Thursday, June 26, 2014

Delicious Israel

As some of you know, I have decided to change internships from the non-profit I was working at to an amazing company called Delicious Israel. The company was founded in 2011 by an American woman who lives in Israel named Inbal. She specializes in walking food tours, cooking classes, wine tasting, etc. I am going to be helping her to compose a "top 5" list that will contain top 5 recommendations based on location, cuisine, price, etc. So, yesterday I met with her past intern, Paloma, who was leaving to go back to the United States. 

Paloma and I met at an outdoor coffee shop on King George Street (one of the main streets in Tel Aviv.) We sat outside and discussed food, traveling, and Israeli culture while I sipped on my delicious iced coffee. In Israel, iced coffee is basically a coffee smoothie/milkshake and is one of the greatest things I have ever tasted. I digress... anyway, Paloma and I discussed some business plans and ideas for how I can make the most out of the 6.5 weeks I have left here. She also gave me restaurant, bar, and club recommendations in Tel Aviv and I cannot wait to start experiencing these places! Paloma then told me about an interactive map her American friend made and that she would send it to me. We started walking down King George Street and who did we run into but her friend she was just talking about! Talk about small world... but it gets smaller! Turns out he is from Highland Park, but is 29 so we didn't know anyone in common. Jewish geography fail at it's finest. But literally how funny that 1. we run into the guy and 2. he is from HP?! Small world, small world. 

Last night, a bunch of friends decided we would go to this "culinary experience" thing in Southern Tel Aviv. We really didn't know what to expect but it involved 1. exploring and 2. food so obviously that is an automatic YES in my book. So, we all hopped aboard the 25 bus towards the city center to go explore. As we departed, out of the corner of our eyes we saw a guy from our trip sprinting to make the bus, and he failed miserably. Later on about 5 stops later, we see him literally hauling ass to make the bus! He had ran probably at least a mile following the bus step by step until he finally made it on, with sweat dripping down his face. We were all dying of laughter because he could've just taken the next bus but instead he decided to sprint down the streets of Tel Aviv in order to catch ours. 

So about this food basically was a food market/festival where there were samples of food (spreads, cheese, bread, hummus) and then you could purchase anything you liked. We spent most of our time at the cheese and beer station, sampling everything in sight. Of course this wasn't enough food to hold us over so we decided to go out to dinner at a place nearby called Greg. They didn't have a table big enough for the 8 of us (since we aren't in America and people don't go out in herds here) so we split up 4 and 4. I had the sweet potato ravioli in a cream sauce which was delicious and way too creamy for me to handle. After dinner, which we finished around 10:30pm, we decided to head back to our dorms. We walked down the cutest street in order to get to the bus, and I literally stopped at every store to window shop. Needless to say I know where I'll be spending my weekend! 

Tonight is "White Night" or Laila Lavan in Hebrew. I experienced the same celebration in Florence but it was called Notte Bianca, in Italian. Basically, shops, restaurants, and vendors stay open all night long and it is one outrageous party! There are also activities going on in different areas and squares around Tel Aviv. For instance, in Rabin Square there is a headphone party, where everyone tunes their smartphones to a certain station, put in headphones and everyone is dancing yet if you take off the headphones it is silent. So basically we look like a bunch of idiots dancing in the square because no one knows what we are listening to. Another activity is yoga on the beach at 5:30am... don't think I'll be attending that one. 

Anyway, I will definitely have pictures and stories to share from Laila Lavan so stay posted.... 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day trip to Jerusalem!

So yesterday (Tuesday) my program had a day trip to Jerusalem. I imagined it being a touristy view of Jerusalem, just like it was on Birthright. I was very surprised to find out that it was completely different.

It was definitely #strugglecity to get up in the morning. Our bus was leaving at 8:15am and most of my group went out the night before to celebrate our friend's birthday. We got home at around 3am and needless to say we barely slept. It was a legit mess the next morning but it made for a very entertaining bus ride.

We arrived in Jerusalem and immediately went to an area which bordered Jerusalem and the West Bank. We had a tour guide with us who explained more about the fence that divided the two areas. This is something that I'm not very educated about and I actually learned a lot about this division and the whole controversy over it. One thing I found very interesting was that if someone touches the fence, security is notified immediately. The fence is being monitored 24/7 by Israeli Intelligence. The most amazing part to me was that they have a sand-like substance right over the fence on the Jerusalem side. If someone tries to jump over, they can tell: the weight of the person, age, male or female, etc. It truly shocked me that they can tell all of this just by someone's footprints. The guide was explaining that many times animals jump over and they can tell the sex of the animal, and if female, if the animal is pregnant or not. I was completely mind-blown to say the least.

