A Travellerspoint blog

Trip to Southern Israel

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My friend Karen and I did a whirlwind trip over the southern half of Israel over the last 4 days. First stop was Jerusalem. There we went to Yad Vashem and a biblical village exhibit which is outside of Jerusalem. Yad Vashem is the Holocaust museum in Israel. There are several exhibit buildings on the campus. The main one is long and triangular. The interior is ice cold with concrete walls creating a disorienting and uncomfortable environment fitting to the subject matter contained in the rooms which are off to the side. A narrow hallway runs through the center of the building but it is impossible to just walk straight through. To pass to the other side one must enter the room off to the side alternating left and right all the way down. Each room represents a year or country. In contrast to the dark pain represented inside, outside is a exhibit dedicated to those who made an effort to preserve life. Outside is a grove called the "Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations." Small trees line the pavement. Beside each tree is a small plaque with the name of an individual who at made an effort to rescue Jews.

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The biblical village display is set up like a mini city to give an idea of what life was like 2,000 or more years ago. It was fun walking through on our own and taking pictures of the lovely scenery but we should have scheduled a tour and I am sure we would have actually learned about what we were looking at.

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The next day we took a bus to Eilat where we stayed for the next three days. After a long ride through the Negev Desert, we arrived in Eilat where we stayed in an interesting little hostel. We bunked with 5 German girls and a vivacious woman named Leora who is originally from New York and made aliyah in May. Like me, she is on vacation from Ulpan only she is studying in Jerusalem. I had a wonderful time with Leora comparing thoughts on our teachers and where we are in the syllabus and commiserating over how challenging it is to grasp this language.

I also met a woman at the hostel who hiked the entire Israel Trail. The National Israel Trail is 600 miles long. It runs the entire length of the country over mountains, through the Negev Desert, past three seas, and winds through ancient landmarks and modern cities. I have met people who have biked or hiked segments of it but I couldn't believe I was actually talking to someone who completed all 600 miles! It took her and her husband 40 days of walking to complete it.

Eilat this time of year is blisteringly hot. The temperature hit 105 F while we were there. The sun feels closer in Eilat than anywhere else on the planet or at least anywhere I have ever been. I introduced Karen to snorkeling in the Red Sea so that kept us cool for most of the afternoon on Saturday.

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Five things I learned while traveling this week:
5) When it comes to packing less truly is more. If it is not necessary to bring that extra shirt then don't bring it. Well thought out packing can save your back while traveling by foot in the heat from point A to point B and make it easier to keep track of stuff when moving from place to place.
4) DO pack several granola bars. They can be a lifesaver when lethal hunger pains strike and you are in a bus in the middle of the desert!
3) It is possible to make 4 colorful ankle bracelets and listen to all of the music loaded on two iPods during the bus ride from Tel Aviv to Eilat.
2) Always, always, always print out the time table for the bus numbers on your route. This can save you from missing the last bus of the day by 1 minute (which happened to us in Jerusalem!!).
1) When in doubt always, always just go to the Central Bus Station.

Posted by Sarah 2116 13:33 Comments (4)

Current Randomness

Number of days in Israel so far this trip: 110
Number of Israeli's who have ever heard of St Louis: 2
Number of Israeli's who have heard of Chicago: Everyone (so now when someone asks me where I am from I just say "a city near Chicago". Go ahead and laugh but you probably had never heard of Petech Tikva either until you started reading my blog!)
Number of books I have acquired since arriving in Israel: 21
Number of books I have actually finished reading since arriving in Israel: 2
Number of pairs of earrings I have bought since arriving to Israel: at least 5
Number of Israeli hip hop artists I have discovered so far: 4
Number of cat's I have seen roaming the streets: 1 million (give or take a few)
Current spare time obsession: snorkeling!!
Current favorite Russian word: ee-sklu-chanya (exception)
Current favorite Hebrew word: b'emet (seriously)
Current favorite spot in Israel: the beach in Tel Aviv or Natanya
Current favorite place to study: Ilan's Coffee Shop
Currently listening to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikjiMbJIG8g&feature=PlayList&p=9B9B8EB66F26AAEA&index=2 (Insight into Israeli society from an Israeli)
Current goal: to climb Masada and hike the Israel Trail
Currently dreaming of: snow, skiing, ice cubes, the North Pole
Currently thinking the coolest invention would be: that contraption on Star Trek that beamed people from one place to another instantaneously
Currently needing: sleep
Currently reading: Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science

Posted by Sarah 2116 15:54 Comments (1)

The Grand Miscommunication

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I have a two week vacation from Ulpan. Half of it I already spent on babysitting the little munchkins of friends of mine while they were abroad for their wedding anniversary. I actually had more fun doing kid stuff than I thought I would. I came up with a theme for each of the 6 days I was there. We had art day (we spent 4 hours sculpting little animals, flowers, food and even a train out of clay which we then baked), game day, sugar day (we baked cookies and banana bread), park day (I bought them each a water gun and we spent 3 hours soaking each other), and beach day. The theme-less day was Shabbat and the kids grandparents came over so I guess you could say the theme of that day was visiting day. I found out that there is no difference in American kids and Israeli kids. Both enjoy interesting new and activities and get crabby before nap time. Their kids are perfectly bilingual so when the van had a flat tire I relied on the 8 year old to help me communicate to the Israeli mechanic (who did not speak a word of English) what my problem was.

