Sunday, January 29, 2006

Happy New Year, Shammai!!!

As I sit witnessing a beautiful red Jerusalem sunset (one of the first cloudless days where I have actually seen the sun, we descend upon a new month, Rosh Chodesh Shevat, which, according to the House of Shammai, is the New Year of the Trees (Beit Hillel holds that the birthday of the trees is on the 15th of this month, and everyone knows who wins every argument between these two... these Tu. Tu Bishvat!). As I have mentioned many a time, "Poor Shammai, he is the Goofus to Hillel's Gallant" is a ne'er-do-well no matter how hard he tries to be right. That Goofus sure was a slob, though. Wistful memories of Highlights Magazine for Children aside, it is also the midst of the rainy season in Israel and nothing has grown yet. However, the Shkeydiah, the Almond Tree is almost in bloom and we will celebrate the produce of the land of Israel... in Israel! w00t!

As for this past Shabbat, I didn't make any plans for meals so I could catch-up on sleep, an amenity in which I was severely lacking. After davening at Shir Chadash friday night, having some grape juice, and challah with chummus-tehina and turkey-prosciutto (I love Israel! You can't get that stuff Kosher in America. As someone who has never had actual prosciutto, I must say that it was quite weird). I then proceeded to sleep for about 12 hours until I got up for davening at Shira Chadasha, a Modern Orthodox minyan where women can lead Psukei Dzimra, Torah Service, and read Torah, with a very thin and transluscent mechitza that was retractible for the Torah reader. After having done the service thing, once again with the Priestly Blessing performed at Shacharit and Musaf, I went back to the apartment, did the nosh-and-shluff thing, and slept for a couple of hours. I am so refreshed, though I still needed my Turkish Mocha, a product I think I may have invented, though what I learned about Kilayim today, I may have transgressed something forbidden in the Torah.

That's it. Still looking for an apartment.

My collection of pictures is on facebook. You need to be my friend to see the album. It's nothing really impressive as I tend to not take pictures of or with people, but of places and things.

That's it. Happy New Year, B.S.! (oh, I just found another reason not to trust the house of Shammai. Or should I say BullSh---...

Chodesh Tov,

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Swearing in of a soldier; Mea Shearim

I went to the Old City today via the New Gate and the Christian Quarter after leaving Mea Shearim (which will be discussed later). Besides an interesting exchange with some Arab shopkeeps right inside Jaffa Gate (whom I wasn't even trying to patronize), and people asking for tzedeka for weddings and such, it was pretty uneventful. Except for something absolutely amazing, that is! I went to the Kotel and didn't realize that it was the annual swearing-in ceremony for the soldiers in front of the Western Wall. It was absolutely beautiful. There was a lot of pomp-and-circumstance, but also a lot of sorrow for those lost. They lit a cauldron for those lost and had a moment of silence. However, the Israelis around me chose to keep talking even then. There was a part when they recited a pledge and aftewards each division yelled out "ANI NISHBA! ANI NISHBA! ANI NISHBA!" ("I swear! I swear! I swear!"). They also received a gun and a siddur/bible (I'm not sure which). One of the most beautiful sights ever is the immense pride and awe people have for soldiers in Israel (such as a pizza guy saying Chamesh Shekel Bishvil Chayalim! 5 shekels for soldiers). But parents and families are so proud of their children and the new soldiers seem so happy (now at least).

Now for a little Yiddish:
Heint in ovent bin ich gegangen kein Mea Shearim tzu koyfen Seforim. hob ich gekoyft seforim un ich hob geraydt mitn farkoyfer en Yiddish. 'Siz geven a sach interesant.

Tonight I went to Mea Shearim to buy holy books. I bought books and I spoke to the seller in Yiddish. It was interesting.

That's it for now. Thursday night, time to party.

Shabbat Shalom,

Article: PM Qurei, entire Palestinian cabinet resign en masse

Dear God!

PM Qurei, entire Palestinian cabinet resign en masse

A senior official in the ruling Fatah Party on Thursday called senior Hamas leader Ismail Hania and congratulated him on the group's election victory, Hamas said in a statement.

The call by the Fatah official, Hussein al-Sheik, to Hania marked the first formal acknowledgement by Fatah that it has lost the election.

A senior Hamas official said recognizing and negotiating with Israel are "not on our agenda."

