I apologize for my long absence. I have been in such a whirlwind since our last post together. I’ve been so busy I’ve barely had time to flirt with the cuties at the coffee shop, that’s how crazy it’s been.
First of all, thank you thank you to our amazing guest bloggers, Jeff, Sam, and Nanci Bonar! They really went above and beyond in creating engaging and insightful posts, and I hope they provided a different point of view for you all of how the Bonar Family Residency works and what goes into creating this special place.
And… how was Israel? Another whirlwind. Here’s my take-aways from the trip (please excuse terrible trans-liter-ation into hebr-english):
- what a beautiful place
- food: i ate so much good food. everyday I ate falafel for lunch. and each one was delicious (except for that place that they just tasted fried without any good salads and sauces on top). I especially fell in love with persimmons (afisimon), this orange colored pear textured sweeeeeet like candy fruit. I’ve seen it in the states but it was EVERYWHERE in Israel. This was basically what I ate for breakfast everyday (i went to bed dreaming about breakfast); chocolate ruggelah & the hebrew bakeries were great, especially the one where the woman didn’t speak any english so we did a performance of sorts weighing and writing and gesturing.
- the people; all over, mature, relaxed. I really connected with a couple that I’m figuring out how to stay in touch with. DC, LA, New York City, Florida. met up with stephanie at my going away party and it really clicked something to have her inside my florida life — like the trip was real and that these relationships can continue outside of that context.
- an experiment in creating teams and causing a group to work effectively without being that jerk or something like that. A chaotic group of 40 people travelling all over a little country in a van – count offs that always went awry when one person wasn’t paying attention, tightly scheduled agenda of sight seeing, waking up at 7am everyday, general summer-camp-esque behaviors including guitar sing-alongs, intense immediate friendship making, talking about boys, drinking cheap israeli beer.
- I wore the same red puffy vest the whole damn trip — it was freezing (i.e. 50-60 degrees F). everyone thought i was soo color coordinated, but they just didn’t know that my whole wardrobe is red for this purpose. it makes everything so much easier. and makes me more identifiable from far distances / inside group photos (QUICK POP QUIZ: Where’s Aliya?)
- meeting Israeli Soldiers was one of the best parts of the trip. Here were real people who were really in the Israeli Army, and really had something big at stake in their country succeeding (whatever succeeding means). I wanted to ask a million questions, and started to, but honestly couldn’t figure out what else to ask. It again was a begining of a relationship — learning about how they view their jobs and the “mess” as Lior put it that this little country makes. Talking to them made the whole thing seem less extremist and crazy.
- I saw that I could be jewish however I want to be jewish, not based on these ways that other people think I should be jewish. I had the false impression that everyone in Israel was orthodox and that the whole country was somewhat set inside these traditional guidelines without room for modernity (my own interpretation). And what I found was that 70% or so of the country identifies as secular jews, drives on shabbat, doesn’t necessarily eat kosher, etc. What connected them most to their religion was their love of Israel. This is a new concept for me — having loving your country, the traditions, the traditions of your family be an expression of religion.
- learning hebrew! take this sample interaction at the convenience store:
ALIYA (sick, but pretending to not be sick. needs to buy cough drops, but has been tricked previously and actually bought riccola drops which claim nothing but to be “revitalizing!”): picks up Halls, Cama ze ole? [HOW MUCH IS IT?]
STORE-MAN: shevah. [SEVEN]
ALIYA: puts down seven scheckles slowly. Store-Man seems to think that is the correct amount. Aliya picks up the Halls. Toda! [THANK YOU]
Aliya exits stage right. Store-Man does not come running after her because she has paid the incorrect amount. Store-Man probably thinks she is a real Israeli.
- swimming in the dead sea was like swimming through jello.
- it was a beginning — beginnings of relationships, of learning more and connecting to Israel, of figuring out how I express my judiasm (as my friend amber puts it, “the Big J”)
- things I brought home with me: porcupine quill from the Israeli bird conservatory, instant coffee packets & little tiny plastic spoons (I’m gonna make earrings?), shwarma & za’atar seasoning, olive-face scrub (those crazy Israelis!), a taglit t-shirt (mike and I designed for everyone on the trip!), 4 Israeli chocolate bars, the most touristy ever hebrew “coke” shirt, this heart necklace I thought would be my new staple accessory but now feel silly about, maps, post card of a sexy naked lady swimming in the dead sea (definitely photographed at least 30 years ago)
- when I got home I was kinda a mess. I couldn’t believe I was going to bed at 9pm. 10pm. for FIVE DAYS. I don’t believe in jet lag! what was wrong with me?? body, wake up! I let myself relax for once. I let myself just be exhausted and sorta be ok that I couldn’t figure out why. I ate so much yogurt. I soaked in the Florida sunshine
- and then I was home. no more 40 people 24/7, the tiny bit of Hebrew I had just learned was now relatively useless, and the friends I had just made were now totally across the country all over.
- mom and me love melons:
- what’s next? I could see myself going back to Israel in the future. Like I said it felt like a beginning. I could see myuself as oneof the “counselor” trip guides for a trip in the future — i’m such a sucker for camp-group-bonding-shared-experiences-we-all-love-each-other-now things. I thought about how if I lead a trip I would LOVE to lead a specifically Reconstructionist focused trip. It’s the sect of Judiasm that I grew up with and most identify with, taking a modern (american) view on the Jewish traditions, and generally questioning and discussing all the different parts of what we do as Jews. I felt like that was missing from the trip. Yes there were religious parts but no real discussion of them. No talking about why the kotel (holiest wall in Jewish tradition) had such a small women’s section, or why we didn’t drive the bus on Saturday. I like why questions. that’s important to me, it makes me able to “own” something as my own instead of just someone else’s idea or thoughts or beliefs. that is what I would add to the trip.
- My friend Soheil said to me on the last day — “Aliya, I really appreciate that you put your whole soul into this. Not just your body was here but you were thinking and asking and participating fully, you were fully here.” I really appreciate this and hadn’t thought of it that way. It was lovely to have the opportunity to fully submerge my body and self into another culture. And I can’t wait to return in someway sometime.