Shabbos in the Old City

1 Jul

As a part of our group activities, we did a Shabbaton in the Old City. For those that have been – you know that the Old City is very moving. I had, by this point, already been to the Old City twice, but this is SHABBOS! Ok, so I don’t want to pretend to sound excited when I’m not – but after a little consideration I realized that I don’t want to miss out on this. Jenna set up meals for us by her boss, Pamela and Aba Claman. Such great people! Though they don’t have children of their own, they have taken it upon themselves to adopt the men and women of the ENTIRE Israeli army and have them over for any and all Shabbos’. How beautiful, right? At the beginning of the night I’m not too thrilled to be there – and it all seems a little over the top. As we learn more about the lovely couple, their inner (and outer) beauty shines through.

A little of the “before” Shabbos…

Nicole and I are running like crazy from Tel Aviv to get to Jerusalem to get to the Old City…We finally get on an Egged, and make it to Tachana Merkazit Jerusalem, and hop on a last minute bus to get to Har Nof. Time for me to quickly shower (and for all you doubters out there – yes it’s possible for me to quickly shower, it just doesn’t usually happen…that’s a whole different story.). We prep ourselves for Shabbos and call a taxi – buses stop running an hour before Shabbos starts. Taxi time! (Please read that as – ugh gotta pay for a stupid taxi I don’t want to take…ladno) We get to the Old City and walk with Jenna to the Heritage House…
A little back story on the Heritage House – on my first trip to Israel, I arrived a little early for my JEWEL trip and Misha wanted to place me at the Heritage House. Thank G-d he didn’t. Though I appreciate their place, the bathrooms alone would have scared me for life. And, I should also mention that the spacing is not ideal…but back to the main story.
Nicole and I drop our stuff and do a mini-prep and leave. We walk over to the home of the Claman’s – it is HUGE. Especially for the Old City. They purchased an apartment building and rebuilt it to have a mansion with many rooms to accommodate as many guests as possible. WOW!

Back to Shabbos!

As we walked over to the home of the Claman family, I decide that I’m going to keep full shabbos – no phone, no electronics, nothing. It’s really not that hard, and in the end quite gratifying. We light candles, and then walk over to the Kotel to daven. We head back to their home for dinner after. I’m so hungry and tired, but since the food is supposed to be amazing, I try to stay awake. And it works during the first course, and most of the second. The mini-salads, appetizers and challah – omg it’s so good. And the meat – woah! It’s properly tender in all the right places, and so juicy. And they have sweet potato or squash – I can’t always tell when it’s made with certain sauces…But I just can’t keep my eyes open – and sneak away to Jenna’s room. I will mention that Jenna didn’t want us going there, but I was WAY to embarrassed to close my eyes for a “few” on the couch in the main room – I can secretly admit that I sometimes wheeze (NOT SNORE)…Since Jenna didn’t want us in there, I wanted to make as little of an impact as possible, so I fell asleep in the armchair at first. And when that became uncomfortable, I moved to the rug on the floor – YUP, that’s how tired I was. It was absolutely logical that I would sleep on the rug, so that I don’t mess up her room. Mind you, I was going on less than 2.5 hrs of sleep in the past 2 days – it’s very logical when you’re that tired. But, Nicole comes in and passes out on Jenna’s bed – hmph. I dunno, I couldn’t do that, but in the moment I was a little envious that I hadn’t done that. At the end of the meal, Jenna comes to collect us and we head back to the hostel. I barely manage to take my contacts out, and quickly change into pjs before I’m out cold. Oh how good it felt to sleep!

Before I continue, I want to mention that the table at the Claman’s was FULL of soldiers. They are so brave; tell us about themselves in a manner that lets us feel like we’re the amazing ones. These girls are strong in the heart and strong on the field. I speak with the captain of the girls, this little girl (Odeliya I’m so sorry!!!) barely weighing 125lbs at 5’6”. She has such deep brown eyes, full of wisdom and hope. There are a few other women from the army that I speak with who’s names I don’t recall, but each one is beautiful.
Since Jenna was collecting us in the morning, I slept and slept. Though the madricha at Heritage House tried to wake me, but to no avail. I remember hearing the girls telling her that we don’t need to be up at this point because Jenna was coming later to do so…Whatever, I rolled over and kept sleeping. Jenna arrives and it’s time to get up and make myself human-looking. I attempt to use the downstairs bathroom, but it smells so foul that I’m just not able to make myself go. Lauren tells me that the upstairs one isn’t as bad. I quickly get ready and a little while later we head back to Pamela’s.

Turns out that her husband wasn’t feeling well, so it was an all girls lunch. We helped set the table, and serve ourselves – as the staff went home late the night before and Pamela told them to come in late. During the lunch we went around the table and talked about where we each came from….And they started with me. Oy. I said my name and then right away Pamela said that my name is beautiful. I told the story of how hard it was for my mom to give me this name is the former Soviet Union. (I think all those that have access to this blog know the story – if you don’t, comment at the bottom and I will tell ya.)

