After a long cold flight, I finally made it to Tel Aviv and to my new home. I arrived on Monday Sept 9 to be greeted by several members of the group (and a ridiculous long customs/visa entry area) and the Tikkun Olam director of Admissions & the program Director. They took us and our rather large number of bags to our apartments for a nights stay before the program officially began. It was a little like getting thrown in the deep end. Here is your house – see you tomorrow morning. No food, no nothing- just go.
At this point I had yet to eat anything substantial and was met with no idea where to get food, no shekels in hand and a apartment/room/bed I would not qualify as clean. Thankfully although I was the first to arrive from my apartment, T.O. (TIkkun Olam) had an additional apartment down the street, so I hung out with its only resident Zoe. Thankfully for both of us we hit it off and enjoyed the only company available.
In a few hours we had members of both our houses and we headed for dinner at the only quick eatery we were informed of- Pizza! Just a few blocks away there is a small pizza place and that’s where we broke bread over our new experience. We commiserated over the fear of a new language, city, culture and apartments that weren’t quite what we expected. For instance, although my building is very new (less than a year old) everything in it, from beds to stoves was not…and we don’t have air, in any room. (See my upcoming post- Does reality compare to the dream?)
Tuesday morning found us, with a bag packed, heading for a three day orientation; first stop Mishkenot Ruth. Mishkenot Ruth is a part of The Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism and is the largest/main Temple in Tel Aviv for those seeking, what we in the States call, a Reform congregation. Mishkenot Ruth is located in Jaffa about 30/40 min walk from our apartment located in the southern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Kiryat Shalom. Its a combo hotel, meeting center, learning and tour site. Our time there was spent doing get to know you games and some basic paperwork. That afternoon we packed in the bus and headed south to Kibbutz Ketura. ( http://www.ketura.org.il)
The bus ride was eventful and by eventful I mean I got sick on the way down and on the way back – the kind that they stop the bus for. I guess there was just a spot on that road that highly disagreed with me. 😦 We were just south of the city of Dimona both times. I have no plans to return and am even rethinking my desire to go to Petra just to avoid that road again.
The Opening Seminar was a time for us to get to know one another and learn more about the placement opportunities. It also gave us some time to learn a little bit more about what it would be like to live in Tel Aviv. After two busy days of orientation, talks, pool time and general Welcome to Israel discussion we headed back to the city to prep for a break…..wait we’d been here less than a week and now there was a break. Thanks to the way the Jewish and Gregorian calendars lined up this year, Yom Kippur started less than 24hrs after we returned from the Kibbutz. Friday morning we were taken on a quick get to know your neighborhood tour and dropped off at a market to buy food. We had to go to the market and buy food if we wanted to eat for the next 48hrs and everything was closing for the holiday. The lasting impression of being thrown into a market, where you don’t know the language and are just adjusting to the currency was not a positive one. I had to hold off the desire to run home, pack my things and return to the States.
Yom Kippur was an interesting experience. On Erev Yom Kippur we went to a rooftop service. It was very untraditional and I think was more for Jews who maybe aren’t so down with God. As it was all in Hebrew, I had to take some interpretations from others but I know in additional to some traditional prayer which I recognized, some reading were more generic in their thanking The Spirit for a time to reflect on ourselves. (At one point a man with a recorder <you know the musical instrument all grade schoolers play to the despair of all around them> chimed in with the singing. We had a hard time keeping it together) I know this isn’t the best description but its all I got. Had I been closer to one of the two Reform temples in Tel Aviv I think I would have preferred attending there. We were forced to walk home and back- this service was in the middle of town and took about a hour to get to. We were under the impression that it would be max 40 min walk. The city felt a little like I was in an episode of the Walking Dead; no cars, buses, taxis- the few people that were out were walking or biking. The next day we took our experience to the beach. It was a great way to spend a very hot day. It was over 100 here and without air our apartment, it was terrible to be in. The beach was our best option considering everything was closed for Yom Kippur. Thankful the day came to a close with a left-over supper from our pre holiday meal.
Although we were off, there was no time to get anything done but sweep our rooms. It kinda sucked. Sunday(the Israeli Monday), came to greet us with our first Ulpan- a 4 hour death defying adventure into Hebrew. For the next four days it was half a day Ulpan, half a day seeing possible placement sites for the volunteer work. Thank God my teacher, Dina, is amazing and helps us all to put our fears aside. (On that note I really need to finish this so I can study)
Currently we are doing a bunch of nothing (as far as the program is considered). Its frustrating but Sukkot is a big holiday here and most people are off for the week plus, so we are off too. We don’t return to class & visiting placements until Sunday September 29.
I’m off to catch up on a few other things but promise a post on The Real Housewives of Kiryat Shalom and a post I’m currently working on titled Does reality compare to the Dream?