Wednesday, November 21, 2012

11/21/12: Terror In Tel Aviv: The Return Of The Bus Bomb

Things were finally starting to look up for those of us in Tel Aviv. It had been two days with no alarms sounding that rockets were coming in from Gaza. Our beautiful Jerusalem had been targeted and hit, severe damage was caused when a rocket fell in Rishon Letzion (just outside of Tel Aviv), and a soldier and citizen were killed in the south in a rocket attack, but Tel Aviv remained quiet. I can only guess that the quiet we experienced, the brief hiatus from thinking that every odd sound from wind to car alarms was an alert to run and hide, was the silence that is heard before the actual storm...

I was in my Ulpan class thoroughly engrossed in my studies when a classmate said she heard a rumor that a bomb went off somewhere in Tel Aviv. Everyone checked their phones and various news outlets but nothing seemed to have happened; at least nothing was reported. Only a few minutes later, in the midst of our lesson, did another teacher come in telling us to stop what we were doing and call everyone we know to let them know we were safe, and to check and make sure that our loved ones were ok. A bomb had gone off on a bus in the center of Tel Aviv. 21 people were injured, 4 critically. My heart sank. I discovered that the bomb went off on a bus that was traveling down Weitzman Street at the corner of Shaul Hamelech. I know this doesn't mean anything to most of you, but that is on my exact route home from my ulpan. In fact, just yesterday I was riding my bike through that exact spot to get home. I was shaking I was so scared. I immediately tried to get ahold of Stephane and Ida but, of course, the phones weren't working. I texted each of them, received texts and messages from friends and my roommates checking to see what was going on with everyone, and I finally got through to discover that both Ida and Stephane were unharmed.

Photo from the scene of the attack 

A few minutes later I received a call from Stephane's mom and found out that both she and Stephane's little brother were safe and unharmed. All I could do was thank God that everyone I love was ok. Since I had spent the night at Stephane's last night, and when this happens and his mother takes me to class I take a bus home since I am without my bike, I had no idea what to do or how to get home. Many of the roads to my house were blocked, there was a police and army pursuit for the two suspects who put the bomb on the bus (it was not a suicide bombing), and I was scared to death to even be on the roads at all considering that this bomb went off right near where I live. There were a few people from my Ulpan class who live near me who decided to walk so I thought it would be a very good idea to join them and go as a group. As I was walking, however, I received a message from Stephane's mom telling me to stay where I was because she was coming to get me. I was so relieved and happy that I wanted to cry. I have no family here and when a tragedy like this happens it is the best feeling in the world to know that you have people who want to help take care of you. I may be almost 25 but I still need family, so, while I can't have mine, I have the best alternative in the world with Stephane, his mother, and his little brother.

Stephane was picked up first, then I was taken from the Ulpan, and then we went to get his little brother. Once we were all together I was a bit more relaxed, and then I was fine once learning that Ida was safe and sound, but it was one of the most emotionally trying days I have ever had. Tensions were high, everyone was scared out of their minds, and the whole mood of the city changed. My Ulpan teacher made an interesting comment after news of the bomb had broken. She seemed worried but said "this is Israel. This is our life here. It is scary but we have to keep living". We have to keep living... I know many people have expressed concern over my decision to stay here during such a time of turmoil, but to abandon Israel now is not even an option for me. In the wake of disaster you see just how amazing this tiny, little country and her citizens truly are, and there is no place I feel more safe or more protected than I do here in Israel. Here is where my life has purpose, meaning, love, passion, excitement, and so much more, and to run away from that would be madness. I am so touched by every message I have received from friends near and far, and assure you that I am doing everything to remain as safe as possible. Your caring, kind words have brightened my life during a very dark time here in Israel, and I can't find the words to express my gratitude at your thoughts and prayers for the safety of myself, my loved ones, and my country.

Please pray for Israel. She, unfortunately, is an underdog in a world of people who love to hate her. But let me tell you about Israel. This country would do anything for its citizens who in turn would give their lives to protect her. The people of this country may be tough and have strong characters, but if you ever needed anything, most people here would open their homes to a stranger with no questions asked for the simple pleasure of giving help to someone in need. Yes Israel is a military state, and yes she fights hard, but if she didn't she wouldn't exist. This is the homeland of every Jew in the world, and though it is a Jewish state, Christians and Muslims live freely, and flourish, within her borders, side by side with Jews from all over the world. It is a true paradise, my home, and the most special, wonderful country in the world. Pray for us all, they are prayers and support that we desperately need.