We helped clean up after lunch, and wandered back to the Heritage House. Though I didn’t get to nap too much, I definitely enjoyed the lazy shabbos. Yea yea say what you will – but I kept FULL shabbos, and it was in the Old City. Sleeping is allowed… 
For third meal we went back to the Claman house – this time for a different kind of meal. The soldier girls are back with us, and I sit with Odeliya again. After the meal, we do havdallah and dance around. It is probably my favorite memory of Shabbos in the recent past. These girls all join together – whether they speak English or not, whether we speak Hebrew or not – and we sing and dance to songs that we all know. Yiddishkeite has brought us together. At one point, the soldiers must leave – and it makes me so sad because we just started to get to know one another and I want to ask more questions.

During our third meal, a SUPER HOT (ex?) Israeli actor joins us. Turns out he was on a New York / Israel flight and happened to sit next to a very well known Rebbetzin. They started talking during the 10 hour flight, and when they arrived he went off to learn torah at Yeshivah. WOW. The power of words. Did I mention that he’s HOT? Ok, so maybe he’s not my type (he’s WAY too chiseled for me) but he’s dark and handsome and has the most beautiful…eyes (and butt) 🙂

As we’re leaving the Claman house, I ask Pamela for a bracha. She is so kind!

Alex and I head back to the Heritage House Hostel to pack our stuff. I’m so worn out from the last few days that I decide to take the sherut back to the dorms instead of sticking around the Old City.


Week 3…wait, what?!?

30 Jun

OK, this blog post is really late – especially since I started the blog during week 3…here goes 🙂

A few points I’ve left out up until this point

– my madricha, Jenna, calls me kharif (spicy). It’s because I have a smart mouth 🙂 (oh don’t be so surprised peoples, it’s me after all.)

– my roommates and I tried to workout in our room once, I pooped out. Must do more abs, and gain some endurance…

– Jew-calling Definition: When one is almost out of minutes and calls another person, and hangs up before they answer thus forcing the callee to call back the caller…Yup, we do that when we are almost out of minutes since incoming calls are free.


Let’s start at the beginning of the week – especially since it was good 🙂

Sunday I went for an intense run…and I mean intense. If anyone knows these blocks, they’re insanely long/large. Woah! 1.5 miles around. That’s right, this big butt did it…We left as a group – Nicole, Jenna, Sofia, me. We came back in pairs. Nicole and Jenna are really good runners; Jenna has done the Jerusalem marathon!!! I started off at first at a good pace, but it was soon VERY obvious that the run was not to be taken lightly (at least by me). I ended up walked a small portion, and then started running again. Since at this point the rest of the girls were WAY ahead of me, I figured I would run again til I pooped out, walk the rest of the way and call it a day 😉 Well, Sofia, this amazing tzidakus, skips back to where I’m at, and starts running with. Those that know my competitive side know that I can’t/won’t look like an idiot – so we ran at the same pace the rest of the way. Yes, that’s right we ran the rest of the way!!! OMG, I was so appreciative of Sofia staying with me. What motivation!

We returned to the dorm, and agreed to go for a walk and just catch up. After all, we hadn’t had an intimate conversation since Hookkupping…we had a blast! Talked about her weekend away in Eilat and Jordan, and then my weekend…you all remember that right?

We get back, and most of the girls are getting ready for Ziv’s birthday. His gf is organizing smtg. Sofia and I agree to get ready and go together since we are running behind anyway. At some point we look at each other and realize that pjs and a movie night sounds better after the intense workout. (ok, I call it intense…gotta look good to my American friends :] ) Although I’m dying for a post-workout shower, I start talking to Jenna about stuff…

Jenna and I really connect. It’s super strange/powerful. For those that know me well, I don’t connect often to people – nor do I particularly try. We talked about pasts, fears, etc. I won’t get into the nitty gritty, as the conversation was very private. But, I will say this…I really appreciate Jenna’s candidness and honesty. I liked how I open I could be with her, and knowing in my heart that she won’t reveal what we discussed. It was really hard for me to be so frank and open with her, but I feel that it was a step in the right direction for me. Less fear of the judgement people may pass on my past, and more open and aware of where I stand the pride I should feel as to how far I’ve gotten.

I’m working on the pride thing – and maybe the self confidence part too…After an almost 3 hour conversation, I showered and went to bed – there was no way I was going out. I was too raw.

But have no fear, those that expect that I should party up my stay in Israel…Monday’s Brian’s birthday and I promised to make an appearance. (anytime someone says “make an appearance” I think Hollywood…lol) Come Monday and Sofia and I go for another run. This time, I ran the whole way around!!! That’s right, the full 1.5 miles (well minus the 5 minutes we walked for warm up). We return to the dorms and I convince her that she should come with me. We’re dressed and ready to go (albeit late – hello it’s still me…). At Ben Yehuda – where everyone goes to party – we find the group. Brian is really drunk – surprise surprise. We sit down at his table, and not two minutes later there is an issue…Sam, Maayan’s bf, accidentally spills the Nargila (hookah) coal on Brian. Brian in response throws a coal at Sam. By this time Sam has already apologized, but Brian is being vengeful. It’s a really annoying situation, but Sam gets really pissed and instead of punching Brian (which he rightfully should have done) pays his portion and leaves. Brian starts yelling about something, but at this point he’s being a drunk asshole so Sofia and I wander up Ben Yehuda to see if anyone else is out or maybe just head home. And so begins a really good night…

