September 29, 2011

A few of my favorite things.

1. Shopping and beaching in Tel Aviv.

Yesterday I spent the morning with Libbie's mom, Rose, at the shuk in Tel Aviv. I don't have expendable cash at the moment, but I needed a couple of things which can be acquired at bargain prices there, and Rose wanted to get a few gifts for friends at home. So,  I practiced my bargaining skills, we walked around the artisan market,and had a wonderful time perusing all the produce, baked goods, flowers etc. 
Eventually, Rose went to work, and I spent a few hours wandering around the city, walking along the seashore, and laying around on the beach. 

2. Babies!

I started a babysitting job this week! I thought it might be kind of creepy to ask the parents if I could photograph their toddler the first time I was officially watching her, so I don't have any pictures to post...but rest assured she is adorable. Her name is Maya, she is 2.5 years old, and she speaks both Hebrew and English. Her parents want an English-speaking babysitter to help her with her English skills, but I am already sure that watching her will help me with my Hebrew (my vocabulary will consist of animals and colors, but that's totally useful in the real world...) Maya and I had a great time together, and it felt great to be babysitting again. I am good with kids, I think because I genuinely enjoy spending time with them, and I think that this job will go a long way towards making me feel like myself again. It's definitely a confidence builder for me, and this is a time when I feel a little less confident in general (the language barrier, a foreign know). In lieu of photos of Maya to post, here are a few of my favorite Boston babies...

3. Krembo.

Apparently, until about 25 years ago, ice cream was not available in Israel during the "cold" season (winter/autumn), and as a substitute the angels delivered...Krembo. Jen introduced me to this tasty treat from heaven a few days ago, and I honestly don't think I can live without it now. Krembo consists of a shortcake cookie with marshmallow fluff (only whipped more) on top, covered in a thin chocolate shell. Simply delicious. I'm planning to do a whole blog post devoted simply to the amazing food here, but this needed to be shared immediately.

Rosh Hashana began today! To my Jew-crew at home and here in the Holy Land...may you have a sweet, happy and healthy New Year! I'm looking forward to celebrating in Jerusalem with some friends tomorrow evening. I'll be sure to post about it soon.

Shana tova l'culam!!!

September 25, 2011

Weekend update.

Shabbat shalom! How was your weekend? Mine was relaxing and really lovely. On Friday evening I met Jen for Shabbat services at her shul, an international synagogue in downtown Tel Aviv. It was the last Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah- the Jewish New Year, and the beginning of the High Holidays. There was an acapella group from New York City called Six13 visiting to lead the service with their vocal stylings, and the service was joyful and incredibly lovely.

After welcoming the Sabbath Queen and we met up with Jon, Jen's brother, and headed to Giv'atayim for Shabbat dinner at Libbie's house. It was Mrs. Zagiv's first time getting her domestic on and making a whole meal- it was delicious, mazal tov to Libbie on a successful culinary adventure! We drank wine, ate the incredible food Libbie perpared, laughed together, and enjoyed each other's company. After dinner over tea and dessert we watched Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas each address the United Nations.

Saturday afternoon was spent on the beach. In the morning it rained (for the second day in a row, SO strange!) and the skies remained a bit overcast until 3 or 4pm, but that meant that the weather was perfect- not too hot on the beach, the water was still warm (compared to New England), and Jen and I spent hours just chatting and laughing and taking photos.

After grabbing some food, we walked downtown and met Libbie for a ladies night chick flick! We saw The Help. Have you seen/read it? It was my first movie in Israel! I really wish I'd read the book first, but I loved the movie, and I have a girl crush on Emma Stone (not in the creepy way like Jim Carrey, though). All in all, a fantastic day.

