28 May 2008
My plane is broken, so I'm sitting in Ben Gurion Airport. It's a real Zionism-killer, I'll tell you. Below is an excerpt from an email I sent to the camp travel guy:
I am writing to let you know that my plane (ELAL 001 out of TLV) is broken, and I'm now, in theory, either leaving at 5AM or 7AM (Israel time) to get to JFK. This gets me into JFK, earliest, at noon tomorrow (NY time). There is no chance I will make my flight out of EWR. ELAL also refused to book me into EWR, ATL, Miami, Delta to ATL or any flight that goes through Europe and ends up in ATL... Thoughts? Comments? Soothing suggestions? Please advise!
So this has been fun.
The sign now says it is boarding...we'll see about this...
You don't wanna miss your ticket out...
Cause I remember how we drank time together,
And how ya used to say that the stars are forever,
And you would dream about how to make life better by leaving town,
-- Dexter Freebish obediently popped up on Meredith's iPod today!
Today was my last day in Israel. I did the penultimate packing (toiletries I dealt with today) last night, and then I was too wound up to sleep. I went to school from 9 until 5, the whole reason I stayed until now. I wanted to only miss 3 weeks of Wednesday classes, not 4. So, I had fun in Day School and I survived both my ulpan final and Classics.
As I walked to the bus this morning at the ripe hour of 7:45, I tried to call Nesher, the taxi-sherut service that goes from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv – Yaffo Ben Gurion International Airport. I was told the number wasn’t in service, even though I’d used it to go to London just a few months ago.
I wasn’t deterred. I just called back, at an alternate number, during my halfway break in my Day School class. I was on hold for 7 minutes. They picked up and hung up on me. They did the same to Elie, Rafi’s brother and saintly friend-of-SBB. Great boys from that family. I'm a big fan!
After class, I went to get my favorite thing to eat, a pizza meshulash, at Vitamin Café. Sadly, It was not to be, as they didn’t have any out of the oven and I had to report back to take my ulpan final in just a few minutes. I was left with no meshulash, but at least I got to spend a little more time with my friends Jo and Mel. Jo (aka Joelle) also called Nesher and I FINALLY got a stupid sherut reservation. You’d think I asked them to gold-plate my luggage they were so rude about it.
After my three hours in the ulpan final, (Three? I meant two. Why do they give so much time?) I was off to Classics. And then it was over, it was off to classics, then to print a boarding pass, and then home. I paused to appreciate the beautiful rimonim / pomagranates blooming on the neighbor’s tree, then I showered, stuffed my toiletries into my suitcase, and I was off to the airport.
I was met by my love Shiran at the airport, and we hung out (she suggested CDs and I bought them like an obedient, supposedly rich American). Her dad called to say goodbye to me. I'm really going to miss my (real) family and my (Shiran) family! I returned my cell phone, showed her pictures of my nephew and then I went through security.
People keep on asking me what I’m going to miss about Israel. That’ll have to be another post. For now, I’m going to do some work, as my flight is DELAYED and I’m marooned at Ben Gurion until 1:30, instead of just 1AM.
27 May 2008
I should also be packing. I have the world's largest suitcase packed. I have the world's second largest and probably most beaten up suitcase waiting for me to throw my beloved pillow (purchased from WalMart in Gainesville, probably in 2002) and stuff into it.
I should be showering. I walked around Tel Aviv today for a few hours. I love me my Tel Aviv Tuesdays.
I should be doing laundry. I need to do laundry so I can throw in my sheets in the morning, before school.
I should be going...and I will be. At this time tomorrow, I will be at Tel Aviv-Yaffo Ben Gurion International Airport, waiting to board my plane to JFK.
For now, I review Hebrew, and think about the last Israeli snackage I will experience. Rafi chose the Avatiach / Watermelon popsicle (well, I chose it for him) for the night before he left. Rafi would make aliyah for these popsicles. Me? Well...I don't really like watermelon-flavored things. But the watermelon in Israel? Amazing.
26 May 2008
Here in Israel, they harness the power of the sun with something called the “dude.” A Dude Shemesh (sun water-heater) utilizes solar panels to heat the water, usually in a tank on top of the building. At night, when there’s no hot water left, you flip on the dude’s switch, wait 30 minutes or so, and the electrical water heater heats up some scarce Israeli water for your shower.
I think hot showers are a religious experience, so this little analogy makes sense to me.
Let’s say you’re coming home from a Gainesville club, circa 2003 (before the cigarette ban that wasn’t enforced in my day), and you smell. You reek. There is cigarette stench in your hair, your jeans, and you’re pretty sure that even your toenails are exuding the disgusting odor of cancer-facilitation. Those of us who played the role of designated driver often came home reeking thusly, and the lack of an alcohol-induced sleepiness meant one thing: straight into the 2:15 AM shower. (I miss the 2 AM bar closings, not going to lie.) Similarly, in Israel, you can simply grab a taxi at any hour and come home smelling the same, as the taxi drivers often smoke in their cabs (ick). The difference? Chances that the dude is still hot that late in the day are slim to none. You flip the switch and sit down for a half hour of computer games and crappy late-night television. (At least there are subtitles in Hebrew!)