We walk over to a bar on Ben Yehuda near Yaffe. (I forgot the name of the bar.) I see of few familiar faces, and we strike up conversation. This guy Jacob (to be known as Jacob1 later) introduces himself, as does another Jacob(to be known as Jacob2 later), Eddy and Orry. I’ve already met Orry, and take a moment to ask him if he’s going to be cool about Michelle hooking up with Michael – since I’m quite prone to anti-drama. I tell him that Brian kept bringing him up at all moments during the previous wknd, and it was annoying. Orry says that his one-time hook-up with Michelle is whatever, and he won’t cause drama. Yay, because really he’s a nice guy. After having a very strong mojito, a few of us agree to go to another bar bc this American sh*t is annoying. I’ll mention that Jacob1 and I got off to a funny start – he wanted to shake my hand and I responded in my usual manner. I don’t shake hands, I hug it out.

So, Jacob1, Jacob2, Orry, Sofia, Eddy, and I head over to this other place, Toy Club. Sofia needs to use the bathroom so I stay with her. We lose the guys but decide to stick around and dance…as it’s a really good workout! We’re dancing when some short Israeli guy grabs my arm and tells me he wants to dance. Clearly he’s not that cute because I want nothing to do with him and tell him we can dance another night. He says he’s leaving to Cancun the next day. He’s very persistent – and I can’t explain that unless I’m mildly buzzed, I have no rhythm. He continues to insist that we dance together, so Sofia and I pretend to leave. We head over to the back of the club and keep dancing. Somehow the guys find us, though it’s just Jacob1&2 and Eddy. We dance for a bit, and lose Jacob2. Jacob1 offers to get us shots, so we head over to the bar. (I wonder if he knows that’s the only way I will actually dance well…? LOL) Shots of tequila – yuck! We all keep dancing. My short Israeli finds me and tries to grab me away. I tell him that I’m here with friends, and can’t leave them. He’s grabbing me anyway, so they form a circle around me to block him. He walks away for a bit. Jacob1 was drinking what looked like water so I asked if I could have a sip. He has very little left, and lets me finish it. It’s not water!!! It is 2 shots of vodka in water. OMG – my head is kinda spinning. The buzz is definitely there… He laughs at me – but truth be told it was a good feeling. The short Israel takes this moment to approach again. This time Jacob1 tells him that we’re there “together” and are dating so I can’t dance with him. The guys says, “I don’t believe you.” So Jacob1 kisses me. Woah!

Well, at least this is my first Israeli kiss where I’m not thinking about anything else other than the kiss. I move my middle finger ring to my ring finer to show the guy that we’re serious. Jacob1 later tells me that he was going for a cheek kiss. RIGHT! I call him out on it – no way. He went for full mouth – I was just going with the flow 😉

We all continue to dance; Jacob2 randomly joins us at some points. I try to hook him up with a cute girl but instead of just dancing with her, he tries to talk to her in the loudest club…um ok? Eddy buys us another round of tequila shots. At this point I’ve sweated out the mojito, and enough time has gone by. The tequila shot is awful, but does the trick. We all keep dancing for a while. At some point, Sofia and I realize that it’s past 2am and we both have to be up early. Her more so than me. We try to leave but the DJ keeps putting on good songs. Finally, we’re getting ready to leave and especially since it’s getting really smoky and I can’t breathe very well. One last song comes on, but Sofia and Eddy are headed upstairs. Jacob1 grabs my arm to dance. During the song we kiss…Trust me, it was a lot cuter than I’m describing here…I later find out that Sofia and Eddy saw. :/

A cab ride back home with Sofia proves fun. She tells me that she had fun, and I respond that I did too. We talk about the night, and our plan to run the following day.

Oh what a Monday…

Tuesday and Wednesday are somewhat uneventful, so I will write a shortened version of what happened. Tuesday the idea comes up that we should all go away to Greece for a weekend. I’m so excited, and try to help organize. We have yet to finalize the details, but OMG! I run on both days, and by Wednesday I run the ENTIRE 1.5 miles without walking…at all!

Oh Thursday…what can I tell y’all? It was epic. It was legen– wait for it–dary!

Wait a minute…you haven’t met the crew

27 Jun

I’m going to write a brief description of everyone in my dorm so that you get a good picture…or at least my view.

