Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thank You

In the days following our flight home from Israel, I stuffed my face with all my favorite foods from home, celebrated my 22nd birthday, and spent time with family and friends. I have taken these last two weeks that I have been home to relax and reflect on my summer in Israel.

A week after we got back we had a final group meeting with our families and members of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati as well as the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati. We had time to discuss our trip and some of the things we experienced, and we were also able to share with everyone our feelings.

Since returning, I have been asked a lot questions about my summer. I am happy that so many people are interested in asking and discussing the things that are going on in Israel, and that I was able to share some insight. I have had a lot of people tell me that if they were my parent, they would have never let me go to such a dangerous place. The truth is, when we first arrived in Israel in June, there was no reason to think that it was dangerous. There is always tension with someone there, but it was a pretty peaceful time and was not that different from the U.S. 

Although things obviously escalated halfway through our trip, I still felt very safe the entire time I was in Israel. We were very lucky to be living in a city that was only being shot at about once a day, so it only affected about ten minutes of our day. I had faith in Iron Dome, the IDF, and our program leaders, and I knew that if they felt we were in enough danger they would send us home. I also felt confident in my own ability to make smart decisions and follow the instructions we were given for rocket attacks. I know not everyone felt the same way, but these are my own personal feelings.

I hope that people continue to ask questions and start discussions on the topic of Israel.

Since this will be my last post on this blog, I would like to give a few final shout outs.

-Karyn Zimerman and the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati: Thank you for all of your hard work to make our trip incredible and safe.
-The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati: Thank you for your support. Without your support many of us would not have been able to participate in this program.
-Families and Friends: Thank you for all of the love and support you sent from home. It helped so much.
-Onward Israel Program Leaders: Thank you to everyone at Onward Israel, including Lior and Netta. Our trip would not have been possible without all of your hard work and dedication.

I would also like to thank all of you; everyone who has read even one of my posts. Since I began my blog on May 29, I have received almost 4,000 pageviews. Thank you for reading, sharing, and supporting my blog and helping it reach so many people. My blog would not have been nearly as successful without all of you.

I will leave you with a little transformation. Here is the picture from our first day in Israel and our last. Some people are missing and some hair is a little longer, but I would not have wanted to share this summer with any other group of people.



L'hitraot,

Abby

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Circle Game

It seems like just yesterday I was writing my post, "One Day More." Now, we are packing our bags and preparing to fly back to Cincinnati tomorrow night. It has been a crazy summer, and one I will definitely never forget.

When we left Cincinnati 59 days ago, we never could have imagined what we would experience while living in Tel Aviv.

There are a lot of things I will miss about Israel; the great hummus and falafel, buying cheap produce at the Shuk, working at Batsheva Dance Company, etc.

I think what I will miss the most is riding the bus everyday. (Although there are so many times I have hated it.) My daily bus rides have given me the opportunity to observe how people interact with each other. Yup, I'm that creepy girl watching people from behind my sunglasses.

One day I saw a woman taking a selfie with her toddler and it was so sweet to see them laugh at the picture together. Another time, toward the beginning of the trip, I was getting off the bus and a woman asked me a question in Hebrew. I quickly realized she was asking me to help her lift her stroller off of the bus. I immediately bent down and grabbed the bottom of the stroller to help. She thanked me and we went on our separate ways. I have seen so many do the same, and similar things for others since then.

Something that always makes me smile is seeing how tough the elderly people on the bus are. I have seen so many of them running to the bus stop, and fighting to stay standing when the bus driver starts to go before they have found a seat. It also makes me happy to see that when an elderly person gets on the bus, young people will move for them, so they are able to have a seat. They do this without even exchanging a single word.

In Israel, soldiers most often walk around in uniform, with their big guns strapped on their backs. This is normal here, and there are soldiers everywhere, even during peace time. It is incredible how much more meaning those seeing those soldiers has now. These are young men and women, most of whom are younger than I am, fighting for Israel. Being here, seeing that, and knowing what they are training for and where they have been carries so much emotion.

