Monday, March 29, 2010

short and sweet

on my way to passover dinner but realized i hadn't posted in a while. just did my nails, hence i am typing letter by letter as to not mess up my nails. haha. had an amazing weekend in tel aviv, will post tomorrow- relaxed to the max. i promise i have some interesting updates and good stories.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dear Readers,

First of all, thank you for continuing with me on my journey thus far. It ain't over till its over [and I have a surprise that I will be revealing to you soon!!!] I would like to pose a challenge to you, my lovely readers. I have received so many emails about how my travels are making you all excited about the world and the endless possibilities that await you.

My challenge is this: this year, just once, do something completely and totally out of your comfort zone. (Switching ice cream flavors or parking spaces does not count!) Go outside yourself, engage with someone you never would have, plan a trip you've always wanted to take, ask someone what they really think about you, go skydiving. Whatever it is, do it for you- something you would have never dared to do. I challenge YOU, because sometimes when we live in our own worlds, we forget that there is something beyond it. I am reminding you that your life is what you make it. Now go, do something that will inspire you in ways you have yet to comprehend.

(and let me know how it goes)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

About A Year Ago

Reviewing past entries from my journal, I stumbled upon a specific entry that happened a little more than one year ago. It’s funny how time flies. It said...
“I finally figured out why sophomore year has been so tough. I’ve been trying to reconcile conflicting desires for months. Ever since I returned from Israel I’ve been having trouble readjusting to a life with limited traveling. I am happy, I know I am blessed but there is something missing; a challenge. Sometime that turns me on my head, forces me to question my existence, my surroundings and the essence of myself. I want to be in a new environment- scared, unsure, but ready for a new adventure.
I love life and all its beauty. Traveling makes me open my eyes to places, things and cultures I am unfamiliar with. Seeing Petra was mind-blowing, the most beautiful architecture in the Middle East. The Dead Sea, the Mediterranean at sunset. I love that life leaves me breathless, wanting more. Regardless, I had a realization today. Life is way too short to fight so hard. I finally joined my head and my heart and decided I am returning to the Middle East, ready to dive into the unknown.”
Diving deep- it's what I think I will always love.
Looking back to what seems like years ago, I realize that a) the most important thing in life is to follow your heart and b) this is absolutely what I am passionate about. This was an extremely difficult decision for me- to leave my family, friends, everything I was involved with and jump into what has become my life 'path' for lack of more appropriate term. I have been traveling since and not only has it become quite an expensive hobby, but my passion as well. I think it will be difficult for me now, not to experience another adventure, but rather to return to Gainesville. To go back now becomes the challenge.
Isn't it funny how life takes your challenges and turns them into the easy things. The things that were once easy become your new challenges. Recently, I have found this to be true with people in my life as well as general experiences.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And on the 7th Day...

