Happy 2010 – שיהיה לכולם שנה מקסימה!  As usual, a lot has gone on since my last post. And, as usual, none of it has anything to do with my studies 🙂 (which are going well and are only mentioned here for completeness).

In the last few weeks I have been to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Beer Sheva, attended 912 Hanukkah parties, planned a trip home (March 4-14…during Columbia Festival of Winds 2010!), planned a trip to Turkey (March 25-April 4…advice, ideas, and contacts are welcome!), celebrated the beginning of a new decade, amongst many, many other things, and all I can remember clearly is the intense frustration and anxiety that persisted as I lay awake in bed after the Eagles game last night. Ugh! Well, I guess I’ll try to get past that debacle of a performance and tell/show a bit of what I’ve been up to:

Israelis really know how to celebrate Hanukah. Each night I had the pleasure of lighting the candles with different groups of friends (sometimes 2 or 3 times / day) and each ensuing day was filled with soofganiot (also, sometimes 2 or 3 times / day!). The Waldmans had me over for a “Formerly from Fairlawn” celebration where I got to meet some of their close family friends from when they lived in New Jersey. Also, they have significantly improved upon The Dreidle Game (or maybe they just play the way it was intended to be played?). The rules are simple: sit in a circle, guess a letter, spin the Dreidle – if you guess correctly, you get a present! All you need is one volunteer to go out and pick up a whole bunch of presents…Thanks Riva! 🙂 No more wondering what to do when someone takes half or the entirety of the pot, nor making up rules as you go along.

One afternoon I had the pleasure of leading my class of chemistry Masters students (25 of us) in singing the prayers).  Another night was spent with the lab group over at Gabi’s place. Here’s a photo from a fun night with atmospheric-aerosol-optical-property-loving nerds:

Lighting the candles. Jessica (left), Gabi (middle), and me.

Naturally, we transition from Hanukah to Christmas.  It’s safe to say that this was a Christmas I won’t soon forget. I traveled with a group of friends from Columbia to Bethlehem, home of the Church of the Nativity, (which according to one website that is never wrong “is believed by most Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ”) to take in the sights and sounds. Bethlehem is located in the West Bank, passed the Israeli checkpoint, on the other side of the wall. First the photos, then some discussion:

The wall which separates the West Bank from the rest of Israel. This is from the Palestinian side. Close-up of the graffiti to follow.
Amongst the more creative: CTRL+ALT+DEL. There were also more constructive words like “Build Bridges not Walls.”
It was about a 45 minute walk from the checkpoint up to Manger Square in Bethlehem. This was a shop we found along the way…trademark infringement?…
An olivewood carving of the nativity scene.
Manger Square. Manger Square is the central square in Bethlehem where the Church of the Nativity is located. They had set up a large stage for dancing and musical performances. The square was packed with about 100,000 people (just an estimate!)
The steeple of the Church of the Nativity.
Mike and Shoshi were interviewed by Palestinian Television.
One more shot of Manger Square. On the right is the only Mosque in Bethlehem, which is actually 90% Christian.

My goal was to remain relatively anonymous, see what there was to see, and come back across, but remaining anonymous sometimes proves difficult when your good friends sport “jew-fros” (sorry Mike!). There were a few interesting encounters. First, we met a girl from Virginia that had just graduated from George Mason University (yes, she was there for their March Madness run), with a degree in conflict resolution. She had just graduated and immediately moved to the West Bank to support the Palestinian cause. She got a job working for a newspaper in Ramala where she currently works as a writer to describe the conditions in the city. Talk about activism. She immediately recognized us as not only Americans, but pretty quickly as what she called “Zionists.” She was very surprised and pleased that we were in Bethlehem, but at the same time disappointed that this internationally-funded concert and celebration is what we will henceforth envision as “normal” for the quality of life in the West Bank.  Then we met a group of Palestinian teenagers who immediately identified us as Americans.  They asked us what it’s like in America, and then without hesitation, one of them said “I wish I could go to America, it seems like heaven.”  Without getting political, I will simply say that I am aware of the difficulties faced by those that live in both the West Bank and in Gaza and I hope and pray a resolution that can bring substantial peace comes speedily. After Bethlehem, I went back to stay at Mike’s place near Emek Refaim and then got up early to get to the Old City of Jerusalem.

It took me 3 months, but I got to the Old City and the Kotel. This of course is best shown through photos:

The always-recognizable wind mill of Yemin Moshe.
For Mattie! Ashkenaz shul in Yemin Moshe. Also, for Shabbat I met up with my friend Arielle who is here with her family for winter break. We went to this synagogue on shabbat morning. Nothing like morning services with the old city visible through the windows on either side of the ark. Also, no question we were praying the right direction. 🙂
Let’s play: NAME THAT GATE! Which Jerusalem expert can tell me which gate this is?
There is a tradition in Judaism that someone who is going on a trip to do a mitzvah is divinely protected along his journey. As such, it has become a custom that travelers receive tzedakah to donate upon safe arrival at their destination. I received about 1000NIS equivalent from friends and family to be donated (at my discretion!). After he finished the overture from Fiddler on the Roof, I couldn’t help but support music by giving him 100NIS. The gratitude in his face said it all. Thank you to everyone who chipped in. I’ll keep you updated on where the rest ends up.
The unofficial photo corner on the way down to the Kotel. Temple Mount over my shoulder.
Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel. What a scene! The area was packed with minyans, each singing in full voice with genuine excitement to welcome the sabbath to the city of Jerusalem. Balagan, schoona, pick your favorite Hebrew idiom.
My favorite photo. Somewhere between Yedid Nefesh and Licha Dodi, a whole batallion of the IDF arrived at the Kotel. They sang, and cheered, arm-in-arm as brothers. This image of them with their arms around each other, weapons over their shoulders, and the Kotel in the background tells it all.

