I’M IN ISRAEL!!
I don’t even have words to describe the last few days. Amazing, exhausting, emotional, hilarious, ridiculous, dirty, confusing, exhilarating. So many things! But most of all, I am so unbelievably amazingly happy to be here. I can’t believe that it’s finally happened, I’m so lucky!
Okay, so lets start from the beginning seeing as a ton of things have happened in the last 5 days. On Tuesday I boarded the plane to London and everything went well. The plane wasn’t crowded at all so I got an entire row to myself (glory). This actually allowed me to sleep on the plane, which was a definite first and was totally amazing.
I landed in Heathrow at around 6:00am and then walked around the airport for a bit searching for things to do before my next 8:30am flight into Tel Aviv. I thought I recognized a girl from the program, though I had only seem her before on facebook so it was a bit awkward. We had brief moment of weird eye contact and then smiled when we realized we knew each other. After 7 hours of flying and waiting, I finally found someone that I semi-recognized! Yay!
It turned out to be a girl named Kelly from Melbourne, Australia and we chatted until we boarded the plane. I slept through the entire flight to Tel Aviv as well (such a boss) and then we landed in the gorgeous/amazing city! We stepped off the flight, met our ride (program coordinator Mark) at the airport, and he drove us to one of the apartments for the night.
The next morning was a bit interesting. I was insanely sick and not feeling my finest. At first I thought I was just hungry, but then we took a bus to the program office in central Tel Aviv and things went from bad to worse. There’s no better way to meet your 30 new friends than by gagging into a bus trashcan at 8:00 in the morning!
After a few hours of sickness I finally felt well enough to be a social human being. We played a bunch of get-to-know you games and got a feel for what the program will be like. I was a little nervous in coming to Tel Aviv that I wouldn’t connect with anyone right away, but it was like we’d always been friends! Everyone was amazing and outgoing, this is the best group!
After that we drove for 3 hours to a Kibbutz in the North, near Galilee. And this is where it really sunk in. Holy shit, I was in Israel. The Kibbutz was called Chanaton and the landscape was something out of a postcard.
The Kibbutz was an amazing bonding experience, and I definitely got to know everyone a lot better 🙂
We played games and got very muddy.
Toured around the beautiful Kibbutz.
Although our 3 days at the Kibbutz were beyond fantastic there are 3 moments that stand out in particular. So in no specific order…
1) Friday night Shabbat service at the Kibbutz synagogue. The Kibbutz is made up of both Reform and Orthodox members so the services tend to be Conservative. I was a bit nervous at first seeing as I’ve never been to anything other than reform and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but hey, I’m up for anything. We all got to the synagogue and sat down before the service began. One by one families started filtering in, kids skipping and dancing behind them. A woman stepped up to the front of the room, turned her back to all of us, and began chanting. As the service progressed families just continued to come in, all followed by tons of children. That’s when the atmosphere changed. About halfway through the service it was complete child anarchy.
At first it was kind of shocking–we’re so used to strict child discipline in the U.S. that anything matching this level of mayhem would have been deemed naughty behavior. Kids were screeching and ramming matchbox cars along the tile floors. One girl kept coming up to the rabbi and pulling down her skirt, nearly mooning everyone behind her. A little boy pulled up his pregnant mother’s shirt to show all of us that he had a new little sibling on the way. Kids played with blocks and torah-shaped pillows on every conceivable inch of floor space. It was madness! However, what was at first shock soon turned into something hilarious. I couldn’t stop smiling and neither could the parents, everyone was so genuinely happy! It’s so refreshing to see people take things with a happy and not-so-serious attitude. So what if the kids were causing mayhem (or Balagan, which means a big mess!), Shabbat was about coming together under the same roof with family and friends. Regardless of the craziness everyone was safe and happy, chanting words that have been repeated by millions over the past 4000+ years. It was such an amazing feeling of community.
2) Playing guitar/soccer on the Kibbutz. During some of our free time on the Kibbutz a bunch of us went outside to enjoy the warm weather (60+ degrees, what what!). We all sat down and were spontaneously joined by a woman who lived on the Kibbutz. She brought out her guitar and we all sat in a haphazard circle listening to her music and singing along. Around the same time, just behind us, a few of the guys from our group started a pick-up soccer game with a boy from the Kibbutz. They were all laughing and joking around, kicking the soccer ball and running past one another.
This wasn’t a particularly crazy moment. There was no wild or eye-opening aspect, it just sort of made me happy. These people were so welcoming and sincere. They didn’t know us and they didn’t have to know us, they just wanted to join a group of people and have a good time. Everyone is really very straight-forward and extremely friendly. It was just a nice little moment 🙂
3. Listening to the Call to Prayer in the valley below. During our last day on the Kibbutz our service track leader had us find a quiet spot on the Kibbutz and write exactly what we felt/saw/experienced from our beautiful hillside perspective. She gave us about 30 minutes to relax and take in everything around us. I found a nice spot overlooking a valley that was marked by two separate villages. About 15 minutes into our writing time I suddenly heard chanting boom across the valley. I was confused at first, but quickly realized that the two villages below were Muslim communities and this was the Muslim call to prayer.
I know it’s cheesy but as I sat on the Kibbutz overlooking the grassy/hilly terrain, I finally realized how amazing it is that I’m finally here. I heard the chanting in the distance, saw the beautiful white homes with their stucco finish, and it finally all became real. I’m now living in such a diverse culture, so completely unique from the U.S. Sure, this experience will have its challenges, but I get to be in a place that will teach me so much about who I am and who I will be. This experience will undoubtedly change me for the better, and it’s moments like this, which already have. I’m so excited for the next 5 months!
So that was a recap of the Kibbutz, and tomorrow I’ll post a recap of my first couple days in Tel Aviv! But right now it’s midnight and I have Ulpan (Hebrew lessons) in the morning.
Lyla Tov! Good Night!