Tomorrow is my first day at my new babysitting job, I'm so excited to be able to spend time with a little one, but I'm sure it will make me miss all the babies back home who I left behind. When it comes down to it, though, I'm just grateful for something to do. I love kids, but starting any new job is always a little intimidating. The little girl I'm going to be watching is named Maya, she is 2.5 years old, and she speaks English and Hebrew- but it will take a little bit of time for me to really understand her, I think. Her mom, Hila, wants me to only speak English with her, which won't be a problem because Maya's Hebrew is definitely more advanced than mine. I think it will be challenging, but for sure it'll be nice to have some income, and kids that age are always a good time. I'll keep you guys posted.

In blogging news, I've added a gadget to the right of your screen that allows you to subscribe and receive notifications via email when I make new posts. Check it out!

I'll leave you with one last picture from my day on the beach this weekend- I just really loved this building. Pretty sweet, right? Farewell for now!

September 24, 2011

History in the making.

Today Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations and applied for recognition of Palestine as state number 194 of the United Nations. You can listen to his speech (or read the transcript) here. Above is the subsequent address to the same body made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Please take some time and watch it.

Now, I'm asking you to watch this speech knowing that some of you may not, but I hope that you will. Netanyahu speaks for about 30 min, and even I (with my penchant for spending hours every day watching and reading the news) have a hard time watching a diplomatic address lasting more than a few minutes. Hell, I have a hard time watching a YouTube video featuring cute babies if it goes over three minutes. I believe this to be a result of our sound-byte culture. However, this speech is worth listening to. Mid-east politics is a complicated subject, and can be daunting to approach if you haven't spent a lot of time learning the history- but in these 30 min Netanyahu (who is a statesman and an incredible orator) lays out pretty simply the history of the conflict between Palestine and Israel, and presents the facts of the situation facing both parties on the ground right now. I think this is an excellent way to learn a great deal about this complex issue relatively quickly. Speeches like this inspire me to study politics, and remind me why I came to Israel to do just that.

I have very strong opinions about this subject, I think that may be quite obvious. But I don't want you to listen to what I believe. I want to help those of you who are interested in learning to find quality resources of information, facts so that you can draw your own conclusions. We live in a time where multiculturalism and tolerance are lauded as virtues, where no one man's opinon should be called 'better' or 'more correct' than the other because we have to be politically correct. But sometimes there are truths and lies. Learning the facts is the only way to keep ourselves from falling for the fabrications.

September 23, 2011

what the what???

It's raining. Weird.

Walk on...

This evening I met Jen and her dog, Eden, for a walk in the park. This week has been a lonely one, and it's been difficult. But, tonight spending time with Jen reminded me what I love about being here. Jen (another DP co-worker) moved to Israel from Boston a couple of years ago (how long ago was it, Jen?) and has been a real blessing these last few weeks. She understands what it's like to prefer skipping meals over the balagan (vocab lesson!) of finding food in a foreign language. She laughs with me about the strange taxi drivers I've encountered, the abundance of gross bugs, and the lack of customer service. She patiently listens to me kvetch about the growing pains that come with moving to a foreign country and leaving friends and family behind. Jen has lived through the "oh shit, what have I done?" days, and come through them on the other side with a stronger love for Israel than she arrived with, and reassures me that I will too.

Praise Adonai, Jen also happens to live walking distance from me. So, this evening after (she got out of) work we walked along a little nearby river lined with walking/biking/running paths, basketball courts, a dog park, and even an outdoor climbing wall (which I made her promise we could go patronize soon).

Something that I really love about the culture here is how late things come alive. I'm not really a morning person, and I have the (terrible) tendency to be a little tardy to everything- despite my best efforts otherwise. In America, those things are problems. In Israel? Not really. Israelis tend to be tardier than I am for events, which means even when my internal American clock makes me rush out the door in a panic, I usually get there before anyone else. Evening plans here tend to start a little later than I am used to (meeting at a bar 'early' to avoid crowds means meeting around 10pm), and tonight when we got to the park at 7:45pm, people were just starting to venture outside to enjoy the cool of the evening. There were tons of people playing basketball on the courts, out running and biking, and we even saw an (always-funny) Segway tour.  At 9:45pm when we were making our way back towards home on the esplanade we saw a wedding ceremony beginning. Next to the outdoor gym equipment and climbing wall. Incredible.

