Last week in Jewish Education class we had a guest speaker who works for Hillel-Birthright. She spoke about how she only has 10 days to make an impact on each individual in every group. In order to do this she said, “In Judaism, we have moments. We don’t let time pass us by”. The speaker used the prayer of seeing a rainbow as an example of a way for her to take one moment out of a crazy day or week and turn it into a Jewish educational moment.
Her quote really resonated with me. When I was younger, I wore a watch every single day. Sometime over the past few years I stopped wearing a watch (the reasoning behind it was probably so I could wear a more fashionable bracelet on my left wrist, or something along those lines). For those of you who are “watch wearers”, you know the horrible feeling of forgetting your watch or for whatever reason not always having access to what the time is.
Similar to a watch obsession, my planner goes almost everywhere with me. Thinking about this has has made me realize a few things: I frequently look back in my planner to recount particular events, while at the same time, I am always looking forward to the next “exciting’ thing in my life. I recently asked myself if I think I have really been living in the present and enjoying each and every special moment instead of always looking forward to the next thing, whatever that may be.
I have officially been living in Israel for two months. Since I arrived I have been counting down the days until one of my best, best, best friends as well as my parents arrive. However, I have also been stretching out every day to it’s fullest and trying my best to do as much as I can each and every day. Instead of being concerned about the time or what paper/ tests I have coming up, I have really been able to take advantage of what Israel has to offer and bask in the special “It’s Israel” moments, while not stressing about school (mostly because school is a semi joke- however, I now have four midterms to study for…WHAT?!?).
Last Friday my best friend arrived. She texted me when she landed in the airport, but then I was not going to hear from her until she arrived. As Shabbat was quickly approaching I decided I would go stand outside and just wait for her. Of course it was freezing cold and windy that night so instead of standing outside, I stood in the guard gate hoping that he would not kick me out. Much to my surprise, after about 15 minutes he asked me if everything was okay and then asked me to sit while I waited. He doesn’t speak much English and I only speak so much Hebrew, so there was some language barrier, but eventually my friend arrived. The best part of this evening was now that the guard knows me, he doesn’t make me flash my ID when I enter the building, and always greets me with a big smile.
I had a few days of quality time with my friend before my parents arrived. We did a lot of walking, a lot of eating, a lot of shopping/wandering, and a lot of much needed catching up. I really am one of the luckiest people in the world to have a best friend fly out to Israel just to visit me for an entire week (a big todah rabah to her parents and grandparents for making this trip possible)!
One of the coolest experiences (quite possibly one of the coolest top 10 Jewish experiences of my life) happened to us last Saturday night. We walked into the Old city a few hours before Shabbat ended. About 30 minutes before Shabbat was over, we headed to the Kotel and just sat and observed. Suddenly men started putting besamim (spices) into the empty spaces of the mehitza. A man then came over and summoned the ladies over to the mehitza. He gathered both men and women together for Havdallah. For the past few weeks here I have been having an internal debate about my thoughts on the Kotel. However, this one experience really hit me. I was saying a communal prayer with a group of people who I don’t know and yet still felt like I was part of a community (of men and women) at one of the holiest places in the world. Where else would something like this happen each and every week?
Once Sunday rolled around, I had one more morning with my friend before the parents arrived!! We woke up super early to try to go to the Dome of the Rock, but plans fell through because there were hundreds of people waiting to go up even though we got there at the crack of dawn. It was basically like waiting for a ride at Disney world. We decided to leave and go make a stop at Hadaya, (the jewelry place that all young Americans are beyond obsessed with) so my friend could place an order. Because we were the first ones there, my friend got 50% off her order and they made the jewelry on the spot. It was awesome. I also got some other things engraved in the jewelry I purchased my first time in Israel (this meant that they polished my 5 year old stuff…how nice..gotta love some shiny silver).
At around 5pm, mother and father showed up in the holy land! This started a week of craziness. There was SOOO much to do and see in only a short period of time. We went to museums, my favorite hot spots in Jerusalem (mom also tried all my Shuk favorites), as well as some of my favorite restaurants, and they got to see Hebrew U as well as my apartment (mother obviously thought it was disgusting since nothing can ever be clean enough to the Dina Phillips standard). On Thursday they headed to Tel Aviv in the morning and I met them later that afternoon. Let me tell you all…sleeping in the bed at the Hilton was AMAZINGGGGGG. If there is anything I am a little bit excited for when I go back home, it is my bed.
Earlier in the week was Purim (aka my first “big” Jewish holiday in Israel). It was crazy and it is impossible to describe the things I saw. However, I did manage to run into four people the first night of Purim that I didn’t know were going to be in Jerusalem. That started a streak of running into someone new every single day. It was hilarious. Some might say that it just proves how small of a country Israel/ the Jewish world is, but there had to be some other factors involved because the timing of everything was too perfect.
It was incredible to have my parents here in Israel with me. It is really scary that my time here is halfway over. Spring break is in a week and a half. I will be traveling to Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Florence, and Rome. Before I left IU, a wonderful friend told me to do something different everyday and not get into a routine. I have kept this in mind these past two months. I plan on stopping to truly recognize the incredible moments that are happening around me even more so than I am already doing while I am in Israel, as well as when I return home. This semester really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so incredibly thankful I was able to share a snapshot of experiences with my friend and my parents.
I’ll conclude this post with two “only Israel” experiences that have happened in the past few weeks:
1) During the second night of Purim, my friend and I were out late with some friends and got in a taxi to go back to my apartment. The driver and I agreed on a price. Unfortunately I didn’t have exact change and the driver decided not to only give me back half of the change that he owed me. I was not pleased and yelled at the driver in a polite manner until he gave me the rest of the money. Apparently this is very typical for Israel, and I believe that, but I was very proud of myself for getting the money back that I deserved, and returning safely to my room.
2) I was wearing a headband while getting my nails done. My nail lady wanted to know if I was married because she thought I was wearing a sheital (wig). I personally thought this was hilarious because I am not married and simply really like my headband.
Hope everyone is doing well, wherever you may be! Keep in touch! Until next time…xoxo