Next, we headed to Rachel's Tomb. This originally wasn't on our agenda because it is in Bethlehem which isn't the safest place to go. But, our tour guide got the okay from some high up person to go. Because we weren't notified ahead of time, no one was dressed appropriately for a holy site. Shoulders and knees must be covered when entering a holy place, meanwhile us dumb Americans were sporting shorts and tank tops. Every Orthodox Jew was starring at us and we all just felt very embarrassed. When entering the tomb, a woman gave us shawls to cover our shoulders. As in all holy sites in Jerusalem, the men and women are separated so we said bye to the boys on our group and headed into the building. Women were touching Rachel's Tomb and lots of crying, praying, and touching were happening. And, of course our group walked in, saw the tomb and left.

Our last stop was to the Israel Experience (the umbrella organization for my program) headquarters. Here we heard from two different speakers on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first speaker was a Palestinian-Israeli. It was honestly so difficult to listen to him speak because he made the lecture very dry. He also was very controversial, coming from a Palestinian perspective. The one thing that stood out to me was that he said that Jews live in fear while the Palestinians live in anger. This comment stirred up lots of talk within the group, especially since he was after all speaking to a group of 23 Jews.

Lastly, we heard from the most inspirational man named Itzik Yarkoni. He is a huge Israel advocate and goes to various universities in the United States and speaks about Israel. He wasn't there to lecture us on Israel and all it has to offer though. Basically, his main point was how we can use social media to portray Israel in a good light. He showed us articles, videos, etc. on how badly Israel is portrayed in the media. He started out the lecture by having all of us take out our smartphones and googling "Israel is..." The results were incredible. Almost everything that came up on people's phones were negative. Some examples are: Israel is apartheid, Israel is war... you get the picture. So, his whole schpiel (sp?) was about how our generation can show Israel in a positive way. He then told us to all create statuses on Facebook about our experience in Israel. He said that immediately he guaranteed we would all get at least 10 likes. He said instead of posting negative articles about Israel, Jews, or life in general, to post positive things. People want to read and hear about positive aspects of our society, not the negative. He really did inspire me not only to post and learn more about Israel, but also other things that interest me. As you all know, I'm a huge advocate for children with disabilities. I need to start reading and posting more articles so that I can educate all of my Facebook friends about it. All it takes is one person to post, one friend to share that post, and another friend to share their post... think about how many people would be reading this information!

Blogging soon about my amazing and inspiring day today... check back tomorrow! xoxo

Friday, June 20, 2014

Weekend in Karmiel

These past few days have been crazy busy to say the least...  Will explain later. They started off with me trying to switch my internship because it isn't exactly what I signed up for or expected. I'm looking at a few different companies to work for now. One of them is a food/travel service for tourists where they do cooking classes, food tours, wine tours, etc. I would help them with social media, pr, and would meet with local restaurants.... Literally my heaven! Another organization deals with philanthropic businesses and I would be doing grant writing, fundraising, etc. for them.

Anyway, I'm going to make this short and sweet because typing on my iPad is rather difficult. I am currently in Karmiel, a city about 2 hours north of Tel Aviv. This is Pittsburgh's "partner city" so we are staying in home stays here for the weekend. I am currently watching Friends in Israel on the most comfortable couch... Life couldn't get better. We are having a literal feast tonight for Shabbat and our host mom keeps feeding me every hour which I obviously don't mind one bit.

Today, we had a lecture about the Israeli/Arab conflict and learned more about what actually takes place here. The PowerPoint was a tad too boring for me, but after we went to an Arab school where we met with one of the teachers. She is 26, the mother of two, and one of 17 siblings!!! I couldn't even imagine... One was enough for my parents how could some people handle 17?!?! She explained to us her feelings about being an Arab living in Israel and the struggles she faces daily. It was interesting because she didn't identify as "Israeli" but stated she is an "Arab living in Israel." She also said this identity helps when visiting family in places such as Gaza and the West Bank. If she labeled herself as "Israeli" she may be shunned by her family. She also informed us about jobs in Israel. If an Arab woman and Jewish woman were applying for the same job, she said the Jew would automatically get it, no matter what credentials. I'm not sure if I 100% agree with this, but then again I don't live here and don't know what goes on daily. Also, Arabs don't have to serve in the army but still have all the benefits that Israelis that serve their country have. She talked about "National Service" where Arabs, as well as religious Jews, can do community service instead of serving. After this, religious Jews can go to University at age 19, but Arabs must wait until they are 21.

