Posted by: heatherlehrman | January 21, 2012

Final days and Israel and the present

I’ve been home for 2 weeks already. I can’t believe it! I am going to write about my last few days in Israel and then work my way to the present…

New Year’s Eve was really fun in Israel. Israelis don’t celebrate it as crazy as Americans do, but all of the clubs in Tel Aviv had something going on since so many Americans live there. A bunch of us from my program went to a club called Mad. We were also celebrating a friend’s birthday – let’s just say the night didn’t end so well for me but it was a blast! And well worth the nap I took on my toilet seat :)

The end of school was a drag. I really wanted to enjoy my last week in Israel but I had to study and write papers and get ready for finals. I had 4 finals in two days – Wednesday the 4th and Thursday the 5th. After my last final on Thursday, a friend and I got a beer on campus (yes, Tel Aviv University has beer stands on campus). It was delicious.

Friday was the last full day I had in Israel. I woke up and went with my friend Leor to drop off our Israeli cell phones at the post office. When I came back, I had to clean my room and finish packing because I had my room inspection in just a few hours. After that I went to the mall with my suitemate Sarah and I got some delicious lemonade – it was soooo fresh!  When I got back, I was doing my dishes when my friends Maddy, Morgan, Leor and Gabby came up to my room to get me to go on a picnic with them. Mind you, none of us had our phones anymore so it was luck that I was in the room when they came. (They lived in another building than me) I actually enjoyed having to find people when I wanted to talk to them on that last day. Our picnic was lovely. We had baguettes, cheese, turkey slices and some wine. What is a picnic without wine?! It was such a perfect day out- the sun was shining and the wind was blowing. I was actually cold but I refused to wear any kind of jacket since I knew I would have to in about 24 hours.

Later that night, my friend Serena was having a Shabbat potluck.  It was delicious (as always). My friend Michelle and I were the only ones leaving that night so everyone who was there went around and gave us compliments or told us something nice about us. It was awesome. After that, I headed back to my apartment and hung out with my friend Morgan and then took a nap from about 11PM-2AM. When I woke up, I packed LAST minute stuff and headed out at around 2:15 AM. I had a cab coming for me at 2:30 so I could get to the airport at 3AM and have plenty of time before my flight at 6:15 AM.  I had a really amazing last day in Israel.

My first flight got to Turkey at around 8:30 AM and I boarded the second flight around 10:45AM and took off at around 11:45AM. I took a melatonin as soon as I got on the plane and woke up a few hours later mid air. It was so weird to think that the time was changing mid air. Luckily, I slept most of the plane ride, and therefore beat most of the jet lag (I was sleeping at the same time people on the East coast were sleeping). Hours later I landed in the land of freedom, justice, and prosperity at around 4:30PM.  It felt good to be back in America. The first thing I saw off the plane was the sun setting over the horizon. It was beautiful. Obviously my family had a turkey sandwich and Cape Cod potato chips waiting for me in the car! YUM!

It is so weird to think that my study abroad experience is in the past. I can now say, “Oh yeah, I studied abroad!” I feel like my time in Israel was a week long! But as I sit looking through all of my pictures it all comes back to me.

I learned a lot of important things over the past 5 and a half months. I learned not to do anything you don’t want to do but it is ok to go out of your comfort zone. I learned that I can be independent. At times I doubted myself, but I did it. I learned that it is important to be nice to everyone and that I should always work on myself to be a better person. I learned that simplicity is key. I learned that the happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything but they make the most of everything. I realized that at the end of the day you have your family and that God is everywhere.

I want to thank all of the people who helped me get to Israel. I couldn’t have gone without you! Thank you to Rivky and Shmuel for teaching me and having me over for Shabbat dinners. Thank you to Noa for being a great friend and helping me along the way. Thank you to my friends in Israel for accepting me and allowing me to be your moms.  Thank you to Jon for never letting me give up and come home (and for sending me 100 texts in the morning to make sure I got out of bed). Thank you to my family as a whole for supporting my every move. Thank you to my sisters for always being there for me when I needed them and for visiting me. Thank you to my parents, for always believing in me and raising me well so I could experience the world on my own, for loving me everyday and for those expensive packages!! Thank you to my readers for reading my blog. And thank you God, for listening.

This five and a half month journey has come to an end and the next journey begins. Next travel plans: USA! For now, my wings are clipped.

Appreciate life, my friends, because you only live once.

The picture above is the Israeli flag,  of my plane, seeing my dad in the airport and my family the night I got home!

Posted by: heatherlehrman | January 6, 2012

goodnight israel

It’s 3:30 AM and I am going to sleep for the last time on my study abroad trip. Crazy how time flies by.

 

Lilah tov chaverim sheli

Posted by: heatherlehrman | December 28, 2011

Fun fact about dreidels

A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top that children play with on Hanukkah. Each side is imprinted with a Hebrew letter and each letter means something different.

Fun fact:

On dreidels sold in Israel, the fourth side is inscribed with the letter פ (Pe), rendering the acronym נס גדול היה פה – Nes Gadol Haya Po, which means, “A great miracle happened here“, referring to the fact that the miracle occurred in the land of Israel.

On dreidels sold else where, the fourth side is inscribed with the letter ש (Shin), rendering the acronym נס גדול היה שם – Nes Gadol Haya Sham, “A great miracle happened there“, referring to the miracle that occurred not in Israel.

Cool right??

