Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What Happened at Ulpan Today

Aug. 31, 2005 17:01 Updated Aug. 31, 2005 19:25
American immigrant sets himself on fire in Jerusalem

A 30-year-old American immigrant set himself on fire outside his Jerusalem ulpan Wednesday, critically injuring himself, in protest over Israel's pullout from Gaza, police and rescue officials said.
The single Jewish man, who moved to Israel lastyear and was studying Hebrew at the city's popular'Ulpan Etzion,' was gravely injured in the afternoon incident, suffering from first-degree burns on 70 percent of his body.
Witnesses told The Jerusalem Post that the victim, who was identified by his Hebrew name,Baruch Ben-Menachem, had put a blanket around himself and doused himself with gasoline.
A security guard who first noticed smoke coming out of the courtyard of the ulpan began putting out the flames on the man's burning body with a fire extinguisher, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.
Magen David Adom paramedics who were called to thescene rushed the semi-conscious man to Jerusalem'sHadassah University Hospital at Ein Kerem.
A hospital spokeswoman said that the man was incritical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit.
Paramedic Hanan Hovev said that the man, who mumbled a mixture of Hebrew and English in the ambulance, was given various sedatives on the way to hospital since he had difficulty breathing from his first degree burns and was unconscious on arrival at the hospital.
Hovev said that the victim mumbled "I did it because of Gush Katif."
Acquaintances of the victim said Tuesday that he was newly religious, and had rarely come to Hebrewclasses, even though he was enrolled as a student at the ulpan.
Students at Ulpan Etzion reported that Ben-Menachem was having financial difficulty.
A Jewish Agency spokesman, Semyon Dovzhik, said that Ben-Menachem was a loner who did not socialize with fellow classmates.
A bag with a prayer book and phylacteries were found near his body, eyewitnesses said.
Earlier this month, an Israeli woman died from wounds sustained when she set herself on fire in a similar protest act.


Mima'amakim, the artistic collective based in New York City thatgathers in "Creative Exploration of the Religious Jewish Experience". Mima'amakim also publishes an annual printed journal and a monthlyonline journal with visual arts, as well. Check it out at

On Mondayevening,August 29th at 7:00pm, we will host an open-mic event atTmol Shilshom in Jerusalem.If you are interested in presenting any works of poetry, short prose,slam, spoken word, etc. creatively expressing the religious Jewishexperience please contact us know so we can add you to theline-up. Works in both Hebrew & English are welcome!

My contribution:
I found myself separated
There is a destiny and a history
I wander between the burden and the hope
You appear in a vision, the white surrounding the black

Around me are limitations and you defy them all.
Borders that bound land
Time to mark the day
Body that confines existence

I am trying to advance
There are memories and plans
I arise amongst opportunities departed and dreams
Your light, manifest amidst the shadows

I read a thousand words and your image remains blurred
Your hand outstretched
Your face hidden
Your mystery in a cloud of glory

My soul is incomplete
There is faith and doubt
I contemplate belief and heresy
The questions elucidate you the answers are superfluous

Our conversation spans millennia and you give a promise
A land of milk and honey
A people numerous as the stars
A law that is a path to follow

So here I am
With my freedom and my prison
I try to abide by the rules but I have temptation to sin
You remain on the edge of the horizon

My lips move and the sound is audible to me only
I praise creations
I make requests for mankind
I thank you for judging

This is what I know
My feelings have my legs to stand on
Decisions cause choice to invade my consciousness
And although I am torn I am also connected
Your name reverberates from the depths and I listen
What is, what was and what will be.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


