Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jerusalem: The Other D.C.

Hoping to experience holidays in Israel, I definitely arrived at the right time. Since it is the beginning of the Jewish New Year, there are several holidays all in a row, one per week. Some holidays that are coming up I have heard of, but never celebrated; however, being in Israel, I suppose I’ll deal with the surprise time off.

This past weekend was Yom Kippur, The Day of Repentance, the holiest day of the year for Jews. Once again, everything was closed for the holiday, which just so happened to fall on Shabbat anyway, so not that big of a difference. Well, actually, my Yom Kippur was very unique this year. Not only because I was in Israel, but also thanks to a very special trip to a place I like to call the best city in the country: Jerusalem.

Two summers ago I fell in love with the city of Jerusalem and literally cried my eyes out when it came time to leave—Mom, you can back me up on this one. Although I ultimately chose to come back to Israel and spend my year in Tel Aviv (mostly because the majority of refugees live in TLV and also because it’s a secular city), Jerusalem is truly a place unlike any other. I had noticed a couple of weeks ago that a trip to the capital was scheduled for the night before the eve of Yom Kippur, or I guess just 2 days before the holiday; a little less confusing that way. As usual, the leaders of the program didn’t inform us participants of any of the details and so when it came time to get on the bus in the Central Bus Station in TLV, we still had no idea where the heck we were headed. Nevertheless, we literally elbowed people out of the way to keep our spots on the line and even then, some of us had to stand on the 45-minute bus ride cross-country. Here’s a funny thing about Israeli culture: LINES DO NOT EXIST. And even if they do, no one stands in them. I had a pretty annoying experience with the tor, line, back in 2008 when a few friends and I had planned a day trip to the Dead Sea from Jeru (Jerusalem—we have lots of nicknames; you’ll get used to it). I didn’t know that people simply disregarded the proper way to wait for entry into a store, for his/her turn at the doctor’s office (the “But, I just have one question!” bit doesn’t always work to cut your way to the front, lady!), or in this case, for boarding a bus. Since I was so naïve to think that people actually wait their turn, I ended up being one of the last people on the bus and therefore had to stand the entire way from the city to the lowest, saltiest place on earth. Why would there even be a possibility to stand, you may ask? Well, turns out ticket salespeople seem to care less how many tickets are sold in relation to how many available seats there are on the bus. In other words, if customers want to buy tickets, they’re going to sell them.

But, this time I knew better! As I sat comfortably in my bus seat, we exited the busy streets of TLV, drove due-west towards Jeru, and arrived in under an hour. Once we got to the bus station, we filed into cabs and ended up getting out at Moshe Montefiore’s little city-thing right outside the walls of the Old City (if you’ve ever been to Jerusalem you know what I’m talking about. It’s the place with the big windmill). We met a tour guide there and we wound our way through the cobblestone streets of the ancient neighborhood. The tour guide—whose name is slipping my mind now—told us really old stories from people who lived in Jeru including the famous King David, whose life actually seemed like a ridiculous soap opera. No offense. However, David is where Jerusalem gets its nickname—at least according to our tour guide—The Other D.C.: David’s Capital.

After explaining to us that the only brave people to venture outside the walls of the Old City and resettle in Montefiore’s small town were the sole survivors during a horrible plague, we found ourselves entering through one of the gates. As we passed under one of the six open gates, we stopped in awe of the many bullet holes all around the entrance, engraved into the wall forever during Israel’s War for Independence in 1948.
One of the gates into the Old City
Bullet holes around the entrance

Our tour guide had told us that the Western Wall, inside of the Old City, would be extra crowded on this night before Yom Kippur because it was tradition for Jews to gather and pray together. I have been to HaKotel, the Western Wall, maybe 4 times already and never in my life would I have expected to see that many people on that special night. We approached the wall form above, admiring the awesome view of the gold roof of The Dome of the Rock, and my jaw literally dropped from the amount of people in front of the destroyed temple wall. I have never seen anything like it before (as I’m sure you can tell, this trip has already been a lot of firsts for me). Massive amounts of Jewish people were praying, crying, swaying, singing, and enjoying being in front of the holiest place for them. I somehow managed to squeeze my way to the front of the crowd overlooking the wall—we couldn’t get anywhere near it because not only the line for security to get in would have taken forever, but there was almost no room to move down there—and snap some of these pictures.
The Crowd
Amazing!

