Blog Archives - Career Israel- Israel Experience Ltd.
 
This weekend Stef, Becca, Keren, and I went to visit our friend Guy from camp his Kibbutz: Kibbutz Gazit. It was a BLAST! Kibbutz life is very interesting and, to be honest, something I could get VERY used to. Everything is so relaxed and everyone is a big family. Compared to Tel Aviv, you could hear a pin drop it was so peaceful! This particular kibbutz is a dairy farm.They used to have a school and have the children live separately from their parents during schooling, but they have modernized. There are about 300 families who live on the kibbutz. Families live in beautiful homes that are able to accommodate everyone. When the children turn 18 and after they go to the army, they are able to live in a small apartment-like room for a couple of years before going to school. The kibbutz also has a huge dining hall, rec-room, classrooms, places for teens to hang out, sports facilities, and other amenities a tiny town would need. 

On Friday when we arrived, we went directly to Guy’s parents house to meet them, along with his brother, sister, brother-in-law, and nephews. Everyone was so welcoming and a felt at home the minute I walked into the house. We enjoyed some mint tea (grown in their backyard) and a small snack to hold us over before Shabbat dinner. We went to Guy’s apartment/room to freshen up and then headed to the dining hall (chadder ochel) for Shabbat dinner. Everyone in the kibbutz comes together for the meal, which is served buffet style. You name the food, they had it! Schnitzel, chicken, meatballs, rice, mashed potatoes, bilinzies, soup, salad, ect. It was delicious and all home cooked. After a filling meal, we headed to the moadon-the rec room-for some coffee and cookies. We sat outside and watched all of the adorable little children play together. The best part in my opinion of living on a kibbutz is how many children there are to play with! Since we OBVIOUSLY didn’t have enough to eat before (cough cough YEAH RIGHT), we went back to Guy’s parents for dessert. When we finished, we headed over to the local Kibbutz pub for a few beers and cards before finally calling it a night.

The next day, we took a nice tour of the entire kibbutz. Guy was a great tour guide and showed us the ins and outs. We headed over to the dairy farm to meet the cows and goats.We were able to see how they milk the cows and pet the little calves.Becca and Keren were brave and let the baby suck on their fingers. Gross! When we finished in the farm, we took a wonderful walk to the orchards. There they grow avacados, oranges, lemons, and delicious pamellows (they were my favorite!). We enjoyed a pamellow while sitting in a beautiful memorial.Afterwards we headed back to Guy’s parents for lunch. We had chinese noodles, chicken, empanadas, and of course dessert. Sadly it was time to say goodbye not soon after the meal and we hopped on the bus back to noisy Tel Aviv. I will definitely be back soon!

As a post birthday celebration, my friends and I went to MAX BRENNER’S! Chocolate chocolate EVERYWHERE! DELICIOUS!

**The sharing platter, which most of us got, had fondue (with assorted cookies and fruits), marshmallows (with a fire to roast them), waffle, chocolate egg roll, benyas, a shot of chocolate, ice cream (vanilla, white, dark, or milk chocolate flavored), and chocolate pudding. AKA: CHOCOLATE COMA!

 
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I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel a month ago from the suburbs of Washington, DC to work with TasteTLV.com. I decided to work with the organization after reading the founders bios on the website. We seemed to be kindred spirits in our love of food and finding new and unique places to eat. After hearing about the success of the Taste TLV events I became even more excited to work for them. Though really it all comes down to my love of food and exploring new cities.
Upon my arrival to Israel, I was of course filled with a craving for hummus, shwarma, and shakshuka. But Tel Aviv is a diverse city and I was excited to try still undiscovered cuisines that I knew were waiting for me.
I was overjoyed to discover that I could find an array of restaurants just going up and down my street.

For example, during my first month here I was enrolled in an ulpan class on King George Street. During our morning break, the other students and I would flock to the juice stand located on the same block as my ulpan class. Fresh squeezed juice is simple, but unbeatable on Israeli on sticky summer days. Our “juice guy”, as I like to call him, is right on King George Street between Bograshov Street and Meir Park. 

You will know the stand by the blasting reggae music that drifts onto the sidewalk and the juice guy’s prominent dreadlocks. There are an infinite number of juices to mix, but my personal favorite combination is ginger-pomegranate. It is spicy and tart and will get rid of any hint of a cold brought on by too many late nights in this city that is awake around the clock. 

