Shalom! Greetings from the holy land. I’m writing one last installation before Life 3 ships off tomorrow to India (yay!). This past week since Kibbutz Lotan has been busy-busy. We spent a few days in the North of Israel by Tiberias, a small city on the Kineret (a fresh water lake that connects to the Jordan River), learning about some of the first communities that settled on the land. It was absolutely beautiful up there--very green and lush-- and we had a relaxed, group-bonding few days. We came back to Jerusalem for a few intense days of orientation followed by our first free weekend. Here it goes.
The weekend began when Abby and I caught a last-minute ride with Noa, our program director, from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Considering we were both leaving bags in the area we had to scramble to separate our India clothes from the stuff that was staying behind. After good conversation on the ride there Noa dropped us off in the middle of the city and directed us to the busses we needed to take. Abby and I grabbed some falafel for dinner and when we started to separate (we were headed to different friends’ houses) all of a sudden I felt like a child separated from my mother. It was almost amusing how strange (and kind of scary) it felt to really be alone for the first time. I made it to the Central Bus Station fine though, where my friend Anna picked me up. I spent the night at her place—this roomy house in an everyday Tel Aviv neighborhood. She lives with 10 other people who are doing another service-learning year in Israel called Tikkun Olam. I met the whole group when that night they threw a party. We sat on their wrap around balcony in perfect weather until late at night eating homemade cake and drinking Arack (this Israeli liquor that tastes like licorice). In the morning Anna and I walked to local bakery and split a handful of mushroom, potato, and cheese bareckas… yumm! It was great to be with a friend from home and strange to see her in an entirely different context.
I then took the train with Abby to meet up with Itamar, an Israeli friend of hers that she met doing Birthright. Itamar’s adorable dad picked us up at the train station in Ashdod and took us to their house where we stayed for the weekend. Not only was their house beautiful—tile floors, winding steps, and a huge garden— they were also so welcoming and accommodating, that Itamar’s father literally offered us the pants he was wearing. We were given separate rooms, towels, a washing machine to use, a closet of clothes to wear, and asked if we needed “to douche” (I’m not sure if this was a language barrier slip or what). After some homemade lunch, Itamar took us to a park where we met up with some of his friends who took us off-roading on their motorcycles. It was only a little scary because my motorcyclist didn’t speak much English and I couldn’t remember the words for “slow down” or “I’m scared.” Abby and I didn’t learn until later that this activity is strongly discouraged… woops. His friends brought a little backpackers’ stove and made coffee. Sitting on a picnic table in the middle of the Israeli woods drinking black coffee at sunset was definitely one of those “Is this real life?” moments.
We returned home where Itamar’s mother made us a fantastic Shabbat dinner. It was interesting to see how an Israeli family celebrates the holiday. It was very relaxed and much more focused on just eating together and enjoying each other’s company rather than the prayers and the religion (for example, the challah consisted of sliced bread in a plastic grocery bag). We ate a delicious meal followed by coffee and homemade pastries in the garden for dessert. That night Itamar took us to a club in the middle of the kibbutz that he manages. We hung out in the “VIP” area for a lot of the night which, practically speaking, meant we sat on couches outside trying to figure out how to eat watermelon seeds. Our VIP status translated into free drinks though, so no complains here.
After another homemade breakfast in the morning Abby and I, along with Itamar’s friend Alone, went to the beach in Ashdod. It was a gorgeous sunny day, spent mostly sun bathing and trying to learn how to surf (and by trying I mean failing). Alone’s mother made us a delicious lunch in their beachside home (complete with a view of the ocean from the roof and huge open windows). Afterwards we returned to our host’s house for a relaxing evening of homemade cookies and “The Biggest Loser” reruns.
So if I had to sum up this weekend in any way I would say: Epic. It was delicious and relaxing and unpredictable all at once. I’ve been back in Jeru for a few days now for the last few days of orientation and leaving on a jetplane as of tomorrow afternoon. I’ll write soon with news from Mumbai! Until then, Namaste.