At the stroke of midnight, we all sang Yom Huledet Sameach, Happy Birthday, to one of the girls on the trip, Lisa, who got to celebrate her birthday in Jerusalem! Then our tour guide bid us farewell and we were free to exit the Old City and cross over into the New. Speaking of “new,” I had no idea an outdoor mall was constructed since the last time I was here 2 years and literally attached to the walls of the Old City. I walked through the new shopping center shocked to see the Gap on my right and sale signs in the window of Quiksilver to my right. Really Israel? Really? The Australian guy in my group said it had to have been an American’s idea. He’s probably right.

Some of my friends and I decided to stay in Jeru for the rest of the night and party with the locals for Lisa’s birthday. It was really a great time and although so many people were praying at the wall, there were still plenty of people celebrating the eve of the holiday in a different way. Only in Jerusalem can you visit the Wall and then party in a floor-length skirt. Here’s a picture of Julie and me excited to be on the streets of Jerusalem!
So happy to be there

The following day back in TLV, everything literally shut down for the 24 hours of Yom Kippur. Literally everything. Not even cars drove on the roads, highways, sidewalks—they park there sometimes. Everyone was walking or biking everywhere and since it is tradition to wear white on Yom Kippur, there wasn’t a person on the street who wasn’t in the crisp color. It was so cool. I kept looking around and thinking, “Wow, everyone is Jewish.” It’s still such a weird feeling for me. Some of the other participants and me followed my Israeli roommate, Oren, and his friends to the roof of a building to sing songs with other Israelis. We participated in a reformed service, but it was kindof secular too, which probably seems strange because we were celebrating a religious holiday, but there wasn’t even much mention of god. It was definitely an interesting experience not hearing any cars below us, only the sound of Hebrew songs, but it was quite difficult to follow along. Not only was everything in Hebrew, but by the time I was able to figure out what the next word was, they would already be on the next paragraph singing in a tune I had never heard before. Oh well, I’m glad I went. Afterwards, we walked through the streets of the city and made our way to the beach passing through circles of people seated in intersections singing together and taking advantage of the empty roads. There were so many kids out on bikes, rollerblades, and scooters, too. We ultimately made our way to the beach and hung out there for a while.

The next day was the fast. Pretty easy considering I woke up at 12:30 and thanks to Day Light Savings only had to fast until the sunset at 6:30. The other participants who had decided to stay in the apartments for the holiday instead of joining family or friends elsewhere all cooked a nice meal to break the fast together. Unfortunately it wasn’t the traditional American bagels and lox, but French toast and fruit salad did the trick. We all gathered on the roof terrace of the other TLV apartment and ate really quickly.

Back to reality, AKA volunteer visits and Hebrew class, this week was very emotionally difficult for me. I had opted to look at several sites this week and finally coming face-to-face with actual locations of the tough situations of the refugees and asylum seekers, I ended up crying in more than one place. Not only are living conditions horrible, their personal stories leave you heartbroken and furious with authorities abroad and domestic. My volunteering coordinator did help the situation reminding me that although not so great right now, all of the different sites are working to help these people a part of a very new phenomenon. But when you find out that a young Eritrean boy was denied the right to leave the detention center because the judge declared him to be 13 when he had promised to be aged 19, how can you not feel sorry that he has to wait another 5 years to get a job and send money home to his family in Africa?

Not to leave on a sour note, back in Israeli life, today is the holiday of Sukkot. Which pretty much means to me another day off to go to the beach. We did build a sukkah, kindof like a hut, the other night with our ulpan, Hebrew classes, which is tradition for those celebrating the holiday. Last night as I walked to meet up with my friends to go downtown, I heard extra chatter coming from the sukkahs at almost every house in my neighborhood. Since I live in a rather religious neighborhood the small structures were everywhere. I had never celebrated the holiday before so it was pretty cool to see everyone having dinner inside of the sukkah in celebration of the new harvest (I think that’s the purpose, I’m not sure).

Although I’m starting to miss Fall, I’ll be thinking of you all at the Med Sea today in the 90-degree weather! J

Monday, September 13, 2010

They Tried to Kill Us; They Didn't Succeed; Let's Eat!

