Friday, August 8, 2014

The End of a Journey

June 7 to August 8 were dates engrained in my mind since I ended school April 22nd. At first, it was to countdown the days until I left for Israel for a two-month internship program. But, by the end, it was an utter disaster every time someone mentioned that the end date was quickly approaching. It meant many things to me, but the most important was that I would have to become a “real person” again, face the reality of life, and going back to school.

My summer started off as an amazing one, something that I cannot even put into words. I was meeting new people, exploring a metropolitan city, and learning more about living on my own and being independent. Along this path, though, there were many hardships. The first started off when my purse was stolen on the beach… a lackadaisical move on my part. I had to put my big girl pants on and faced the fact that I no longer had some of the basic necessities to get me through the summer such as two phones, cash, a credit card, etc. In the scheme of things, this disaster seems only minimal compared to the other tragedies that happened along the way. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer while I was in Israel, which came as a complete shock and a hardship, especially dealing with it halfway across the world. With the amazing support of my family and friends, I was able to handle the situation as best as I could. I needed a way to cope with my feelings, and Israel was just the right medicine. I witnessed the kidnapping and killing of three innocent Israeli soldiers. I attended their vigils and sang songs and prayers in Rabin Square for them. I lived through Operation Protective Edge and had rockets fired over my head daily. I practically visited a bomb shelter every day and even cooked dinner and watched a movie in there. I had a negative experience at my first internship at Chimes, which subsequently drew me to Delicious Israel. This got me back on my feet and in high spirits.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that nothing is perfect. No one’s life is perfect, no matter how much we think some people’s are. I was living the life in Israel yet unexpected things occurred. Shit happens. Yet, I tried to take all of those difficult experiences and make them into something incredible.

My nights didn’t consist of sitting in my room sulking about how messed up this world is. Did I think that many times and sometimes let it consume my thoughts? Of course. But, I tried to let go of the situation and just enjoy life. Instead, I spent nights going out with my friends, dancing the night away in clubs, sipping on wine at local bars, and tasting Israeli cuisine. I spent my days exploring and learning the back roads of Tel Aviv and all the city has to offer. I took excursions to random places. I got denied from the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, drank wine overlooking the mountains in Tzfat, played cards with my host family in Karmiel, visited the Kotel in Jerusalem, had a meaningful Shabbaton in Yerucham, and mudded up at the Dead Sea. I hiked the Ein Geti and “hiked” (swam) through a body of water near the Golan Heights. I sat in many classroom lectures and met wonderful Israelis who were so proud and dedicated to their country. I ate a 12-course meal with my boss at a contemporary Asian Fusion restaurant. I progressed as a writer and helped Delicious Israel in many business projects.

This summer is one I will never forget. I know it’s cliché but I truly did find myself this summer. I have a passion for advocating for Israel that I’ve never experienced before. I never knew I had it in me and didn’t really have the motivation and drive. My only connection prior was Birthright, which I think is a great step in the right direction. But ultimately, I think it takes living in a foreign country as a local to truly experience everything. Touring and living are just not the same things. I have “toured” many places but have only felt at home at a select few. I can honestly say that I know I will be back to Israel. It isn’t just something that is a want, but more of a need. There is just this connection to both the Jewish people and the land that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. Yes, Highland Park is VERY Jewish, but it is different. These are my people. My land. If I ever need an escape or somewhere to run to, Israel is there for me. No questions asked but they will take me in. Nowhere else in the world does this exist. Yes, Israel isn’t perfect and there are obviously flaws and faults in any country. But, nowhere else do I feel this connection.

I truly hope that everyone has the opportunity that I had to experience another culture, whether it is in Israel or somewhere else in the world. I know I have a bit of wanderlust and understand that not everyone feels the same about traveling. But, I think you also get to know your own culture and country by visiting other ones. I now know what about the United States I like and aspects that I don’t agree with. I know what I love about Israelis and what I could probably live without.

