It’s been about two weeks since my last post, throwing my hopes for a weekly post out the window. Hopefully I fell off the wagon just this once. But, I do have a bit of an excuse for the long delay in writing. I’ve been very busy which means I have a lot to write about now, and luckily for you, you have a lot to read. My last post ended (if I recall correctly), at the start of the Rosh Hashana vacation, and now we’re a day away from the Sukkot vacation. Gotta love the first month of the Jewish calendar! But here it goes, my attempt to recall the busiest two weeks of my Israel experience so far.
Rosh Hashana translates literally into “head of the year,” which makes sense since it is the start of the new Jewish year. I got three extra days off from school because of the holiday so I was already pretty excited for the New Year. Unlike New Year’s Eve in America, the Jewish New Year does not revolve around getting wasted and counting down as a ball drops from the sky. Instead, it focuses on gefilte fish, the shofar, and most importantly apples and honey. The apples and honey are meant to signify the start of a sweet new year. The day before the vacation, Amanda and I had our students make Rosh Hashana cards for their parents, siblings, teachers, or friends. We wrote down English phrases on the board for them to copy into their cards, including “Happy New Year, I love you, I hope you have a sweet new year, etc.” I was pleasantly surprised when I received cards from the students, who chose to make them for Amanda and me instead of their families. The last class of the day was total mayhem as the students were excited for vacation to begin. It was hard to get anything done, so the day ended with a few games of hang man (in English of course) and dancing to some American songs (“Happy” the most popular choice.)
After vacation officially began I headed into Tel Aviv for a Rosh Hashana ceremony with my program. I ended up staying the night at my boyfriend’s house and going to spend the holiday with his family the next day. The food was incredible and everyone was extremely welcoming, even giving me a special shoutout at dinner thanking me for joining them. The rest of the weekend was very relaxing, I spent my days in the Shuk, at the beach, and seeing friends at night. Couldn’t ask for more right? After Rosh Hashana it was back to school for another short week, as Yom Kippur was the following weekend.
The week before Yom Kippur was just a typical week at school. Amanda and I started to pull out some more of the weaker students so they have a chance to work with us before we get our set groups. We’ve been told that we are primarily going to be working with the stronger students to prepare them for the standardized test they take in the middle of the year. So we want to give all the students a chance to meet with us. Fun quick story about the week. It seems as if I have gotten myself a, well not-so-secret admirer at school. It’s a little boy in a 5th grade class who just kept on shouting out the whole class saying hi to me and telling me I was beautiful. Towards the end of class I was passed a note, pictured below, which said “mali you butifal — Noor” signed with a bunch of hearts. It was probably the cutest thing that has happened so far.
About a week after Rosh Hashana happens, the holiday of Yom Kippur comes. Unlike Rosh Hashana which celebrates the start of a sweet new year, Yom Kippur is all about repentance and atoning for sins. Although this sounds like a little bit of a downer, Yom Kippur is so cool in Israel and was probably the best experience I have had here thus far. I’m not sure if you have heard, but the whole country literally shuts down for the holiday. So from Friday night until Saturday evening nothing opens. It’s like Shabbat on steroids. By that I mean that nothing is open, literally nothing. On Shabbat there are a few stores and restaurants that stay open, but on Yom Kippur I’m pretty sure it is illegal for any businesses to operate. Even better, there are no cars allowed on the road. The entire country just shuts down and the only people driving are the police or ambulances. Because of the empty roads, Israelis take to the streets on foot or bike, walking around everywhere and biking on the highway. It is really a surreal experience, one that you just have to experience yourself to really get the feeling. I took my boyfriend’s motorized bike, which meant that I didn’t have to pedal, and coasted around Tel Aviv at a comfortable 25mph. I road all around Tel Aviv on the main roads and highways, from the beach, to Dizengoff Center and Rabin Square. It was so cool. I was on roads that are usually so crowded you can barely drive at 15mph and here I was riding a bike in the middle of the road at practically double that speed. Definitely my favorite experience in Israel so far.
