Hi all! I know it’s been a while since I last posted, but I have a pretty awesome excuse: My amazing friend Elisa came to town!!
I had a week-long break for the Pesach (Passover) holiday so Elisa flew on over for a week for balagan! She arrived on Wednesday the 13th and we travelled around Israel together until the 21st–it was an awesome week to say the least 🙂
(As a side note, a lot of the pictures I’m about to post actually came from Elisa’s camera. Her incredible camera and top notch photo skills resulted in much nicer pictures than my own. Some of the photos are mine, but about 1/2 are Elisa’s).
After picking Elisa up from the airport on Wednesday we wasted no time in heading off to the beach. That’s the first thing you have to see in TLV! We walked down the shore and started her experience off right 🙂
The next day we woke up early for some more beach time. As a Vermonter, I think Elisa was enjoying the 90-degree temps (it snowed in Burlington last week!).
My friend Leah joined us and we had a great time relaxing in the sand.
We met up with another friend from Newtown, Zack, who made Aliyah (moved to Israel) and is currently serving in the Israeli army.
Three people from Newtown all in Israel at the same time?? I don’t think anyone saw that one coming.
We also walked through Shuk HaCarmel a bit, munching on strawberries and Israeli frozen yogurt (Israeli froyo is actually different from the froyo in America. You get to pick the fruit you want and that fruit is blended right into the froyo, creating a delicious creamy cup of amazingness).
That night we went out to a club in Tel Aviv with a few people from the program. We danced to all the best American pop music and made complete fools of ourselves (that’s how we do)! We met a few people that night, one named Michael who owned a restaurant in Yafo and his friend, Chady, who used to live in Haifa. We had plans to go to Haifa the next day so Chady offered to take a sherut (bus) with us to Haifa and show us around the city. So we get to go to Haifa and have ourselves a free tour? Why the hell not!
That morning we went down to Yafo and got breakfast at Michael’s restaurant. It was a great way to start the day (and who can say no to free breakfast?)
We walked around a few neighborhoods.
You can’t walk up through the gardens unless you are Baha’i (although you can walk down through the gardens during designated hours) so we walked up the side and stopped at a few overlook points.
After a long day in Haifa we took the sherut back home to Tel Aviv and crashed for the night.
The next day was Shabbat (aka the busses stop running) so we had another beach day in TLV. We spent the majority of the afternoon on our butts relaxing in the sunshine. It was pretty hot, about 90 degrees–absolutely perfect beach weather. Quite a bit of time was spent in the Mediterranean 🙂
That night Elisa and I met up with few Israeli friends and we went out to a bar in Florentine (a really popular neighborhood for 20-somethings). The night concluded with rooftop salsa dancing!
The next day we took off for Jerusalem with my Tikkun Olam group. My group had planned a tour of the orthodox neighborhoods in the New City, so Elisa and I tagged along. It wound up being one of the most eye-opening and interesting experiences I’ve had so far.
We toured through a certain neighborhood where it was immediately made clear that we were not necessarily welcome.
We proceeded to split up into groups of men and women and then enter the neighborhood. It was almost like entering a different time period. Ultra-Orthodox Jews (aka Haredi Jews) don’t have internet or cable because they believe certain influences from the outside world can be corrupting.
In addition, most Haredi Jews don’t believe that the state of Israel should exist. I know this sounds strange–I mean, shouldn’t the most religious of Jews believe in the state of Israel? However, Orthodox Jews don’t believe that a Jewish state should exist until the Messiah comes. For Jews, the Messiah hasn’t come yet so therefore, Israel should not yet “exist.”
We walked through the neighborhood, watching everyone prepare for Passover.
After touring the neighborhood we had a group lecture with a Haredi man and then the Tikkun Olam group started the drive back to Tel Aviv. Elisa and I decided to stay in Jeru for the night so we waved goodbye to our friends and took off for the Old City.
We did some touristy stuff (aka visited the room where The Last Supper took place, saw Mary’s Tomb, walked by the Kotel, etc) and then went to our hostel. Little did I know that when I booked the hostel I actually booked the roof! Now, hypothetically this could have been bad, but it wound up being one of the most memorable nights/mornings of my life. Elisa and I went to sleep with 19 new friends under the open sky of the world’s holiest city. We woke up in the morning to the 5am “Call to Prayer” and the sun-rising over the Dome of the Rock. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.
We spent the rest of the day wandering through Jerusalem–we went to the Kotel and also had the opportunity to go right up to the Dome of the Rock. (Usually you can’t approach the Mosque unless you’re Muslim, but apparently we came at just the right time.)
Afterwards, we wandered the city a bit more and then headed back home to an impromptu Passover seder on the roof! The only people left at Guri house were Adam, Josh, Elisa, and I so we decided to have a small seder that night. It was Elisa’s very first seder!
Josh made some delicious matzah ball soup.
We keep telling Josh that he needs to be a chef and this is why!
The next day Elisa and I took it easy. The busses weren’t running because of the holiday so we spent a fair amount of time sleeping, movie watching, and sunbathing on the roof. After the balagan of the past few days we needed a little break. Later that night we had a huge seder on our roof with about 20 people from the program.
The next day Evin, Elisa, and I took off for the Dead Sea! Getting there was a bit of a production (there’s only one bus from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea and it only runs once a day!) but we managed and it was totally worth it!
Elisa and I tend to be “go with the flow” travellers and this moment was no different. We knew that the bus went to the Dead Sea, but we had no idea where to get off. We went by a few places and eventually the bus pulled up at a location that looked vaguely familiar–I thought about it for a moment and realized that the “Ein Gedi Dead Sea Spa” was the place I had gone on Birthright! I’m going to go ahead and say that I’m pretty proud of myself for remembering given that I went on Birthright about 4 years ago.
We got off at this stop and proceeded to have the time of our lives in one of the world’s most beautiful locations.
(Sorry, no floating pictures…salty water + camera= no go).
Afterwards we went in the sulfur spa baths (smelly as all hell) and relaxed in the sun for the rest of the day.
We went back home and went out/had an awesome time for Elisa’s last night in TLV
The next day we went down to Yafo for a little hummus from Abu Hassan (can’t leave Israel with having that!) and shopped at the Flea Market.
All in all, it was a pretty amazing week here in Tel Aviv. I miss Elisa already but I’m sure our traveling expeditions will not stop here 🙂
On tap for this week? Volunteering starts again and I take on the unruly high schoolers of Irony Hey. It’s almost Bagrut time so their patience is wearing thin (as is mine)–However, we’ll make it through!
Have a great week!