Although I will miss Israel, I am very excited to get home to Cincinnati to see my friends and family. I have learned so much this summer and I have so much to share with everyone at home. I am also ready to eat Skyline and Graeter's!!

In honor of our last night in Broshim, here is a shout out for each of the 25 members of Cincinnati Onward Israel.

-Emily, Ari, Noah, DRoth: We miss you!
-Sylvie: Shout out to your scrunchies and the fact that you understand performance art.
-Jeremy: Thanks for spending your last day with me and sharing the many thoughts that run through your head all day. "I eat fries every day of the week." "Prove it."
-Frankel: I admire your passion for eating, especially shawarma. I really don't know how you do it.
-Sarah: I admire your passion for going out. I don't understand how you always have energy to do it.
-Michelle: Shout out to you for teaching me how to make hard boiled eggs.
-Tessa: You are a bed bug. Also, I hope you learn how to cook sometime soon.
-Micah: Shout out to the first day on the beach when you got SO sun burnt.
-Max: You are so witty and fantastic. I love it.
-Nikki Cohen: Shout out to your love of tuna salads. "Yo, yo, yo, it's Nikki C."
-Jordan: Shout out to your kind, kind heart.
-Jake: Is it nice sleeping on rocks?
-Tini: Thanks for telling me you think I am cool. Also, cheese.
-Nikki Fisher: Thanks for understanding me, and agreeing with me about everything.
-Liora: Shout out to the real Mom (even though you deny it).
-David: Shout out to your hair. "Ma?"
-Chad: Thanks for always answering all of my questions.
-Eli: Shout out to the tent you put on your bed. Also, tiny tree.
-Justin: Thanks for being Dad.
-AJ: You're more than just the juice. #woah
-Shira: Shout out to the time you fought the bus driver so you didn't have to pay for the bus transfer.


You have all made my summer amazing. #cincyisrael

L'hitraot,

Abby

Friday, August 1, 2014

Perspectives

This week on our educational day the group went to the West Bank. This had been on our itinerary from the beginning. Since the fighting started we pretty much all assumed the trip would be canceled, but we were wrong. On Monday, Lior sent us the itinerary for the next day, and reassured us that security had approved everything. He also made sure that if we felt uncomfortable or nervous that we were able to discuss it with him. So Tuesday morning, everyone got ready to go....except for me. I woke up not feeling well so I decided to sit this one out.

According to what I was told when everyone returned from the West Bank, Tuesday afternoon, most of the day was filled with talks with different Jews from settlements. The original plan was to speak to Palestinians as well, but because of Eid Al Fitr, it was changed. Our group has been asking to hear all of the different perspectives on Israel in general all summer, so that was disappointing.

I soon realized that writing a blog post about a trip I did not go on would be difficult, so I enlisted the help of some of the others in the group again. Unfortunately not a lot of them followed through on this (which is also why this post is late), so I will share with you the two I did receive.

Justin Kirschner:

"Our education continued the other day with a trip to Judea and Samaria aka the West Bank as most know it. We visited two Israeli settlements (Ariel and Itimar) and had the opportunity to hear more Israeli perspectives. Unfortunately, we lost the chance to speak with Palestinians working at an industrial park within the Ariel settlement. It would have been quite interesting to hear how they really feel about the "occupation" rather than have Israelis explain to us what Palestinians believe and how they act.

Either way, this educational day truly reinforced the idea that there is little hope for the future and that neither side really wants to make sacrifices for peace. It deeply saddens me to say this because Israel is such a wonderful place with amazing historical, religious and cultural roots, although these roots are part of the problem. On one hand, the bible says this is Israel's land and most of these settlers simply refuse to believe otherwise and even subtly admitted to putting up fights if asked to leave their settlement in exchange for peace.

On the other, Palestinians, according to the Israelis we spoke to, reject most offers for integration and infrastructural assistance offered by the Israeli government to the PA. Well, this is probably due to the fact that the PA (government) wants nothing to do with Israel and wants them all out of their internationally sanctioned land. Everything we hear and converse about may or may not be true which is why our discussions are so emotional and complicated. Let me end with a quote from a professor we spoke to that resonated greatly with me, "Facts and opinions are parallel.""