We’re in building 7, floor 4. Going by room numbers…

Room 1 –

Lauren  (from Northbrook, just down the street from me!) – goes to UofI, is smart and has a dry sense of humor. Quite tall, but I forgive her 😉

Julia – From LA, Russian speaking!!!, very Russian in mannerisms (or so is my belief), somewhat quiet

Bath Sheva (Betty!!!) – Maayan’s roommate from Stonybrook College, NY, super sweet, from Azerbazhan (!!!), understands Russian but doesn’t speak it too well (then again, I’m a Russian speaking snob bc my ma helped me keep my awesome Russian), up to dance ALWAYS, sings Beyonce a lot!, laughs a lot

Room 2 –

Alex – from NJ, very serious when you first meet her, very into journalism, prefers real books to electronic ones – but also has an e-reader bc it’s so much easier to travel with them, goes out a lot – but we never really know where, and in my humble opinion the likeliest one to become frum (observant)

Maayan – from NY, very dark Israeli skin, found out she’s from South Africa!!!, has a bf on this trip – Sam, she’s very gentle/soft spoken, uber nice girl

Victoria – another Russian-speaking girl!, hilarious, super nice, very opinionated, also has a bf on the trip – Eugene, was the 2nd girl I met from my floor but was the first one to help me carry my luggage up the stairs!, sarcastic (ya know I like people that are sarcastic)

Room 3 –

Me – if you don’t know me by now, please stop reading this blog…but if you have any questions, please ask!

Nicole – my exercising-enforcing partner, super cute, also hilarious!!, sarcastic and smart, “naïve” (inside joke), and “isn’t worried about it”, we connect really well

Shani – quiet but opinionated, it’s hard to gauge if she likes or dislikes something until she gets excited, goes out more than my entire floor combined (as in she leaves @10pm and walks in around 730am…don’t ask, don’t tell) 😉 had great grocery store shopping skills, and wants the same fro-yo I do

Room 4 –

Jenna – what can I say about the best Madricha ever?! Her kindness knows no boundaries, she connects with all the girls differently, and has the most eclectic taste in clothing. When Jenna smiles it’s quite heart-warming. This girl does everything! She cooks for soldiers, she takes care of our needs, she helps out at Heritage Hostel, and she knows the best places for waxing, massages, and shopping. PS – she’s also really smart, knows French, and has class. Let’s all be in awe of her…

Floor 5

Room 3 –

Sofia – my running partner!!!, Super nice girl, also Russian-speaking, really funny and loves to laugh, comes up with funny words, and probably has her head on straight more than the rest of us

Room 4 –

Jackie – ALLERGIC TO PEANUTS, very opinionated, from Texas – y’all, super skinny, carries her blue purse/bag with her everywhere, likes to ask for directions

Sheba – ok, admittedly I barely know her, but she came up with the Greece trip, so we gotta love her


Now, speaking of things I may forget to post:

–          We’re trying to get a trip to Greece for 4 days,3 nights. Yup, that’s right! Santorini here I come, and Crete too.

–          Lauren & I realized we live down the street from each other, but I always forget until she reminds me that she’s from Chicago too…

–          My mouthy-ness has not gotten me into trouble so far…I’m just as surprised as those of you reading this back home.

–          Jackie’s allergy to peanuts is a topic for conversation…a lot. If before no one cared about having peanut butter, now it’s almost a staple. It’s ok – we keep her safe. (We hide the peanut butter in my room.)

–          I’m super sad that Sofia is moving to the JEWEL program at the end of week 3 – especially since I really like her and want to get to know her better.

Week 2…continued, but with kharif (spicy)

24 Jun

As I write the title of this blog, I remember that just this week, my madricha gave me a nickname I forgot to mention…Kharif. For those of you who speak/know Hebrew, you know it’s fitting. 🙂 (For the rest, kharif means spicy. Fitting, right?)

So, to continue with the story. Ever since I got a phone, my mom was hounding me to call her friends. I did, but no answer. Well, earlier in the week I was in touch with them, and they wanted to set me up with a guy. OK, cool. So when I was in Tel Aviv, we were in touch, and agreed to meet Friday night. Now, back to the rest of the story before the date…

I should mention that upon arriving Thursday @ the hostel, I realized what kinda shithole this place is! I can’t believe they booked it. Well, I’m glad I’m not spending any more time than I need to there…

Friday morning, I went to take care of some lady business (as you’ll recall, I had things to do on my errand list). I get back to the hostel, and can’t find anyone. I head over to the beach and see Amadeus and we find Michael and Michelle. AJ is with them. Now, to mention, there will be some Thursday & Friday flip flop. We’re hanging out and having fun, and the rest of the group is nowhere to be found. See, they went Shabbat food shopping. Zach and Yonna find us at the beach, and we all hang out. We take turns watching the stuff, goofing around in the water, and all-in-all just having a blast. It was my turn to get out of the water, and I wanted to tan for a bit, so I went out. I lay down, and AJ follows me. (Mini back story, the night before, he and I had some long conversations, and hung out – but mostly it was a group hangout.) As I’m laying down, we talk for a bit and he kisses me. I’m completely surprised! But, the kiss wasn’t that great. Mind you, he’s 20 years old. He still has a lot to learn. I will say this, it was sweet of him. But during this kiss all I could think was, “Why is he doing this? This is not what I want. I’m bored, and you’re killing my tanning time.” I know, I know – I’m bad. But what can I say, there was NO chemistry there!

In the evening, the rest of the group finally join us on the beach, but at that point we’re ready to head back. LOL. For Shabbat, everyone is dressed nice. The people observing Shabbat are getting ready for their meal, while the rest of us are prepping to go out, after we do Shabbat with them for a bit.