Another major part of Yom Kippur is fasting. Although I have come to realize that more people probably fast in America than they do in Israel, I decided I was going to try and fast, just to see if I could do it. My boyfriend, who had never fasted ever even though he has lived in Israel his whole life, decided to take up the challenge also. Well, I made it until 2pm until I just couldn’t take it anymore and I ate an entire can of Pringles. My boyfriend was probably happy I broke the fast because being around me when I am very hungry could not have been a pleasant situation for him. He on the other hand made it until 7pm without food or water. The funny thing is the only reason I think I didn’t make it was because I was just thinking about the fact that I couldn’t eat all day until it literally drove me insane. Whatever, I still road around on a bike on Yom Kippur so I still had quite the experience.
Today was the first day back at school after Yom Kippur vacation and I only have tomorrow left before a ten day vacation for Sukkot. To be honest, I’m not really sure of what the meaning behind Sukkot is, but I know that people build sukkahs, small temporary huts next to their houses which they decorate and I think eat meals in.
It was an interesting day at school to say the least. By that I mean Amanda and I didn’t have a class to teach until the last period of the day, which starts at 12:45. So we spent about four hours of the day chatting with teachers, thinking about lessons plans, and just sitting around. It wasn’t anyone’s fault the day was just hectic and filled with different activities that caused classes to be cancelled. Everyone keeps saying that the first month or so in school will be a little chaotic and then “after the holidays” meaning after Sukkot, things will get normal. I hope this will actually happen but I have a feeling things will still be pretty chaotic and everyone will just start saying “oh wait until after Hanukkah.” But we did get to see a ceremony performed by the 4th graders about all the holidays in the first month of the Jewish calendar (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) and it was totally cute and filled with adorable dance moves.
I have a few trips coming up during this two week break for Sukkot. On Sunday I am going up North with my program (including Fellows from both Rishon and Petach Tikvah) for a two day trip. I’m not sure exactly what we are going to be doing, but the itinerary looks like it includes a lot of hiking and potentially an outdoor cooking challenge, which scares the shit out of me. Ask anyone in my apartment and cooking is definitely not one of my skills. I think the most impressive thing I’ve made so far is spaghetti with meat sauce and that was pre packaged and frozen.
After the program trips ends, I’m staying up north with my two gal pals from PTK that I’ve written about before. Diana, Rachel, and I are going to spend two nights in Haifa and then two in Jerusalem to close out the Sukkot vacation. I’ve never been to Haifa before so I am really excited for that. I think we are going to some other places nearby in the two days we are spending there. And even though I just went to Jerusalem with my dad and brother, I was pretty jet lagged so I am excited to go back and see some of the sites again.
Some random things I’ve noticed these past two weeks
1. Do not take the bus during rush hour. I know sometimes we have no choice, and that’s what happened to me last Sunday. I was leaving Tel Aviv to head back to Rishon and I had to take the bus because my boyfriend could not drive me. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love taking the bus. I just put in my headphones and zone out. But at 430pm on a Sunday (the Monday of Israel), the ride could not have been more miserable. Besides having to shove my way through a crowd of people to get on the bus, I then had to spend the next hour standing (or really falling) all over the place as my driver slammed on the brakes whenever he pleased. I either couldn’t move or was smushed next to someone with horrible body odor. Definitely going to wait to just take the later bus next time.
2. Shopping makes me really happy. Yes, I know this is cliche for me to say as I am a 22 year old woman. But its so true! (am I right ladies??). I was having a little bit of a down day this past weekend, probably a combination of being a little homesick and getting over my attempt to fast. My boyfriend suggested we walk to the mall thats 15 minutes from his house. And wow was that the best decision I ever made. My mom and I usually call it retail therapy and boy did it work. I didn’t go too crazy as I am learning the meaning of poverty as I pay for my own food, transportation, and just random things every week. But I did find a Top Shop and I did find things to buy. Just a pair of jeans and the most comfortable sweater that ever existed, and instantly I was in a better mood.
3. No matter what holiday, the students and teachers will wear white the day before a vacation. Luckily Amanda and I were warned about this tradition, or else we would have felt very out of place today walking into a sea of white.
Well that’s all for now. I will hopefully write within a week or so all about my upcoming trips! Keep following!