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Living in Tel Aviv has made me seriously question the validity of Subway’s “Eat Fresh” campaign. And, rightfully so. Tel Aviv is one of those cities where you can walk into any restaurant, be it a hole-in-the wall in a dark alleyway or a grungy looking stand in the middle of the overcrowded Shuk, and you will be greeted with the freshest ingredients available. Seeing as there are al fresco markets on every street corner offering an array of rainbow colored fruits and vegetables, it’s not surprising that restaurant goers have come to expect the freshest of the fresh.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason, after being in Tel Aviv for a few weeks, I started to miss my simple turkey and swiss sandwich. So, I shamefully admit that I ventured over to Ben Yehuda to hit up the classic example of “fresh” food: Subway. I was overly excited as the sandwich artist toasted my turkey and cheese on honey oat and doused it in ranch dressing. (This may be the only restaurant in Tel Aviv that has ranch). But when all was said and done, it was just a Subway sandwich and I was disappointed in myself for expecting otherwise.
Eager to satisfy my taste buds, I decided to check out a little kiosk that my friend had recommended. Nestled among the trees on the median strip of Ben Gurion and Dizengoff is an unobtrusive sandwich kioskthat my friend referred to as “Dizzy Sandwiches”.  Although there is no evidence on the little wooden hut and you can't find any information about it on Google, I later discovered that this hidden neighborhood delicatessen is officially named Ariel’s, after the owner's son.

 
On Sunday I started work. I'm working with a photographer is his studio. The photographer's name is Eyal Landesman. He is a very well known photography in Israel and around the world and was nominated for a Grammy last year for his stop motion music video Her Morning Elegance. The video was made up of 2096 still photographs and then animated to create the illusion of movement. There is currently a gallery in California which displays a selection of the photographs, while the others (just one print of every frame of the video) are being sold, which brings me to my first project- helping the studio with the PR of the gallery and selling the photographs (So if anyone wants to buy one… they are super cool (http://hmegallery.com/)).

This week was crazy busy since the studio had a gallery opening on Wednesday, so everyone was running in and out of the studio- some days I had tons to do, like editing and cropping photos (on my first day!) or making a video for the opening, and some days I didn't have very much to do… but I'm sure that's the way it'll remain for the next 4 months.

They invited me to the gallery opening on Wednesday, which was sooo cool! I was able to bring two friends so it was nice to show them what I'll be taking part in for the next few months and it also gave me a great opportunity to really get to know the photographer that I'm working with a little better.

The atmosphere at the studio is amazing and has really reaffirmed to me that this is the industry that I want to be working in. I don't have a desk, nor do most of everyone else who works in the studio and I sit on the couch all day on my mac… even when I have nothing to do I love being here… It's a far way from my cubicle of solitude this summer.

I can't wait for what's in store for me and I'm so excited for when we have someone come into the studio for a shoot so that I can compare with the shoots that I have directed.

 
Day One (Tuesday):
Intending on leaving at 730am, in true Israeli fashion, our bus didn't pick us up until 830. After sitting around for an hour, we were finally on our way. After a 3ish hour long bus ride and a short rest stop at a gas station on the side of the highway we got to our first destination: Nahal Kziv.

I had forgotten what hiking in Israel at noon was all about since it's been 5 years since I spent the summer doing it. After a beautiful (and very hot) hour and a half down the mountain, we took a break for a swim and then proceeded back up for an hour and a half. Needless to say, it was quite the way to start the day.Where we started and ended the hikeAfter downing a litre or two of water post-hike, we made our way to Rosh Hanikra a gorgeous white cliff with a beautiful view of Haifa Bay, the hills of the Galilee and the Mediterranean, right on the Lebanon boarder. We took a cable car down to see a beautiful aquamarine Mediterranean within a cold white cave.


After a beautiful and relaxing afternoon we headed to our hostel, Tel Hai (which was donated by a Toronto family).Day Two (Wednesday):We started our day with a security briefing at kibbutz Misgav Am located on the Lebanon boarder. Lebanon The man who spoke with us is an American who made Aliyah 30 years ago. He was an amazing speaker and was so passionate about Israel; It made me so proud to be here. While he was incredibly biased, which is a quality I don't normally like in a speaker, he was very up front about it, and ended giving us an incredibly powerful message. Listening to him speak was the highlight of my north trip.

After the security briefing we went to a local Arab village and sat down with Arab high school students- just to talk. It was such an amazing experience. The experiences that we all had talking with the students were very different. While some of them said that they do have Jewish friends, others didn't care to talk about religion, and some were very emotional when they found out that we were Jewish because they have gotten picked on and bullied for being Muslim. Hearing that was so difficult. I was so upset and angry that there are Jews living in Israel who haven't learned from our past. It was quite an eye opening experience.