It is so interesting because I don't know much about the state of Israel, its history, etc. and I am trying to learn. Yet, every person you ask they tell you a different story. Everyone is biased, has their own opinions and beliefs so it is difficult to figure out what exactly to know and who exactly to trust.

Rewind to 2 days ago.....
Fun night gone wrong. Like so wrong. To make a long story short, my friends and I went out to a bar and then headed to the beach. We took our shoes and purses off to take a photo and put our feet into the water. I turned around to grab something out of my purse and they were gone.... Someone stole our bags!!! 3 of us had our bags stolen and 1 thankfully was smart and kept her purse with her. Thankfully we were with our Israeli friends and they took us to the police office to file a report of all our missing belongings. Everything is working out though and I am sooooo thankful to have the BEST parents in the world! Sorry again for my hysterical phone call at 1am my time and thanks mom for being tech savvy and canceling all my technology for me!

Off to go bask in the sun at my home stay! They have the most beautiful view..... Will add pictures when I get home tomorrow!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Finally Settling In...

After almost a week in Israel, I am starting to finally get used to this city. Let's not jump the gun now I'm still HORRIBLE with directions, but I'm learning my way around slowly but surely usually through trial and error. I have a lot to write about, but I'm going to try and keep this short and concise. Here it goes....

I have officially worked two days at my internship WOOHOO! The work week is Sunday-Thursday so I worked two days last week and am headed off to work today in an hour. The first day was a mess, to say the least. Israelis run on their own time, so my boss was an hour late to our apparent "start time." All of these children were being wheeled out of the building (all are wheelchair bound) and we literally had no idea what we were supposed to do! Finally our boss arrived and she explained that we should just observe for the day. We sat it on their dance class, which consisted of the dance teacher rolling these children around for about an hour while music was playing. We left in a sense of confusion that day, as to what our job would consist of. The next day was a little better, but that's pushing it. We started the day by feeding the children. I got yelled at since I did not put the hummus on the bread correctly. Apparently you put the hummus on and THEN cut the bread, but the dumb American (me) cut the bread and THEN put hummus on! Mistakes, mistakes! Many of the children have cerebral palsy, which is a movement disorder. This is why many of them are in wheelchairs as well as most of them are non-verbal. This makes it very difficult to communicate with them, especially since the few words they do know are in Hebrew. After we fed the children, we played ball for I kid you not, one hour. None of them can catch the ball so I literally sat there bouncing a ball on their laps while they laughed and smiled for about an hour straight.

My internship is definitely rewarding, but it wasn't exactly what i originally signed up for. I'm meeting with my internship coordinator to see if I can do that a few days a week and then something else the other days.

The food here is AMAZING... there really is no other way to put it. Any meal you have is just incredible. The dumpiest restaurant which you would never walk into in the United States is a gourmet meal here. Today, my friend Tali and I woke up early (10am) and went to the Shuk, which is their big outdoor market here. It's actually called the Carmel Market, but Shuk just stands for Market. Anyway, it was definitely an experience. You could buy everything from cigarettes, flip flops, underwear, to fresh fruit, vegetables, and bread. Quite the combination!

I have gone out 4 days in a row here... count it, 4. Yesterday served as my "Shabbat for my liver" because it really did need a break! The nightlife here is amazing and there are so many fun bars and clubs to go explore. We have mostly been going to bars, but two nights ago we went to a club called Dreams. It was in a mall... like an actual shopping mall. I have never seen anything so bizarre in my life, but it was a lot of fun! If you ask my friends they'll tell you that I HATE being crammed in a confined space and HATE people touching me when I'm out. Like, when you are all squished like sardines in a club.. so not my thing! But, I actually enjoyed myself at Dreams, minus the 118 shekel shots we had for 4 people. While out, we have met some very interesting people to say the least. Israeli boys are notorious for preying on American girls, but at least all these interactions count for good stories to tell!

