July 1, 2013

Hydrate your situation...preserve your sexy.

I think pretty much everyone knows that you should drink more water. But I have to say, hydration never really seemed like a truly crucial issue to me, until I got the stomach flu in the middle of a Middle East summer.

Last week I caught a bug (or ate something bad) and spent three days in bed/the bathroom. Now, if you've ever been stricken with food poisoning/stomach flu, you know that water does NOT help things. The only thing I really 'consumed' was Coke, and after 48 hours small bits of bread. 

You don't need all the details, but the new experience I had in all of this was being severely dehydrated.
On Wednesday, when my troubles began, I went to work in the morning. This means that I left my house at 8am (when it's already 75 degrees and humid) and immediately began sweating. But I couldn't drink water. It did not sit well. By 11am when I called it, left work, and headed home I had a fever, so I was cold, but it was 90 degrees outside, so I was sweating. I got home and took a shower, nursed a bottle of Coke, but all I wanted was water. I have never been more thirsty in my life.

Granted, this situation is far from an emergency, I was not dying of thirst in the Sahara. But I wanted water like I was, and I knew I couldn't drink any. 

The long and short of it is, now that my body is back to normal, I'm drinking as much water as I can at every opportunity I get. I have never (not even after almost 2 years here in Israel) been more aware that hydration is key. It is basic. It is the number one need any of us have. 

So folks, wherever you are...take a sip of water. Be grateful that you have enough whenever you want it, and keep your situation hydrated.

June 24, 2013

Why can't every weekend be like this?

The way every day should end...
In the last two weeks the weather here in Tel Aviv has shifted from "summer" to "I'm melting."
Which basically means that you sweat standing still in the shade at 8am.
So, to beat the heat and mark the arrival of real summer in Israel...
we went camping on the beach last weekend.

The tent city.

I have to say, Israelis just get how to do summer.
After a quick drive to less-crowded beaches north of Tel Aviv, Itzik and his man-friends took less than 30 min to set up a large common tent, a kitchen, a small tent city, and the relaxing began.

Not bad for the first thing you see when you wake up on a Saturday morning...

Waitin' for Mom to wake up.
We spent Friday night and Saturday grilling, drinking, swimming, drinking, eating, drinking...you get it.
It never ceases to amaze me how remarkably peaceful it is if you just get a stone's throw outside of Tel Aviv.
Steak, drinks, bonfires, friends, soft sand, and the Mediterranean Sea...
this is summer done right.

June 16, 2013

I'm obsessed with my dad.

There are few relationships more special than that of a father and daughter.
I tried to write something which accurately captured just how important and special my dad is to me
but nothing really seemed right-
 there aren't words true or unique or beautiful enough.


You're my best friend, a tough teacher, 
and a living example of what it means to do your best 
and love with everything you've got. 
Thanks for your sense of humor, for your forgiveness, for your unwavering belief in me.
You are everything to me.
I miss you every day I'm not with you
 and I love you more than you'll ever know.


June 12, 2013

Owning #catsonwheels

A few months ago I shared with you my love of Instagram 
and my fear/disdain/fascination with the cats which rule the streets of Tel Aviv.
Well, nothing's changed. The little buggers are as strong as ever and today
I'm sharing some of my favortie #catsonwheels moments as of late.

Saw this guy twice.

...and this is just a sampling. 

June 9, 2013

Israeli pride.

This weekend marked the summit of Gay Pride celebrations in cities around the world, and while Tel Aviv is no exception...I believe that Israel's Gay Pride celebration is exceptional. 
Exceptional because Tel Aviv is one of the hottest party cities on the globe, 
and when the gays get involved it only turns the party volume up. 
Noteworthy because Israel is the only country in the whole of the Middle East where it is legal to be gay- where you can be a gay individual openly and not fear for your life. 
Remember that next time you hear Israel called an 'apartheid state.' 

Friday's Pride Parade and subsequent four-hour beach party drew tens of thousands of people from around the world into this little city. They all marched past my apartment around 1pm, and straight down to Gordon Beach where they partied and celebrated the human rights haven that Israel's democracy (the only democracy in this part of the world) promises to minorities of every ilk. 
It makes me straight up proud to be living in Israel. 

Oh, and I have to show you how my favorite bakery celebrated Gay Pride: a funfetti cupcake.
NOLA American Bakery on Dizengoff- always a good decision.

June 6, 2013

Starting over. Daily.

