For ראש השנה‎ (Rosh Hashanah) voyaged north to בית שאן (Beit She’an). It’s located a bit north of the West Bank and just west of the Jordan river. I should be able to say that in hebrew, but I need to practice.

Beit She’an is the Partnership 2000 sister city of my hometown, Cleveland, Ohio. During the second part of the program I’ll be placed there with fellow OTZMA members, Rebecca Bigman and Lindsay Strauss. I’m very excited to live there not only because the community seems fantastic, but because they really want us there. Apparently they’ve been pushing hard to have OTZMA volunteers there for a while now.

After our four or so hours of busses we were warmly greeted by our host families. While it’s a bit of a pain that we’re located so far from our host families, in the end it’s kinda remarkable that we can traverse most of the country in four hours. I was picked up by Avi Pachima, my host father and the youngest daughter, Shacha. At first Shacha was very shy; on the first day I only managed to draw out the fact that she (like every other twelve-year-old girl) is obsessed with Justin Bieber.

The other two daughters are Rikki (short for Rivka) who is twenty and Mayyan, age twenty-two. The family joked that Rikki speaks no English, which was pretty funny because at first she claimed the same, but as their taunting got worse she tried harder to communicate. She speaks English very well in my mind, and much better than I expect my Hebrew will ever be unless I move here. Mayyan is mostly fluent and is a massive help to me whenever I need to communicate something. She helped me with my new favorite, and very important phrase – אני מלא (ani molay) – I’m full. For some reason their mother, Hadassah, really doesn’t get the concept. She would just keep piling on more and more food. I’m not kidding, we ate a ton, for Rosh Hashanah dinner we had four different types of challah. I once forgot that we ate two courses with practically every meal, except breakfast which consisted of cake and other assorted sweets. For lunch one day I made the mistake of eating all of the fish on my plate not remembering that we had another course coming. It’s a bit difficult to not be rude and not stuff yourself to the point of bursting.

On a different note, I went to synagogue with Avi for erev-Rosh Hashanah. It was a great experience, but I’m not sure I’ll repeat it next time. I couldn’t understand any of what was going on because it was all in Hebrew. The ten-year-old boy next to me kept having to update me on our current page. Which while fun, was frustrating.

We also got to visit our madricha (an OTZMA counselor of sorts) Neta Kopelzada’s home. She lives only two blocks from me and Rebecca and it was great to meet her family and get a tour of their bed-n-breakfast. Oh and Rebecca is my next-door-neighbor, which should be a lot of fun.

Other than a lot of eating and meeting some great new family members. We didn’t do a whole lot. Although I was offered the choice between whisky or beer at 11 am once.

New Years in Beit She'an

This was actually right before going to services, we apparently had to pre-game.