I want to thank my family and friends (especially my parents) for making all of this possible. I seriously don’t know what I would do without you guys or who would keep me sane in crazy situations. I need you people in my life to calm me down during hectic times and to celebrate with me in times of happiness.

For example, my flight today. I was supposed to be on an 11:30pm flight from Tel Aviv to Philly then to Chicago. I sat calmly on the runway after the flight was already delayed for an hour. Three hours passed and the pilot informed us that the flight was being cancelled. After a frantic panic attack from me, I Facebooked my mom about the situation. In a matter of minutes, I was booked on the next flight to London then to Chicago. Mom makes moves, let me tell you! I ended up meeting amazing people on my flights (shout out to all that helped me with my oversize and massive bags) and although I literally spirited across London Heathrow airport to make my connecting flight, it gave me an adrenaline rush and I have the sweat marks to prove it!

Israel is just an amazing place. Period. I don’t know what else to say. These two-months flew by and in the blink of an eye they were over. I definitely have no regrets but I do feel in a way that I turned my back on Israel. We lived like Israelis for two-months and then just left when it was our time to go. I hated leaving during the situation and felt as if I were letting down my people. Not that I myself have that big of an impact on Israel, but I just felt a sense of remorse. But, I know I’ll be back next year. Whether taking classes, working, volunteering, or something else, I know I’ll be back. It wasn’t a “goodbye” to Israel but more of a “see you later.”

I have a favorite quote that perfectly summed up my time in Florence as it does for Israel as well. “You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. You’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and place because you’ll never be this way again.” Peace out Tel Aviv, I’ll be back for you someday soon!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Final Days

So much has gone on the past few days it's hard to put into words exactly what I did. I have explored new neighborhoods, tried new cuisine, and completed my internship. So... where to begin?!

It was a sad few days leading up to the final goodbye. I have enjoyed my internship at Delicious Israel greatly as well as the time I've spent with my boss, Inbal. My friends always joke because we spend 24/7 together working and eating, trying new restaurants and types of cuisine. I finally finished a project I've been working on since the beginning so that was really cool to see an end result to my hard work. I also have been helping Inbal with a new product launch so I'm excited to see where that goes. I've also committed to working for her once I return to the US which will be great! I can't describe how much I'm going to miss Delicious Israel.

Tel Aviv Art Museum:
Dani, Cydnie and I went to the Tel Aviv Art Museum the other day. Although some of it was too contemporary and modern for me to appreciate, I fell in love with one of the exhibits. The artist's name is David Reeb and I am obsessed with his work. He basically paints pictures of things that have happened in Israel's history from wars to written pieces. Reeb truly captured the history of Israel and the Israeli people in an impactful and motivating way. After walking through his exhibit, it made me want to research more on every event that has taken place and the results of those events.

After the Art Museum we went to the Tel Aviv port and ate at a Druze food stand. The food was delicious yet my stomach didn't thank me afterward. We headed to the beach to tan and meet our friends for some cheese and wine during the sunset. We picked up wine and cheese from this sketchy wine and cigar store, where the 40-year-old man thought it was perfectly acceptable to hit on a group of 20-something girls. Interesting to say the least.

Tuesday was a day of exploration. Dani, Tali, Cydnie and I put on our creative caps and decided to explore for the day. We started off in the Shuk for some shopping and food. We ate at this amazing restaurant in the Shuk that we ate at before. 35 sheks for unreal chicken and veggies served with tahina. And a beer.... so unlike me. After lunch, we headed to Jaffa for a day of shopping. We wandered around Jaffa and Old Jaffa stopping in almost every store. While in Jaffa, we ran into an Asian tour group. They were the typical Asian tour groups, umbrellas in one hand and Chinese flags in the other. They were taking a picture in a square in Jaffa and we offered to take it for them. They all shouted "Israel" and "We Love Israel"which immediately resulted in my friends and I bursting out laughing. We became friends with the Asians and waved goodbye as they headed to their next destination for a group photo.

