<![CDATA[My Site - Blog]]>Sat, 23 Jan 2016 07:45:16 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Why I Won't Make Aliyah]]>Thu, 21 Jan 2016 16:18:01 GMThttp://leahbayle.weebly.com/blog/why-i-wont-make-aliyahI love Israel.  I loved Israel before I ever visited—blame it on years of Jewish summer camp, day school, and Hebrew school—but after spending a collective seven months there in the past two years, my infatuation has only amplified. 
 
However, this isn’t a simple relationship. (Does one even exist?)  I sometimes characterize my relationship with Israel like that of a parent with a child.  There is nothing Israel could do to make me stop loving her.  I may not always agree with all of her choices, but I will always love her. 
 
I believe that Judaism is so strongly connected to Israel that when someone says something slanderous about Israel (which happens on an almost daily basis in our world,) I take it as a personal attack because my primary identity is Jewish. I know this is wrong and I shouldn’t feel this way, but I am so emotionally connected to Israel that I just can’t help it. 
 
I love that the food is kosher and the boys are Jewish and all the signs are in Hebrew and that I feel safer there than I do anywhere else.  Israel is my home.  I can’t say that with as much conviction about any other place in the world. 
 
You’re probably wondering why I don’t move there right now.  After all, I’m going to graduate college in a few months and have the opportunity to choose where I live and what job I have.  Why don’t I make Aliyah?  So many people I know have done it.  My Hebrew isn’t perfect by any means, but with more practice I could get better. 
 
Everyone I meet who has moved there from the states says the same thing.  It’s fun there.  And they’re right.  Israelis have a different perspective on life than we do as Americans.  They have to go to the army.  They face death on a daily basis.  This makes them celebrate life and take chances, which is something I strive so badly to do.  After all, we only have one life.  It sounds silly, but when I think about it this way, I truly want to make the most of it. 
 
As much as I’d like to believe that I am mature, sure of myself, and knowledgeable, I know deep down that I am not really any of those things.  And I know this because the real reason I don’t want to make Aliyah is because I’m scared. 
 
I’m scared to not know the language and to have to live under the fear of random terrorist attacks and rockets. 
 
I’m scared that I will never be accepted because I am not really Israeli.  
 
I’m scared that I will limit my career path.  I might want to go to rabbinical school at some point and I certainly wouldn’t be able to live in Israel and make a living as a female rabbi.  
 
I’m scared that living in Israel might take away its uniqueness.  I take solace in knowing that if I need Israel, it is there for me to visit.  I don’t want to take this for granted.
 
I’m scared that if I have children and raise them in Israel, they will have to live with similar fears. 
 
Even aside from my uncertainties, I know I have so much to accomplish in the states.  There are friendships to revive, people I love, and the frustrating state of American Judaism to revitalize.  To quote Samantha Jones from Sex and the City, “I love you [Israel]…but I love me more.”  And I am grateful to be lucky enough to not have to live in fear.  My heart will be with Israel, but my body won’t be.

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<![CDATA[Apparently I'm not that bad of a writer...]]>Mon, 24 Aug 2015 17:32:16 GMThttp://leahbayle.weebly.com/blog/apparently-im-not-that-bad-of-a-writer I’m not used to the fact that people actually want to read my writing. 

In fifth grade, I took placement tests for middle school that basically decided my course path for the next seven years and beyond.  I placed into the highest math, but I was put in the regular English class. 

To me, regular meant bad, and from then on, I decided that I wasn’t “good” at English, or writing, in this case.  For the next seven years, I followed the “regular” English class path, never taking honors or AP classes in high school. 

When it was time for me to apply to colleges, it was also time to write a plethora of supplemental essays.  I was terrified.  For so many years I had told myself that I wasn’t a strong writer, that I actually believed it. 

I wrote the essays and got into Tufts early, but I still had my inferiority English complex.  Because I hadn’t taken any AP English classes, I had to take English 1 during my first semester at Tufts.  I placed out of English 2, and was relieved to finally be done with English and writing forever. 

That is, until I had my internship at Mayyim Hayyim this summer.  A requirement of being a quasi-staff member at Mayyim Hayyim is that you have to write a “once-every-6-ish-weeks” blog post for their blog, www.mayyimhayyimblog.com. 

I wrote my first blog post about Orange is the New Black and mikveh, which exploded just because of the topic.  I was pleased, but still didn’t think anything of it. 

My second and final blog post was more personal, and I didn’t think it was anything special, but Carrie, the executive director did.  She sent it to EJewishPhilanthopy, and someone there must have had an off-day, because they said they would publish it. 

It has taken me until age 21 to realize that I don’t completely suck at writing, and that I also have always had many things to say—particularly about Judaism. ]]>
<![CDATA[Hop on Pop (or not)]]>Sun, 23 Aug 2015 00:54:06 GMThttp://leahbayle.weebly.com/blog/hop-on-pop-or-not We used to go for two weeks every year.  Those two weeks turned into one week.  The one week became five days.  Five days turned into three.  And now, I sit in my room in Florida alone, on the first night of my less than three-day trip.

They gave me a journal for Chanukkah when I was in fifth grade.  I wrote about how much fun we were having in Florida with Grammy and Poppa—making concoctions in the easy-bake oven, learning how to drive the golf cart, pretending to know how to golf, swimming in their backyard pool. 

Somehow it all ended.  Not because I lost them, BH, but because time took away good sense and good health. 

I used to watch in awe as Poppa fixed our “owwies” with magic fairy dust from a pill container, and now I watch in horror as he takes hundreds of pills a week just to stay hanging on to a life that no longer resembles his. 

Poppa used to be the smartest man I ever knew.  He built himself up out of nothing after his parents more or less abandoned when he was young.  He could do mental math in an instant and could make strangers laugh and feel at ease in a matter of moments.  He could wriggle himself and his family into an overbooked restaurant, and had one of the only happy marriages I have ever seen.  This is how I want to remember him. 

I don’t want to remember him as the man who can’t even pick up a piece of bread from the table because his hands are shaking so violently and uncontrollably.  I don’t want to remember him as the one who forgets he asked a question five minutes after asking it.  I don’t want to remember him as the guy who doesn’t have the energy to throw us into the pool or press the gas pedal on the car or to even tell a simple joke. 

I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that this is what age and illness does to us eventually.  It takes our bodies and it destroys them.  It destroys everything around them too.  It makes us angry and irritable and sad.  But at one point, Poppa was the strongest man I’ve ever known, and that’s how I’m going to choose to remember him.

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<![CDATA[Meet my new boyfriend: Judaism!]]>Tue, 18 Aug 2015 07:47:49 GMThttp://leahbayle.weebly.com/blog/meet-my-new-boyfriend-judaism Something I’ve been struggling with recently (not to mention for the good part of my 21 years of life) revolves around relationships.  More definitively: my relationship with Judaism and my (lack of) romantic relationships. 

