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!