Until we meet again <3,
Jordana Simone

Monday, November 19, 2012

11/18/12: What You See You Must Believe: Rockets In Tel Aviv

The Iron Dome 

I thought it would be a quiet day... Up until now we have only had alarms go off once per every 24 hour period so I had reason to hope that if anything did happen it would only happen once. I was wrong... The first alarm sounded while I was in the middle of my Ulpan lesson. I could only hear a whisper of the alarm but the students flying out of the classrooms to the stairways confirmed my suspicion that an alarm had indeed sounded. The explosion the rockets made as they were taken down by the Iron Dome system was much easier to hear. 10 minutes we waited outside until we were sure it was safe to reenter the classroom. Normally my classroom is on the top floor of the building, but since the conflict began with Gaza we have been moved to the second level in case a rocket strikes the building. The next half of an hour or so were dedicated to everyone calling or receiving calls from their loved ones. The rule that cell phones have to be off during class has indefinitely been lifted while tensions run high in Israel. The most important thing is to be in touch with those we love to make sure they are ok, and that can't be suspended during class time.

Thankfully the rest of the morning went on without any disturbances, however, this was my first time being outside of either my home or Stephane's home during an alarm, so the experience was quite new for me. It is amazing being surrounded by so many others and knowing that you fear is not without reason, or that you are not overdramatizing the severity of the situation. I made it home with no problems that day, set off to do my homework, and then was invited to spend the night Stephane's apartment. It is hard for me not to be with him at night, especially during a time like this, because if God forbid something was to happen I would not want to be with anyone else (except my sister Ida). Because Tel Aviv had already had it's daily alarm I was not nervous about traveling to his place, which is about 25 minutes away from my own, and requires some walking through non sheltered areas. But, like I previously stated, there has not been a day since the fighting started that Hamas has sent missiles into Tel Aviv more than once in a 24 hour period.

Around 6pm I readied myself and headed out to catch the Monit Sherut (shared taxi) that would take me within 2 blocks of Stephane's apartment. As I was walking to get to the sherut I called my father because I figured it would be a perfect time to catch him up on everything that was going on here. I remember talking about the missiles, talking about the situation with Gaza and the greater Arab world, talking about how people think I should come home (to which he gave his full support and understanding of my decision and really my inability to leave Israel), and by the time I realized what was going on, it was time for me to exit the sherut and walk about 2 blocks the rest of the way. I said goodbye to my dad, jumped out of the taxi, and was on my way.

The rest happened so fast I almost didn't even realize what was going on. I was about a block down from where I exited the cab, in the middle of a crosswalk, when the sirens sounded. I was frozen I couldn't believe what was going on. Cars stopped, people exited their vehicles, some pulling their children out, and ducked down on the floor beside their cars. I was next to a girl about my age and we had no idea what to do so we laid down on the ground with our hands over our heads (like that would actually help at all). The next thing I know I see people pointing at the sky and I look up to see two rockets heading straight for Tel Aviv. The almost looked like planes with orange lights; just two little dots up in the sky. The first rocket was Hamas's, and the second was launched from Israel's Iron Dome interception system. I saw them both in the air, I saw the Iron Dome rocket approach the one launched by Hamas, and then I saw them explode in mid air upon collision. It looked like fireworks, but the sound of the explosion that rocked the city a few seconds after was nothing short of terrifying. I could almost feel the ground shake it was so loud.

