To start where I left off, the biggest highlight that last week in February was when I went against the Doctor’s better judgment and decided to participate in the Tel Aviv Marathon. Don’t worry, I scaled back a bit from my original half marathon plan and stuck with the 5K. Going to the Expo, feeling the energy and the people of TLV (and all around Israel) flocking for the chance to participate in the day, I just couldn’t resist. That, plus I couldn’t let my 170 shekel race ticket go to waste! And let’s just say I definitely don’t regret this decision. The race was flooded with a sea of bright pink (thank you, Adidas sponsor), and MASA even had a booth set up near the finish line with some post-race nourishment. While the race was only half of my normal running routine, it was my first time doing real physical activity since my stint in the hospital back in January. The feeling was indescribable and I am so happy to be back on my feet…literally!
Every single weekend this past month I’ve also made it a point to have a beach day! From the TLV Tayelet (הטיילת- boardwalk) you can make it past the Namal (נמל- port) to the Northern Beaches or even as far south as Yafo. In Between? You have the hotel strips with dozens of beach fronts including dog beaches, religious private beaches, touristy beaches, and secluded beaches. Most importantly, you’ve got the sun, the beautiful weather, and you are never more than a few feet away from a good cup of coffee.
One Friday, after a nice beach morning, I even went to an infamous TLV Escape Room! It was right by Sarona Market, and it was something I’ve wanted to do for a while. The concept? You get locked into a room(s) with a group of people and have a set amount of time to escape. Plot twist? There’s a theme to each escape room. Mine was “Zombie Attack!” and my friend and I had only an hour to break out of the storage room we were locked into. To our surprise, this was only the beginning… following the story line we had to break into another office and room to get all of the information we needed to solve the puzzle in time! I had an hour of thrills and chills, and am already lining up to do my next one.
Another fun event was the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Israel. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was none. However, my friends and I made the most of this traditionally festive “American” holiday and went to an Irish Pub (appropriately named Patrick’s) in TLV for the night. Here we found traditional green hats, some good beer (although ridiculously overpriced), and the festive vibe we were searching for. Add it to the list of American holidays that tailored ourselves to make it Israel-friendly.
Mifgashim Weekend, Round 2
If you tune back far enough to one of my November posts, you will see that I spent a Shabbat with MASA near Beer Sheva to explore the concept of “community.” Well, this time around we are dealing with Jewish identity, and our destination point is the Kinneret! I will preface the following statement with the fact that Israel is a small country; this means, there is only so much to do any so many landmarks to visit. After Taglit, one summer in Jerusalem, a month-long Jewish learning program, and another six months (at the time) in this country, there is only the concept of “reinventing the wheel.” So this is exactly what we did when my friend Emily and I joined the Mifgashim (remember, it means encounter) in the Kinneret- the largest freshwater lake in Israel. Fun fact, it is also known as the Sea of the Galilee, or the water upon which Jesus so famously walked on.
On our agenda, among some small-group discussions on the meaning of Jewish identity, was nighttime team building, the Arbel Cliff hike, a visit to Maimonides tomb and Jewish Cemetery, and a ton of relaxxxxxxxxxxxing. After all, it was Shabbat. The day of rest.
If you can recall, I actually did the Arbel Cliff hike back in October with my ITF group. However, the view after the dry season was relatively barren; seeing the same landscape in the midst of the rainy season was transformative. And by that, I mean green.
The weather was better than I could’ve asked for, and the hotel resort we stayed at was on the water in paradise. One of the optional sessions that I found to be the most helpful from the whole weekend was facilitated by a girl who made Aliyah (moved to Israel) about 2 years ago. She completed the ITF program in Rishon LeZiyyon, and moved to Beer Sheva a few months after returning to Canada, her native country. Previous to this open dialogue, my notion of “making aliyah” was pretty much restricted to native Israelis pushing for us to stay in Israel, and new olim (wave of new immigrants) telling us it was the best decision and to do it. Neither of these really provided a holistic view about what the process actually entails. This includes ups and downs, and a lot of bureaucracy.
Back in my routine is weekly visits to the PTK Community Garden. With the rainy season reaching its tail end, the greenery is out of control! Every week food is flourishing, and we have a giant patch of rose bushes right in the middle of the garden that takes my breath away. Children continue running around with hoes and rakes, and Israeli parents sitting without worry. I am still not an expert on compost yet, but I can manage to layer the composter on my own J
I’m still tutoring English twice a week in Ganei Tikva and Hod Hasharon, and am using these sessions as valuable Hebrew-learning opportunities for myself. With Ulpan over, the learning curve has definitely dropped. But I am picking up more colloquial phrases and learning more advanced, albeit random, words.
To help transition into the spirit of Purim, the Jewish Seminar that I helped to coordinate for the city of PTK had our last lesson… a hamantashen-making class! Not really sure where the English word comes from, but in Hebrew they are referred to as המן אוזני (Oznei Haman- literally the ears of Haman). They are triangular shaped cookies with a yummy filling (usually chocolate, poppy seed, or some time of fruit), and we went extra creative with ours and made Nutella and peanut butter. I will say that the holiday foods in Israel are solely responsible for my insatiable sweet tooth these days. From the sufganiyot during Hanukkah season and hamantashen stocking store shelves since the beginning of February, I’ve lost all willpower. Yes I’ve had these foods in the States, but wow… you haven’t tasted a hamantashen until you’ve bought one from Roladin. Even better quite honestly are the little corner shops that sell fresh, hot hamantashen every morning! I wish I was exaggerating when I say that I eat at least one every day…