Much like sorority girls on spring break, they are all facing the same direction, where the sun is coming from. Except for me. I never faced the sun. I hid from the sun under sheets, towels and SPF 50.
Sometimes, when it’s nice and sunny out, the switch is off, but the water is hot. When cooking for Shabbat with Elie, before Rafi went back to the States (yes, he left before I did), the dude was enjoying the beautiful sunshine, like everyone in the neighborhood, and the pre-Shabbat showering (for three people over the course of maybe an hour) required no dude. An anomaly!
25 May 2008
I have wanted to go to Haifa since I got to Israel. After months and months of “let’s go to Haifa” and “I wanna go to Haifa” and “I am going to leave Israel without going to Haifa,” Rafi decided a few weeks ago that we were going to Haifa for Shabbat! Rafi, it should be said here, is the best.
We did a little research, and then I talked to the people at ISSTA, the travel agency at school, and ended up at a nice place on the Haifa tayelet / promenade. We were off to Haifa in the morning, enjoying the view of highway 6, before getting to the city. We dropped off our bags, and started with a sweet lunch special at El Gaucho, a kosher Argentinean steakhouse. We ordered the standard, and we were left with so much leftover food that we were set for Shabbat lunch. Then we walked into the downtown, where they have a subway, and we just wandered the streets. After shopping, and buying some snacks for the rest of Shabbat, and a few pairs of really Israeli socks (with English words like “sporty!” and “summer!” decorating the socks), we made our way to University of Haifa. I had my heart set on visiting the University of Haifa tayelet, one of the places I remembered from my USY Israel trip in 1999. I had wanted to go back, to just sit and enjoy the view, since the second I left the tayelet that day when I was a teenager. I was so happy to bring Rafi there. It took quite a while to get to the view, because of construction and because the bus stopped kind of far away from where we meant to get off, but we finally got to the tayelet. Rafi and I had a great time checking out the view, although it was too windy to sit and really enjoy. On our way back to the road outside of University of Haifa, we stopped in a building and found a bust of Herzl. That was pretty great.
(If you will it, it is not a dream...and so on and so forth. -- Theodore Herzl)
"Everyone knows it's windy..."
I am happy Rafi and I went to the U of Haifa tayelet.
It was one of my favorite places in Israel when I visited in 1999.
And I wasn't alone in Haifa, just stubborn.
We also went to check out the Baha’i temple, which I’d wanted to do since my trip with grad school last year. We drove by the Baha’i temple for a few days in a row in Dec 2006, and it looked amazing. Sadly, Rafi and I went to check out the temple and walk all the way down from the Promenade, but it was closed for the Baha’i international convention. All I got were these sad-faced pictures. I guess I’ll visit the Baha’i temple on my next trip to Israel.
Shabbat started and Rafi and I went to dinner in the hotel. The view in the dining room, just like in the rest of Haifa, was breathtaking. I know everybody is all about living in Jerusalem, but I really REALLY love Haifa. The next day, Rafi and I did a lot of walking around Haifa. I read a whole book, we went to the pool, we walked around by the Baha’i temple, checking out the international convention delegations (ok, really, their buses, since we couldn't see them inside the compound). We sat on the tayelet for a while, watching as the sun slowly set over Haifa, and Shabbat went out.
It was really beautiful. I love Haifa. And I was really happy to finally get in some Haifa-time before I get out of Israel.
I was sitting on the couch, uploading some of my new Israeli / Hebrew music CDs, and watching TV, when suddenly some music starts playing noisily over Gilmore Girls (subtitles!). I got annoyed at my iTunes, again, for starting to play the songs while they’re uploading.
Two seconds passed, and the music started again. This time, however, it was not emanating from my lap. I turned down the volume on the TV, and Rachel and I confirmed that it was our landlord’s son playing the flute / recorder / some woodwind. And he was playing “Yachad,” a song that is in every USY / Camp / Israel experience mix / video yearbook / promotional video EVER.
I never heard my neighbors practicing their instruments -- in Coral Springs, in Gainesville, or in NYC. And when I did, they certainly weren’t playing Yachad.
The shoes are green. And pink. And yellow. And orange. They are crazy and Israeli and they are beautiful.
I love them so much that as soon as Shabbat started the shoes went on, and they didn’t come off until late Saturday night. I walked all over my neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods. I walked around downtown. I walked a LOT. This was not the wisest way to break in my new shoes, but whatever. The shoes are really, amazingly cool, even if my feet are KILLING me now.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go rebandage my blisters.
15 May 2008
The moral of the story? Writing breaks are F-U-N. Alternatively, one could say that I simply spend too much time messing around on my Google Reader.
Also, happy birthday, still, Israel! Yesterday was the official English calendar date of Israeli Independence Day.
14 May 2008
In order to prepare myself, I have to sometimes resort to desperate measures (aka, the return of the helmet). Enjoy!
