The Rocket Predicament.

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Unfortunately, I’m back in America while my brothers and sisters are living in a constant state of terror. I feel incredibly helpless here, and all I want is peace.

I can’t possibly cover the entire conflict in one post, so here is my disclaimer to avoid criticism of leaving other important things out – for now.

The news-coverage in the US makes me ill. Most of the news is reporting how Israel is attacking Gaza, killing innocent people. Poor, poor Palestinian Arabs.

They fail to mention that Hamas is continually attacking Israel, and Israel is doing it’s best to defend itself. Hamas must not be generalized to all Palestinians (who are technically Arab and Jewish!), nor all Arabs, nor all the people of the occupied territories. Hamas is a terrorist organization. Their aim is (purposefully?) pathetic, at first only shooting rockets into open fields, then into major cities, barely causing casualties, thank G-d. (Still, it’s a very scary thought to know their aim is getting better and the range of the rockets is increasing.) However, it makes no sense on their part, other then to ensue terror and panic. If these people really want the land that is Israel, why are they destroying it? They are so careless in their terrorist efforts and fail to see the larger picture. The IDF is strategic. It is successfully targeting Hamas terrorist members, destroying their threatening efforts such as hidden tunnels and artillery supplies, and is trying to limit civilian casualties. Let me make this clear: innocent lives lost, on either side, are tragic. Thankfully, Israel has a Guardian Angel in the form of the Iron Dome, while Gaza militants fire rockets from within civilian areas, in areas they know the IDF will target in return. Because Hamas is a world recognized TERRORIST organization. They are making it seem like Israel is the bad guy here, and the media, at least in the States, is playing right into it.

If this were happening in the US right now, no one would question the necessity to defend this country. To fight back. (Check this out: http://www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/07/09/what-if-terrorists-could-shoot-this-rocket-at-your-country/) Everyone would be panicking a thousand times more than the people in Israel and Gaza are right now. For although the situation has escalated there, they are sadly prepared for it. It’s not the first time, and sadly probably won’t be the last. There are bomb shelters everywhere. Every single dorm room at the university I just attended has a bomb shelter room within it. And Israel is only becoming more equipped. Somehow, because they accept that terror in their lifetime is imminent, Israelis are ranked the happiest of peoples. Kudos!!

For goodness sake, Canada took a side on the situation, condemning Hamas for attacking Israel and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. CANADA, people. CANADA took a side.

Wake up. Read more than one news source from more than one country. Try to realize the reality that your great great grandma’s second cousin twice removed’s daughter’s son-in-law’s grandson’s baby’s family is experiencing. Try to realize that family member could be on either side, because we are related. Try to realize both sides are scared of dying anytime they hear something that may sound like a siren. Try to realize that one side is feeling terror for terror’s sake, while the other is feeling terror due to the strength and precision of the Israel DEFENSE Forces. Try to realize the difference. Try to realize both sides must stop if there is any chance at peace.

עוד יבוא שלום עלינו ועל כולם, سالم סלם

Different – It’s the little things.

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I walk out of Miami airport and am surrounded by a cloud of humidity sticking to my skin and poofing out my hair. Ugh, please take me back to that dry Israeli heat!

Chocolate milk (not in a bag – outrage!) was the first thing I drank this morning. Instead, I had to actually use a plastic cup that was an unexpectedly STURDY plastic cup. I seriously anticipated my fingers pressing into the sides just to be able to hold it empty. Nope, it was a quality thick plastic cup. I sat on dat thang and it still survived without any slits. Dang, free plastic Israeli makolet cups, you flimsy.

Transportation is totally different. Not a city bus (though I do miss the “tachana ha’ba’ah” guy), not a train, not a taxi, a car- I got to drive my car down roads. Gridded roads. No two way road in the midst of a two way road. No metronit brick lane. No yellow light to tell me the green is coming. No winding roads. Kikar-less roads 😦 I even had to press the pedal down with my foot and steer and stuff. And I could even go straight to my destination (crazy thought, right?), instead of pulling over to stop and walking the rest of the way.  Not gonna lie, IT WAS AWESOME. WINDOWS DOWN ~ PLAYLIST ON ~ SPEEEEED ~

Deleting Moovit and Efo bus, my transportation apps, was a traumatic experience. But I’m not sure how much I’ll miss their unreliability.

I thought I was gonna miss mountains?? What about small inclines in the road even? Little hills, please, anything more than a speed bump, Florida, step it up. Literally.

Writing the date as month day year instead of day month year. Silly Americans always gotta do it differently.

English. Everyone speaks English. I said something basic in Hebrew to my Jewish friends and still got called out on it. But but speaking Hebrish was my thing!

Uhm, where is Lena’s table? Where is everyone?!?!

So I go to the supermarket and I’m where all the chummus is. Where is the Turkish salad and matbucha? It’s supposed to be right here! And of course, the biggest disappointment: Sabra chummus. Supposedly the best chummus in the States, but even doctored up Middle East style doesn’t even come close to comparing. Also, my vegetables were measured in pounds? Not grams? Not kilos? What? How do I even shop?

