I have now settled into my apartment in Yafo (Jaffa), Tel Aviv. I live with 3 other people in my apartment and then other people in my program live across the hall and upstairs. There are 13 of us here in Yafo which is about half of the total participants. (The other half live in South Tel Aviv.) After we started our program we were instantly whisked away for the first couple days to a kibbutz near Eilat and the Jordan border called Kibbutz Ketura. We got to know each other really well and went on a beautiful walk in the desert where we did some reflection. Then almost as soon as we got back to Yafo it was Yom Kippur (the day of atonement).
|Location of Kibbutz Ketura|
|View at sunset facing the Arava Valley|
Yom Kippur was really an incredible experience. A bunch of us went to Kol Nidre (services on the evening of Yom Kippur) on top of a roof in Tel Aviv. It was a bit of an alternative service, but so beautiful at sunset. Afterwards there was a discussion in English about forgiveness and Yom Kippur. We read a section from the Talmud and then debated it, which was extremely interesting. Overall I learned that forgiveness is for both the one who wants to be forgiven and the forgiver. It is a process that is not mentally easy to go through. Judaism places a huge emphasis on the NOW rather than what will happen in the future, which I find very interesting. I’m glad that I was able to do something that felt meaningful for Yom Kippur.
On the actual day of Yom Kippur, my friend Rachel and I went to morning services at an egalitarian minyan nearby. It was nice to see a female rabbi and a community that seemed accepting, especially in Israel, which can be hard to find. Afterwards we walked through the old city of Yafo and up to Tel Aviv by way of the promenade by the beach. Now the cool thing about Yom Kippur in Israel is that everything is closed and there are absolutely no cars on the streets. You can walk in the middle of any major road and not be worried for your life and stuff. In fact people use the opportunity to ride their bikes or even play cricket (as we saw today) in the middle of the street. That was definitely an experience.
Right now we are on Sukkot break. Before it started on Wednesday evening, we were in intensive Hebrew study for 4 hours every day. It was a lot, but I think my Hebrew is improving a little bit. Words are starting to come easier. That being said, I still have a LONG way to go until I can speak Hebrew as well as I want to. This time, before our internships and volunteering begin, has been really nice for getting to know the other people in my program. I’ve already made some close friends, and the people in my program seem extremely genuine.
I’m discovering that I live in a very central area. I’m right next to one of the main streets in Yafo, a 15 minute walk from the beach, and a short bus ride into the center of Tel Aviv (or less than an hour’s walk). My neighborhood is diverse and safe. When I was in the grocery store, I noticed all kinds of people: Ethiopians, Arabs, Muslims, religious Jews, secular Jews…Really anyone you can imagine (in Israel) is near my neighborhood. Additionally, there is a Mosque extremely close to my house, so 5 times a day (if we’re in the apartment) we can hear the call to prayer, which is a cool and almost majestic experience for me.
Today I went for a bike ride from Yafo to the beach in Tel Aviv, which was about 30 minutes. Now, I just learned how to ride a bike in July, so I’m still pretty bad at it. A couple of my friends from my apartment building took me out though, and were supportive and helpful the whole way, which was great. Though I fell a couple times, it was still an incredible experience for me. The bruises were worth the freedom that I felt while riding. As long as it’s a big path and no one makes sudden movements, I’m fine.
And this was our view on the way back. How can I complain?
Overall, I am LOVING living here. I feel so blessed and privileged to have this experience and appreciate being given the opportunity, not to mention the support from my family and friends. Yes this is my Oscar speech.