Posted by: heatherlehrman | December 26, 2011

Bethlehem on Christmas

On Saturday night, my friend Chip and I went to Jerusalem where we met our friends Morgan, Maddy and Alex who were already there. We couldn’t reach them at first but it was because they went to an Arabic Christmas Mass, which they said was awesome. Upon arriving, it started to pour outside and I was not at all prepared for the rain. I knew it was going to rain so I had my rain jacket but I didn’t realize how much it would rain and did not have proper shoes. After we got to the hostel (which was by the Damascus gate of the Old City) we changed, put our stuff down and walked to Yaffo Street (about a 10 minute walk). It was Chips 21st birthday so we went to a nice dinner. Mind you, it was still pouring out and by the time we got to the restaurant my shoes were completely soaked (in and out, socks and all). It was not fun!! But dinner was a good time! We ordered Chip a piece of chocolate cake while he was in the bathroom– we told the waitress it was his birthday and then the manager came over to us later on and said, “Who ordered the chocolate cake”. Surprise ruined – we all burst into laughter.

After dinner we headed back to the hostel because we were waking up early the next morning and we wanted to relax and get some sleep. Fortunately, we had the room to ourselves – at least when we went to bed we did! I was sleeping on a top bunk and was absolutely freezing the whole night. I woke up around 8AM due to the cold, realizing my blanket was on the floor. Merry Christmas to me… I also realized that we had other people in the room! I believe it was a couple because they were sleeping in the same bed. Or maybe they were just cold. I also realized that the window was open!! It wasn’t a big deal though because we were about to get up anyway to get ready for our day. My shoes were still soaked. Thank goodness I had 2 extra pairs of socks. Morgan gave me a genius idea to wrap my feet in plastic bags and then put my shoes on so my feet would stay dry.  GENIUS!

After we were ready to go, we hopped on a bus to go to Bethlehem. The bus ride was about 30 minutes. We were expecting to go through a check point but we only had to go through one on our way back to Jerusalem. When we got off the bus, we had to get a cab that would take us near the Church of Nativity and that would take all five of us in one car. We thought it would be hard to find a driver who would take all of us but we ended up finding two drivers! Both of which were hard-core fighting over us. The driver we chose dropped us down the street and then we walked about 5 minutes and arrived. On our walk towards the church, we saw a ghetto/bootleg Starbucks called Star & Bucks. I found that so amusing.

The Church of Nativity is the church where Jesus was supposedly born in. It is right outside a huge square, so before we went inside the Church, we spent some time walking around. There were all kinds of tourist shops and Christmas decorations all around – put us in the Christmas spirit! There were Santa’s and trees all around. Out of the 5 of us, I was the only full Jew – I was with 2 Catholics, and 2 who were half Jewish.

There were a lot of news camera’s/trucks all around the church because it was Christmas.

The entrance to the Church was this tiny hole in the wall that you had to climb through. It was really busy and there were a lot of tourists and diverse people.  You could easily distinguish the extremely religious people versus the people who just wanted to see the church. It reminded me of the Holy Seplicur in the Christian Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. The church wasn’t all that beautiful, but it had a lot to look at – there were a lot of lights and things hanging from the ceiling. There was a long line to go into this cave like thing where Jesus was “actually born,” but I didn’t make it in.

We were going to go visit the Sheppard’s field but we didn’t because it was really rainy and cold outside. After we left the church, we walked around for a little bit and headed back to Jerusalem where we got lunch and left for Tel Aviv.

Going to this church on Christmas was a really interesting/very different thing to do. On a normal Christmas, I eat Chinese food with my family! Although it was rainy and cold the whole time, we didn’t let it bother us. And in the end, I was the only one who had dry feet at the end of the day :)

Getting back to the dorms and taking off my wet shoes and many plastic bags felt AWESOME!

Overall a VERY cool trip!!

Posted by: heatherlehrman | December 20, 2011

Miracles

Today while sitting outside with my Life and Leisure class, an Israeli student walks up to us and gave us a FULL box of sufgonyot (doughnuts for Hanukkah). It was SO nice! My friend Eden had just complained that she was so hungry and this girl with the doughnuts was a miracle because she allowed Eden to feed her hunger.

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah and miracles are what Hanukah is all about. The oil that lasted 8 days was a miracle. Hanukkah is a time to talk about and spread your miracle stories.

In Dollars for Learning we went around and told personal miracle stories. One girl spoke about how her brother’s baby was in daycare at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and how he found his son (alive and well), and another girl spoke about how she became really ill and died on the table and is now 100% healthy! People spoke about accidents and silly things too.

I told a 3-part miracle story. The first part of my story is that I was in a car accident last year and was perfectly fine. The second part is about how my dad got in a car accident last year during the winter (flipped his car) and had nothing but a scratch on his hand, and the third part is how my grandparents were in a car accident last year and thank goodness, were ok in the end! These are miracles to me.

What is your miracle?

Happy Hanukkah!

Posted by: heatherlehrman | December 20, 2011

Eilat with OSP!

My trip to Eilat with my group (OSP – overseas program) left at 7:30 AM on Friday morning. There were two big buses full of students. We drove about an hour and a half and then stopped at a mall for lunch.

After lunch, we drove about an hour further to a place called Dimona where we visited the African Hebrew Israelite community of Jerusalem. This was such an interesting place. Their name represents different things.

- They are African

- The word Hebrew refers to the Bible – Old Testament

- The word Israelite refers to the descendent of 12 tribes

The first group of Africans from America came to Israel in 1969 and were accepted into Israel right away. The second group was rejected by immigrant control so the Africans decided to come as “tourists” and they just stayed in Israel without permission. Israel saw them as a problem because these people weren’t technically Jewish and they kept coming in big groups. The people of Israel didn’t understand their purpose. Israel wanted them to convert to Judaism but these people felt they were Jews already (historically). This group of people was finally accepted by the state of Israel after many attempts of coming in.  They do not exactly have permanent residence but they are citizens of Israel. They serve in the army and can vote but cannot be elected into any type of political status. Before 1971 it was easier to make Aliya and become permanent residents of Israel but the law changed and therefore some of them are permanent residents and some are not.

