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.

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