However, Hamas also signaled flexibility, saying it wants a "political partnership," presumably with Fatah.

The Palestinian Cabinet submitted their resignations following the apparent Hamas victory Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia's office said, setting the stage for the Islamic group to lead a new Palestinian government.

The resignations were in part a formality required after an election, but the timing of the move, hours before the release of official results, was surprising. The announcement from Qurei's office did not mention Hamas.

Under Palestinian law, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas must now ask the party that holds a majority in the legislature to form a new government.

Hamas won virtually all of the 66 seats in electoral districts in the Palestinian parliament vote, election officials said Thursday.

In the election, 132 seats were up for grabs, half chosen from party slates and half in districts. In the districts, Hamas won a vast majority of the seats, election officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the vote count was not complete.

The West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem were divided into 16 electoral districts. In the biggest districts of Gaza City and Hebron, Hamas swept all seats, according to the officials.
Candidates of the rival Fatah Party only won in the districts of Kalkilya and Jericho. In Ramallah, where Palestinian government is located, Hamas won four seats and Fatah got one.

In Jerusalem, Hamas won four of six seats, with 60 percent of the vote counted, the officials said.

Earlier Thursday, Hamas' top candidates on claimed the group won a majority of seats in Palestinian legislative elections, despite exit polls showing them finishing second to Fatah.

Fatah officials concurred that Hamas captured a majority of seats, shortly after the terrorist group claimed victory.

The Fatah officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they expected Hamas to win about 70 seats, which would give the Islamists a majority in the 132-seat parliament.

Observations on living in Israel

I need something light now, so I decided to write some humorous observations on living in Israel. I will update these and not notify you of the update either.

1. You no longer get phased when you see people carrying sub-machine guns and AK-47s (sometimes casually). What scares you is when there is unattended baggage

2. It doesnt matter if you buy one of those reflective yellow vests that cost 20 shekel; you WILL get run down by an Israeli driver

3. You feel very secure after you go through an airport-style security checkpoint when you enter a market, a restaurant, a swap-meet, a religious area, or anywhere else imaginable. This is until you notice that they are selling sharp knives within said secure area for only 2 shekel.

4. I really miss an endless supply of warm water when I shower. We need to turn on the heating for at least 30 minutes for 2 minutes of hot water in this country.

5. Besides avoiding getting killed when crossing the street, you have the added problem of really complex traffic lights and lack of crosswalks.

6. You also can't jaywalk for some reason in this country. This doens't make sense, as you are just as likely to get hit at a crosswalk as you are at any unmarked part of the street.

7. In fact, I almost got hit a number of times by cars and busses on the SIDEWALK!!!

8. Speaking of which, just claim you are from New York (or "it's my first day") to get out of a jaywalking ticket

9. An acceptable response to anything (especially to something which annoys you) is putting together your thumb, index finger, and middle finger, sometimes accompanied by a tongue-clicking sound. They know what you mean when you do this.

10. Haggle. I did this with a taxi driver.

11. You must bag your own groceries. You also need a passport to get a value card

12. Never go through the Damascus Gate at sundown on a Thursday, especially if you just want to get to the Kotel. You have to deal with the maze of the Arab Quarter.

13. Friday is a Sunday, Thursday is a Friday (but with extended hours instead of shorter), and Saturday is Shabbat in Israel. Don't call anyone before noon on Friday. In fact the country shuts down on Friday and Saturday.

14. Don't go into Mea Shearim wearing pants if you are a girl. Trust me on this one. Unless you like getting stoned, and not in the way you think. It's getting hit by rocks, not taking a hit of rocks (whatever that means).

15. Kosher meat and cheese is cheap and plentiful in this country (but should not be mixed).

16. Further, fruit is cheap and interesting in this country, Israel having "invented" a number of fruits, you can get things here you can get nowhere else.

17. For anything you can get for 60 shekel in a fancy (or not so fancy) restaurant on Emek Refaim, you can get it tasting a lot better in a kiosk a couple blocks to the south for just 12 shekel.

18. A squeegie in every home. You know those things that you use to clean your windshield at the gas station? There's a drain in the floor of every bathroom in which you can mop your floors with a squeegie on a long stick. There was no such hole at Ramah in the Poconos, which is why I got confused why the Israelis were flooding the bathroom.

