Saturday, 29 November 2008

Dolphins, Petra, and Hairy Russians- OH MY!

Last weekend I did something most Israelis don’t do, in fact, many Israeli’s also gave me looks of utter shock when I said I was about to do this: I crossed the Southern border of Israel to it’s neighboring country, Jordan. I should probably start at the beginning with this one, because there was a lot leading up to this that is definitely worth mentioning. When myself and five other friends of mine, all girls, decided that we wanted a vacation, we all decided that we would go to Eilat and Jordan to visit Petra for the day. Getting to this decision involved about 150 emails back and forth, two ice cream meetings and many many phone calls. Nobody ever said that 6 girls making one decision was an easy thing. First, some wanted to go to Sinai in Egypt for an uninterrupted beach vacation while some others were a little uneasy about this idea of a “relaxing” vacation in Sinai. Finally, we agreed that Eilat, basically the Atlantic City of Israel, was going to be the safest and easiest to get to with the three days of vacation time we had.
SO, this is kind of what our weekend looked like:

12:30 am, Thursday night: The fun begins on our five hour bus ride south (YUCK!). We arrived to Eilat to find the owner of the apartment that we were renting for the weekend waiting to pick us up from the bus in his 5 seater car, prepared to squish 7 plus bags in- no problem. The apartment we stayed in was perfect for all 6 of us, close to the beach and the fun and couldn’t really have been any better. In the morning, we ventured to a place called Dolphin Reef. “DOLPHIN REEF EILAT, on the shores of the Red Sea, is an ecological site unique in Israel and throughout the world where visitors can enjoy a natural atmosphere, magical views, secluded beach, together with the unusual opportunity of meeting and observing dolphins in their natural habitat.” While some of the girls opted to snorkel and dive to get closer to the dolphins, I spent the entire morning and early afternoon relaxing on one of the floating piers watching the dolphins and being literally one or two feet from them at all times with my feet dangling in the water, definitely an amazing experience.
Once our feet were sufficiently pruned, it was time to return home to cook Shabbat dinner and head out for the birthday celebrations of my French friend, Iona. The next day was another relaxing day on the Eilat beach, complete with old hairy Russians and tacky music- again, no problem. We made it an early night after dinner, sending three of the other girls back to Tel Aviv and searching for places to store our bags for our day trip to Jordan.

5:45am, Sunday Morning: Wake up call to get going so we could beat all of the tour groups at the border and passport control. The border was a 15 minute taxi ride from our apartment and all in all, took about half an hour to get through, definitely not what we were expecting, which seemed to be a theme for the day.
Everything went extremely smoothly and we were welcomed on the other side with none other than a herd of taxi drivers trying to sell themselves to us for the day. We choose one we could bargain with the most and jumped in. After a two hour drive through Akaba, one of Jordan’s main cities (complete with Burger King and Popeye’s) and through desert and country side, we arrived in Petra. Our taxi driver was amazing, he spoke really good English and told us tons stories, and made sure to stop on the way at some great photo op sites and even took us to a bank and spoke to the banker to let us exchange money. So Petra was really an awesome experience, but I don’t think I could have handled more than one day there as we were urged to do. Petra is an entire city carved out of the red rock mountains from the early 1st century, and is now one of the New Wonders of the World. All of the rock formations and colors, along with the beautiful hikes and walks through 265 foot tall gorges were absolutely amazing.
All day, we were bombarded with young Bedouin men trying to sell us their camel or donkey rides, cleverly with rhymes and songs like “no worries, no hurries, no chickens wit h curry” or another offering the use of his camel Daisy claiming that we could “use Daisy if we’re lazy, but miss HIM if we’re crazy”. I think some of the things that these guys said were actually the highlight of my day, asking how many camels they would have to pay our fathers to keep us, telling us they liked our lips (from 8 year olds), asking us to come back to their caves (aka home) but don’t worry, being the smart girls we are, we happily ignored all offers above :) After a looong day of walking and exploring we rushed back to catch a 7pm bus back to Tel Aviv and made it home safely just in time for quick nap and work the next morning.

Now that this post is about 3 miles long, I’m sure you’re happily and definitely completely filled in with our vacation details. Thanksgiving in Israel was kind of just like Shabbat but with Turkey. We went to Jerusalem for a potluck dinner, again with about 70 people from all over the world, some who were celebrating their first Thanksgivings and others who really just missed home and needed a piece of it somewhere here, which they did a really great job of doing for us. I have less than three weeks left here so I still have lots of places to go, people to see, and things to do.