Anyways, it’s time for me to wrap this up and make some dinner.  Winter Break = Birthright Season around here.  I’ve already begun seeing Taglit-Birthright busses in and around Tel Aviv and this means I’ve got some friends passing through!  For the next 2 weeks my room will become a veritable bed and breakfast (actually, more like a mattress and yogurt, but it’s what I can do on a student budget!)

And after all of this, all I can wonder is, **if only McNabb didn’t overthrow Desean by 10 yards…he was wide open!** **What happened to Jeremy Maclin on that 3rd down drop over the middle?**

I’m still in phase 1: (to understand:  http://harrisonsmall.wordpress.com/ )

Eagles v. Cowboys on Saturday – they won’t be able to “stop us again.”

Lots of Love from Israel.


p.s. Happy birthday to my big brother!


Thanksgiving & Petra

שלום חברים!

Last I left you, America was preparing for one of its most widely-celebrated traditions, Thanksgiving.  Turkey, cranberry sauce, corn bread, football, and boatloads of friends and family outline some of the essentials of the American Thanksgiving experience.  The 7 Americans here were not prepared to let the last Thursday in November pass without recognizing the importance gorging ourselves.  Dan (from Florida), Teddy (from Virginia), and I got to work early.  After several grocery stores, Dan was able to procure a Turkey and we all got to work cooking.  4 pies, 2 cornbreads, one 6 kilogram turkey, a whole bunch of fruits and veggies, and 15 friends (many of whom had never experienced a Thanksgiving celebration) later, we had brought Thanksgiving’s spirit to life in Rehovot, Israel.  Here’s the footage:

Preparing the Turkey!

Preparing the Turkey! This was my first time cooking a Turkey. All dinner participants survived the meal.

The Squad enjoying the festivities. Yes, Anna came as a pilgrim.

The next night I was invited to ANOTHER Thanksgiving/Shabbat dinner at the Rafaeli’s.  The Rafaeli’s lived in New Jersey for eight years, and if you live in Jersey that long, you know the Smalls.  The Rafaeli’s live in Raanana, about 30 minutes drive from Rehovot.  Meirav even spoke with Aunt Jody to find out what my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal was…7 layer bars.  Needless to say, they were on the menu for desert.  While she could only corral 6 of the necessary layers, they still tasted like Thanksgiving.  Thanks Meirav and Aunt Jo!  With the 6 layer bars my Thanksgiving was complete.  (Sidenote – I don’t recommend ever attempting back-to-back mammoth Thanksgiving meals like this…I haven’t eaten since.)  Also, the Rafaeli’s son, Nizzan, had his old saxophone lying around, so they offered for me to borrow it!  I have a saxophone!

I’ve met a lot of really great guys in my program: Dvir, Omer, Reuven, Orel, Nir, and the list goes on.  We’ve started a Wednesday night poker game where the conversation is only in Hebrew.  Truly, this is better practice than Ulpan!

By far the most exciting news since the last post was my trip to Petra, Jordan.  Last Thursday I got on a midnight bus from Tel Aviv to Eilat with Adam, Maxime, and Karen.  In Eilat we would cross the border, and then take a taxi to Petra.  After a full day in Petra we would taxi to Wadi Rum where we would spend the night with the Bedouins.  We would have the majority of the next day to spend in the desert and then take a cab to catch the late bus back from Eilat to Rehovot.  It was a lot to do in a short time, and as anyone who has ever been to Petra would agree, the story is best (but still inadequately) told via pictures & captions.  Here it goes:

The Siq - The main entrance way to Petra. Petra was built in the 1st century and using this long narrow passage as the only true means of entry to the city served as an easy means of protection. Gorgeous.

The Treasury - At the exit of the Siq, we encountered the Treasury. The sandstone in Petra is so soft that the Nabateans were actually able build homes/community buildings directly into the rock. This is also the building where Indiana Jones found the Holy Grail!

The Jordanian guard and me at the Treasury.

This theatre was used to estimate the number of Nabateans that lived in Petra during the first century. It is estimated to seat between 7000 and 10000 people.

The Monestary - Our group road Donkeys about 2 km and 800 steps up to the Monestary. This building was by far the most impressive in terms of both size and detail. We didn't have much time though because the sun was setting and we had to get out of Petra, back through the Siq about 6km and into a taxi to Wadi Rum.

Despite our rush, I found the time to purchase a Kafiya on the way out! I know, I'm ridiculous. 🙂

We spent the night in a Bedouin tent and then were up with the Sun. Check out that Sunrise! Wadi Rum is an open desert area where there are several Bedouin villages.

Our Group - From left to right: Maxime, me, Karen, Adam

Cool patterns in the sand.

In Wadi Rum we met a couple from Brazil.  They had been traveling the world for 9 months and had seemingly been just about everywhere.  I asked them, “if you had one place to go again, where would it be?”  Without hesitation they agreed, “Turkey.”  I’ll add it to the list.

In the afternoon we had a jeep tour of the desert and we did a little rock climbing 🙂

After a long day in the desert, the sun sets on our trip. Maxime, Adam, and I begin to contemplate the work that awaits back at the Machon.

