I’ve made it to eight months here in the Holy Land. April has seemed both slow and fast at times. It seems like each month brings about some kind of first, and this month was no exception—the first time seeing a Passover Seder performed at a school, attending my first minyan, having friends visit me in Israel, experiencing my first Passover in Israel and celebrating my birthday in a foreign country. April has been busy—despite the Passover vacation—but being busy has its own rewards.
The most significant event in April for me was the much anticipated arrival of Cassie and Paul. I was bursting with excitement the morning of April 8th. After having stayed up late to track the first of their two flights, I forced my way out of bed, bought them some water from the overpriced grocery store downstairs and made my way to the train station. (I sure forgot about how much of a hike that was.) After taking two trains to Ben Gurion Airport, I primped in the bathroom and tried to distract myself with my iPad. I eventually gave up and just continued to wait for Cassie and Paul in the Arrivals Hall. Every time the doors kept opening, I would crane my head and check for them. Time passed slowly, but eventually Cassie and Paul emerged from the doors. I had made them a sign to welcome them, but once I saw them, I threw the sign to the ground and hugged the both of them. There would be no more phone calls, emails and Facebook posts about planning this trip to Israel—they were finally here. After exchanging currency and getting on the two trains back to Netanya, we took a cab to the hotel, unpacked and began our adventure.
Cassie and Paul spent eight days with me. I crashed on the floor of their hotel and we all stayed at another hotel in Tel Aviv during Passover and my birthday. I was so glad to have my best friend from college and her dad with me, although we did run into our fair share of problems. It was surprisingly cold the week before Passover began, so beach days didn’t last long. Our hotel in Netanya was extremely far from anything but apartments or other hotels, making getting food an adventure in itself. Getting home from our day at Masada and the Dead Sea was nothing short of a disaster due to none of us having access to a GPS and the rental car we had was not the right model for such a long drive. Passover had presented its own issues with having to rush to the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv via taxi after the bus we were on had taken off with one of Paul’s bags underneath (although we did manage to retrieve it) and I had not known that even Tel Aviv shuts down for Passover. Even still, once we got over all these bumps, I could focus on the good things. And there were many good things.
The Western Wall, my favorite site in Israel (so far), is a place I so desperately wanted to show Cassie. Paul was already there as he was on his own Bethlehem tour, which included a stop at the Western Wall, but Cassie and I had to make our way there by ourselves. I have only been there twice—once on Birthright and the other time being my first week in Israel last August—so now it was up to me to figure out how to get to the Western Wall by myself. Getting to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem wasn’t difficult, but I had never taken the tram before. After paying for tickets, Cassie and I made our way onto the tram and headed towards the Western Wall. We wandered around for a bit trying to find it (it is difficult when you’ve only been there on organized tours), so after randomly bumping into my Fellow, Shelly, and her mom, they gave us directions and we finally found the Wall. I had put a note in the Wall for Cassie when I was on Birthright, so now Cassie had the chance to do it by herself. After we placed our notes in the Wall, we made our way back through the Old City and eventually got back to Netanya. It was nice having a girls’ day, although we sure did crash early that night.
Masada and the Dead Sea had been a good experience, minus the Hell that is driving in Israel. Paul had always wanted to see Masada since he was younger, so he was glad to be able to check this off of his bucket list. We all took the cable car up, explored the top for a while, got back in the cable car and made our way to a swimming area at the Dead Sea. That was fun; the Dead Sea is a place I never tire of. The next few days were spent hanging out in Netanya. Cassie and Paul got to expand their taste buds with various new foods and Paul had been kind enough to cover 99% of my meals. We bumped into a few of my students whenever we’d venture down to the Promenade, so I’m happy they could see me with my students firsthand.
Once Passover began to dawn upon us, it was off to Tel Aviv. After finally grabbing Paul’s bag from the Central Bus Station, we were able to take a taxi back to our hotel and could finally relax. The hotel had some random buffet full of cakes and cookies, plus free wine. After our afternoon, drinks were definitely in order. Now I had been under the assumption that Tel Aviv would have a few things open for Passover, but I was beyond wrong. I had tried to find a Passover Seder in Tel Aviv, but there wasn’t a home that could host three people. The Seder at the hotel was incredibly expensive and I was not going to make Paul pay for that when he had spent so much money already. The concierge informed Cassie and me that the only city that would be open was Jaffa; otherwise, room service was the only other option. Paul, Cassie and I elected to get room service, which had supplemented our fake Seder of gefilte fish from a jar and matzot with chocolate spread. We just stayed in bed and watched television. I was, of course, beyond thrilled that not only was one of favorite episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants on television, but it was in English, too!
April 15th was my birthday. Unfortunately, it was also the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. I felt fortunate to be in Israel during this anniversary because a.) Boston would’ve been a balagan and b.) Israel is the only country that helped Boston last year (see my post “The Only Country That Helped Boston”). Despite the sadness, I was glad to have Cassie and Paul there to celebrate my birthday on an otherwise sad day. I received birthday wishes via text, phone, email and Facebook. We all had a delicious buffet lunch in the hotel’s restaurant, relaxed in the hot tub and since Tel Aviv was back to normal, we made our way to Rothschild Boulevard to begin the birthday festivities. I don’t go out in Tel Aviv often, so I had no particular place in mind. We settled on Benedict, one of my favorite restaurants, and enjoyed some nice breakfast for dinner. Even though I was sad that I didn’t get to celebrate with anyone in my cohort, I’m glad I got to share it with two very important people in my life. It makes being twenty-five a bit easier.
Cassie and Paul left Israel the next night after having spent the day in the mall and the Club Floor Lounge in the hotel. As sad as I was to see them go, I was definitely ready to not do so much traveling. I spent the rest of the Passover vacation in Netanya sleeping in and watching old television shows on YouTube. A pretty boring last few days really, but as always, my crazy monsters at school keep me on my toes.
Children are time personified—a daily fight with impermanence. I had no real marker for time before I became an educator, nor no way to fully grasp how fine the sand or how quick the days.
My students were nuts this past week. I have the kids who listen and the ones who don’t. I have the kids who sit still and the ones who fidget. I have the kids who speak quietly and the ones who shout. They are as different as February and August.
Of course, as the months change, so do my students. They still try to figure out who they are in the way that wilted spouts push their way up through the layers and layers of dirt.
I am an educator so that I will get out of bed in the morning. I cannot go back to sleep, nor can I stay under my comforter with my eye mask over my eyes. With my students, color comes into my world. My students continue to bring me back to life and they pour water over my wilting parts.
I have them and they have me.
Tomorrow I will be at Yad Vashem acknowledging Yom HaShoah. I have never studied the events of the Holocaust in depth, but that doesn’t stop me from knowing about what happened and how I must continue to tell the story. I went to Yad Vashem during Birthright and remember the experience as moving and leaving me in tears. I don’t know what my emotions will be like tomorrow. My evening tomorrow consists of my Fellowship with Kol Voice. Kol Voice has allowed me to learn new ways of telling Israel’s story and with their tools, I will continue to tell Israel’s story. I have to keep the story because I have dealt with the people who believe that Israel isn’t at risk of being wiped out. I know that there are people who think the Holocaust is made up and that anti-Semitism isn’t “that bad.” Dealing with things like these makes me feel empty, fed up and touched out. But after eight months in Israel, I am aware of the fact that even if the world hates me and the tribe for simply breathing, the Jews are the reason I feel so loved.
Endurance is an undetectable endeavor; being Jewish is a rather thankless charge. Save for, these past eight months, with the Jews’ hands on my arm feeling much like acupuncture for my essence.