19. Stray cats EVERYWHERE. They are freakin' scary and make very loud and annoying noises. They are also starving, reproducing like crazy way too quickly, and like to eat garbage. Remind you of anything? I'm a bad person...

20. Jerusalem stone is beautiful but slippery when wet. I almost learned this one the hard way when descending from the Old City down Madrigotei Benny. When I say hard, I'm also talking about the durability of the stone ground.

21. Couch Surfing seems to be the way of the land in this country. Also figured this one out the hard way. I really want an apartment.

22. Charif means spicy. They mean it. Don't be a hero, ask them to go light on the red sauce at the schwarma stand.

23. Do you think that forgetable kings of Judah and Israel such as Jehosophat and Asa would be Amaziahed (ha ha!) at the fact that there are streets named after them? I think the first thing they will ask is "who?", because even they have never heard of themselves.

24. You learn a lot about the history of Israel from the street signs. There is also some sort of structure that makes it very easy to know where you are and where you are close to. The Kings of Judah and Israel are clustered together, as are biblical leaders, as are Visionists and Zionists, and German and British Generals.
More to come.

25. General Pierre Koenig Street... named for a French General who never had anything to do with Israel; probably never came to Israel. In fact, his greatest accomplishment according to wikipedia is having a street named after him in Jerusalem. Worst accomplishment? His first name is Marie.

26. Cut the crap and stop trying to speak Hebrew (or Yiddish...). You're not fooling the Israelis, they know you're American and will be annoyed with you and respond to you impatiently in English.

27. Israeli commercials... they're as crazy as Japanese commericials.

28. I watched an episode of The Daily Show in Israel... on CNN!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I heart Turkish Coffee

The greatest thing to come from Turkey to Israel since my savta’s ancestors in the 15th century is of course the black gritty Café Turkit, Turkish Coffee. With equal parts coffee grounds and sugar and filled with hot water this gets me through the day. I usually try to supersaturate the coffee with more grounds than necessary, the excess serves as a crunchy stimulant throughout the day. For a shekel per cup (roughly 22 US cents, 4.6 shekels = $1US), it is very economical. There is another interesting drink called Sachlav, which is this thick milky yet rosy sweet hot drink (okay too many adjectives) no caffeine, but man a lot of sugar.


So what is with all this stimulation? Class starts at 8:30 AM and it is a walk to get there. This is not Goldsmith Hall with JTS a block away. No, I don’t have a locker yet, so I am lugging heavy books from above Palmach (at the top of the hill in Old Katamon) to Talpiot, not to mention Shacharit beforehand. We learn pretty much straight through, besides around an hour of lunch from 1:30-2:30, some days I go to 9:30 PM (like tonight) pretty much nonstop.


The following are classes that I am taking

Talmud Dalet*

Chumash Dalet*

13 Principles of Rambam

Rambam (Mishnah Torah)

Women and Mitzvot


The Halachic Process


*will probably be replaced by Talmud Hey 5 days a week

The issue with the Dalet classes is that if I took Hey Talmud, I would not be able to take Chumash and I haven’t been able to take Chumash, something I really enjoy, for a number of years


An update: They’re out of Turkish coffee and sachlav. All there is is regular coffee and tea. How uncouth.


Meanwhile, I am still without an apartment. Anyone know of any apartments in south Jerusalem?





Matthew Rutta

Jerusalem, ISRAEL


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Do you have Type III Jerusalem Syndrome?

Type III

Jerusalem syndrome as a discrete form, uncompounded by previous mental illness. This describes the best known type, whereby a previously mentally balanced person becomes psychotic after arriving in Jerusalem. The psychosis is characterised by an intense religious character and typically resolves to full recovery after a few weeks, or after being removed from the locality. It shares some features with the diagnostic category of a 'brief psychotic episode', although a distinct pattern of behaviours has been noted:

  1. Anxiety, agitation, nervousness and tension, plus other unspecified reactions.
  2. Declaration of the desire to split away from the group or the family and to tour Jerusalem alone. Tourist guides aware of the Jerusalem syndrome and of the significance of such declarations may at this point refer the tourist to an institution for psychiatric evaluation in an attempt to preempt the subsequent stages of the syndrome. If unattended, these stages are usually unavoidable.
  3. A need to be clean and pure: obsession with taking baths and showers; compulsive fingernail and toenail cutting.
  4. Preparation, often with the aid of hotel bed-linen, of a long, ankle-length, toga-like gown, which is always white.
  5. The need to scream, shout, or sing out loud psalms, verses from the Bible, religious hymns or spirituals. Manifestations of this type serve as a warning to hotel personnel and tourist guides, who should then attempt to have the tourist taken for professional treatment. Failing this, the two last stages will develop.
  6. A procession or march to one of Jerusalem's holy places.
  7. Delivery of a ‘sermon’ in a holy place. The sermon is usually very confused and based on an unrealistic plea to humankind to adopt a more wholesome, moral, simple way of life.