These photos are frustratingly insufficient in terms of being able to share the experience with you.  It really was a treat to both the eyes and the ears.  A Hebrew phrase that one Israeli friend taught me says it well, “It was so beautiful, that I didn’t want to blink.”  Also, I have to comment on the genuine kindness that our group experienced from every Jordanian we met.  I think it’s important to emphasize this because despite my academic understanding that Islam is an overwhelmingly peaceful religion, it is easy to forget amongst the influx of news we receive regarding radical extremists who threaten our way of life.  I think we should all put in extra effort to remember this, as it is still my instinct to hesitate even upon seeing someone wearing a kafiya.  Their kindness is indelibly placed in my mind and while I will remain cautious when the situation warrants it, I will always put my faith in human being’s kindness, independent of their religion.

That’s all for now –

Happy Hannukah to everyone!


p.s.  A happy birthday to Dad, Aunt Debbie, Uncle Dave and AB Small!

p.p.s.  While normally “9/12 day” is celebrated on September 12 (by its many, and growing, American followers), today marks 9/12 day in Israel!  Don’t forget to celebrate!

Mah Chadash?

My clothes are far cleaner than my post frequency would indicate.  I swear, Mom.

My days have been filled from morning to night with courses, laboratory work, ulpan (my hebrew is getting there!), gym, Tennis, Eagles 3am losses (and wins last night!), homework, conversations with new friends, and sometimes, sleep.  I’ll recount what I’ve been up to lately in Haaretz, but by far the coolest thing that happened to me in the last few weeks happened in New York.

(If you have spoken to me in the last year and a half, you’ll probably be annoyingly aware of the paragraph that follows…feel free to jump down!)  February of 2008 marked the beginning of the Columbia University Wind Ensemble’s development of the Columbia Festival of Winds.  It was to be an all day music festival raising money for inner-city music education in Manhattan.  On March 1, 2009, the Columbia Festival of Winds took place featuring over 350 musicians from the high school, collegiate, community, and professional levels, including a presentation from the Director of Music Education for the New York Philharmonic, Ted Wiprud, and a jazz performance from the Wycliffe Gordon Quartet.  Photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29924979@N07/3335182343/.  As I wrote to the rest of my planning team on March 2, 2009, “How often does one get to wake up knowing that the previous day was the best day of his life?”  The result of hundreds of hours of planning was more than worth it.  An extraordinary sense of community was fostered, as well as a responsibility within the Columbia Wind Ensemble to dedicate time and effort so that our neighbors in the NYC public school system could experience the joy of musicianship.

We raised enough money to start the music program we dreamed about – Making Music Matter.  This was to be an after school music program held at one school where the instruments were purchased with the proceeds of the Columbia Festival of Winds and the students were taught by members of the ensemble.  After endless red tape, working with 501 (c)3s and the bureaucracy of Columbia, changes in principals at public schools, and a leadership change within the ensemble, Making Music Matter took off, nearly 20 months since the idea’s conception.  Here is the photo that I can’t stop staring at:


Huge congratulations are in order to Paul Lerner, Leonore Waldrip, Sarah Sechan, Carmen Sheils, Svetlana Zaitseva, Raul Ruiz (and Justine!), the rest of CUWE & anyone else whose recent involvment in ensuring the success of this campaign to which I have not been privy.  Way to go guys, seriously.

***Meanwhile, 5764 miles east***

November 4th marked the 14th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.  Rabin was a symbol of hope for the Israeli people (many have referred to him as Israel’s “JFK”).  He was assassinated by a radical right wing Jewish Israeli reminding Israelis of all political persuasion of the importance of remaining cohesive in their goals.  The commemoration ceremony has turned into an annual movement for peace filled with Israeli leaders and international leaders alike addressing the tens of thousands of individuals who make their way to Kikar Rabin to remember (myself included this year).  The evening filled me, and undoubtedly everyone else that attended, with optimism about the future of peace in the Middle East.  Optimism is important.  Here are some photos from the event:

"14 years since the murder"

Tzipi Livni - Leader of the Kadima Party, largest in the Knesset

Tzipi Livni addressed the crowd - Leader of the Kadima Party, largest in the Knesset

Even Barack Obama showed up! (via satellite)

Marlene and Lee Katzin have been best friends with my grandparents (Gerry & Lou) since the 1950s.  They made aliyah about 40 years ago, and have managed to keep in close contact.  I have heard innumerable stories about the Katzin family and how wonderful they are…well, as it turns out, they actually are really cool!  (you guys were right!)  The shabbat following Rabin’s ceremony, I had the pleasure of spending with the Katzin family – I live only 10 minutes drive from them now. I had a wonderful dinner with not only them, but their daughter and grandchildren.  I spoke with Matan (22) and Michael (20) about growing up in Israel.  Matan just finished his army service and is now a DJ on Kibbutz Na’an’s night club.  Michael is now serving in the army.

2 weeks ago I spent Shabbat with the Waldmans.  Amir had recently been in the US where he was handed a bag full of goodies for me from my parents (and a “Small” contribution).  The bag was filled with important things like my tennis racquet, ukelele, magazines, several pounds of sour patch kids, and something really fascinating – my Mom-mom’s (Pearl) pen & paper diary from her trip to Israel in 1981.  What a blast to read.  I guess that’s how they blogged in 1981.  As far as the time with the Waldmans, it was homey, as per usual.  I have taken on the role of “kiddush-man” for the shabbat dinner, this time reciting the blessing for much of Amir’s extended family as we celebrated his brother’s birthday.  Also, Ayelet was inaugurated into the Israeli form of the girl scouts.  Mazal Tov!  And again, as usual, I came back with more fresh fruits from their orchard than I could carry.  Great fun!