Misha meets me at the hostel around 830pm to give me my new SIM card! Wahoo! Too bad I couldn’t use it right away bc my phone battery was dead, and because I was waiting for my date to call. We had agreed to meet that night around 9ish. As far as the group was concerned, I was meeting up with a family friend – and well, that’s kinda true. (Y’all back home know I’m private about this stuff.)

Ah, details about the date…It was nice! He picked me up, and we went to a café near Clara. First we parked the car, and he told me that he doesn’t really know tel aviv. So we walked for about an hour (mind you, I’m wearing heels…) and then we turn around and head over to the café near where we parked. I order a Turkish coffee, and he can’t believe I like it. But it’s true – I like good coffee. Afterwards, we talk about life in the USA, life here in Israel, work and typical first date stuff. In the middle, my mom calls and since I hadn’t been able to talk to her all day, I pick up. He steps away for a minute and orders us mojitos (we already discussed that I like those by this point). So yummy! We continue talking for a while, and since I kinda told the group back at the hostel that I’d be done by 11 I felt bad that I was out so late. Oh well. We stayed and chatted for another hour or so, and he took me back. Not without the group calling me 3 times…LOL. I got back to the hostel, and everyone wanted to know where I’d been. I was able to divert the attention by grabbing a mixed drink they made for me and giving them a sneaky smile.

As I walked back to the patio, Andrew informs me that he’s moving into the girl room. Um, ok. I tell him that after we’re back, I’ll need my contact solution and pjs. He asks me to grab it now. I don’t think about it too much, and go up to grab my stuff for the night. I end up taking my suitcase to the guys’ room. Michelle, Michael, Brian, AJ and I end up going out. I will right away mention that AJ is pretty drunk. The group is so insistent on going to a club that I indulge them. We walk over to Clara (!!!) and they don’t let us in because we’re not on the list and because AJ was so stumbling drunk. BTW they took a bottle of Israeli juice, mixed it with Vodka and walked to the club drinking that…need I say more? We start walking back and decide to go for another midnight swim…Brian takes his shorts off and starts to go into the water in his boxers, AJ falls to the sad and starts getting sick, Michael & Michelle go off to make out. Good times :/

We manage to get AJ upright, and walk him back to the hostel. I won’t indulge in the details of his getting sick, or what I had to say to him to keep him walking but we get him back to the hostel. And into bed. And he starts puking! It was colorful. In the middle of taking care of AJ, Zach approaches me and says that him and two other guys in the room agree and they don’t want me sleeping in the room. Um ok. I had understood from Lauren and Andrew that they took care of this, and I say so to Zach. He says that no one told him, and he’s not having it. He says, “I don’t want to listen to you having sex.” I am looking at him shocked! My response? “I’m not having sex with anyone, at any time on this trip.” Are you seriously saying that to me? That’s so disrespectful! I never once gave the vibe that I’d be having sex with anyone of the dudes.

**I must mention that Michael and Michelle were all over each other all day long. In the water, on the beach, and they even left early to have some alone time in the room while everyone was still at the beach.**

Back to the situation at hand. I tell Zach that Lauren and Andrew are now sleeping, and that I’m not waking them. He says that I’m going with him and we’ll wake them together. I say no to that. I’m not comfortable doing that, and they guys’ room has 2 extra beds, why, again, can’t I sleep there? He again reiterates that I can’t stay in their room. OK. I basically figure that I’m going to have to go to another hostel. I’m fairly annoyed that he’s acting this way, but most of all – I’m not sure where I’m to go sleep @ 3am. Well, during all this, Brian goes upstairs and wakes Andrew and Lauren. Lauren comes out of the room and is basically mad at me and yelling at me why we woke her up. Andrew comes out of the room dazed and a little annoyed. Julia was woken as well bc she had been sleeping in Andrew’s bed. Michelle is crying bc she thinks she was called a whore. Finally, Julia, Michelle and I go to bed. I’m sleeping on the edge of the bed bc the other girls aren’t giving up much space…

Lesson learned – only go on trips with people you aren’t close with if you’re the one booking the rooms.

Morning comes, and I’m more upset that I was the night before. I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t sleep well or because he was so offensive and it finally hit me. But I go into the guys room, and AJ is awake – though still hungover. In front of everyone, just as Zach did to me, I tell him that he cannot EVER speak to me the way he did that night. I don’t know what gave him the idea that I would be having any kind of relations with anyone on this trip. The disrespect he showed me is inappropriate and unkind. He apologized, justified his actions by saying that when you’re out of the country, people tend to hook up and he didn’t want to listen to that. I told him that I don’t know what kind of people he hangs out with, but I’m not that girl, and he doesn’t know me to judge me that way. I also told him that I in no way gave anyone the impression that I was going to do anything but sleep in that room. Glad that it was our last night there. We waited for the “shomer shabbos” crew to do their thing, and then went to the beach for the day. The water was perfect, the sun was shining, and I enjoyed myself.

In the evening, we went back and showered at the hostel, though they didn’t seem too pleased with us. Ooops? Dinner was sushi – Chicago sushi is WAY better. (I know that Florina is probably thinking that NYC sushi is better, but she’s WRONG.) The kosher crew left without us, and truth it wasn’t such a bad thing. Since Zach and his two followers, Amadeus and Yonna, went exploring the city we didn’t have to worry about them either.