Last week was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the start of the year 5771. Usually at home I go to services at my synagogue in Poughkeepsie with my family and then have a nice dinner afterwards. In the US, American Jews celebrate 2 days of Rosh Hashanah, while in Israel it is only 1 day. This was news to me. Someone in the program told me the reason is because Americans were never sure when the holiday actually was so they decided to just pick 2 days just in case. Who knows how legit that is. Anyone know?? Maybe Wikianswers could solve this one…

Before arriving in Israel this year I was really interested to experience holidays in the Holy Land. The only holiday I had ever celebrated here in Israel was Chanukah back in December 2006 when I was on Birthright. It was so awesome. I remember lighting a huge menorah in the lobby of a hotel and feeling for the 1st time that everyone around me was just like me. For Rosh Hashanah, the experience was even better. Outside of my synagogue or Hillel no one really mentions the Jewish New Year, but in Israel, it is a huge deal. As I’m still getting used to seeing Hebrew all over the place including road signs, store signs, bus stops, etc. (yes, I know this is obvious but having grown up only seeing/reading Hebrew in the classroom, it’s still so crazy to see the language in every day life), Shanah Tovah, Happy New Year, appeared in store windows. The phrase was exchanged among strangers on the street or at the checkout counter at the grocery store. I probably said it too much just because I was so excited that everyone knew what I was talking about. But whatever.

Since I don’t have any family here, or too many contacts at all outside of the other participants, I opted to spend the eve of the holiday with a host family appointed by my program. All of the participants that chose to do this were put into pairs so each one of us did not have to face the Israelis alone *dun dun duuuun*. I was randomly placed with Dante, a Californian who relocated to NYC to attend NYU and decided to live there permanently. Well, until coming to Israel. Each pair received a host family’s phone number and for us, Dante was the one to contact Guy. Guy arranged to pick us up from the Jaffa apartments (Dante lives there) at 5pm. In true Israeli fashion, Guy called at 5:10pm and told us he was running late. He arrived at 5:45. Guy was a young man, probably in his 30s, and in the passenger seat sat his older father—didn’t quite catch his name—that spoke no English. The language barrier wasn’t too much of a problem with Guy’s father who conversed solely with his son. Although I could understand little to none of what he was saying, I did thoroughly enjoy listening to the old man’s deep voice. It was like each time he spoke a sentence he was telling some Jewish proverb. Probably not the case, though. Since Guy hadn’t told us where he was taking us, Dante and I assumed we were headed to services with the other host families and participants and then off to a dinner at his house in TLV. Wrong. We started driving south and continued to do so until we exited the city and entered the highway backed up with New Year’s traffic. Dante and I sat clueless in the backseat speaking some English between ourselves and some broken Hebrew to the two men in the front. Guy changed the radio station constantly allowing us to hear a variety of music including some Rosh Hashanah songs. Finally, fed up with the selection on the radio, Guy put on his own CD: Beyonce. All the Single Ladies? What?

Finally we arrived at our destination, about 45 minutes later, in the city of Gedera. A wealthy neighborhood just south of TLV, it was one of the 1st settlements of the original Zionists who came to the land back before it was the State of Israel. I feel like that was in the 1800s. You get the idea. Upon arrival, we found out that we hadn’t just traveled to Guy’s house or even his father’s house, but rather his brother’s place, Iman, and his wife, Hila. We entered the front door and instead of attempting to greet the older woman that stood in the foyer, I kindof just presented the bouquet of flowers I had brought, smiled, and walked in. I just figured she didn’t speak any English and I was too flustered to come up with any sort of Hebrew sentence, or phrase for that matter. Dante and I made our way outside passing over some kids playing in the living room to find 5 little girls swinging on a hammock in the backyard. We quickly met all of the aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. that were attending the dinner and discovered that all of the adults spoke nearly perfect English. Phew. Oh yeah, even the older woman AKA the grandma that had opened the door for me spoke fluent English so I definitely could have at least said “Hi! Nice to meet you.” We sat down to dinner and enjoyed each other’s company while stuffing ourselves with an excellent array of different foods.

After we had sufficiently filled our tummies with delicious Jewish foods including of course apples and honey (it is a tradition to eat apples dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanah in hopes of a sweet new year), the kids proceeded to run around the yard and play mostly amongst themselves while the adults sat chatting at the table outside. Towards the end of the evening, I excused myself from the table and made my way to the bathroom. Their house was so beautiful, by the way, very modern. The door was half-open with the light on so I decided to knock 1st and with no response, I slowly opened the door. The family’s 3-year-old son was seated on a stool in the bathroom just sitting there. I didn’t know what to do. I had to think fast. And in Hebrew. The 1st thing that came to my mind was “Atah holech?” “Are you going?” I had no idea how to say “Do you have to go to the bathroom?” so I thought that would do the trick. Well, it did work, but here’s a funny thing about being able to communicate in a foreign language: When people understand you, they respond. Shocking, I know. So, the little boy spewed something so easily in this language I’m struggling so much to express myself in. I was able to infer what he was talking about remembering that I saw his uncle, Guy, running around the house trying to find him. Aha! They were playing Hide-and-Go-Seek and he had decided to hide in the bathroom. Instead of asking him to leave because again, I wasn’t really that sure about what to say, I simply left him alone and pointed in the direction of the bathroom to Guy. Long story short, I revealed a 3-year-old’s hiding spot because I had to go to the bathroom. Oops.