I go back and forth between two ideas, as I do with many other topics in my life.  I tend to see things in black and white, and while it is something I am working on and struggling with, I sometimes need my friends and family to remind me of it. 

But this particular black and white struggle is fascinating, and I’m still working on the grey area.  The white:  In Judaism, the union between a man and a woman* is much more than marriage, it actually imitates the relationship between a person and G-d.  Marriage in Judaism is a way to actually strengthen your connection with G-d if you’re into that sort of thing (which if you haven’t guessed by now, I am).  Further, I believe so strongly in raising Jewish children that it would almost seem hypocritical for me to not get married and have kids. 

Here’s where the black comes in: I don’t see myself getting married.  Aside from the Jewish aspect of marriage, I strongly believe that marriage is a social construct.  (See, my Tufts degree isn’t totally worthless, Mom.)  I have never had an interest in long-term monogamous relationships for a slew of reasons from which I’ll spare you. 

For the most part, I am content being single.  I have amazing friends and a supportive family and I’ve been lucky enough (BH) to have realized the correct career path for myself (I bet you can’t guess what it is). 

I don’t think of myself as “alone” so much as independent.  I’m not ready for a romantic relationship with another person right now.  I already have my perfect partner—Judaism.  To me, Judaism isn’t so much a religion as it is a lifestyle, a value-system, a relationship with G-d, and a means to have a fulfilling life.

*or in my eyes a man and a man or a woman and a woman or whatever gender you identify with, I don’t believe in the binary gender system—there’s that Tufts degree again—but that is a topic for another day.


If you liked this, it's just the beginning!  Upcoming posts will delve into practical Kashrut, easily incorporating prayer into your life, lessons learned from living in Israel, surprisingly Jewish TV shows, and more.

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<![CDATA[A month of travels]]>Mon, 16 Mar 2015 07:47:03 GMThttp://leahbayle.weebly.com/blog/a-month-of-travels I apologize for not having written in ages but I unexpectedly have been out of town for basically the last month.  This post is not going to be as detailed as my previous posts because a) it would be way too long and b) I don’t have that much free time anymore.

I’m going to split everything up so it hopefully makes more sense. (Also I didn’t really proofread so if there are grammatical errors I’m sorry.)

 

First trip to Tel Aviv:

The weekend before the last week of ulpan Leah, Mikki, Lily and I went to Tel Aviv for the first time this semester.  We had the most amazing sushi at a place called “Moon” and went on a bar crawl which I had (obviously) never done before.  Some of our other friends from Rothberg were there as well in the same hostel so we hung out with them.  Unfortunately, the weather was not that great and it rained a little (the first time after a month that it rained here) but it was still a great trip. 

 

End of ulpan:

Ulpan ended on a Wednesday and the Monday night before there was the first ever drag show in Jerusalem.  It was wild to see the Israeli drag queens singing and dancing with the old city in the background and there was definitely a lack of religious people there.  It was a great study break!

Toward the end of ulpan, our teachers were basically “teaching to the test” because they wanted us to have the chance to take/pass the level test so we skipped a lot of vocab that I had to learn on my own.  During ulpan I was in the advanced aleph class so at the end I had this opportunity to take the level test to pass to bet and I did! I got a 97% on the test and an A+ in the class because Israel does grades differently.  I’ll take it.

 

Eilat of fun:

Right after we took our final exams in ulpan, seven of my friends and I hopped on a five-hour bus ride to Eilat.  Since it’s in the south, it was much warmer.  Eilat kind of reminds me of Las Vegas because it’s very touristy and there are lots of hotels with bright lights.  In comparison, Tel Aviv is definitely the Miami of Israel and I’d like to think Jerusalem is like New York.  Anyway, we had an Airbnb in Eilat that was a five-minute walk from the beach. 

We also went to the ice mall which is a huge mall with an ice rink in the center.  We went out one night and to my surprise, I saw a girl who went to Highland Park who is on a gap year in Israel now.  As if that wasn’t enough, she and her group were on the same bus back to Jerusalem because they live here too.  Since the bus ride is so long, there is a rest stop in the middle of it, and on the way back, there happened to be two random donkeys hanging out at the stop so Leah and I took a picture with one of them.  Also on the way back (on Saturday night and classes started the next day), I decided to do the craziest and most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done in my life…


 

Wedding week:

I skipped the first week of classes to spend time with Yoram and his family and to attend all of the wedding festivities.  Granted, I only have class three days a week, and most of my teachers didn’t really care.  I quickly made up all of the work and although it will affect my participation grades and possibly overall grades, I’ve learned that once-in-a-lifetime experiences are more important than grades. 

On Sunday morning, I traveled to Tel Aviv where Yoram picked me up from the bus station.  Our first stop was a coffee shop that his aunt owns.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t there but the coffee and pastries were incredible and Tomer and Asaf (the groom) met us there.  After, we went back to Benny’s house (one of Yoram’s brothers) and rested a little before the henna.  Even though we were going to the henna around 19:00 and there would be dinner there, we still had a meal at 15:00 and I finally understood my mom’s obsession with Coke zero that she picked up in Israel. 

The henna was such a different and exciting experience.  It was small (about 100-150 people) and I loved being immersed in the Moroccan culture.  It was not at all what I expected but it was definitely better.  The only downside was at the beginning of the night, Yoram’s אמא didn’t feel well (she had a pinched nerve) and they called an ambulance for her.  Luckily, she felt a little bit better and didn’t go to the hospital then, but later that night she felt worse and ended up going to the emergency room.  After that, she felt much better for the rest of the week, which was great.  Before Tamar (Yoram’s sister and the mother of the groom) put henna on everyone’s hands, we all dressed up in traditional Moroccan dresses and hats.

The next day, we hung out, ate of course, and then visited one of Shoshy’s friends who used to live near Skokie.  They had three young children with whom I was able to practice my Hebrew a little and I read one of the girls a book about animals in Hebrew.  The girl said that she wants to live in the states and that she was amazed and jealous that I spoke English.  I told her that I felt the same way about her and her Hebrew!  A lot of the younger people and even people my age that I met this week wanted to move to America because they hear such good things about it and it seems like a dream land to them.  I tried to explain that this wasn’t the case and that I would rather live here.  However I was able to agree with many of these (older) people that life is most definitely more difficult in Israel and that apartments, restaurants, etc here are very expensive while people don’t really make that much money.

On Tuesday, we woke up early and drove down south to the moshav where Yoram and Shoshy grew up.  On the way, we stopped at a research and development agricultural center where one of Yoram’s cousins, Eli, gave us a tour of the facility.  We tried passion fruit, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, zucchini, and more and everything was the yummiest and most fresh veggies and fruit I’ve ever eaten! 