I recently found a message in my inbox from someone I knew last year at Tel Aviv University, a friend of a friend who has since left Israel. She was asking to 'play matchmaker' and put me in touch with a friend of hers who is moving to Israel, hoping I might be able to give this young woman advice, maybe give her a lead or two for babysitting work, and in general just be a point of contact for someone who will soon be wearing the shoes I donned back in 2011. I remember being that girl, moving to a foreign country, with only a few loose contacts (and one or two strong ones) and the hope that I could build a life somewhere else. I also remember feeling totally grateful anytime someone could advise me on what bus to take, or how to ask for the coffee I like in Hebrew, or what the Israeli equivalent of sour cream was in a sea of mystery dairy products at the grocery store. I still am that girl, more frequently than I would like.

It feels strange to be the person that someone might look to to answer those questions now- simultaneously like I've accomplished something in my time here, and like I haven't accomplished quite enough. Two years ago I was living a very comfortable life. There were things I wanted to change (obviously, I moved across the globe) but I could do my own banking, talk to the cable company (what I wouldn't give to be able to sit on hold waiting for an inept Comcast customer service rep who speaks English), and navigate public transportation with ease. Those are the little things that are so hard for me here, that make every day just a little bit (a LOT) harder here than I ever could have prepared myself for. And now I find myself advising people who have just arrived in Israel on the few things I have figured out, and feeling like a total fraud/a little proud of myself for what I have managed to pick up along the way. 

I won't lie to you, there have been moments (and maybe there always will be) where I consider just throwing up my hands and moving back to the US. Usually I feel the most like that when Itzik and I argue, or I have to do any type of banking (you really have NO idea how good you have it in the States), or I think about the average salary prospects for someone with an MA (half the average of the US). It can be easy to become discouraged. But something I was taught at an early age is that love is a choice- one that you have to renew within yourself every day. I love Israel. And every day I have to renew the choice to give this everything I have.

I knew this would be hard. But I'm doing it. I don't always feel successful, but I haven't given up. I love (hate) the challenges, and the little victories (like learning a new word and using it appropriately). I'm doing something I dreamed of doing, and I'm trying to do it the best that I can. I need to seriously work on my Hebrew (which will relieve a lot of frustration), and I need to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I need to continue to work on the friendships I have here and build a fulfilling social life (your boyfriend cannot be your whole world...at least not MINE). But I'm working on it. And I'm working on it in a place that is steps from the Mediterranean Sea, in land of the Bible, and in an age that I can talk to my parents and friends back home as much as I please (time difference be damned!). 

So, it could be worse. And it will get better. One day at a time.

May 5, 2013


There have been so many things I wanted to write about but I really haven't had much energy left over after trying to live my life this last month to write about it. So, here's a quick update:

A month ago I started a new job, 
so Itzik and I decided that it was time to start looking for a new place to live.
Both of these things sound exciting, but turned out to be real trials for our relationship.
The bad news is that it caused so many arguments I wasn't sure we'd make it to a new place.
The good news is that we found a place, and moved this weekend.
We made it.

Beach Season

Maggy and Kurt came to Tel Aviv to celebrate their anniversary a couple of weeks ago, 
and we spent an afternoon on the beach together. 
Their visit coincided with a 'heat wave' which marked the beginning of summer (it was 90 degrees all week), and it felt so good to swim in the sea and relax in the hot sun (...under an umbrella with lots of SPF). 
Summer here makes me feel simultaneously excited and terrified. The weather now is so beautiful- 85 during the day, 70 at night) but come June/July/August it will be too hot to function. It's almost like winter, in that you don't leave the comfort of temperature controlled indoors unless you are going from A to B...or to the beach. In any case...I'm bathing in sunscreen these days.



It's no secret that moving is one of the most stressful life events there is.
Add to that the language barrier (not being able to read online apt postings, needing a translator at the bank, feeling generally useless and making your partner feel totally burdened...) 
well...you can imagine how fun the process has been. 
Itzik has been incredible, and done so much work to find a new home for us.
I've done as much as possible, and tried to be patient and understanding when he felt (understandably) overwhelmed.

Now that I'm not living there anymore, I can say openly how wretched our old place was.
It was Itzik's bachelor pad, and I felt like I was squatting there for the last 8 months.
The landlord was a jerk, the plumbing backed up into our bathroom, there were bugs, loud neighbors, zero storage, less space, one window, and was far from where we both work and play. 
We had no elbow room, felt claustrophobic, and it was not good for either of us as individuals or a couple.
But now we have a much bigger place, in the middle of Tel Aviv, with a real kitchen, a huge living room, big windows, and landlords who are friends of Itzik's family.  And I can walk to work in less than 15 minutes.
I really feel like this is the beginning of a new phase for us.
I'll post pictures after we've really unpacked...