The lesson here is that even on lonely, homesick days like today (of which I'm sure there will be a few more), I'm still constantly finding things about being here that suit me just fine. And, like Boston and Erie, I'm finding that what will really make Tel Aviv feel like home is the family of friends I find here.
So, tomorrow I will walk on...cause when you get right down to it,

I love Israel

September 19, 2011

Let the hours roll by...

Lately I've had quite a bit of free time. Well, that's really ALL I've had. It gets a little lonely, I'll admit, but it's nothing I can't handle. I enjoy having personal time, honestly, and I'm learning a lot about myself. 
I've been enjoying spending time with Libbie's mom, Rose. She and her husband Steve are in town for an extended time after Libbie's wedding, and like me she is learning how to navigate Tel Aviv. 

We meet for lunch from time to time, share stories about life and love, talk politics and business, and just enjoy each other's company. Rose, I couldn't possibly express how comforting and encouraging you have been. And, you're a riot. Let's go back to that Moroccan place with the cute waiter soon. This weekend I spent an afternoon at the beach with Rose, Steve, Libbie and Tzahi (pics above), and afterwards the ladies walked around and had dinner at a place called Mitcham Hatahana- Libbie described it as the 'Faneuil Hall of Tel Aviv' if that means anything to you, dear reader. It's an old train station south of the city center, that has been transformed to a little village of shops and restaurants and bars. There are old train cars/museums that you can walk through and see what the area used to look like.

Also on display- old Syrian tanks captured by the IDF after a war (I regrettably don't know which war, specifically, but my guess is the Six Day War in the 70's...)

There was also some strange modern art display with cars that had been...decorated? I can't think of a better word to describe it. Libbie read the signs in Hebrew and still couldn't really explain the point of the display, but it looked pretty cool, so I documented it for your viewing pleasure-

In other news, last week I attended a lecture for students in the overseas program on campus about the upcoming Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN. The lecture was given by a good friend and former co-worker of mine, Ari Applbaum, through the Hillel Student Group on campus and, of course- The David Project. Ari still works for the DP, and it is where I met him and his wife, Na'ama.  I'll admit, it was strange attending a David Project event as a student rather than a staff member- especially when I took out a pen to take notes and it had a DP logo on it. Just so you have a visual, here is a picture of Ari, Na'ama and I from Libbie's wedding:

The room was packed with graduate and undergraduate students, and Ari's presentation was engaging, thorough, and we all learned a lot. It made me really excited for classes to begin- this is why I'm here, to learn. It's fun having free time to explore, nap, go to the beach, and hang out with friends- but I'm definitely ready for this strange, extended vacation to end (I'll likely eat these words come finals week...).

I've filled some of my free time exploring Tel Aviv University's campus- it is expansive (compared to my little alma mater, Gordon College, that is) and quite beautiful.  Palm trees, modern art, ancient artifacts on display, museums, lots of open space, plenty of cafes (even a McDonalds- uh oh)- here's a look:

I won't have trouble spending lots of quality time studying here. I can even get to Mexico if I head north past the main gate!

That's about all I've got for now. Tonight Libbie and I are getting our Zumba on, which is bound to be as outrageous as last week. We're gonna master these dances and then school all y'all in how its done. If you're lucky maybe I'll video tape our big dance club debut when it happens.

September 14, 2011

Stupid Gingi Goy.

Well, hello everyone. I know I only posted a couple of days ago, but here's a quick update-of-my-life post. It will be quick because I've not been doing very much for the last week. After the wedding and Jerusalem things slowed down quite a bit. I learned an important lesson last weekend- prepare for Shabbat. I don't mean candles and prayers, I mean groceries. Everything closes early on Friday (if they're even open on Friday) and if you're not prepared with food stuffs you will waste away. Thankfully there is a 24-hour convenience store close my school, and I'm relatively certain the staff there now knows me as the ginger who realllly likes Honey Nut Cheerios.

