Hebrew word of the week: m’an’yen which means interesting. That’s a good way to describe my first week here. I will share that one of the funniest things that happened to me so far is that I washed my clothes in floor cleaner (in my defense, it was on top of the washing machine, looked exactly like a bottle of detergent, and smelled like flowers). My clothes are a bit stiff but no worse for the wear. For now, I am taking Ulpan classes (intensive Hebrew) and I’m happy to announce that I’ve already moved up a level in both my vocab and verbs… but my brain hurts after class every day!
Anyways… when I got off the plane, my cousins picked me up from the airport and I found out I had another new cousin!! What a great way to be welcomed into Israel. After one night in Betar Illit with my family, I wanted to get settled in to my apartment in Jerusalem. My roommate and I went exploring and enjoyed getting lost on the streets of Jerusalem.
Friday, I had lunch with my friend Scott who is here for a year at HUC Rabbinical School. It was wonderful to see a friendly face and I look forward to seeing lots more of him!! Then, I went back to Betar Illit to spend Shabbat with my family.
My trip there was interesting. To get there, you have to pass through tunnels which run next to an Arab village. In the past, there have been some issues with villagers shooting at cars coming out of the tunnels. My taxi driver kept telling me “Aravim lo tov” (Arabs are not good) and making shooting noises. In my limited Hebrew I attempted to tell him that while I agreed shooting was bad, it didn’t mean all Arabs are bad and I have several Arab friends who are nice and didn’t want to hurt Jews, but either he didn’t understand my broken Hebrew or he didn’t want to. I knew that one young American girl wouldn’t change the mind of a stubborn old man, but I do have Arab friends who are able to see both sides of the conflict and who know violence only begets more hatred and violence. I wish more people were willing to look at the human beings on both sides of the conflict and not just “Arabs” or “Jews” or whatever.*le sigh*
Despite a disturbing taxi ride, once I arrived my Shabbat was filled with lots of food, cute kids, family, food, reading, food, and rest… exactly what a Shabbat should be. After Shabbat ended I went to visit other family who happens to live very close to me in Jerusalem - it was great to see my cousins and their three kids!! I look forward to spending next Shabbat in Jerusalem with them.
Tuesday night, I went into the Old City to see my friend from college, Carly. She and her husband (and their adorable daughter) are studying here. We had dinner at Burger Bar, which was delicious. Afterwards we went down to the Kotel (Western Wall) to pray. As we were walking towards the wall, I could hear the evening call of prayer from Al-Aqsa Mosque. Despite some people seeming so intolerant, there is an undeniable beauty to the fact that two opposing cultures and religions were praying to the same God, in the same place, at the same time. Yet people choose to focus on what divides them than on what they have in common. I know the issues run much deeper than that, but it is still upsetting.
This morning I went to the new baby’s bris (circumcision ceremony) and had a great time seeing my family again. I’ve also experienced the Central Bus Station (twice), the shuk (outdoor marketplace), and Ben-Yehuda street. Tomorrow after class, I’m going to TEL AVIV (yayyyyyy) for the night to see my friend Julie (and her boyfriend and puppies!!). I’m really excited to see her and be in Tel Aviv, even if I am only there for a night.
Thats all for now, sorry if the post was really long but I’ve been really busy!!! I’ll try to keep the next ones shorter :-) Love and miss my American (and all-around-the-globe) friends and family!!!