Last Night Out:
For our last night, a few friends and I decided to head to Corner Bar aka the bar on campus that we go to basically nightly. This bar does horrible things to my wallet and decision making since it is all you can drink for a fixed price. We ended up meeting 3 Israeli guys there who we knew which was definitely a fun time. The night ended in me hysterically crying to Dani because I was so sad to leave.

Sorry I don't have more to report. I'm honestly struggling with remembering everything that happened these past few days because they were just too incredible with way too many memories.

Final post to come.... stay tuned!

Reeb Painting

Tel Aviv Port 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jerusalem, If I Forget You....

Long time no talk! Sorry I haven't blogged for a few days, I am already having withdrawals from Israel and I haven't even left yet.... great.

Yesterday we adventured down to Jerusalem for the third time this trip. All of the other times we sat in classrooms, but this time was different, thankfully. We started off the day in a classroom (shocker) learning about Jewish text. The theme of the day was Judaism, which was very fitting since after all we are in Israel and are all Jewish. We read a passage from the Torah and did some "deep thinking" which occurred a little too early in the morning for me.

Next, we heard from my favorite speaker. Her name was Leslie and was the Executive Director of Women of the Wall. Now, I'm sure most of you haven't heard about this organization before. Most people in my group had not either. The mission of Women of the Wall is to "achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall." This was directly taken from their website because they just summed it up perfectly. Leslie, a reform Jew, started off the presentation by showing us videos of arrests that happened at the Wall. Leslie herself has been arrested 4 times and in a way, she is proud of it. Along side of Leslie, Sarah Silverman's (comedian) sister and niece were arrested as well. Basically, the police men at the Kotel will arrest women who wear tallit in white, blue, or black because those are the "men" colors. Pinks and purples are fine, but no masculine colors. So messed up in my opinion. They will arrest them if they bring a Torah into the women's side of the Kotel, but the men are allowed to do it. They will be arrested for praying out loud at the Kotel, whereas people are always chanting on the men's side. As you can see, there is a 100% discrepancy between what men and women can do at the Wall. As much as people try to deny it, it is obvious, apparent, and hurtful. I'm not even religious and it bothers me because it is an issue of women's rights and human rights in general. Leslie was one of the most passionate speakers I have ever heard from. I could feel her energy and dedication for women's rights, which is obviously something I can connect with. My favorite part of her entire presentation was when she stated that she cares about this issue herself, but also does it for the rights of others. Leslie is a reform Jew, meaning she isn't very religious and wouldn't go to the Wall daily to pray. But, there are reform, conservative, and orthodox Jews in the group as well. Her ability and thrive to support them is what makes this organization so successful. I left the presentation feeling hopeful for the months to come. Leslie said Women of the Wall has made great progress since it started years ago, and it can only go uphill from here.

Stop number 2 of the trip was to the Old City for some free time and lunch! I ate at the same bagel place (Holy Bagel) as Sam and I ate on Birthright last summer. I remembered my way around the Old City, something that definitely does not come naturally to the directionally challenged me.

Since arriving in Israel, all I've wanted to do (besides go to Tzfat) was to go to the Western Wall. Although I don't consider myself a very religious person, just being present there gives me a feeling that I cannot explain. Especially with everything going on (family stuff as well as this horrific war) it meant a lot to me to be able to go to the Wall. I put my note inside the Wall and basically just sat and thought. Many times having the time to think produces unwanted thoughts and memories. In this case, it was exactly what I needed. Time to reflect on my two months in Israel, on life, going back to school, etc. It was "me" time and it was just incredible.