This is the first time I ever had movers (cause I never had much furniture before...)
and it was the best ever. These two dudes came in at 6:30am on Friday (Itzik and I pulled an all-nighter on Thursday after work) and in less than two hours had moved ALL of our stuff out of the old place, onto a truck, and into the new place. Amazing. 

They did the heavy lifting, and I was still exhausted, but my back wasn't destroyed and it was so quick!
These guys were amazing, but truly, that must be the worst job ever.

To celebrate the move we went out for dinner on Friday night.

We happen to live a block from the only Pizza Hut in Tel Aviv, and I could not have been happier.
We stuffed ourselves and fell asleep fat and happy amidst a pile of boxes...a perfect shabbat.

April 17, 2013

My heart is in Boston.

On Monday evening Itzik and I went out for dinner with friends to a lovely Italian restaurant to celebrate  Israel’s Independence Day. Libbie and her husband Tzahi joined us and we all made merry. That is, until Libbie and I received news alerts on our phone about the Boston Bombing. Libbie and I met (and fell in love) in Boston, and we both immediately began scouring the interwebs for information about what happened, and for word from our friends and families there. I had been following updates all day from friends of mine who were in Boston to run the marathon, and when I heard about two bombs detonating near the finish line I felt my heart drop into my stomach. The rest of my evening was spent making calls and checking Facebook in an effort to account for anyone who may have been downtown that day (thankfully, most of my friends in Boston usually avoid the shitshow that is downtown Boston on Marathon Monday) and I was grateful to learn quickly that my loved ones were safe.

It is hard to put into words the feelings I experienced after learning about this. Confused. Sad. Scared. Homesick. Sick. Worried. When I lived in Boston and followed Israeli news (esp after Libbie moved to Tel Aviv) it was always upsetting to learn about terrorism happening here. But it was never altogether surprising. It is, after all, the Middle East. These things have a context here. That context never mitigates the horror and sadness of terrorism, but there’s a frame of reference and usually there’s never any doubt about the motive. 

When it comes to Monday’s events in Boston, however, there is no context. And for me to be living here, in Israel- where a certain level of violence is expected on occasion- and to watch bombs exploding in Boston? It was surreal. Videos of the explosions were online before we even paid the bill, and I watched in horror on my phone as buildings I used to walk by daily were torn apart. The Boston setting was familiar, and the scene of terror was familiar- but I could not wrap my head around the two together….and it made me homesick in a way I haven’t experienced until now. Knowing how 'commonplace' things like this are for my Israeli friends deepens my respect for the Israeli experience. It also makes me hope that those in Boston effected by this tragedy can rebound from their pain, and stand strong against whomever is to blame.

When Israel and Hamas went to war a few months ago, I had an experience of war and terrorism that was new for me. And the biggest lesson I learned from Israelis was this: if the fear prevents you from living your life, the terrorists have won. You must press on, you must garner strength from the knowledge that life will always conquer death, good will prevail over evil.

So, to my friends and loved ones in Boston- my heart is with you. I am overjoyed and utterly relieved that you are all ok, and I wish so much that I could be there with you right now. My heart breaks for our city, and for those who were affected by this tragedy. I pray that whomever is to blame will not be allowed a victory of fear. May justice be swift, and recovery short.

UPDATE: my friend Jen lives in Boston and wrote an account of her experience here. Jen and I worked together at the David Project, and she moved to Israel a year before me. She's an American-Israeli who has studied counter-terrorism, and the article is excellent. Check it out.


A quick (but nonetheless important) aside:

Four years ago, I drove a new little family home from Mass General Hospital, and was introduced to a little girl who would change my world forever- Liron Etta. I watched my good friends Sasha and Ellen become exemplary parents overnight, and I hope that one day my family will be half as happy as theirs. I had the privelage of becoming a part of their family, and the memories we made together are precious to me.

You guys are my family, and today I wish more than ever that I could be with you to celebrate. I miss you every day, and I can’t wait to be back this summer to make more memories together. Keep a place for me at the table, and in your hearts.

Happy birthday, Liron!! I love you so much.

April 15, 2013

More holidays? More holidays!

I am constantly asking myself (and my boyfriend) "what holiday(s) is Israel observing this week?"
Cause, yeah, there are almost weekly holidays here.

Well, yesterday at sundown began Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day).
When that ends (at sundown today...sensing a pattern?) Yom Hatzma'ut (Independence Day) begins.
I love this time of year, because the holidays Israel observes are simultaneously somber and celebratory 
(Passover, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day).