Only a few seconds after I received a call from Stephane who was extremely worried because I was outside. I could tell he felt really bad. After assuring him I was ok, while running to try to get near some shelter or cover, I calmed down enough to call Ida and then get in touch with my dad to let him know what happened. I felt like I was in a movie it was so surreal. Seeing everything happen right in front of my face. Seeing all of this an knowing that there are still so many people out there who think we are baseless aggressors who are shamefully attacking the innocent people of Gaza... I will end this post with a plea to anyone and everyone who reads what I write:

I know what you read and hear and see on the Western Media outlets. It pains me because so much of it is blatantly untrue. I implore you all to please check facts before immediately believing what you see. The Hamas organization knows what its doing, and has always been good with PR. It places rocket launching sites, and weapon storage spaces, in residential areas (in homes, schools, even Mosques), so that when Israel targets these sites that are responsible for reeking havoc on our country, they maximize civilian casualties. They use their citizens as shields and do so willingly to look the part of the victimized martyrs. Yes innocent people die and I have nothing but compassion and sympathy for those who are killed because of the tactics of Hamas. Anyone who knows me knows I am the farthest thing you can get from being anti-Palestinian. But this operation started because of unrelenting bombardment of Southern Israel with hundreds of rockets, and if you think your countries would do anything different you are living in a dream world and NEED to wake up. You might ask how is it that the death tole in Gaza is reaching 100, while in Israel only 3 have died? To that I have one thing to say. Israel, above anything else, values the lives of its citizens, and does anything in her power to protect them. We are battling $500 dollar rockets from Gaza with $100,000 dollar rockets to knock them down, spending millions on safety and security because you can't put a price on people's lives. In Gaza they are putting rocket launching sites in homes and schools so that when Israel attacks said sites civilians die while they do nothing to protect their own. I bet you did't know that Israel broadcasts, sends text messages, and drops pamphlets in Gaza to announce when and where they will attack so that people can clear those areas... BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW THAT! Hamas has also started reproducing pictures of deaths that happen in Syria and advertising that they are the deaths of Gazans and the hands of the Israelis. Please, for the love of all that is good, check what you see before believing it. There is more to this story than you are getting and it is vital you know the facts.

Pray for peace because we are going to need both your prayers and support.

Until we meet again,
Jordana Simone

Saturday, November 17, 2012

11/17/12: They Fired on Jerusalem... Pillar of Defense Day 3

It was a quiet night in Tel Aviv which came as a nice relief after hearing the sirens that evening. My story left off at Stephane's house where we went over exactly what to do in case a rocket attacked happened during the night. Luckily our sleep was uninterrupted and we woke up to discover that Israel intensified her air strikes on Gaza during the night. The morning passed without any interruption. While Stephane's little brother was at school we were home watching the news to keep informed on what was happening. Let me tell you, watching the news in a language that is not your own is not the easiest, but I followed easily enough. The situation in the south is deteriorating by the minute, it seems, which is very scary because all of Stephane's family is in the South; I can't even imagine how worried his mother must be.

Morning turned into afternoon without any sirens leaving us with the hope that it would be a quiet day free of attacks on Tel Aviv. At around 1pm I decided that I should get ready to go home because I had planned to cook a big, fancy, romantic Shabbat/Birthday dinner for Stephane, and I wanted to give myself enough time to get everything prepared. I'm not the most experienced chef in the world so I need to factor in at least an extra hour to make up for any mistakes that might occur :-). At around 1 or so Stephane's mom returned home from picking up his little brother  (who is really one of my favorites) from school, and before I left I was obliged to play a little football with the boys. I feel like I have become an integral part of play time at the Fitoussi residence when Michael is home :-) It was a beautiful day outside and it was a pleasure that I could stay a little longer to be with the boys, until it sounded... about 5 minutes after we started playing the air raid sirens went off. Stephane's little brother was running to get the football and I just remember Stephane yelling at him to run back to us, I thought to go get the ball so that he wouldn't try and go back for it, realized the ball will be fine and we all made our way back inside and straight into the stairwell. We decided it would be safer to go down into the parking garage and hide under the stairs there because we would be protected should anything fall. My heart was pounding so fast and I was mainly concerned for Michael because he is so little and seemed to be scared. The first thing he said was "why every time I want to play the bombs come?" (or something along those lines). I felt so heartbroken. What 10 year old should have to worry about things like this? But this has become our reality these last few days and the most important thing was to stay safe. Afterwards I discovered that a rocket had hit in Tel Aviv, and Hamas had the gall to fire at one of the holiest cities in the world; a city that is sacred for all three of the major monotheistic religions which includes their holy Islam... For the first time EVER a rocket was fired at Jerusalem thus showing that these people, these fanatic Islamists, hold nothing sacred or holy. In my opinion war was declared the second they fired on Jerusalem.