My mom just referred to the shuk as the small stores where you can find cute funky things for cheap. However accurate, I’m not sure how I feel about that.

I put my house key in upside down… Twice.

I had to take OFF the converter to plug things in. And I didn’t get shocked by my own laptop! 220 volts was a bit much.

I forgot about red bull! I’m just like, well, what about Blu or XL?

I don’t know anything about pop culture. I hadn’t heard the song Happy by Pharell Williams and the fact that everyone covered/parodied it. I didn’t know about movies coming soon. 22 Jump Street? You mean 21? No, they’re coming out with a second!

Oh, I’ve been abroad, sorry I’m not sorry 🙂

Har Meron

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The highest of the high. Going to Har Meron for the weekend was an inexplicable experience. At first, I wasn’t even going to go. I knew it was the place to be for Lag BaOmer, so I really wanted to go and experience it, seeing as my time here is running out. So at 2 AM I make impulsive plans to go and meet Sam the next day.

Between the disconnect from what I left behind, being in the wilderness, Shabbat and all the incredible people I met, this Lag Chag Weekend has been beyond remarkable.

They say it’s never supposed to be easy to go visit a holy person’s grave. I didn’t know this until I arrived after a not so easy journey. I was on my way to visit Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, or as you might know him, Rashbi. Rashbi’s yartzheit is actually the day of Lag BaOmer, and the day we celebrate his life and his teachings (he wrote the Zohar).

The bus was stopped at the busiest stop thus far. A huge crowd of charedim rushed their luggage and hat cases towards the bus at warp speed. As they all tried to get on, a man starts screaming curses in Hebrew in front of children. I still have no idea what sparked this whole ordeal, all I know is that the man had a temper that brought the police and kept us idle for at least 30 minutes. I happened to be sitting next to a uniformed member of the police force, who was less than happy to stand up to deal with this nut while off-duty. Meanwhile, a group of religious women tried to get on the bus from the back door and were promptly asked to leave by the bus 2014-05-16 14.16.36driver who was having difficulties controlling the situation. The whole situation was oddly entertaining? After a while, we finally got to our destination, and that’s what matters, not the frivolous hassle.

I visited Rashbi, danced, drank, amusingly got scolded multiple times for not being tznius enough, soaked up the fire, learned the teachings of Rebbe Nachman while in a hammock and even played Cards Against Humanity.

I met so many new people and felt the best of vibes all weekend long. The only way to commonly try to describe my time is to picture camping with religious hippies. But that’s not at all accurate, it 2014-05-16 15.59.58was so much more than that. We really were in high spirits and high elevation, you know, being on a mountain and all. We rejoiced in song and prayer and every single person felt so real and so 2014-5-16beautiful inside and out. While singing, jumping and clapping to מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד “it is a big good deed to always be happy,” it really summarized the essence of everything I believe. I truly felt I had found my calling. Words and people and an environment that really spoke to my soul.

I really wanted a petek. I felt that I had been surrounded by such great spirit all weekend and I wanted it to continue to surround me. At first, I scoped out one with a periwinkle heart. There was so much soul and passion in every word and every niggun and every meal this weekend that the heart resonated with me. But, it felt way too generic. So I found a similar one that had a Chamsa on it. Then I saw ones that said “HaAish Sheli,” or literally “My fire,” and it really spoke to me. I am my own spirit, 2014-5-16-1burning brightly in the paths I choose to take. It is a strong signifier of free-will to me, with the reminder that Gd is leading us to each of the decisions we make. I asked the guy at the stand what it meant from his point of view, and he said it’s like my fire burns until the Moshiach comes. This is a hopeful message to me, like the fire, however beautiful, warm and useful it is, it is also destructive, and must be played with carefully. (I also met and witnessed people who spin and breathe fire – too cool!)2014-5-16-2 It is also white. White is not only pure, but with the necklace being physically white, I know it will get dirty. However, this is okay. We cannot be perfect. It is representative of life. If we only had successes we would have nothing to live for. So, while my necklace might get dirty, I can try to live with the purpose of preventing it from getting dirty, to keep my soul holy and free from evils. And while it becoming a little dirty is inevitable, I can then have the  purpose of making it clean again, of re-sanctifying the soul after many tainted mistakes. Also, I met someone named “Levana” and I’m like “oh, like white” and she responded, “like moon.” And it was beautiful. We watched the moon rise over the men as they stared into the east, davening in the new day. I want this to serve as a constant reminder that a new day begins at night. While it feels it might begin when we wake up, it is because we are given multiple chances to welcome the numerous opportunities before us and truly appreciate them.