The most challenging part was not caring for the children but finding ways to communicate with their grandmother who lives across the street. She speaks about as much English as I do Hebrew so we were a miscommunication waiting to happen. One day their grandma said that she would like to take me and the kids out somewhere for lunch. Then in the next breath she asked me if I had ever been to the Grand Canyon. I said no but I have always wanted to go. She told me she was shocked that I had never been there before. I told her that some day soon I would like to go to the Grand Canyon. Then she said ok, well how about we have lunch together tomorrow? I said sounds good to me. The next day she shows up with two taxi's to take us to lunch. I couldn't believe it since I had been driving my friend's mini van all week. I thought maybe she just didn't trust my driving. So I asked her where we were going. She said "To the Grand Canyon. You said you had never been there so you do not know the way." Now I was really confused but we all piled in the taxi's. Four minutes later we were standing outside the largest mall in Petech Tikvah. Mall in Hebrew is "canyon". Since it is the largest mall it is called "canyon hagadol" so, if you use half Hebrew and half English you get, you guessed it: the grand canyon!! My favorite spot to study is in that mall so I have been chuckling about that miscommunication ever since!

Posted by Sarah 2116 02:06 Comments (1)

Meet the Israeli

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The Babushka- Babushka is Russian for grandmother. About one million Russians have immigrated to Israel in the last one hundred years. Understandably, the older one is the more difficult it is to leave old ways behind and assimilate so their courage to come with their families at all is astounding. Babushka's are the ones with brightly colored flower print dresses with mismatched jewelry. They rarely learn enough Hebrew to get around so if they go out they are accompanied by a grandchild or one of their grown children. They can be seen sitting on benches in groups chatting in Russian.

The Ars- Ars is Arabic for punk. They are generally loud and aggressive. Their dark hair virtually glistens because of the amount of hair gel they used to spike it up. The grown up arseem at the market spend their day shouting across the booths of vegetables to their friend in the booth ten booths away or to their customers eyeing their fresh produce. Half of them have a cigarette dangling from their lips at all times.

The Frecha- The frecha is often seen accompanying the ars and is a factory made fashion girl wearing adjusted jeans, layers of make-up and all the latest accessories. Reality is skin-deep for the frecha and she may be seen walking down the street on high heels whilst chatting hysterically in Russian to her best friend – the cell phone.

The Soldier- The soldier carries a gun everywhere he goes including when he stops at the mall food court for a sandwich on his way to the base. He is either assigned to a dangerous top secret assignment or behind a desk somewhere where he counts the days that he can escape to India after his service.

The Jewish Mother- The Jewish mother holds the family together with her love and guilt trips. She makes sure to clean the house on Friday before Shabbat and prepare a masterpiece meal. She loves taking trips around Israel with her family or her friends. Being a good person and having Jewish grandchildren are two of her most important concerns.

The Hared- The Hared spends his life dedicated to prayer and the study of the Talmud. He wears glasses because he spends so much time bent over small biblical type. He and his wife have many children but he worries about the future of the Jewish race because he feels that to many Jews are becoming secular or intermarrying.

The Traveler- The traveler just returned from traveling the world. His goal was to get the army stress out of his system so he explored new lands, pondered local religious practices and most likely tested drugs. Now you can see him flipping burgers or serving coffee every evening or rushing to class in one of Israel's universities.

Posted by Sarah 2116 01:24 Comments (4)

I am here to learn Hebrew

but learning a little Arabic helps!

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Hebrew is the oldest surviving language that is still spoken, although, it did take a couple thousand years off of being regularly used. Miraculously, it was preserved through the Torah readings and prayers of Jews in the Diaspora. Finally in the 19th century the Zionistic movement recognized the need to revive Hebrew as a vernacular to unite and stabilize Jews who were coming to make Israel their home. Hebrew was reconstructed by Eliezer ben Yehuda. The new millennium prompted the invention of additional words in Hebrew like electricity and automobile. International words have been incorporated (like kilometer and cheque) into the language as well. Hebrew really doesn't have any slang or curse words. Not to be foxed by the limits of linguistics, the modern generation has borrowed Arabic slang.

Here is some of the most common of the clean Arabic slang I have learned so far:

Akla means great as in "that falafel is akla!"

Ars is a punk or for a gang it's arseem. Arseem are the guys with a bottle of gel in their hair, wearing gold chains and picking fights with people for looking at his girlfriend.

Balagan means mess. This is a complete catastrophe or tangled situation. Balagan is a good way to describe the state of your room, the relationship between you and a friend who are trying to sort out a misunderstanding or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sababa is Arabic for cool. When you find out you and your friend are going to the same party you might say "Sababa! So I'll see you there tonight."

Posted by Sarah 2116 14:54 Comments (8)

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