel Dan to the Miron Mountains (all in the Upper Galilee). Some of you may recall that a couple of years ago Chachi, Ari, and I did the lower 40ish percent of the Shvil (trail) in 11 days. I would say that was my formative, most intense, amazing experience of my gap year. This hike was much different. It was much easier, for one thing, on reason being my absolutely excellent backpack (my 21st birthday present from the rental units) that without a doubt made hiking much better on my back and body in general. Also, the hiking we did was less intensely mountainous (though there obviously were some ridiculous inclines), and more beautiful and scenic. I hiked with Adam, Bo, and Natan, all on my BGU program, and two days in we decided to continue with another group of Israelis who were doing the same plan we were and at more or less the same pace. Basically, the hiking was incredible, and I didn't totally destroy my body like last time. Pictures from this hike (as well as a couple shots from Seder at the Shilors) can be viewed here: Passover Israel Hike 2009

4. At the culmination of the hike, we all parted ways, with the Israelis and BGU boys heading to their respective homes, and me going to the historically mystical city of Tzfat. We finished hiking only 20-25 kilometers outside of Tzfat, so I knew it would be easy to get to. Plus, my camper, Palmer Basketball Captain '08 and good friend, Nadav Teplitz, and his family live right outside of Tzfat in a tiny village of 50 families. The village/settlement/tiny town is called Amooka, and is simply gorgeous. The Hebrew word for what kind of area they live in is not actually a village or town, but a מצפה (Mitzpeh), which means Lookout. Again, I cannot stress how gorgeous this Mitzpeh is. Each family gets twoish dunams of land, on which they can build a sweet house of any size, as well as a Bed and Breakfast. בקיצור, in short, I spent the night with Teplo's family, showered, did laundry, ate a heck of a good BBQ dinner, and slept like a baby. Not only was it amazing to see Teplo and finally visit him at his house, but it should also be noted here that I beat him in a free throw shooting contest, something that should never have happened (as he is in top bball form, and I most certainly am not), but did. And I'm very happy with that. Finally, this sort of home setup is exactly the sort of place I want to raise a family. In the Galil, everything scenic and green; a small, tight knit community; and just truly beautiful. So, after I spend my years working in the realm of Negev development, I will move to a Mitzpeh in the North, and it shall be glorious.

Ok. I think that should do it for now. Tomorrow my student village is throwing a street fair literally at our doorsteps, and I need to get some shluffy time so I can get up early and help set up.
Much love,

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Josh Guitelman

I would like to take a minute to step back from my normal topics and tell you about the passing of a dear friend:

Last night I slept in Be'er Sheva in Adam's room in the dorms, and as he had an early class this morning, he woke up before I did. As he was moving around in the room getting ready for school etc., he noticed my phone ringing and tossed it to me. Gadi was calling (for what I later saw was the 8th time in a very short span of minutes). His blurred words went something like this: "Jonah bro, sorry for waking you up, but this is really serious. Josh Guitelman passed away last night..." and the rest was just in one ear out the other. I asked him to repeat everything a couple of times just to make sure I understood correctly.

I have known Guitel since I was his age. My last summer as a camper at Camp Ramah in New England, summer 2004, my whole age group also did CIT work, and I CIT'ed for Guitel's bunk of crazy, lovable 12 year-olds. I knew I loved those kids then, and two summers later, as a junior counselor on staff in 2006, I was his counselor in bunk 57/58, the bunk of the "Bat Killers." That summer he was without a doubt one of my best and favorite campers. This past summer, in 2008, I was once again a counselor for his age group, with them now as the oldest campers in camp. Once again he proved to be an amazing camper. Easy going, a little attitude (but always listened when things got serious), the ladies loved him, an excellent Ultimate player, and most importantly, loved by all.

Guitel's Frisbee prowess had been growing over the years, and he had high hopes for excelling at the next level. Last night, life took a nasty turn. Josh was playing in a high school Frisbee match and mid game he apparently dropped to the ground, and just never got up.

When Gadi relayed this story to me this morning, I basically was in shock. I was hurt and frustrated, because I felt very aloof from my campers, my boys, whom I could not be near to console and be consoled. It has just been overall a pretty weird (in a bad sense) sort of day.

That Josh's body collapsed at such an early age is simply put, shitty.
There is no explanation. He was 16 years and 360 days old. I love Josh very much and find it hard and even partly inconceivable to think about my campers without him playing a dominant part in the picture.
We will all miss you, and already do.
Love, Jonah