I have so much to tell you!! It’s been 3 weeks already, and now that my phone is working and there’s WiFi, I’m exploding with memories. I haven’blogged a lot since arriving because I’m stubborn, and my phone want letting me share my pictures with you. But hopefully I can add them later.
Every other minute here is an ‘only in Israel’ moment. Like the bank teller who helped me open an account (and didn’t speak a word of English), and then took me outside to the ATM, without me asking, to show me how it worked. She remembered me the next two times I came, and asked me how my aliyah was going.
Or the lady on the bus, who must have been at least 90 years old. She asked me for help carrying her bag to the bus station, only to pass the job on to a nearby soldier since I wasn’t walking fast enough for her.
On the bus a few days ago, a woman came on with a stroller with her baby inside. He was making a racket with his rattle, but no one said anything. A few stops later, two more mothers, with three kids between them, joined us. Within a minute, one kid was sitting on a stranger’s lap (the other mother), and the 4 kids were sharing animal crackers with each other.
The security guard by the central bus station offered me a piece of gum after I asked him directions, and I shared a taxi with a total stranger (aka: long lost sister) and felt no fear at all.
Today at the grocery store, the man in front of me offered to pay for my groceries-all of them! Only in Israel…
I don’t know if this is just a middle-eastern thing, but everything closes really early here. (It’s like I never left Baltimore :b) Yeah, but seriously, the bank closes at 1pm, and sometimes opens again from 3-5, the government offices I’ve been to close at 12pm, and the doctor’s office opens in the morning, closes in the early afternoon, and opens up again around 3pm. It’s actually pretty ideal, once you get used to it. People get up early, and get to spend time with their kids after work. They walk a lot here, so people are healthier and more energetic and, from my observation, happier.
I’m starting to feel like I have a community here. The first couple of weeks were very hard, without the structure of a job or friends to call on for company. Luckily, I have relatives here that I am infinitely grateful for, and friends from Israel that I met on Facebook who offered their support. Still, I needed people my age, in a similar life position.
The opportunity to meet those people came last Thursday night. A friend of mine, who I’d just met in Jerusalem, posted that she was going to Tiveria for shabbos with a group, The Jerusalem Soul Center. Tiveria (Tiberias) is a city built right next to the lake Kinneret. It’s said (and I wish I could tell you the source) that Miriam the Prophetess’ well is somewhere in the lake, and that it’s still flowing. Tiveria holds personal significance to me since it is where the Ramchal, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, is buried. I’ve been learning the Ramchal‘s famous work, Mesilas Yesharim, for 4 years now, together with my friend Myriam, and I could not pass up the chance to go. Also, that Friday was the day of his death, a very prestigious time to pray in his merit, so there was no way I was missing it.
Miraculously, they let me join the shabbaton (after I said I’d sleep on the floor and sit on the steps of the bus), and I was on the bus at 7am the next morning.
The Jerusalem Soul Center is an organization, run by Ezra Amichai, that creates programs and subsidizes trips for olim or people visiting Israel for a while. This shabbaton was for 18-26 year olds, and it was a mixed crowd, which was totally different for me. My family always hosts mixed crowds, but I’d never been part of one as a participant. I found it very hard-to keep my boundaries yet be friendly, and to fully enjoy myself yet not share too much. But there were women there too, and we got to know each other really well.
It was an amazing trip-totally worth the last minute hectic-ness. We went on a hike down Mount Arabel (a cliff), swam by a separate beach, and visited the graves of the Ramchal, Rebbi Akiva, and Reb Meir Baal Ha’nes. The city is bursting with great holy people and history.
I walked down to the beach on shabbos, but stayed for just a few minutes before the sun melted me and I had to turn back.
Shabbos was filled with good conversation and food, interesting stories, and sun.
We had a beautiful musical havdallah outside on the hostel’s porch, and arrived home just before midnight.
The trip reminded me how good it feels to have people and friends surrounding me, and made me look forward to my job in September as a dorm counselor.
I have such beautiful pictures of the water-can’t wait to share them! !