What Surprised You the Most About Israel?

Sitting through a four hour flight delay (after having already been in the airport for six hours), I wished more than ever to be back in Israel. It seemed so unreal to be back and casually lounging in the airport terminal, attempting to stay awake. Just before leaving for Ben Gurion Airport, I walked along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and 16 hours later I was dragging my sleepy feet through customs. 

The lovely 10 hours I spent in JFK (a small fraction of the 32 hours it took me to get to Ohio) was used wisely to keep myself awake by making a video!

Although a large portion of this summer in Israel was unexpected, there were other smaller surprises about living in Israel.


Mission: Accomplished

Procrastinating Packing….

I came to Israel with a meager Hebrew vocabulary, only able to speak in the present or past tense, and barely able to roll my “r’s.” I really wanted to expand my vocabulary and improve my accent. Truthfully, it was hard at first. It is overwhelming to be surrounded by a language you can understand only on a basic level. I distinctly remember my grammar embarrassingly corrected by a helpful bus passenger when I asked the driver where the bus was going. I tried my hardest to learn new words and improve my (apparently horrific) grammar.

But, it was difficult. I was frustrated that my mind couldn’t process the language quick enough or that I couldn’t remember the word for receipt.

Just in the past few weeks, my Hebrew vocabulary has been expanding exponentially. I pick up the names of nuts in the shuk and learn random words for appliances when I am sent on errands for work.

Mission: accomplished. I have improved my Hebrew vocabulary AND accent. But, I am by no means ready to leave. I want to stay and continue to be immersed in the language. (Hence why I am trying to procrastinate the packing tasks ahead)

But, I must remember all the words I learned and how to properly pronounce “Mahane Yehuda” until I return. My next mission: making sure my suitcase is under 23 kilos.


A Moment in Tel Aviv Time

I was on my way back from a stroll along the boardwalk in Tel Aviv, enjoying the sunshine, the cooler afternoon weather, and the sound of the crashing waves. I had walked at least twenty minutes from my accommodations, so to keep me company on the way back, I called my dad. We were talking about my day when the siren sounded. Louder than ever. I hung up and frantically searched for the closest shelter. I ran across the four-lane street, still searching for shelter, following other people. I figured they knew they best place to go. I couldn’t locate the bomb shelter. Running with other people from the boardwalk and street, we gathered under a cement overhang (where the video was taken). There wasn’t time to think about other shelter possibilities. I had to take what I could find. Then I heard booms. Window-rattling booms. They are louder than a clap of thunder outside your window and they shake the walls of buildings. In the sky, there were two vapor lines with a cloud of smoke where Iron Dome intercepted the rocket from Gaza.



So what happened next?

I waited a few minutes before heading back to the boardwalk to continue my stroll home. Life goes on.

So You Want to Hike Like an Israeli?

I have enjoyed every Shabbat in Israel, but this one was especially memorable. It’s been a bit rough lately, as you might have read earlier. I try to make it sound like everything is normal and ok, but really, some things aren’t. Every time I hear a bus, motorcycle, car horn, or anything that sounds remotely like a siren, I jump. Honestly, it’s really annoying. I find this happening to myself almost every other hour. I wish I could help it, but I can’t. I just can’t really relax.

View from beginning of hike

View from beginning of hike

Friday, I finally relaxed. I went hiking in the Golan with a group of Israeli friends. For one day, I didn’t have to worry about sirens. I enjoyed the outdoors and the peaceful sound of rushing water was calming as we hiked along a stream. I was carefree in the outdoors—my favorite way to relieve stress. Hiking all day with all Israelis was quite the experience and I am happy to say that I have learned how to hike in Israel. I wish to share some tips.

The crew!!

The crew!!

How to hike like an Israeli (tips are in no particular order)

  • Pick a trail with as many opportunities to swim under a waterfall as possible

    The second waterfall

    The second waterfall

First waterfall swimming area

First waterfall swimming area

  • Always bring a mini camping stove to boil water forcoffee
  • Make fresh coffee in the middle of the hike in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak and it is almost 100ºF. A fresh boiling cup of coffee will surely hit the spot
  • Don’t worry about remembering a swimsuit. Just jump in fully clothed or you can just wear your underwear
  • Regardless of the terrain or hike difficulty, it is perfectly fine to wear sandals. (Hiking shoes are not needed, but just be prepared to slip a bit more than usual)
  • Save old peanut butter jars to fill them with tahini (remember the loaf of bread and whole fresh veggies to eat with the tahini)
  • Be prepared to get creative when finding ways to reach the fresh wild figs so you can have a tasty snack
  • Bring as much water as humanly possible and never stop drinking water
  • Never stop applying sunscreen
  • If you get too hot while hiking, find a small shallow stream and submerge yourself (clothes and all) to cool off
  • If you don’t feel like laying face down in an extremely shallow stream, you can simply take off your clothes and soak them in the water
  • Always wear a hat. Always.
View from the end of the hike

View from the end of the hike

Freshly picked figs!! SO YUMMY!!

Freshly picked figs!! SO YUMMY!!