I shared with another new friend a little bit about Rashbi and what he shared with me made me 2014-05-16 14.00.08mamish trip out on holiness. He said that Gd is the one white light up above. We can’t always see Him, because He fragments Himself into different colors and shines through in ways that make it hard to notice Him in everything He does. My interpretation of this: Think of the idea of a prism. Gd is one white light above us. He radiates down in all different wavelengths of colors, and it is our mission in life to try to find and absorb as many colors as we can. Once we have absorbed, understood and appreciated every wavelength possible, do we combine these colors to elevate back to Hashem, the one white light.

I am so thankful that somehow Shimmy found his way to the campsite where I was. I really wanted to see Akiva, as last time we were in the same place we didn’t make it happen. So 2014-05-18 06.10.49instead of sleep, I chose to go back with Shimmy to visit Akiva. After a little bit, I woke up Akiva even though I felt a little bad doing so. But I am so thankful I did, and I really am thankful to Gd that I am able to think about ideas and to talk about them with such holy people like my friend Akiva. I talked about a whole variety of things with Akiva, but here are some that stuck out particularly. After sharing with me about my name, he told me the story of his namesake. Rabbi Akiva at the age of 40 was far from rabbi level. He was a simple uneducated shepherd. There was a guy (forget his name) who was the richest man at the time. His daughter, Rachel, for some reason wanted to marry Akiva. She sensed something within him and wanted to be his wife. Her father couldn’t understand why she wanted this guy, when she could have her pick of any guy out there. Her father gave her an ultimatum stating: if you marry this guy, I will cut you off from all my riches. She didn’t care, she wanted to be with Akiva. First, she made him go to schooling for 12 years. He was actually in the same class as 6 year olds learning the Aleph Bet. He learns and  learns and when he gets out, his wife requests he spend another 12 years studying. After these 24 years, Rabbi Akiva becomes one of the greatest talmid chachams of his time. At this point, the father realizes his foolish ways and wants to undo the vow he made, but he needs to be in the presence of a rabbi in order to so. So he gets the most well renowned rabbi to null the vow against his daughter. Little did he know that this great Rabbi was really Rabbi Akiva, the same originally simple Akiva his daughter married. WOW! What a story. There was another small story of Rabbe Akiva’s where he witnessed a drip from a stream hit a rock, and over time it made a dent in the rock. (My friend) Akiva said this was when Rabbi Akiva noted how you must persevere and you will eventually get what/where you want. I could also see it as every little force in your life can impact you and you might not even realize it. Every person, every thought,every letter in learning can make an indent on you and make you who you are today. Being surrounded by nature, I thought both interpretations were very beautiful.

Akiva went on to tell me about my name. Everyone I met this weekend felt so holy when they introduced themselves with their Hebrew names. I don’t like my Hebrew name that much, because I love my English name so much. I never really liked how my Hebrew name sounded and could never really relate to it. Akiva’s grandmother’s name is also Tziporah, which he said is literally “little bird.” But, it refers to the canary, the SINGING canary. Never have I felt such a strong connection to my name. If you don’t know me, I sing, like, all the time. My voice was even beginning to hurt from singing/mingling all weekend. One of the main reasons I didn’t like and understand my Hebrew name is because I don’t really like birds; crows totally freak me out. But I feel like I was named Tziporah so I could overcome my fear of birds and to overcome my dislike for my Hebrew name. I needed to learn in the right time the further meaning to my name and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Also, I had always thought that Esther implied queen, because of Queen Esther. In reality, it means hidden, because Esther had to hide her identity (changed her name, did not reveal she was Jewish) in order to save the Jewish people. I’m not really so sure how the ‘hidden’ part of my name applies to myself, but, all in good time.

Hebron

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The day I went to Chevron (with the glutteral Ch, not the gas station) happened to be a great day to go. There was a festival going on there, and the Ma’arat Ha’Machpelah (keep reading…) would be open!

2014-4-17-birkat-cohanimThe morning started off with Birkat Cohanim at the Kotel. I had never seen more people at the Kotel then this morning. It was an incredible experience to be blessed with the rest of klal yisrael in such a holy makom.

We had to go across the street from Jerusalem’s central bus station, crossing through a cool 2014-04-17 17.11.01underground graffiti-ed tunnel, to get to the particular busses leaving to Chevron. We paid for a round-trip ticket and boarded the bus. The avid adventurer and window-seat-girl in me was disappointed by the cloudy scratched yellowed windows on the bus we had to take. I made a remark about not being able to see out of the windows, and a friend noted that we were on a bullet proof bus. It hadn’t even occurred to me. The reality of the journey had gotten, well, more real.