Last stop on our trip was to an ultra-orthodox community. Anyone who knows me knows that I am so intrigued by the orthodox way of life. I love asking questions and being informed about their traditions and beliefs. But, this lecture was different from the rest. I'm not going to go into details because it will just upset me and probably you as well. This man was so opinionated and basically insulted every one of us sitting in the room. We did a Q and A session with him, which resulted in an argument with a boy on my trip. Not only was it uncomfortable and awkward, but totally uncalled for. The worst part of the entire lecture was that this man stated that reform Jews basically are not Jewish. This obviously upset each and every one of us sitting there, since we all were raised either reform or conservative.

But, have no fear because dinner just brightened up my entire day! My boss and I went to dinner at this place called Taizu, an Asian Fusion restaurant. She had contacted their PR person to get us in since Inbal does the writing for Fodor's Guide Book for the Tel Aviv section. Although I have no pictures to prove how amazing the meal was, I can tell you it was one of the best meals I have ever had... and that's saying a lot. The interior was Sushi Samba meets New York chic. We had about a 12 course meal, not including the 3 cocktails they brought out for us. My favorite cocktail was with this orange vodka-ish thing with hot pepper at the bottom. Spicy and sweet at the same time! Out of the 12 courses we had, about 8 of them included fish and seafood which is my absolute favorite!

Some dishes included:
-Wild Fish Tartare, served in a crispy rice cone
-Shrimp Dumplings
-Wild Fish Carpaccio
-Tandoori Calarmari
-Fresh Mussles
-Tandoori Soft Chicken
(just to name a few)

Our dinner lasted 3 hours and was full of delicious flavors and amazing company. While all of my friends here made chicken and rice for dinner, I was eating like royalty. They truly did roll out the red carpet for us!

Now, off to see a Ethiopian Jewish woman who made Aliyah speak. It should be interesting.....

ONE LAST NOTE: If you could all please "Like" Women of the Wall on Facebook, that would be great! Just want to give my girl Leslie some more fans!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Spontaneous trip to Tzfat!

Spontaneous trip to Tzfat is an understatement of what my title should be. For anyone that knows me, you know that I'm a planner. I have to plan everything from where to eat, what to order, what sites to see, etc. Just ask my study abroad roommates, I'm sure they have many stories for you! So, basically the word "spontaneous" just really isn't in my vocabulary.... that is until Wednesday night.

At about 1am, Cydnie and I decided that it would be fun to accompany some of our guy friends on a trip to Tzfat. I have been dying to go back there since before I even came back to Israel. Every time someone here mentions a day trip, I will not shut up about going to Tzfat. Every other word out of my mouth was Tzfat... (not actually, but kind of.) So, when given the opportunity to go to Tzfat, why not?! At 1am, we put our thinking caps together and all decided to look up ways to get there. No option sounded ideal, so we finally compromised and decided to take 2 buses that would then get us directly to Tzfat.


We wake up bright and early at 8:30am in order to make the 9:09am bus (to be exact.) We waited at the bus stop and the bus finally came about 20 minutes late. This now put our schedule behind 20 minutes, which as a planner, is not something I look forward to. We patiently road the bus, thinking maybe it would make up for the missed time while on the road. This didn't happen. We realized that we were going to miss the second bus to Tzfat and that another one wouldn't come for a few hours! The bus started slowing down, as we passed some cows grazing in the field. As the bus pulled aside on the highway, the bus driver kindly told us that this was our stop. The four of us looked at each other with pure confusion. We were supposed to wait here, on the side of the road, for hours until the next bus came?! We literally were intertwined with cows in the middle of no where Israel. We soon found out that we were in a little city called Olga, where the population is probably 10 and that is including the cows. Across the road we saw a gas station and decided to go in there since we had to go to the bathroom. The gas station had a little fro-yo shop and hungry Alexis decided it would be a good idea for some fro-yo at 10am... good times.

