Wednesday, May 23, 2012

5/23/12: Happy Anniversary! 3 Years And Counting

3 years ago, almost to the day, I was afforded the opportunity to live in Jerusalem for a summer studying the Palestinian dialect of Arabic. During that summer I met two of the most amazing women I know who have turned into two of the best friends a girl can have. It has been a long road for each of us, but here we are, three years later, all new immigrants to Israel embarking on new careers, relationships, and journeys  far away from our homes and lives in the United States, and the most amazing part is that we get to do all of this together.

It's amazing how people you have known for only 3 years, a period of time that is so minuscule, can be people who mean more to you, and have been there for you in more ways than people you have known a life time. When I was going through my breakup with my boyfriend of almost 3 and a half years it was Sarah who ultimately pulled me through it, especially since she was going through a similar situation at the same time. When I craved so desperately the habit of texting or calling that one special person at night or really whenever anything was going on in my life, and no longer had Jordan to fill this need, it was Sarah who I leaned on to fill this void.

Moving across the world is a scary thing but I felt like the minute I arrived in Israel Susanna was right there to help me adjust. From staying with her in the Old City some 3 years ago, to our new lives in Tel Aviv filled with weekly dinners, much needed girl time, adventures around Israel pertaining to anything exciting going on in either of our lives, and adventures around the world (well just Turkey for now but we will be planning more trips soon :-)) she is the most wonderful friend to have and I am so lucky she is here.

To celebrate our so called anniversary we all met up after class and work ended for the day, had a great hour or so of girl time, and then headed out to a great Asian restaurant where we were finally introduced to Sarah's lovely boyfriend. I felt bad that we subjected him to hours of our girl talk at dinner but he handled himself very well considering this was his first meeting with "the friends". We caught up on each other's lives, did the inevitable talking about boys, did some shopping, ate great food, and had a really perfect evening.

Tomorrow is student day at Tel Aviv University so expect some good pictures and posts from that :-)

Lilah Tov ya Chaverim,
Jordana Simone 

Monday, May 21, 2012

5/21/12: It's A Long, Hard Road Ahead, But Worth All The Struggle

The past few days have been filled with contemplations, anxieties, fears, excitements, and a wide range of emotions that affect new immigrants to a foreign country, especially a country where English is not the language of speech, work, and education. Sometimes I think to myself that it would be so easy to run back to the states, get my Master's/PhD in English, and start working, but lucky for me I have never wanted an easy life; where's the fun in that! To work in my profession of choice here in Israel I am faced with the challenge of starting from scratch and getting a degree completely in Hebrew; a very daunting task if I do say so myself. In order to accomplish this I will need to take a year long Mechina program which will give me the Hebrew I need to successfully study in an Israeli university with native Israelis, along with giving me the classes I will need to be accepted into the degree program of my choice (either Occupational Therapy, or Clinical Psychology). Basically what this means is that I will need to take advanced maths and sciences (chemistry, physics, etc.) completely in Hebrew... I didn't even like these subjects in my native language!!! OY!

After a few sleepless nights worrying about the long road ahead in terms of study, finances, living, etc. my emotions turned, quite suddenly, from fear to excitement. If you know me you know I love a good challenge, and this will be one damn good challenge for me. I love my life here so much that leaving is not an option for me, so instead of worrying I just have to do whatever it takes to make it! I knew I would be in school forever anyways but at least now I will come out of it with a great, in demand, career and complete fluency in another language.

When I met with a professor to discuss my options for continuing my study in Israel he told me that the first year is the hardest for new immigrants. He said that I will have to find my footing, establish my niche, find a unique group of friends, and that can be a long and lonely road. I'm no longer an American studying abroad in Israel... As of February I became an Israeli who has to find my place as such. I know I have a lot of challenges ahead of me, and many will not be easy, but I'm in a place I love surrounded by some of the most amazing people in the entire world. The great thing about living in a country filled with young immigrants is being able to share experiences and stories with others and lean on them for help and advice, and that is not only invaluable, but it is making the hard times much more bearable.

Now that I have figured out what I need to do for the next steps of my never ending educational endeavors, I can take time to talk about my much more exciting social life :-) This past week was one for the books in terms of activity and excitement. My French roommate Gary had a good friend of his in from France and whenever a friend comes to visit there is no choice but to show them the best of Tel Aviv... Basically that means a whole lot of clubs and parties! Because I happen to live with a bunch of characters who love to cause scenes and, literally, go out with a bang, I enjoyed the new experience of lending out my clothes to my male roommates... and putting makeup on them... I really thought that living with 4 boys would exempt me from this act of sharing clothes, but this weekend proved me very wrong on that front. These boys take "going out in style" to a whole new level!

I haven't been to a club in a while so getting back into the scene was really nice for a change. Every once in a while it is great to just get out and dance the night away. I might have overdone it a bit this weekend with multiple nights coming in past 3am, but you're only young once so might as well enjoy while you have the strength :-)

Photographed at YaYa

What a life! 
This week I will be applying for my Mechina program, working on papers, and catching up on the sleep I sacrificed this weekend, all in time for me to be nice and ready to forgo some more sleep next weekend! Thursday is student day at my university so classes are cancelled and a 24 hour party will replace the dregs of studying and learning :-) You'll want to stay tuned for that post!