After visiting with the students we went on a tour of Tzfat and had some time to walk around, which was very nice because last time I was in Israel we went to Tzfat on a Friday afternoon and had no time to do anything. 

Wednesday night we went to the Tel Hai Photography Museum, which was great. I spent the entire evening there and then went back to the hostel and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Day Three (Thursday):
We woke up early Thursday morning to do another hike. The hike was more of a nature walk than a hike, but it was beautiful nonetheless.  After a few hours of nature walking we went to Emek Habacha (Valley of Tears), which is a famous battle site from the Yom Kippur war, fought against the Syrians.


We then made a quick stop at the Naot factory (where I didn't get anything b/c the prices were pretty comparable to those at home!) and then made an unexpected stop at a memorial for the largest Tzahal disaster ever- the 1997 helicopter disaster, where two Israeli helicopters crashed into one another, killing all 73 on board both helicopters. Our tour guide's best friend was one of those who died, so it was a very emotional stop for us and a very meaningful but sad ending to the day.Day Four (Friday):We spent Friday morning swimming in the Kinneret, had lunch and went home. 


Apparently it absolutely poured all day, but we missed it because by the time we got to Tel Aviv the sun was shining again and I was sleeping on the bus when it was raining along the way. But this video is around the corner from my apartment, so you can get the gist of what I missed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-PIUSF1BrI
 
Ulpan? Oy Vey! Luckily, I grew up in a family that forced me at a young age to learn how to laugh at myself!

I’ve endured years of what my mom calls ‘good-natured teasing’ and what my dad more succinctly calls ‘character building’. What does this really mean? It means that my parents have long seized upon my many misadventures and mishaps for comedic enjoyment by REPEATEDLY recounting the tales to each other, their friends, extended family…co-workers…neighbors…even their meat purveyor at the Farmer’s Market.

Happily, as a result of this I have developed a very high tolerance for shame. And it has paid off! Without this high shame tolerance, my experience with Ulan would have undoubtedly left me rocking in a corner somewhere muttering to myself.  Ulpan is an intensive Hebrew language school, and it’s the real deal. It’s actually used by the Israeli government to help new immigrants to the country learn the language and adapt to the culture. On the Career Israel program I’m participating in, we had Ulpan Sunday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. for a solid month before we began our internships.

In the first week, we took a placement exam that would determine which of seven levels of Hebrew class we would be placed in. How can I paint this pretty picture… Imagine being handed a test with two pages of squiggles with question marks and fill-in-the-blanks ( which you assume should be filled in with the appropriate squiggles) and then one page on which to write an essay (in the mysterious squiggle language) based on a topic paragraph written in the same indecipherable squiggles.

Needless to say, I handed this exam in completely blank. And ok, fine! I even had to guess which squiggle to write my name by!

But this is no surprise. I come from a secular family. I went to public school, not a Hebrew day school. When all the other kids in my program were learning their Alef-Bet (ABC’S), my dad was teaching me to curse in Yiddish and leading discussions on the finer points of what constitutes the perfect bagel.

I was placed in the lowest level, Alef One. At the start of Ulpan, I was very optimistic and excited about learning Hebrew. However, I quickly discovered on our first day of class that even the lowest level class was miles… no leagues, above my head.

This class was designed for those who gently dozed their way though Hebrew in Sunday school growing up, not for people like me who on Sundays slept late, ate bagels and lox and then cheered for the Green Bay Packers! Everyone except one kid in my class already knew Hebrew letters in both script and print form (That’s right other bad Jews and my Goyem, there are TWO completely different ways to write each letter in Hebrew!). So the teacher spent only one day going over the letters before expecting us to be able to read and comprehend her lesson notes on the board (in Hebrew) and our lesson book (in Hebrew).

Usually words and letters are my friend. As my friends know, I love to write and read, so the struggle with literacy in Hebrew was particularly frustrating and my self-esteem took a bit of a beating. The teacher began to skip over me when we went over the answers to the squiggles in our lesson book. I stared uncomprehendingly at the squiggles on the board and attempted to copy down the lessons phonetically.

Thank goodness for that shame tolerance, because seriously, I really made a fool of myself in that class! Five hours a day of being the clearly identifiable dumbest person in the room. So long cockiness or any lingering self-delusions of grandeur that I may have! It was like David Sedaris in his book ‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’. Except suddenly I was the one living in a foreign land, able to clutch all of my vocabulary (written on flashcards) in one hand and absurdly over my head in a foreign language class.

