For the past two weeks, I've been living with a farming family on a Moshav outside of Netanya. If you know me, you know I'm not exactly the farming type - which is exactly why I wanted to spend my summer doing this. Not only have I challenged myself in real ways - physical labor, long hours, and a totally unfamiliar environment - but I've also gotten to see a totally different side of Israel. I went to visit their 15 year old son when he was on a leadership program in the wilderness - imagine Visitor's Day at an American Jewish Day Camp, add 1,000 more campers, pushy Israelis, and tons more food, and you get the idea. I went to a "siyyum" - summary/end of year celebration at a "Democratic Style" school with displays of theater, art, and music by the graduating seniors. I've played Israeli hide and seek with village kids (lost every time), and learned how to make authentic 'Temani" (Yemenite) and Israeli dishes - along with various kinds of goat cheeses from the goats I milk 2x a day. I've learned a few words of Thai and brushed up my Arabic to converse with the other workers on the farm, and learned a lot about cultures other than my own. All in all, definitely an experience I'm glad I'm getting even though I was "over it" after a week. The family speaks perfect English so my Hebrew isn't improving as much as I hoped but I'm expanding my vocabulary and reading books with their 7-yr-old, so I guess thats better than nothing! If anything, I have more confidence to speak and learn from mistakes, and I'm challenging myself to conjugate verbs instead of just using the infinitive every time :D
The other plus side is that living in a secular Israeli house, in a fairly homogeneous village, has made me appreciate Jerusalem so much more. I was lucky to have spent Shabbat back in Jerusalem and it re-confirmed for me (not that I was questioning!) how lucky I am to live in this beautiful city where so many people long to be, with the friends and community that have proven time and time again how special they are. I definitely felt bittersweet leaving this morning, even knowing that I will be back in another week, and I just feel so blessed and grateful to spend another year living and learning there.
Right now I'm really looking forward to my grandparents visiting at the end of July, moving into my new apartment, and not being woken up by a rooster at 4am every day!!!! And of course starting my classes again at the magical bubble known as Pardes! להתראות!!