Shabbat also made it difficult for me to T.C.O.B. (take care of business) the way I had planned to once I found some free time. So, I spent the weekend wallowing in my homesickness (it was bound to happen, right?) and come Sunday (which is the Israeli Monday) I set about my chores. I opened a bank account (I had to sign a few documents that were in Hebrew, but I think I'm okay), finally got a student ID (albeit a temporary one), and ordered a cell phone (thanks for the help, Dad!). The cell phone was probably #1 on my list of priorities, and went a long way towards making me feel like a normal person again. Its not a smartphone, but all I can do is remember all of the times I heard myself say "I really just want a phone that makes calls and sends text messages. That's it." I happen to repel technology, so I'll take my shitty little rented Samsung as a blessing in disguise. At least now I can contact people if I'm on the go. Seriously, how did people live without mobile devices?

Monday was my 27th birthday, and brought with it all sorts of unexpected emotions. My cell phone arrived, so that was great. I did some laundry, cleaned up the apartment, and killed an intruder in the kitchen. Whaaaat? Well, he was big enough to be considered a who, not a what. He was a bee that was, I'm dead serious, the size of a hummingbird- his body was as thick as my middle finger (which I flashed at him as he died a slow death after being hit with my Sperry Topsider). I have never seen a bug that big in my home, and I was trembling for probably ten minutes after the whole ordeal was over. 
RIP, dude. Not.

To celebrate my birthday Libbie and I went to a Zumba class at her gym and afterwards hung out and ate pizza- it was exactly what I wanted, just some quality time with a close friend. Zumba was hilarious, I think I burned more calories laughing than I did from actually dancing. I was a little worried that it would be in Hebrew and I would be totally lost- but the only language you need for Zumba is rythym. Which I have in spades, obviously. Libbie and I are going to go to class every Monday for awhile, get really good at the dances, and then unleash our choreographed skillz on some unsuspecting Tel Aviv nightclub. It's going to be fantastic. After class Libbie was talking with a gym employee about coupons or something and a song I loved came I danced while I waited. Apparently some dude at the counter said to them in Hebrew "Gingers. What do you expect?" Vintage. I truly am a second class citizen here. 

Thanks, Libbie, for helping me celebrate 27!

Now, I have never been one to lament a birthday- it's a time to celebrate! But 27 feels old to me. Especially when so many of my friends are getting married and having babies. I'm happy with my life choices, I believe that the only way for me to be happy with someone else is if I'm happy with myself first, and this move is a big part of that. However, the other night I was in a taxi and the driver and I were talking about kids and life and he told me that I'm waiting too long to have a family- that 30 is probably the oldest a woman should be before having children. Now, look, I'm fully aware this cab driver is NOT a fertility expert by day, and I'm not actually worried about being able to have children. Now, in that moment, I realized that if I am here for three years like I originally planned, I won't even be done with grad school before I am 30. And in order to pay for grad school (and to achieve my goals) I'm going to have to work for awhile afterwards. Whatever, it got under my skin a little. I'll shake it off, but the point of this blog is to be honest about what I'm experiencing, right? So, there it is. I'm going through some strange quarter-life crisis. Brought on by an Israeli cab driver and the passage of time.

This weekend (aka Thursday night, the Israeli Friday night) I'm going to go out with some new and old friends to drown birthday sorrows and enjoy myself. If you're in Tel Aviv give me a call- the more the merrier!

September 11, 2011

Ten years later...

There have been so many eloquent statements made to commemorate and memorialize the ten-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I fear anything I could come up with would shadow in comparison. Today, I want to dedicate this post to the victims of Islamic terrorism, not just the 3,000 who died on this day ten years ago. I am a student of this phenomenon, and today I invite you to join me in this study. I didn't lose family or friends on that day, nor did I fully understand how the events that took place would shape my life. What I did understand, however, was that someone had just declared war on America, and that none of us would ever be the same. 