After a bathroom and fro-yo break, we decided to go back to the side of the highway and wait for the bus. We thought that there may be some chance that there would be an earlier bus! A sheirut (shared cab) stopped at our stop, where I asked the bus driver how long until the next bus for Tzfat. A woman peeked her head outside the bus and told us that the bus to Tzfat isn't for a while and that it only takes religious men and absolutely NO women! The bus driver told us to come aboard the sheirut, so we did. We asked where he was going and he told us a place called Afula. We all just started hysterically laughing because we had no idea what or where Afula was, but he ensured us that it would get us closer to Tzfat. Kevin, one of our friends with us, had to sit on the floor of the sheirut since there wasn't even enough room for all of us!

We FINALLY arrived in Afula and found someone with some helpful information! 2 more buses were needed in order to get to Tzfat, but then we would FINALLY be there! We had to make a quick pit stop in Rosh Pina and then we were on our way to Tzfat! This sounded like a great plan to us so we hopped aboard the bus to Rosh Pina!

After about 4 hours of traveling and 100 shekels spent, we reached our destination of the mystical city of Tzfat. Tzfat is home of Kabbalah, which is the mystical interpretation of the Torah. It holds an artist colony, which contains local painters, jewelers, and more. This is my favorite part about Tzfat and the aspect that made me want to come back!

The four of us walked around for a bit and then Cydnie and I ventured off on our own. We came across a winery and we were in desperate need of some food and drink. We ended up sitting at this winery for hours just talking, sipping on our wine and munching on some cheese. The view was spectacular and breath-taking so we just did not want to leave! The man working there was also a delight and sat with us for a little bit. We were the only ones in the winery, so he could afford to chill with us for a while. He told us his life story and about his spiritual journey that led him to become religious. It was so interesting hearing from someone who did not grow up religious. I have found that many people here decided to become more religious by choice, not because they were born into it, which I find very intriguing.

Overall, we had an amazing day trip to Tzfat, despite the little hiccups in the road. Our spontaneity helped the situation and no one was panicked which was a relief. If anything, I was the one who was most nervous, but I stayed pretty calm. We had a great day exploring the city of Tzfat and it was nice having people to adventure with.

Steps of Tzfat

Our view from the winery

Weaving a tallis

Today, my friends and I had a nice and relaxing day in the area of Sarona. It reminded me of a combination of Stepford Wives meets Parisian neighborhood. It was filled with adorable cottages that served as storefronts and restaurants. My friends and I decided to go to this place called Picnic, where they give you food in a picnic basket as well as a blanket to sit on. We camped out a spot of grass in the shade and peacefully ate our Italian delights. We then walked around and did some shopping. After that, we headed to the city center for the art market that we are obsessed with. A home-cooked Shabbat dinner was a must so after we headed to the Shuk to buy some ingredients for dinner.

It was an amazing weekend and I couldn't have asked for a better one, despite our bumps in the road. Sometimes, it's those little moments that make you appreciate the big ones. I was in good company, delicious food, and spectacular scenery... what could be better?!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Day of Food/Memorial in Rabin Square

Yesterday was a day of mixed feelings, to say the least. I started off my day bright and early with a siren, but what else is new. Went into the bomb shelter, chilled for 5 minutes, then came out and continued on with my work. I worked from home until I couldn't stand the enclosed space of my dorm room and then headed to the beach with two friends who happened to get off work early that day.

We hung out at the beach for a few hours and then it was time for me to go meet my boss at a new restaurant we were trying. I'm not sure if I mentioned before, but I'm helping my boss with a "Top 3" guide to restaurants in Tel Aviv. For example, top 3 hummus, falafel, shakshuka, kid-friendly, romantic, vegetarian, etc. We decided to try a vegetarian and gluten-free place called Mezze. On my way to Mezze though, I had to stop at Tamara for some good old frozen yogurt. Now Tamara isn't like any fro-yo you get in the States. It's 22 sheks for ALL YOU CAN EAT toppings. And, not only that, but the toppings are out of this world! And, to top all that off, they have a delicious chocolate sauce that they drizzle on top.... oh I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

After my date with myself at Tamara, I walked to Mezze, which was about a 30 minute walk in the sweltering heat. I finally arrived at the restaurant, dripping with sweat and sunscreen all mixed together. My boss and I had a meeting set up with the owner where we learned more about the restaurant's vision and history. It was so interesting talking to the owner and hearing about her story. She and her husband opened the restaurant 10 years ago as a little neighborhood cafe. She has celiac and her husband is a vegetarian, hence the reason for the restaurant. We also talked a lot about the current situation going on in Israel, and it was very interesting to hear her perspective.

