Israeli 9-5

My life in Israel has always had an end date.

If you’ve met me since I’ve moved here you know that on February 7th my butt will be seated on a double decker plane headed out of the Middle East towards the city where I left all of my friends, lovers, long sleeve shirts, good sushi, and deep dish pizza.

For a lot of people interning and living alongside me, this program is a trial run for their future lives as Israelis. When I touch down in the states, they’ll be making aliyah (moving to Israel with a lot of perks from the government), an act of immigration I have never considered, one they all know the answer to when they hear new friends ask if I would ever make the move.

But this past week made me think.

The life I lived. Work I completed. Waterfalls I rappelled down. Food I made (cut up cucumbers and tomatoes). Mouth-dropping meals I bought. The not so tasty ones I tossed down with chilled glasses of riesling. All the boulders I climbed. Trips I planned. And the people I jumped, ate, walked, talked, cooked and sat with, made me rethink everything.
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Mom don’t worry, I’m still going be booking a flight back to North America, but last week was the first time I gave this country a chance at showing me all its got. You all know I love the food, the culture I’m being immersed in, the new things I’m learning and the people I’m meeting, but I’ve always proudly defined myself as an American, and nothing else.

I’m all in now.

I’m pulling the Israeli card. I feel a commradidrity with these people as they undergo constant terror. The sand and setting sun over the Mediterranean sea are all mine. I’m realizing that every part of this program I thought was a long vacation, is actually my real life.

On Sunday I went to work and left with every intention to mad plan, with my mad planning friend, a weekend up north that would probably never happen (it did). I walked home from her house after googling the life out of my computer for hostels and how to rent a car, stopped at my favorite bread shop on the way and continued my carb-binging diet with a brick-oven cooked calzone and a coffee on the house. That’s right, I drink coffee now, sometimes, once in a while, when it’s free. Full disclosure, I had my first drag of a cigarette in a club a couple weeks ago, I also wear a bra as little as possible these days.

I’m Israeli.

Sunday finished with scrubbing the bathroom, skyping with my people back home, and passing out with Netflix on at a normal hour for the first time in forever.

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Monday had the same comforting, smiling on my bus ride home from work, completely satisfying vibe as the day before. I volunteered at the Israeli Tennis Center in Jaffa that night and played tennis with teenagers for two hours. It was incredible. I’ll be playing with them two nights a week for the rest of my time here and can already tell some of my biggest tears in February will happen on those courts.

I get a little nervous when I know my day is over and I don’t have a DVR to turn on, but Monday night changed that. I walked in the door, caught up with my roommates, kept all our doors open, blasted Amy Winehouse, colored on our living room floor and forgot I was in a foreign country.

On Tuesday I went to a museum with my program that lets you experience life as a visually-impaired person for one hour. It was terrifying, beautiful, really hard, so much fun and a life changer. We walked through a market, went on a boat ride, danced, and had a conversation all as blind people and walked back into the light with a new perspective on everything we see everyday. Coming off the bus from that field trip a couple of us went to our market while most Israelis were still at work, which is weird, it seems like they’re always eating and enjoying life instead of working, but the shuk (market) was quiet that afternoon and I walked though it sipping on freshly-squeezed lemonade and my mouth full of samples of cheese without being bumped into or stepped on.

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Tuesday and Wednesday night looked the same, but were full of different tastes and people.

I ate at the Argentinian restaurant down my street with a new friend, finished planning our trip up north, went to work and left once I had finished everything I needed to get done (sometimes this is at noon, sometimes at four, sometimes I work from home).

Thursday began the coolest weekend of my life. We rented a car and headed up to the Golan Heights. Driving so close to Syria in the pitch black at 10:00PM was not what we had planned, but it lead us to our hostel which housed us the night before we climbed, jumped, rappelled, fell, ate, smelled, and swam for seven hours through Nahal Yehudia. The next day we rode horses through Mount Carmel and I fell in love with an enormous white stallion named Puzzle.

So far Israel has left me with feelings for food and animals.

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Waiting for the gorgeous, almost done with med school, still has a full head of hair, loves his mom, will move to Chicago, Jewish prince my Nannie had always dreamed for me to marry, to be dropped right in front of my face before I leave.

If you made it through this whole post you’re probably my dad, or you had a little free time before going to Didier farms and taking a hay ride through the pumpkin patches with an apple cider donut in your hand, flannel shirt wrapped around your goose-bump filled body, and crispy, colorful, crunchy leaves falling all around you (please do this for me), then you now know why I would want to move here.

Israel is making me think about things I said absolutely no to two months ago.

Wondering what my thoughts will read like in 100 days.

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Days Like These

Some of you are comparing the constant violence in Chicago to the terror surrounding Israel, and I see your point, and to a degree, I agree. But it feels so different. When I walk around Chicago during the day, on any given Thursday, the thought of getting hurt doesn’t cross my mind. Today, this Thursday, around 4:00PM, I was walking around Tel Aviv, my home, and flinched every time I heard a car speed up or locked eyes with someone who didn’t look like me.

Unfortunately it’s something I have to get used to now and may be something I bring back to the states with me until the feelings of uncertainty subside. The reality of what’s happening is that I wake up with notifications on my phone of yet another attack, and I go about my day.

Today was great, and it feels horribly guilty to say that. So many people in this tiny country I’m living in are having the worst day of their lives because of the notifications I received on my phone. But I can’t let that keep me inside, keep me from taking the bus, standing in line for a club, or shopping at my usual vegetable stands. I can’t, and I won’t, and today showed me that I can walk around with that mentality, and survive.

The New Normal

FoodGasms and Rocket Attacks are new and constant phrases in my vocabulary.