It is midday. Everyone is scrambling from one stand to the next. Most women trail behind them metal wheely carts in which to deposit their purchased items. Bargaining is the game. These strawberries? How much? The freshest and the best is what everyone is searching for in this madness called the shook on these bustling Friday afternoons. Eggs, challah bread, cheese, vegetables are all being sold. All of it must be the very best to serve your family. You can always tell where to go…the stands with the most Israeli’s and the least amount of food left. Fresh white cheeses stacked on top of each other, olives floating in bins full of juicy olives of every color, the fresh vegetables plucked from the surrounding fields; bright purple eggplants, sun yellow, melony orange and forest green peppers all thrown in cardboard boxes displayed for all the customers to see. Today is Shabbat. Shabbat Shalom. My favorite day of the week. Around 3, the magic of Israel happens. The whole country, simultaneously, slows down. Stores begin to close, people cram on their last bus home, soldiers are in transport from their base to see their family. Slowly the silence sets in. The sun sets and everyone is home. After the five stars are visible in the sky, everything stops. Shabbat begins.
I am lucky enough to spend my Shabbat with Reut’s family- who have become my family here in Israel. They always welcome me into their home- her mother with lots of hugs and family time on the couch. We relaxed together, getting formalities of how the week went out of the way. Sitting down to dinner, Reut’s father and brother, who is 12 ½ and about to be barmitzvah-ed recited the prayers from the prayer books. We ate all the usual Shabbat salads, breads, and ended with grilled fish. Throughout dinner, Reut’s family encouraged me to practice my Hebrew, so I ended up telling her family my little stories. I felt like a 2nd grader writing a mini essay and probably sounded like one too. Sometimes it is really frustrating speaking another language. While I can usually communicate what I need, it is another thing entirely to communicate jokes, or a high level of expression. I couldn’t talk about philosophy or the current political situation, at least not to the extent I would like to participate. So, I listened and learned a slough of new words.
While letting our food settle, we tried on our dresses for her brothers’ barmitzvah in April and then got ready to go out to Tel Aviv. Picking up Ali, we proceeded to get embarrassingly lost in Tel Aviv. One thing worth noting, in Israel the road signs are completely unhelpful. Next to the pedestrian crossings and tiny- it is impossible to read them while driving. Trying to find parking was interesting in and of itself. Never ever try to find parking in Tel Aviv on the weekend. Throughout this driving disaster, we began talking about Israeli politics and the Israeli view of outsiders, specifically of non-Jews. My friend says to me, “When people ask you if you are Jewish, it’s because they want to know if they can trust you. So immediately I question her; “wait, when people ask me if I am Jewish and I say no, they automatically trust me less?” she answers, “well, yes. It sounds bad but that’s how it is.”” Rather off put by that comment, I have to admit, it is what I expected. Kind of unfortunate I am viewed that way. I suppose I understand the mentality. Most people are surprised I am here doing what I’m doing, and are even more intrigued when they find out I’m not Jewish. An anomaly here, I love what I love and that’s it. Generally speaking, the underlying feeling here is that if you aren’t Jewish, you cannot truly understand the draw that brings Jews to Israel. You cannot possibly comprehend the feeling of safety, security and draw to the homeland that people feel when they choose to be here. I obviously am not Jewish and while I may not understand because of my religious upbringing, I like to think I empathize.
Back to my story; we got lost near the beach and got out to ask for directions. Thank god my Hebrew is improving! I end up getting directions, but, by this time Reut is skeptical about being able to get there so she invites these two random guys to get in the car and direct us there since they were heading in that direction. Kind of sketchy if you ask me. Thank god there were normal. We ended up at Hemmingway’s, a great bar in central Tel Aviv. There we salsa danced a bit and ended up finding our own little niche in the club. I love to dance and often times end up in my own world. It is by far one of my favorite things to do in life. I got bored around 2am so we ended up barhopping, walking in heels to 3 different bars. I met up with some friends, but not before purchasing my favorite late night food, salted peanuts. We all went to this random Russian bar, where I met the bar owner and Ali became the bartender for a while...

Monday, March 22, 2010

the Puzzle unpuzzled

Ms. Tzipi Livni Vice-Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel noted in her conference; ‘Proclaiming terrorists as a nation’s cultural heroes will negatively influence education and the fabric of society with long term implications and damage to the international recognition of a future Palestinian State. In Israel’s fight on all fronts to combat the threat of religious extremism and terrorism, the cooperation and support of the international community is greatly needed.’ Noting exactly my sentiments on how a harmful and caustic cycle of a lack of societal benefits (education, safety) causes the glorification of terrorism as a means to an end, Tzipi and I could not agree more.
While I did note the importance of allowing the Palestinian State to build infrastructure both from a political standpoint and a physical one (houses, education, health care, roads, etc) it is equally important to recognize the state of Israel’s right to defend their land. The Israeli’s whether or not the Palestinians like it, have proven their military and agricultural dominance in the region. Since the creation of the state, the Israeli people have been tireless in its defense. Such a large majority of the national budget is channeled into defense and intelligence. Look at a map. Please, go do it. Note the size of the country. Israel is tiny. For all the hardships the Jews have endured since their exodus, isn’t it time we let them rest? Let’s look at a solution, lets’ talk. I am in favor of talks and a two-state solution. But most importantly, lets educate each other.
After living in both worlds, the Jewish/Israeli world and the Egyptian/Islamic one, I can honestly say the two mindsets are not the same. The two groups of people just think differently. Different cultures, languages and geographic locations all work together to thread the view of how you look at the world. The Arab world and the Israeli one are different. It is so difficult to pinpoint that thing, the thing that separates one from the other. One of my friends here always asks me, “why, Sarah, why? Why are they (the Arab people) so violent? Why are they bombing schools?” I don’t know what to say to her. My only response is, “They do not all think that way. You have extremes in every place, and the Arab violence gets a huge chunk of attention from the media.” I stand by what I say, but unfortunately, I have noticed, and I really want to learn why, that hatred runs so deep. On both sides. If the Middle East and all its problems were one big puzzle, I think I have the 4 corner pieces, and maybe a few sparsely scattered in the middle. Slowly but surely. I think my biggest realization from living here has been: how is it possible for diplomats and mediators in this process possibly attempt to mediate something unless they have lived here? Unless they have taken the time to learn those cultural nuances, to master the languages, to really listen to the people, and not only the leaders? I suppose it’s human nature. Revert to the leaders. But maybe some positive change could be made if instead of focusing on forcing talks between two governments with agendas- what if we focused on the new generation. Focus on the kids who will be the leaders, so we don’t’ continue to breed generations full of their grandparents hate. Education is the first step in a process that will last beyond any of our lifetimes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Life is Delicious