AJ Goldhoff:

"We went to the "West Bank" Tuesday, otherwise known as Judea and Samaria here. I had never been there and it was very intriguing for me to experience life there for the first time. It was very interesting to see the city of Ariel for me, because it is a city of 20,000 Jews sitting in this area that the world knows as a predominately Arab area. I loved seeing the pride in these residents; however I have also talked to many Israelis outside of Judea and Samaria who do believe these settlements across the green line are a huge cause to the ongoing conflict. I loved getting a new perspective and really finishing off the puzzle in my head because I felt I needed to see this in order to really have a firm grasp on the conflict as a whole. Overall, I felt safe and I felt it was a good experience even though I may not have agreed with everything discussed in our meetings with residents."



Our group meeting on Wednesday also had to do with different perspectives. An Ethiopian Jewish woman came to speak to us. First, she played us a short film which she directed and wrote. It was based on things that happened in the city of Lod, where she lived when she first came to Israel from Ethiopia. Afterward, she told us a little bit about her story, and then we were able to ask questions.

It was very interesting hearing her perspective, because it was different than a lot of Ethiopian Jews. When her family came to Israel, her parents only spoke Hebrew to her and they always lived in neighborhoods which were predominantly Israeli. This way, she grew up very much a part of Israeli society. A lot of other Ethiopians who came to Israel lived in mainly Ethiopian areas. This gave the woman a very different outlook on things. 

We asked her about her Jewish identity and when she knew she was Jewish. She told us that she only knew she was Jewish when she came to Israel, but she did not really have a Jewish identity until she visited the U.S. She said here, most people are Jewish, and it is just how everyone lives. In America though, since it is so diverse, she had to make a conscious effort to be Jewish. Now she said she struggles more with her Ethiopian identity. She had a lot of really interesting things to say, and I am very glad we got to hear from her.

Being here, and hearing all of these different perspectives has given me a whole new perspective on Israel. I feel like I understand so much more about the conflicts that take place here. It is a very complicated place, and I do not know that any resolution to any conflict here will ever really be the end of it. This place holds so much importance for so many people, and it brings up so many emotions. People are very passionate about Israel, on every side, and this is why peace is so difficult.

L'hitraot,

Abby

Sunday, July 27, 2014

How Many Americans Does it Take to Order a Pizza?

This weekend was kind of sad; for many reasons. For one, we all came to the realization that this was our second to last weekend in Israel. Next weekend will be even more of a shock I am sure. But also, a lot of people traveled to different cities this weekend.

Shira and Liora went to Jerusalem (separately) to visit friends and family, and AJ went further north to visit friends. The big adventure was Justin, Jeremy, Sarah, Eli, Sylvie, and Max who all went camping and hiked 20 miles around Tiberias. They have all returned to Tel Aviv by now, and everyone enjoyed their weekend away!

Those of us who stayed in Tel Aviv had a pretty quiet weekend. Friday all of the girls who stayed went to the Shuk and had a nice little lunch at Aroma. That night we ordered a pizza from Domino's....and it was a process. Just reaching Domino's was a process. It took about eight people and four different phone calls before we actually called the right one. Luckily the worker who answered the phone spoke English! We were all very happy with our late night pizza decision, and receiving this text from Domino's (which we put through Google translate since it was in Hebrew) made it even better! There was a lot of laughing that night!



On Saturday Nikki Fisher, Nikki Cohen and I laid out on the balcony on the top floor. It may seem silly to not go to the beach when we are so close, but sometimes it is just nice to not be covered in sand. All of our rooms have seriously been covered in sand since the first week.

That afternoon, Nikki Fisher and I went to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It was so big we were only able to see about half of it before they kicked us out so they could close. We definitely plan on going back! The museum houses all different genres and periods of art. It was really fun going with Nikki since she is majoring in studio art. She taught me a lot of things I did not know!