What I love about these two days in particular is how meaningful and present these days are for the people of Israel as a collective, and the significance found in observing them side by side.
Yesterday, at 8pm, a siren rang out across the country (just like on Yom HaShoah), and again, the entire nation paused and remembered those 23,085 lives lost in service to the Jewish State. Another siren was heard this morning at 11am to mark the 'end' of the holiday.
Here's a video from this morning in Jerusalem. 

In such a tiny and new nation (only 65 years old today!)- not to mention one with such a bloody history- every Israeli knows someone who died in war. Memorial Day here is a somber day- television is filled with documentaries and special programming about individuals who died in battle, families telling of their sons and daughters whose lives were given so that a nation might live. 

Itzik asked me this morning "does America have a day like this?"
Sadly, no. For me, Memorial Day back home was only sad because I usually didn't have the day off of work. Only government employees and really lucky people got the day. Maybe there are some sales at the mall. But it's really more of an afterthought- a day imbued with half-significance. Also, the US is so big. You could go your whole life and not know one person who served in the military. People have lost touch with the fact that freedom comes at a price, a heavy price. And those who have paid it are all too easily forgotten.
But here in Israel, forgetting is not easily done. Nor should it be.

And then, Independence Day. This is truly a festive day.
Flags galore, roof parties, beaching, picnics (and alcohol)...

It is a lot like the 4th of July back home, but what I really love about Israel's Independence Day celebration is the fact that it comes IMMEDIATELY after Memorial Day.
Because in order to truly appreciate the freedom we have, we have to remember (and thank) those who fought for us to be free.

So, to Israel (my home away from home)
I wish you a very Happy 65th Birthday!
May you go from strength to strength. 
I'm proud to live here, and grateful you exist.

April 8, 2013

Never forget. Never again.

I want to dedicate this post to a woman who, before she passed away two years ago, 
survived the Holocaust and spent the rest of her life bearing witness to the unthinkable. 
Sonia Schreiber Weitz was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, Plaszow, Mathausen, Bergen Belsen, and Auschwitz. Of her 84 family members in Poland before WWII, Sonia and her sister Blanca were the sole survivors. Through her poetry, courage, humility, and generosity Sonia taught me what love really is. Despite all of the evil she endured, she came out on the other side a teacher, a mother, a poet, and a friend. How can someone look evil in the face and still be capable of such love and warmth? It is unimaginable to me.
I had the pleasure of working with Sonia for 3 years when I was in college, and not once did I ever hear her utter a bitter word against God (surely something she would have been allowed). 
Whenever Sonia was asked if she ever felt abandoned by God, her reply came without hesitation: 
“I never wondered where God was, but where was man?”
I miss her deeply, especially today.

For Yom HaShoah
By Sonia Schreiber Weitz

Come, take this giant leap with me
into the other world...the other place
where language fails and imagery defies,
denies man's consciousness...and dies
upon the altar of insanity.

Come, take this giant leap with me into the other world...the other place
and trace the eclipse of humanity...
where children burned while mankind stood by,
and the universe has yet to learn why
...has yet to learn why.

Today (starting at sundown Sunday) is Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance day in Israel. 
This is, in my humble opinion, one of the most special of all the Israeli holidays. 
For 24 hours the mood of (it seems) the whole country shifts, and the lives of the 6 million who perished at the hands of the Nazis are honored. 
At 10am this morning, a siren was sounded across the whole country; everything and everyone was still for an entire minute

Photo from The Times of Israel

Literally. Traffic on every road came to a halt. People stopped walking, drivers stepped out of their cars, and an entire nation was united for 60 seconds of remembering why and how this country came into existence- as a place of refuge for the remaining few Jews who had escaped the grasp of death and returned to the land that the God of the Bible promised to them. Israel exists as a beacon of hope, a reminder that once, the world turned away and allowed evil to take the reins.

Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, spoke last night at the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad V’Shem, saying that the Holocaust is still with us. His words were a reminder to us all that the evil which extinguished 6 million souls in Nazi Europe is alive and well in the supremacist, hate-filled ideology known as radical Islam. And, as if to prove his point, those extremists launched attacks on Israel, timed to coincide with this solemn day, and showed the world the true face of Israel’s enemies.