Relaxing under the sweet shade of a palm tree in the center of the park in my little city of Rehovot, I feel that life cannot get any more perfect. Today I had a physical therapy appointment- my second one! I am improving. Thoughtfully, I decided to forgo returning to my Kibbutz straight away. Instead, I would enjoy a leisurely lunch with myself. I made my way to the market to grab some fresh cheese. Favoring my favorite cheese vendor, I happily requested a small container of fresh mozzarella balls and a bit of homemade tuna salad- the good kind with triangles of chopped hard boiled eggs and roasted red peppers. I said hello to my friend at the nut stand, he knows me well now. A nice man resting his chin in his hands stood behind the banana stall, turned to me and told me to please, take a banana, because I had beautiful eyes. How can you say no to that? What a delicious banana it was. Life is sweeter when you stop to notice it. I indulged on a shady hill in the park near the center of town and read an entire James Patterson book in one sitting.
While laying down in the park, observing love, children learning to ride bikes, romance blooming on spread out picnic blankets and workers rejuvenating- I cannot help but feel so blessed to be where I am in life. Sometimes I feel as though my life is one long poem; sometimes with rhymes, metaphors, love, a little mystery and a great plot but always, there is another line. Sometimes I look at a line that may not make sense if I focus on it, but when I let the stanza complete itself, nothing could be more beautiful. I love being in love with life.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

the Settlements Part 2

If the violence is to stop then the Israeli’s must allow the West Bank to develop. Noting the examples set forth by developing nations across the globe, it is apparent that wherever violence, war, poverty, and a strong need for infrastructural stability converge, there is terrorism. According to the highly influential [insert facetiousness] the definition of terrorism: the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes. In some cases, terrorism manifests itself in an extreme form; as seen in the Israeli-Palestinian example through suicide bombings. Or, look to the example which instantly enters any American's mind when I say terrorism; airplanes flying into towers full of innocent people. Or in Somalia, where both the militia and government are ravishing the country to gain the upper hand against the other. In other instances terrorism appears in slightly less-discernible forms like Iraqi insurgencies and pipeline bombings in Colombia. The common factor in all these cases is the staggering presence of the societal problems listed above. In situations such as these a unique pocket opens within society. Political parties, individuals and social organizations step in to fill the gaps that the government leaves empty. Throughout history we have seen the Nazi’s/Hitler’s social platform promise a better Germany, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah step up as the active social organizations who provide public necessities for the poor, and countless other organizations who claim to help the people. Terrorism breeds here. I am afraid that no matter the conditions on either side (except of course in the extreme case that Israel completely takes back the West Bank in its entirety), then absolutely nothing will improve until a stable government and viable social benefits are available to the Palestinians. If people are clothed, well fed, and most importantly, educated, the present gaps that are drawing youth into these terrorist movements have a chance of being stopped, or at least significantly hindered. The new settlements in Jerusalem will not help this matter.