After about 10 minutes in the stairwell we felt it was safe to come out. I decided I should head home immediately or I might never make it back. I said goodbye to the boys and prayed the sirens wouldn't go off while I was en route home. Thankfully I made it back with no problems and set off on my task of preparing a big meal for Stephane. It really is a testament to how much I like him that I cook for him! I don't even cook for myself most times, and I consider a fancy sandwich to be gourmet! Steph's two favorite foods are salmon and spinach (random but healthy) so I decided to combine the two and do something special. Now, I am not a fish eater at all and I've only had salmon 2 other times in my life, so I crossed my fingers and hoped this would work. I found a great recipe for a lemon pepper salmon with a light cream sauce, thought it looked really tasty, did my shopping, and set to work. The food was easy enough to prepare, I didn't burn anything down, and managed to cook a healthy, tasty meal for a very special person! Accompanying the salmon was a spinach salad with lemon vinegarette, cranberries, and walnuts. It was quite delicious :-) I wanted some privacy from the 4 boys I live with so I decided to make the balcony nice and pretty, set the table outside, and have a nice, private, space to eat the food. Thankfully it was a beautiful night, I just prayed the sirens wouldn't go off in the middle of it!

The dinner was a success, the food was delicious, and we had a really wonderful night uninterrupted by sirens. When we woke up today we decided it was a perfect Shabbat to be lazy so we bought some food from one of the corner markets open on Saturdays, and spent the day watching movies. It was a perfect Saturday until the sirens sounded again at around 4:30. Luckily there is a bomb shelter in my apartment so we made our way to the room immediately. I was just about to take a shower so the timing was not ideal for a siren to go off, but in that situation what can you do... Luckily I had a towel handy...  This time two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv, and though one was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome device to blow up missiles mid air, the other one hit although I don't know where. My roommate heard the explosion which we were spared from hearing since we were in a sealed bomb shelter. After that the rest of the evening was quite and as of now (10 pm) no sirens have sounded. I am hoping tonight will be another quiet night, and I can only hope and pray things don't escalate while we are all sleeping. I have alerts set on my phone to get any news updates as they happen.

Stay tuned for more posts about the situation here in Israel and in Tel Aviv.

Until we meet again, ya chaverim, pray for the safety of Israel, her citizens, and the innocent lives being affected by this tragedy <3,

Jordana Simone 

Friday, November 16, 2012

11/15/12: Pillar of Defense- Day 2

Living in Tel Aviv has its advantages: big city living, exciting night life, great restaurants, beautiful beaches, and, most importantly, protection during a conflict with the territories... Or so I thought. Today, for the first time since the Gulf War with Iraq, missiles were successfully fired into Tel Aviv raising a city wide alert for citizens to take cover in whatever nearby bomb shelter they could find.

I had woken up that morning glued to the news to keep track of what was happening with operation "Pillar of Defense". The first reason being that I wanted to keep informed on the situation with calling back reserve soldiers since my roommates were in high ranking combat units when they served. Secondly, Gaza had issued a statement the moment Jabiri was killed stating that "Tel Aviv will burn", so naturally we were all wondering how empty or full the threat was. It is no secret that Gaza has procured Fajr missiles from Iran that have a range of up to 75km (well within the 70 km between Tel Aviv and Gaza), so we were all worried and concerned. The morning and afternoon passed with news of continuing rocket fire in the Southern cities of Ashkelon, Sdeort, Kirat Melachi, and others, and the first casualties on the Israeli side were announced. 2 women and 1 man were killed when a Hamas rocket hit an apartment building in Kiray Melachi, and a baby was critically wounded. Yet Tel Aviv was still safe.

It was the late afternoon and I had decided to clean the apartment for a little while because I was expecting company over before enjoying a night on the town. The news was on in the background, one of my roommates was home in the living room, and then we heard that a missile had just landed in Rishon Letziyon. Rishon is a mere 15 minutes away from Tel Aviv. We began to joke that soon we were going to have to have a slumber party in Gary's room (his room is our bomb shelter), and then we heard it... The air raid sirens began to sound in Tel Aviv. My heart started racing. Morgan and I quickly dropped what we were doing and headed straight into the shelter to wait out the siren. It is one of the strangest feelings to have to run and hide because you don't know if a missile will fall near where you are living. I felt like I was in a movie, and as an American I have never had to experience anything like this in my life. I certainly gained more of an appreciation for what people living in the South have to go through on almost a daily basis.

