Hi from Israel! This is my first post in over two weeks, but only because it’s been a crazy, transcontinental, time-shifting two weeks. The Sunday before last, I boarded a plane to London, had breakfast in London, and then boarded another plane to Tel Aviv only an hour later. Three continents in twenty-four hours. It took me over a week to fully recover from that time warp!
Even though I’ve been here for over a week, I don’t start school in Tel Aviv until next week, so I’ve been spending time with family and friends in Jerusalem and the West Bank. My family used to live in Jerusalem, so it’s been such a treat to be back in my old neighborhood, walking around familiar streets full of memories. I used my free time to hit up the classic Jerusalem spots: the Shuk, Ben Yehudah Street, and the Old City. I’m actually not such a big fan of Ben Yehudah; it’s a lot of stores, some of which I enjoy, and some of which I never pay attention to. It’s a great place to bring a big group of kids with money to burn, but for someone who’s lived in Israel twice, it’s way too touristy to merit more than a walk-through.
The Shuk is completely the opposite. It is a typical Jewish madhouse: tons of people shoving and pushing their way past stands overflowing with beautiful fresh produce, mountains of spices, and glass cases full of cheeses, fish, and meat. My friend Marcie always says, ‘if you don’t have any patience, don’t go to the Shuk.’ Chances are, you’ll get stepped on at least once, and pushed more times than you can count. But compared to shopping in the supermarkets, well, there is no comparison. The Shuk is an adventure, like the weird, exotic food that everyone says you have to try at least once when you’re in a foreign land. Just try it, you’ll probably like it.
Everyone who comes to Israel goes to the Old City. It’s like going to the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building your first time in New York City. Of course, this is probably my eighth time in Israel, with two of those times being months-long stays. I’ve probably been to the Old City and the Kotel (the Western Wall) about twenty times, but every time I’m there, I am in awe of the beauty and history. The Jerusalem Stone-paved streets are narrow and winding, and the stones are worn from thousands of years of walking. I always find myself wondering what the walls of the buildings would say, because they’ve truly seen it all. And the Kotel, the Western Wall, the last remnant of the Temple, is magnificent. The stones are jagged and weathered, and the cracks between them are filled with notes, maybe even the note I wrote there on my first trip to Israel as a little girl. It’s hard to get to the wall; the women’s side is considerably smaller than the men’s, and the entire area is always full of people praying. With some pushing, I eventually approached the wall, and placed my hands on the stones. I always close my eyes, and take a moment for myself, to try to connect with the place, and the history, and even God. Then I look up at its height and greatness, and then, in the typical custom, I walk away backwards, never turning my back. This is my tradition with The Wall, one of the few places where I feel as though I am a spiritual person.
I have so many hopes, and dreams for this semester abroad, and it hasn’t even really started yet. I guess I’m still a little jetlagged, because I’m falling asleep before eleven… Next post: the West Bank!
Until then, shalom, which means Hello, Goodbye, and Peace.