But stepping off the bus on the other side, the loud Jewish music blaring immediately clouded any hesitation I had about entering Chevron. Walking up a small set of stairs, I was swarmed by Jews and absolutely loving it. The Na Nachs greeted us with their jumping airplanes and undying spirit; my unmodest impulsivity wanted to join them so badly. Their ruach was infectious in the best way!2014-4-17-awkshomerpic

There were so many different vendors, but we tried hard to ignore them and made our way to the 2014-04-17 13.28.06Ma’arat Ha’Machpelah, to visit the ultimate Bubbe and Zeide: Avraham and Sara. And Yitzchak, Yaakov, Rivka and Leah. The Patriarchs and Matriarchs of our people! The holiness just oozes! 2014-04-17 13.49.51We only get to see decorated above-ground versions of their graves, because they are really buried beneath the building, supposedly. Ma’arat Ha’Machpelah translates to “double cave,” 2014-04-17 14.14.23which is the original plot of land Avraham purchased to bury Sara. Islam refers to this place as the Ibrahim mosque, as it is a mosque for the majority of the year. It is only occasionally opened to Jews as well.

The neatest part about the site is this small veiled vent on the floor that leads straight to the caves. They say its as if you are breathing in the air of Gan Eden, the only tangible worldly connection to the heavens. However, it was pretty upsetting to see everyone push and shove to get to the holy spot. It was hard to get to it, and even more difficult to escape the suffocating crowd. I went to the vent and crouched down so my face was directly over it, trying to take in the sweet scent of Gan Eden. Expectation: vague, but high, hoping for a spectacular mix of personal elevation and vanilla fresh cut grass. Reality: a harsh metal taste of the vent itself, while feeling an indescribable Gdly gust grace my face, while trying to ignore the pushy women preventing me from standing up again. The scent was indecipherable, but the connection incomparable. I felt closer to my ancestors and loved ones than ever before.

Here are some thoughts I had while at the kever….When it comes to prayer, prayer is personal. I’m so content though that I pray for our nation as a whole. I realized that when our relatives die, they are another person from Am Yisrael gone and joined the forefathers in the cycle of 2014-04-17 13.55.07life. Our forefathers are here. This place is holy for Arabs too because they are their forefathers as well. Why can’t we realize we are from the same people? We have the same mother and father. So what if there was a sibling feud. We are family. We need to learn to get along. To share things equally and fairly. Because what is family if we are constantly shedding blood?
So to everyone filled with hate and resentment for the past: that’s what the past is – it has passed, it’s gone. But remember a key point in all of our past is that we have the same roots. As important as our respective religions are to us, we can still get along harmoniously. We are still falling from the same people, the same mom and dad. They don’t want to see us fighting any longer. Neither does Gd, Allah, Hashem, or whatever you would like to call Him.

When we left the synagogue part of the kever, I lit a memorial candle in memory of mainly my 2014-04-17 14.08.23sister, but also our forefathers and the other beautiful souls that have left the world that we know. It was an honor to be able to bring her light to Israel, to visit them, even though she already got to meet them way before she should have.

We found a delectable kosher for Pesach barbecue buffet for lunch. While enjoying some shnitzel and way too many “chiips,” suddenly a uniformed man hurriedly mutters in Hebrew something that I totally miss, but from the actions of others he was requesting we move over to one side of the tent we were eating under. It seemed urgent, and though we were unsure what to do, we pick up our things and move quickly. Apparently, someone had left their backpack unattended, and the situation was neutralized and everything was totally fine. Still, we left immediately.2014-4-17-hebron

We venture off on a personal tour of Chevron, courtesy of a potential future resident. As we walked the side roads, the military presence in Chevron was heavily felt. There were soldiers everywhere we looked. A tank casually adorned the side of the road. Numerous soldiers patrolled the road in a confusing throng of threat and protection.

We went to a free museum depicting the past of Chevron. It was not for the weak stomached. 2014-04-17 15.21.14Images of bludgeoned limbs hung on the walls, all belonging to Yeshiva students who were injured in a threat in Chevron. I’ll spare you from seeing them until you are able to visit the site as well.

Here, an IDF soldier patrols the occupied territory of Hebron. To the left fly Palestinian flags in the distance.

Here, an IDF soldier patrols the occupied territory of Hebron. To the left fly Palestinian flags in the distance.

When we left the museum, we walked through a back ally and could really see the occupation. The huge Israeli flag dominates over the Palestinian homes.

Our final stop on the mini tour was a shul with an amazing story that you’ll have to check this post again in order to read.

Before embarking on my trip to Chevron, I assumed all responsibility for my actions and any events and consequences that could possibly occur. 