I was very scared, but not in the typical sense of the word. I wasn't scared that I was going to die, and I really didn't feel like I was in danger, but the whole atmosphere was tense in a way I have never felt before. Missiles have never landed in Tel Aviv and so this marked the start of a whole new type of conflict. My first instinct was to call Stephane and Ida. I hated not being with them during a time like this, and, of course, everyone in Tel Aviv was calling people so the phone services were all down. After a few frantic minutes I finally got through and discovered that everyone was fine and had taken cover. The next hour or so Morgan and I were waiting to see if the siren would sound again, and it was mutually decided that no one would be going out at night. The biggest question became would I go to Stephane's house to be with him and his family (despite the fact that they don't have a bomb shelter in their house), or would he come to me where there is a bomb shelter if necessary. Who could have guessed that that would be the biggest decision of the day...

Finally we decided that I would come to him so that he wouldn't have to leave his mom and 10 year old little brother. I didn't care. I just wanted to get to him so that if God forbid anything happened in the night we would be together. We talked about the plan if the sirens would go off in the middle of the night (his little brother's room is the safest place in the house to be), and then we watched the news for a little while before going to bed to see if there were any new updates. Thankfully Tel Aviv had a quiet night while Israel continued their strike on Gaza from the South. 11 rockets came into Israel but they did not reach Tel Aviv.

16,000 reserve troops have been called back to duty with the possibility that 30,000 will have to go and fight should this escalate to a ground operation and full on war. These next few days will be very tense and sensitive, and I can only sit by and watch, wait, and pray that it will end soon with few casualties. I will be writing updates every day on the situation from Tel Aviv so stay tuned!

Until we meet again <3,
Jordana Simone 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

11/14/12: And So It Begins...

Rockets exploding...War in your back yard...Friends being sent to fight. When you grow up in a country like America there are certain experiences you never have to go through, certain situations that you never have to feel close to or connected to; a luxury that one does not have if they live in a country like Israel. My move to the Middle East was about finding myself by throwing myself into the unfamiliar, for this is when I feel you learn the most about who you are. Despite my residency in Israel for over a year, and despite a feeling of familiarity with the country, I have once again been plunged into the unfamiliar.

This afternoon when I returned home from Ulpan I discovered that, after two days of Southern Israel being bombarded with over 100 rockets fired from neighboring Gaza, the Israeli Army succeeded in killing Hamas's military chief, Ahmed Jabari, in a coordinated air strike. Naturally, once this occurred a statement was issued by Hamas informing that "Tel Aviv will burn tonight". I live in Tel Aviv... This is not the first time an enemy group has threatened to wipe out Tel Aviv, nor is this the first time Israel has been engaged in an offensive with Gaza or a neighboring enemy, but this is the first time I have been in the country during any such operation. It amazing how in the span of a few hours my thoughts changed from the amazing time I had with my boyfriend and his family yesterday to thoughts of being caught in the middle of a war. It really puts things in perspective.

It became real for me when my roommate, who is currently in the Israeli Army, called to see if my other roommates (who are former soldiers) were called back to duty to go fight. One of my roommates was in one of the highest combat units in the army and should they be called into Gaza he will be going with them. These are my friends; people I have shared a life and a home with for over a year. The thought of any of them going to war, frankly, scares the living daylights out of me. But this is what people deal with here; family members, daughters, sons, brothers, mothers and fathers, husbands, boyfriends, might have to leave at any moment to defend this tiny country we all call home and love so much. Here in Israel we don't have snow days, but we have days where you can't go to school or work because you are stuck in a bomb shelter while rockets rain down from neighboring enemies. This is life here.