It has taken me a while to bring myself to comment on the events of the past week or so. Mainly because what can you say when the government of your country evicts you from your house? Don’t you have the right to protest and kick and scream, if you have spent your life working for that piece of land? If this is the second time your government is doing this to you?
I know the facts and figures, and the practicality of disengaging from Gaza and in theory I agree that being in Gaza is a waste of energy on behalf of the army but that doesn’t mean that people are not human and this has been a really heart wrenching week for the people of Israel.
In Jerusalem I felt really removed from the whole situation. History is taking place literally 100km down the road, but I might as well be in Sydney because I wasn’t feeling it until last Thursday when the buses started arriving.
Many hotels in Jerusalem are filled with families from Gaza who did not sign up for new housing before the disengagement. These are the families who stood their ground and fought for their homes and did not get a chance to pack up, so they have arrived here with the clothes on their back.
I went with some friends to give the kids at these hotels presents, and I watched a bus load of people arrive, with tears families cling to each other, and I recognised a girl I learned with descend from the bus, I realised that these are not just people on TV, these are people that I know. She had spent the past month helping families pack up and now she had to leave as well.
Then on Saturday night I met with another friend of mine who is visiting from overseas, her and her husband were staying at one of these hotels. They are the only non-gush katif guests. They said it was like walking in on a huge shabbaton except you realise soon something is wrong, women are crying in the corner, and no body goes to sleep, everyone sits around with nowhere to go.
On Monday all these ‘guests’ have to leave the hotels, but they have no destination. The army knew they would be evacuated anyway, but there is no housing for them.

Sharon’s speech was really revealing, when he stated ‘blame me’ this was almost a declaration that the international pressure he was receiving basically left him with no choice, either our soldiers remove our people or someone else will do it for us.
This is all in aid of the creation of an autonomous Palestinian state which will be receiving water and electricity from Israel. We really have to hope that the international aid given to the Palestinians is actually reaching them and that Hamas is not going to wreak havoc like the celebrations they are holding are hinting at. I hope the actions of the past week are not in vain.

There is no longer the concept of YeShA (Yehuda, Shomron and Aza), there is now just YeSh, and we have to ask ‘Ma Yesh?’ ‘What do we have?’ What are we left with? What type of a country are we building here? Are we still building? What are the Gush KAtif guests going to do on Tuesday? What is the cost benefit analysis of this situation? What is the most constructive action now?

I wait, as I try to find my place here, I hope that I will be able to build a house one day without the fear of it one day being uprooted and of course to live in peace.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Dating Game

Well the time has finally come for me to comment on the scene here…I have been holding off until I found the perfect story to illustrate the games we play and why I am so amused and I think I have found it.


I have moved to a new country so I have decided to be a little more open minded than usual and a little less defensive (the latter being an extremely hard thing for me to give up on). I blame part of my ‘Bridget Jones’ experiences on the fact that up until when I left Sydney, there was not really a dating scene ( now I understand that Grunners is revolutionizing the industry). This meant that I was experienced at picking a guy up at a party or the sheaf but not at the concept of Blind dating or dating really in general. To be more specific ‘first date awkwardness’, when you know absolutely nothing about the other person.

Despite that point, I think that I can handle the whole dating concept if only the other party were slightly normal. Normality has become the one pre-requisite quality that I am looking for in a guy – let me explain.

The Scenario:

3 Friday nights ago whilst enjoying a lovely Shabbat dinner at a friends house, I was offered by the newly married girl sitting next to me to be set up with her friend. We had been chatting for a little while and although she hardly new anything about me, she assured me that she had this feeling that her friend and I would be perfect for each other. So I followed with the question: “Is he normal?” to which she replied “Yes, he’s a really cool, interesting guy”. So despite my previous rules regarding blind dates (being only go on ones where you have thoroughly researched the guy and he has been recommended by at least 3 people of good standing) I decided to be open and give it a try.

The phone call:

On Friday afternoon I received a phone call from him and although he had a thick South African accent, he seemed nice and he agreed that sitting in coffee shops could be a profession (since that is what I do mostly now, and I like to think of myself as productive, agreeing that is a profession is common ground). I agreed to be picked up on Saturday night.

Shabbat Dinner:

I had been invited out to another friend of mine for Shabbat dinner, she had just returned from London and so I had not had any extensive chats with her during the week. The last time I went to her for Dinner, I clashed majorly with her brother due to a misogynistic comment that he made, and she had invited me back again to sort of apologise for that incident. On the way home from shule, I asked her who was invited and Mr Blind date’s name came up. I informed her of the situation, we both laughed and then I asked her, what is he like? A question I should have asked of someone else a long time before, and her answer was “He’s a bit introverted, do you like sort of quiet people?”
I knew from then on it was not going to work.
I entered the room and introductions were made to him
“Do you know Gila from Australia?’
To which he replied no – not very quick on the ball, I mean how many of me are there?
I stated “I think we talked on the phone today”
“Oh” – this was an opportunity for a really witty comment, but it just did not occur, followed by uncomfortable silence.