See you on the other side, Jordan

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Crazy Mikey was the guy who worked at our hostel. Crazy Mikey offered to drive us to the King Hussein/Alleby Border to conclude our trip in Jordan. To say Crazy Mikey is a character is an understatement. Crazy Mikey is from San Francisco, USA. Crazy Mikey does everything extremely unnecessarily early.  Crazy Mikey wakes up everyday at 3 AM no matter what. Crazy Mikey was in Academy for 17 years. Crazy Mikey would shave, make his bed, eat breakfast, and by 4 AM he would exercise. We heard about Crazy Mikey’s routine at least three times. Crazy Mikey mentioned he burned his hand. Assuming it had just happened, I ask, “oh are you okay?” Crazy Mikey replies, “Yea in Iraq war I had a bomb in my hand and pulled it away from children and it blew up in my hand, but you know the things you do to fight for our country.” But, but, Crazy Mikey, if a bomb blew up in your hand you wouldn’t have a hand… Crazy Mikey told us as he sped through the curvy roads of Amman,2014-04-06 06.24.33 “I used to drive race car, guys, you’re with Crazy Mikey, guys, hahahaha!”  Crazy Mikey used to drive a ’67 mustang and was caught by helicopter going 180 mph. Crazy Mikey happened to know there was a random coffee stand on the side of the road.2014-04-06 06.29.28 Crazy Mikey proclaimed his 6th wife will be Jewish. Crazy Mikey has had 5 wives. Crazy Mikey used to put so much coke in his nose. Crazy Mikey then used to ask the ladies, “let’s get married,” and then go to Tajo. Crazy Mikey claims it was good coke then, not mixed. Crazy Mikey got the ladies to respond, “yeaa, I’ll marry you, let’s go!” Crazy Mikey told us we are friendly. Crazy Mikey said the British, French, German don’t laugh, don’t have personality like American. Crazy Mikey crazy surprisingly got us to the border safely.

We then had the honor to have coffee with His Majesty King Abdullah the Second May He Reign Forever.2014-04-06 07.06.13

We waited for what felt like a very long time for them to even begin checking passports. There was a 10 JD exit tax, plus 7 JD for the bus to cross the border.

As we headed back to where we came from, I thought a lot about everything I had just experienced in Jordan.

Everyone was so nice. I have yet to encounter a culture that would stay talking with tourists so long. Granted, my friends were speaking Arabic so it was probably entertaining for them. And they were enjoying teaching me things and proving they know a little bit of English.

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What I knew

  • Shukuran – thank you
  • Kifak (kifik if you’re asking a girl)- what’s up/ how are you
  • Mniha – alright (response to above)
  • Inshallah- if god wills it

What I learned

  • Ma barif arabi – I don’t know Arabic
  • Al humdidallah – thank god
  • Ma salem – literally “with peace,” goodbye
  • Ana – me
  • 1-20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100
  • Shoe? – what?
  • Shoe ismak? – What’s your name?
  • Afwan- excuse me/you’re welcome
  • Moomkin- maybe (the only word to kind of be polite in Arabic)
  • Le/la- no
  • Wayne hamam? – Where’s the bathroom?
  • Ktir – very
  • Bdik/Bdak – do you want…
  • ik is female ending/ak is male ending
  • Probably more…

2014-04-06 09.56.41Al aqsa. The Dome of the Rock. It’s everywhere. Store signs, plastic bags, figurines, billboards. A mini one shines of gold amongst homogenous square buildings that crowd the one real city and capital of Jordan. Al quds. Jerusalem. It’s everywhere. The name of a restaurant. A coffee store. An origin. They still yearn for it. For their homeland. They can’t forget it. It’s everywhere. Their longing is real. It’s everywhere. Their pain is real. It’s everywhere.

Al quds. Jerusalem. What does quds mean? Hm, let’s think. In ancient times, what does the Tanach refer to Jerusalem as? Ir hakodesh. The holy city. Quds has the same exact root – kodesh. The fact that Jerusalem is holy to more than one nation will not change. But I sure hope the way we share it can. Peacefully.

Ma salem,

Ki

Betra

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This bost is going to be mainly bictures because Betra is such a phenomenal city that it hard to describe in words. Oh, did you forget Arabic doesn’t have the ‘p’ sound?

Corey and I woke up super early to catch our 6:30 bus to Petra. We needed to get to the JETT bus station early to purchase our tickets for there and back, 19 JD roundtrip. We were worried we wouldn’t be able to find a taxi so early in the morning, so we figured if we were out on the street by 5:30 we’d have a cab by at least 5:50 and still get there before 6.  But Crazy Mikey (the guy who works at the hostel we stayed at who refers to himself as Crazy Mikey), told us to be ready by 5 because we might have a really hard time finding a taxi that early. But when we woke up, Crazy Mikey called his friend the cab driver who was at the door to our hostel in less than 10 seconds, ready to rip off the Americans. He still ripped us off, but Corey bargained down a little. We were so out of it we didn’t even think to ask for the meter because all the cabs we had been in before automatically had used it. Oh, well.

We get our tickets and it’s so early nothing is open besides for JETT. So. Early. No. Coffee Anywhere. We notice that this random commercial center is open so we decide to step in. Only a security guard is there, and we ask him if there is any place to get coffee. He says nothing is open and we disappointedly start to leave. He compliments Corey’s Arabic, walks out with us and we speak outside for a while.

He asks Corey, “Is this your wife?”

When a man and a women are together in public in Jordan, they are either engaged, married, or related. There is no such thing as just friends between a boy and girl and boyfriends don’t exist either. Corey decided it would be easier to go along with it, “Maybe in the future…” NOT.

He replies, “Inshallah!” This means god willing, and is one of the best sayings in Arabic. Even if you have set plans – so I’ll see you at 8? Inshallah!

