Mel’s First “Quarterly” Review…

Post (and photo) by Melissa

After three months in Israel, I find that people tend to ask about the same things, so I thought it might be nice to address the big picture of them quarterly. Both to keep you all in the know and for my own reflection on the journey.

So without further adieu, here is my first quarterly review! (Yes, its been almost an extra month, but with the lack of time I have it took longer than I anticipated to write it out. So the “quarter” may be a bit flexible as we go forward.)

Learning:

Amazing! Seriously, I cannot imagine anything more amazing to do with my time right now. Nishmat has been more enlightening and challenging (in a good way) than I ever could have imagined. With the growth in my skills already, I cannot wait to see where they are by the end of the journey. (D is also loving his learning and feels that Pardes is the right fit at this time and that it will prepare him well for the next step.)

Living:

We live in a small 1.5 room (a studio with a door to the “bedroom”) apartment in Nachlaot, which is an experience.  Luckily, we’re really never home so its not such a big deal that it is tiny and relatively sparsely furnished. We love how centrally located it is – we each are able to walk to school most mornings and take the bus home via direct routes, and have pretty much everything we could want in a close proximity. Plus we get to shop at the shuk which we have a love-hate relationship with.

Exploring:

Unfortunately, we really haven’t done much of this yet. We have such busy days of learning and had such a rough start here that we haven’t had time. We do spend a lot of time walking the streets of the city though, so thats something at least! We have done a few tiyulim (trips) in the city and hope to do some more over Chanukah when we have a few days off from classes.

Community:

While we live in Nachlaot and there is a great community here, it hasn’t really been where we’ve clicked. We find ourselves spending many Shabbatot schlepping out to Talpiyot/Baka where many of the Pardes students live to spend time with them. It is such an amazingly diverse group and it meals are always fun and engaging. We have also connected to the Spanish-Portugese community here and enjoy the one Shabbat a month we get with them (and any other stray meals we pick up along the way) As of now our favorite places to pray are Shira Hadasha, Yakar, Spanish-Portugese, and Addes (well, only D has been to Addes, but he enjoys it and at some point I’ll make it over there with him.)

As you can see, there isn’t really any strong sense of community in our experience yet, but hopefully as we continue to settle we will find it a bit more.

Food:

Our kitchen is a two burner hot plate, so we’ve had to get a bit creative, but it is a fun adventure – or so we are telling ourselves. Luckily we live close to the shuk, a grocery store, a small market and when all else fails – there is not a lack of kosher food ready for purchase. (One advantage to not being in Denver anymore, I suppose.) Oh, and many of you will be pleased to know that I now enjoy chummus!

Safety:

I said shortly after I moved here that I was more concerned about my safety as a result of the people driving in Jerusalem than any current activities of terrorists, and I still feel that way. However, the reality the number of rockets which continue to rain down in other areas of the country and the issues around our borders do not evade me. This is a constant war zone and that is scary, however it is only in the back of my mind and not something I feel that I face in my daily activities at all. I do not put myself in the regions where it is a larger concern intentionally, but my heart is with all those who make a life there for one reason or another

Surprising realizations:

Cats, clementines, and cobblestone. Seriously, I knew there were a lot of cats, produce was better, and the streets were old – but until I experienced these things first hand I could not have begun to really grasp it. Also, everything really is uphill both ways!

We are also very surprised at the level of homesickness we have going on. It has not disapated at all really since we arrived, and at times only increases. People keep telling us it will get better, but we are still waiting for that to happen.

We also really miss Sunday. We call is Israeli Monday now, and we miss it. If anyone can figure out how to get a real weekend day into the world of Israel, we’re all ears!

Rak b’yisrael (Only in Israel):

– The prevalnce of honking and fireworks never ceases to amaze me.

– Men in tight tshirts and kippot smoking while talking Torah at the bus stop.

– Busses which randomly leave one person at the bus stop when they decide they have enough people on board.

– The complete lack of structure or timeliness. Nothing happens on any sort of schedule, even if there is one.

– Religious men dressed for Shabbat and carrying around their guns.

– Soldiers everywhere, just doing normal things.

– Actually being able to find tzniut (modest) clothing in stores.

I’m sure thee are many things to be said, but there are the ones that are sticking with me now. If you have a question I haven’t answered, feel free to ask it in the comments and I will do my best to respond quickly and honestly.

{Note: I am here to learn and sharing that as a part of the journey we are on to being a rabbi and rebbetzin. I am not here to discuss the politics of this country. If you want to do that, please go elsewhere. I will not approve any comments which are political in nature. You have been warned.}

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