19.1.14 (the more logical and internationally accepted way to date everything) I have been having a blast in Israel, so it is time to catch up a little on what I have done so far.
Thursday 16.1.14 Of course. Waking up and realizing that I am in Jerusalem was unbelievable. Of course, I woke up with my cousin’s cat Emily cradled between my legs. She has another cat, named Jack, who is also super cute and cuddly. I had a delicious Israeli breakfast, which consisted of shoko b’sakit (chocolate milk in a bag) and rugelach. The Dude (the word for the water heater) was already set on a timer the night before, so I took a shower on a delicate balance between scorching hot and freezing cold. I then immediately set off on an expedition to accomplish the foremost important thing: get a cell phone. Walking down an unfamiliar hill, it fortunately was not hard to find the Hadar mall. Even though I know it is Israel and the security is tight, it was a bit strange to have to be screened to enter a shopping mall. Once inside, I walked around the first floor, then went up to the second floor, but yet I still was unable to locate the Bug Electronic store. Of course, it was in the first corridor that I skipped on the first floor. I put on my best Hebrew, and successfully got a SIM card and my own personal Israeli number. I was so excited to have a phone that I called my mom; it was 4 AM her time, whoops! I went back to my cousin’s apartment and her roommate, Reka, asked if I wanted to go to Machane Yehuda with her. Of course, I wanted to go!! She thought it would be boring for me to accompany her grocery shopping, but for me, it was thrilling. When we were waiting patiently to get the aggressive vendor’s attention to pay for an avocado, we were casually conversing in English. A women next to us says to Reka in Hebrew: “Do you speak Hebrew?” Reka: Yes…. Woman: (in Hebrew) “So, speak Hebrew” This was just not going to fly. It would be one thing if Reka tried speaking to the woman in English and she did not understand, but Reka was speaking to me! I love Hebrew so much but sometimes Israelis be cray. After shopping for various food items, and trying amazing delicious strawberries (toot), I was going to meet up with Mosh. Of course, he was running late. But honestly, I did not mind. It gave me an opportunity to soak up the Israeli atmosphere while I waited for him to arrive. Sitting outside The Coffee Been, alone at a table for two, a guy asks if he could sit there. Of course, I did not mind, as I knew Mosh would not be coming for quite some time. The guy sits there, quiet at first, but then begins talking to me. Of course, he only speaks Hebrew. So I try my best to make pleasant conversation to pass the time. We get to talking and he asks if I would want to go to a party with him tonight. Eh, maybe I said. We exchange information, because, whatever, couldn’t hurt. We were being pushed to order something at the restaurant or to leave, so we relocate to a nearby bench. We continue speaking and he tells me he has “virgin lips,” and asks if I see a future with him. Uhm, yo, we just met. Crazy Israelis, man. He had to go, and my friend Akiva was coming to meet me because he only lives two blocks away. Saved by Rabbe Akiva. Phew. Akiva and Moshe happen to come at around the same time, and we spent the rest of the day walking in, around and above the Old City. We walked through Manilla, the ritzy-pitzy area, which directly lead to the old city. It is so beautiful there; I had to stop a few times and take touristy moments. We were starving, so we ate at Holy Bagel in the Old City. Since I am trying new things, I had a bagel with pesto and salad. We then went to the Kotel, and it continues to take my breath away. I was mamsih kvelling. We split up; the boys went to their side and I to mine. It was mincha time, but the first book I picked up was for Psalms. It was perfect, because the last time I was at the Kotel I said tehillim. In order to reconnect, I said the same ones and absorbed the holiness of the makom (place). For me, the Kotel is overwhelmingly moving, but at the same time I felt a spiritual serenity come over me. I pressed my hand to the Wall and kissed my hand, feeling incredibly thankful that I got the opportunity to return. My concentration was slightly interrupted by music playing “אהבת ישראל בנשמה,” which was definitely a huge part of what I was feeling in the moment. My love of Israel is very much a part of my soul, and essentially my reason for currently standing in the heart of the country. I slowly tilted my neck back, staring up the height of the Wall and toward the sky. Realizing it was probably time to meet back up with my friends, I still took my time stepping backward away from the wall. I did not want to leave; I savored the moment while simultaneously making sure I was not going to bump into anyone 😛 As soon as I could see the tree tops beyond the Wall, it felt okay to turn around and return to my friends and continue our Old City adventure. We went through the Arab shuk, and then above it, climbing on rooftops and leaping from one building to the next (kids, don’t try this at home). Then, we made our way to overlook the Kotel. I seriously get the chills thinking about this moment… we all stood there staring at the Wall, modern city lights reflecting off our watery eyes, and took a unanimous moment of awe-inspired speechlessness. Look at it. It is just a wall on the surface, but there is so much more (personal and general) meaning and history behind it that makes it so special. The fact that one place can simply overcome three individuals is remarkable. And that is only what I experienced in that very moment. The fact that the same heartwarming feeling can rush through an entire nation is miraculous. Afterwords, we wandered towards Aish in the Old City. Moshe introduces himself to the guy at the front, and of course, the guy there knew his father! So they get to chatting, and the guy is very nice. He let us go on the roof of Aish, which would normally be 10 NIS each. The view from the top of Aish is wonderful. You are able to overlook the Kotel and the city. There were binoculars there and we could literally see the texture of the stones of the Wall. I felt very privileged to be there. We then made our way to City Center and had a very fun night. I got to meet Moshe’s roommate Keith, and his best friend from Milwaukee, Shimmy. My night was made when I was just sitting outside socializing, and I see SAM! I had no idea that she was in Jerusalem, let alone coming to meet us. It was such a wonderful surprise! She was with Julia, who coerced me to accompany her to some sort of “ebbing.” I went down a flight of mysterious stairs only to stumble upon an indoor candle bonfire, surrounded by Israelis strumming on guitars and banging on the bongos. There were such good vibes and warmth radiating from this one underground room. Truly, I believe that congregating and rejoicing in song is one of my most favorite environments to be in, despite not knowing any of the tunes being played.
Friday 17.1.14 Ginegar
In the morning, I was running a little later than I would have liked because I forgot about the Dude. Like, DUDE, come on!!! Warm up! It was okay though, because it gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to my cousin; she helped me with my bags and caught a taxi for me. During my ride to the central bus station in Jerusalem, I got to speaking with the bus driver. He wanted to practice his English, and although I love practicing my Hebrew, I settled for some quality conversation. We got to speaking about why I was in Israel, and he asked if I would ever want to live here. I said, maybe, but my mom already misses me, so we’ll see. So he replies, ah, but all the Jews need to be in Israel! I did not even think he was Jewish, to be honest. However, he is more than right. (Cough, mom, cough, I know you are reading this :P) Israel has time and time again been overpowered by other nations. The state of Israel was originally established as a Jewish state; why should we not hold the majority? The experience of living in such a holy country could only be heightened by being surrounded by more Jews who understand and respect the value of this land to the Jewish people.