Here are some of my favorites that we saw:
Apple Trees in Bloom: CLAUDE MONET
Water Lily Pond: CLAUDE MONET





















Dancers at Monico's: GINO SEVERINI
After we left the museum, we met up with Nikki Cohen and walked around downtown to find a place to eat for dinner. We finally settled on a cute little cafe. After dinner we continued walking around and went in the general direction of the bus route we needed to get home. Unfortunately we walked a little too far and got somewhat turned around, so we had to catch a different bus to take us back to the right place. We ended up getting off of the bus at Rabin Square, where there was clearly some kind of demonstration happening.

We didn't have anywhere to be, so before hopping on the 25 to go home, we went over to the square to investigate. It turned out that there was a rally going on. The majority of the people there seemed to be protesting for peace, and for Israel to stop their operation in Gaza. Obviously the opposing side had people there as well. I think that the rally had been shut down just as we arrived, because most people were leaving. We didn't get to hear anything that happened, but it was very cool to see. It's a controversial issue outside of Israel, but it is here as well. It is interesting to see that Israelis who have had rockets being shot at them for years are still willing to try to do things peacefully. I tend to think that if this were happening in America, Americans would not be so open-minded...What do you think?

Rally in Rabin Square
 

*EXTRAS*
-Shout out to Nikki Cohen for pointing out how much we all have been using the word "interesting."
-Shout out to the guys downstairs at the pizza and pasta place for giving us free shots tonight!
-Shout out to David for helping me wake my foot/leg up when it was asleep. (Even though you were laughing at me hoping I would fall over.)
-Shout out to Eli's sandal tan.

We have some fun and interesting things going on our last full week so be ready for my next update!

L'hitraot,

Abby

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Have A Purple Day!

This week on our educational day we traveled north to the Golan Heights for a hike along El Al River. We started our journey at 7:20am when we all went downstairs and boarded the bus. Luckily we had a three hour drive ahead of us so we were all able to get some extra sleep. As we neared our destination, our tour guide began telling us about our surroundings. We drove along the fence that marks the border with Jordan, and he pointed out the old bridge where a train used to be able to travel from Israel to Jordan. As the bus got higher and higher into the Golan Heights, we were able to see into the valley between Israel and Jordan, and at one point we could see Syria as well.    




When we arrived at our destination, we all put on our hats and took our 3 liters of water and set out on what we thought was a "nice hike." In reality, it was pretty tough. There was one part that was nice though, the gorgeous place we were hiking through. We were surrounded by tons of different kinds of trees and plants. We saw a few waterfalls and stopped at one to cool down. We also saw cacti with sabras (prickly pears) on them! Some of us got to taste the sabra as well. Our tour guide told us that sabras are like Israeli men, tough and prickly on the outside, but sweet on the inside. We hiked for about two hours, and it was not easy. I am still sore!


Shira, Nikki Fisher, Liora, Me, Sarah, and Michelle

After the hike we drove to Natur Village, a moshav where religious and secular people are making attempts to be more integrated. First, we went to the Midrash. The Midrash is the gap year that Israeli teens take before going to the army. In this specific one, the teens live together and spend their days studying whatever they want. There are some classes and lectures, but mainly they do their studying on their own. They study a lot of Jewish texts, but can study whatever they would like. What makes this Midrash unique, is that there are religious AND secular teens living and studying together, which does not happen normally. After visiting the Midrash, we talked to a local man and the principal of the elementary school in Natur, which is also integrated with religious and secular students. We discussed some of the issues they faced when they chose to make the school that way.

We continued our topic of struggles between religious and secular Israelis, and the internal conflict it creates at our group meeting on Wednesday. Justin's boss was kind enough to put together a panel of three people to discuss and debate the topic for us. There was a "modern Orthodox" man (although he said he does not like the labels), a reformed woman who is studying to become a Rabbi at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, and a secular man who is a member of city council in Tel Aviv. I asked three of my group-mates to write a little bit about what they thought of both discussions.