13 May 2008
Roommate Lisa and I were discussing how heavy it is that Yom HaZikaron leads right into Yom Ha'atzmaut. One of the explanations is that we spend one day remembering the soldiers, citizens and other victims that enabled the creation of the state, and then, we celebrate the result the day later. The whole Yom HaShoah to Yom HaZikaron to Yom Ha'atzmaut progression is depressing to saddening and then joyous. Israel certainly knows how to put people on an emotional rollercoaster.
There was plenty to do on Yom Ha'atzmaut, so (read and view) on...
I turned to Shiran during the fireworks and said, "You know, if all of my Arnona money went into fireworks, then I'd be ok with it." It was so squishy and crowded during the fireworks-and-light show that if I had bent my knees and lifted my feet off of the ground, I wouldn't have moved at all.
Ahhh, Burgers Bar. Shiran and I were looking for a place where we could use the bathroom, since public toilets are nonexistent in Jerusalem. We ended up in Burgers Bar, and we went downstairs to wait on the very long line for the bathroom. While waiting, we met (or, in reality, were forced to endure) a pair of girls who were typical "arsim" (Israeli categorization for club people). After standing in line with them, and then, washing our hands with them, I asked if I could take a picture of them, to document the Israeli Nicole Richie, and her evil twin. They ended up making a very obscene gesture at my camera. I'm scarred for life.
We hung around Ben Yehuda, getting a second serving of waffles, although I was still too full to eat much. We had to collect her kids, and then we walked back with them to Beit Gesher, where they were spending a few days, and where I spent 3 weeks of my high school Israel trip. It was a nice end to the night, because some of my fondest memories in Israel were based out of that very building.
11 May 2008
07 May 2008
JTS had a Yom Ha'Atzmaut photo contest, and people submitted some pretty cool pictures. One of those people was me. I took my picture at a place I'm not really supposed to go, but you can see it, worry-free, here. By just holding your mouse over the picture, you can tell which is mine.
Happy 60th Birthday, Israel. Many returns of the day!
06 May 2008
In Israel, Yom HaZikaron remembers the 23k+ (number from Rafi, feel free to confirm to disagree) soldiers, Zionists, and victims of terror who have fallen defending, or just living in, Israel. Tiny, little, Rhode Island-sized Israel is pushed right up against the Mediterranean, surrounded on all sides by. If Israel is a bunny, then it is a bunny surrounded by bears and hunters -- Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan have all had their share of conflicts with Israel. Things aren't looking so hot with Iran, and within the borders, "green lines" barely keep the Palestinians and Israelis at a quasi-truce. Since the 1880s, people have been dying for the Zionist dream to keep Israel alive.
Yom HaZikaron is not like Memorial Day in the USA. I'm sure there are ceremonies, but there's still regular programming on TV. There are still probably hordes of people flocking to visit graves of fallen family members. But a national siren, at night and in the morning? Open ceremonies at Har Herzl, the equivalent of Arlington National Cemetary, as well as city halls and plazas around the country? Not likely. And it's also really unlikely that every US citizen knows somebody who has fallen in battle. I have one friend from FL and NY who is currently serving in the US's JAG corps in Iraq. But every single Israeli has a friend, a family member, or a friend of a friend, who died in wars from Independence until today. In the war in 2006, the deaths in the Lebanon conflict included my co-counselor and roommate's best friend. At another Ramah, they lost a former camper, counselor and friend.
When the siren went off today, I was at the top of Ben Yehuda Street, where it meets King George. I timed my walk so that I'd be right at this active intersection at that time. I looked around me, realizing that Israelis and tourists were all checking their watches constantly, waiting for the siren. It's supposed to, in theory anyway, catch you off guard. People with cameras set up shop everywhere -- in medians, in HaMashbir Square (next to the buses), at Kikar Tzion (at the end of Ben Yehuda).
To my surprise, a minute or two before 11, the buses lined up and stopped on King George, usually honking wildly to get cabs out of their way and rushing to get away from the center of town's traffic. Bus drivers got out of their seats, and stood next to open doors, chatting until the start of the siren. Pedestrians paused on either sides of the very large crossing, ignoring green lights (usually, we ignore red lights) to go down Ben Yehuda.
When the the siren began to wail, taxi drivers got out of their already stopped cabs, cameramen took video and stills, I held my camera close to my chest, standing at attention and clicking the shutter about 20 times while rotating slightly. The traffic didn't really screech to a stop, as the whole group had been anticipating the sound. In front of me, I could see people stopped on Ben Yehuda. Behind me, I eyed a few people on the steps of a large outdoor staircase. A line of cars, froze on their ride down Betzalel. Every door was open, every person standing still. Two people bolted across the still street -- a women with a baby carriage and a man who looked sheepishly rushed.
The siren faded out after 2 minutes. A woman to my left wiped her cheeks and eyes. The buses roared to life, and the horns started honking again. Life was back to normal in a matter of seconds. But the tone for the day had been set.