Last weekend was Eilat.  I’ve always (all 4 years that I’ve been aware of its existence) compared Eilat to a cleaner version of Atlantic City that happens to be on the Red Sea instead of the Atlantic and doesn’t have casinos, and is warm all year round, and is far more international, and doesn’t have as many “street bums,” and boarders Egypt, Jordan and nearly Syria, with cristal clear water filled with marine life, and isn’t in New Jersey.  Maybe they’re not so similar.  Either way, I went there last weekend with Dan (American), Adam (British), and Leon (Australian).  Most of the conversation surrounded the fact that we all spoke “English,” but no one could understand each other!  They’re all great guys and while most of the day was spent on the beach and in the sea, we did partake in some water sports: parasailing and jet skiing – here’s some photos from the weekend in Eilat:

Aqaba, Jordan

Malcat Shiva - l'Avi

Me and Adam - Ready to Go


Jaw-dropping Fun!

And a photo from Avichai’s (my roommate) 27th Birthday:

From left to right: Aharon, Prakhar, Yovav, me, Avichai!

Upcoming excitement includes a departmental field trip to Hapark HaYarkon for some bike riding, and even more exciting (for those Indiana Jones fans), a trip to Petra, Jordan the weekend after next.

And finally, Thanksgiving.  Obviously this Thursday is Thanksgiving and it will be the first Thanksgiving in recent memory that I won’t be spending surrounded by close family at the Small house.  (I can also guarantee that my dad won’t be jinxing my chances at beating Matt at ping-pong with his presence for the final 5 points causing me to lose the coveted Small Sports & Leisure Tournament Thanksgiving Cup).  Dan, Teddy, Karen and I (the Americans) are spearheading a pretty large Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday night.  Friday I will have another Thanksgiving meal with the Rafaeli Family (friends of the Smalls that used to live in Jersey).  So what to be thankful for this year?  The obvious answer is family.  I have always taken the Thanksgiving “season” to think about how lucky I am to enjoy the company of my brother and parents, as well as phenomenal cousins, grandparents and all the rest.  But this year, I am particularly thankful for the communication revolution that is allowing me to remain in close touch with everyone from abroad.  I had the pleasure in this past week alone of speaking with both my grandmothers via Skype.  Also, this year more than ever, I am thankful for the existence of the State of Israel, and the relatively stable calm in which I am able to enjoy my experiences here currently.  Baruch Hashem.

’tis all for now.

A Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at home!

p.s. Happy birthday to Joel, Eliana, and Jonah and a happy anny to Sara and Jason!  (Apologies if I missed anyone…)

My clothes are really dirty, but I’m having a lot of fun.   🙂

It’s been about two weeks since my last post, so I’ll try to cover a lot of ground in a short post.  First, my trips to Tel Aviv, Yavne, Haifa and Acco, then a bit about my program/research which officially began today!

Last Tuesday I went to visit one of Stacy Seltzer’s (my wonderful sister [in-law] ;)) best friends, Naomi Sullum who lives in Tel Aviv.  We explored her neighborhood on the south side of TA, and then headed over to Neve Tzedek (translates “House of Justice”).  Neve Tzedek was the first neighborhood in Tel Aviv.  This year marks Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary.  Naomi made sure I struggled through reading the hebrew signs, learned some history, and enjoyed “the best pizza in Israel!” Some photos:

Studying Hard...
A little Israel education thanks to Naomi
Naomi and Me! -- Good pizza, but not quite Taconelli's or Koronet's :)
Naomi and Me! Good pizza, but not Koronet’s orTaconelli’s 😉
The home of Shimon Rokach, first mayor of Neve Tzedek.  This home is fairly typical of the architecture in the neighborhood and now serves as a museum.
The home of Shimon Rokach, first Mayor of NeveTzedek. The house is pretty typical of the architecture in the area and now serves as a museum.
Mercaz Dizengoff
Mercaz Dizengoff in downtown Tel Aviv.

Naomi’s sister and good friend Hadara work to rekindle connectivity of the Tel Aviv conservative (Masorti) movement through a program called Marom.  They have events on a regular basis in Tel Aviv…check out more about Masortihere: http://www.masorti.org/ .

Last weekend, my friend from Columbia, Mike Schwartz, came for Shabbat.  He is a madrich (counselor) on Young Judea Year Course which is a program for students in their “gap year” to spend studying and living in Israel.  Mike is living in Jerusalem.  For Shabbat services Friday night, we decided to track down the only conservative shul inRehovot, Adat Shalom-Emmanuel.  The space was modest, the people welcoming, and the atmosphere frightening familiar.  While Mike commented that the kabbalat shabbat tunes were “1 or 2 notes off” what we were used to at Hillel at Columbia, I was amazed that the melodies remained as consistent as they did between Rehovot and the Upper West Side.

Friday evening we decided to take a walk.  I suggested we go to Yavne, after all there is a road in Rehovot called DerechYavne “the way to Yavne.”  From my recollections, Yavne was only about 2-3 miles away and Mike had mentioned that he had a friend there.  We thought, “Yavne’s a small town, let see if we can’t just walk over there and find him by asking the locals.”  Well, as it turns out, Yavne is a bit further than I thought.  About 2 hours and 6 miles later, we arrived inYavne.  This is when I found out that Mike’s friend’s name was Ben COHEN.  We were never going to find him.  We asked two women who were out walking if they knew the Cohen family.  They laughed at us and said that there must be 10,000 Cohen families in Yavne.  They couldn’t believe that we were looking for the Cohen family nor that we had walked all the way from Rehovot, so they asked if we wanted to come to their house for some food.  Only in Israel.  We made it home late Friday night.  Next time we’ll do a little bit more planning!