I finally arrived home and my friends and I decided that we were going to attend a memorial in Rabin Square for all of the soldiers who were killed recently. It's so sad that this is my second memorial service in the span of only 5.5 weeks. Although I didn't know any of the soldiers killed, I felt it was my duty to attend the ceremony and honor them for all they did for this country. The memorial was more of a spiritual ceremony, with lots of singing and speaking in Hebrew. It brought me to tears the amount of people that came to support these soldiers, who unfortunately are no longer with us. Although I couldn't understand 99.9% of what was said, I could feel the speakers' energy, passion, and dedication.

I've said it before and I'll say it again but I can't begin to explain everything going through my head these days. It is all very overwhelming and a lot to take in, but I think in light of this situation, it has made me think positively. Not only about the current situation, but just life in general. Being in Israel for the past 5.5 weeks has taught me more about myself as an individual. I've learned to make the most out of every situation, and look at the glass half full instead of empty. There is no point in sulking about everything going on here, but instead, we should celebrate this amazing opportunity that has been given to us.

It also is amazing to see the support around the country. I was just speaking with a girl I interned with, Samantha, and she said that she went to a pro-Israel protest in Chicago today. It's great to know that in the United States people are doing things to support Israel, even from so far away! Here is a short clip from the protest in Chicago:

Anyway, today was an AMAZING day! My group and I went to the Ein Geti and hiked which was a great time. I did the same hike on Birthright last summer, but it was such an experience going with people who had never been! After that, we headed off to the Dead Sea for some good old floating time! There was some burning here and there, but we had such a great time all being together! I honestly don't know who picked the Pittsburgh group, but we seriously are the best (even though I'm a little biased.) We all get along so well and truly enjoy hanging out together. Whether we need a shoulder to cry on or someone to laugh with, we are all there for each other. We seriously are one big Mishpacha!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Day Without Sirens

A day without sirens is like a day without ice cream for me, it's rare, but it happens. Yesterday was that day for me, and a relieving one I might add. My friends Dani, Marissa and I headed to Haifa for a day of sightseeing and hanging out. I have never been to Haifa before since it wasn't one of the stops that we made on Birthright.

We took a train bright and early after a late night out in Tel Aviv so needless to say I was a bit cranky. For those who don't know, mornings are NOT my thing and I need some time before anyone can talk to me. We boarded the train and headed to the beautiful city of Haifa. After arriving in Haifa, we got on a bus to go to the Bah'ai Gardens. It's so funny that there is a Bah'ai temple on every continent and the one in the United States is right next to Evanston aka right by me. I have never once been inside and have only driven by in the 21 years of me living in Chicago.

Anyway, so on the bus we befriended a nerdy man who was probably 30 years old. We were asking directions to the gardens and what else we could do with our 5 hours to spare in Haifa. Well turns out this man had a few hours to spare so he ended up walking us to the Bah'ai gardens... such a lovely gentleman! We made really random small talk with him because 1. it was awkward 2. he was awkward and 3.... well i can't come up with a third point. So, the man (Gal is his real name) takes us to a place where we can pick up a tour of the temple in English. We had about 10 minutes to sprint a marathon and get there but we made it with a minute to spare! We say our goodbyes to our new BFF and exchange numbers (not that we will EVER be hanging out with him again) aTnd head over to the meeting point for the tour. After letting everyone in for the tour, it was finally our turn.... well, so we thought. The nasty Israeli woman tells us that there is no more room for the tour and that we aren't allowed in. I asked if we could not do the tour and just view the temple on our own yet the witch said no! All the running for nothing, but I guess it was my workout for the day! My friends and I decide to just take photos of the temple and gardens from afar and just to pretend we went in... after all, we needed a photo to Instagram!