The five of us grab a sherut, and head to Tachana Merkazit. Except Michelle realizes that she left Michael’s camera at the sushi restaurant. They hop off the sherut and run back. Michelle had lost her phone, and since Michael doesn’t have a phone we couldn’t even reach them. Oy! Brian had to stay on the sherut bc he dropped his camera into the trunk, I stayed on bc I didn’t want to miss the last bus to my dorm and pay for an expensive cab ride and AJ couldn’t get off bc I had to lend him money to pay for the sherut.

We get on the Egged and ride back to Jerusalem. Wifi on the Egged!! So exciting! Zach and his two followers, Amadeus and Yonna, happened to also be on our bus, but wouldn’t sit with us. Whatever. On the Egged, I was looking at my phone and saw a text message Lauren sent me the previous night. She writes, “Hey Andrew and I are sleeping in the big bed. When u come back can u crash in amadeuss room? Thanks!” Upon reading this, the first thing I say to Brian and AJ is how lucky she is that I only saw this on the bus. How absolutely rude! Especially since she saw me, and could have talked to me before all this happened. Ugh.

What a weekend…the good, the funny, and the annoying – but we ignore ALL bad things on this trip.

Week 2…Mild return to civilization

24 Jun

Week 2

Sunday is a bit of a haze – there’s morning, and evening. After everyone is back from their internships, we hang out, and agree to watch a movie. BUT?!?! Where do we find a movie…Netflix doesn’t work here, and no one has movies on their computer. Jenna, the awesomest madricha ever, gets movies from a friend and we watch “Phantom of the Opera”. The French girls from our building join us – what a cluster of languages. I’m able to mildly communicate with them – but even that’s a stretch. Madame Kasel would be so disappointed in my French skills.

Monday is fun – tho I don’t remember it too much. What I do remember is GETTING A PHONE. I agreed to meet Nicole after her work. We went up to the phone store and I got a SIM card. Why you ask, since Misha was supposed to get me one…because he didn’t and I needed to wait an additional week. Frustrating! So, I had 53 minutes to call and text…wahoo! You have no idea how nice it is to be able to reach people…And make plans…or not. We went shopping, hung out, got food, and just chilled. What a fun time!

Tuesday …I don’t remember it well. I joined Jenna at her artsy internet café. There’s this mojito-like drink that they make, just without the alcohol. OMG SO delicious! We spent the day relaxing and using the internet. I absolutely loved feeling connected to the world. This is so western – but what can I say? We were going to go to the shuk party, but the girls back at the form were pooped…a night of girl talk.

Wednesday – I went out with the girls to the shuk to try cherry beer…It’s disgusting unless you like drinking cough syrup. We then went out with the group to Ben Yehuda Street. So American. But, the good news is that I met Brian, who works with the Doctor I was going to be working with! Upon hearing my name, Brian says, “I’ve heard about you today.” As Lena knows, my reaction, “Uh oh.” We all hung out, some people got drunk (Ahem NG & MJ). The evening was interesting though – tequila shots galore (tho I didn’t have any).

Thursday…I made plans with two other girls to go to Tel Aviv with their group. Turns out they were going with a bunch of people. Michelle, the new girl, joined us too. Thursday afternoon, we went to Tachana Merkazit, and took off to Tel Aviv. Turns out that there were approx 15 of us…Three of the guys decided to miss the bus and go eat. So when we got to Tel Aviv’s Tachan Merkazit we waited for them. Then we proceeded to get lost. I got them to the right place, and off we went. (See this is why people should listen to me when it comes to directions…)

Instead of partying at a club, I convinced everyone to go to the beach for a midnight swim – and bring a beer or whatnot with. It was so much fun – we even did chicken war in the water. The water, by the way, was SO warm. Some of the people got tired, and we agreed to go back. Some people wanted to see the sun rise – so they went back, I accidentally fell asleep. I asked them to wake me, but no one did. I guess I should be grateful but I’m sad I missed the sunrise! I guess I’ll have to go back for that. 😉

A new post for what happens next is required…quite the story. :)~

Internship woes

23 Jun

So, when I was still in Chicago, I knew that there may be some troubles with getting me an internship since I was joining the program so late. But, I was promised that it would be worked out asap. So, I figured that going to Israel is the right decision – no matter what, when else would I have an opportunity of a lifetime to just be there for 6 weeks, work side-by-side with Israelis, AND enjoy life?!?

During my first week, my internship was kinda messed up. The emergency center that I was originally going to be working at could not accommodate me because they were overstaffed with interns, and not enough nurses that could take me on and know English. Annoying. Part of the problem was that I needed to meet with the main doctor who places interns with the medical staff, and she scheduled an appointment with me the Monday that I arrived, but no one told me. And no one told her that I only arrive Monday. Oooops?