Friday, March 19, 2010

the Settlements Part 1

March 17th and 18th
Oh the days here pass with the rising and falling of the sun. At 6am sharp the sun peeks over the mountaintops from the east and by 5:30pm the sun is almost set below the tree line of my kibbutz to the West. We study every day, in class. Sometimes there are games and others straight grammar. Yesterday I missed class because I had my first physical therapy appointment in Rehovot. It went surprisingly well- I now have exercises to attend to daily and a new Russian/now Israeli friend who just happens to be my physical therapist. Well I won’t bore you all with menial things occured. But I actually do have a topic of interest for today’s blog: settlements. Bum Bum Bum…
To give you all a bit of background: Under the the Oslo Peace Accords signed in 1994, Israel has full control of about 60% of the occupied West Bank. Palestinians have full control and building rights in only 17% of the total territory. The Oslo accords were only meant to be temporary, but their provisions have lasted 16 years. Close to 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. (
Though the Balfour Declaration (look it up people!) wasn’t exactly fair because it pushed Palestinians out of their land, it happened. Just about everywhere else in the world when land is won in a war it is won. Though I realize this point of view may be rather archaic, Israel proved its dominance and right to maintain autonomy over Eretz Israel in the Independence War, The Yom Kippur War, the Six Day War and both Intifada’s. The Israeli people have at the very least earned their right to be here. They turned the desert into an agricultural anomaly. Beautiful, lush and brimming with vegetation and new agricultural technology. While Occupied Territory, Israel has a right to defend itself. To uphold its sovereignty, especially against suicide bombings and anti-Israel movements. The idea of settlements continually being built is more or less a slap in the face to the Palestinian people.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Druzim; a world within a world

Waking up to greet the dawn, we were on the bus by 6:30am. Fully loaded with three quarters of a liter of coffee, I boarded the bus, ready for a hike in the north. My day now is a little rough if I begin without my coffee. Priorities in life people, remember priorities! :)
First we stopped at a detainment camp south of Haifa that was used during the British Mandate to keep the Jews there until there were enough visas to release them into Israel. Freakishly similar to the concentration camps-but only aesthetically. This was minus the killing/labor intensive/starving conditions. It was quite eye opening, to see those kind of conditions in the land that is supposed to be the safe haven for the Jewish people. After that, we journeyed to the site of the hike. My director and I don’t exactly see eye to eye. Generally speaking, I am a very rationale, respectful person. You see, I have a hurt foot. I wanted to go on the hike, I was prepared and fine. He treated me like a 7 year old. Then I acted like one, though not publicly. You know those people who really get under your skin, and even when you try to get along, there is just something? Well unfortunately for me, that is the case. He made me sit on the bus while the others did the two hour hike. It wasn’t bad, our Ulpan house mother stayed with me and we hung out, watched a movie and I did some homework.
When everyone returned, the bus took off again, this time to a Druze village. For those of you who don’t know who the Druzim are a religious community found primarily in the Middle East whose traditional religion is said to have begun as an offshoot of Islam. They generally disagree about being affiliated with Islam, depending on geographic regions. They are an extremely secretive religion. No one knows about the contents of their Holy Books. And marriage out of the Druze religion is forbidden and grounds for excommunication. As is revealing any of the secrets of the religion. If you aren’t religious, then you may not talk about the religion with the unreligious person. This applies even to husband and wife. The house we visited today, they explained the basics of the religion and the daughter who was 20 told us that her mother is religious and may not have conversations concerning the religion/inner most rituals with her husband. Interesting, right? ( & The food was amazing, as usual. Kofta (my favorite Arab meat!) and tons of salads, laffa (special Arab bread made on a hot dome shaped grill) and fig juice. We went to the shook after that, ate some amazing kunefa and bused it back home where everyone on the bus passed out like kindergarteners in need of their morning nap. Overall it was a successful, emotional, rather strange day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kibbutz Ein Hashofet