Saturday morning we returned to Adat Shalom-Emmanuel where I had the honor of an Aliyah and Mike got to do Hagba(Parshat Noah isn’t such an easy gig for Hagba…but he got the job done!).  We were invited to a nice lunch at a member of the shul’s home.  Members of the synagogues I have gone too thusfar have been so overly welcoming about inviting me to Shabbat meals.

This Thursday I went with my English friend Adam (Turkey Dinosaur) up to the North.  Original plans included Haifa,Megido, and Rosh Hanikra.  Because of weather / limited Shabbat travel, we ended up seeing Haifa and the historic city of Acco instead.  Here are some photos:

HAIFA! Haifa is entirely built on the side of Mount Carmel. Slashing up the side of the mountains are the Bahai Gardens (more photos to follow!) … Israel got a phenomenal amount of much-needed rain while we were in Haifa.
Speaks for itself…I’m sure it’s just like Pat’s / Gino’s 😉
Carmelit – Israel’s only subway line (5 stops over about 1 mile)
The view from the top of Mount Carmel which never gets old. On the first day there, I took the mountain on by foot, climbing an approximated 2000 stairs and endless stretches of uphill twists and turns. Definitely worth it.
DSCN0314The Bahai Gardens at night. The Bahai religion was established about 150 years ago. In the center of this unparalleled garden is the Shrine of the Bab, a dedication and the resting place of their prophet. Members of the Bahai faith are required to make pilgrimage to the gardens in Haifa and climb the 1,400 stairs to the top.


From the top
Bahai gardens from the top looking down. Perfect trimmings, perfect symmetry. Just spectacular.




Adam and I found the best place for dessert. It’s called Booza Booza on Ben Gurion street…whoa that was good.


Then we went to Acco, just a 20 minute train ride to the North.  After a bit of wandering, we made our way to the fortified old-city of Acco.  Historically, Acco has been the site of numerous battles due to its strategic harbour location.  More about Acco at my favorite website, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acre,_Israel

Fortified Walls
The Crusaders sure knew how to protect their claimed cities.
A strategic underground tunnel built for escape. The tunnel runs the majority of the length of the old city (about .5km).
Al-Jazaar Mosque
The Al-Jazaar Mosque. It’s located in the old city ofAcco. Adam and I took off our shoes and went inside — my first time inside a mosque.
Inside the Al-Jazaar mosque.
Adam and Me
Adam and Me
New Friends
New Israeli Friends! (and Adam and me)


Adam and I returned to Rehovot on Saturday night (about a 90 minute train ride), and my first day of orientation began today.  Today I met the whole class of chemistry Master’s students (25 people).  I’m the ONLY non-Israeli.  The Dean came in to address our small group and welcome us.  He said jokingly, “Well, I guess we’ll have to do this in English cause of Jeremy.”  The class laughed, and I turned around the said “S’licha l’coolam.”  More laughs.  No question about it, I’m the kid from the United States.  Also no question about it, Israel’s seem to think that that’s pretty cool. 🙂  They gave us an overview of some of the many things invented at the Weizmann Institute of Science, discussed scientific ethics, etc., and the day culminated with a tour of Chaim Weizmann’s home on campus which served as his “White House” when he became the first President of the State of Israel in 1948.   Good day.

In addition to my courses, I will be doing research on atmospheric aerosols and solar energy.  I won’t go into too much detail for fear you’ll just stop reading, so anyone who wants to know more about this, just ask…it’s actually pretty interesting, useful, and it’s exactly what I’d like to be researching!

Sixers beat the Knicks last night in overtime,  the Phillies are going to dig out of this hole against the Yankees and I’m off to watch the Eagles beat the Giants with an Israeli friend that spent 4 years in Wynnewood and is an Eagles fan!  E-A-G-L-E-S.

p.s. A special happy birthday shout out to H-man Small, that holy piece of S***!!!

Turkey Dinosaurs

The title will make sense, I promise.

I’ve decided that blogging is a good thing to do while I’m running the laundry.  The frequency of my posts henceforth will therefore give you a decent approximation of how clean my clothes are.

Shortly after my last post I took a bike ride up to Rishon LeTsiyon, about 10 km to the north of here.  Rishon serves as one of the largest suburbs of Tel Aviv.  When I arrived I decided to sit on the bench to take a rest before heading back to Rehovot and to give Roz the big thank you call I owed her for setting me up with some folks at the Berman Shul.  When I asked about her husband, she told me some bad news.  Mort had passed away a few days prior.  She seemed in surprisingly good spirits and immediately invited me over to meet both of her children – one who lived in Israel and the other who had flown in from New York to sit shiva.  I hopped back on the bike and headed over to her apartment (with a pit stop for a much needed shower!).  I spent about 3 hours with her family, meeting many of her long time friends, and of course her children and grand-children.  The general feeling was not of sadness or disappointment, but rather of celebration of his life.  Roz takes pride in being “my first friend in Rehovot.”  She told all of her friends the story of how we met.  One of her grandchildren, completely unbeknownst to him, was rocking a Donovan McNabb jersey.  I asked him if he knew who McNabb was, he had no idea, but he quickly became my favorite of her grandchildren (despite recent events between the Eagles and the Oakland Raiders!  ugh!).  I expect that she and I will get together about once per week.  We have a lot that we can learn from each other.