Some interesting things about this community:

- There are 2,500 people living in this community (it is a Kibbutz)

- There are 5 generations there

- It is a community in that it is not closed – they allow anyone to join

- There is no religion, as they believe religion is a problem on the earth

- They are completely vegan and they fast once a week to clear their systems

- They own businesses to make money and they live a very simple life

- They keep Shabbat in that they rest on the 7th day of the week

- They practice polygamy.

- There is a hospital in the community so they only go to the ER if it is a serious emergency

- The school is in the community

While we were there, a man spoke to us and told us all about the community. Afterwards, they had him sing to/with us (I think to kill time – they said it was for our entertainment). On the bright side, this guy was really fun! He sang fun songs that we all knew and had a really nice gospel-type voice. I was obviously in heaven.  Lets just say my inner sista came out for a good 30 minutes. After “song-session” we went on a tour of the Kibbutz. It was really cool to see how these people live. They mostly stay on the Kibbutz but they do leave to do certain things such as work, grocery shop (although they make most of their food on the kibbutz – they still need ingredients) and for the Army. I spoke to a woman and she said that after the Army, people decide whether or not to return. They can move away from this type of lifestyle.

After we left the Kibbutz we had about an hour and fifteen minutes left until we got to Eilat. The hotel we stayed at was nice. It was called the “C-hotel”. We had to divide into groups of three (there were only 3 beds) so my friends Shayna, Rina and I were in a room together. I was so glad the hotel was clean! After we settled in, it was time for dinner. It was a really nice buffet in the hotel – there were all kinds of meat and salads.

That night, OSP took us on a boat cruise on the Red Sea. It was really fun! There was music and dancing. The boat was pretty cool too – there was a hot tub on the boat and people were ready to jump in but they soon realized that it was a “cold tub”. Sad day. The madrachim (counselors) surprised us with belly dancers on the boat.

The next day we woke up around 8AM and ate breakfast in the hotel. At around 9AM we got on the buses and went to the middle of nowhere, Eilat (near where my mom and I rode camels a few weeks before), to go on a 5-hour hike in the Tzfachot Mountains. It was awesome! I was happily surprised that the hike was hard! The views were absolutely amazing! There was nothing around us – all you could see was nature. Speaking of nature, nature peeing is not my favorite thing to do – it’s pretty hard for us ladies – guys have it so much easier. The hike down the mountains was my least favorite part. I had some knee trouble but it was fine in the end.

After the hike we got back on the buses and headed back to the hotel where most of the group showered and napped. Some swam in the pool but I unintentionally passed out. Shayna, Rina and I woke up from our nap at around 6:45PM – dinner was at 7PM. After dinner we were given some free time in Eilat. A bunch of us went to a bar called the Three Monkey Bar. I got a Mojito Campari – yum! There was a band playing at the bar (the main singer looked and sounded like Seal but it wasn’t Seal) and a lot of people from OSP were there so we all danced and had a good time.

The next morning we woke up at the same time (8AM to leave by 9AM). As I was coming out of the steps I wiped out (first wipe out of many). We left the hotel (for good) by 9AM to go on another hike in the Red Canyons. It was about 3-hours long. It was a much easier hike than the previous hike the day before.  Throughout the day the group was playing a giant game of Assasins (Everyone gets a name on a piece of paper and you have to say “you’re dead” to that person and if you succeed, they give you the name that they had – the point is to collect as many names as possible and be the only one alive in the end). My friend and I ended up having each other’s names at the same time and so we decided to join forces and get someone to give us their person. In the end, we won. WOO.

After the hike we got back on the bus to go to the Ink Flag Statue, which was where Eilat was declared back in the day. It wasn’t anything special. After that we were going to a Dolphin Reef.  This was the best part of the day – the Dolphins were SO cute!! We got to see a feeding which was really cool. There was also a big tree house looking thing at the reef, which I went up into. I actually watched the feeding from up there. Part of the tree house is a lab for the dolphins.

After the Dolphins, we headed back towards Tel Aviv. I killed a fly on the bus – I was so proud of myself. A few hours in we stopped at the same mall to get dinner and just as everyone ordered their food, the power went off and we had to wait. It was kind of fun/creepy to be in a mall with no lights. They weren’t completely off though (emergency lights).

We got back to the dorms at around 10:30 PM. It was a great trip! My next stop: Bethlehem on Christmas!

Posted by: heatherlehrman | December 11, 2011

Amman, Jordan

13 rides later, I successfully traveled to and from Amman, Jordan!

Chip, Rina, Shayna and I got on a bus to go to Jerusalem on Friday morning. When we got to Jerusalem we indulged in Sufganiyot in the Central Bus Station. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it is a ball-shaped doughnut that is first deep-fried, then pierced and injected with jelly or custard,and then topped with powdered sugar. (Thank you, Wikipedia!) There were so many kinds to choose from. It was awesome. We were fat kids in heaven!!

After the doughnuts we headed out and walked along Yaffo Street until it ended, and then we made a left turn and continued on until we hit the Damascus gate of the Muslim quarter. Once we went through the gate, we made a left turn into a sketchy alleyway where we picked up a special kind of cab that took us to the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, which is the border of Israel and Jordan. Overall, the border was unexpectedly easy to cross. When we got there, the security guards checked our passports, we paid to leave Israel (this is a mandatory fee) and then we converted shekels into dinars (Jordanian money). Then we got on a big bus (similar to a Coach bus) and crossed the border.