This guy goes on to say something like, “Israel occupied MY land 48, I was born in the 60s and me and my family were kicked out.” They weren’t exactly kicked out, but the fact that he sees it like that is really interesting. We talk for a little more and the tells us to wait 5 or 10 minutes and he’ll be right back with coffee or tea for us. HOW NICE! He literally went back inside and made tea for us himself. He only had one cup so we shared but STILL. THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN!!!

We see our bus pull up so we begin to part ways. He says to us, “I hope you have a great trip.” Corey started to say something to the effect of, “I wish…..” and the guy finishes his sentence saying, “for the return of my family to Palestine!” (El auda illa philistine.) “I want to go back to Palestine like you want to go back to America.” We definitely take for granted that we can return to our home so easily. Imagine traveling for a couple weeks and then being denied entrance back into the US. But, but, we live there! And so is the Palestinian narrative.

JETT: Jordanian Express Tourist Transport. So naturally, our 20 minute rest-stop was at a total toursity place. There wasn’t even a gas station here! 2014-04-05 08.16.54

After 3 hours on the bus, we finally get to Petra!! We get off the bus and try tying my kufia on my head. I was struggling a little bit because it was windy and I had no idea what I was doing. Almost immediately someone offers to help and ties it on for me. I was so thankful for this guy’s help, I would have melted without this makeshift hat.

It was a 50 JD entrance fee into the excavated city of Petra. I had just enough money to pay to get in and then I went and exchanged more money, because it was more acceptable to exchange shekels in Petra, the main tourist attraction of Jordan. The guy at the exchange place was named Abdouli and he was so nice he offered me cream for my eczema! Who does that?! It was prescription stuff that was really good and probably really expensive for him. HOW NICE.

We were so hungry and I looked for food without meat. I walked into a restaurant and they say they have a bunch of things, including bizza. I asked what kind of pizza they have, and they say: meat, beef, or chicken. They couldn’t understand that I didn’t want meat until Corey told them I don’t eat meat.  The guy behind the counter scrounged in the freezer and found a way overpriced frozen vegetarian pizza for me.

We then enter the total tourist trap. We were bombarded by multiple people asking if wanted a free horse ride. What’s the catch? They work for tip. 5 dinar. It’s okay though, we really wanted to walk it anyways. You can’t really tell from this picture,

KJ

KJ

but Corey and I left our mark in one of the first easily accessible caves in Petra. – that sounds like we went to the bathroom – lol nope, different cave.

Right before we entered the real entrance to the old city of Petra, we saw this reenactment taking place. I’m not really sure what it was for, but it was definitely entertaining.2014-04-05 11.12.04

Picture a desert. Now picture huge cliffs in the desert. Now picture cliffs right next to each other forming a narrow alleyway that leads into the city. Wayyyyy back in the day the area experienced many flash-floods, and they needed a way to drain this entrance. The drainage system the Nabataeans set up is so advanced for its time. You can still see the ancient pipes lining the sides.

Walking through the city there was always more to see. A model of the camel caravan is carved into the rock. On the right you can see the figure of of a man, with camel feet following him.

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The Camel Caravan

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The Kissing Cliffs (so named by us)

We were just casually walking along, and all of a sudden these random people told us stay to the side for a moment. They were filming a movie! I asked them what it was for: an Indian Saltine Dancing movie called Tamid. Or something like that.  It was really cool to be able to see a movie being filmed right in front of us. Especially because one of the Indiana Jones movies and part of Transformers were filmed in Petra too!

We had been walking for quite some time, and through the narrow cliff-way something was 2014-04-05 11.46.38shining. 2014-04-05 11.44.04We had made it to the treasury! It is so incredible to me that this structure was literally carved into the side of a huge cliff. Apparently the inside is very spacious and has great acoustics. It is the first main attraction of the city of Petra.

2014-04-05 12.03.21

Sad Sweating Donkey Disapproves Tourism

Since the Romans like to build everywhere they go, here is another Roman amphitheatre. The Romans took over the Nabataean city a long time ago. Also, I went to the bathroom in a cave and thought it was cool. Because it totally was. 2014-04-05 12.13.28

Soon after passing a bunch of neat historic ruins, such as an ancient temple and a lot of various tombs, 2014-04-05 12.37.062014-04-05 12.19.16we began our ascent toward the Monastery. Seven hundred and fifty-eight steps later (not including any steps downhill), we had reached the Monastery! It was colossal, and again totally 2014-04-05 13.26.11astounding that it was carved right into the cliff. They had to have used some sort of scaffolding system in order to build it, and it’s intricacies and size are unbelievable.But there we were, minuscule 10176197_10152110113334195_4690061664421277211_nbeings over-10177325_10152110113724195_6174345933085566594_ntowered by the mass of history above us.

