Israel, Life & The Lavender Ceremony

They say that all roads meet in Jerusalem

One Month, Three Days until I leave for Israel and it doesn’t feel real yet, I don’t think I’ll believe it until I’m on the airplane and even then it may feel like a dream for a bit. I seek counsel from Rev. Linda (since there’s no Rabbis up here whom I can confide in and she’s turned into one of my two Buffalo Mothers and one of the best things that could have ever happened to me) and I was talking with her today about the trip and if it’s walkable (meaning the roads or the path is safe, since I can’t get my hands on any maps that are really worth while to figure out the feasibility of it all) I’d like to walk from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (before you go “oh god” and hold your back and wince in pain, remember, I’m a hiker and a runner, so a four or five hour walk is something I consider fun); if it’s a 50 minute drive – so I’m told – I place it at a three and a half hour walk (if I’m walking briskly) and there’s just something…something about walking into Jerusalem that feels and sounds right. If it can’t be done, I’ll take a bus, hitch-hike, or barter a ride in the usual fashion…but I’d really like to walk.

Even while traveling on a shoe string and looking for venues of interest that are free (because free is much better price than not-free) in all honesty, I have so much to choose from that I’m slightly overwhelmed at this point:

Yad Vashem (no admissions fee) is something I’ve been meaning to see for ages now; but I want to do it slow…three or four days to really take it in. I’ve been told by those who regret not taking a few days and who did it in one, to take my time which means that I’ll be heeding their advice since they clearly regret not slowing down for a bit. I also think (given my families history and connections to the holocaust) that I’ll probably take one day to recover from the emotional expenditure and to reflect on it afterwards. Mom’s making me copies of my families stories (in their own words) to bring to them for their archives.

There’s a free hostel in Jerusalem that I’ll see if I can get more information on (stoicdaydreamer’s getting me the 411 on it)…again free, so much better than not-free so hopefully they’ll have room; if not there’s a hostel, I’m told, where you can sleep on the roof and see the sun rise over Dome of the Rock (how cool would that be!?).

The Western Wall should be amazing (I’m not sure how worship services go in Jerusalem…it’s something I need to look into…it’d be nice to attend a few at various places of worship). I think just walking through the streets of Jerusalem will also provide numerous venues for adventure and excitement and learning along the way as well…there’s certain ‘benchmarks’ so to speak that I’d like to make sure I get done…but I also want to leave enough room for random adventures and fun…as well as the required coffee and people watching.

In Tel Aviv, I get to meet nir1 which is just awesome, few people impress me and he’s one of the few who do, so it’ll be a treat to put a voice to the screen name and the user pictures and actually have a conversation in person…and it’s someone to practice my broken Hebrew and Arabic with…so the conversation may be slightly interesting (the first time I tried to have a conversation in Hebrew, three-ish years ago now, I called someone a donkey instead of telling them I thought they were cute…we had a failure to communicate…fortunately, I’ve improved since then).

I’m not sure where stoicdaydreamer is living now; but Shirah and I went to High School together and we went to UB together (she even took Arabic with me the first semester I took it, two years ago). It’ll be good to see her again, I’ve missed her since she made the move to Israel and can’t come to Hookah Nights at my apartment anymore.

Other Tel Aviv activities that are incredibly, incredibly important to my Israeli education (I feel) are Beaches and Israeli Guys; the latter probably more important then the former as far as academic pursuits go. It’s just so much easier to learn a language when you have incentives; and given that Shulamit threw herself at my Mother and wailed that I’ll find the men there so attractive and irresistible that I’ll never come home…I feel the need to tempt fate.

The beach should be wonderful as well…we still don’t have sun in Buffalo so a tan and a book will do me well.

