Sunday, March 6, 2011

Israel: Where I'm Meant to Be?

This first week in Israel has been more than I could have asked for - I very spiritually and energetically feel as if at this moment this is really where I'm meant to be. I typically don’t deal with transition too well and while the first few days I was really homesick I can say that things have really turned around, time has flown by, and I feel so at home. In just one short week I’ve already accomplished a ton so here’s a rundown of what I’ve been up to…

Setting into the apartment
Our apartment is in a PERFECT neighborhood called Makor Chaim in the Talpiyot area of Jerusalem. It’s sooooo quiet and yet really centrally located. Rach and I are sharing a room again which we’ve themed Polly Pockets because we have these miniature sized beds and lots of play toys that the landlord left hanging around in our bedroom. The best part of our room though might be the heated floors! I’m pretty much permanently freezing cold so I love waking up with my clothes laid out on the floor overnight and then getting dressed right into their warmth… ahhh :) Those the little things… We also have 2 giant balconies, laundry in our apartment, and best of all is that we don’t have any 14 year old maids!

Living Room

Makor Chaim 14

Our Polly Pocket bedroom and mini sized beds

The view from our living room window

Reconnecting with friends and family
Many family members and friends I grew up with made aaliya (immigrated to Israel) and I’ve been in touch with most of them this week. Coincidentally, I also learned that I live 2 doors down from a friend I grew up with from K-8th grade and kiddy corner from one of my friend's brothers. One of my other friend’s sisters also lives not too far and so it’s really nice having so many friends who I can get together with who are a) not in my program, and b) familiar from home.

Services at the Gilad Shalit tent
The most moving part of the week… Friday night several of my roommates and I attended Shabbat services at the Gilad Shalit tent. Gilad Shalit was a regular Israeli guy who was serving in the army 4 years ago when he was kidnapped by Hamas and held as a prisoner of war. Since then 1 or 2 videos have been released of him alive, seemingly okay, and reading letters to his family. The last one released I believe was 1 or 2 years ago. There is no proof that Hamas is complying with international law meeting the standards for treatment of POWs and it’s unknown whether or not he’s even still alive. Hamas has agreed to free him so long as the Israeli government complies with particular provisions involving the release of POWs here and since the gov’t refuses to negotiate with terrorists Hamas continues to hold him captive. As a result there’s been a large movement of Israelis who have supported the Shalit family and this cause. There’s a tent now set up outside the Prime Minister’s home where his family spends just about all day every day sitting and waiting. A giant sign reading 1713 (on the day I was visiting) that sits above the tent as a reminder of how many days he’s been gone.
How moving it was to be there and pray with his family. I was struck by the normalcy of how his family and others in my presence treated the situation. It occurred to me how incredibly privileged I am to come from a nation that isn’t culturally infused with trauma. At the same time, with that being the case in Israel the people of this culture have learned such a strong ability to learn how to move forward. People here don’t seem to fixate on much and they also know how to get things done. This is something I think us Americans as a whole culture don’t understand because we’re not in a position of having to learn how to operate that way. Anyway, I hope you’ll take the time to visit to educate yourself on this matter and the symbol he’s become for the Israeli people.

I started ulpan (Hebrew immersion course) this week! I’m in the 4th level of 6 which is definitely a good challenge but not too difficult that I can’t understand what’s going on. Most of the other students in my class have made aliya and they’re just about all ages 55+, which is really nice because it reminds me of grad school in that everyone in the room genuinely wants to be there. It creates for a really warm learning environment and a strong sense of community. We’ll be participating for one more month so I’m excited to see how much I learn by the end of it all.

6.5K Race
So after intoxicating my lungs the last 4 months with Indian air, eating tons of oil and fried foods, it’s about time to get back in shape. Rach and I opted this week to participate in a 6.5K race in Jerusalem. It was such a fun way to start getting back into shape and also just practically to run around the city and get a better sense of my surroundings. Since then Rach and I have been running around the neighborhood everyday and I already feel myself losing the weight I gained in India and most importantly just getting back into a healthier way of life.

All in all I’m getting settled in here so well and hopeful and enthusiastic this will continue to be an amazing journey.  For now I’m off to a MASA leadership seminar for the week and will blog again soon.

So so much love to each of you reading this!

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