I accidentally joined an Orthodox Yeshiva in Jerusalem. How do you not realize you’re enrolling in a convent? The answer is, by being a Jew.
Yeshiva chic. Skirt by American Apparel.
I accidentally joined an Orthodox Yeshiva in Jerusalem. How do you not realize you’re enrolling in a convent? The answer is, by being a Jew. I did Birthright, a program that sends Jews to Israel for free but only lasts 10 days. On the Birthright website there’s an icon you can click that says “EXTEND!” in really happy letters. So I decided I would click and apply to this school (they made it seem like a school) and extend my trip for 3 weeks. It seemed like a good idea and, most importantly, it was only $99. That’s really cheap. I kind of assumed that, in the worst case scenario, I’d use it as a hostel and just sleep there.
The rabbi’s wife showed me my room and gave me a quick tour of the place, which was really, really tiny. It was one building with a dining hall on the top floor, class on the ground floor and dorms in the middle two. There was also an extra classroom that stood on its own, five paces away. It was all gated, super safe; they didn’t want anyone breaking in and raping all the Jewish nuns. The first time I realized I was somewhere I shouldn’t be was after standing for ten seconds in my room. My roommate had these really meticulous drawings of an ancient rabbi up on the wall. This meant that she had stared at an old religious figure for however long it takes to fill 8.5 x 11 inches with fine line, meaning she was probably weird and that I was probably in a convent.
So, what do you do when you accidentally join a nunnery? Study the nun’s habits, of course. All the girls were super friendly. They were nicer than the girls on Birthright, probably because they thought if they were mean, God would smite them. My friend Hannah was God stoned. She had the druggie drawl; she pronounced all of her words slowly and the last syllable was higher than the others. If Hannah were in normal person college, she’d be on a quad talking about Ultimate Frisbee, getting ready for a nap. But it was Orthodox-person Yeshiva, so we talked about God and sometimes Kabala before naps.
Everyone was always talking about God. You thought you were having a conversation about something unrelated to religion but suddenly it would come back to God or the Messiah. If you asked someone how they were, they would respond, “Good, thank God.” It was so Mormon.
Here is the Jewish religion in a nutshell: The Messiah is supposed to come to Earth in the year 6,000. He should be here soon because it’s the year 5771. He’ll only come to Earth when we make things right for him, which means being good to each other and keeping up with Shabbitz (Jewish day of rest). When he does come back, he’ll revive all the dead. We’ve been patiently waiting for a zombie apocalypse for a long time now. I asked the rabbi if you could have children after you’re revived, and he said yes. There is no aging, so I think there will probably be a ton of incest — either accidental or on purpose and for kicks. What if you want to get with your great-great-great-great grandson? Is that ok? Who am I to question the zombie apocalypse? I got kind of into it.
My friend Ayal came to meet me at the convent on the third day, and I realized I was being brainwashed. I was so happy to see a man (not a rabbi) for the first time in 72 hours that I leaped on him and then told him everything, jokingly. Even though I was making fun of the Messiah, I had still been talking about the Messiah nonstop for like 3 hours. Those fuckers had really gotten to me.
One of my main questions was why the girls had decided to turn up at the convent. I was the only one who was there by mistake, but they all thought that was a sign from God and got really excited about it. One girl, most likely also named Hannah, had grown up in a big white house in Virginia. She was so sick of the constant, casual anti-Semitism in her town that she fucked off to Jerusalem to become a nun. I can respect cracking up like that.
The other girls weren’t as militant. They had done it for a boy. Hannah #3 met a guy whose parents had just divorced the year before. The guy’s mother decided she didn’t want to keep the Shabbitz (it is the most stressful day of rest possible) and they split. This affected Hannah #3 in a very real way, and she decided at 16 that she would start keeping Shabbitz. They were together for a while, and then he left for a year to go to religious school in Jerusalem while she studied Torah in Florida. She broke up with him the day he got back because she felt so pure. She found a better boyfriend: God.
The same exact thing happened to Hannah #4, except it seems like she was way sluttier. She was more secular then some of the other girls (Hannah #5 hadn’t seen Pretty Woman!!!), but it was generally the same story. Eventually she turned to God because she felt connected to Him and decided he was her main squeeze. It seemed like she was just looking for a little philosophy and could have easily been satisfied at a Liberal Arts school, but that wasn’t the answer. She wanted to talk about things that were spiritual instead of trivial, so she was here. She was concerned about what she was going to do after or when she would leave. Girls stay at the Yesiva anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. It’s easy to get caught in a religious holding tank, where everything is done for you and everyone is relying on the end of days.