As always, miss you all. See you SO soon, and Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

Shalom v’ Ahava (peace and love :))

Wednesday, 12 November 2008


I realize that you cannot all read my mental blog that I’ve been keeping recently, with it’s “pages” filled to the margins with things I’ve been thinking about lately. Things I’ve realized only since I’ve been here, things that have made me say “only in Israel” so many times, things I will never have the chance to do again that I am so lucky to have been able to do once, things that bug me about this place and things that keep bringing me back begging for more.

Thing I’ve been wondering about the most/ want to invent:
How much happier and more peaceful would this world be if we all had subtitles constantly running underneath our chins while talking to people who speak different languages, and for that matter, people who speak the same language. Communication would not be an issue (language wise) and getting lost in translation would be a whole lot harder to do, and my work day would be so much more efficient without having to check the Hebrew-Russian-English dictionary every time I wanted to have a decent conversation with someone. Genius right? Watch out world, I think I might have just spilled the beans on my most brilliant plan yet. Who needs online translators anyways?

Priceless things:
Being a part of this …..
Speaking of lost in translation, I may not have understood most of the speeches by the Prime Ministers, Presidents, daughters, friends, politicians, etc but being one of 100,000 people packed into one (large-ish) city block in Rabin Square singing, drumming, and remembering a man who was one of this nation's greatest builders was an experience never to be forgotten, just like the man himself. Rabin, who was murdered 13 years ago, served Israel well, with devotion and wisdom, as a soldier and as a politician and you could tell from the feeling in the crowd that night. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience, only made better by the impromptu drum circle I jumped into after, priceless. And any man who’s famous motto was 'yes to peace and no to violence.' Is alright with me.

Things that bug me:
Israeli doctors…. “emmm, I sink you chev stuffy nose. Chere’s prescript. Go get entibeeotics” 140 shekels and about 5 minutes later…

Things that I will beg for after being back at home for probably less than 24 hours, maybe even on the plane ride home:
Smelly outdoor markets with old Israeli men calling out “I love you, Motek” because apparently I am not as Israeli looking as I thought I was, multicultural Shabbats in Jerusalem that always feel like I am in another world for 24 hours, Israeli attitude that I hate so much but love at the same time, these people (obviously), not a SINGLE Starbucks in the entire country, tea with mint- real mint, israeli hospitality, everything is always “beseder” (alright, ok, good), the really horrible and definitely not kosher styles in wedding dresses, having something/someone in common with almost everyone, Asians speaking Hebrew everywhere instead of “engrish”, kosher McDonalds meat (that I still refuse to eat but love the principle anyway), and being wished a “B’tayavon” (Bon Apetite) even if I am only putting a piece of gum into my mouth, and so so much more. 5 more weeks to enjoy it and I plan to do just that.

For as long as I have long bus rides and work days to ponder random thoughts, more “things” to come…


Sunday, 26 October 2008

Mah Koreh?

Hey world. Yes, I am still alive. Although its been about two weeks since I’ve even looked at this thing, I have been threatening to actually write something on it for, hmm, two weeks. And while in some cases it’s the thought that counts, I guess you can’t all read my mind and be here with me to experience alongside what I tell you about in my blogs. I know this blog started out with posts every day since I got here, but as it usually happens, things have slowed down a bit. The traveling once, twice or even three times a week has definitely been reduced and working is back to a normal schedule now that all of my days off, I mean… Jewish holidays, have come to an end. I hate to admit it but I don’t have much to update on. Daily life has really started to turn into routine during the week, with the occasional dinner outing after work, and weekends are usually spent with the same great group of people, attempting to get the most out of this city, and sometimes even the entire country as possible. Israel may only be the size of New Jersey but there really is a lot to do and find and see here, so yes, I do plan on trying my best to do so. I am even in the midst of planning a trip to Jordan to visit Petra, currently one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

I only realized a few days ago that I never mentioned my trip to Jerusalem for yet another (but, unfortunately one of the last) holidays of the month, Sukkot. My program hosted a potluck dinner under the Sukkah (a temporary hut/booth under the stars) for 70+ participants and their friends from all over the world. A group of us spent an incredible two days hanging out in the Sukkah, at friend’s apartments, wandering the quiet streets- only filled with the LOUD singing of others enjoying their Sukkot holidays with their families that we could hear from the streets. We ended the holiday with dinner at a kosher sushi restaurant and with ice cream, where we sat in the middle of a buzzing Ben Yehuda street, representing 5 different people from 5 different countries (Australia, America, France, Israel and Canada!) Perfection!!

This Friday is Halloween and we have convinced all of the non-Americans to celebrate with us so that should be quiet interesting. Any costume ideas would be greatly appreciated as, of course, I gave all of my ideas to my friends, being the nice fashion major friend that I am.

Shavua Tov- have a good week!