This weekend I traveled up north with my friend Ali to go see one of my friends from when I lived in Haifa in 2008- Sierra. She is one of my favorite people in the whole world. We traveled up by bus and taxi to Ein Hashofet, a kibbutz in the north, just below Haifa. Seeing another Kibbutz was interesting in itself. Beautiful, small, and full of greenery, Ein Hashofet has a beautiful view of the mountains on one side, and the sea on the other. We arrived, caught up with life the past two years and then napped to get ready for the night.
After waking up from our nap we lit the Shabbat candles, broke the bread and headed over to the cafeteria to celebrate Shabbat. The differences between my Kibbutz and Ein Hashofet were definitely visible. Much smaller, the cafeteria was full of families, giggling, children running around with little pieces of challah and the elderly shuffling their plates of mashed potatoes and vegetables through the check out line. Unlike my Kibbutz, this one is more privatized. At my Kibbutz and in our grocery store people who do not live on the kibbutz can come and buy things. At Kibbutz Ein Hashofet it is still closed to the public. When I went with Sierra they had to pay for us because we couldn’t pay with shekels. The living situation in Ein Hashofet was smaller, more intimate. My Kibbutz is the second largest in Israel so obviously the intimacy factor may be less intense.
Tomer, a friend from two years ago came to visit with a couple of his friends. We all met up at the pub, with all Sierra’s friends from her Ulpan. The live band was awesome and we all were dancing together for a few hours. Seeing old friends is one of my favorite things. I met some unique people. There were Christian Japanese students there learning Hebrew in order to study the Hebrew versions of the Bible. There were Poles, Russians, Australians, Crotians, etc. So many students who make aliyah (move to Israel to become a citizen- it literally means ‘to go up’) participate in Ulpan programs. The diversity blows my mind. We danced till dawn, just about literally. I think we came home around 4:30 in the morning.

The next day was a challenge. Everyone woke up around noon. Indulging in copious amounts of tea, water, and coffee, we layed out in the sun and relived the last night. I laughed so hard I got a stomach ache; especially when everyone passed around the pictures. We made a huge Israeli salad, courtesy of my gracious friend Sierra of fresh avocado’s from the fields there, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers. Hummus was included of course! Relaxing, enjoying each others company, catching up on flashcards and basking in the suns rays on the grassy area in front of their Ulpan complex- I was enjoying life. Afterwords, me and my new friend Al went on a walk to this tent on the Kibbutz because he wanted to purchase some artwork from this artist who lived there. I was rather confused. Why a tent? Someone lives on a tent here? As in, a camping tent? For their home? Why? Turns out, this amazingly relaxed Israeli couple in their late 20’s built this Mongolian tent house thing. Circular like a Circus Tent, the house had tons of rugs on the floor, artwork decorating the curved canvas walls, incense burning all lit dimly by the wood burning stove. We sat down on a futon, drank tea and caught up on the Kibbutz gossip , though I had no idea whom they were talking about. Then we got down to business, Al purchased some amazing paintings. Ali and I began our journey back to Rehovot, rather uneventful except for the hitching. We are getting really good at it here, and especially from a Kibbutz it is pretty safe. Overall an amazing weekend.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

the Arabs

What is the difference, truly between the way the Israeli’s view the world and the Arab-Israeli’s & Muslim Arabs of the Middle East view the world? I specify because trying to include the broader Jewish or Muslim communities in my explanation of the perspective I have experienced would be impossible and end in useless generalizations.
When I lived in Egypt, I used to get annoyed at the close mindedness I experienced on a daily basis. Looking back, this was unfair. The Arab Muslims I interacted with had huge hearts and welcoming arms, much like the Jews. The difference in my mind is mainly this- the Arab Muslims who come from the Middle East live in nations who are suppressed through governments leading under the guise of true Islam. Political Islam is the government. Its leaders and subsequently, its institutions claim sole legitimacy to true Islam. In this way, its people are raised in an environment where challenging the religion is challenging the state (and can result in serious consequences- ie. imprisonment).
The mindset is refined when Arabs turn on the TV and see images of American’s flying private jets, throwing sweet 16’s worth more than they make in a lifetime, and throwing away precious resources in the name of materialism. No wonder their images of us are what they are. The claims made by their governments, and in some cases religious authorities, are confirmed by the only contact they have with our culture: television, movies and magazines. Liberalism does not exist to the extent it does in America.
More to follow...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