When we got close to the moshav, every few minutes we would see people at home or on the street that Yoram, Shoshy, and Benny knew from when they were younger.  Even when we stopped in a small grocery store for shoko (chocolate milk), they saw five people they knew and hadn’t seen in decades. 

That afternoon, we went around the moshav and at one of the houses, I met a dog that I fell in love with…I have never felt this way about a dog before! 

It was really humbling to see where Yoram grew up and it felt like going back in time because the houses and yards seemed so outdated.

We also visited the cemetery where everyone in the moshav is buried, including Yoram’s grandmother.  This was a really powerful experience for me because Yoram, Shoshy, and Benny knew pretty much every person buried in the cemetery.  Most of them were young when they died and the majority of deaths were from tragic accidents like drowning, being run over by a tractor, or killed while serving the IDF.  It’s hard for me to imagine growing up in a place where your neighbors are as meaningful to you as your family and they can be taken away at any moment.

We had lunch at Sarah and her husband’s house on a neighboring moshav (I’m blanking on her husband’s name right now).  I believe they used to live in the states but now live here and they are such a nice family.  Yoram went to school with Sarah’s husband and they told stories about all of the shenanigans they used to get into with their friends.

Tuesday night, Tomer and I went out to some bars in Tel Aviv while the adults went Israeli folk dancing.  We only spoke in Hebrew and it was a great bonding time for us.

Wednesday was wedding day so we slept in and then hung out and ate (of course) and Tomer and I waited for Leah (Leeyah) to arrive.  She only had one class on Wednesday and I had told her about how amazing the henna was (she was originally supposed to come with me), so she skipped her Thursday classes, took three buses, and came to the wedding!  It was really nice to have a familiar English-speaking face.   It actually felt weird hearing and speaking English even after only a few days of not having it. 

The wedding was so much more than I ever could have imagined!  There were about 500 people there and guests were supposed to start arriving at 19:30 and the ceremony was supposed to start at 20:30.  Of course, neither of these occurred and the ceremony didn’t start until around 21:15.  Even though we got there around 19:30, we still had plenty to do!  There were tons of appetizers including food from all over the world and it was obviously all kosher. 

The venue was two huge rooms of a tented area and there were at least two other weddings of comparable size going on at the same time!  The ceremony took place in the same room as the hors d’oeuvres.  An aisle led down to a stage where the chupah was and instead of sitting, everyone just crowded around the aisle.  After Asaf and Liat walked down (each accompanied by both parents), everyone then crowded around the stage and some family members even went on to the stage.  The ceremony only took about ten minutes and throughout it, people were talking, taking selfies, and eating—everything that would never fly in the states.  On that note, men were dressed in jeans while some women wore full-length ball gowns.  If this were a wedding in the states, it would have been a black tie affair, but because it’s Israel, anything goes. 

After the ceremony, everyone moved to the next room which was basically a huge dance floor surrounded by tons of tables.  We had a few courses here but pretty much just danced the whole night.  Yoram’s video for Liat and Asaf debuted (he and his siblings made a super cute video for the newlyweds and Yoram worked really hard on it).

On Thursday we went to Gan Yavne where Tamar lives.  Tamar had made sfenj which are Moroccan-Israeli donuts that kind of resemble beignets.  They are so good dipped in sugar.  Asaf and Liat came to the house with some of their neighbors/friends and we ate leftovers from the wedding for lunch.  That day was also Shoshy’s birthday so we went out to dinner later that night. 

On Friday we went back to Gan Yavne again to help Tamar prepare for Shabbat.  It was held in a community center/boarding school that resembled a kibbutz.  We had to bring out bed frames, mattresses, blankets, sheets, and pillows and make beds for all of the people who would be staying the night there because they don’t travel on Shabbat.  The caterer (a cousin) arrived with the food for the weekend and we helped bring it in and separate what was going to be for Friday and Saturday.  After, we took some of the fish balls to Tamar’s house and had lunch there. 

Soon after, everyone started getting ready for Shabbat.  There were services before dinner and they were orthodox, of course, so I went for a little with Liat and some other women but since we had to sit outside, not even inside but separated, from the men, it was pretty boring and we couldn’t hear/see anything.  The men quickly left also because apparently it was very hot inside the shul.  Shabbat dinner was great and after everyone chilled out and played games.  Saturday followed pretty much the same suit except during services everyone threw candy at Asaf.  Later in the afternoon I helped clean up the main room of the center where we had been celebrating.


That night, we went to see Omer’s (Benny’s son) soccer game.  He is on Maccabee Petah Tikvah and they were playing Ashdod.  Even though the game ended in a 0-0 tie, it was really fun to watch Omer play because he is very talented.

Right after the game, I barely made my bus to Jerusalem that got me into the station just in time to catch the last light rail train back to campus.  It was so good to see my friends and it felt weird to speak/hear English!

 

The semester actually starts:

The next morning, Leah and I went to campus and set up our usernames and I figured out the readings I had to do for my classes.  We also went to the gym, of course, and I spent the rest of the day catching up on homework and chatting with my friends.

On Monday I finally had my first day of classes, which went well.  Hebrew is much slower now compared to ulpan, which is at once refreshing but more boring.  My favorite class is called “Jewish Experiential Education” where we learn about techniques of Jewish education, what works and what doesn’t, etc.  It’s really interesting and the professor is great.  I’m enjoying my other classes as well which is a class on marriage and sexuality in ancient Judaism (the professor has cousins who live in Highland Park!), and a class on Maimonides that meets for four hours once a week.  The Maimonides class is very long and it’s at night but the subjects we talk about are interesting.

I got into a program called BJE Lainer Interns where I have an internship this semester in Israel, an internship in Boston senior year of college, and then after college they help me find a job in the Jewish world.  My internship here is with URJ and NFTY and I’ll be making educational materials for the students who come to Israel with NFTY to use so potentially thousands of people will be utilizing what I create!  This program also has some seminars so for example, next Thursday night we (the six other students at Hebrew U in the program and I) are going to a seminar in Jerusalem.  I’m not exactly sure what it is about but I’ll find out!  Also, next February in D.C. they pay for us to go to a seminar with everyone as well.

Purim:

Two weeks ago (my first week of classes) was Purim so I only had two classes!  We didn’t have class on Thursday so on Wednesday night the people in our program that didn’t go to Tel Aviv went to Abraham Hostel in the city where they had a “silent headphones party.”  Instead of a DJ playing music, when we walked in to the dance area, it was completely silent!  Once we got the big pairs of headphones we were able to hear the music, and while it was an interesting experience, I think I prefer a regular DJ dance party.  That night, Mikki, Leah, and I dressed up as “80s girls” and basically wore high socks, high ponies, and leggings. 