By the time I finally met with her, she was annoyed that it took so long to meet. I tried to meet with her asap, but her schedule is so hectic, and she was somewhat unaccommodating in terms of meeting. I offered to travel anywhere, and she made a fuss. Ladno… Finally we made plans to meet at Alyn Hospital. I asked her about how to get there. She said she’s not really sure, but that I should be there by 10am. Um, ok? I asked around, and no one knew where this was. I finally figured out how to get there, with the help of some selfless Israelis. I was SO late because the directions that she gave me were TERRIBLE. Then, when I finally met with her, I waited for an hour to see her, just to talk for 5-10 mins. She of course had to comment that I was 2 hrs late. Did I mention that it’s her fault bc she gave me the WORST directions on earth.

I still needed to wait a few days to get ahold of the nurse I would work with, and that was not easy. Finally, the program director put in a call, and I was to be transferred to an actual hospital. The girl that helps organize the internships was not in touch, and didn’t keep me updated, so I took matters into my own hands. Rabbi Alter’s close friend runs the ENTIRE emergency department at Sha’ari Zedek Hospital (for those that aren’t aware, this is a HUGE hospital in Israel, and known worldwide). I asked for his phone number, and arranged my internship through him. So, now I am working in the Emergency Department of Sha’ari Zedek Hospital with an AMAZING nurse that is teaching me EVERYTHING.

So excited, and it’s only a 30 minute bus ride!

Week One…give or take a few days…

16 Jun

Tel Aviv airport is awesome…it seems like the longest walk from arrivals until you get to passport control, to then keep walking to get your luggage…On top of all that, I had a regular suitcase, two carry-ons, AND a purse!!! Did I mention my memory foam pillow too? Ok, so maybe I don’t travel light, but who can blame a girl?!? I’m here for six weeks, and I’m picky. Yes, you can quote that peoples…I, Esther Gross, am particular about what I wear, and what I eat…and the men I talk to…but really I’m not that picky. 🙂

Ah, the perks of no phone…yup, this is how I start my post. For one whole week, (yes, you read that correctly) I had almost zero internet access, no working in Israel. You may ask how I, the phone queen, was able to withstand…and I will tell you – NOT VERY WELL…But I survived, and truth be told, it wasn’t terrible. I could say that during this time, it was really hard not to talk to anyone back home. Especially, you. (Cute right?) I did use someone’s phone to call my first night here and wish my grandpa a happy birthday (June 11th).

My first day, I was given the option of unpacking and prepping my stuff for my stay, OR going with a group of girls to fro-yo…Guess what I chose to do…? When my floor-mates arrived at home, I was really tired. I briefly met them, and then went to sleep…But not before confirming that for the weekend, we all indeed were traveling to Tel Aviv beaches! Of course, this made me love the group even more 🙂

I will post separately regarding my internship ups & downs…

Back to the present…My entire first week I spent wandering around Jerusalem. At first it was by myself bc the others were at their internships, but then the news girls came and we got our Rav Kav (ah yes, I’m a true Israeli now…the Rav Kav is a bus pass that gives you a discount when you travel around Jerusalem/Tel Aviv via bus or train.). That first week, I also went to an awesome artsy internet cafe with my madricha! It was so nice to connect to civilization/email & FB. LOL. I, of course, went out to Ben Yehuda.

Funny story…I hadn’t experienced the new train system in Jerusalem yet, so on one of my first attempts to get to Yaffe Street, I couldn’t figure it out. And I didn’t really want to ask…So I walked there. See, that’s something that I will always remember – how to get to the Kotel (by way of Yaffe Street) from the Central Bus Station (Tachana Merkazit) in Jerusalem. I asked my step-bro how far I walked (from Tachana Merkazit to Yaffe Street and back) and told me it’s approx 4 km. WAHOO! I went to the place that I had my first lafa shwarma…this time tho, I made it WAY healthier. So yummy. Will have to post a picture 🙂

On my second night, I was super excited to see my Rabbi’s daughter. So, everywhere I went, I asked if they knew Tzippy. FINALLY, after coming home on my second night, I saw a bunch of girls gathered, and noticed her. So exciting! She looked so grown up – definitely felt old next to her. She was SOOOO sweet, brought me a goodie bag with yogurts, fruits, and other yummy Israeli snacks. Told me that Neve food is known to be toxic – SO TRUE.

I think that my connection with Nicole (NG) was formed one afternoon accidentally – but it’s a bond that will hold us together forever. One of our floormates (I won’t mention a name bc she may be embarrassed by the situation looking back…) was telling me a story about how she thinks that thieves in Israel are nicer/better than thieves in America. As in, they’re likelier to return your things to you. She was saying how her coworker told her that’s a naive perspective. Nicole jumps in and says that she agrees, it is a naive way of looking at it. The other girls responds with, “I’m not naive. Don’t call me naive.” Nicole proceeds to explain why it’s naive and the other girls responds, “Shut up. Shut the f*ck up. Shut the f*ck up.” Well, that was a productive conversation…

This incident did lead Nicole and I to be quite close. Sometimes we’ll just tell each other to “shut the f*ck up” – this isn’t really a joke at anyone’s expense, just a moment for us to giggle.

My roommate, SM, had invited SK to Tel Aviv Thursday evening to hang out with some friends, party, whatnot. I figured that if the rest of the group was meeting us Friday, this would be perfect. Well, we had a semi-late start to Tel Aviv, and then had to take a cab to David’s (the friend) apartment bc we were running so late. SM claimed that David starts partying really early, and that we were SOOOO late. To say thank-you for letting us crash at your apartment, we stopped at a store and bought wine (for the girls) and whiskey for the guys.