B’ahava ( With love),

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Proof that I am actually here


Shana Tova Umetukah!

It seems like as good a time as any to update this thing, considering it’s another typical Sunday night in Ramat Aviv, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. The weekend has wound down, everyone’s pooped, Monday morning is so close I can smell the morning commute and I had grilled cheese (Israeli style) for dinner- definitely just another Sunday night. I took this weekend to let myself relax and just hang around the Ramat Aviv/Tel Aviv area for some low key enjoyment after the last few weeks of some hardcore exploring, celebrating and futzing around.

I guess I should start by wishing all parties involved a very big Shana Tovah and G’mar Chatima Tovah, basically a very happy Jewish New Year. May it be filled with sweetness, love and happiness. Like I think I have mentioned before, the month of October in Israel is full of celebrations of Jewish holidays, which are, unfortunately, almost coming to an end. The most recent holiday, and of course the most meaningful and widely observed was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and one of the holiest holidays on the Jewish calendar. Israelis do not take Yom Kippur lightly, as there are absolutely no cars on the road (it’s basically illegal, and in this year’s case started a riot on the streets of Acre), people walking and children riding bicycles in the middle of freeways. Apparently about 63% of Jewish Israelis take part in the 25 hour long fast. Surprisingly, Israelis consider Yom Kippur to be the holiday that most unifies the nation, edging out Independence Day. It is the only day of the year when all Israeli radio and TV broadcasts go off the air, the hottest nightclubs in Tel Aviv, open almost year round, close their doors, and the entire country basically shuts down. It was an extreme departure from the way I am used to spending my Yom Kippur at home (driving, wasting the day in between temple services watching TV and on the internet), as I decided that this year, it was all or nothing. I spent the holiday with some good friends, Merav and Michal and their family, at their house in Ashkelon, about an hour south of Tel Aviv. The few days were spent both eating too much at their grandparents house, and of course, not eating at all, sleeping to keep our minds off the fast (about the only thing that remained the same as my typical Yom Kippur in the states) and eating more, making up for those 25 hours of food withdrawal- leave it to the Jewish mothers. I decided that I would observe the holidays exactly as the family did which meant no light switches, no buttons, no tv or radio (not like there was anything on to watch anyways), no internet, no cell phones and especially no cars. We walked everywhere, including around the city with the rest of the residents, ALL dressed in white and out for what seemed like their yearly block party/ gossip party. I went to a synagogue modeled after an old South African one which was pretty ironic, and all in all, the holiday was a new and interesting experience, definitely worth doing at least once.

Now, I am back in Tel Aviv, spending lots of time on the beach at night (unfortunately only looking at it during the day time from my office) and loving every minute of this trip. Speaking of the beach, my favorite red shoes got swept up by a beach cleaner tractor the other night on the beach causing me to walk around barefoot for a while, so if you are in Israel and you see someone wearing red flat shoes with a bow, steal them! In other, happier news, I had my first falafel in Israel today, it took me 3 weeks to finally get one- but it was so worth the wait, and the extremely high price of 10 shekels ($2.75!!)- can’t beat that. Tomorrow night I will be celebrating yet another holiday, Sukkot, in Jerusalem with about 80 other Jewish Agency Interns from all over the world with a potluck dinner- should be an interesting array of international foods, so I guess that will provide for some good bloggage to come!
I’m taking requests for Hebrew words of the day but for now, I can very truthfully say: Ganvu li et ha na’ala’im!! (my shoes were stolen!!)

Love, peace, Israel

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Chai Life

Dear Blog,
Remember me? I know it’s been a while but I have just been too busy to talk lately and that just means I have a lot to tell you so let’s get to the point. I won’t go into every little detail but I think it’s sufficient to say that the last two weeks have been quite a hectic (but perfect) two weeks. So far, I have visited family and friends just outside of Jerusalem and in Zichron Ya’acov, also up north to celebrate Rosh Hashana with the cousins. I cannot tell you how many public busses I have taken in the last weeks but they have definitely served me well, and because Israel is so small, it’s usually no farther than a few hours to a whole other world. Everywhere in Israel is unlike the last. One minute you are in a winery town overlooking both the beautiful mountains and the ocean and the next you are in Jerusalem, probably one of the most beautiful cities to drive into, with all of the white Jerusalem stone and the melting pot of inhabitants… and of course there’s Tel Aviv, my place of work and play. I have been trying to make an effort to see all sides of Tel Aviv. Last week, my programs directors (for the internship program) organized a tour of Jaffa, a beautiful old port city equally influenced by Jewish and Arabic culture from both the past and today, and after the walking tour, a dinner with 40+ other participants of the programs from all over the map (England, South Africa, India, Australia, France, US, and more)! It was a really great way to start meeting people in the same boat as me so soon after I got here, and I have already spent a good amount of time with these people since.