On Thursday, I had the amazing opportunity to go to army bases and give out mishlach manot to soldiers with “Thrive,” a program at Rothberg with supplemental activities for its members (I am not one, but I was a guest).  We went to two different bases with 500 goodie bags and a musician with a guitar.  We gave out the packages to the soldiers, sang and danced with them, and talked to them about their lives.  It was an incredible experience and was very fulfilling.  That night, I dressed up as Princess Leia and we went to one of the student centers to hear the megillah reading.  After, there was a huge party at the first train station for all of the students in Jerusalem.  It was basically like a grown-up bar mitzvah party and it was a blast!  Everyone from entire program was there and the music was great. 

The next morning, Katie, Abi, Leah, planned to wake up early to go to Tel Aviv because there was a Purim street party that afternoon there.  Fortunately, we woke up an hour late and right as we were about to leave for the light rail, found out that a terrorist attack had happened two stops from us.  It was a little scary because of the proximity to us, but we just took a bus instead to the central train station.  For the street party in Tel Aviv, we dressed up as “flower children/hippies” and found our way from the hostel to the parade.  Everyone who lived anywhere remotely close to Tel Aviv, and everyone is Tel Aviv was there!  There were so many people and it kind of reminded me of Lollapalooza.  There was a big stage and different DJs but there were all playing EDM music, which I am not that into.  Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day and we loved walking around the city.  

On Friday night, two of the soldiers who were on Leah’s birthday trip and some of their friends took us to a club in Tel Aviv because we aren’t really sure where to go.  The venue was great and so was the atmosphere except it was 70s night!  All of the music was 70s music so again, I was less than impressed with the music.  We still danced and had a lot of fun though, and it was nice to not be in such a touristy, American place. Saturday the weather was in the 80s and sunny so we went to the beach.  It was the perfect ending to the weekend. 


Settling in:

This past week was my first full week of classes so I am finally starting to get the hang of it.  On Sunday night we had the opportunity to hear from a speaker at one of the student centers.  He is in the elite counterterrorism unit in the IDF and is also an educator and came in full uniform.  After showing and explaining to us all of his weapons, he talked about his personal life.  He runs a program for special needs people who come to Israel in the mornings and in the afternoons he is studying to become a rabbi.  He told us stories about some of his experiences with terrorists and he talked about how the media portrays him this man slaughterer, whereas the terrorists who are killing civilians are referred to as “freedom fighters.”  I can tell you more about this experience if you ask/desire but it was very emotional and now we have the opportunity to go to his base and Tuesday and learn krav maga with him!

Monday night, Leah, Mikki, and I went to the old city because there was a music festival called “Sounds of Jerusalem.”  Stages were set up all over the old city in all of the quarters and different types of music and bands played each night from Monday through Thursday. 

The rest of the week was pretty normal and I’ve settled in to my classes. 

On Thursday after our last class, Mikki, Lily, Leah, and I went again to the old city to find one of the best hummus bars in Jerusalem—Lina.  The hummus was one of the best I’ve had and their falafel was also top notch.

On Friday night, the three aforementioned girls and I got placed into an orthodox person’s house for Shabbat dinner by one of the student centers.  We met the father of the family at the kotel and then walked with him to his house in Jerusalem.  He and his wife have seven kids and just had a baby seven weeks ago (although you could never tell by looking at his wife).  The four of us were not the only guests that night—they had another orthodox family over with whom they are neighbors, three girls who are in a gap year in seminary, and at least four other guests who all had random connections to the family.  The food was amazing and never-ending but the atmosphere was really the best.  The family made us feel so welcome and at home.  They even invited us back for Passover seder!  While we walked there from campus, we didn’t leave their house until around 23:45 so we took a cab back (no public transportation on Shabbat).

Yesterday, Saturday, Leah and I worked out for over two hours! (One hour lifting arms, 15 minutes of cardio, one hour lifting legs)  I am sore today but in a few minutes I’m going to the gym again before meeting someone who works at one of the student centers to “learn.”  Basically, I am enrolled in a program called “dollars for learning” where you meet once a week for one-on-one learning about whatever topics you want, go to the speakers on Sundays (like the counterterrorism person), and go to seminary once a month, and at the end of the semester, you get a stipend of money.  Tonight’s speaker is going to be absolutely incredible and emotional as well—Racheli Frenkel, whose son Naftali (one of the three boys kidnapped and murdered this summer) is coming to speak to us.

 

Exciting things happening soon:

At the beginning of Passover break in two weeks, I am going on a three-day hike with the student organization at Rothberg all across Israel called “Yam l’yam” (sea to sea). 

After the first night of Passover, Leah and I (Mikki is meeting us) are traveling to Amsterdam, Prague, and Budapest.

At the end of April, I am going to Poland with Leah, Lily, and others with the student organization that hosts the Sunday night speakers and the “dollars for learning” program.

I will try to check back in sooner next time!

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<![CDATA[New rooms and new food]]>Mon, 09 Feb 2015 16:32:59 GMThttp://leahbayle.weebly.com/blog/new-rooms-and-new-food Apologies for not writing for so long!  It has been a crazy week and a half but one of the highlights was finally moving apartments.  I am writing this from new room with new and normal roommates on the top floor of the building next door to my old building.  The majority of my friends are also in this building, which is super convenient, and while my new apartment isn’t technically kosher, it is vegetarian, which is basically the equivalent.  This is not a problem for me because the only time I really eat meat is for dinner, which we cook in one of my friend’s apartments together.  Also, my roommates said I could feel free to bring meat into our kitchen.

With that aside, I’ll recap what has happened since this the last time I checked in.

The “practical tour” of Jerusalem on Wednesday was very informative because Gilad (a madrich) showed a group of about ten of us his personal favorite spots in Jerusalem including a very quaint coffee shop hidden in an alley and a hole in the wall waffle place.  It was very cold and threatened rain the whole time we were walking but luckily it didn’t.  The tour ended with all of the smaller groups gathering together in a bar/club in a hotel called “HaMakom,” (literally “the place” in English) which Ira, the program coordinator told us was a fun and safe place to go to at night (more on this later). 

It was around 6pm and we were getting hungry so we asked Ira his recommendations for a place to go to dinner.  We chose a restaurant down an alley off of Jaffa Street that had a great vibe called “Eldad Vezehoo.”  The menu was grouped by price from around 15 nis up to 50 nis and there was not one bad dish on the menu.  I got a yummy chicken dish (I’m finally starting to get used to this). 

The next day, I found out that I could switch rooms the next week on Tuesday, which was very exciting and relieving news.  After ulpan, we went to the gym.  I need to take a moment to talk about the gym here because anyone who is reading this knows how much I love to work out.

I am very fortunate to have such an amazing gym a five-minute walk away from my dorm, especially after what I’ve heard from other friends abroad.  The gym has great weightlifting equipment and I am lucky to have friends who also are obsessed with working out who are teaching me new things and challenging me!  (On Saturday Leah and I lifted weights for an hour and trust me, I feel it now.)  There are also good ellipticals and the view from the treadmills is of the old city and the Dome of the Rock.  I also am still getting used to all of the Israeli men shamelessly staring at us as we work out and getting cat called every time we walk to and from the gym.  This would never fly in the States, but here there really aren’t lines about sexual harassment.