We met a Jordanian girl named Noor on the bus who studies Psychology at the IDC in Herzlia. She said that she is the only Jordanian to study in Israel, which is pretty amazing. We were telling her about how it is so easy for us to get around in Israel except at the airport because security guards question and interrogate us. She told us that in the airport in Israel, Jordanians get what is called the VIP treatment. Security takes her bags (she doesn’t need to be there while they are being checked) and walks her straight to the airport. AND they give her cookies to make her feel better. It’s really a safety measure. I thought that was so funny! I ended up giving her my contact information because she is interested in getting her Masters in NY and I told her I might be able to help her find more information on schools.

A few fun facts/things I saw:

- Jordanians drive like crap!!!
- Saw a moving car with a little boy sticking his head out of the window – reminded me of my dogs!

Finally, we got to the hostel. In order to get inside, we had to use a really small, sketchy elevator with no 4th wall. Imagine touching the moving wall as we ascended up! Fun fact: Rina is closure-phobic.

The hotel appeared shady at first, but the people were extremely hospitable and super friendly. They gave us tea about 2 minutes after we arrived! Also, the lady who owns the hostel gave us this yummy bread and we dipped it in oil and in some type of Jordanian spice (I forget what it was called). She also gave us half of her egg omelet with mint, which was SO good. She kept saying, “More, more, more”.  As I was stuffing my face I said, “I love Jordan” (like a fat kid, obviously) and she said, “Jordan loves you!” As she left the room is yelled, “BYE BABIES!” This woman was not like a lot of woman we saw in Amman. Most woman are completely covered up head to toe, with their eyes being the only thing showing. This woman though, was dressed very stylishly, but had her hair covered. She was beautiful and was full of life and was always giggling and laughing as she talked. She seemed around 40 ish years old, maybe a bit older. It was very shocking that she owned the place and was successful because it seemed to us that women aren’t very important in society there.

Soon after, we went off to get some food. It took us about 6 hours to get to Amman so we ravenous! Rina and Shayna are vegetarians and so for dinner, we went to a vegetarian friendly restaurant. (Mind you, nothing in this area is in English so we were just kind of hoping we would find a good restaurant and that they would understand us – which they didn’t, really. There was a lot of showing of food and head nodding going on). For dinner, we got: falafel balls, delicious pita, fresh vegetables, hummus with a lot of lemon in it (yum) and tea! It was actually very filling – we were just glad to eat. For dessert we got Kanafe! It is a cheesey, sweet dessert with shredded crusty stuff on top. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanafeh). All I can say is that it was delicious and Chip got it about 5 times in 2 days. The girls got baklava and I got some cake thing!

A few things we noticed:

- Men say, “Welcome, welcome, welcome” everywhere!!!! Left and right.

- There were a lot of shops on the streets (lots of stuff on tables on the sidewalks) – we saw a lot of dolls in bags and brass knuckles (creepy)

- We saw a LOT of fried chicken restaurants – Chip and I were in heaven (fat kids)

- You really don’t see a lot of women around – this was one of the more unsettling aspects about Amman

- A LOT of creepy mannequins

When we got back to the hostel later that night, the woman who owns the place told us about how she was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and I stupidly asked her if she got really drunk and started giggling and she said, “I’m Muslim baby. Muslims can’t drink!” OOPS.

Later that night, I got fried chicken. That was the first of 3 times. I probably shouldn’t admit that… BUT my reasoning was that I haven’t had fried chicken in SO long, and it looked so good (and was). Also, you only live once so WHY NOT?!

The hostel room was colder than it was outside.  But, that’s what you get for $11 a night. I wore leggings under my jeans, a tee shirt, a long sleeve, a sweatshirt, my north face, 2 scarves, and socks to bed. And I was still cold. We had a heater but it didn’t really work; I fell asleep with no problem though. I woke up at 5AM to the CTP (call to prayer). It was cool to hear but I was not too happy about being woken up.

That morning we got up early, headed downstairs to get some breakfast and tea and went on a tour to the desert to see some castles! Our tour guide’s name was Jaffa. There were six of us going – two Italian women joined us. It turns out that Jaffa wasn’t going to explain anything to us – he just drove us to the castles and we explored on our own.

While we were driving out of Amman and into the desert, Shayna pointed out that she never thought that men actually wore head coverings with the band around the top. Seeing so many of them made us realize that we really were in the Middle East. Most of the head coverings were red and white checkers with two black bands around the top.

The first castle we saw is called Al-Kharaneh, the second is called Qsar Mara and the third is called the Aasr Al-Azraq. They were all very cool – the castles were not near each other – we had to drive to each one. They were all made out of rocks and bricks and each of them had nooks and crannies and you could walk throughout them. The coolest/weirdest/scariest thing about this part of the trip was a sign we saw. It said: Iraq 250 kilometer – Saudi Arabia 60 kilometers. Crazy, heh?

Random things:

- We saw a herd of goats in the desert

- Saw a lot of garbage all over the desert

- There are no rules when it comes to cars – In Amman, the streets are small and people just drive anywhere – on the highway, people pass cars every second – it seemed like a race to be in front. It is scary being in a car there.

- Chip called me an interactive baby doll. The kind little kids get that eat and cry and poop. Surprised?
When we got back from the desert we all freshened up and went out to get some dinner. Our first stop was the restaurant that had the kanafe and baklava! Chip got Mansaf, which is a Jordanian dish (lamb in a milk sauce) and I got a chicken and rice dish with vegetable soup. Since the girls are vegetarians we went back the place we went to the first night and they got falafel, veggie and fries. After they got their falafel balls, we realized there was SUCH a language barrier because we tried asking for vegetables and they gave us water and spoons instead. Eventually, I got up and pointed to the tomatoes. Fun fact: In Jordan, you can smoke inside restaurants and inside anywhere for that matter.

