Thursday, January 14, 2010

Exciting Week

At last, I actually have some interesting things to talk about. It's been a great week!

But first, remember the controlling jerk I wrote about last time? It actually got worse. The day after I posted, he sent me an email that basically said "So, Sarah, have you decided? Can we start with a clean slate, turn the page, take a chance on love?" (Gag.) There was more, but that was the gist of it.

I responded "No. I'm not interested in drama. Good luck to you."

His reply?

"Well, if you aren't interested in drama, maybe you'd be interested in getting together sometimes to f*ck?"

::blink, blink::


Right. On to my much-better-week-THIS-week:

1) Things My Shaliach Never Told Me: For an article I'm working on, I visited Sussya, a fascinating archeological excavation in the south Hebron/ north Be'er Sheva hills (about 3 miles over the Green Line), which does not seem to have a website in English. Until 1967, it was known that there were many ruins in the area, but everyone assumed that this ruin was an old church, just like all the other ruins around it. But after 1967 the Israelis started digging it up, and discovered old Jewish homes, including many lintels with menorahs engraved into them, over 30 mikvaot, and a large synagogue facing Jerusalem with a mosaic floor depicting images from the Second Temple.

Turns out that after the Romans made it illegal for Jews to live in Jerusalem, almost all the Jews went north, following the Sanhedrin, who moved around to Tzippori, Tiberias, etc.

But some Jews moved south instead, presumably so that they could be closer to Jerusalem. (The enormous number of mikvaot and the synagogue mosaics suggest that they were exceptionally keen on maintaining Temple-era customs.) At its peak, between 400-800 C.E., Sussya appears to have been the home of 3,000 Hebrews, who were surrounded first by Edomites and then by Christians.

I'll try to devote more to describing the site later -- it depends also on what I put in the article, and when it's published -- but for now... just, WOW!

2) Michal Negrin Factory Tour: For another article, I took a tour of the Bat Yam factory where designer Michal Negrin creates her hyper-feminine jewelry, clothes, and home decor. For 15 shekels, one sees where the items are assembled, gets coffee and (cheese!)cake in the gallery, watches a short film about the growth of Negrin's empire, and has access to the factory store, where many items are 30% off. It was interesting and fun and extremely sparkly and girly.

I went with my friend Beth and her daughter Neshama, who was allowed to play hooky from school and come with us because it was her 8th birthday. She was a very good girl, didn't touch anything she wasn't allowed to touch, asked intelligent questions. At one point Michal Negrin herself came through the gallery, and agreed to have her picture taken with Neshama.

Neshama decided to use her birthday money to take out her mother and me for lunch. Isn't that adorable?

3) Family Lost and Found: So, I don't have a lot of close family members. There's my sister and 3 first-cousins. After that, I've got third cousins in Petach Tikva and here in Jerusalem. That's it. I don't have any second-cousins to speak of, really, because most of my grandmother's family was killed in the Holocaust, and on the other 3 branches of my family tree people either just didn't have a lot of kids (if any), or they became estranged from each other. (Though I guess I could track down some second-cousins I have on my father's side. Something to think about.) I've always been envious of people who have lots of cousins.

I've become pretty close with my third-cousin Shimmy's family here in the capital, even though they are Haredi and there are Things We Do Not Talk About. Anyhow, one of Shimmy's (11) children celebrated his bar mitzvah this week, and two nights ago I went to the Bais Yisroel neighborhood for the party. As I was trying to figure out how to enter the building, a young woman -- about 18, or seminary age -- approached me, expressing confusion similar to mine about the location of the entrance. As we walked around the building, I asked how she knows the family. Turned out she is also related to Shimmy... also related through Shimmy's mother's mother . . . also Shimmy's third cousin ... and she's MY THIRD COUSIN TOO!!!!!

It would be difficult for me to put into words how much it meant to me to meet this young lady, Shaina. I've invested some time in constructing my family tree, and so I've heard of her family's existence -- she comes from a prominent family of Lubavitcher chassidim, and I've been thinking for a few years that maybe the next time I'm in New York I'll make a stop in Crown Heights to meet them -- but until this week she was listed in my family tree documents as "at least 10 children of Avraham *****." We sat together at the bar mitzvah. She's a very bright young woman studying in Tzfat, planning to attend Touro College next year toward a career in the allied health professions (maybe nursing, maybe pharmaceuticals), or maybe math. Or maybe history. :-) We agreed to get together again the next time she comes to Jerusalem.

If you have a lot of cousins, or if you don't have any family who were murdered in the Holocaust, it might be hard to understand why this makes me so happy, it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

4) Auditions! Despite the fact that 25 years ago I wanted to be an actress, I have not been in a play since 10th grade. Lots of reasons for that, including the whole kol isha thing. Lately I've been realizing how many things I've avoided doing in my life because I wanted to maintain a certain kind of reputation in the Orthodox community, for "shidduch" purposes, etc. Well, hello. That's really been working for me, right? [Insert ruefullness here.] So, when I heard that a local English-language theater company is putting on Fiddler on the Roof, I decided I was trying out for that show no matter what, because I love this show. I must be in it.

Ironically, I decided to try out for -- wait for it -- the matchmaker, Yente, since I'm neither experienced enough nor talented enough for a main role, and I'll be lucky if I just get a part in the chorus. I was one of over 130 people to audition for this production. I'm also too old to play any of the daughters and too young to play Golde. Besides. I know Yentes. It is not hard for me to imagine Yente.

The director and musical director were very nice. I belted out the chorus from "If I Were a Rich Man" and read one of Yente's lines. They had me follow along with some scales to see how high I can sing (not very). They asked if I'd still be in the show if I didn't get the part I want. Heck, yes. I just want to be part of this. I was told later that after I finished, the theater people spent 5 minutes deliberating over me, which is a good sign. I feel pretty good about the whole thing; if I don't get a part (which is very likely), it won't be because I messed up in any huge way. I gave it my all and didn't embarass myself, so I feel good about trying, regardless of whether I make the cut.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading!

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