To continue with what happened last Thursday, after the gym, we made breakfast for dinner and then went out to Ben Yehuda street.  We went to the same club as the previous Tuesday but it was not as fun as before because there were many more people including creepy Israeli guys.  They did not really get the hint that we didn’t want to dance with them and we had to make a new dance move that was basically using our elbows to create a bubble.  We left after a little while and since we had ulpan the next day at 09:00 , we took a bus back to campus around midnight.  The buses recently started running until 02:00 which is extremely convenient and cheap. 

After ulpan, a couple of us went to the shuk to get food for Shabbat.  Since we went right at the very end of the day and caught the last train back around 16:00, it was super crazy.  I think I prefer the shuk on Fridays (even though it is harder to get everything you need easily) because of the atmosphere and the liveliness.  

After we got back from the shuk, Lily and I went to the gym before making Shabbat dinner.  We invited some friends over and had a great meal.  The next morning, Lily and I went to the gym again (are you sensing a theme here?) and then made Shabbat brunch with basically the same people as the night before.  After that, we did laundry for the first time, which was quite an experience.  In the end, it only took about an hour and our clothes are clean now which is all that matters.  

For the rest of the day, we did homework and hung out.  It was difficult going back to ulpan at 09:00 the next day after only a one-day weekend but we did it begrudgingly and with coffee.  It was around this time that I started to feel a little under the weather but I didn’t really let it bother me.  After ulpan, we went to town to finally get Rav Kavs (which took a very long time because it’s Israel) and then we went to do some food shopping for the week at the shuk which is so much easier than on Fridays.  We were there around dinnertime so we went to this incredible fish and chips place right in the middle of the shuk.  That night at 01:00 was the Super Bowl and I had gone to sleep at 20:00 so I could wake up at midnight to go to a viewing party near campus, but I was way too tired and had been starting to feel sick so I didn’t end up going.

The next morning, I woke up feeling pretty under the weather.  After ulpan, I went back to my room and basically napped the rest of the day.  I had planned to pack up my room for the move and to go to kickboxing with my friends, but I just didn’t have the energy.  I went to bed very early in the hopes that I would feel better the next day, but I didn’t. 

Even though I was very sick, I still went to ulpan on Tuesday because there is no way I could have missed one of the five-hour days.  Although I’m trying to be less uptight here (I swear!) we learn an extreme amount each day and I had to go.  Luckily, for forty-five minutes we had a song session with an Israeli music teacher.  I felt like I was back in Sunday School/at OSRUI again!  It was a much-needed break from ulpan and it was great to hear familiar songs.  

After ulpan, I napped again, but then had to gather my strength to pack so I would be ready to move the next day.  Even though the room was technically ready on Tuesday, because of the convoluted hours of Rothberg, I couldn’t move in to my room until the next day.  Some of my friends went out to the shuk at night because it was Erev Tu’Bshvat and there were rumors of parties there but it turns out there were none.  They still had fun and I was sad I didn’t go but it was more important that I slept to feel better.

On Wednesday during one of the breaks of ulpan Hillel sponsored a Tu’Bshvat get-together with the traditional dried fruit (that I have been eating everyday anyway) and burekas.  Right after ulpan, there was a meeting about class registration, which got everyone more tuned-in to real life and the fact that we actually have to study here soon.  Rothberg cancelled one of the classes I was planning to take with absolutely no explanation, so I am still figuring out how my schedule is going to come together.

After ulpan, I moved rooms, which went very smoothly.  Since I had been cooped up in my room feeling sick for a while, I went for a quick visit to the shuk with a few people to grab some fresh groceries.  When we got back, we went to an all-girls sushi-making night at one of the student centers here.  There are many different student organizations attached to Rothberg and Hebrew U that are all somewhat like mini-Hillels.  They each have a few events each week with free food, interesting lectures, or fun trips.  I went to bed very early again on Wednesday night to feel better.

On Thursday I finally woke up feeling much better.  During ulpan, we took a tour of Hebrew U conducted entirely in Hebrew.  It was very interesting and a great break from nonstop class.  We learned that Albert Einstein founded the university and that it was the first college to have classes entirely in Hebrew.  One of the buildings on campus has my last name in Hebrew as part of it so I have to look into this to find out more information.  

After Ulpan, there was a meeting about internships for the semester.  The internships are eight hours a week plus two to four hours of travel time, and I would get no credit from Tufts.  There is only one internship that looks like it would fit me, but I do not think that going through the process is going to be worth it and I can find other ways to fill this time in a meaningful way.  After the meeting, I finally felt well enough to go to the gym.

On Thursday night, we went out to the city because we finally didn’t have class on Friday.  We first went to the club that Ira had endorsed; on the way there, we actually bumped into him because apparently he works a second job as a security guard at a bar.  When we walked into “the place” there were only a handful of people there and it did not look that fun so we left immediately and went to a different bar called “Habibi.”  It had a pretty good atmosphere and I met a boy who is studying at Yeshiva here for four years.  He is Orthodox and didn’t understand that women could be Conservative or even Reform rabbis (let alone Orthodox too!).  We had an interesting conversation because he had such different views.  After a little while there, we were bored and wanted to try the “hole in the waffle” place as I call it.  I got half a waffle with dark chocolate and banana and the other half with coffee whipped cream and crushed oreos.  It was all amazing but the coffee half was definitely the winner.

The next morning, we went to the shuk to get food for Shabbat/the week.  Since the Israeli elections are coming up, there was some sort of political demonstration (we deduced it to be for the labor party) and someone famous (not exactly sure who) was there.  After we got back from the shuk, we went to the gym.  That night, there were many big potlucks taking place throughout the kfar (village where the dorms are) and my friends and I went to our friend Dalit’s room with some of the girls who are in the dance program.  We had a delicious and relaxing Shabbat dinner. 

Dalit’s room is in the building next door to where I live, so we were walking back after and were on the ground floor about to get on the elevator to go to our rooms when we heard the birkat being sung loudly.  We could tell exactly which room it was coming from, and after debating for a few seconds whether we should go in to join them or not, we decided why not?  We pushed the door open and found about twenty of our fellow study abroad students ending their meal.  We sang along to the birkat with them and it was almost the exact version we used to sing at OSRUI that I haven’t heard in many years.  When the song ended we said hi to everyone but then quickly dispersed as to not fully crash their Shabbat. 

That night was the birthday of one of the girls in the dance program so we were invited to her room to hang out after dinner.  What started as a handful of girls in her room quickly turned into basically everyone on our entire program packed like sardines in the cramped common room.  Because everything is closed on Fridays and most people had not gone out of town, everyone had found out that there was something happening in this apartment.  However, the music was not loud enough and no one was dancing so my friends and I left.  Apparently right after we left, it became more fun because they instituted a “dance or get out” rule and found speakers.  Needless to say, I was tired and still getting over being sick so I went to bed. 