Well, we got to his apartment, and he and his friend Amir (who I thought was Alain for the longest time…more on that later) were just drinking whiskey. No rush, nothing. All the formalities were exchanged, and the three girls set up shop/sleeping arrangements in the spare bedroom. Foregoing all the boring details, I will mention this. Shots of kosher wine – NOT SO GOOD. So they mixed me coke and whiskey. Much better – but definitely has a kick. We all head out to a club. It was so American. All the birthright kids were there. They were doing kegstands! Mega yuck! After about 2 hours, we left to go to another place, this one a bit more Israeli style.

After a little while, the place was so smoky that I got nauseous, so I went to sit outside…This is where the semi-juicy bit starts. Amir joins me outside, and we start chatting. Things get semi-flirty, but it’s the way I am with all the guys – so no biggie, right? Well after some deep convos, he starts tickling me…For those that know me well, you know how this goes. For the rest of you reading this, here’s how it went. He poked me, I giggled. He tickled me, and I squealed like a 5 year old. Yup. After a while of tickling, talking, me throwing something at him – we relaxed and he lay down on my lap. At one point he kissed me and says, “Eh, that’s a 6 out of 10.” I don’t miss a beat and respond with, “It doesn’t even rank.” He then apologizes, and says he was kidding. I didn’t apologize…Is that bad? The entire time he was kissing me I was making a list of things I still needed to do. The usual: get a wax, mani/pedi, and figure out a way to get the AMAZING fro-yo on Gordon Street. How bad am I? Sorry guys, I really don’t always do this!!! (Just when the kiss isn’t so good…)

Everyone else slowly trickled out of the club and joined us on the high cushioned sofa style seating. We couldn’t get SK and David to focus…They were otherwise occupied. We finally got their attention, and left to go back to the apartment. I took an AMAZINGLY hot shower. I put my pjs on, and went to hang out. Amir approaches me and tells me to meet him in hour after everyone goes to bed. We stay up for a bit talking, and don’t realize that everyone is asleep. Bc the 3 girls had to sleep together, I had suggested (jokingly) that David take my spot between the girls, and I would take his room (alone). It didn’t work, and David went to sleep in his room…or so I thought. I went to my room, and SM & SK were sprawled across the bed, so I slept on the floor.

In the morning, Amir was a tad bit crabby @ me…Maybe it’s bc I didn’t show up the night before? My excuse? I fell asleep. The truth? I fell asleep, but I wouldn’t have met him anyway. LOL. We all went to breakfast.

After the guys left breakfast, we all started chatting and sharing details from the night before. I found out that a “hook-up” is whatever happens from kissing to sex. Interesting – I always knew it to mean something with the word sex in it…So basically SK called my mini-make out “hookkupping” – tho it came from a funny joke where SK wanted to say hooking up and instead it came out as “hookkupping”. LOL.

We head over to the beach. First stop…Gordon Inn!! (Attn Lena and Masha – they’ve renovated! We must go back together.) We dropped off our stuff and headed to the beach. The rest of the group meets up later. Omg the beach is amazing! Misha (my step-bro who I affectionately call my step-shit) joins us for a little bit…as well as a bunch of other people from the trip.

The evening is a bit stressful. SM and MV want to do shabbat dinner – the whole shebang. The rest don’t particularly care. So they go get challah and kosher dinner. The rest of us shower/get ready and then wander around for food. We meet on the rooftop for pregaming and shabbos dinner.

We head out after to a club, Galena. Though I’m not feeling well, I go anyway because NG (my other roommate) says it only a 30min walk. We walk for 2hrs and finally get there. I seem to have lost everyone during the walk and wander around with others from the hostel/beach group.

Once everyone is together at the club, I decide that I’m just not feeling well enough to party. Before I leave, one of the girls from Jewel gets kicked out of the club bc she climbed over the rope. I apologize for her but she starts cursing at the bouncer and using vulgar gestures. I don’t see of hear this and am explaining that she wants to be with her friends an will behave. I’m literally seconds away from getting her in and she messes it up. But the guy offers for me to go in w/o a cover charge. What can I say I worked my magic. I’m about ready to leave when two guys from the hostel join us and tell us that it was a 40shekel cab ride. I’m glad…I can get back easy. Tough luck. The cabbies want an exorbitant amount of money…so I walked back alone. (Note to Roman, I know I promised to be safe but no one wanted to leave and I really needed to go back. I knew my way around. Please don’t be mad.)

I started to walk back along the path and then got to the streets that I know, thus a more direct path which would be less time. As I’m walking I get to see so many beautiful places…and I stop to pee at a super awesome hotel. I keep walking and there is just one small scary part where gang-looking guys are walking in my direction. One is Asian one looks Mexican and the rest are Israeli putzs. Luckily I got past them and reached Gordon Street. Made it back and passed out. Oh womanly woes.

The morning is a bit lazy but we make it to the beach. Lovely day that ends almost easily. We get on the bus, return ti Har Nof. Oh what a weekend!