Bar-El et al. reported 42 such cases over a period of 13 years, but in no case were they able to actually confirm that the condition was temporary.

Credit Wikipedia (the rest of the article can be found at /סינדרום_ירושלים )


Matthew Rutta

Jerusalem, ISRAEL

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Blessed is God who clothes the naked

I finally got my luggage today.

That was all I wrote before I decided to retroactively write this entry. Let's pretend it's Sunday, shall we (though it is actually 23:30 Jerusalem Standard Time Tuesday night)? You know what, never mind, I'm utterly exhausted.

I have half a mind to pitch a tent at the Kotel if I can't find an apartment soon. I am grateful to Dave, Menachem, and Zach who have let me crash on their couch for the past couple of days and I hope not to have to impose on them for much longer (plus I can couchsurf to someone else's apartment). Whether it is,,, the housing bulletin at Pardes, or the real estate kiosks on Emek Refaim, I am not having much luck in finding an apartment. Once I do, I want to pay it forward and let people stay on my couch. It's this kindness, an amenity that is endemic in Jerusalem.

For some reason I also seem more inclined to give tzedekah to people on the streets. It seems to put me in a better mood as well. At least I now have clothing. Now I just have to keep looking for an apartment and hope for the best... that and find out when my interview is for Rabbinical School so I can book my flight to New York.

Back to the past shabbos, I went to Yakar, a shul with a Carlebach service (that cannot compare to Ramat Orah), and to Kedem, a Traditional-Egalitarian service, the latter of which did Duchanen (the Priestly Blessing) at both shacharit and musaf on Shabbat (Welcome to the Holy Land). This is also where I serendipituously ran into Rabbi Elyse Winick, the head of the KOACH birthright trip I went on last year who told me to visit the hotel for mincha and to visit my friends on the current trip. I arrived early to the hotel and after hanging out with Jaymie, Becky, and Josh for a few minutes I got kicked out for their closing ceremonies until mincha, so I decided to walk to the Old City a few blocks away from the Har Tzion Hotel. I ascended Madrigotei Benny (Benny's Steps) which were actually only a couple of steps and mostly a winding ramp made of Jerusalem Stone. Jerusalem stone is an especially marbly and slippery stone, particularly when wet, and with the rainy weather I almost cracked my head open or almost fell off the Old City's cliffs. I entered at Zion Gate, walked around the Armenian Quarter for the couple of minutes (I think some Arab children were pretending to shoot me from the parapets of the old city with their umbrellas). I wanted to find the Tomb of King David, but could only find Dormition Abbey and Pat Robertson's Holyland Institute. Oh well... back to the hotel, at least I got Marzipan Ruglach out of the deal. I also found out that it takes 20 minutes walk from the base of the Old City hill to the apartment via Emek Refaim, the El Rodeo Drive of the New City.

That's it for now,

First Shabbat

So I am still without my luggage. I am reduced to the only kind of underwear I can find in Israel; horror of horrors: the Speedo. That's right, until my boxers come to me, I have to wear these pairs of speedos. It's a very different experience, and having not worn tidy-whities for 10 years, it feels strange and uncomfortable. And I wanted to switch to boxer briefs... I'll stick with boxers, thank you very much.

I enjoyed Shabbos. I did a lot of exploring, both of Jerusalem and of theological philosophy. I'm not going to get into the specifics now because I need to sleep for Orientation in just a few hours time and the, God-willing, arrival of my luggage in the morning.

I do want to mention that tonight was strange in that, when I went with friends on the long walk to Ben Yehuda Street, we had some weird experiences: a motor fire right in front of the building I'm staying in on Rechov Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai. Literally a motor was on fire on the playground of the building. We also met some very interesting characters.