On Saturday we went to the gym in the morning and then made a yummy brunch.  We did homework and vegged out for a little before walking to the kotel just in time for sunset.  (I didn’t wear Converse this time, don’t worry!)  We finished visiting just as the third star was visible in the sky, and even though we were hungry, the restaurants weren’t open yet.  We walked through Mamila—the very expensive, upscale part of Jerusalem with foreign stores (think Old Orchard mall).  We found an Aroma there that was already open somehow and sat for a little while to warm up and wait for the restaurants to open again.  Leah and I shared sachlav—a warm, thick milk-like drink that is on the menu of every coffee shop in Israel. It is hard to explain, but basically it is like a warm milk smoothie with coconut and nuts.  After the Aroma stop, we found our way over to the famous soup place--“Hamarakiah” (literally “the soup place”).  We were the first ones there at 7pm and they told us the soups wouldn’t be ready for a little while so we got delicious tea and the first real hummus I’ve had here.  They also had homemade pesto, which was amazing.  Our orders were split between sweet potato and cauliflower soup.  I got the cauliflower, which had a very interesting flavor and a little kick at the end.  The vibe of the restaurant was one-of-a-kind—none of the furniture or dishware matched, and it just added to the homey atmosphere. 

It was a great weekend, and we returned to ulpan on Sunday morning ready to start the week!  We learned an immense amount yesterday in class with the teacher I prefer.  After Ulpan, I studied for the huge exam that I had today (Monday).  It was on everything we have learned thus far and it was an example of what the level test that we will take at the end of ulpan will be like.

On Sunday night, one of the student centers got tickets for some of us to go to a Jerusalem basketball game in a box so we took advantage of the opportunity.  (I went even though I had an exam the next day, part of me trying to be less uptight.)  We took a private bus to the stadium, which was only about a half hour away. 

When we got to the floor where the boxes were, we could see into all the other boxes we walked past because the doors were open.  One of the boxes was filled entirely with male Israeli soldiers in uniform.  My new friend Sarah is very bold, so she walked in to their box with Leah and me trailing behind.  We were told that they had just come from the field but we talked to some of the soldiers for a few minutes and then reported back to our box with the news of who was down the hallway.  Almost immediately, all of the girls in our box made their way over to the box with the soldiers to talk to them.  It was very funny to watch and eventually most of the girls went back to our personal box.  Jerusalem won the game, and it was a fun night out.

Today, I took my exam in ulpan, which was not that difficult.  Tonight, we are going to kickboxing class (I am so excited!) and then going to make dinner.  This Wednesday there is a wine and chocolate tour at a local kibbutz run through one of the student centers.   Then on Thursday a bunch of us are going to Tel Aviv for the weekend because it is Lily’s birthday.

I’ll check back in soon!

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<![CDATA["Kickboxing" in the apartment]]>Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:05:08 GMThttp://leahbayle.weebly.com/blog/kickboxing-in-the-apartment Sorry I haven’t updated the blog in so long!  Since ulpan got into full swing I’ve had much less free time.  Luckily, today we don’t have ulpan (but this means we have it on Friday at 09:00 which is not fun). 

Last Friday, we went to the shuk for the first time and it was packed!  All of the food there is the freshest I’ve tasted in my life and we all stocked up on veggies, fruits (fresh and dried), and nuts to pack our lunches for ulpan.  We also went to a grocery store near by to get other food like yogurt and hummus. 

After, we went back to campus and prepared for Shabbat.  I went to services beforehand with about twenty other people but it was very conservative.  While it was good to have some kind of davening because I haven’t gone to services in over six weeks, I do feel like I need to find a different kind of service around campus or lead my own. 

After services, everyone joined together for Shabbat dinner, where the food was very similar to what we usually have at home for Shabbat dinner.  For the rest of the night, we hung out in different friend’s rooms in the dorms because most places in  the city were closed and there is no public transportation.

On Saturday, we slept in and then walked along the light rail (it doesn’t run on Saturdays) to the kotel.  It was a gorgeous, warm day but we had to wear long skirts and sweaters because of the areas in which we were walking.  The walk there was about an hour and a half long and wearing converse was a very bad choice—I have a huge blister on my heel now and can barely wear closed-heeled shoes. 

For part of the walk, to our left were Arab neighborhoods and to our right were Jewish neighborhoods; but we felt safe regardless.  In the week that I’ve been in Israel, there hasn’t been one moment where I haven’t felt completely safe and at ease. 

We met some other friends from our program at the kotel and around the old city because everyone had the same idea of walking there.  I said kaddish for Ronnie’s husband at the kotel and then we walked back through the Arab stores (the only places that are open on Saturdays).  I got amazing fresh-squeezed pomegranate and orange juice as fuel for the walk back. 

After we got back to the dorms we made shakshouka for dinner.  It was one of my friend’s birthdays so a bunch of us went out to celebrate with her and we went to two different bars.  As per usual, I saw my camp friends and other people on our program. 

On Sunday, we had our second ulpan and I talked to the head of housing about switching rooms but she said that I would have to come back on Thursday because there were no rooms open at the time.  However at this point, I thought that living in my current apartment might have been ok—little did I realize I was completely wrong.

The drama with my non-American roommates started on Sunday night when Danielle (one of my American roommates and a very nice person) got into a riff with the two non-Americans (Cassi and Mercedes) because they were not cleaning their dishes at all and were making a mess everywhere. 

On Monday, we made a Whatsapp group for our apartment so we could discuss a time to meet to talk about the cleanliness issues, Shabbat issues, etc, but Cassi and Mercedes said they were too busy to meet even for five minutes.  Danielle, Taylor (the other American roommate who is really nice) and I decided to have the meeting without them, but Cassi actually came, and then Mercedes joined us. 

At first, we tried to talk about having a 24-hour rule for dishes, how to divvy up the cabinet space fairly, and implementing a chore chart.  Cassi and Mercedes were not very responsive and stayed firm on their view that because they are in the midst of finals and having been living here for a year, they do not need to compromise and try to accommodate everyone in the apartment like the Americans were trying to do. 

The “discussion” then turned extremely ugly when Mercedes said that everyone had to keep kosher and shomer Shabbos or else we had to leave.  Mercedes and Cassi both told me that I wasn’t religious enough, which is one of the worst insults I have ever received.  I know that it shouldn’t matter what they think of me, but I cannot help feeling hurt by their harsh words. 

They also told us about their French roommate last semester who watched a movie in her room on a Saturday and how it was the worst experience for them.  I asked them how they would be affected if I’m in my room on a Saturday on my phone, and explained that I am not that French girl.  Danielle, Taylor, and I managed to stay calm for the most part and they defended me.  Cassi and Mercedes on the other hand were screaming at all of us and literally pointing fingers.  At one point, Cassi admitted that she wanted all three of us to leave.

