Part 1: My Arrival in Israel
I arrived in Israel just under a week ago and am so happy to be here. Over the past year, I underestimated the significance of proximity to family and home community, and being near both has restored a layer of my being that had been temporarily absent.
Though the travel leading up to my overseas flight was a bit of a nuisance (delayed airplanes and a five hour layover at Newark), the Tel Aviv flight itself was perfection. I slept seven hours straight, and awoke to a delightful vegan Indian breakfast and a really great film called The Sapphires.
My arrival to Jerusalem was warmly and enthusiastically met by my parents and a handful of ‘welcome home!’ messages from friends and family. With surprisingly little jet lag, morning #1 had me up at 5:30 am and – rather than waste the day – I did an hour of yoga followed by a morning walk with my mom.
We were on a roll during our three-hour walk as we explored Gan Sacher (a major city park), checked out two local gyms and left notes for friends around town. I also entered super sleuth ninja mode and did my first ever B&E into my best friend’s house to leave a note and surprise on his kitchen table without being detected. (Granted, I fessed up to my minor misdemeanor about three minutes later in a text message and waited outside his door to say a proper hello. :-D)
All in all, life here has been good. I arrived just in time for the 2013 Jerusalem Pride celebration, an event uniquely customized to the local culture, rather than just another copy-paste of the more blatantly sex-infused Pride celebrations that appear in other parts of the world. I reconnected with dear friends from my winter trip and fell in love with my neighborhood and apartment.
I am living in Nachlaot, the part of Jerusalem that boasts the shuk and is a 15-minute walk from center of town, a 20-minute walk from the Old City, a 22-minute walk from my parent’s apartment and a 10-minute walk from the Central bus station. It’s pretty ideal, and I wasted no time in walking through the market and picking up the freshest mangos and produce yesterday to make copious amounts of mango lassi smoothies to bring to my Shabbat meals.
I especially love the apartment that I am subletting here for the next two months! My building is on a quaint and fairly low-traffic street that is still near the heart of everything, and I live on the very quiet top floor of my building. I have a spacious bedroom and a separate salon with couches, a kitchen, a bathroom and – perhaps the apartment’s best features – two balconies that offer stunning views of sunset and the city at night.
I met Chaim, my very friendly next door neighbor, and divine providence was already in play on move-in day as another neighbor, Chanan, rushed outside as soon as he heard my mom and I wrestling with our suitcases to welcome us and assist in carrying my bags up the flights of stairs to the top floor. (So kind!)
We were even serenaded upon arrival as there is a coffee shop across the street with live music. Unpacking to live acoustic tunes and singing from across the street added a nice element to my first evening and paved the way for an even greater surprise… A dear friend came over with the perfect house-warming gift: the best home-made hummus in town from the Old City, Bedouin bread and Malabi-filled baklava. YUM.
Even Shabbat surpassed expectations with my parents generously hosting eight guests for a welcome-home dinner, a Hassid stopping my friends (and others passersby on the street) to ask if anyone needed or wanted a Shabbat meal with his family, a lively Shabbat lunch with the Jewrotica-Israel team at my friend’s flat just three blocks away, and even the discovery of an incredible outdoor, song-focused Shabbat service at a beautiful garden. Nachlaot is seemingly the spiritual-friendly, hippie center of Jerusalem and it appears that I’ve chosen my neighborhood quite well.
I may decide to recreate elements of my Austin life here. For example, Hebrew University offers free Media Noche Cuban Salsa nights on Tuesdays and there is a local circus group in town. However, I am relishing the opportunity to do things a bit differently here and to fill in some of the missing pieces in my life. I have a meeting arranged with a local non-profit that runs two shelters for victims of domestic violence this coming week, and look forward to doing some meaningful high-level and interactive work for them.
Not many people have the opportunity to start over, to try on another country and another lifestyle essentially risk free. By maintaining my life in Austin but taking this season to seamlessly integrate back into friends and family in Jerusalem, I have been blessed with that opportunity. I am grateful for it and hopeful, too.
Continue Reading with “My Arrival in Israel & a Bit of July (Part 2)“…
posted by ayo