Tonight we are having a "mixer" with all of the Onward groups here. It'll be nice to get to know other people on the program besides the Pittsburgh people. Oh, speaking of, I've made a bunch of friends! Mom, Dad, you'll be happy about that! :) Haha. But seriously, everyone is so nice and I couldn't have asked for a better group of people!

Time to go get ready for Day #3 of my internship.... Boker tov (Good Morning) to all of you in the US...

Friends on a motorcycle... Don't worry, it wasn't on!

Gay Pride Parade

Sam and I 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

First Day in Tel Aviv!

Hi everyone,

For those of you who are all wondering, yes I arrived safely! We had orientation for the past two days in Jerusalem so it has been crazy busy here. Yesterday, we finally took the bus back to Tel Aviv and I am in the process of getting settled into my dorm.

We have "studio apartment" style dorms, meaning I have my own room, kitchen, and bathroom which  is pretty nice! It is definitely lonely and something I'll have to get used to since I'm constantly surrounded by roommates at Pitt. After I FINALLY unpacked all my wrinkled clothes, my friends and I decided we needed to run to the grocery store to stock up on food. We walked to the nearest mall which was about 20 minutes away. Our "group leader" (I forgot the word for it in Hebrew) told us to go to this mall which she titled "the Rich Ladies' Mall." When I walked inside I figured out why... literally every designer store you could ever imagine possible was situated in one large shopping mall! Obviously I won't be shopping there but it's still fun just to window shop. My friends all headed to the grocery located in the mall while I went to go deal with my phone. I have been in Israel for 3 days without a working Israeli phone, so I decided to do something about it. Literally everyone at the kiosk was looking at me like I had 8 heads, but I was trying to get my phone to work, sometimes having to be pushy... hey, I have to try and look the part of an Israeli, right? Thankfully, the nice man at the kiosk fixed my phone and I was literally jumping for joy!

Next, we headed to the food court for some dinner. It was about 8:30pm by the time we ate, something I normally would not do in the US... but after all, I am in Israel so I must live like the Israelis do! I had falafel in a pita which I ended up taking to-go since I didn't have enough time to eat it there otherwise we would miss our bus. Well, turns out we ended up on the wrong bus and after asking about 3 different people, we figured out how to get back to our dorms. Then, my friends and I got ready and headed out into the center of Tel Aviv for a night out!

I can't tell if Israelis genuinely like Americans or if they just feel obligated to help us. In Italy, people weren't very helpful whereas here, I am finding that people are much more approachable.

Anyway, I am starting my first day of intern life here in Tel Aviv! My hours for June are 2:30pm-6pm, which is literally amazing. I can chill in the morning, go to the beach, and just live the life. It'll be nice not having to stress out about work. A lot of my friends have internships from 9am-6pm so this definitely is a perk!

I will post pictures of my apartment in the next post when my room isn't so messy!!

Shalom for now!

Friday, June 6, 2014


It seems like just yesterday that I was packing up my belongings and heading to Florence for the semester of a lifetime! Except this time, I'm going back to Israel after being there for 10 days on Birthright last summer. Although Birthright was amazing, I feel as though I did not get the full "Israel Experience" therefore I am going back to explore! And it's even better that I get to experience all of this again with my best friend from camp, Sam. 

I'm sitting here trying to fit everything I need for 2 months into one large suitcase... very difficult for someone who is a shopaholic and known as the over-packer of the family ! I know these next 2 months will be filled with new friendships, amazing experiences, delicious food, and great work experience. 

Already my Israel trip is off to a great start.... my internship description has changed, I have repacked 3 times, and last minute errands are always a must in the Miller household! But, these little bumps in the road aren't going to stop me from having the trip of a lifetime! I am getting excited to experience Israel as the natives do (minus the fact that I don't speak Hebrew.) I have already gotten numerous recommendations for food places so be prepared for many photos (obviously not like my Florence food pictures though.) 

Anyway, off to go do some last minute packing! I am making a quick pitstop in Philly to visit Raina and Ally (my friends from Pitt) so I'm so excited to see them! And then off to Jerusalem for our orientation! 

I can't wait to write about all my experiences, thoughts, tastes, new friends, etc. Shoutout to my parents for making all of this possible! I know I have been a bit of a head case these past few days because my stress level has been through the roof (shocker, right?) but thank you for supporting me and helping me and being by my side every step of the way! This trip would not be possible without you both so thank you SO much! 

Shalom for now,