Ten years later, I find myself in Israel, going to graduate school to study the phenomenon of terrorism and its roots in political Islam. I've learned that Islamic extremism is an evil facing the whole world, not just the United States, and I've learned that it is a battle Israel and the Jewish people have been fighting (on behalf of the rest of the world) for much longer than a decade. An Italian journalist, Giulio Meotti, put it this way:

"If 9/11 was conducted by four squads of suicide pilots, in Israel there have been more than 150 suicide attacks carried out. It’s a black hole that in 15 years swallowed up 1,557 people and left 17,000 injured. Israel is a tiny country - a jet can fly from one end to the other in two minutes. If a proportion of the population equivalent to those 1,557 victims were murdered in the US, there would be 53,756 Americans killed."
Read the full op-ed here

In a post-9/11 society, those who single out Islam as the root of terrorism are labeled "xenophobic" or "racist". It has become impossible to point out the difference between Islam and Islamism- the extremist form of Islam that has spread like a cancer throughout the Arab world. I refuse to dance around it. 9/11 was not a natural disaster, it was not a random act. It was an deliberate attack by Islamists against the United States because of what we stand for- democracy and freedom for all. Islamism is a foe that Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has been fighting far longer than we have. 

Islamism has (cleverly) used the ideals of multiculturalism and acceptance to demonize Israel in the eyes of the world. Israel has been labeled a violator of human rights. An oppressor and occupier. You may have even heard it described as an "apartheid state". Israel is boycotted by universities and public institutions. It is even compared to the Nazi regime. In response to a boycott by the student association at the University of Edinburgh (who had recently boycotted Israel) Dr. Denis MacEoin wrote this letter, saying the following:

"I do not object to well-documented criticism of Israel. I do object when supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out above states that are horrific in their treatment of their populations. We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it's clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens. Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran. They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world's freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Bahai's...Need I go on? The imbalance is perceptible...I ask you to show some common sense."

Later this month, on September 20, the Palestinian Authority will go before the United Nations and ask for recognition as a sovereign state. I hope that the world will show some common sense. These are the same people who celebrated in the streets after September 11, 2001.

The scary thing is, they are likely to succeed. Instead of continuing in the negotiation process with Israel, the Palestinians are circumventing the accepted channels and going straight to the U.N. "Why shouldn't they?" you might ask. Well, let's take a moment to learn about how the UN might be biased against Israel. This video lays it out pretty clearly: 

There are important things happening in our world today. As an American living in Israel, I am proud to say that I can call both of these countries home- democracies that protect the rights of all people, regardless of religion, color, or race. I am sickened by the memory of what happened ten years ago, but more than that I am inspired by the knowledge that those responsible haven't won. The war is far from over, but hopefully my life can play a small part in the solution. I dedicate the steps I take from here on out to the victims of terror, to the brave men and women who every day choose to put their lives on the line for the rest of us. And I hope that I can contribute in some small way to fight against those men and women who would  sacrifice their own lives in an effort to inflict terror on others. 

September 9, 2011


So as I try to form the structure of this update in my head I'm realizing that I have waited far too long between posts, I have so much to tell you guys about! Libbie and Tzachi's wedding, trips to the beach, an overnight in Jerusalem...there's so much to get through, so let's begin.

I think it is apropos to start with the Sagiv wedding. As many of you may know, my MA program doesn't begin until after the Jewish high holidays at the end of October, but I decided to move to Israel in September so that I could attend the wedding of a good friend, Libbie (Snyder) Sagiv. What a beautiful bride she was! Quite a vision:

If you don't know Libbie, I really must explain why I moved to Israel eight weeks early so I could be at her wedding. Will you allow me a short sidebar? 