After approximately another fifty steps, we were at what was debatably “The Best View.” 2014-04-05 14.03.58This concluded the ascent, and it was time to return back through the one path of Petra. 2014-04-05 13.50.21

 

 

 

On our way back down, one of the Egyptian Jack Sparrows (dark skin, eyeliner, pirate-y, there were multiple, not exaggerating), was on the back of a donkey guiding a little girl up the mountain with the rest of her family. I pressed to the side of the path to avoid getting run over by a donkey, and Jack Sparrow pops to the side and says with wide eyes, “I like youu, wooowww.” I’m going to speculate it was because at this point in the desert afternoon I was wearing shorts , a novelty in an Islamic country.

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Retracing our steps, we passed the treasury again, but this time it was glowing a rose-red. Somehow in the late afternoon the lighting brought out the remarkable manganese in the rock. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

 

On our way out, I made some new friends. 2014-04-05 16.19.45 2014-04-05 16.22.46I was ridiculously happy to meet some of the cutest peeps around.

There was so much off the main path that we unfortunately did not have enough time to explore. The city is seriously phenomenal, geologically and historically.

Petra was so much betra than anything I could have expected.

 

How much of Amman can we see in one day?

Standard

We start the day by heading to Suk Abdali, which only happens every Friday. It’s a huge flea market set up in parking lot, with everything from fresh green peanuts to used sneakers. Before really exploring the suk, we needed coffee. We spot out a coffee shop close by, and it was helpful (to me, at least) that there was a picture of a coffee mug on the sign. Here, we met a Syrian shopkeeper who was so friendly. He spoke no English, but still tried to communicate with me a little bit. Getting interspersed translations from my friends, he really could not get over how beautiful Damascus is and how much nicer and prettier it is than here in Jordan. You could tell he really misses his home. He friended Becca and Corey on Facebook and not me, but said maybe after they teach me more Arabic. He gave us all coffee and water bottles for free, even after insisting we pay, and then insisting we at least pay for water. What a warm welcome.

From Suk Abdali, we headed to Sports City, which is basically a huge park with an arena in it also. It was more than cute when all a sudden a boy on his bicycle slows down and says “Bicca!” It was Becca’s host brother, Ahmed! She was so thrilled to see him and he her. The extent of English was adorable, asking “how are you” and responding “good” to everything.

Here I got to witness some of the familial culture in Jordan. People come here just to hang out and let their kids play unsupervised.We saw a little boy, less than 2 years old, scooting himself around on a small plastic car, that almost headed uncontrollably down an incline. Kids here must learn a greater sense of independence at a young age.

We needed food. “Oh Jordan,” as Becca would say, “you try so hard,” you went and named your huge chain supermarket and restaurant HABOOB. HABOOB SubermarketBecca and Corey begin chatting up the guy at the meat counter. He identified as Palestinian and was happy to prove he speaks English, while my American friends responded to him in Arabic.

There’s not really a thing in Jordan called vegetarianism. I had potato wedges as a meal. It’s fine.

Becca then took us to more of the “slumps” of Jordan. Like, she was surprised that there wasn’t a thick layer of trash lining the streets like there usually is. She pointed out the apartment she used to live in, and I honestly expected the area to be worse. It wasn’t as bad as she made it seem. After touring the side streets we got to a main road and couldn’t resist the corner-store bakery. This guy was Syrian with atypical stunning blue eyes, who let us sample just about every type of dessert in his store. After we said we were from America, he starts by saying something about Obama, then I heard him say George Bush a couple times and then I heard Saddam Hussein. After leaving with a nice array of pastries, I learn that he said Obama is weak and that George Bush killed Saddam Hussein who didn’t do anything. Interesting.

Our next taxi driver was a 70-year-old Palestinian, who wishes that Hitler won the Second World War… Him and his family would not have been displaced and by implication there would be less Jews. Although I had no idea what they were talking about in the moment, I’m pretty glad we got out of that cab almost right after he said that.

We were now in Abdoun, the most affluent part of Amman, filled with diplomats, expensive restaurants, mansions, the Taj Mall (*giggle*), and Ferraris and Bentleys lining the streets as apposed to garbage. Abdoun was no doubt in sharp contrast to where we had just been. We stopped at a restaurant and they spoke to guy who was Palestinian by heritage, not by birth. He said he would definitely go to Palestine if he could, because it’s his homeland.

We get in yet another taxi with a Palestinian driver from Bethlehem. He gets to go home once a month, and sends money to his four kids. He said he would not want to go back to Palestine, because the work in Amman is good. It also probably has something to do with him actually having the opportunity to see his land regularly, and realizes it is now not a place he would want to live. As apposed to the guy earlier who still views his homeland as this ideological holy place. We spent a while in this taxi because the guy did not know what we meant by “Roman citadel.” He called one of his friends to ask him where to go, and then we ended up seeing the same guy we talked to on the phone on the road a little later! They drove window to window through awful traffic, talking and laughing while various honks playfully boomeranged all around us. After accidentally taking us first to the ruins we wanted to see after the citadel, we finally make it up hill. We overlooked the whole city and it was incredible. 2014-04-04 15.07.26Now imagine many many years ago 2014-04-04 15.10.49there was just a huge temple on top of a mountain, with the rest of the city below it. Except the city was called Philadelphia (who knows why…) sometime before 2nd century AD. Freaking Romans built everywhere. Walking through the ruins, we hear weird music being played. We follow the noise, and it is in fact none other than two Bedouins, in full robe and red kufias, playing Yankee Doodle on bagpipes and drum. I so so wish I go a video of them playing Yankee Doodle, but here is a glimpse of what I was able to catch on film. Oh, and note the Jordanian flag tied onto the bagpipes. Priceless.

