It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, mostly because of how busy Israel keeps me! Here are some updates about my amazing adventure so far.
Tel Aviv Livin’ (with eight others)
Here’s the truth, living with eight others has been the most difficult and challenging thing I’ve ever had to do. Alone time is very rare and when you get it, it’s PRECIOUS. I love my roommates dearly, but I’ve really learned that even though I’m an extrovert I have an introverted trait. I feed off of other people’s energy, but there are moments when I need my alone time. Alone time to read, watch a show or even meditate. I feel as if I haven’t been so in-tune with myself. So I’ve learned to ground myself, do the things I like and to really get into a rhythm that will keep my fulfilled. Have you ever been in a situation similar to this? Do you have any advice to share?
I don’t think I updated you all on Eilat! Our group took a te’oul (field trip) to the southern tip of Israel. On our way down south, we made a stop at the famous salad trail where we had the chance to pick our own fruits and veggies and eat them! We also made our own bread and we even participated in a maze (sadly, the boy’s team won).
We spent one night in the Bedouin tents (Arab semi nomadic group, their name means “desert dwellers” in Arabic) where we made a bonfire, sang some oldies, ate ethnic food (DELICIOUS), listened to Bedouin history and rode some pretty smelly camels! The night we arrived, my Argentinian friends (very adventurous women) came up with the idea of walking up the nearest mountain and laying there to see the stars. Looking at the stars in the desert is the most beautiful thing ever. It’s like a dream. We laid there together, shared personal stories, bonded and we saw 2, yes 2, shooting stars. It was a first for me and I’m so happy I got to share that moment with the girls. It was such a spiritual moment for all of us.
Once we arrived in Eilat (it’s like the Caribbean of Israel), the party began! As soon as we arrived, we rushed to put our swimsuits on and jump in the Red Sea. It was 100 degrees Fahrenheit (dry, no humidity) and the water was ICE cold. We had a beautiful Shabbat dinner, that evening, with the program participants and then of course when to the famous Three Monkeys Pub! We watched a live female band and danced the night away. As you can imagine, we only got little to no sleep; we slept for about three hours.
The next day we were ready for a new adventure: WATER SPORTS. It was quite the adventure. Of course, I was the first to get hurt and get stuck in the middle of the ocean without any strength to swim. It was embarrassing, of course, but I had an awesome group of guys who helped save my ass.
After the water sports, we went snorkeling- which was another amazing trek. It was a bit nerve-wracking for me, but I breathed through it and saw the amazing beauty that is underwater. Eilat was one of my favorite weekends so far!
Yom Kippur/Simchat Torah/Sukkot
Yom Kippur was a very spiritual time for me. I spent it with my aunt and my cousins. I had been looking forward to it for a while. I love Yom Kippur because I feel so cleansed after and I see it as a fresh, new start for me. But as I sat in services, I started crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop thinking about my sisters and my mom.
Every year I sit with them and talk about my year and how I see my future. I missed them especially when they blew the shofar. Every year, at the end of Yom Kippur, my mom holds my sisters and I in her arms, as the shofar is being blown, and I see her crying and I feel her feeling cleansed of any negative energy. Of course, the service in Israel was BEAUTIFUL, but I really missed my family and I was thinking of them the entire time.
For Simchat Torah, our group went shul hopping. We went from shul to shul (four of them), made L’Chaims and danced with the Torah! We were also invited to a private L’Chaim for MASA students, by the Chabad on the Coast. The Rabbi had so many inspiring words and I can’t wait to go back! If you’re in the area, they will be hosting a MEGA Shabbat dinner. If you’re in town, you should check it out!
Sukkot: one of my favorite Jewish holidays. It’s the holiday where we build mini huts and eat in those mini huts. I have to make a huge shout out to Leah Bauman real quick. She organized a small group to go to Jerusalem to go Sukkah hopping. She introduced us to her family and her family’s neighbors. We went to three sukkahs (three different and beautiful sukkahs) and we talked about Torah and how significant this holiday is to Jewish lives in 2015.
As you all know, I love volunteering. I discovered some awesome programs in Israel that offer the best volunteering opportunities in Israel. I’ll start with OneDay, it’s an amazing organization started by Elad Blumenthal. He is a man with a vision of bringing the lovers of Israel and volunteering all under one roof. The volunteering location varies every week. My first time volunteering, we went to a school built specifically for students from the ages of six through 13 with autism and special needs. We helped build a sukkah and make decorations to put up in the sukkah after building it. We danced, sang and had a fantastic time! Our second volunteering trip was going to Jerusalem and renewing the forest in Mt. Herzl. It was very hands on and I definitely felt as if I really got to experience the Zionistic dream.
My last volunteering adventure was taking a trip to the Negev (desert) at night, to help guard large farmlands. It sounds weird, right? But I learned that in the middle of the night, there are thieves that go to farms to steal or butcher animals. Farmers lose so much money and equipment because of this, so a volunteer group by the name of Shomer Israel rounds up a group of Olim (new immigrants) to physically and spiritually do something virtuous for Israel.
I just have to point out that there’s been so many people telling me how much they want to visit Israel. If you’ve never been, I highly suggest you make a visit here (duh). And if you do decide to visit, obviously let me know and I will be happy to be your personal tour guide!
P.S. Follow me for live feeds on Snapchat: @Yarstafarian 🙂