Libbie and I met when I moved into a cubicle adjacent to hers when I began working at The David Project, my first job after college. I think that a Christian girl who loved Israel was something of an anomaly in her world, so she and I had many wonderful, meaningful conversations about Judaism, Christianity, Israel, snacks, our bosses, know, the usual. I was grateful to find someone at my new job who could show me the ropes around the office, and little did I know I had found a kindred spirit. Our hearts recognized something familiar within one another, and our friendship grew strong, quickly. I could write an entire book about the silly and special moments that Libbie and I shared during that year and half, but I digress...  Eventually Libbie decided to follow her Jewess heart to Israel, to make aliyah and become an Israeli. The only way my goyish heart survived was by resting in the knowledge that someday I would join her there, if not forever at least for a season of our lives. And that season has finally begun! Getting to Israel was a difficult process (my friend Ari told me the other day that Israel likes to test you to make sure you're really dedicated, to make sure that you can hack it) but Libbie never let me give up. She understood (in a way that many cannot) that Israel is a dream not easily forgotten, a thirst that will only be slaked by experience- and I owe much of what I have now to her unwavering, ardent encouragement. Thank you, Libbie. I love you, I'm so happy you are in my life. 

So, Libbie moved to Israel, fell in love with a wonderful man who loves her the way she deserves to be loved, and they became husband and wife on Sunday. It was a beautiful celebration, I have never seen Libbie smile so brightly, and the joy was palpable. The community of friends and family gathered included people from all over the globe, even old friends and co-workers of ours from The David Project! 
(Cue: "Reunited and it feels so goooood...")

The wedding ceremony was magical, the venue was incredible, the food beyond description, and we all danced and made merry long into the night. Mazal tov to Libbie and Tzachi! May your life together be blessed with happiness beyond your wildest dreams. 

Monday after the wedding (I woke up with a raging headache) I decided to go on an overnight trip to Jerusalem with Libbie's sister, Anna, and two of their good friends, Jackie and Tami (make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold...) Anyway, we took the 45 minute sherut (pronounced shay-root, it's like a group taxi), which only cost about $8 by the way, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (along the way Anna taught me Hebrew numbers!). When we arrived we were all starving, so we decided to go to the shuk (market) to sample the fresh breads and pastries, fruits, vegetables, and other tasty treats. After a fantastic feast, we walked to the Old City and made our way through the Armenian Quarter to the Kotel (The Western Wall, or Wailing Wall for those of you not familiar with it). This was, I think, one of my favorite moments in Israel so far. The first (and only other) time I was in Israel I was with a group of students from Gordon in 2005, and we stayed in Jerusalem. As the girls and I made our way to the Kotel on Monday night I actually recognized where we were going. I could've made my way there on my own from memory. At a moment in my life where absolutely everything I'm experiencing is foreign and new, to feel something familiar was incredible. To have it be in Jerusalem was just mind-blowing. I can't believe this is actually my life. 

After the Kotel, I made my way to Ze'ev's apartment in the new city, and we enjoyed a lovely evening visiting with Charles (our old boss from The David Project) and his wife and daughter. Charles and Jeanie were in Israel to bring their daughter here for her year of study in a yeshiva (Jewish seminary); their visit happened to coincide with Libbie's wedding, and I was happy to be able to spend an evening with family. Charles even let me use his MagicJack to call my parents! In the morning I met another DP friend, Ari Applbaum, for coffee and breakfast, and then met up with the girls again for more sightseeing. Ari helped me find which bus to take, and told the bus driver in Hebrew where I needed to go. It was embarrassing, but I have to say I'd rather be embarrassed than lost. An older gentleman on the bus let me know when we arrived to my stop, so I got off and still managed to get lost, and without a phone. This is is an important lesson that I'm learning- when my instinct is to withdraw and get scared, all I have to do is ask someone for help. I asked a random person on the street to use his phone and he handed it over without even blinking. I called Anna, and he walked with me until I found my friends. It really is amazing to me how helpful Israelis are if I'm able to just get over my fear and ask. 