Justin Kirschner: Our educational experiences the past couple of days have really been very enlightening. Our trip to Golan revealed an environment where students have the opportunity between high school and the military to engage in self-exploration. This gap year, “Midrash”, in Hebrew, let’s students live on their own and learn about whatever they so choose with other Israelis of various religious sects. This is interesting because the government, which sponsors non-pluralistic education, is at a challenge as to whether or not they want to fund these initiatives down the road.
              I’m a big believer in pluralism and learning from on another so I think this educational environment is great for kids and I hope this continues to grow as to maybe one day have Israeli society be more open and diverse with their education. Additionally, our experience of listening to a panel of pluralistic Israelis of different sects was also very enriching. Hearing them talk about Israel as a democratic but religious state and all the challenges they endure is simply mind-boggling.
              On one hand we have the security and war issue and on the other all these social issues which seem to conflict with everyone. This experience just added to my knowledge of the complexity that is Israel. I really don’t understand how with all these issues, (social, political, religious, cultural), they seem to prevail. I’m learning that no matter how different we are within our own religion, that we are all share common values that keep us a connected network of Judaism.


Eli Goldweber: After finishing up a rewarding and pretty hike through the Golan Heights, our group visited an interesting Mosahv. Natur is special in the fact that it promotes religious and secular jews to live together in the same community. As we have learned and witnessed through our travels in Israel, the religious divide is a major political and social issue that seems like no one wants to fully deal with. We met with a group of religious and secular highschool graduates who took a year off before the army to spearhead a new gap year program. Their program facilitated them to just study for a year or more. Together they underwent Jewish learning, and pursued their own academic interests at the same time. I really admire what they are trying to do.
              American teenagers are the youngest people in the world to go to college. 18 year olds should not be expected to know who they truly are, and what they are passionate about yet. This program will not only help to bridge the gap between secular and religious jews, but will facilitate the personal growth of Israeli teens in a way that most Americans are lacking. We also met with the principal of the primary school at the Moshav. Education is a pivotal point in the religious debate. She enlightened us by sharing their approach to this delicate topic of molding the opinions of the youth, both from secular and religious parents in the community. All students participate in Jewish learning/ prayer from a accepted text and also learn standard secular studies too. This reminded me of how a typical Jewish day school in the states would operate.
              These experiences were really put in perspective today, when the group met with a panel of three to discuss varying viewpoints on the same religuous debate. After hearing from a secualr politician, a liberal reform jew, and a modern orthodox, it was clear to me that they all wanted change. Obviously it is much easier to set up a community of 80 families in Natur in harmony than the entire country. Hopefully Natur will flourish and may be a source of guiding for the rest of the nation as Israel continues to struggle with its Jewish identity. We have been asked over and over again, and I still can’t decide if Israel is a state for the Jews, or a Jewish state, or both, or neither.


Shira Spiegel: When you live in a country constantly at war, it's easy to get wrapped up in security and look at protecting yourself as the only issue there is. And especially from a foreigner looking at Israel from the outside, you really feel that the conflict with the Palestinians is the only thing there is in this country. But the religious conflict in Israel is just as huge, and this is what we have explored the past few days.
                    There is a huge conflict of interest in Israel between the religious minority and the secular majority because it's the religious that control many aspects of daily life, such as marriage, divorce and Shabbat. But the rules don't necessarily reflect the way the majority practices Judaism. I think this is sad because what it ends up doing is turning so many Israelis away from religion because they see the only option or definition of "Jewish" as Haredi.
                    Tonight we heard from a panel of people who are all involved in trying to change this. I loved the panel first of all because of how Israeli it was! The three people had no qualms about talking over each other, arguing, and insulting each other's opinions. It was hilarious to watch and so different from panels in the US where everyone wants to be PC. But it also sparked many great discussions because of this.
                    One panel member was an orthodox guy who is part of an organization that advocates for change from within the orthodox system. He was in contrast to the secular city council member who was insulting everything orthodox and wanted to take all power out of their hands. Then there was a Reform female rabbi who just kept saying how anything was possible in the reform movement, but they weren't technically recognized by the state.
                    The bottom line of the issue is whether Israel is a "Jewish State," in which case it should have Jewish laws, or "a state for Jews," in which case it doesn't matter. When Israel was created, they decided it would be a Jewish State with Jewish laws, and that the laws they would follow would be Orthodox. But now no one wants to touch these laws because it's the status quo, and because the Haredim won't let them.
                    But people are trying. The three people on the panel are, as well as the people in the moshav that we visited yesterday. This moshav is the first of its kind because it has both secular and religious Jews living together and going to school together. I found it very interesting to hear about. The struggle of the school was especially interesting about how to integrate secular and religious learning so that both sides will be happy, and I realized for the first time really how difficult it is.
                    But the idea of both secular and religious living and working together is very intriguing, and it seems to work for them! However, there are only 80 families living there. The next challenge is to translate that to the whole county.  However, the people living in this moshav are those who are already open-minded and want this experience of coexistence and understanding on all sides. The close-minded, un-accepting ones, who also happen to the people in power, are not the people who would opt to live in such a place. The first step that I see to create change is to gain acceptance and understanding from everyone. 

