I have adapted a new phrase: It’s Israel. This is my new explanation for everything during the next few months. It is not news to me that Israel is a unique and special country, but I recently have had a few episodes which have lead me to accept and embrace the Israeli culture.
#1: Last week I met one of my friend’s in the Old City. She is a cantorial student and has been living in Jerusalem since August. My friend told us that we were going to visit her favorite shop- little did I know that entailed all of the shop owners greeting us with hugs and kisses. They showed us the jewelry and scarves and then taught us how to tie scarves in all sorts of ways and also served us delicious tea. Of course I had to buy a scarf and promise to return soon to buy a tapestry for my room. I am planning for them to know me by name at the end of these few months. We then walked to the Kotel and marriv was happening. I have never been there for a service and it was just too cool and a very powerful few moments (I witnessed the longest Amidah ever).
#2: Once Shabbat ended, we got ready to go to a dinner at a family’s house that hosts all Indiana University students each semester. My friend called asking for two cabs at 6:15pm. We arrived at the gates by 6:12pm and a cab was already there. My friend asked if it was our cab and of course the driver said yes because he wanted our business. Group one got into the cab and two seconds later two more cabs pulled up. Four of us got in the second cab just as the driver of the vacant cab got out of his car and yelled at us. He was livid that the first group got in the other cab leaving him with no business. After he basically bitched us out (pardon my language), the driver started to drive us to our destination and as we were entering the neighborhood the previous cab was leaving. Our driver decided to stop and yell at him. This would have been all good and dandy except that the meter was running and we ended up paying for their screaming match.
#3: Once the dinner was over we then had to take another cab back to campus. Luckily we had better luck this time. I knew from the second we got in the car and a “Shavua Tov” song was playing that this car ride would be one for the books. Our driver was an old cute man and told us his entire life story. He gave us the name of an apparently cute coffees shop in some neighborhood and then agreed with us that Ben Sira Hummus was the best hummus in Jerusalem. We asked for his business card and found out his son is also a cab driver. We learned that his son has a one year old daughter and when we asked what her name was, the driver forgot and responded with a, “uhh..oh..no…oy vey”. Good news: he finally remembered her name. This driver really won me over when he took us the short cut way and saved us some money.
#4: When my three IU roommates arrived back at the apartment some of our friends were waiting for us to go out to celebrate another friend’s birthday. I walked into my room and 30 seconds later my room was bombarded with people and the door was slammed shut. Why? A cat somehow made its way into the apartment. Israel is filled with hundreds of stray cats and anyone who has been to Israel with me before knows that I am terrified of them and want nothing to do with them. Thank you to my friend with a brave soul who magically removed the cat from the apartment.
#5: I ordered coffee at Aroma in Hebrew the other day and the cashier responded in Hebrew. It was only a few words so I was able to follow along perfectly. The next day I decided to continue ordering in Hebrew. Instead of just taking my credit card and moving on, he had to make a conversation with me. He asked if I made allyiah, to which I said no. Then he asked if I was in Ulpan, which I am. Then he kept going and asked what I was doing after Ulpan. By this time I lost him and had to switch to English. It all turned out well though because he gave me not one, but two pieces of chocolate with my coffee.
#6: At Shabbat dinner the other night, I got up from the table to go perform the ritual washing of the hands. A girl behind me decided to ask if she needed to TEACH me how to wash. I was very taken back by this since it is a custom I am very familiar with. I decided that since it was Shabbat to politely say no thank you, wish the girl a Shabbat Shalom, and realize she was probably just trying to be nice since there are people here from all sorts of backgrounds.
#7: I went into town for a meeting (this meeting was the only thing getting me through Ulpan. I’m going through withdrawal from not having my various weekly meetings like I do at IU). Once I was finished with the meeting I decided to walk around a little by myself. I stopped in an art gallery to see some work by one of my new favorite artists. The saleslady wanted to know if the $18,000 picture was for my parents (hey mom and dad, I’d love one of them by the way…). After my personal art exploration I went to a drug store and got yelled at for testing the lotion. Then I learned that average products that would cost $8-10 in the States cost about $20-30 in Israel. Since I am still not over the stressful 50lb- packing extravaganza, I decided to purchase what I needed and move on with my day (aka make my second visit to Aroma).
This concludes the first of my “It’s Israel” stories. All in all everything is going smoothly and I am sailing through Ulpan (9 more days!!!!!!!!!). I really don’t even think it has hit me that I’m in Israel. When I finally had my first three hours of alone time and was walking around Jerusalem it felt like some sort of dream. Who knows if it will ever really hit me that I am here living, studying, and exploring one of the most incredible countries. This week I have a few things planned as well as a few reunions with friends who I haven’t seen in awhile. I’m looking forward to getting my schedule finalized for when classes start (Feb 16 can’t come sooner) as well as finishing some Spring break plans (hopefully…..). Stay tuned for these exciting announcements. Happy Superbowl Sunday! You know I’ll be watching from start to finish…not. Hope all is well with all of you! Much love xoxo
P.S. My first FOMO moment of the semester happened. I found out that I’m a grandma! My little in ADPi, Molly (aka the world’s greatest gal ever) just got her little!!!! Welcome to the family Bari!!!!! Skype date ASAP!!