There’s also checking out Givat Haviva and Tel Aviv University (both places I want to eventually study at). Sitting on committees at UB has benefits, among them are access to stuff your supposed to bring with you when acting as an Ambassador from UB to another school. Thus, I have fuzzy Buffalo stickers (I’m told they’re popular at conventions…I have my doubts), a squishy buffalo or two (I think it’s for stress relief or something…personally, I think it’d relieve stress better just to chuck it at the head of whoever’s bothering you rather than sit there like a tool squeezing it to no end). So, essentially, from my school to yours: chachkis! Either they’ll like them (as I’m repeatedly told other schools do) or they’ll look at me and then go “why the fuck did this American bring us this crap from Buffalo.” But that’s what God made the round filing cabinet that sits on your floor, for. But it will be nice to get information on their academic programs, admissions requirements, etc. I’m told that TAU’s Department of Linguistics is similar in orientation and school of thought and training methods to mine, which would be wonderful. I think one of their professors is also currently on the Editorial board of Language (the publication of the Linguistics Society of America), but I could be wrong.

Traveling for me isn’t about tourist traps or shopping or eating at places where you can eat in your own neck of the woods any other day (why travel a few hundred miles to eat in a McDonalds…not that I eat at those in my own country as it is, but you get the point)…it’s about people, it’s about culture, it’s about language and communicating and it’s about observing and seeing and learning and tasting…not what a country wants me to see, but as the locals see it daily: with its faults and with its beauty and its quirks…it’s about being quiet and listening…and this trip is also about something so much more than that; it’s about the initial – brief – answer to a calling that has me doing things like selling my belongings and preparing to move half way across the world and wrapping tefillin and chomping at the bit through ice storms and through tumults of snow as I wait for that initial test…the one I’m taking in one month and three days, before I dive head first into the deep end.

I would at some point like to find the Kibbutz that my father lived on and got married on (his first marriage) providing that it’s still around, and perhaps the one he worked on too, but I’m not sure that time will really allow for it this trip…I think it’d be interesting to see if his first wife is still living on either of them (not that I think I’d introduce myself, given the circumstances I’m told his marriage ended in, just sort of observe her and see if she’s there): I’ve seen pictures of her from slides that he’s saved of his travels. I know he was on the same Kibbutz as my Hebrew Teacher at UB (which was just a weird crossing of worlds).

A few people looked at my bag the other day when I told them it was all I was bringing with me on the trip and they went “are you sure that’s big enough!? what about souvenirs?” and I was like “what part of the word minimalist you don’t understand, the minimal? the -ist?…the combination of the two?” First, at this point in time, I don’t really own enough to fill a suitcase anyway. And when you compare this trip, to the time I went to Vermont and found a wallet more than satisfactory for four days, I think I’ll do just fine. Take only pictures, memories, journal entries and phone numbers…leave only footprints, dates of return and bite marks…I’ve found, are the best rules for hassle free travel, bar-none.

I’m slightly dismayed though, since Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land (where my donkey Jordy lives) charges a fee to volunteer there :o( I guess I’ll just have to visit Jordy instead because I really don’t have an extra hundred dollars (US) to give to their cause…I figure if I go run up and hug him and say “Jordy, Daddy’s Come Home, Daddy’s Home!!” they may look at me kind of funny but at least Jordy will know it’s really me when he sees me…and if he doesn’t, I’m sure a salt lick and some carrots will convince him of my bona fides.

And as I fell asleep with his arms wrapped around me, as his chest pressed against my back, in the bondage of his muscles I felt a freedom I never knew before

Jacqueline (hollow_voice) asked me the other day if I ever saw myself ‘settling down’ and I attempted to answer the question as best I could…though I hate the wording of ‘settling down’ because it indicates and ending, and I prefer to only write beginnings (mainly because I’ve found that when you write endings you’re perilously close to loosing yourself and becoming old). However, if settling down means making compromises and living in a romantic, sexual relationship with one or more individuals, then the answer is yes, of course…I just want to make sure that when I do, it’s for the right person(s), for the right reasons and it isn’t something that I’ll later come to regret.

I just find the active pursuit of relationships such a senseless waste of time…there’s so much more people can do with their lives than pine away and hold a torch for someone. Your partner(s) may be waiting a world away for you while you only look in your hometown and while you may have always viewed them as Latin@ they may be Asian, and if you’ve always viewed them as Asian, they may be African: you have no idea who you’re destined to marry, who your basheret will be…but when you meet him (or them) you’ll feel the wind knocked out of you and you’ll feel like you’ve been waiting to meet them your entire life…so if someone’s meant to cross your path, it doesn’t make much sense to go looking for them…it’s sort of ridiculous to attempt to move the hands of fate to make things happen when it’s much more productive to just let them happen as they’re meant to unfold…this doesn’t mean that when you feel that way about someone, you shouldn’t take the active role in going up to them, introducing yourself, giving them your phone number…it just means recognize the short time trysts from the long term romance.