Also, a shoutout to Jaymie, Becky, and Josh who I visited today on their birthright trip. Hope you had an awesome time in Eretz Yisrael.

To be continued, bli neder, with details of my spontaneous trip to the Old City and details of our night outing, but I must sleep now.

A zissen voch, a gevaldike voch,

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Welcome to the City of God

I just arrived today at the holiest city on Earth (for us Jews, anyway) (and probably any other planet as well) (It's Jerusalem, by the way), where I will be living for the next six months (possibly more). My luggage got left at the connecting baggage area in Toronto so now without 40 hours of sleep or showering, I am clothesless, towelless, and linenless. I am such an istanis (Aramaic term loosely meaning pampered wuss) that I must shower at least once a day, like most Americans. Not so in Israel. The mentality is that if you douse your face with enough aqua velva, you can forgo bathing for a week. Ok, I'm just kidding and am super-exhausted, so I think I will go to sleep.

Quick note: my new Israeli cell phone's voicemail messaging option asks you to make a funny outgoing message, and suggests karaoke, songs, haiku... weird Samsung... same kind of phone I have from my my american cell phone, but much creepier (though the crappy ringtone is loads better than the Vivaldi Spring thing that came on my new American phone (boo, no more Hatikvah ringtone...)).

This blog will probably be my main conduit of propaganda, so bookmark it, dearies.

L'Shana Hazot B'Irushalayim,
(um... maybe eventually when I become a super-Zionist; for now Matt)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

After the premiere

So I went to the premiere at the Pantages yesterday (one of the oldest and most famous theatres in Los Angeles; for GoogleEarth location, it's at the corner of Hollywood and Vine). Complete with celebrities and sports stars, the red carpet was full of people: Matthew McConaughey, Nick Nolte, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Voight, Pat Riley, Reggie Miller and more.. Didn't flinch.

As for the movie, I thought that "Glory Road" was amazing. It is a really powerful movie based on the real story of the U West Texas Miners from 1966 which really broke the color barrier in Southern NCAA-1 Basketball. I highly recommend you see it.

I also am making my first attempt at Cholent. Wish me luck.

That and I still don't know where I'm gonna live in Jerusalem. Oh well, I can pitch a tent by the Kotel perhaps.

Shabbat Shabizzle,

Thursday, January 05, 2006


So I was at the Westfield mall today and I saw an actor who I thought was Rip Torn (whomever it is with the reddish-blond hair and the curly mustache who has a pretty high-pitched voice)... Anyway, pretty famous (but apparently not famous enough for me to remember his name or what he was in. Okay, maybe not so famous. Anyway, I didn't care. I was more concerned about the multitudes of Texans who were sporting Longhorn colors and gawking around the mall. The thing is, I don't gush when I see celebrities. I have grown up in a world where I see them all the time, not just because I live in LA, but because I have "grown up Hollywood" so to speak. Whether it is being a member of a film group where I go to premieres or having family members in Show Biz, I have just become so desensitized that it doesn't really matter anymore. They're people too. In fact, in the past year the only two people I was really nervous (let's use the Yiddish word farklempt) to meet were Larry David (creator of Seinfeld and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Eric Gagne (Cy Young-award-winning Dodgers Closing Pitcher).

I was going to see Munich today, but when I got to the Westfield AMC, both Munich and Producers, the only two movies I would have considered seeing started after 2 and are long movies that wouldn't end in time. In fact, the only things I could have seen were Brokeback Mountain and Memoirs of a Geisha, and both would be like needles in my eyes, to paraphrase my father. So I didn't see anything, and the only thing I did at the mall was pick up my iPod. Anyway, the reason for my deadline is as follows:

I'm going to the premeire of "Glory Road" tonight complete with red carpet, black-tie, and celebrities galore and I doubt I'm going to get farklempt mit shpikes (my Yiddish professor is going to kill me...)

I also went on a great walk today on Club View under the 85 degree LA sun. I'm gonna miss this beautiful weather (but at least Yerushalayim's is better than NYC's)

Oh, and a refuah shleyma, a speedy and complete recovery to Rosh HaMemshala Ariel Sharon.

Hasta la bye bye,

UPDATE: Motzei Shabbos 01.07.06: Rip Taylor is the name of the guy. I found this by typing into google: mustache celebrity high-pitched. Is there anything google can't do?