Since returning from Jerusalem things have slowed down a bit. I spent yesterday on the beach with Libbie and her (our) friends. I've been to the beach in Tel Aviv twice since arriving here, and I don't think I'll ever get over the awe of relaxing along the Mediterranean. Beaches in Massachusetts are beautiful, but the water is cold and there aren't palm trees. Don't worry, I'm utilizing the umbrellas available and wearing LOTS of sunscreen. No burns yet!

So, I've been here for almost eight whole days. Not long in the grand scheme of things, I suppose, but sometimes it feels like forever. There are moments when I feel completely at home, and I've been so busy that I haven't really had time to wallow in homesickness or fear. I'm learning quickly the tools that I'll need to be a real person in a foreign country. I understand the currency, a few key Hebrew phrases, and I'm getting the hang of public transportation (mostly because I can no longer afford to take taxis, those guys really rip you off when they know you are American). 

I want to take a second to explain the sherut for those of you who aren't aware of transit options in Israel- it's basically a minivan that runs along a semi-fixed route. A local sherut costs eight shekel (about $2.50, just divide by 3.3) which is only a little more expensive than a bus, and the way it was explained to me is that they are generally a little safer than taking a bus because they carry less people (not worth blowing up if cause you won't take as many lives). Sorry if that's scary to hear, Mom and Dad. Don't worry I'm being careful. 

The next obstacles I have are getting a cell phone, bank account, and a job. I've been living for a week without a phone, and while it's nice to not be a slave to technology, it's also totally frustrating to not have things like GoogleMaps available to me in a totally new city. These obstacles are a perfect definition of one of my favorite Hebrew words- balagan. It means bascially 'chaotic' or 'messy'- getting a bank account and a phone have been a complete balagan. Remember this word, it has already become part of my vernacular, and I won't define it for you again... (smiley face). Today I woke up and tried to take care of some of these logistical obstacles, was faced with defeat at every turn, and decided instead to buy some cereal and spend the day hiding in my room, writing emails, and updating the blog while I watched American TV. I needed a little bit of rest and alone time to indulge my homesickness. Tomorrow I will pick myself up by the bootstraps and move on. 

That's about it for now! Thanks for sticking with me through this lengthy update, I promise to try and write more frequently so you get all of this in doses. I think I may write a post dedicated solely to the delicious food here. I'd say I'm going to gain weight, but I'm walking and sweating far too much for that to happen. I hope. Also, if there actually is anyone following the blog, let me know! "Follow" me on blogger, or leave a comment, it's nice to get feedback. To my US friends and family- I miss you a lot. I love you all, and I eat up any email updates I get so keep 'em coming. 

Goodnight everyone!

September 3, 2011

Shalom from Tel Aviv!

Hello! I'm finally here in Tel Aviv, and I've only been here for a day and a half but already have so much to update you guys on. So, here goes!

My flight to Israel left from NYC on Wednesday night, and went smoothly. I was picked out for a luggage search by airline security, which meant that I couldn't proceed to the gate until after the search was done. Instead I was allowed to take my phone and iPod and instructed to wait in the terminal for an hour, then come back to be escorted past all of the airport security lines and directly to the gate. It also meant that I was able to board the plane ahead of the other 499 passengers, both perks I accepted happily. And the luggage search seemed like a totally fine, minor inconvenience...until I started unpacking everything when I got to my dorm and realized that my carefully-packed items had been tossed around, crumpled, and one or two things had actually gone missing. C'est la vie, I suppose.

Aaaaanyway. I arrived in Israel on Thursday afternoon, and was greeted at Ben Gurion airport by a former co-worker and truly gracious friend, Ze'ev. He drove me to my school, and helped me (by speaking Hebrew and flashing his killer smile around) find the program counselor to procure my dorm keys. Once we got my bags moved in, Ze'ev walked around with me and showed me where to find the closest banks, cafes, and grocery stores- where I picked up a few essentials/comfort items:

Zevik- a shout out on my blog hardly seems a sufficient thank you. I would've been lost without you yesterday. Todah rabbah, chaver. 

