It’s been so long since my last post that I don’t even know where to begin…My last blog post was over a month and a half ago and so many things have happened that I don’t even remember everything. For starters, I celebrated Passover, traveled around Israel, went on a 3 day hiking trip, met some Israeli students that are volunteering in Netanya, met other Israelis that are going to work in summer camps in America this summer, had my parents come visit me, celebrated Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom HaAtzma’ut, started teaching a song to my students for a city-wide end of the year English concert, went to a SkyBar party, did sea sports, celebrated Lag B’omer, learned krav maga, went to a dinner for all of the teachers at my school, went on a seminar in Mitzpe Ramon (we hiked a lot!), got a cooking lesson from Shlomy’s parents, and went to the MASA closing event. Busy busy!
For Passover, I got 2 weeks off of school so I traveled a lot and hung out in Netanya. I traveled to Ra’anana where I had a picnic in an amazing park, went to Akko, hiked the Shvil HaGolan (a hiking trail in the northern Golan region of Israel), went to Luna Park, an amusement park in Tel Aviv with Rozit and her kids, and spent a lot of time at Rozit’s house. The break flew by so quickly…and so did my money! I spent the first night of Passover at Rozit’s house and it was really interesting to see the differences between her Sephardic customs and the Askenazic customs that I’m used to. Even though Rozit’s house is like my second home and I was so excited to be spending the holiday with her, it made me feel a little sad to be away from my family for the holiday. But I’m so lucky that I have such an incredible and caring host teacher who takes such great care of me!
Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for everyone that has died defending this country), and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) were pretty intense here. For Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron, there was a 2-minute siren that sounded at 11 a.m. that commemorated those who were killed through a moment of silence. Everyone put down what they were doing, drivers on the road pulled over in their cars and got out to stand in respect, and everyone just stood in silence. I’ve never felt such a palpable feeling of despair mixed with hope. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen or felt before.
A week after Pesach ended, my parents came to visit! It was amazing to have them here and we were so busy! We went to Haifa to visit family friends, went to Rosh Hanikra to see the grottos, went to a ceremony for Yom Hazikaron (memorial day) at my school (unfortunately, all of my students have had a loved one taken from them and it was eye-opening to hear their speeches and watch them mourn) another ceremony at Independence Square, went to another ceremony on Har Hertzl in Jerusalem, visited my Aunt, celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) by watching the planes fly over the beach and by having a barbeque on the roof of our apartment building. My parents loved hanging out with everyone in my program, and they enjoyed the food a lot…Shlomy is the best at barbeque-ing! My parents only stayed for a week, so we were running around most of the time. Their second to last day here was Friday, so Rozit invited us over for Shabbat dinner. It was really great that my parents got to spend some time with her since she is so important to me. They loved her (who wouldn’t?) and she made so much food that I don’t think that I or my parents ate again for at least 2 days! Their last day here we hung out in Netanya and spent some time with Shlomy’s family. Rozit, Shlomy, and Shlomy’s family have become my support system here and it was really nice that my parents got to get to know them a little bit.
2 weeks ago, all of the teachers at my school met up at Rozit’s house and we had dinner together. Naturally, I ate way too much, but with all of those Jewish mothers and their delicious home-made food, can you blame me? It was really cool to see the teachers outside of school and I really enjoyed talking to them (especially because they all complimented me on my Hebrew!). Bat El, one of the teachers is so sweet and I really liked hanging out with her. Reut has been so busy these past few months, what with teaching full time and going to school and everything in between that it was fun to get to spend some time with her without children running around everywhere. The closer I get to the end of the school year, the more nostalgic I’m becoming. I keep thinking about how much I’ll miss Reut and Rozit…but I have been very good at shutting down my emotions because I know that the second I give into them, I won’t be able to handle it. I’ll be hopelessly disconsolate.
Last week, Shlomy’s parents gave some of us a cooking lesson. I told Lily, Shlomy’s mom that I felt like I was learning how to be a wife. I now know how to make hummus, pasta sauce, shakshuka, bread, and cake. It felt so nice to be in a home with a real kitchen and it was so comforting to feel the love that Lily and Yossi have for us. They have truly adopted us into their hearts (and home) and I can’t express how grateful I am to have such wonderful people like them in my life.
A few nights ago was the closing event for MASA (who organizes programs like the one I’m doing). Netanyahu gave a speech (in typical MASA fashion, he emphasized the important issues such as: moving to Israel and making Jewish babies). He sat so close to us! I was about 20 feet away from him! That night, the Mayumana Ensemble performed. They are kind of like the Blue Man Group of Israel, but even better. They were amazing! One guy did beat-boxing with the audience members and a girl from the ensemble sang, danced, played guitar, and beat-boxed. They made a video of it and made it look like she was doing all of those things all at once. It was so awesome!
Tonight is a city-wide English concert taking place in Independence Square. There are 22 volunteers working in 11 schools, so each school has a group of kids that are performing. My kids are singing “One Day” by Matisyahu and I know that they are going to be the best school there! Tami and Reut made up a dance to go with the song and it looks amazing! The kids are so excited and I am incredibly proud of them! It was a really great experience to be able to take the 6th graders out of class and get to know them better through a project like this. They came up to me every day and asked if they could work on the song because they were having so much fun with it. We intentionally picked some kids that have struggled more with English and they really stepped up – every kid knows the lyrics (which are pretty advanced and are sung quickly) really well and I think that it was a great opportunity to boost their self-confidence. I am amazed by these kids every day and I am so excited to see them succeed tonight!