The good news is that I am done with my daily dose of public shame and began my internship this week. The even better news is that I’m not giving up on learning to read and write Hebrew…just the public humiliation! I will be doing private tutoring with myUlpan teacher at a pace and level much more suited to me. This time we can begin with the Alef Bet, and hopefully in a while I’ll be able to drop you lovely readers of mine a line in Hebrew!

 
Today we went to a Binyamina-a kosher winery about an hour and half outside of Tel Aviv. An interesting fact I learned about kosher wine is that if any part of the process is touched by anyone who is not “koshered”, the entire batch is un-kosher. Another way to kosher-ize wine is boil it, which sounds a bit ridiculous. The wine was de-li-cious and SUPER cheap. 

Some wine tips:

1. If you’re white wine is green, it is bad

2. There are two ways to try wine-either sip it and swallow or sip and swish around in your mouth

3. Wines can last up to 10 years after the date on the bottle, which correlates to how long it fermented. 

 
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Today was sadly our final day with Shmulik, aka the Shmulster, Shmulski, ect.-the BEST ulpan teacher EVER. Ulpan was a great time, for all three weeks. We learned everything like שלומ -shalom-hello peace and goodbye! As soon as I get a keyboard cover thingy, every couple of days I’ll blog a new little phrase I like! 

My ulpan class was a blast! We did everything from go on scavenger hunts to play basketball-all while learning Hebrew! For our last class, we translated songs into Hebrew and sang them! You can’t learn Hebrew without having fun! I’m looking forward to continuing for the rest of the time I am here. 


 
Am now a resident of Tel Aviv! I’m sitting at a café across the street from our apartment building. Between sips of ice-coffee and bites of Israeli salad, I notice that the music playing is Erykah Badu. This brings a smile to my face, along with the realization that this is a city that I can dig.

And it’s not just the music that is endearing the city to me (although since I’ve been here, I have heard Van Morrison, Al Green, Leonard Cohen, Sade, Thievery Corporation and Erykah Badu playing in various cafés and Laundromats around the city).  It’s the people, it’s the energy…and ok, so maybe it’s also the beach!

After Jerusalem, Tel Aviv feels like the cold shower that snaps you awake from a dreamy sleep. Jerusalem is a city that radiates religious reverence and is ruled by tradition. Its streets are full of bearded men in black with dark hats. These life-long students of the book have grave demeanors and prodigious families. Even their eerily well-behaved children exude an air of studied self-restraint (note to self: Must never let my parents see these children. These well-disciplined kids would only serve to make my 23 year-old self look AWFUL in comparison and add fuel to my parent’s ‘Its time to be an adult’ fire.)

In a stark contrast, the streets of Tel Aviv are bursting with nose-rings and dreadlocks. Young 20-somethings rule the streets, wearing neon colored clothes and showing daring strips of skin. In fact, since sitting at this café, I have seen two well-put together cross dressers walk by, which is not surprising as I live in a gay-friendly district. And while there are many children in Tel Aviv too, these children are screaming at their parents for glida (ice-cream in Hebrew and yes, one of the few words I have mastered!) in displays of unabashed pleasure-seeking that I find refreshing after the freakishly well-behaved kids in Jerusalem.

There is a youthful energy here that I love. And I’m lucky, because our apartments are located in a bustling street in the heart of the of the city. I exit my front door and BAM, I’m in the middle of it all.

It’s a little like living on State Street home in Madison…that is, if State Street was a ten minute walk from the Mediterranean Sea, not Lake Mendota! My apartment is surrounded by cafes and restaurants and clothing boutiques.  Also, I’m a mere five-minute walk from the Shuk (the out-door market that sells everything from knock-off Tommy Hilfiger to fresh produce to Hamsa’s and post-cards to whole fish that still have eyeballs).

But perhaps best of all to me, is the fact that I am only a ten-minute walk from the Mediterranean Sea. The beach is white sand and stretches for as long as the eye can see in both directions. The water is crystal clear and seriously bathwater warm. There is a boardwalk that runs along it, and you can walk to Yaffo (the fabled biblical city) and enjoy the view of the sea and parks, restaurants and hookah bars that dot the path.


I’ve taken to going to the beach after Ulpan (Hebrew School). I lay in the sand and enjoy a book while I soak up the rays of the sun and listen to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore…and ok, maybe I hum the lines of Atmosphere’s song ‘Sunshine’ to myself. Around 5:30 the sun sets in a blaze of colors that has not yet once failed to take my breath away.

When I walk home, no matter how hard I try to avoid it, there is sand in my bag, caked in my hair and in various crevasses in my body. Regardless of a shower, this sand will get tracked all over the apartment and make appearances in my bed. But with sunsets like this, I know I’ll be back tomorrow.