First though, let me brag about the fact that at my now ripe age of 23, I’ve never missed a Passover Seder with my family. This year, we (really though, my mom) hosted for both nights and we had roughly 20 guests each night…that’s over 80 matzoh balls! Somehow though, even without bread, my mom managed to make a feast worthy of any King! The first night’s Seder was the first time in over a year that all of my paternal family was together, a significant feat I’d have to say. Keeping our tradition alive, we circled around the table reading paragraphs from the HaGaddah, alternating from Hebrew to English. We laughed, we ate, we complained, and we drank. Bread or not, Passover Seders have always been some of my fondest memories and this year was no exception.
The weirdest part to digest about being home was that I felt like I didn’t need to really digest. As one of my friends so graciously put it (thanks Nicole), going back home was kind of just “rewinding” time. I kept saying it felt like I never left, but it was more than that. It can’t just feel like I never left because, in fact, I was gone for 8 months! More so, it was just returning to my old life, a different point in time, and rewinding back in time.
It really didn’t even hit me until I went to the bathroom in my house and noticed that the “flush handle” is on the side of the toilet and not on top. Small and subtle, but shocking to me nonetheless as I continued to struggle in flushing the toilet for the following two weeks.
Moving to Israel though wasn’t just leaving behind my home in New Jersey. If anything, it was a bigger shock to be leaving Washington, DC, my home for the past four years while I studied at GW. Lucky for me, some of my best friends are still there, and Ariel housed me for a few days while I came down for some meetings and to visit the second home I also left behind. We got to bop around, I caught up with my friends, and eat at all of my favorite places (literally, ALL of them… I was eating 5 meals a day!). It was the same phenomenon I felt at home though, a visitor to my past. Everyone around me was doing new and different things, but it felt the same.
The same twinge also followed me to NYC. I was greeted back with a Welcome Home sign (thanks Mich!) and seeing friends it felt like I picked up exactly where I left off. The weirder thing for me after visiting NYC was the feeling that I could live there. I never liked “the city.” Whether it was overwhelmingly big, too suffocating, expensive, or wild I can’t pinpoint. But whatever my strong dislike towards the city was, I felt comfortable and almost ready to take on a new adventure there. The thought that I could move to a place close to home, still have a completely new experience, and be near almost half of my friends is almost too tempting to ignore. The coming weeks will be even more telling as I try to figure out what I’m doing before my June 28th flight approaches.
Taking into account the time I needed to leave the airport and come back before my transfer flight, I had a solid 8 hours to roam Rome. My first stop was to take a train/metro combination from the airport to the coliseum—tourist attraction #1, but being the huge history buff that I am, I felt compelled to see the giant rock for myself. I’m not exaggerating when I say there were over 200 people waiting in line to get inside, so when a private tour guide company approached me and offered expedited admission and coliseum tour for 15€, I jumped at the opportunity. 20 minutes later I was inside the coliseum, and ditched the tour after another 20 so I could explore for myself (and find some strangers to take my picture of course).
While it took over three centuries to build the Vatican, it took a mere 10 years to complete the coliseum. All gladiators fighting came from abroad (fun fact), and the first coliseum built 700 years before (Circus Maximus) was just too small for the hoards of people fighting for the chance to spectate the popular pastime. Unfortunately, today 70% of the structure is missing…you can find the parts at St. Peter’s Basilica. My tour guide so cleverly noted that what we call the Renaissance in Italy should actually just be called recycling. That comment earned him a laugh out loud from me at least.
At this point it was noon and I was STARVING, not to mention exhausted from some serious jetlag. Left the coliseum and walked towards the Trevi Fountain (my #2 tourist destination on the Rome checklist, to ensure my Lizzie McGuire moment). I stopped to grab a personal pizza pie and cappuccino, and decided to walk over to this site (have noooooo clue what it’s called, but I’ll let the picture below speak for itself… and if you know the name of the site, let me know!)
Once I made my wish in the famous fountain, I wandered to the Jewish Quarter to meet my friend from ITF PTK Tori, who was coincidentally in Rome!! En route, I passed the Pantheon (not to be confused with Parthenon in Athens!) We picked a restaurant so wittily named Ba’Ghetto, which means “in the ghetto” in Hebrew, but also sounds like the word baguette. Because it was kosher, I could eat authentic Italian pasta Bolognese! The wine, however, was the same stuff I buy at the grocery store back in PTK :/ Historically, the Ghetto dates back to 1555, and there still sits the largest Synagogue in Rome. We took a tour, and perused the Jewish museum to learn about Italian Jewry.
The day ended with a ginormous gelato and a visit to a town square (the name of which I also didn’t catch). I made it back to the airport in time for my flight home and landed in Israel at the ungodly hour of 3 AM. Proceeded to go home and even go to school the same morning!
For now though, I know my future is taking me to POLAND. I am participating in a MASA Poland Delegation May 13-19, where I will be visiting Warsaw and Krakow, concentration camps, and learning about the remaining Jewish communities in these cities and in this scarred country. Stay tuned...