Last night while waiting at the bus stop, after my 200 shekel (not cheap) homemade linguine with a spicy red sauce tossed with freshly seasoned shrimp, calamari and blue crab entree, followed by the best coffee gelato overflowing every side of the cone, which fell nowhere but into my mouth, my phone lit up with six notifications of rockets being fired at Israel.

This is my new reality:

Admitting that I literally smile when there’s a spoon full of Nutella in my mouth or cous-cous and chicken cutlets made by friends on my plate, and realizing that the country I now call home is in the midst of a wave of terror.

Ignorance is no longer blissful, at all. The knowledge I have on the tensions that have fully risen in Israel is limited. It’s complicated. Even attempting to wrap my head around who is fighting who, and why, wondering if it’ll ever end, failing at not generalizing while sitting on the bus to work, and deciding if a freak out is building inside of me, are all new and raw questions,doubts and feelings running through my mind.

What I see are good guys and bad guys. But the ones I see as good may be the opposite of how you feel. Our differences might be because of the sources we use to get our information. It may be that I am in Israel and you are in North America. Religion could play a role, the ideas you were raised with could make the difference, maybe it’s just the way we see the world. Regardless of how you feel about the situation, I am living here, through it, watching it pop up on my phone, in towns that I’ve visited, near a mall I’ve walked through and a city that I call home.

I’m the farthest thing from a bad ass. Unlike many Israelis who have this bold, brave exterior, I’ll be the first to tell you that I do not want to be here during a war, and for some, war is what they believe is to come. Because I’ve only witnessed soldiers peacefully escorting one man out of one of our markets, this constant violence is very out of sight out of mind. I’m reading the articles and having multiple conversations a day about the stabbings, but because I have not seen anything live, it seems very far away. Daily life feels just as it did when I  landed in September. I just got back from food shopping (cucumbers and tomatoes) and passed all the regulars with smiles on their faces. The run I’m going to try to make myself go on will be uninterrupted and end with me dragging by butt up the stairs to cook dinner before a bunch of friends come over to hang and chat and be normal.

So Florentin is where I’m going to stay for now.  The uneasiness is new but manageable, and I’m going to continue to follow in my Israeli friends footsteps and walk out of my door every morning going about my ordinary, foodgasmic day.

Art throughout Florentin
      Art throughout Florentin

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When You Know…

Lucky is beyond how I feel.

I knew it would be a special moment.

Finding the one has always been at the top of my list.

The minute it hit me I forgot about all the ones from my past. It was like they had never happened. Settling is what I was doing with them, I now see that so clearly.

With some direction from a friend and a craving for it that I’ve never experienced before, I stepped into the corner stand on Shalma and Herzl and ordered the pita of my life.

Filled to the top with greasy fries, Israeli salad, just a little of the spicy sauce, hummus, and fresh-off-the-grill chicken, this warm, napkin-needing, made me feel all the feels pita, changed everything

Expectations

My two-week bucket list bender is almost at it’s closing point and I’m exhausted!

When I set off to cross lines and check boxes off of my growing Israeli agenda I had a full tank of energy; it’s now almost on empty. People who can go go go without breaks, naps, or days with the shades closed and 27 Dresses in the DVD player are beyond anyone I can imagine. That is not me, never has been, never will be.

I need breaks.

Time to myself.

Moments to decompress.

And nights full of sleep.

All of those things are finally happening and the greatest part is that during the moments of silence I thought I needed, and right after, have been some of my favorite days/nights. It was the lines that were not on the list, expectations I didn’t have, and conversations that weren’t planned that are making this time in my life pretty epic.

I’m not going to downplay the big things you read about me planning on doing and say they were all a bust, they definitely weren’t, but my expectations for tickets I buy and nights planned in advanced are always way off the charts.

Kanye West was the biggest disappointment of all; he didn’t care about us, rapped 30-second snippets of his greatest songs, and lost my vote for the 2020 election. Bon Jovi killed it in all ways Yeezus didn’t. The camping trip setup on the beach was the coolest thing I had ever seen (big couches on carpets with tables, a kitchen with a pizza oven, stovetop, and bar, multiple tents with blow up mattress, the sea right in front of us, the stars and moon so bright above us and the lights of Haifa in plain sight).

The only biggie on the list I wrote about two weeks ago that exceeded all expectations was visiting my family in Efrat (a settlement in the West Bank). It was political, religious, relaxing, weight gaining, really fun and surprisingly thought provoking. Tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank have started to heat up again in the past couple of weeks and the safety of the people I met there, their land, and the people they’re in arguments with is a big concern, although they would confidently say not to worry.

I’m learning a lot of things here. Some are topics I should have remembered from high school and others are the life lessons I keep spitting at all of you in this blog. These last two weeks I’ve been reminded of the crazy high expectations I set for myself and the things I want to accomplish.

Yesterday I spent the morning and mid-afternoon in Herzliya. The night before I got a text to be at my friend’s apartment at 8 in the morning for breakfast before we got on the bus to a city described to me as the Hampton’s of Israel. I was feed a sweet challah bread and Nutella sandwhich at 8 on the dot and stepped off the bus a bit later onto the most gorgeous beach next to the clearest water I’ve ever seen. We spent the day trolling through the Ritz Carlton, not blending in with the wealthy European guests at all, lounging on the soft sand in the shade and weaving through the mall finding more Nutella spread on crepes and frozen yogurt, with chocolate chunks as sprinkles we’re brining back to America, before heading back home. Exhausted and sandy walking back into Florentin I was ready to shower and sleep and just be for the rest of the day. I laid, started The Holiday, couldn’t sleep, threw on some clothes, stopped at a corner store to grab a bottle of wine and some potatoes and went over to my friends place to cook, drink, talk, cry a little, laugh a lot and remember why I signed up for this program in the first place.

Yesterday was set with no expectations.

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