Last Thursday was a night I won’t soon forget.  My friend Reut from Ashkelon invited me to join her and her friends at a party.  She said that it was going to be a big party, so I asked her, “where is this big party?”  “On a kibbutz,” she said.  “No, really…where is the party?”  My image of a kibbutz has always been just a giant farm where about 500 people live and work together as a cohesive group, sharing equally in both labor and wages.  While there has been a movement in recent years towards tiered labor and wages, there also apparently has been a huge movement towards hosting tremendous dance parties.  That night we pulled into Kibbutz Revadim, and amongst the odor of  cow manure and acres of not-yet ripened fruits, were about 1000 Israelis in their 20s dancing the night away to popular American music.  At first I was just stunned – why was there a New York City night club in the middle of a kibbutz!  It turned about being a really fun night.  I still haven’t gotten over that experience – not sure when I will.

For shabbat I attended the Berman Shul.  The shul is known for having many Americans that made Aliyah and became Orthodox.  After attending both Friday evening and Saturday morning services, I’m not sure that I feel comfortable in their community.  I felt a significant amount of pressure to  increase my observance from  the few short conversations I had, and also, the community did not seem overwhelmingly welcoming.  Here’s the good news: there are about 300 synagogues serving the 100,000+ people in Rehovot.  I have been emailing with someone from the ONE conservative (Masorti) shul, and may attend services there this weekend with my friend Mike Schwartz who is coming in from Jerusalem.  I’m shopping for synagogues.

Shabbat afternoon we went up to Tel Aviv to hit the beach.  We took a sheirut (a van that can carry about 13 passengers), since none of the trains nor busses run on Shabbat.  Here’s some photos:

Tel Aviv beach :)

Tel Aviv beach 🙂

Teddy and Me (for any strangers reading this, I'm on the right...but I don't know why you're reading this...it can't be that interesting.)

Teddy and Me (for any strangers reading this, I'm on the right...but I don't know why you're reading this...it can't be that interesting.)

Asaf, Me, Teddy (left to right).  Asaf became an uncle just 1 day prior!

Asaf, Me, Teddy (left to right). Asaf became an uncle just 1 day prior!



For Matt...hahahahaha

For Matt...hahahahaha

Another surprise in this past week was an email saying that they will be performing substantial renovations on my dorm, and so everyone will have to leave by the end of December.  Everyone frantically began looking for apartments, and shortly there after, there was another email saying that they had made arrangements for us to move to another dormitory that is under construction, but that the price would be about 3x the price here in the Clore House.  Bottom line is, I’m pretty set to move out of the Clore house now, before classes begin, instead of in 2 months.  Within about a week or so, I’ll be moving in with 3 other guys, Teddy, Dan, and Asaf.  We found a beautiful apartment right by the campus, with a balcony big enough for barbecues and plenty of space — and this means I’ll have my own room!  yay!

Let me explain really quickly about the structure of the program here.  The Master’s program is two years.  I am in the chemical physics department and will be doing research for faculty that focus on energy and the environment.  In my first year I take a full slate of classes (Math for Chemists, Remote Sensing, Chemistry of Elements, Physical Oceanography) and I get to do three 14-week research rotations with each of three different professors of my choosing.  In the past week I have met with 3 different professors and I have at least two more meetings on the horizon, after which point I will have to select a professor for my first research rotation.  In the second year I only take two classes each semester and I work full time writing a thesis under the tutelage of one of the professors for whom I did a rotation.  I hope that made sense, I don’t know if it was clear.  If anyone’s looking for more clarification, give me a heads up.  Really, I just included that paragraph to make people think I am working hard.  🙂

Last thing before I call it quits for now – sports.   The whole world hates American sports it seems.  It’s very difficult to explain to an Israeli, Italian, Frenchman or Englishman the beauty of  a well-placed sacrifice bunt, or why American football players take 45 second breaks after 3 second plays.  It’s nearly impossible to defend.  Last night our eclectic international group was watching TV – a game called Snooker.  It’s related to pool but on a much bigger table.  As Adam (from London) put it, it’s a cross between Pool and Chess.  But the crazy part was that they watch it on TV for hours! Couldn’t have imagined anything more boring.  Then, he began telling me the details of cricket.  The big cricket match lasts 5 full days.  A good batsman attempts to be up to bat for an entire day!  Here’s the best part – around 2pm, they actually take a break from the game to have Tea.  I laughed for a while about that, then I made the mistake of telling him about the 7th inning stretch, which is, in its own right, a very strange tradition that stands as a testament to that lack of intensity required to be a good American baseball fan.

Last thing for real.  A common menu item here is shnitzel, which is basically like a giant chicken finger (Mike Agne eat your heart out!).  It’s actually socially acceptable to eat a giant chicken finger at a reasonably fancy restaurant as an adult.  What a great country.  Adam from England was asking what shnitzel was, so I asked him if they have chicken fingers in England.  He looked at me like was from another planet, “Chicken Fingers?” … “oooh, I’m not sure what chicken fingers are exactly, but I have to imagine they’re similar to our Turkey Dinosaurs.”

Go Phils.  2 more wins and I’ll have to make a trip to that wall in Jerusalem.