East Jerusalem

Last week, while on my tour of Israel with EdHill Tours, I ventured out into Jerusalem, in search of Wifi. I led some others to buy vino and other things and then went my own way, ended up at CaféCafe while it poured buckets of water on my head.
A Palestinian friend came to meet me- we learned about each others beliefs: Religions, families and jobs- switching constantly between Arabic, English and Hebrew. I’m coming to a place where it’s really exciting for me to speak because I can have a decent conversation in either language. He took me to East Jerusalem- to a hookah café. It’s funny to note the immediate differences you see when you drive three blocks from Israel to East Jerusalem-signs all in Arabic, men and women in kufeyas, burqa’s and hijabs. The buildings, plants and streets are not as well kempt; crusty paint, crumbled chip bags, fewer lights and an aura of simplicity. There is an absence of aesthetics here- in much of the Arab world- big flashy, bright and new is not their style. Everyone is with families, working, or smoking nargila. Like Cairo, I was once again the only women in the entire café- we smoked and talked politics. I had to mentally change my brain to Arabic. Typical of the Arab cafés-- all men, a soccer game playing in the background, and men mumbling words back and forth between puffs. He explained his views of Israel to me. He says “the Jews took our land, kill our people. We fight with rocks to defend our homes that the settlers take and then shoot will guns.”
He also told me the Holocaust didn’t happen- that the numbers were exaggerated to a ridiculous degree and that Hitler had the right idea. It’s sad- but I have gotten used to hearing this from the other side. I obviously do not agree – if anything, I believe the Holocaust was covered up way more than we know. He later told me he had Jewish friends but absolutely hated the settlers. Not surprising.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Religion full of it?

I hope not.

On the Sea of Galilee: We sand Awesome God and the sky began clearing. I looked out over the lake to the mountains with the sun peeking out of the clouds and I felt something. Reaffirmation of the knowledge that a higher power exists.
Today we witnessed a messianic Jew and his wife renew their wedding vows. He did so because he wanted to do it in the eyes of God. I’m not sure how I feel about the beliefs held by Messianic Jews- I really am not judging, especially with my strange view of religion. But, I wonder how the Jewish community views Messianic Jews. Are the beliefs in Jesus' divinity and being Jewish mutually exclusive?

Throughout the tour, these are some of the questions that I had problems answering. Readers, feel free to jump in on these.

Questions about Christianity:
1. Where did the other people of the Earth come from? (When Cane went away to other lands and met other people who were not mentioned in the creation story)
2. Why is Christianity so exclusive?
3. How influential was the politics of the Papal Conferences on the decisions of which books to include in the bible?
4. Why are not all the books included so we can make our own educated conclusions about the Bible?
5. Where are the excluded books and why are they still hidden?
6. Mary Magdalene’s book and several others claim that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife – if this is true, does this affect Jesus’ divinity/perfect-ness.
7. If humans are inherently imperfect where do we get the idea that church and its hierarchical and organizational leadership is legitimate? (Jesus didn’t start the church- it was started for more than 250 years after his death- Paul and other followers of Jesus created ‘the church’ off of their interpretations of what they thought. Jesus was a Jew. Are the idea’s mutually exclusive?)
8. The trinity- history says the Catholic Church added in the concept of “the spirit”- is that true?? If so, why was it added?
9. Is it possible to be a Christian and not believe Jesus rose from the dead?
10. If God really knows our hearts, why is the profession of faith so important?
11. Is structure necessary? What role does the physical church play in my spirituality versus say believing tenants of other religions and trusting in my faith?

I wish everything came easily to me. I just cannot blindly follow. I have to know, you know? I need the history, the facts. I realize faith is not concrete- that is what it is faith but foundations are important as well. Without them, I don't see a point to believing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

To Do in life/ في حياتي / בחיי

I plopped onto my bed the other day and decided to make a to do list. Not a to do today or tomorrow or even this year, but more or less a to do list for my life. However, I refuse to call it a bucket list. It is my list :) (Side note: additions occur on a weekly-ish basis. These are some of my favorites)
1. Go Spelunking
2. Get my Scuba Liscense
3. Discover my faith
4. Live and Work in another country
5. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
6. Visit Every Continent
7. Become conversational in 10 Languages (Hebrew, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Farsi, French, Afrikaans, Swahili, Chinese)
8. Fall in love (though obviously not planned)
9. Milk a cow
10. Model for an art class
11. Go Fishing
12. Attend a Bikram Yoga Retreat
13. Ride in a hot air balloon

