Shabbat, Ulpan, and Orange


As always, it has been a very busy couple of days. Friday afternoon I ran around downtown trying to pick up a few odds and ends for my pending move out of Kfar HaStudentim, namely an inexpensive duffel bag to deal with my already over-packed luggage. It seems that the bargaining culture has gone the way of the dinosaur on Ben Yehudah, with just about every employee of just about every shop insisting that their prices were fixed and not subject to negotiation. It’s a shame, but I did get what I was looking for in the end.

I spent Shabbat this week in Nahlaot with good friends who are soon returning to the United States after about half a year studying here in Israel. For davening that evening, we went to a Carlebach style minyan near the shuk called Kol Rina. This synagogue is notable not only for its diverse crowd and energetic davening, but for its location: in the neighborhood bomb shelter. The room was packed to the gills but it certainly felt very safe. From there, we went to another friend’s place for dinner and met a whole bunch of new people, which is always fun.

In the morning, we went to the Conservative/Masorti synagogue across from the Beit HaKnesset HaGadol in the center of town. I have not spent any time here since my days in USY and, I will say, it has not changed much. It still feels very very American both in terms of atmosphere and tone (everyone speaks English). The shul was also packed with kids from USY and BBYO on summer trips to Israel; what memories. After davening, my friend lead a brief shir with a group in from the states on contrasting representations of the divine in the Shabbat literature. After Shabbat, we went out to a bar near the shuk to take in some of the night life, and then I headed home for the evening.

Today, ulpan was fairly light, being the last day before the final exam. The lesson focused on the forms and issues found in Hebrew verbs with four-letter roots. This took up no more than the first two hours of class. Most of the rest of the time was spent at an ulpan-wide “party” where different classes gave skits and sang songs demonstrating what they had learned over the course of the last two months. While this probably was not the best use of our time, it was a relaxing way to end before the test.

A more meaningful test of what I have learned in ulpan, however, came later on in the day. I went to the bank with the intention of opening an Israeli account for the year, but with the strange hours here it was already closed by 2:30… I will have to try again tomorrow. Outside the bank, reps from the Israeli cell phone company Orange had set up shop to sell their plans.

As I have already been using a pay-as-you-go plan with them (which has cost an arm and a leg), I decided a real contract plan would be worthwhile. The real challenge was that my conversation with the reps was almost entirely in Hebrew; inquiring about costs, alternatives, contract length, minutes, data plans, etc, etc. Although it took an inordinate amount of time (at least two hours, very efficient), it was great real-world practice. The last month and a half has definitely not been a waste of time. I certainly could not have had a conversation like this when I arrived in Israel.

In preparation for the exam tomorrow, I will be spending all of this evening studying hard. Faithful readers, wish me luck. I’ll need it. 🙂

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