I’ve gotten to see a few old friends, some still in the army and some finished. It is so interesting to see how they’ve changed so much in the last year from their experiences both in the army and preparing for it. Their lives are so different to those of 20 year old Americans studying in college. The other day, an old friend, Itai, came to my apartment for lunch. He arrived in uniform, with his weapons in tow, placed it on the floor like it was his backpack that he is so used to having with him at all times, and while we were eating lunch, I kept glancing over at it not being able to get over the difference of life here. The Army is such a huge part of it all and I think that plays a huge roll in the maturity and mindset of the people here.

So far, work is still good, taking into consideration the days off I’ve already gotten for the Jewish holidays- Israel basically takes the entire month of October off for all of the Holidays. Even though many of the jews are secular here, everyone wishes each other a “Chag Sameach” ( a happy holiday) or a “Shana Tova” (A good year, for the Jewish New Year)- even on the radios and TV. It’s awesome to see the entire country get ready for the same holidays together and then really take those days to relax and spend time with family with no cars or busses on the roads and not too much going on in the cities.
I was told that what you spend your holiday of Rosh Hashana doing, you will be doing the same thing all year. If that holds true, and if the rest of my three months here goes the way the first two weeks have, I will be a very happy Israeli tourist/semi resident here and will come away with friends from all over the world, with all sorts of interests, and a hundreds of pictures to prove it all.

No Hebrew word of the day today, but instead a “fun” fact I learned the other night on our Jaffa tour…
Did you know that only one book has been distributed in more copies than the bible. Which one? The Ikea catalog. Now that’s a sad sign of the times.
Ok, Enough of this blabber. Time to get some quality sleep in! I promise I won’t neglect you anymore, blog.


And p.s…. In case you're interested, I finally registered to vote for this coming presidential election. When Israeli’s were more interested in them than I was, I decided I better get myself educated and interested really quickly with elections less than a month away! If you are interested in a very “politics for dummies” version of where the candidates stand, something I’ve been looking for for a very long time, .

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Working Girl

It’s Thursday. That means day 6 of this whole adventure, day 4 of work and day 1 of weekend. Yes, Israel works on a slightly different, a little bit more religious friendly schedule than we do at home. Work is Sunday through Thursday and play is Thursday night until Sunday morning when its back to work again. Speaking of work… where to start? As most of you already know (and like I said before) I’m working for a wedding dress designer named Galit Levi. I started work at 8am on Monday morning and literally was put to work at 8:02 hand sewing “Chrystalim” beads to a wedding dress, along with lace flowers, and “diamonds” galore. I have done more hand sewing in the last four days at work than I have in my whole life, which is good because it will be a really good learning experience on that end. The people that I work with are great for the most part. A few speak English and the others, mostly Russian Babushka implants are trying to learn, which has been the cause for many hysterics in the sewing room. My favorite of the Russian ladies is Marina, who is trying to hard to learn English because she says she gets jealous when everyone else can talk to me and she can’t. She is really a riot trying to learn with her odd Hebrew/Russian accents asking “You do chave boyfrend?” (see ta, it’s not only the nail ladies) and “we be like femily soon”. We are teaching eachother our respective languages so we can talk to eachother in the next few months. For the first few days, we had a really sweet lady working with us who was teaching me everything and knew English really well because she just got married to someone from New Jersey (who she’s known for a whopping two months!) but unfortunately she was fired for some reason – it’s a very interesting group dynamic. The others are basically either just business women, real Israeli ballbusters who mean business, or my new ally at work, a 20 something year old who shares a lot in common with me. Everyone works really hard and I have not had a minute at work when I don’t have a task to finish five minutes ago, it’s quite hectic. So yesterday, we had some visitors in the office filming for something or another, some mystery that we are not allowed to know about, but the moral of this story is that I might, one day be on Israeli TV sewing my little fingers off and being talked about as “that girl that came all the way to Israel to do a Stag (internship).”
Other than working, I really haven’t done anything too exciting yet as I have been coming home and passing out by 10pm at the latest out of exhaustion. I am going to Jerusalem tomorrow for Shabbat and to spend some quality time with one of my favorite Israeli families- Hila and the rest of the Cohen family. I can’t wait to get back there and experience another Shabbat in the old city, obviously the best place to celebrate.
I think I am about to fall face first onto my keyboard. Ani Ayefa (hello, Hebrew word of the day- “I’m tired”). I will add to this update soon when I have more excitement to share.
Hope all is well on the homefront. Shabbat Shalom