After Ze'ev left, I unpacked my things- which, it turns out, doesn't take very long when all your worldly possessions fit into two suitcases. I have cable TV in my room, so I watched Real Housewives while I worked. Honestly, it didn't feel like I'd just moved overseas. It felt totally normal, except for the view from my window...

After a quick shower and change of clothes I headed out to Libbie's bachelorette party (yeah, clubbing in Tel Aviv was my solution to jet lag). This seemed simple enough to me- get in a cab and go. Jen assured me that a non-English speaking cabbie was rare, but I managed to find the only one. And, even though I'd written down the address (just in case) this cab driver had no idea where he was going. But, he started driving, so I figured I'd let it ride. I kid you not, he stopped at least three times to ask random people for directions to Ranak Street. Once he actually got out of the cab at a stoplight to ask someone in the car behind us. I don't have a cell phone yet and had no clue where I was going, so basically I had to just sit back and pray that a kind stranger would direct my driver to the right place. Plan B was refusing to pay the fare, getting out, and taking a (different) cab back to my dorm. 

Eventually, though, we made it to the right place. I found the apartment, and was early even though I thought for sure I'd be the last one there. The evening was surreal. We had drinks, food, and games at Libbie's mom's apartment, and then headed out to The Clara, a club that is literally on the Mediterranean Sea. It was incredible. We drank (more). We danced. I was so grateful to be able to make new friends, see old friends, and celebrate Libbie- the little voice in my head who would not let me give up until I made this dream of living in Israel become a reality. Oh, also, I fell down. A lot. Having multiple people approach me and say "are you okay?" seemed like a totally appropriate way to introduce myself to Tel Aviv.

Needless to say, I had NO trouble sleeping last night. I didn't drink too much, but the combination of the alcohol, the flight, and dehydration was enough to give me a raging headache this morning when I woke up. Errr, this afternoon. I slept so long, in fact, that I missed my opportunity to go to the beach with Jen. So, instead I decided to go to the grocery store and get some toiletries and snacks. Trying to buy shampoo was the first moment I truly felt like I was in a foreign country (I guess second, but after this blog post I'm choosing to forget about the cab ride from the night before). Obviously the labels on EVERYTHING are in Hebrew. But I can't read Hebrew. Ahhhh. It's entirely possible that what I'm using as body wash is actually sunscreen. My Hebrew knowledge was enough to help me figure out that the Pantene bottles were probably for my hair. And it's only by trial and error that I now know which bottle is shampoo and which is conditioner. Does anyone know what type of Pantene comes with green labels? I just chose the color that looked prettiest. 

Oh! Did I not mention that in Tel Aviv there are giant cages on the street where people throw recycling? Yeah, one more thing that struck me as "foreign" on my first walk around. Ze'ev told me that you can also throw cats in there. Cause there are cats littering the street. They're everywhere. I'm told they're friendly, but I'm not looking to make friends with street cats.

Libbie's parents were kind enough to invite me to shabbat dinner with the family and some friends who are also in town for the wedding (which is on Sunday), so I didn't have to spend the entirety of day two all on my own. I am so grateful to already have a community of people here. Everyone has been so welcoming and helpful, I have never felt more certain that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. After dinner I walked through the city (in the general direction of my school) and eventually grabbed a taxi home. 

Tonight I am feeling the loneliness that comes from being completely removed from everyone and everything familiar. I wish more than anything that I could just pick up a phone and call my parents or a friend. But, I'm doing well. I'm learning, and (as Libbie reminded me tonight) I'll get the hang of things. When I get anxious about shampoo labels or ATM fees or bank accounts I just take a deep breath and remember that this is my dream. Its coming true. And it's only gonna get better tomorrow. 

Layla tov, chaverim (goodnight, friends).