Surprisingly, however, because this has been apart of daily life in Israel since her inception, most Israelis (or people who have lived here for a long time) seem so used to these situations. It's another war, we've had many and we will continue to have many as long as there are people who want us destroyed. I'm sitting here practically hyperventilating and my boyfriend is on the phone with me as calm as can be because this is just life here; a life that is very hard to grasp when you are American. Yes we have had wars but they have never been in our back yards; this is something so different. I have a bomb bunker in my apartment because most buildings in Israel are built around a concrete "tube" that will hold up if the building falls due to bombs. This is a concept so foreign to a girl who grew up in quiet, little Palm Springs California... a bomb bunker in my home.

I don't know what the next few days will bring, if there will be a war, if rockets will reach Tel Aviv, etc. But what I do know is that through it all I feel more safe here with rockets going off 20 minutes away then I have ever felt in the United States. I don't know how dangerous the situation might become but despite it all I love this country more than almost anything in the world, and I am honored, every day, to call Israel my home. I may be too old to serve in the army but I will defend this country vigorously and in any way that I can, whether with words, or through volunteer work, or some other means. This place is my home and one of the great loves of my life; I made a commitment to this country a long time ago to be with her through the good and the bad, and it is one of the most important commitments I have ever made.

There is a reason that we are surrounded by enemies yet seem to prosper and flourish...Israel is a testament to the fact that size means nothing, and the quality of the people that make up this brilliant country mean everything. And so I end by saying a prayer for Israel- my home, my haven, and my great love. To her protection, safety, and continued prosperity in the face of bitter adversity:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

11/4/12: Appreciate Each Day Because You Never Know When It Will Be Your Last

This past Monday, November 2nd, marked the 5th year anniversary of the death of my step brother, David Lieberman. How 5 years has passed by so quickly, I can hardly even begin to fathom. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It began as a beautiful, crisp, autumn day in Berkeley, but as I was walking through the beautiful campus to get to my Arabic class, I heard my telephone ring to the sound of my father's ringtone. I knew right away that something was not right; my father usually never called me in the middle of a work day unless something was really important. My first instinct was that something had happened to one of my grandparents, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to hear.

The days that followed passed in a blur of emotions, but I remember so vividly the outpour of love and affection from family and friends; a true testament of how wonderful and special David was. He accomplished so much to be proud of in the short time he was with us all, and his warm spirit, kindness, and generosity are remembered and reflected by his family and friends who love him so much. It's a comfort to know he is up there watching over us, and I think he'd be so proud of all the wonderful things going on in the lives of his family and friends.

So much has happened in five years since Dave's passing, including college graduations, big moves to israel, career changes, anniversaries, family visits, and so on, and no big event happens without fond and loving memories of David, who could not be with us in person. These years have brought our family so much closer to one another, and the fact that I was able to be here, in Israel, with my sister, Ida, to celebrate David's memory on the anniversary of his passing, is such an amazing thing. He would be so proud of her just like I am that she, like me, has found an exciting
new chapter in a place that is special to everyone in our family, and the fact that we are here together
means that no matter how far away we may feel from everything that is familiar to us, we will always be close to family.

Everyday as I get older, and everyday as I experience new things, I am constantly reminded how precious life is, and, on the other side, how very fragile it is. So many people take for granted what they have without thinking that at any moment they, or someone they love, might not be there anymore. Sometimes it is hard to tell the people you love the most just how much they mean to you, and it is usually those people that are the most taken for granted (a fault which I fall victim to more often than I care to admit), but my resolution to myself is that even though it may be hard to tell those we love how much they mean, I try not to miss the opportunity to show them (even despite being
thousands of miles away from home). Whether that means taking time to Skype every so often, or sending text messages just to say that I'm thinking about you, it's a start to making the people you care about know how much you love them.

I have learned a great deal from David's passing, and as my relationships become more serious both in terms of family and friends, I take these each and every lesson and try to apply them as often as possible. It is when you start to love people more than you love yourself that you really understand how life without them would not be half as wonderful as it is with them in it to share in everything that you are doing. So here's to David, the only brother I have ever known, and a wonderful step brother to both me and my sister. Your memory will live through those who loved you from now until the end of time. Rest in Peace my friend.

In other news, and speaking of people that we love and care deeply for, Stephane FINALLY returns home tomorrow after 3 months abroad! I can't even describe my excitement. I have no idea how I'll actually react when I see him, but I'm really hoping I don't start crying... It's something I could see myself doing which would probably completely embarrass him! I'm just so happy he will finally be home!!! only 15 hours left! But I'm not counting or anything :-)

Until we meet again <3,
Jordana Simone

Thursday, November 1, 2012

11/1/12: Almost Getting Killed Gives You Perspective

I'm home! 