As I said, all of the adults, minus the grandfather, spoke great English, which made it very easy to converse with each and every one of them and tell them about myself and what I’m doing in Israel. During one of the talks, one of Hila’s two brothers, Benny, was explaining to Dante and me about the main idea of all of the Jewish holidays. The family is not very religious—they belong to a reform synagogue—so the dinners and family get-togethers are based more on tradition than religion. Although Rosh Hashanah is an exception to the rule, he eloquently stated the purpose of the majority of the Jewish holidays such as Passover, Chanukah, and Purim: “They tried to kill us; They didn’t succeed; Let’s Eat!” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

All in all, the family was so warm and welcoming to Dante and me that I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate the holiday in Israel. Although in the US we don’t usually exchange gifts on Rosh Hashanah—we save that for Chanukah so we don’t feel so left out around Christmas time—it is tradition to give presents in Israel. This year, since the extended family is still growing, they decided to only give 1 gift to all of the kids and we got one too! It was a mixture of little presents like grape juice, a wine goblet, candies, and other cute things. All of the cousins also wrote cards to each other after dinner and one of them wrote one for me as well. It was really sweet.

Back in TLV, shops were closed, buses didn’t run, and the only thing to do was *sigh* go to the beach. It’s OK everyone, I somehow managed to survive. During the daylight hours, the sun is brutally strong as it actually hurts to stand/walk/run under the intense rays. However, towards the late afternoon, the temperature drops to a cool 80F and regardless, a nice dip in the Med Sea cools you down immediately. The Mediterranean is the perfect temperature on the beach here and although it’s a long 45-minute walk from my apartment, it is so worth it every time. I spent 2 full days at the beach, both on Thursday and Saturday. Mostly everything is closed every Sat. here because of Shabbat so everyone who isn’t observant of the Day of Rest goes to the beach. Check out how crowded it was this week:
This is taken facing the North towards downtown TLV. We go to the beach near Jaffa because it is closer

In other news, Israel set its clocks back an hour on Sept. 12, probably the earliest out of any country. Turns out the reason is because of Yom Kippur, which is coming up this weekend. Since so many Israelis fast on the holiday, the government wanted to have the least amount of daylight hours as possible to help everyone get through the fast more easily. However, the early “fall back” in time has not gone undisputed. Apparently, some religious people are complaining that now they won’t have enough time to get home from work to observe Shabbat because of how early the sun sets now. It’s a big religious mess. It doesn’t seem like anything will be done about it this year, but it will be interesting to see if there are any changes to it next year.

In the program news, yesterday was our first day of ulpan, or intensive Hebrew classes, and today began our visits to the various volunteer sites. Tomorrow I will finally visit the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) after a year of anticipation! I’ll absolutely let you know how it goes.

Shanah Tovah UMetukah! Have a Happy and Sweet New Year!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Nature Without Borders"

After spending about five days on Kibbutz Ketura, I am definitely happy to have settled into our Tel Aviv apartment. We moved in Tuesday after getting to know each other without the distractions of busy city life. I’ve decided to wait so long to update the blog considering we were spending most of our time either hanging out by the pool, eating a lot of fresh foods grown on or around the kibbutz, or talking about logistical information about the program. However, I’m going to include all of the highlights that really had an impact on me.

One of the 1st days there, an American who had made aliyah a gazillion years ago presented the Arava Institute, an org. founded and run on the kibbutz. According to him, the Israeli educational facility was “green” way before it was cool to be so and they have been rockin’ it ever since. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t listen to much of what he was saying, or if I did, I didn’t retain much. I do remember him mentioning though the fact that the kibbutz we were visiting was positioned 20 minutes walk from the Jordanian border and 20 minutes drive to Egypt. Check it out on the map from a previous post. He stressed the importance of working together with the two close Arab neighbors—both countries are on fine political terms with Israel, but it’s still not perfect, obviously—and threw out the slogan of the organization, “Nature Without Borders.” Get it? Because only people can make borders? I liked it.