Lilah Tov Ya Asdeqa. Until we meet again,
Jordana Simone 

Friday, May 11, 2012

5/10/12: Lag Ba'Omer And A Little Jewish History

The 2nd night of Passover begins a period of time known as "the counting of the Omer" where every night, from the second night of Passover to the night before Shavu'ot, we recite a blessing and state the count of the omer in both weeks and days. For example,  on the 16th day between Pesach and Shavu'ot, we would say "Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer."The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which commemorates the Exodus, and Shavu'ot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. It reminds us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until we received the Torah.

However, this period of time is also a period of mourning in memory of a horrible plague that struck during the time of Rabbi Akiva, who, in the Talmud, is referred to as the "head of all sages". During this period of days weddings, celebrations, and parties are not held, and haircuts are not allowed to be given. There is, however, a break in the mourning period that occurs on the 33rd day of the Omer, a day known as Lag Ba'Omer. On this particular date the mourning practices are lifted, haircuts are given (en mass if you go to religious towns like Tsfat), and it is one of the most popular days for Ashkenazi couples to get married if they are looking to have an early spring wedding! 

For whatever reason this holiday is marked by country wide bonfires lit on almost every corner of most cities in Israel. As I was on the bus coming back from university I could see fires being lit all over the city. Families were out with their children, huge stock piles formed all over the city filled with wood, old bed frames, and really anything else even remotely flammable. To be honest, if I were a little kid I would have been giddy at the idea of being able to help my parents light a big pile of junk on fire! What fun :-) The only downfall was that the entire city smelled like a huge ash tray. 

Bonfires at Kikar Ha'Medinah 
Until I lived in Israel I never noticed how much culture and tradition I missed out on growing up in a secular, Christian country. I never knew of celebrations shared throughout a whole country like the ones seen on Lag Ba'Omer, never felt mourning like I did on Yom Hazikaron and Yom Hashoa, and never felt passion and celebration like I did on Yom Ha'Atzmaut (independence day). I think it is so important for every Jewish person to come to Israel at least for a period of time if for nothing more than to experience the amazing traditions observed in this country. For a Jewish traditionalist like me there is nothing better than the feeling that I am living in a place as deeply rooted in, and connected to, Judaism as I feel that I am. I may not be religious, I may turn lights on during Shabbat, I may not keep the best Kosher (I just really, really like bacon and shrimp), but there is nothing more important to me than my faith, religion, and traditions, and living in Israel just enhances that every single moment of every day. 

Feeling the need for some spiritual uplifting I have decided to take a solo trip into Jerusalem on Monday. Luckily my only class was cancelled which will give me time to go back into the holy city for the day, spend time in the old city, visit the Arab shuk and the streets of East Jerusalem, and get away to clear my head. It will be nice to run away for a little while, feed the soul by spending time in one of the most overwhelmingly special places in the world, and then return hopefully refreshed and ready to begin another week :-). 

Stay tuned <3,
Jordana Simone 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

5/8/12: Cocktail Parties On A Monday! Hello Adulthood

Morgan's gorgeous spread
Yesterday night my roommate Morgan hosted an amazing little cocktail party at our apartment. I'm not so sure why he chose to have the party on a Monday night but this is Israel and the people here never need an excuse to party on ANY night of the week :-). During the day Morgan prepared all of the food, we cleaned the apartment, and took time to get everything ready for the intimate little gathering. Mo is the food artist in this apartment (as you can see by the picture above), and his spread was just as delicious as it was beautiful.

The master chef 

Mo and Me :-) 

Can't have a cocktail party without the cocktails! 

Amazing fried cheese dish 

Morgan's carrot specialty 

As people started arriving we finished up preparing the apartment and then got to the socializing. I was especially happy because a girlfriend of mine who I haven't seen in quite some time was able to make it, and it was so wonderful seeing her. After about 30 minutes or so the sun began to set and it seemed only appropriate to capitalize on the beauty that was happening outside; in fact, Morgan called for the starting time to be so early so that we could all see the sunset before really getting things started, so naturally pictures had to be taken!


When said photo shoot was complete we ate delicious food, drank tasty, albeit strong, drinks, and had a wonderful time with amazing people. At one point we all tried to play a game but that didn't exactly go so smoothly due to mild drunkenness and a lack of attention span that was absolutely astounding! It was really a perfect way to start the week, and now that I don't have a paper looming over my head, I was really able to enjoy it and not feel absolutely awful for taking a Monday off from studying :-)

Orlit with the boys 

Mo and Orlit 

Getting the night started :-) 

Benny and Bar <3 

Bar and me 

Game time! 

Stephane being... Stephane 

In other news I have narrowed down a few more paper topics, have contacted advisors for various PhD programs in Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, have narrowed down when I will start my ulpan, and am narrowing down places I can work when I conclude my master's before the start of my PhD. All in all I would say it has been quite a productive few days! The holiday of Lag Ba'Omer is this Wednesday night so stay tuned for a fun update about the bonfires in Tel Aviv :-)