Just as we are about to leave the Citadel, the Call to Prayer begins. We quickly climb back to the top, hearing and feeling the Call echoing around us and the entire city. In the distance was the huge Jordainian flag swaying with pride in the same wind lifting the kites above us and the spirits of everyone heading off to pray. A bunch of young boys were flying kites right next to us and I couldn’t not think of The Kite Runner. Yes, Arab boys do in fact play with kites. Yes, there is so much more controversy here and around here than I’ll ever be able to see for myself. And, yes, I can just sit here and soak up the Jordanian sun and try to return to my ignorance. Or I can gaze into the distance at what was once the biggest standing flag in the world and realize it is the same flag as the Palestinian flag, but with a star. Realize the sorrow these people are living through everyday. Realize as they call out to Allah that Jews believe in one god too. Realize not everyone is a radical. Realize there are radicals in almost every group. Realize that people over in the “Western neighbor” don’t realize so much. Realize that I was one of them.

Tour Guide Becca was so proud of herself for finding this random staircase that leads directly from the top of the mountain to the bottom, where the Roman amphitheatre lays. 2014-04-04 16.44.11At the foot of the ampitheatre we saw the most grass in all of Amman, with “our city/nation, Amman” written in Arabic within the grass.

Since we were already at the bottom of the mountain, we were also basically in downtown, which is filled with various shops. We go into this one shop, buy a few things, and get to talking with the shop keepers. One of them speaks English really well, and also knows French and obviously Arabic as well. They are so nice. They are Palestinian and so of course, they tell me they like my kufia. I think they asked my friends why I was so shy, because suddenly attention was turned to me. I say “ma barif arabi,” which means “I don’t know Arabic,” and they laugh because I said it in Arabic. They start teaching me Arabic and how to count. They say the numbers are so similar to English so it’s easy to learn. I had to hold back from saying, “no it sounds nothing like English it’s basically the same thing as Hebrew!” It made it easier to learn the numbers, but at the same time harder. The pronunciation is so strange and certain sounds even stranger to my untrained sheltered ears. I think I really took for granted going to “Palestine” knowing the main language and being essentially fluent in it by now. Experiencing Jordan, I can now really relate to some of the international students I know who came without speaking a lick of Hebrew. They can’t go to the supermarket without it being a challenge. They can’t always get around, although soooooo many more people speak English in Israel than they do in Jordan. I would be so lost in Jordan if I didn’t have my Arabic speaking peoples with me. I wouldn’t be able to get around I wouldn’t know where to go or what to do becauase everything is in Arabic. There is so little English here that I have to tell what shops sell by their pictures on the sign. I have to guess what people are saying by their gestures and intonations. It’s challenging, but I’m thanful people talk animatedly enough for me to understand a lot more than I thought I would. At least they use their hands to point out the bathroom, and directional terms are very similar to Hebrew.

We talked to these same shopkeepers for quite sometime, and Corey brought up that he wanted to get a haircut and ask them if they knew a place. The guy walked us all the way there, waited with us, made sure we got tea while we waited, stayed with us until Corey was completely done with his first straight shave. What hospitality! I was really astounded by how nice this guy was. Maybe he had nothing better to do, but still.

Hashem’s! No, not Hashem, like Jew G-d, but Hash-em’s, was where had the best and cheapest dinner with the quickest service. In less than 30 seconds we had falafel, french fries, 3 bowls of hummus and pita for everyone on the table. And it was so delicious. We had met up with Becca’s friend who is from Syria and is currently living in Jordan. He also speaks perfect English. It was really interesting to see his point of view on Jordan, seeing as he has lived here for a while. He has a pretty pessimistic view of Jordan. He was saying that Jordanians never smile. They never laugh. Because they live in a shit place.

Corey and I wanted to go to sleep early because we were leaving for Petra at 5 in the morning. So, of course, I had a hard time trying to fall asleep.

When I crawl into my creaky bed

I lay my head that’s spinning

Staring at the dark ceiling

Somehow I’m reliving my day

Overwhelmed by the unknown

Try so hard to decode

The input overload

Somehow letters I don’t know

Start to float unconsciously

And even when I close my eyes

They’re still there

Calling out to me

I can’t make sense of the gibberish mess beaming colorfully through my mind

So I’ll try to unwind and to take the time to decipher my new friend, arabi.