Monday, March 8, 2010

in the Dr's Office

Went into the city for my Dr’s appointment. I officially hate socialized medicine. I stood in line, not understanding the pages over the intercom. Sitting, rather dejectedly in the waiting room, staring to hear my number called, I was stared down by the old couples also waiting huddled together in their crouched over way. Finally got into the office, and of course my doctor and I have a bit of a language barrier. In baby Hebrew- as in “my foot is hurting me. The medicine did not work. I hurt.” I felt like I was in a film, slowly rewound to the first grade where I was sitting in a small chair glancing up at the big adult, unable to communicate what I want with the words I know. At least I am constantly humbled here haha!
After my appointment, I was shuffled to three other offices before I was told the next available appointment I was supposed to have for physical therapy was 6 weeks from that day. I laughed. And left. Fuming, I sat in Aroma, my favorite Israeli café and indulged in a soy Americano. Sitting with my computer I was pouting and this random Israeli woman sat down next to me and starts spitting out Hebrew faster than I could speak English! I said wooah slow down in Hebrew and she responded in English- she said I am a make up artist (just got back from a conference in LA about new products or something) and told me she’d pay me to come to Jerusalem so I could be in her portfolio. Kind of cool. We’ll see if it all plays out.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

1 Thumb Up

Returned from my tour, my paradise. I felt so spoiled all week, in the very best way. I love love loved the tour and all the people who were part of it. Now back to reality on my Kibbutz. Work, study, relax, contemplate life and all the jazz.

March 3, 2010
I hitch hiked today. I had to get home and as a poor college student, I’d always contemplated the idea. So I took a bus to a major junction and with my bum ankle decided I didn’t want to walk, I hitched. Kind of unthinkable and stupid in America, but it’s pretty common here. This nice soldier picked me up and drove me to the Kibbutz. (I had a key/sharp pen ready just in case!)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

what do YOU believe?

I am reading the Faith Club, a very interesting book my mom surprised me with about three women from the Abrahamic faiths having intense interfaith dialogues- confronting stereotypes, misconceptions and perceptions of each other. The Jewish woman in the book was expressing her frustration at a lack of being able to just let go and trust. To have faith and to just know that you believe what you believe, to really trust in the religion and the principles you were raised with.

She said something that resonated with me. We have faith in so many things in our daily lives, with no guarantee of a future, we just blindly trust in the people, or ‘the institution’ and that all will turn out like we want to believe. Why then, do I have so much trouble making the leap of faith with God? I have faith in marriage, that I will marry an amazing man and stay married. I have faith in the love, acceptance and growth of my family. I have faith in my belief of a higher power. I have faith in the ideal of government, in meditation, in love itself, and in people. I have faith good will triumph over evil. So what is my problem with the God part of the equation?

I have issues with Jesus. I feel blasphemous for even saying it, for writing it, especially with how my parents have chosen to live their lives. They believe with every fiber of their being in the saving grace of Jesus. I don’t not believe that he existed, or that he was something amazing. But, frankly I don’t believe that he died and came back. I think that like so many things, people believe what makes them feel better. What they want to believe. The gospels, or at least many of them, were written long after Jesus’ death, with every intention of spreading the new religion of Christianity. If I was a disciple or follower of Christ, I would probably tweak the details a bit too, you know, to increase the awe and splendor of it. That, after all, is what draws so many people to God.: the inexplicable grace, wonder and acts that are beyond human.

I want to believe in Jesus. I want to feel validation for the spiritual/religious tenants I have been taught for the last 21 years of my life. I do believe in God. I believe that God, Allah, Adonai, and Krishna- that they are all one. God creates religions as a tool for his grace and beauty and purpose on earth. Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, and the future messiah for the Jewish people present unique outlets of faith for ultimately the same end. Not one religion will appeal to everyone. People need different paths, different outlets of expressing their faith. That is why I love celebrating parts of each religion. I am not cherry picking the very best of everything to create some super religion. I just believe that inherently, all these religions have the same core. That there is truth to all of them, and that performing acts of kindness, going to my church, praying in a mosque and celebrating Shabbat all will bring me closer to the God I feel exists.

I find myself closest to my spiritual ‘high’ when I am appreciating nature. It is in nature that I see divinity and something more than what I can physically see. It just has to exist. Of that much I am sure. My trip with Christ Fellowship this week gave me back a piece of faith I have been missing for a long time. I'm still figuring everything was quite a lot to absorb.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Whole Lotta Jesus.