Hopefully I can hike one last time before leaving Israel. It is one of the best things I have done this summer!



It’s Hump Day

I wish I could say my life is completely normal. On the surface, my daily routine has not changed. I work, shop for groceries, and make my lunch the night before. However, I have changed.

Who ever knew how war could affect someone?

I feel as if this entire country is depressed. Sundays in the Shuk used to be my favorite. People were everywhere, there lines formed to order food, and live bands played at restaurants. Not anymore. Streets that used to bustle with families Birthright kids are barren. I find it astonishing how quickly things change. Sometimes I feel guilty having an enjoyable night out with friends and ice cream.

Times are tense and stressful. I feel helpless. My time left in Israel is limited and I have many conflicting feelings. I am not the homesick type, but this war has made me really wish that I could curl up in my own bed at home. On the other hand, why should I get to escape when all other Israelis have to stay? Why do I get to go to America while kids my age are going into combat and risking their lives every day? I can’t imagine leaving in the middle of this war. I want to be here, to support Israel.

It’s like a tough breakup.

When this first started (kidnapped boys, rockets, sirens), I was confused and didn’t quite understand what the situation would turn into. Then, I was sad and glum, as the events escalated and death tolls on both sides rose. Now, I feel angry. I am mad at people for being so hatful. I am mad at the rioters in Europe and the rioters in Boston. I even feel mad at America for banning flights. I feel isolated and abandoned by the country I call home. I am not breaking up with Israel, but the rapid change of emotions affects my daily life and actions almost too much.

Thankfully, my best friends are here to support me. We support each other and tonight we pow-wowed to discuss our needs from each other in these times. By far, this is not the summer experience I ever imagined. Would I change anything? Absolutely not. This summer has forever affected my life, my perspective on the world, my connection to Judaism, and my connection to Israel. I am a stronger person who has learned to overcome fear. I have learned how to articulate my opinions and feelings, analyze news, and respond to inflammatory anti-Israel rhetoric. I have learned things about the State of Israel that could never be expressed in a textbook, but things I have learned simply from living here through this war. It is impossible to understand and know Israel without being here, and I feel so incredibly lucky that I had the chance this summer to do so.

Don’t think that my summer is coming to a close! I have plenty of time left in the Holy Land, and I plan on taking advantage of every minute. I love hearing from friends and family back home, so please feel free to comment on the post or email me at Shoshana.weiner18@gmail.com

I look forward to hearing from you!!



Wishing for Some Shabbat Shalom

Why have I been blogging about the film festival and art museums when so many friends and family want to hear about the rockets and want to constantly know that I am alive and well? Why haven’t my blog posts been about running for my life to a bomb shelter? Because that’s not what life here in Israel is all about. I don’t constantly blog about rocket attacks because rockets don’t stop me from continuing a normal life. They don’t stop me from going out for ice cream with friends. They don’t stop me from going to the movies or traveling throughout the country. Rockets still pose a threat, but my reaction to them has changed.

 The strangest thought occurred to me yesterday as I was walking to Noa’s grandma’s house in Tel Aviv. I received a frantic text from a friend wanting to make sure that I was ok because apparently a barrage of rockets was sent to Tel Aviv. I didn’t freak out. My heart didn’t skip a beat. I didn’t shake or immediately call my parents. I shrugged my shoulders, “eh, I didn’t hear anything. I’m fine. 

Later that evening, I went out for sushi with friends. The first thing I noticed walking into the restaurant was a large sign pointing to the bomb shelter. Though a common sight in Israel, I noticed it because no where in America are there public bomb shelters. But, I don’t live fear. I don’t know if the word fear is in the Israelis’ vocabulary. Last night in the middle of my sushi dinner, seven rockets were sent to Tel Aviv. We simply got up, walked to the bomb shelter, and prayed that no one would take our sushi while we were gone. In the shelter our conversation continued. We took funny snapchats, and raved about the incredible sushi. Again, I was relatively unaffected by the air raid.

I have an application on my phone called Red Alert. You can select a city and all air raid alerts can go to your phone. I have push notifications turned on for Israeli newspaper apps. A week ago, I would have jumped when my phone buzzed with a red alert or a news update. Now, I glance at the notification and continue on with whatever I am doing. A week ago I jumped at anything that sounded remotely like the air raid sirens: ambulances, someone’s music, a gust of wind whistling through the window. Now, those sounds don’t phase me. Don’t worry, I know the air raid siren when I hear it and I get myself to the closest shelter. I am not downplaying the reality of the situation by any means. But, I am saying that I am not afraid of the constant rocket attacks and sirens. It’s part of my life now, as it is part of every Israeli’s life.

I fear for the lives of the soldiers, who are my age or younger, going into Gaza. In America, I was detached from any violence in the Middle East. Here, the first Israeli soldier died a short two-hour bus ride away from me. As Shabbat approaches, I just wish for some eventual peace, because unfortunately it doesn’t happen over night.


Side note: I was editing this post as the air raid sirens went off in Tel Aviv…it was quite the experience because I heard booms for the first time when I was barely out of the apartment door.