That was a lot of reading so now time for some EXTRAS!

-Shout out to David for having beautiful flowing hair that is now long enough to put into pigtails.
-Belated shout out to Sarah for biting into her first apple since 7th grade! Bravo!
-Shout out to Jeremy and Aaron for going to the wrong place to get on the bus when we were leaving Natur, and then having to run after the bus when we were trying to pick them up.
-Shout out to Lior for having the best closings on his emails, for example, "Have a purple day!"

Then tonight THIS happened!

Eli in Justin's closet
Justin in Justin's closet




















Me in Justin's closet


Sarah in Justin's closet
Tessa in Justin's closet



















L'hitraot,

Abby

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Interruptions

The last few days have been emotional since we had four people leave our trip to go home. We will miss their smiling faces, but we all know we will see each other very soon!

BECAUSE WE ONLY HAVE 18 DAYS LEFT.

What?!

This week I did not have to work on Wednesday or Thursday, so I got to hang out and adventure! On Wednesday Emily and I met Noah and Justin at the Shuk to get some gifts and things. I don't know what was in the water that day, or if Emily and I just looked really really good, but every guy we talked to told us we were beautiful girls. My theory is that we hadn't been out in the heat long enough to be sweaty messes yet. Thirty minutes later it would have been a whole new look! That evening a lot of people went to a laughter yoga session.

Our madrich, Lior, is a laughter yoga instructor. I have not participated in a session yet but I hope to go to the next one! Basically laughter yoga is meant to make you feel good. (Duh.) You know how when you laugh it relaxes you and puts you in a good mood? Well in laughter yoga you laugh so much that you feel good the whole rest of the day. Since the last few weeks have been a little more stressful than others, Lior graciously offered to hold a session for all Onward Israel participants in Tel Aviv. (Because he is that awesome.)

While others were at laughter yoga, AJ and I made dinner. He made some really good chicken and I made couscous. So he cooked and I added hot water. It was nice to have more of a real meal, and those of us who were home hung out together.

On Thursday Emily, Ari, Nikki, and I went to Ramat Aviv Mall. We had heard that it was "the nice mall" in Tel Aviv, and they were not lying. According to Wikipedia it is Israel's most expensive mall and the 35th most expensive mall in the world. So although we enjoyed looking around and browsing the high end stores, our only purchase was at Aroma. For those of you who don't know, Aroma is a coffee shop/cafe that is as common as Starbucks in America. I would say you could compare it to a Panera. What they are most famous for (for Americans at least) is their ice coffee.

In Israel ice coffee means a blended coffee drink like a frappuccino. If you want what we would call iced coffee in America, you would call it cold coffee here.

Anyway, Emily and I both ordered the Ice Aroma Cookie Cream. It is basically heaven. We loved it so much that we took a selfie with our drinks. Emily loved it so much that after she finished hers she tried to steal mine.