Started the morning off with the sermon on the Mt of Beatitudes. The pastor gave a sermon in this little chapel belonging to the Nuns who reside there because it was raining. Another church group was jammed inside the chapel within the chapel. Everything spoken made me think. About witnessing (I personally don’t believe in it), about how I view my life, if there is a will beyond what I can see, if anything at all exists, etc. We traveled onto Capernium and shockingly enough it rained on us. There, a Messianic Jew prayed in Hebrew and explained how his life was changed by Jesus Christ. I honestly had no idea what to think about it. We explored around the miracle triangle where 70% of the miracles in the New Testament happened. Everything beings to blend together, despite the magnificence of the separate sites.
February 27, 2010
This morning we took the boat from a dock near our hotel on the Sea of Galilee. Known as the Knerret in Israel, it literally means ‘a big harp’, which is the shape of the lake. It was pouring down rain all morning. Of course I am confined to wearing my Brikenstocks while I am here because I strained my tendon and can’t have any pressure on the back of my foot. Hence, my feet and Birks become sopping wet as we trudge through the puddles down towards the dock. We finally boarded the boat and started the morning off with a sermon from their preacher about Jesus and Peter walking on water, the storms, and some of the miracles performed around the lake. Hymns were sung, the usual Awesome God. (which the pastor didn’t know the words to which I found hilarious!- but in good way, he had a great sense of humor about it) We got to witness a couple who are Messianic Jews (Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah) renew their wedding vows. It was a total surprise to his wife and it was a beautiful little ceremony on the lake. As the rains came down blowing through the plastic window-like coverings along the outer-rims of the boat we continued in song. The sun broke through the clouds just in time for the end of the wedding and was stunningly beautiful as it cast light over the surrounding areas of the lake, washed fresh anew with the spring rains. Everything here is in bloom because of the early hot weather we experienced early on. Mustard seeds, violet, thyme, daisies, even almond trees are blooming on the hillsides where the beginnings of Christianity sprouted thousands of years ago. I have really been challenged on this tour. I constantly question my beliefs, what I think is the correct approach to religion (for me) and the historical accuracy of religious texts. I spoke with the Pastor today, asked him if he takes the bible literally, short answer: yes. Long answer: looks at the Book of Revelations with a critical eye, which I thought was an interesting answer. The most amazing thing about this trip; whether or not I declare myself a believer in Jesus, which I still am questioning- experiencing this aspect of Israel from a Christian perspective has added a completely new dimension to my faith and understanding of a book I have read since I was a little girl. The Bible makes so much more sense to me now. The geographic dimensions, climate, pathways, and general influence of the area- it all clicked. I only wish my family had been with me for this. My Dad is such a history buff and I think it would’ve been great to ask him about how everything molds together, historically speaking.
Anyways we went to a Kibbutz afterwards for a look at a boat found from the first century. I was getting a soy Americano, my typical pick me-up. Ever since that darn country of Italy, I have been addicted to coffee. It started with the espresso families served me in the morning, continued with the coffee I drank daily before class at the American University in Cairo, and has been solidified by the free coffee provided by my Kibbutz. I am now addicted. And I love it. I love the smell of coffee, the shape of the beans, the colorful bags.
Ok, just checked myself. Wow. I wrote a paragraph of how much I love coffee. See what all this touring is doing to me? I am delirious in my sleepiness. (But still love coffee) Continuing, we visited ruins of a bathhouse and amphitheater near the Jordanian border. We literally passed the Jordanian flag and a military outpost. I got motion sickness so was more interested in what our tour guide so affectionately refers to as the “Peepee-tourium” than I was in the amphitheater. Thank the lord humans invented medicine- the Bonine returned me to my normal state. Lunch was at another Kibbutz, of fish and salads. Today was baptism day and just about everyone in the church got baptized in the Jordan River. I abstained. If I am ever baptized in the Jordan River I want it to be by my parents. Everyone was so moved by the experience, and I become the camera lad y. I think at one point I had 6 camera’s in my hands- snapping back and forth between the people dressed in their bathing suits draped in white robes. Now, I am absolutely exhausted. I can’t even be reflective about my religious experiences today. Out of all the people (and most are 50 and over) I am the old grandma. It’s my bedtime darn it, and I’m tired! So to bed I go. Tomorrow is Masada, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem at sunset.

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