Later that night the girls stayed in (they didn’t feel well) and Chip and I explored Rainbow Street, which is a well-known street in Amman with restaurants, bars and stores. It seemed to be a street for tourists. I was really happy we explored this area because it was very upscale and extremely different from the area we were staying in, which is very run down. The area we were staying in gave us a sense of how Jordan is a third world country. The area of Rainbow Street on the other hand, was totally modernized and reminded us of D.C. We walked for a long time and eventually stumbled on a hotel. We asked the man there where the nearest mall was and he got us a cab and we went! This mall was just like the malls in America! It had nice stores and all kinds of American restaurants: Popeye’s, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Fuddruckers, etc. I forgot I was in Amman, Jordan. Chip and I, being the fat kids, were in heaven!!! On our journey that night, I stopped into a market to get a drink and 3 people on this long line let me go in front of them because I had one thing. It was so nice! We saw A LOT of Christmas stuff in this area. The guy at the front desk of our hostel said the Jordanians don’t usually celebrate Christmas. But then again, Jordan is only about 20-30% Jordanian people.

The next morning, we woke up at 7:30 AM and left by 8 AM. Before we left, we had some cookies and ate the clementine that Shayna unintentionally and illegally brought over the border (from Israel) without claiming through customs. It was a delicious morning snack! My backpack was so big that as I stepped up to get into the minivan cab, my bag (on my back) hit the top of the car and I actually fell back out of the car. No one but the cab driver and Shayna saw me. I couldn’t stop laughing.

In the end, all of the money we had worked out perfectly. In Israel, I took out a lot of money (way more than I needed – for safety) and converted 90% of it. In the end, Chip, Rina and Shayna ran out and I spotted everyone to get rid of my money, so I wouldn’t get charged for converting dinars back into shekels. In the end, we had 4 dinar left and there was a convenient store at the border, so obviously we were going to spend it on food. After about 10 minutes of walking around we decided on white chocolate Kit Kats. Yum!

We were excited to get back to Israel; we were excited to do laundry (we stunk of smoke) and shower (the showers in the hostel were pretty gross, so we let it go for 3 days) – no big deal. Crossing the border was cool – is a bridge over the non-existent Jordanian river that is completely dried out. This was my first international bus ride. It was nice to see IDF soldiers and Hebrew writing everywhere. Once we crossed, we got into a special kind of cab and headed back to Jerusalem. When we got there we stopped at Holy Bagels (a restaurant) and got some lunch. Then we got onto a bus and headed back to Tel Aviv.

Over the course of this trip, I thought a lot about how there is nothing like the Middle East. I am really going to miss the normality of seeing people dressed and acting so differently. I definitely have gained an open mind about people and their rituals. Another thing I will miss is the people! Of course, Israelis can be pushy, but they are so nice. When we got back to Jerusalem, everyone needed to use the ATM and this religious woman just started conversation with us while waiting on line. It was really awesome. In America, no one helps each other out. I will miss the hospitality of the people in Israel and in Jordan for that matter! For example, the woman at the front desk of our hostel who kept giving and giving and the juice man on the street that could have roofied us but didn’t; he simply just wanted us to try some juice! We probably shouldn’t have taken the chance but it was worth it because it was delicious juice! Back to my original point, the people in the Middle East are great.

Amman was an eye-opening trip. The four of us had an amazing time!

Posted by: heatherlehrman | December 5, 2011

Michelle and Mom visit Israel!

WOW a lot has happened!

For starters –  classes have been good. I am continuing on with Hebrew, am taking a class on the Arab/Israeli Conflict, a class on the essence of Judaism, a class on leisure and life and a class on the invention of culture in Israel. They’re all pretty interesting – a lot of papers and reading, but I’m getting through it.

2 weeks ago, Michelle came. It was so good to see her! She came on a Friday morning around 2:30AM. We slept in, got up and headed to Jerusalem where we walked around and stayed with her friend Aliza for Shabbat! It was a lovely weekend with a lot of good food, good conversation and fun times with Aliza’s kids (and Aliza!)

I want to mention that right before Michelle got here in rained in Tel Aviv every day for about a week. That is not common in Israel. Also, when I say rained I mean POURED! It was so cool to watch from inside but walking from the dorms to class in that weather was pretty awful (especially when I wasn’t prepared). Luckily, I had my raincoat… Unfortunately, it didn’t do much. On a more positive note, I bought a really great (very large) umbrella!

Back to Michelle’s stay….After Shabbat ended, Aliza, Michelle and I went into the Old City. We went to the Kotel (at night and in the rain). It was very cool. A lot of people had umbrellas and I thought it was so cool to see all of these people out praying in the rain with their umbrellas pressed up against the wall. After the Kotel, we went to this awesome little hole in the wall (very delicious) waffle place and then we went to some little café/book store where we sat and had drinks! Sunday, Michelle and I headed back to the dorms. I had to get some HW done and so Michelle went out for a walk in Ramat Aviv.

That afternoon, mom flew into Israel! Michelle and I trekked (and by trekked I mean, took a bus, ran through a lot of puddles and walked VERY far) to the hotel where we were meeting up with Mom. It was so good to see ema sheli! (That means, my mom in Hebrew.) It had been way too long since I had seen her! Once they settled in, we went out for dinner at this Turkish restaurant near the Shuk in Tel Aviv. It was nice to just relax with the fam. Well, some of the fam.

A few days went by – I couldn’t see Mom and Michelle every day because I had classes and a lot of work coming up. We were able to meet up for dinner a few times which was nice. Also, at this point in their trip they switched hotels. Long story short, the hotel they switched to was a much better deal and much nicer!

