Shalom haverim! For those unfamiliar with Hebrew, that means “Hello, my friends!” I wish I could say that the reason this blog is compiling 2 very long days was because I was keeping Shabbat, but alas, the reason is just that I was busy and got a little too lazy to write. However, I will give you all the full low-down on my weekend. Sunday (which is not a weekend here, sadly) will be included in my next blog post, as I can already tell it will be too long to include 3 full days.
Day 5: Friday, 9/12/2014
After our mandatory party the night before, it was time for my first Shabbat on the program. The day began kind of late, as it was the weekend and for those of you who know me, I enjoy relaxing (cue chuckles from my parents). Yael, Morgan, Starr, and I decided to go to the “Shuk HaCarmel,” or the Carmel Marketplace, to grab lunch and see what it was like. We had been there earlier that week, but on Friday, before Shabbat, it was WILD. People everywhere, aromas wafting through the air, cart owners yelling that their food was the best. It was crazy. Granted not as crazy as the shuk in Jerusalem on Shabbat, which is actually a madhouse, but still. We grabbed some delicious food and fresh fruit smoothies before heading back home.
When I came home, I relaxed for a little bit and showered to get ready for an optional Kabbalat Shabbat service. Yes, the party was mandatory and the services were optional. Ironic? Yes. Surprising? Not at all. None of my roommates wanted to go, so I ended up walking there with two girls on my program who live a few blocks away, Sarah and Sarah. The buses stop running at about 4pm on Friday and start back up after Shabbat ends on Saturday, so we walked to the synagogue. Two other girls from the program showed up, as did our program coordinator, Sonya, and the six of us walked inside.
To say these services were strange wouldn’t even begin to describe my experience here. First of all, the synagogue wasn’t on the street. It was down some weird alleyway, meaning you wouldn’t be able to find it unless you knew where you were going already. The synagogue itself was weirdly bright. Mind you, the sun had gone down, so for it to be so painfully bright without natural light was very weird. There were chandeliers, to make it seem upscale, but the lightbulbs used were the twisty kind, which completely defeated the purpose. There was also a mechitzah (divider between the men’s and women’s sides), but it was very short and was also somewhat sheer, completely defeating the purpose of a mechitzah. This was a conservative synagogue as well, so there shouldn’t have been, in my opinion, a divide between the sexes to begin with. Although, it is Israel, so the fact that the conservative movement is a bit more religious is understandable.
Now that I’ve explained to you the appearance, I will describe my feelings with the service itself. Something that I usually, and rightfully, expect in a service is a leader. A clear-cut leader. It doesn’t have to be a Cantor or Rabbi, but just someone who takes charge. Nope. Some guy went up and randomly started, without saying a page number or anything, and then about halfway through, he left and a different guy went up. No, no page numbers were called, no one greeted the congregation, no one saying when to stand or sit. It was very unwelcoming. By the end of the service, I was very confused and felt very disconnected.
I honestly didn’t understand what exactly the point was for me going to this service. I usually enjoy services, a good sermon, a nice connection with God. But I really didn’t feel that, except when I took time to do a silent personal prayer (the contents of which will not be disclosed on this blog, understandably, I hope). All of the other girls who went with me felt the same way: empty. I think that will be my first and only experience at this random synagogue that no one knew the name of. Maybe a reform congregation will be more my style here in Israel. I will keep you posted.
After services, the girls and I grabbed some frozen yogurt from this place called “Tamara” (it was delicious) and we headed back to the Sarahs’ apartment. A group of people from the program wanted to go to a bar called “Biggy Z,” about 5 blocks further from where the synagogue was. So we all got together and walked all the way back. I’m definitely getting a lot of walking in here. It’s no wonder I haven’t seen very many obese Israelis. The bar was having a deal: all you can drink (from a selected menu) for 70 shekels, which is about $20. Obviously I had to take up this offer. Hey, I’m over 21, and even if I wasn’t, the drinking age here is 18. So please don’t be alarmed if I mention drinking. I’ve learned my limits and I am always safe 🙂
The bar was actually pretty fun. I talked to the people in my group, as we’re still in the getting-to-know-you stage, and it was a blast. The bar had a pretty nice outdoor area, but every so often a bartender would come by and shush us, something I was very unfamiliar with. I mean, there’s a “no noise” policy after 10pm throughout the city (regardless of the night of the week), but it’s still a bar. There’s got to be a little leniency. So at around midnight, we left that bar and went to a different one down the street, called “Bar Giyora.” This bar was in a bomb shelter of a restaurant and had an open-mic band night. It was hilariously awesome. The band played everything from Justin Timberlake to “Mambo Number 5,” with an Israeli accent. Rihanna’s “Umbrella” with an Israeli accent was particularly entertaining. Try to imagine it. Just try. I probably got home at around 2:30am and immediately went to sleep.
Day 6: Saturday, 9/13/2014
Shabbat Shalom! Mine was very relaxing, thanks for asking. I mean, you didn’t actually ask me, but I assume that because you’re reading this blog, you’d rather just read this instead of ask me about my life. I’m super grateful, as telling the same things over and over again can get pretty annoying. Okay, Adina. Get back on track now.
My Saturday got off to a VERY late start, which wasn’t entirely my fault. My roommate Yael (whom I actually share a room with) woke up super late after a morning of fighting food poisoning… I’ll get to the reason as to why I put the “…” there later. We got to Gordon Beach, where the majority of our group was, at around 3:30pm. It was PACKED with tons of Israelis enjoying their Shabbat. I felt like I fit right in. After an hour there, I was talking with some friends who were going to the Lady Gaga concert that evening. They said they had an extra ticket, and after a little persuading, I decided to go too. We made plans to meet up at one girl’s apartment…just 2 hours later.
I rushed (I say rushed, but really, I just walked) home and got ready for the concert. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I put on a sparkly tank top (it’s Lady Gaga; what else SHOULD I have worn?) and a pair of shorts (because it was still really hot) and walked to our friend’s apartment, just a 10-minute walk from my place. After some shmoozing and noshing (talking and eating, for you non-Yiddish-speaking folk), we set off for the concert!
We had a bit of trouble just getting to the venue, as the bus we needed to take was 20 minutes late and was full (luckily another one arrived 5 minutes later). When we finally arrived, we had to do a ton more walking to get to where we needed to be. By the end of the night, my feet felt like falling off. We got into the venue, and I used my questionable Hebrew skills to ask a security guard a question: “Efshar le’tzalem otanu?” which means “Could you take our picture?” He said yes and took quite a few (see one of the many takes below).
Lady Gaga came on stage and the crowd wend WILD. She even spoke in Hebrew! Well, she said, “Ani ohevet et Tel Aviv!” which means “I love Tel Aviv!” The crowd loved that as well. She is an amazing performer live. Honestly, I think her songs were meant to only be heard live, not really anywhere else. She made about 7 or 8 costume changes (one of which actually occurred on the stage) and there was a surprise visit from Tony Bennett, whom most of the audience had never heard of. Side note: hearing Israelis sing her songs with their accents is WONDERFULLY HYSTERICAL. I’m noticing that Israelis singing American songs in their accents is a recurring hilarious theme in this blog post. I’ll keep you posted about any future songs that are butchered by Israeli accents.
The concert seriously was amazing though. I’m still exhausted from it. I got home around 1am and went to bed.
I’m now sitting in my bed, having caught the same food poisoning as Yael. I will spare you the details, not to worry. But I blog on for you, my dear family and friends. And also for myself, as I would probably forget a lot of things if I didn’t write about them. I will post about today (and probably tomorrow) in my next post, sans stomach bug details!
-Girl in Israel 🙂