That said, there’s a bizarre freedom when you’re in a relationship and wrapped in the arms of a lover: it’s the freedom to be vulnerable, the safety to relax every muscle in your body and it’s not something you’re able to achieve through random and promiscuous sex (because when you’re engaging in that kind of activity, you have to be even more vigilant because then the only person looking out for your health and well being is yourself)…but when you’re in a relationship with one or more people whom you really care for and who care for you equally in return…there’s that really cool freedom…it’s neat to experience it.

The Lavender Ceremony

The Lavender Ceremony was so beautiful. I was awarded a plaque (which I wasn’t aware was going to happen…apparently they held a clandestine committee meeting without me).

The entire ceremony was done incredibly, incredibly elegantly and with real class. It was nice, I was nervous it wouldn’t come together.

I was a student speaker for the event, one of two. Earlier in the month they asked me to email them my bio, so I did so (I have a *.pdf file that I mail out whenever I’m interviewed by a news agency – which happens more frequently than not – and I update it occasionally as things change)…which turned out to be slightly embarrassing.

The other student speaker didn’t respond to their request…so they were like “Here’s Lacey…and here’s Matthew L. Schwartz who….” and for the next three or so minutes they rattled off my credentials, my publications, my certifications, my political work, my committees, my academic studies…and I was just like “wow…that was really, really way more than I thought you were going to do…” had I known that was their intent I would have sent them something more concise. I was under the impression the bio was for the program book.

However, what was really nice was when we walked across the stage and they called off our names and the degrees we were going to be receiving. None of the Gay Men were Theatre Majors…we were Computer Science Degrees, Dual Degree Majors in various medical fields, I represented Linguistics, one was getting his J.D. and it meant a lot to me to break down that stereotype not only for my father to see but also for the Vice President of the school to see that, hey, look…we’re everywhere!

My parent’s also got to meet Rev. Linda on this trip (I recommended her for an award and she got a plaque as well…I was at that meeting…) and Dr. Jaeger and it was nice, since both of them have been incredibly influential on my academic careers up here (both also represent the Buffalo Mothers Contingent, much like Margie represents the Southern Mothers Contingent…I have Mothers everywhere, my Mom is sort of like the Mafia Don of the Jewish Mothers Network and all the others at this point are her Capo Bastones with a few Sgarristas thrown in for good measure).

I also had the amazing opportunity to show my parents my Emergency Room of choice (Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital) because Dad came down with a horrible case of bronchitis and a chest infection that he didn’t do anything about (mind you, if I get the sniffles it’s cause enough to see specialists, he comes down with something that requires prompt treatment he’s allowed to put it off until it gets to the point where it’s jeopardizing his health…). Anyway, we got him taken care of and it was nice to just hang out with the family again.

Issa Roustum

I sent Prof. Roustum an email thanking him the other day…he’s had an incredible impact on not only my education…but my life. I wouldn’t be anywhere near the career path I’m on now if I hadn’t met him; and he mentioned awhile back that he might, one day, when he’s retired, go down to Washington, D.C. (“just tell them that Issa is on his way…”) and see if he can talk to people down there…and in all honesty, if there ever was a peacemaker, or a man who I have full faith in to change the world…it’s him; so I wished him luck and told him that I looked forward to reading about him in the headlines.

It’s sad…I feel empty without my Arabic Class, but it’s been a wild two years.

Meeting with Michelson

I meet with Dr. Michelson at 1:00 today to discuss the laptop work station for the lounge and the finances for the rest of the projects as well as the fundraiser next year to get better mailboxes installed (we’re thinking of selling a card pack, plastic cards that are screen printed on a key chain, on one side of each card is our logo, on the back side of card one is “what is a linguist” and on the back side of card two is the IPA Consonant and Vowel Charts. Clip it to your bag and you’re ready to travel!

Okay, time for bed!

A real post later this week.