Wednesday night I met Mom and Michelle in Holon, at a museum called Dialog in the Dark. It is a museum in the dark, led by a blind tour guide. It was really eye opening (no pun intended) because it give you a better understanding as to how blind people really live. During the tour we walked through (with the poles that blind people use) and would have to find certain things and figure out what certain things were. At the end of the tour, we went to a cafeteria in the dark and ate snacks with our tour guide. We were able to ask her as many questions as we wanted which was really cool. We also got to see what our tour guide looked like at the end. It turns out she could actually see pretty well– she was totally blind as a child and as she gets older, her vision gets better (thank goodness!) This museum was awesome. These museums are all over the world – they just built one in NYC at the South Street Seaport!

Thursday night I headed over to the hotel to stay over with Mom and Michelle because we were embarking on an adventure to Masada, the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and Eilat the next day. (Michelle headed home as Mom and I headed to Eilat) While I was on the bus to the hotel, my mom called me and told me that I technically couldn’t sleep at the hotel and to just walk in confidently and say 1317 Lehrman. I got through just fine :) We didn’t do much that night, just hung out. I did practice my French braid on Michelle. I can do it now! Wahoo! The trick is that you have to keep the braid extremely tight and that is where my skills are lacking. The three of us squished into a king (that doesn’t sound too hard) but when each of us sleeps in the fetal position and wrap the blanket around ourselves, it gets tricky. Overall we all slept very well.

We got up early the next day and headed to breakfast in the hotel, which was delicious. It was buffet style. There were fresh salads of all kinds, fresh fish, fresh shakshuka, fresh bread, yogurts, and juices… mmm. I had a little bit of everything. It was amazing. I mixed OJ and grapefruit juice together as well. Mom thought it was so cool that I could ask the waiter where I could find cold water for my water bottle in Hebrew.

After breakfast we headed downstairs – we had to check out of the hotel and wait for our tour guide to get there (for Masada and the Dead Sea). The bus was small. There were 12 people on it – I was definitely the youngest person on it. I was hoping to sit in the front of the bus because I wanted my mom to get a window seat and I know she gets car sick in the back, but all of the people ran ahead of us so we got stuck towards the back. NBD – it all worked out. There was one lady though… she was old and a piece of work. I took a picture of her. I also saw her BUTT naked, but that’s another story. The bus driver’s name was Michael. As we drove around he told us things about places we passed – it was very cool. Unfortunately I missed half of it because I passed out. Oops.

After some time, I woke up and we were 100% in the middle of the desert at the Ahava factory (lotions, soaps, bath salts, etc.) Michelle got some nice stuff – I took one of her samples. Thanks Michelle!

After that, we drove to Masada. When we got off of the bus, we went into the place where the tramcar was to get to the top of Masada.. Michelle really wanted to climb Masada but the tour we took didn’t include the climb – you had to take the tramcar up. The ride up was awesome. It was windy (the windows are open on the car) and you can see all around. It was also really cool to see the people climbing. As we got to the top of Masada, I realized we were on a Jews for Jesus tour. HA! I could just tell by the questions people were asking and by the type of people on our tour. No one tried to get me to find Jesus as my savior though.

As soon as we got to the top my mom went camera nuts. Shocked? The tour guide (same guy as the bus driver) was very informative and told us every detail about Masada. I kept getting distracted by the stunning view and the lovely breeze. Also, I had to keep my mom up with the group – she kept getting behind to take pictures… OF EVERYTHING. If you didn’t know, my mother has a sand collection. I don’t know how it started but she has always collected sand and all of our friends and family bring her sand from wherever they go. So of course, Mom and I started scooping the ground for some sand/gravel/rocks. We got really lost after that and it took us a while to find the group. Oops again!

Random thing: There was a cat at the top of Masada. Couldn’t believe it. How did it get up there?!!

There were these three flight attendants on our tour (they were on a layover and had a few days so were traveling around which I think is so cool). One of them was the crazy lady and there was this fairly young woman – she and I were walking next to each other and all of the sudden she pulled out a Flat Stanley! If you don’t know that story, please Google it. It is one of my favorite stories. So of course, Mom, Michelle and I took a picture with him. She was traveling with Stanley for her nephew. (You take pictures with Stanley wherever you go and you write about your travels with him.)

On the top of Masada there was this Temple (I think that’s what it was) and inside of it was a man inscribing a Torah. You could watch him inscribe it through glass.

As soon as we got to the Dead Sea we changed into our bathing suits. The three of us went into bathroom stalls to change and as I walkout out to put our stuff in our locker one of the flight attendants (the annoying, very large, old lady) was BUTT naked. I was not expecting to see what I saw. I may or may not have vomited everywhere. LOL.

By the sea, there were these big blue buckets full of mud – I covered myself with it from head to toe! Michelle and my mom were shy with the mud so I helped Michelle out by putting the mud on her! Mom wouldn’t let me go near her with it. After we were as mudded up as we were going to get, we had someone to take a few pictures of us in the water floating. We thought it was going to be cold out (and in the water) but it wasn’t – the weather (and water) was perfect! The mud was even warm! After we got out of the sea, my skin felt so smooth! Michelle and I put more mud on and floated in the sea more. After the second time, we rinsed off and went into this natural hot sulfur spring, which was incredible and very relaxing. After an hour and a half at the Dead Sea we had to leave. The time went by really quickly.

The tour guide drove to Jerusalem where Mom, Michelle and I had to switch cabs to get to our hotel. All in all, the tour itself was great – the tour guide was awesome as well. We had an awesome day.

We stayed at the Jerusalem Inn – a very cute inn right near Yaffo Street. We are on the 2nd floor. There were 3 separate beds. Two were pushed together (Mom and I stayed on those two) and Michelle stayed on the other. As soon as we got settled in, each of us showered and then we went to some yummy restaurant for dinner. Michelle got a tuna sandwich, Mom got some sweet potato thing and I got an Israeli breakfast and we all split this delicious pizza. It was divine. Not to mention the cinnamon tea. YUM.