Settling in…

Whew!  A lot has happened since I last posted (as you can imagine!).  I’ll try to hit some of the key fun and excitement.

First, I found the piano room!  Thank you so much Jeaninne!

Jeannine is my hero!

Ah...and it was even in tune.

Ah...and it was even in tune.

Jeaninne is my hero!

Second, The Weizmann Institute of Science has secured another nobel prize in science, this time in Chemistry.  Ada Yonath, (from my new department!!) was given the award for her work on ribosome mechanisms and there is all sorts of excitement around here.  She received the most prestigious award in the scientific field just 3 days after my arrival…coincidence?  If you’re dorky enough to want to learn more about her work, you can check it out here: http://www3.weizmann.ac.il/YonathNobel/.

Remember Roz?  She’s pulling some strings for me.  The very next day after meeting her, I received a phone call from Chaya Tannor, head of hospitality for the Berman Shul & Community Center in Rehovot.  She said she had received my phone number from Roz and wanted to personally invite me to shul on shabbas, but also invite me over for shabbat dinner.  🙂   Her husband is David Tannor, a Physics professor at Weizmann.  Thusfar, my experience in Israel has been devoid of religious experience.  I am very excited to go to shul there this shabbat.  I am hungry for Judaism.  I’m hoping that this will be a shul in which I can feel at home.  From my conversation with Chaya, it sounds very likely. I just couldn’t get over her willingness to blindly invite a stranger for shabbat dinner.  What an incredible display of hospitality…no wonder they put her in charge.

Everyone here (in Rehovot) rides a bicycle.  Biking is definitely the most efficient means of transportation for the campus (which extends about 5Km across) and for the city (which has conducive sidewalks).  So, Amir Waldman and I went bike shopping, and 1 hour and 700 shkalim later I had my new baby:

21-speeds of glory

21-speeds of glory

I brought it back, took it for a spin around campus, and then went to show it off to my suitemate, Prakhar, from India.  He took one look at it and joked, “Good luck for your cycle!” … “Did it come with tools?”  I asked him what he meant: He said he could tell it was made in China and expects that it would break within my first 50Km.  I don’t think so.   He eventually agreed that they bike would probably work just fine, but also explained how his country feels a strong economic rivalry with China.  Prakhar is an incredible person to talk to.  He has very few possessions, choosing to send all of his earnings back to India so that young students that have an aptitude for science can have better education available to them.

I took the train from Rehovot to Petach Tikva Segulla to spend my first shabbat in Israel with the Waldmans.  They have been SO kind in helping me get settled in.  Amir’s sister’s family came over and told many stories from their recent trip to Thailand.  I had the honor of leading them in the Kiddush.  I had a long talk with Yuval, the Waldman’s son, who is headed to the Army at the end of the school year.  He would very much like to be a Pilot, but his parents would much prefer he work in Intelligence (perhaps a bit safer?).  Yuval insists that he can make a bigger impact on the success of the army if he is a pilot.  I am impressed not only with Yuval’s mentality that joining the army is not “something you have to do”, but it is honorable and necessary.  Yuval looks forward to serving his time in defense of Israel, and he doesn’t want to “waste” it as part of the Intelligence arm.  The rest of the day was lighter, filled with fruit picking, puzzles, and relaxing.  They sent me home with at least 10 pounds of fruit!

Clementines, avocados, guava, and Pomellos (I hadn't heard of these...apparently they're related to grapefruits!)

Clementines, avocados, guava, and Pomellos (I hadn't heard of these...apparently they're related to grapefruits!)

My roommate arrived on Saturday night.  His name is Avichai Ran.  He is a kibbutznik from Ein Herod, a 27 year-old biology Masters student.  He likes to watch American T.V. – “Two and a Half Men” and “How I Met Your Mother” – and play basketball.  Needless to say, we get along great!  He has told me many wild stories from his Kibbutz – it’s a little different lifestyle than in Lower Moreland!

Sunday was a brief orientation for people that had arrived on campus early.  It was about a one hour lecture and there was only one problem – it was delivered entirely in Hebrew!  When the dean began to speak, I had only one thought – “uh oh”.   As the wise Will Smith once said, “We gotta work on our communication here.”  I sat there for an hour and I could tell that at times what he was saying was very important, I just didn’t know what it was!  At the time it was a serious concern, and I only joke about it now because of two things:

1. Avichai explained all of the important things to me afterwards

2. Apparently all I had to do was ask him to switch to English at the beginning of the lecture, and it wouldn’t have been a problem!

Yesterday I want to visit a friend, Reut, who lives in Ashkelon.  We spent some time on the beach there, which is absolutely beautiful, and then she showed me her country club and I met some of her friends.  Reut was a wonderful tour guide.  She and her friends taught me many new Hebrew words and phrases, some of which are not appropriate for this forum!  I taught them “That’s what she said.”  They promised to make sure everyone in Israel started saying it.  Here are some more photos:

The beach in Ashkelon.

The beach in Ashkelon.

Cool rock formations right along the beach in Ashkelon

Cool rock formations right along the beach in Ashkelon

Sign to promote solidarity and awareness of captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Sign to promote solidarity and awareness of captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Reut and I at the country club

Reut and me at the country club

Marine and me at Scubar!

Marine and me at Scubar!

That’s it for now!  Tel Aviv, and Haifa are on the horizon.  Although, I do need to start preparing for the school year and having meetings with professors…maybe I’ll do some of that today.


The Eagle Has Landed!