There was also an issue because their program (not study abroad) told them that this apartment was shomer Shabbos, where as Rothberg told us it is not.  In the end, we decided to go to our separate offices the next morning so they could help us sort out who needs to move and to where because it was clear that the five of us are not capable of living together.

As many people have pointed out to me, Cassi and Mercedes may look Jewish, but they do not seem to embody any Jewish values at all, which to me is the most important part of Judaism and calling yourself Jewish. 

The next morning before ulpan, Danielle, Taylor, and I told Ira (the program coordinator) about every detail of the previous night and the other interactions we’d had with Cassi and Mercedes.  He said that he would do the best he could to fix the situation but something might not happen until the end of ulpan (roughly three weeks from now). 

The only upside to this is that in a week, Cassi and Mercedes are leaving for three weeks for their school break.  In the meantime, we may have to have a mediated meeting with one representative from each “side” so that we are capable of living together for the next week.

I am actually going to go back to the head of housing tomorrow by myself to see if there will be non-kosher housing available just for me.  I talked to Danielle and Taylor about this and although I really like them and would feel terribly for leaving them in this situation, I realized that this is my only semester abroad in my life and I need to do what is best for me right now. 

I don’t want to be scared to go into my apartment or leave my room, and I would really just prefer to get out of this toxic situation sooner rather than later.  I also don’t think living in non-kosher housing would be an issue because it is hard to even find non-kosher food in Jerusalem, and if other people want to mix meat and milk they can do so; it doesn’t affect me.

If this housing situation were the worst thing to happen during my time in Israel, it would be ok.  I would rather get the hard part out of the way and then become settled so I can have an amazing time here. 

With this situation aside, everything else is going really well.  We took a kickboxing class on Monday, which was so much better than I ever could have expected!  There were no punching bags and the instructor was an Israeli woman with an insane amount of energy and an incredible, muscular body.  It was an awesome workout (only comparable to spinning) and I definitely have found my spin replacement in Israel.  Every other song was in Hebrew or English and it was very upbeat, club-type music.  It is definitely going to become a staple in my workout routine here!

On Tuesday, we went to the shuk before ulpan.  It was a completely different experience than on Friday because it was pretty much empty.  For this reason, I was able to practice my Hebrew more (which after only four days of ulpan I can already see a huge improvement), and we were able to get everything we needed in a timely fashion.  It did lack the spirit that was there on Friday.  On Friday, I felt like I wanted to memorize every smell and taste and feel of the shuk and the city of Jerusalem as a whole.  Luckily, we are going back today for the tour with Rothberg and again on Friday after ulpan ends at 13:00. 

We went out last night because we didn’t have ulpan today and we went to a club where there was actually dancing!  They played all popular American music and it felt amazing to just sing and dance crazily with my friends.  It was the perfect way to blow off steam after a stressful day with the housing debacle.  We were pretty much the only Americans there (it usually is a popular spot for Birthright teens but it is off-season now), and it could not have been more obvious.  We didn’t care at all, however, and had a blast. 

After, we walked around to different bars and surprise—ran into my camp friends and other people from our program.  We also met some people from the states who were on their gap year.  Some of them were from Chicago and of course we played Jewish geography and had many mutual friends. 

This morning, we slept in, and are going in the afternoon to the city with the madrichim, which will hopefully be very helpful.  Although at this point, we have already gotten much better at navigating the city with the help of an app called “Moovit” that gives you the bus and train schedules and clear directions about how to get anywhere you desire.

Now, I have to do my homework and study for a test I have tomorrow but I’ll be back soon.

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<![CDATA[Sun-Thurs]]>Fri, 23 Jan 2015 08:45:03 GMThttp://leahbayle.weebly.com/blog/sun-thurs You may be wondering why this post is titled “Sun-Thurs” when I haven’t been in Jerusalem for that long yet.  The reasoning behind it is because my new friends and I just found out that not only is EVERYTHING closed on Saturday (the gym, the entire campus including the library, the buses, etc), but many of these are closed on Friday as well. Even though Friday and Saturday here are equivalent to the American weekend, it is entirely different because you pretty much cannot do errands on these days.  But let me back track a little to how we came to this conclusion (that should be advertised more in my opinion).

Yesterday was filled with ups and downs (mostly ups so that is good).  Also, even though we have only had one full day in Israel, it feels like we’ve been here for weeks.  On Thursday morning before Ulpan, my friend Jordan and I (the one who I was supposed to switch rooms with) walked to campus (a ten to fifteen minute walk depending how long it takes to get through security) to do some errands.  We talked to the head of the housing department and she was completely ok with us switching rooms.  We did some more errands and got lost around the Hebrew U campus.  We are both from smaller schools (she goes to Brandeis) and are not used to such a large campus with 30,000 people.  It is especially hard to know where you’re going without any tours or instructions!  After, we headed to Aroma, which is halfway between the student village and campus, to meet our friends Heather and Leah (pronounced Leeyah!) for brunch.  The weather has been amazing lately--sunny with no clouds and in the upper 60s F--so we sat outside in the sun and watched cats jumping up on the tables to eat leftover food scraps.

Then we walked back to Rothberg (aka campus) and found a cheaper store to buy some necessities like toiletries that we couldn’t get on the first day shopping trip.  Ulpan went by super quickly because it was only three hours split in the middle by a half-hour break.  Next week it will be longer but that's a differnet story.  I’m in one of the advanced aleph classes and although pretty much all of yesterday was a review, I think that it will be a good place for me right now. During the break, I found my friend Alyssa and we went outside to talk and look out at Jerusalem.  Because the campus is on a hill, we have an amazing view (although I’m not sure of what exactly—it may be Arab neighborhoods as we are surrounded by a lot of them).  Sometime during the break, we heard what sounded like fireworks but looked like light explosions down below where we watching.  The girls I was with all agreed that at home we would just think that they were fireworks, but here, in Israel, they probably weren't. 

After Ulpan, Jordan and I walked back to the student village to finalize our move with a different office but it closes at 15:00 every day! (It was 16:00 when we went.)  We decided to move and then just go in the morning (which wouldn’t have worked anyway because they are closed on Fridays too).  I was all packed up and Jordan had just finished bringing the last of her stuff over when she told me that she didn’t actually want to move and there was some miscommunication before.  I helped her bring her stuff back and then we both emailed Linda, the head of housing, to inform her that we wouldn’t be switching.  I told Linda that I still needed to move, but she hasn’t emailed me back.  When we tried to go to campus this morning, we got to the security point and it was closed.  Apparently campus is closed all of Friday which is extremely inconvenient.  This also means that I have to stay in my current room for Shabbat which I am not happy about because it means I have to deal with my roommates either freaking out because I’m using electricity (which might be a good thing in my case to move) or me trying to tip-toe around them which I really shouldn’t have to do.