We walked a round for a while after dinner. We went in and out of stores on Ben Yehuda Street and on some side streets too. A lot was already closed because it was late but it was still fun. Mom loved it! Ben Yehuda Street was so busy and there were people singing and walking and eating. There was also a harp band playing in the middle of the street. It was very cool to watch Mom see it all for the first time. There was this adorable man blowing through a big seashell, as if he was playing the sax. He was so cute.He used the shell as an instrument! After walking around we got dessert at Café Hillel. We all got a bit giddy from some wine- good times! After we got back we skyped the family because they were all together (forgot to mention that it was Thanksgiving). They kept showing us all of the food on the table – it was so cruel but very funny.

The next morning we woke up, had breakfast and went to the shuk to go to the bakery, Marzipan. After that, we ran to the Kotel because we had an underground tunnel tour below the wall. After the tour, we went outside to the Kotel and went up to the wall. It was very overwhelming and emotional for Mom – this was also cool to watch. After spending some time there, we got Mom her first falafel, and went back to the hotel. We were exhausted and all passed out. Once we woke up, we got dressed for Shabbat and walked back to the Kotel. Mom wanted to see it and all of the people there as Shabbat started. I was so glad we went because it was an awesome sight. It was crazy busy and there were so many Jews gathering for all of the same purpose!  Everyone was singing and dancing and enjoying themselves. There were also a lot of men in the army singing in a big circle. Mom was seeing a whole new world!

After the Kotel we headed over to Rifky and Shmuel’s. A few of my friends met us there. It was a really nice and a very delicious dinner. I ate so much that I actually passed out on the couch. Pre-pass out, we laughed a lot that night. As most of you probably know, my family always has very interesting dinner conversations so there was never a dull moment at the dinner table! After diner we walked back to the hotel – it was the longest/worst walk of my life. My stomach was killing me. But, I made it. I didn’t have to pull a Bridesmaids moment. BARUCH HASHEM.

The next morning we got up early, ate breakfast and decided to go on a tour around Jerusalem. The first thing we saw was Mt. Scopus. From Mt. Scopus, you can see most of Jerusalem. The tour guide pointed out all of the things we were looking out, which was great! The guide took us to the Kotel and luckily we got some free time there. As my mom, Michelle and I were walking out of the women’s side, these two men (looked Russian), walked into the woman’s side and walked SO close to the wall. It was so awkward. I just stood there in amazement that they were on the women’s side and as I was about to run over to them they shouldn’t be there, this old woman started screaming at them and they ran out. I couldn’t believe it – they definitely knew they were not supposed to be there. After that, we walked a lot through the Christian quarter and we went to the Holy Sepulchre. It was overall another great tour. We were glad we did it because nothing was open since it was Shabbat.

After the tour was over, we walked back to the hotel, packed our stuff, took a nap and then went to the airport. Michelle was leaving to go back to the states and mom and I were flying to Eilat.

The plane to Eilat was huge- the size of my original flight to Israel. I was expecting a really tiny plane. The flight to Eilat was quick and easy – about a 35-minute flight. When we got there, we took a cab to the hotel. The cab driver was a lady – my first lady cab driver… Ever! The hotel was really nice. We settled in and walked to two restaurants for dinner that the lady at the front desk told us to go to – they were both closed so we decided eat the muffins we got earlier that day and call it a night.

The next morning, we woke up and went to breakfast. (Another amazing breakfast) I was proud of Mom because she was starting to get used to the whole salad-for-breakfast thing. After breakfast we went to the Underwater Observatory, which was awesome. It was this big park that had all kinds of tanks with fish and sharks and turtles in them. I thought I loved to people watch – I love to fish watch as well!! I could sit in front of a tank of fish for hours. Part of the park is underneath the water – you can see the natural fish swimming around. Above this, you can walk up 90 steps to see a panoramic view of the 4 nearby countries. (Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Syria). After I went up the steps and looked around, I came down and Mom and I went and watched the people who work there feed the fish in the tanks, including the sharks. We saw a movie about some man’s love for the ocean and for fish and walked around more. We shopped a bit at the observatory and got some gifts for the family. There I got a beautiful gold ring!

After we got back from the observatory, mom and I walked ten minutes to the Red Sea. We sat on the sand for a bit and put our feet in the water and enjoyed the view. If the water weren’t so cold, I probably would have gone in. I was envious of an old lady in the water but I didn’t have the guts to go in. It was getting dark so Mom and I decided to walk back to the hotel. We changed and went to dinner and called it a night.

The next morning, we rode some camels! This was probably my favorite part of the trip! We were right in the middle of the desert. Our tour guide was awesome. He loves his life. When he was 7 he moved to the desert from Tel Aviv because he had bad asthma -  he hasn’t had it since. He lives on the camel ranch and loves what he does. He is in charge of all of the animals but mostly takes care of the camels. He also does therapy riding (using the camels) for young children with special needs. He said, “It is good for my soul.” After we rode for an hour and a half we ate in a Bedouin tent. He made us mint tea and also made us pita bread and gave us some cheesy dip and olives. He didn’t fill our glasses full of tea because he said that it shows that you are welcomed to have as much as you want, whereas if someone fills it to the top then you should drink it and leave. I thought that was really interesting. He was so knowledgeable about the camels. He said that the camels walk left, left, right, right and they step in the exact spot that their other food previously stepped in because they know that they wont get hurt. He mentioned that they can see about 320 degrees around them so they don’t ever have to turn around and that they only have to eat and drink once a week – if they are on a long trip that is. He also mentioned that to cool down, they pee on their legs because that is where a lot of their arteries are. Very interesting stuff!

After the camels, we headed back to the hotel to grab our stuff and head out of Eilat, back to Tel Aviv. I had a lot of HW to catch up on. The next day, Mom went back to Jerusalem (all by herself). She went to the museum Yad Vashem and she went shopping for some more gifts. I was and still am very proud that she went all by herself. She had a great time!