Heaven in a cup

That night we had a "surprise" for Max's birthday which was on Friday. Since Max went to Tzfat for the weekend we all surprised him on the balcony and sang "Happy Birthday". Little did we know, Hamas had a surprise as well. Just as we started singing, the siren started to go off. Somehow I managed to record a small bit of this.

video


Once we all got down to the bomb shelter we just finished singing to him there. We all had cake and everything was good.

video


On Friday we all separated into smaller groups and went to different places. I ended up going to Nachlat Binyamin, an art fair downtown, with Tessa and AJ. They hold the fair every Tuesday and Friday. I bought myself a very pretty necklace. Since the buses stop at 4:00 on Fridays for Shabbat, we all got home around then.

That night we all were invited to have Shabbat dinner with Lainey Paul at her apartment. Lainey is also from Cincinnati, but made aliyah and is currently in the IDF. She made us a fantastic dinner with homemade soup and pasta with homemade sauce. She also had hummus and homemade guacamole. In the middle of dinner there was a siren and we all went to the safe areas, and a few minutes later went back and continued. For dessert we had Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream! It was a very nice time socializing and meeting some of Lainey's other friends. Thanks Lainey!

Today we all just relaxed and spent time with each other. This evening AJ invited us to go with him to Jaffa to an art gallery where his boss had some pieces on display. For the record, AJ's internship is with Israel Association of Baseball. Apparently this man has many talents other than baseball, including art and poetry. On top of that, we all agreed that he is exactly what AJ will be like in ten years. It was a very nice night, and for the first time in over a week we heard no sirens. (Knock on wood.)

Sunset on the way to Jaffa

*Extras!*
-Shout out to Tessa for passing your sickness onto Justin and Michelle.      
-Shout out to the terrible shirt Jeremy bought at the Shuk.
-Shout out to the man at the Shuk who blessed me and the other man who offered to marry Emily and me for $500.
-Happy Birthday from all of us on Onward Israel Cincinnati to Ethan Kadish!
          Join Team Ethan to support Ethan Kadish, a 13-year-old boy from Cincinnati who faces years of                 rehabilitation after a lightning strike caused him to suffer cardiac arrest. Link: http://jointeamethan.org/

L'hitraot,

Abby

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Playing Catch Up

Sorry it has been so long since my last post! I have had some laptop issues. (Thank you Max for letting me use your HDMI cable even though you don't know I am!) Anyway...since the last time I wrote, things haven't changed much. We have been woken up by the siren a few mornings and the last few days there has been what we have nicknamed, "The Rush Hour Rocket."

It is obviously very scary when the siren goes off, but I still feel safe and like I am in control. I know what I am supposed to do when I hear the siren, and I know I am able to get myself to a safe place. I have trust in the IDF, The Iron Dome, and all of the people in charge of Onward Israel.

Unfortunately some of the other members of the group are not feeling as safe, and they have decided to go home. We have all been having discussions about that since last week, and I feel that we have a very supportive group. We have all become very close over the last five weeks, and although none of us want to see anyone go home, we all understand that each of us has our own limits. I think what is most important is that we all seem to respect each other's limits and feelings. This is a difficult and scary situation, and I could have never dreamed I would have reacted like I have. None of us know how we will react to anything until we are actually put in that situation.

Now for some happier moments!

This past weekend we were lucky enough to visit Cincinnati's sister city, Netanya. Although it is only about twenty minutes or so from Tel Aviv, it felt like we were worlds away. For one thing, I am pretty sure sirens have not ever gone off in Netanya. It is also absolutely beautiful! I didn't think the Mediterranean could get anymore beautiful, but Netanya really delivered.

Beach in Netanya

When we arrived in Netanya on Friday morning, we met with some local young adults who are part of a leadership program. Some of them also happened to be our host families for the weekend! We also had the pleasure of meeting the new chaverim who are coming to Cincinnati this year! After playing some ice breaker games, we separated and went off to explore Netanya with our host families.