The courtyard where we stayed and I was able to get wifi
The following evening, we anxiously awaited a tour of the kibbutz that although was falling on the 3rd day of our stay, we really thought it would have made more sense to have it on the 1st. Would have made more sense, right? Anyway, turns out the tour was canceled regardless of the schedule and instead we were going to hike up a mountain with a “slight incline” in order to see the sunset. Beautiful. We start the trek up and it was definitely more than the “slight” we had been prepared for. The walk up was not so bad and the view was breathtaking. It also put the small size of the kibbutz into perspective and allowed us to few the only highway in Israel leading down to Eilat (a 30 minute drive from the kibbutz). From the top of the mountain we were able to see the hills of Jordan literally across the street and try to imagine what it was like being there some 30 odd years ago when the Jordanians were attacking some of the kibbutzes in the area. I mean, I  don’t really know why we decided to think about that, but it seems to be a common theme in Israel: remembering when things were bad. Here are some pictures of us walking up the mountain and on the top. I also took a panaromic video at the peak, so enjoy!
The trek up the mountain
View of Kibbutz Ketura
Sara, Justin, and I on top of the mountain (Jordan in the background)

video

Following a few days filled with lots o’ sun, Israeli salads, a nice Shabbat dinner, and too much hummus, Monday night arrived with the most worthwhile event of the entire beginning seminar. The group took a bus to the most bottom point of the Negev Desert. I had previously thought that the kibbutz was still located in the Negev, but I found out that it’s right after the desert ends and in fact as a Sub-Saharan African climate as opposed to the usual Israeli climate; AKA really freakin’ hot. Anyway, we drove up behind the kibbutz onto some hills/mountains (honestly I have trouble telling the difference between the 2) and watched the bus drive away as it dropped us off. We started hiking up one of the hills and when we reached the top, we discovered one of the most beautiful breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen. The rolling hills were covered in peaceful sand while the wind gently pushed it around almost like water in a stream. And seriously, it was the softest sand I have felt to date. It was awesome. (Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of this amazing place because everyone was getting sand in their cameras and I was afraid to use mine due to the wind. I may be able to snag someone else's soon. However, for right now, go to google, type in sand dunes in the Negev, and I'm sure you'll find something equivalent. Now imagine being there.)

After jumping around in the sand for about 30 minutes, our group leader gave us 2 pieces of paper and a pencil and told us to spread out among the dunes so that no one could see another person. Somehow we managed to do this successfully and we sat in complete silence for 20 minutes. Well actually, it wasn’t completely silent because a pick-up truck drove a few yards in front of me bringing dinner and apparently someone’s cell phone went off with Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” playing as a ringtone. But regardless, it was serene. I surprised myself by actually taking the assignment seriously and when it was time to write on the paper, I found myself easily expressing myself with words. The other paper was a personal letter to ourselves that we will get back at the end of the trip, but I will share what the 1st assignment was:

The prompt:
“The wilderness is not just a desert through which we wandered for forty years. It is a way of being. A place that demands being open to the flow of life around you. A place that demands being honest with yourself without regard to the cost in personal anxiety. A place that demands being present with all of yourself” –Lawrence Kushner, Honey in the Rock

As you prepare to journey up from the desert, take advantage of this unique environment and ask yourself: what are your personal hopes and expectations for the year ahead?

My response:
As I sit in one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen I can’t help but think about the near border of Egypt and try to imagine the thousands of innocent refugee men, women, and children wandering, walking, running, struggling through the desert in order to reach Israel, their “Land of Opportunity.” I’m having a difficult time understanding and empathizing with these people that are risking their lives and their families in order to become a part of a society in which they don’t belong.  I want to listen to their stories, laugh, cry, gasp in fear and in astonishment, and expose myself to a completely new people that I’m sure will ultimately teach me more than I will be able to teach them. I hope to simultaneously form a stronger connection to Israel while also being able to provide comfort and support to other foreigners both immigrants and refugees who don’t yet feel at home in the Jewish State.

End scene.

Afterwards, we made some bread on this thing that looked like an upside wok (side note: I’m using the word “we” loosely mostly because my bread feel off the pan into the sand so I just took someone else’s—I mean someone gave me his because he was making a lot). Hands down the best bread I’ve had in Israel.