That Tuesday night, Mom came to the dorms to hang out and see where I lived! I gave her a lovely walking tour of the campus (see her FB pictures). For the next few days’ Mom and I met up for dinner and what not and then sadly, she left Israel.

I was so glad Mom and Michelle were able to come! Ashley too! I can’t wait for my dad to travel to Israel one day! Hopefully my family will take a big trip to Israel in the near future.

Just got my visa for Jordan –> going next weekend!

Home in 5 weeks!!

Posted by: heatherlehrman | November 14, 2011

rain

Just walked through pouring rain to get to class. Thunder and lightening. The whole shabang. Pants are soaked. Shoes are wet. It was awesome.

Except now im sitting in class.

Posted by: heatherlehrman | November 11, 2011

School has started!

Not a lot has happened since my last blog post. Sorry for the wait! After Ashley left, I did a lot of sleeping in and doing nothing for a week! It was lovely.

A couple of days before school I went to Yaffo by myself. I wanted to go and walk around at my own pace and hang out on the beach. It was so nice. BTW, wherever I go, I write down random things that happen so I can tell people or blog about it. One thing that happened that day: I was walking towards the bus stop to go to Yaffo and I watched a man get into the passenger seat of a car and his hand was in the window sort of and I watched him slam the door on his fingers and I was standing right there so I opened the door quickly because he was still reacting to the pain. It was lo tov (not good).

At Dollars for Learning, I saw speaker who spoke about happiness. He made some interesting points.

The speaker asked us why people aren’t always happy? And his answer was comfort. He said when people are upset about something, it is more comfortable/easier to stay down and mope around rather than just be happy, because it takes more work and effort to be happy and change your attitude. It is so much easier said than done but anyone can literally snap out of being down if they put their mind to it. I had never thought about it like that.

He mentioned that we should be happy off the bat because of our bodies. He told us to close our eyes and picture this: You wake up in Israel (a foreign country) and can’t see anything (you go blind). You freak out and tell your roommate and the Dr. comes to your room and says to go to the hospital. So they put you in a cab in Tel Aviv and the cab drives you to the hospital. Not to mention Israelis are awful drivers – so it is a scary ride, not being able to see. You get to the hospital and they tell you that you have an infection in your eyes and will be blind for the rest of your life. And you have to pack your stuff and fly home, blind. That story really scared me. His point was that people should be SO happy off the bat because we have all of these body parts, which allow us to do so much. He said that people get so caught up with not having enough money but having our bodies make us millionaires.

He said there are three steps to being really happy in life. Step one: Make a list of everything in life that makes you happy. ANYTHING. People, things, foods, etc. Step two: re read that list everyday for 30 days and each day add to it. And he said to email him after 30 days to get step three. I am currently at 342 things and will email him on November 25. But I wont tell you what step three is because you have to do it yourself :)

Rifky, the wife of the couple who run Dollars for Learning took the girls to a really nice Mikvah in Jerusalem. We got to learn all about the Mikvah and why religious woman go to it. We also learned about some marriage laws. It was very interesting. I wont go into detail here – you can ask me about it if you are interested!

My classes:

I am currently taking 5 classes. I am continuing on with Hebrew, taking a class on the Arab/Israeli conflict, a class on the culture in Israel (from before Israel was a state), a class called the Essence of Judaism (reading stories from the bible – very interesting), and a class on leisure and how to be more leisurely!

Most of my classes involve a lot of reading (all except for Hebrew and my leisure class). I am spending more time in front of books than I had anticipated but the classes are all pretty interesting for the most part. My “Life and Leisure” class is a great class – we have class outside and discuss the best ways to spend your free time! We discuss what the differences are between work and leisure and what activities are considered one or the other – or both! If you are wondering, it is mostly dependent on the person. The class is about 15 students. The class met up at the beach on a Sunday night and played beach volleyball! We also went out to dinner. It was awesome. The teacher is very relaxed and is soooo leisurely!! He likes to snorkel – and he does it often at the beach along the rocks.

Over all, classes are pretty good (sometimes a little boring, but still interesting). I only have class Monday-Thursday. I would like to be traveling more on the weekends but I’ve had Dr. appointments (I’ll get to that) and a lot of homework to do so I haven’t had time.  On the bright side, Michelle (my sister) and mom are coming next week so we will be traveling around a lot, which will be great. I am so excited to see them!!

About the Dr’s: For about a solid week (it started right before school) I was getting awful headaches – migraines. They were absolutely horrible. I went to get my eyes checked because I thought maybe my eye prescription had changed but it wasn’t that. The next Dr. I went to was a neurologist. He told me to go to another Dr. to get a certain test done on my brain (which I did). THEN that Dr. told me to go to another two Dr’s but I couldn’t get appointments and then by the time I was checking for appointments it had been over a week and a half since I had a headache. I haven’t had one since! I think it was stress over school starting. I am feeling MUCH better.

I love the rain!!!! My friends and I were walking to a Shabbat dinner last Friday and as soon as we started walking it starting to POUR. Tel Aviv hasn’t seen rain like that in a long time. It was the coolest thing (minus the fact that we got soaked). Usually when it rains here, it only lasts 5-10 minutes and is usually a light drizzle. It was very cool. I knew it was supposed to rain and so I was prepared – I was so excited  to whip out my bright green rain jacket!
Other than school starting not much has been going on. I have been exploring the city more and going out to dinner more. I’ve been finding a lot of restaurants that have good deals! Tel Aviv is such a cool city.

I will blog soon about my time with my mom and Michelle!

I can’t believe I only have two months left. 58 days as of today. Time is flying by.

The moon has been full and beautiful. Enjoy it from America!

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.