Sunday, February 04, 2007

Back to Beit El for the Aliyah Shabbaton

Yesterday (Shabbat,) there was another shabbaton in Beit El. Last time it was with my Yeshivah. This time, it was for new olim. Sponsored by Kumah (aliyah advocacy group), Yavneh Olami (a religious Zionist group,) and Herut (a political activist group,) about forty of us gathered together for a Shabbat in the biblical city of Beit El, recently reborn as a Jewish settlement and army base.

Back in my old days in the Sea Scouts, we had a saying, "You can tie a know, or you can tie a lot." Meaning: if you know your knots, one simple square knot will do the trick. If you don't, then you just have to tie knot after knot until you get this enormous cluster of tangled rope.

Likewise, I like to say, "You can take a shot, or you can take a lot." Since I don't know the rules about composition or lighting, I just take a whole lot of photographs and hope a couple of them actually come out.

On the drive over, I was clicking away and ended up with some trippy photographs. The first was taken at the Jerusalem central bus station.

But first, a crash course in optics:
Most transparent substances have what's known as the "angle of refraction." At an oblique angle, a smooth surface reflects light. At a more accute angle, it allows light to pass through. The most commonplace occurence of this is seen when swimming. If you open your eyes underwater and look ahead (at an oblique angle) at the surface of the water above you, you see the bottom of the pool reflected. However, if you look directly up, you see the sky. The same is true looking at a lake. Look directly into the water, and you see rocks, fish, and rusty beer cans. Look out towards the surface of the water, and you'll see a reflection of the mountains and the forest.

Similarly, I snapped a shot looking through an indoor window towards the garage. On the left half, you see Bus 170, going from Jerusalem to Beit El (6 Shekels, 80 Agurot.) On the right half, at about the midpoint of the photograph, the angle of the camera matches the angle of refraction of the glass, so on the right half you see a reflection of the inside of the central bus station.

The trippy photograph.

Past the Hizma supercheckpoint, driving along the separation wall

Hizma, seen through a glass darkly. A bulletproof glass, that is.

Top left: Reflection of busdriver. Foreground: passenger. Background: soldier guarding the base at Beit El.

Once we arrivet at Mount Artis, in Beit El, it was time for a Tu B'Shvat tree planting. Tu B'Shvat (the fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Shvat) is the New Year of the trees. The Halachah (Jewish Law) tells us that we must not touch the fruit of a tree for the first three years of its life. But the year is not counted from the day it was planted, but from Tu B'Shvat. Therefore, a tree planted the day before Tu B'Shvat is considered as one year old. Therefore, Tu B'Shvat is an important agricultural date for Jewish farmers, who try to plant their trees before the onset of the festival. From this, it became a major day for planting trees in general.

Moshe arrives with the trees.

Moshe pulls out the seedlings for distribution.

Yours truly in "Psycho" mode, digging a hole for the tree.
Banging the olive tree out of its container.
The others planted their trees next to the helicopter landing zone. Being a smart person, I decided to plant my tree a bit further away. Figure they may not survive the gusts of wind from the first actual helicopter landing.
The funny thing about Israel is that you bump into all your old friends. In Beit El, I bumped into David Samuels, who is a local Beit El settler. His sister lives in Walnut Creek, and he crashed on my couch for a week and a half while he was pulling his things together to make aliyah.
David Samuels with tree. The beard is new, makes him blend in with the rest of the settlers.

And just when I though that the world couldn't get any smaller, I bumped into ANOTHER guy from Walnut Creek, Josh, who used to come by Chabad from time to time, and is now getting his masters at Hebrew University.
Josh, being an oddball, with yours truly

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