It has been about a week and a half since I have returned home to Israel, and if I thought I couldn't fall more in love with this country I was severely mistaking. In terms of the return trip it was not as bad as I would have expected; I slept most of the two flights, the jet lag on this end was perfectly manageable, and I think I was just so excited to get back to Israel that everything seemed amazing. From Tuesday (my first full day home) to Saturday I caught up on my sleep, got my life back in order, did some much needed autumn cleaning, and made my space feel like home again.

Sunday arrived rather rapidly and it was time for me to start back with my intensive Hebrew course for new Immigrants. I went to the Ulpan to take another placement test so that they could be sure to place me in the correct level for my remaining 4 months of study, found that I remembered pretty much everything I had previously learned, placed in a comfortable level for my knowledge base, and the next day it was off to school at 8:15 am! Since I am the definition of a "girl on a budget", I decided to not renew my very expensive bus pass, and instead make use of the bike I bought a few months ago. Despite the fact that it is about a 45-50 minute bike ride to the Ulpan (with a few very big hills), I told myself that it would be a great way to get good exercise and save money! I am very proud to report that I have not taken the bus once, and have biked to school every day this week! Keep in mind I'm really lazy so this is a HUGE feat! But with all this riding I won't need a gym membership :-) Maybe I'll just find a nice yoga studio.

It is so incredible to be back in Ulpan, and my confidence in Hebrew is skyrocketing. My Ulpan teacher has even suggested on numerous occasions that I move to a higher level, but my vocabulary needs a lot of work so I think I'll stay. It feels nice though when people think you are better at a language than you think! I used to be so shy to speak and now I refuse to let people revert to English with me. I know that one of the reasons for this is due to the fact that I have been spending a lot more time with Stephane's family, who only speak Hebrew (and French but of course I don't know any of that!), and this has forced me to become more comfortable with the language. I have a long way to go but since I pretty much adopted his mother as my Israeli mom I think I'll get a lot of practice in the future!

I'm sure most of you are wondering about the title of this post, and rest assured, I am getting there. Last night, as you all know, was halloween, and though most people don't celebrate the American holiday here, my sister and I decided to have a scary movie marathon! I'm probably the worst candidate for watching scary movies because I usually can't sleep for a few nights after, but I think the anticipation of Stephane's arrival home after three months away is keeping me awake at night anyways, so I figured I might as well take advantage of poor sleep and at least be entertained. Basically I got a pretty awful night sleep plagued with very strange dreams, and I was strongly considering sleeping through the beginning of Ulpan, until I told myself I need really good karma going into next week (since I will probably be missing a day or so of class when Steph gets home). I dragged my tired butt out of bed, hopped on my bike, and made my way down across town. For the most part it was a pretty smooth bike ride until a huge semi decided to turn on a red without looking to see if someone was crossing the street. Too bad for me that I was crossing the street... It's no shock to hear that drivers in Israel are terrible, but when you almost get killed by one, it takes on a new meaning. The truck decided to turn at full power which means that even when he realized I was in the middle of the street and hit the breaks, had I not have been paying attention I wouldn't have had time to get out of his way. A few scrapes, bruises, and a shaky body sure beat the alternative, but I haven't been that scared in a really long time.

I was very happy to reach the Ulpan alive and relatively unharmed, but the good karma of making myself go paid off because we were let out early and my weekend began an hour and half sooner than I expected!! So it all worked out :-) When I came home my sister was still at my place so we were able to spend a few hours together before she had to head back home, tonight I have an empty apartment and a hot bath with my name written all over it, and then Friday and Saturday we'll see about taking advantage of the Tel Aviv night life a bit! I want to make sure I'm very rested come Monday, however, when a very special someone FINALLY comes home after being gone for 3 months. I can't imagine life here in Israel being any better, and that's without my boyfriend, so once he gets home I can't even imagine how utterly incredible everything will be. Let's just hope I recognize him after so long away ;-)

Until we meet again <3,
Jordana Simone