Emily and I stayed with Shakedd, who is eighteen, and her very nice family. Shakedd and Tal (the chavera) took us shopping, and then we met up with Liora, Jeremy, and Justin who were with Natan (the chaver) on the beach. Then we had some of the best falafel I have had since I have been here. They put a hard boiled egg in it which totally threw us off and was actually really good in it!

That night Shakedd's parents made us a fantastic dinner. It was so nice to have a home-cooked meal that consisted of more than just pasta and/or frozen schnitzel. After dinner Shakedd and her mother taught us some Hebrew words over tea and cheesecake. I will never ever forget that shaked means almond and shkedim means more than one almond!

Shakedd, Emily, and I at Hansel and Gretel
After finishing our dessert Emily, Shakedd, and I went upstairs and got ready to go to a bar with the rest of the group. Most of the group was there with their host. It was a really fun night out and the bar had a great atmosphere. We had a huge group and it was so nice to relax and forget about the sirens in Tel Aviv.

Emily, Michelle, Natan, Tessa, Tal, Jeremy, and I at Hansel and Gretel

The next morning Shakedd and her mom taught us how to make Israeli salad (because Israelis eat salad at breakfast), which consists of tomato, cucumber, peppers, sometimes onion, and olive oil with a little salt and lemon juice. That afternoon pretty much everyone ended up at the beach. Before we went though, we went to Max Brenner, a chocolate restaurant. IT WAS SO GOOD. Shakedd only fed the chocolate addiction Emily had already given me. After finishing our chocolate meals and debating on whether or not we should still be seen in a swimsuit, we made our way to the beach. There weren't as many people as at the beaches in Tel Aviv, and it was so peaceful.

Layers: Liquid chocolate, white chocolate shavings, brownie,
whipped cream, and pecans with hot fudge and chocolate crisps on the side.

That peaceful feeling was quickly replaced by fear on the drive back to Tel Aviv that night when the sirens went off while we were on the bus. We quickly exited the bus and got down on the side of the road and covered our heads. I think this was when things really got real for me. As we were sitting there I literally watched The Iron Dome intercept to rockets. I still don't know how I stayed so calm. Luckily we were all safe and able to get back on the bus shortly after to finish the drive home.

The last few days have basically gone on as normal because really....what else can you do? Most of us have been going to our internships consistently, and still going out and enjoying the city at night. Yesterday Justin, Sarah, and I went to a sabich restaurant, which after some research seems like it comes from the ingredients from a typical Iraqi breakfast. It consisted of a pita filled with eggplant, potato, hard boiled egg, hummus, tahini, Israeli salad, parsley, and amba. In other words...DELICIOUS.

Today we had an educational day in Tel Aviv. The first part of the day was focused on Start Up Nation. We met with an Israeli organization which helps people with their start ups and learned a lot about why Israel is so full of start up companies. The second half of the day we met with a man who comes from Sderot. I don't know if you remember, but I have mentioned Sderot before. It is the city about one kilometer away from Gaza where the citizens have only fifteen seconds to get to a shelter when they hear the red alarm. He brought a qassam rocket which actually landed next to his house, and he showed us some videos they use to show people what life is like in Sderot. The one that had the biggest effect on me was seeing a bunch of children running inside during the alarm and then singing out loud to cover the sound of the impact. When asked why people still live in Sderot, the man told us that the citizens say,"If we leave, the rockets will just move on to the next city where we are."

*Extras!*

-Thank you Nikki Fisher for inviting Emily and me to dinner with your family friend! They were so nice!
-Thanks Emily for letting me pick my outfit out of your closet every morning.
-Thank you Eli for attempting to fix my computer!
-Shout out to Lior for being in love with Lana Del Rey and for doing everything you can to keep us happy and living a good life. You are doing a fantastic job.

Lior loves Lana

-Shout out to Tessa for being sick and still going to work....even though you threw up there.
-Last but not least, shout out to Jeremy for making this fantastic face today. Even though you look like Kris Jenner when she had that allergic reaction, we still love you.

Jeremy being beautiful

It is things like that which keep us smiling through the hard times.

Pray for peace.

L'hitraot,

Abby