Dani, Tami, Shira, Me (host family) 

Sea of Galilee 

On our way to lunch, we ran into a few men holding adorable puppies... puppies + men + men holding puppies=i have to go stop and talk to them. Turns out the puppies needed to be adopted and I was THIS close to bringing one back with me... just ask my friends!

After our random few hours in Haifa, Dani and I took a train to Karmiel to meet up with our host family. We made a quick stop in Akko to catch a bus to Karmiel and absolutely not one person spoke English and we got many weird looks.

After being greeted with hugs and kisses from our family, we went to the Kinneret, or the Sea of Galilee for a late night swim and picnic on the beach. We watched the sunset while snacking on some delicious food... what could be better?!

Today, the Alon family had a bunch of extended family over for lunch. When I say we had a feast it's an understatement... I seriously have never eaten so much in the period of one day as I did today... but, I loved every minute of it! Their nephew came as well who was a one-year-old ADORABLE baby named Shir. Dani and I played with him all day and I was so close to baby-napping him and putting him into my duffle but I decided that it may not be the best of ideas.

All in all, I had an amazing weekend free of sirens and commotion about the war. It is now being called a "war" here since there is a ground operation that is currently happening, but I'm sure you all are keeping up on the news. On our bus ride back to Tel Aviv, we had about 15 soldiers on our bus, guns and all. I can honestly say that I have never felt safer in Israel. Just knowing that all of these people are serving their country and put their country before themselves just amazes me. I don't think anyone including myself understands how much dedication and loyalty they have to Israel.

The more I've been here, the more I think that I can actually see myself being here. I have gone back and forth about taking a gap year before grad school and I think there's no time like the present to do something that I want to do. These past 5 weeks have been incredible and I've had some of the most amazing and life-changing experiences. It is completely different than living in Florence for 4 months, but I'm experiencing real life as in Israeli, war and all. It's so funny because every Israeli I talk to asks how my parents and family and friends back home are feeling about this conflict, but no one understands what it is like if you aren't here and experiencing it firsthand. As I've stated before, it is nothing like what the media portrays it to be and yes, there are sirens and yes, we go in a bomb shelter daily, but after the 5 minutes is up, we leave and continue on with life. I never have felt so proud to say that I am Jewish as I am today.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Everything is Sababa

Hi friends and family,

I really don't have any updates (no news is good news!) but just wanted to let you all know that everything here is sababa (cool, in Hebrew.)

I'm absolutely LOVING my internship! My boss is amazing, I'm working on some cool blogs and research, and most of all, I'm learning about Israeli cuisine!

My friends here are AMAZING! I'm so lucky to have met such amazing people and I can't wait to spend my last year at school with a lot of them. It's programs like these that I'm so thankful for because I never would have met these people otherwise. Many of them hang out at Hillel, a place where is not a frequent stop for me. I've been many 3 times in my 3 years at Pitt... but now I know that there are really cool people who regular there and they'll just have to drag me with them to free Shabbat dinners.

What else... hmmm... well the rockets are apparent as always, but I'm not letting them dictate my life. Last night, a few of us went out to watch the World Cup Finals not that I even care or understand soccer. But, it was nice just to get out and chill with my friends somewhere other than a bomb shelter.

I'm not going to make this blog post all writing, so I'm just going to add some pictures from the last few days since I haven't really added any. Here you go!

Not sure what's on tap for this weekend. My friend Dani and I may go visit our host family in Karmiel or we may take a day trip to Tzfat of Haifa. Time is running out!


West Bank to the right of the road....

Chillin' with my new friend 


Cydnie, me, Tali 

The crew before a night out