Enough about the kibbutz, now I have successfully moved into the apartment in Kiryat Shalom, a small neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv. Next post will feature some fun times at my host family’s house for Rosh Hashanah!

Peace&Love y’all

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's only Day 2??

Following my 1st post, 3 of the other girls and I decided to leave the apartment after all and wander around Yaffo (Jaffa; whatever you want to call it). And let me tell you, it was the best decision we could have made.

Some how I managed to lead the pack and wandered my way towards Old Jaffa where conveniently I had been many times before; it's a must-see when going to Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Just south of downtown Tel Aviv, the cobble stone streets lead up a hill overlooking the entire coast of TLV and the city's uneven skyline. As the sun was setting--pretty early here actually, around 7pm--we traveled up the path to the overlook point to find a live band doing sound-check in front of the gorgeous scenery. Seriously? Yes. It felt like the band was performing a special show just for us entitled, "WELCOME TO TEL AVIV AND THE BEST 10 MONTHS OF YOUR LIFE!!" After we sat and watched in awe, we made our way down the hill and dined on our first "falafel b'pita" (pronounced fah-lah-fell; not fah-lah-full; huge difference I know) of the trip. Overpriced no doubt (oops, forgot we were in tourist-land), but definitely worth it.

Returning to the apartment we found triple the amount of suitcases belonging to another 6 girls that had dropped off their stuff and gone exploring during the time we were out. After everyone returned for the night, we soon found out that out of the 26 participants this semester, 22 are girls leaving a grand total of 4 boys.

Everyone was up at 8am this morning in anticipation of a 9am pick-up by some of the program leaders in order to start orientation activities. As we are all quickly learning, time here is just not the same as in the US. Considering only 4 people could be transported at once with only two available cars, not everyone arrived to the Beit Daniel Center in Tel Aviv until after 11am. Nonetheless, the day was off to a great start. Played some ice-breaker games and got to know each other a little better. All volunteers are from the US expect for 1 French girl. Quelle fille courageuse!

We boarded the large bus after 4pm--again a late start: we were supposed to leave by 3--and made our way south to the kibbutz. I really, really tried to stay awake during the entire bus ride, but having only gotten a handful of hours of sleep last night, that was impossible. I did manage to see the most beautiful rolling desert hills though as we were approaching the kibbutz. Israel has the most gorgeous, diverse, and breath-taking scenery.

After arriving at the kibbutz, an energetic American man who made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) 21 years ago greeted us and explained the rules of the community. We're mostly doing orientation activities with our group only for the 5 days we will be here (we go back to TLV on Tues.), but I am excited to see what it's like eating all of our meals with the other 500 people staying on the kibbutz in the heder ohel, dining room. I'll keep you posted.

We ended our night in the kibbutz pub, which was hoppin' with great American hits such as "Mambo No. 5" and "Telephone" by none other than Lady Gaga. Goldstar was flowing from the tap as Israelis and foreigners alike danced under the disco lights. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming and I sometimes forget these qualities are so special to Israel. The sky is filled with an infinite amount of stars as I type this entry outside in the courtyard of the suites we are staying in.

Until tomorrow, Liyla Tov. Good night.

*Writer's note: I unfortunately left my camera cord at the apartment in Tel Aviv with the rest of my luggage, so you will have to wait until next week to see pictures, but I promise they are coming!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

JFK-->TLV

Yallah, I've arrived! After 2 levels of security (1 for everyone, 1 for my flight only), I boarded the Delta plane and seated myself between a secular Israeli girl and an orthodox American woman with her baby boy (yes, I touched the baby, but it's ok, she let me hold him!) I did manage to sleep through most of the flight, which made the 10 hours go a bit faster than expected.

In Ben Gurion Airport, I had the familiar feeling of returning to a comfortable place seeing signs welcoming me to Israel and Back Home. I not so quickly passed through passport control and found my way to the "Tikkun Olam" sign.

Feeling a bit jet-lagged and disoriented, some of the other participants and myself have decided to stay in the apartment for the rest of the day and catch up on some sleep. After lugging our bags up a flight of stairs, we were pleasantly surprised to see the fridge stocked with Israeli essentials: pita, hummus, milk, and water. If only there were halva...
Tel Aviv-Yafo middle-left, Eilat bottom point

We'll be boarding a bus tomorrow morning to go down South near Eilat to Kibbutz Kotora (http://www.keren-kolot-israel.co.il/) where we will have orientation for about a week. As for now, we're just hanging out waiting for more people to walk into the apartment, feeling like we're on the "Real World."