Needless to say the rest of the Dinner was a bit of a disaster from my point of view as it turned into a first date with the questions…all the time questions, I hate questions, and I was pretty sure he picked up on it, when I was making more conversation with other male present which even prompted him to comment “ Did you know him before hand?” and I said “no”.

Finally the Dinner ends and I try to make a run for it, about half way down the stairs, my friends mother shouts down “Gila do you have someone to walk you home?” and I was like oh crap….So both males volunteer to walk me, about 100 metres later, I was sure to point out to Mr Blind Date that his house was in the opposite direction to mine and we parted with a “It was nice to meet you” No mention of Saturday night, so I thought ok, we clearly did not click, so we might be able to just forget about it.

Shabbat Day:

I decided to completely analyse the situation and get a guys opinion as well so of course I asked Dave, to which Dave replied “ You have to call him after Shabbat and cancel’ which of course I refused to do, and I just deluded myself that he would not come.

Motzei Shabbat:

Dave grabs my phone and calls Mr Blind Date, but I manage to get a hold of my phone and hang up before he picks up. Why on earth would he show up? I had given him a dose of my rudeness hadn’t I? Meanwhile I make plans with some of my other friends…Next moment, he shows up and the conversation is as follows;
“Ummmm….I didn’t think you were going to show up”
“why not”
“well you didn’t say anything when we parted on Fri night and I called u tonight and you never called back, now I have made other plans”
“why would you think that?”
“What time are you meeting your friends can you go for a quick coffee?”
“ummm…I guess so….”

At Coffee:

I could not believe I was there. I have to say that the concept of good conversation, seems to be too much to ask for these days. Am I asking too much because I want to talk about more than Sport? Is it just me that realizes there is an entire world out there, in fact many worlds of Literature, Art, Travel, Film, Theatre, Food, Music, Clothes, Origami and Food and Food and Food – I am forgetting of course the world of the non-normal. I want effortless, flowing, intelligent conversation!!!!!! Also there is so many cool things to go out of the house and do, can we please be more original than going out for coffee for a first date!!!!!!!!! I want someone to take me to Vienna (or at least be able to talk about how they want to go to Vienna to see the Opera).

He didn’t even know who Holden Caulfield was (and if you don’t you should probably reconsider our friendship).

Luckily there was a feint acquaintance at the same coffee shop, I made a big deal out of her, and finally my friends called me to pick me up and I got to leave the horrid ordeal. This is only part that I hate: The bill. I like being wined and dined, but I hate feeling like I owe someone something (a bit Ayn Rand I admit). So I wanted to pay but he wouldn’t let me, which of course made it into the dreaded thing that I was trying to avoid: The first date. The problem with first dates is that usually they are followed by a second in order to break up after the first and then you feel guilty and the whole thing is just totally the bain of my existence. Maybe this is my Simone de Beauvoir voice coming through but I can pay for myself now and it’s a power that I like to have to use as I see fit.

I thought after clearly ditching him on this date for my friends he would get the message, but last night whilst having a pleasant dinner with friends, who were trying to set me up with another guy, who sat across from me not talking with his arms folded, I received a call from Mr Blind Date and I told him I was busy and now I have to call him back but I really don’t want to.(I haven’t yet, a week later…is that really bad? I sort of forgot….)


After experiencing the above and the text message “The offer stands for us to date but otherwise I don’t want to be friends with you” – All I can say is the 2nd semi cute South American in Ulpan is looking better. I hate the fact that his Hebrew is better than mine because I like being smarter, but that gives me a reason to bug him during class and a reason to turn up to class. He was really sweet when he brought me a spoon as a present because for 2 days in a row I spilt yoghurt on my clothes as I ate it with my fingers, and I guess speaking 3 languages can count as 3 topics of conversation. I think he is too nice though, and I can’t be sarcastic with him cause of the whole language barrier thing, which creates major communication mishaps, since it is impossible for me go for 3 sentences without being sarcastic…….issues…...

Warnings To my well meaning friends:


I don’t think that is so picky….on top of being Jewish, Religious and Good Looking?