The housing situation aside, last night was the most fun I’ve had so far in Jerusalem.  (Yes, I know it’s only been two days.)  Six of my friends and I went out to Ben Yehuda street which meant conquering the bus system.  Luckily, Lily was here over the summer and took the buses to work every day so she had some idea what we were doing and Google maps took care of the rest.  We went out to dinner where I was able to eat meat in a restaurant for the first time in a year, which was an experience I don’t want to take for granted.  After, we went to a small bar where everything was five shekels but we didn’t stay there for long because it was very crowded even though it was early.  We then went to a different bar where we could all sit down and talk.  We were the only Americans in the entire place and even though six out of the seven of us have brown, wavy hair and could try to pass as Israeli, our foreignness did not go unnoticed.  It is also very bizarre to see boys wearing kippot and tzit-tzit drinking, smoking, and dancing, but that’s Jerusalem.  We left around 23:30 because we were still all pretty tired and jet-lagged.  When we walked outside, we were shocked at the amount of people and the general party vibe of Ben Yehuda street.  Whoever said Tel Aviv is the only/best place for nightlife in Israel was very wrong!  It also helped that it was a Thursday night because it is basically like a Friday night in the states.  When we were walking to the bus stop to go home I ran into four of my camp friends from OSRUI, which makes it seem like a very small world.  We got on the bus back around 00:15 and were in our dorms around 00:45. 

It is now 10:30 on Friday morning and at 09:00 five of us took a failed “run” (aka we walked in athletic clothing) to campus only to discover it was completely closed.  Since then, I’ve talked to some of my friends at Tufts.  It turns out this is prime time because my friends are crazy and up at 02:00-03:00 on Friday morning.  In a half hour, my friends and I are meeting up again to go to the shuk to shop for food before Shabbat.  It is going to be super crowded but I think that will just add to the experience.  This also means we have to navigate the bus system again and we’re going to try to get rav kavs (Israeli bus passes).  Rothberg isn’t giving us a tour of Jerusalem and the bus/light rail system until next Wednesday, which is slightly inconvenient because we have to figure out everything now by ourselves.  

After we return from the city we’re going to get ready for Shabbat.  There is a dinner tonight that everyone is going to and I’m going to try to find people that will go to services with me beforehand.  Also, this afternoon people who went on the Bedouin trip are coming back so I’m excited to see my friends who went and hear all about it. 

Shabbat Shalom from Jlem
! 

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<![CDATA[Survival of the fittest]]>Wed, 21 Jan 2015 19:25:20 GMThttp://leahbayle.weebly.com/blog/survival-of-the-fittest I finally made it to Israel!  I have been going non-stop since 06:30 on Tuesday morning Chicago time, until now (13:30 Chicago time on Wednesday but 21:30 Jerusalem time).  I met some of the people traveling from Chicago before the official group flight from Newark.  I didn’t realize that there are so many different programs happening right now at the Rothberg School.  Many girls I’ve met are in the dance program and are dance majors at their respective schools.  There is also an art program, a Middle Eastern studies program, an honors program, a camp counselor program, and more (including the regular study abroad one which I am doing). 

Even though there are people from all over the U.S. and who go to so many different colleges, we all manage to have at least one friend or person in common because of Jewish geography.  I met some girls during the four hours when we were at the airport before the group flight that I seemed to click with and we are all living in separate places now but we are staying in touch.  I also sat next to the nicest girl who goes to Tulane on the plane to Israel and I have been hanging out with her a lot as well. 

Both flights were pretty uneventful.  (I had an aisle seat both times and on the flight to Israel there was no one in the middle seat.)  Right after we got off the plane in Tel Aviv, I got a notification on my phone from Ha’aretz that there had just been a terror attack in Tel Aviv but no one really cared.  The bus ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was pretty quick and everyone was surprised at how hot it was outside. 

When we got to campus, I realized that I was in a different building than most of the people I had become friends-ish with and I figured it was because I had requested kosher housing.  Somehow, I ended up in a suite with four girls who are all modern orthodox and keep shomer Shabbos (even though I specifically did not request this).  Two of the girls have been living in the apartment for the past semester alone and are from Spain and South Africa and are in the Mechina (preparatory program) so they are older.  Apparently, they had a third roommate but she moved out after they fought because she used her phone on Saturdays (among other reasons).  The other two girls go to Yeshiva University, went to a Jewish high school together, and have each lived in Israel for a least a year in the past already.

Tomorrow, I am going to talk to the head of housing about switching rooms for obvious reasons.  I’m going with my friend who wanted to be in my building but isn’t so we are going to see if the two of us can just switch ourselves. 

The rest of today happened as I thought it would and it was really nice meeting Danna.  Tomorrow we luckily don’t start Ulpan until 12:30 which is good because I have many things to take of in the morning including housing, food shopping, and getting a gym membership.  Ulpan ends at 16:00 and then some people are going on a Bedouin camping trip but I have elected to just stay here and settle in before Shabbat. 

I am exhausted and trying to get on the right sleep schedule so I will check back in soon.

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<![CDATA[Tomorrow in Jerusalem]]>Mon, 19 Jan 2015 21:32:46 GMThttp://leahbayle.weebly.com/blog/tomorrow-in-jerusalem
  This is it!  In less than twenty-four hours I will be on my way to Israel.  Two days ago the fact that I am actually leaving finally hit me and I have kind of been freaking out since then. 

It seems that everyone I know from school and home has gone abroad on a real program with their friends, and as independent as I may consider myself, I am very nervous about a few aspects of the beginning of my trip. 

Firstly, I am not on a study abroad program in the sense that it is not run through an American school or a provider—even though the program is through the Rothberg International School and we have four madrichim (counselors or RAs) living in the dorms with us.  On a similar note, because I have chosen Israel, the details about the schedule of the first few days barely exist and are apparently not important. 

Secondly, I am anxious about not knowing anyone at all and having to start from new in terms of friends.  I’m just going to have to trust that being myself (or a more normal version) will be enough to win over my fellow Judaism-obsessed juniors.

In addition, I have a packed schedule after I land in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning at 09:30—after we get to campus I have to meet Danna (Yoram’s niece) because she is giving me my Israeli SIM card and some shekels, I must take another Hebrew placement exam (for which I am actually grateful because I have learned/remembered more Hebrew since I took the exam last May), there is a walking tour of the Mount Scopus campus, I have to “financially register,” there is a general orientation that will cover aspects of the program from academics to security, and finally there is a shopping trip to a large (and expensive) mall in Jerusalem in order to get any products I may need.  If that isn’t enough, Ulpan starts the next morning (22-1-15) around 08:30. 

I’ll be sure to keep the blog updated after I arrive in Israel.  In the meantime, I’m going to try to enjoy my last few hours in the States with my family.
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