Yesterday, Anonymous, a hacker group who lives up to its name, coordinated with Arab terror organizations around the Middle East to launch a cyber attack on Israeli businesses, banks, and government institutions. The media hyped the event as an impending catastrophe, and we in the Israeli public were advised to reset passwords, avoid online banking, and told to expect slower web speed. All in all, this ‘cyber war’ was more like a dry run for the security community here, to see how their protections and security systems would withstand such an attack. It was a blip on the radar (although I have to say I was really frustrated that it took me an hour to download an episode of ‘Californication’).

Additionally, terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched rocketsinto Israel on Sunday evening, yet another violation of the ceasefire established after the mini-war which took place last winter. There have been several rockets fired at Israel in the last 2 weeks, incrementally more each time, and chatter about another defensive operation from the Israelis has already begun. Who knows what will happen, but the rockets fired yesterday sent a clear message of disrespect, and ongoing aggression from Israel’s enemies.

I find yesterday’s attacks against Israel to be despicable, but am unwilling to waste any more time on them today- the day when the world must remember what happened 70 years ago, if we are to prevent it from happening again.

In honor of Sonia, and all those whose lives were forever marred by hate and supremacism, I say loudly:

Never again.

March 16, 2013

the killer marathon

This morning I woke up sweating for the first time since, well...October. Here, that's a significant stretch. Tel Aviv experienced a heat wave that happened to fall on the same day as the annual marathon which attracts tens of thousands of runners every year.

In anticipation of the heat, the municipality postponed the full marathon, and scheduled the 10K and 22K routes to begin before dawn. Despite that effort, one person died and over ten were hospitalized with heat related health problems. Oops.

The municipality was reportedly warned about the risks and critics are now saying that appropriate measures were not taken to protect public health.

I live in Yafo, which is South Tel Aviv, and the start/finish lines have been set up for two weeks on the main road that I travel to get from Yafo to downtown TA. This afternoon when I left my apartment it was 92°F so I decided to use public transit. Point being, I snapped the photo below from the air conditioned comfort of the number 18 bus. In case you were thinking I ran.

March 10, 2013

Oh yeah, Israel.

Life in Israel is very hard. I think maybe my recent posts have displayed some of that.
But this weekend Itzik and I drove North with friends for a weekend in the Kineret (or Sea of Galilee),
and I remembered the that life here can also be very special, peaceful, and completely beautiful.

The four of us (Michal, Asaf, Itzik and I) drove about two hours North, 
rode around the Galilee region and the Golan Heights, 
and stopped in a nature reserve to sit and enjoy the scenery.

Have I mentioned Itzik cut his hair?

There were cattle from nearby farmers wandering freely through the parking lot. 

The last time I was in this area was during summer months, when it is hot and dry and brown.
In the spring the wilderness is still intimidatingly beautiful, but in a completely different way.
Each time I come here, I am struck with the knowledge that I am experiencing something rare and special.
This time of year the hills and mountains surrounding the Sea of Galilee are bursting with lush wildlife, the hillsides are jagged rocks coated with soft grass, flowers, cacti, and trees.
The colors are vivid, and the landscape is vast.
It's truly breathtaking.

We stayed on a moshav (similar to a kibbutz- an intentional gated community, but without communal living practices) and walked out of our tsimmer (bungalow? cabin?) to a view from the hills North of the Sea of Galilee. Unfortunately the recent dust storm moved North with us,
so we couldn't see the water very often, but the dust did give the scenery an odd haze that really made you feel like you were walking through a dream.
A dry, hot dream.

What does a sunset look like in a dust storm? Like this:

photo credit to Michal for this incredible shot

These are the clouds of dust on Saturday, moving North and reflecting the setting sun.

We woke up early on Saturday, ate breakfast, and then spent the day driving around the Golan Heights
(only a few miles from Syria, by the way).

This is the border fence and Syria on the other side.

We stopped at a few roadside attractions (like mini waterfalls and artist colonies).

Sandals! In March! Yes please.

After taking in the landscape we went to a place called Nahal El Al, a deep crevasse of a riverbed that in the winter is a legit river, but in the summer a dry canyon. This time of year, its a garden. 

We hiked for about three hours (an hour down, a little more than an hour up, and some time at the bottom for a quick dip and a cup of coffee near the waterfall).

The water was freezing cold. I did not join them. This looks lovely but its actually c-r-a-z-y.

I even had time for some yoga along the way.
I love my life.

Honestly, this weekend I fell in love with Israel all over again.
I remembered what it is like to be in the land of the Bible. 
To hike the hills where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob struggled and met G-d. 
What a gift that I can meet Him here too,
and somehow I think it's easier here than anywhere else I've ever been.  

It was equally amazing to me how all of this is just outside my back door,
and how easy it has become to forget.