Hello All!  This is my first post from Eretz Yisrael.  I got in yesterday at 7am local time.  I may have been the only one on the plane whose carry-on was not a lulav.  I decided to bring a laptop instead.  I didn’t sleep much on the plane – too excited.

When I arrived, our wonderful family friend Riva Waldman and her adorable 9-year-old daughter, Ayelet, were waiting for me with open arms.   Originally I was going to take a train from the airport to Rehovot (which is about 15 miles south of Tel Aviv), but Riva offered to pick me up and it was a good thing she did!  When we arrived, they didn’t have my name on the list, they didn’t have my key ready, nor my room clean.  It took a little bit of patience combined with Riva’s “Israeli spunk” and eventually I had a clean room in the Clore House.  Here is my address:

Jeremy Seltzer
211 Clore House
Weizmann Institute of Science
1 Hanassi Harishon
Rehovot, Israel 76100

When Ayelet saw my dorm room she decided she was going to live at home when she went to university.  The room is hospitible, but certainly not philanthropic 😉  Riva and Ayelet took off to Riva’s sisters place (in Rehovot) and I got to work unpacking.  Then, off to see the campus.  Here are some shots I took:

The Main Entrance (you just climb over that wall).  Just kidding, the entrance is to the right.

The Main Entrance (you just climb over that wall). Just kidding, the entrance is to the right.

Frisbee anyone?

The Clore House Lawn - Frisbee anyone?

Nerd Heaven

Particle Accelerator - Nerd Heaven

For mom

For mom

I get to work there!

Chemistry Building - I get to work there!

The campus is beautiful and the weather here has been perfect (80 during the day down to 65 or so at night).  Last night was the first rain storm of the rainy season.  Apparently it’s early for the rainy season to be beginning – I’ll get to work on fixing climate change.  The campus is very empty because of the holidays.  No administration / faculty are available so I cannot meet with anyone, nor fill out necessary paperwork to get my photo ID and bank account just yet.  That will have to wait until Sunday!

Then it was off into the city of Rehovot.  Rehovot is a fun little town.  The streets are lined with mini-marts, restaurants, bars, and shops.  I stopped into a book store to purchase a children’s book.  I wanted something that I would be able to work my way through, dictionary in hand.  So I asked in Hebrew, “Do you have any stories for small children?”  She quickly responded in Hebrew, “Is the book for your son?”  I explained that I didn’t speak Hebrew well, we laughed, and she sold me a book which has a title that translates to “How the Cavemen invented the Shishkabob.”  I’m looking forward to it.

Here are some photos from Rehovot:

Maybe when I get a bike I'll ride it there.  :)

Maybe when I get a bike I'll ride it there. 🙂

This seems to be the center of the city.  It's about a 1.5 kilometers from the Clore House (I'm trying to start approximating in Metric).  There is a giant mall right next to it.

This seems to be the center of the city. It's about a 1.5 kilometers from the Clore House (I'm trying to start approximating in Metric). There is a giant mall right next to it.

Graffiti - Am Yisrael Chai

Graffiti - Am Yisrael Chai

Fresh fish from the Mediteranean.

Fresh fish from the Mediteranean.

Fresh Fruit and Veggies in the shuk down the street

Fresh Fruit and Veggies in the shuk down the street

I have made 3 friends so far in the Clore House.  The dorm is an international dorm, which has already made it a pretty unique place.  The 3 friends are from Italy, Portugal, and India.  Their stories (and intelligence!!) are impressive, even if English is their 2nd, 3rd, or FOURTH language.  Last night Sylvia (from Portugal) invited me out with a few collegues from her lab (she is here on a sabbatical for 3 months).  Two of her coworkers were Israeli so we had a fun time talking about everything from football/soccer to iphone/nokia, to Madoff and how he stole a lot of their labs’ funding for research.  One of them, Gur, just got into rock climbing.   Gur and I are going to Tel Aviv tomorrow to an indoor rock climbing facilities for beginners.

Today I woke up bright and early to get to work organizing my life in a new place and buying the things I need from the mall.  In one store, I was busily listening to conversation in Hebrew all surrounding me, while converting NIS prices for pillows  (3.78 : 1) when I realized that I recognized the song playing in the store – Janet Jackson, weird.  Then I went to grab lunch in the food court of the mall at the local Kosher KFC.  There was an elderly woman that ordered right after I did in perfect, American, English.  I asked her where she was from – she grew up in Brooklyn.  She was alone, so I asked her if she would like to join me for lunch.  It was nice to speak in English with someone whose first language was also English!  We shared a table and talked about how we both ended up at the food court in the mall in Rehovot.  Her name was Roz Rephen.  She was in her late 70s and she and her husband had made Aliyah 20 years ago when two of her sons moved to Israel.  I told her that I was a student at Weizmann and that it was just my second day in Rehovot.  She said she would give me information about the local shuls and mentioned one for which I might be a good fit.  As she was telling me how she ended up on the other side of the table, she broke down crying.  For the last few months she has been aiding her husband who is very ill.  Today, she had taken the day off and hired someone to assist him.  She decided to spend her first free day in months scouring about in the mall.  She said she was just so happy to have someone to talk to about something besides her husband’s illness.  We exchanged phone numbers and I told her that if there was ever something I could help her with, or if she just wanted to meet up again for some fresh KFC in the mall, to give me a call.  I’m really glad I met her.

So that’s the update!  I promise next time I’ll be more brief!  Just so many new things to share.  I hope everyone is well back in ha’artzot ha’brit.  Chag Sameach.