Goodbye, Mr. Peres

I feel a bit guilty. Yesterday the Knesset was open for the public to pay their respects to Shimon Peres. I wanted to go. But I didn't.

Yes I have excuses. I was working all day and didn't get home until past 9pm. (I now know they extended the hours until 11pm, a fact I discovered much too late.)

But is this enough? Here is this great man, a man I'd say was ahead of his time or at least many in his generation, who dedicated his life to the great venture of Israel. And here is me "too busy" to make it to the Knesset, which sits in Jerusalem, to pay my respects. Thousands of Israelis traveled from all over the country to come. I sat in an office half an hour away the whole time.

I guess I feel guilt because I actually feel sadness about president Peres' passing. I remember during my first trip to Israel I went to the opening ceremonies of the Maccabiah (the Jewish Olympics) and got so excited that Shimon Peres was there. (See the photo.) I got to hear him speak and it was my first time to the country! I was enchanted. This man helped build this place. He also was an integral piece of several important political events in Israel. (Here is a really short, informative video on the life of Shimon Peres.)

Part of the sadness I feel is the fact that Peres was the last of the original founding figures of this country. I feel like, although his tenure as prime minister and president were finished, something about him being alive held us all accountable to the foundational spirit of Israel. Now that they are all gone, what is stopping us from losing sight of their vision? My generation makes me nervous. So many things that should be important don't seem to matter, and on the opposite side we seem to be concerned with things we need to learn to let go.

Mr. Peres, you'll be missed and thought of often and fondly. You were certainly a visionary and inspirational figure in Israel, and even to many around the world. May we continue your legacy of innovation and continue to seek peace and growth. May your memory be a blessing.


השכנים - The Neighbors

Since my Aliyah I have lived in one general area of Jerusalem. I started in Armon HaNatziv (a.k.a. East Talpiot) because my Ulpan was there. When my Ulpan was coming to a close I chose to live in the neighborhood of Arnona because it was nice, near the familiar, and relatively cheaper than other desirable locations. I was lucky enough to find work nearby and so I decided to stay in the cozy, family-friendly Arnona. 

I often talk about the people in Israel, about how they were the first thing about Israel to really intrigue me. They never cease to be interesting and although Arnona is not the eclectic, funky Nachlaot or the trendy, upscale Emek Rafaim, it has its fair share of interesting characters. My neighborhood is full of people from all walks of life. Some of them are new like me and some have lived here their whole lives. I don't actually know most of them that well and a lot of what I know about them is gathered through bits and pieces and sometimes assumptions. In my mind they are all these characters in the storybook of my life here. So, let's talk about some of my neighbors.

My Moroccan Mama
Picture a dark, full-bodied, Moroccan woman. Her hair is long, jet black, and shines as much as her shimmery eye shadow. Her nails are long and always manicured. This is Inbal. She lived in the apartment upstairs from me with her husband and four children. I think she is what people here would call a "fraychah" but whatever you want to call her, she has the biggest heart. For the first couple months I lived in my new apartment she was like my mom. She received my mail and every time I went to get it she would give me food. She also loved to take care of Mindy. You see, Inbal and her kids loved dogs, but they were not allowed to have one because her husband was very religious. It is not uncommon for religious people to not allow pets in their home. Inbal might have been this boisterous Moroccan lady, but her husband was a quiet, observant, ashkenazi man. I'm not sure how Inbal and her husband ended up together, but they were and they were happy. It was beautiful. Unfortunately a couple months ago Inbal and her family moved away. Her husband wanted to be closer to his Rabbi and Inbal wanted a nicer kitchen and a bigger yard. 

The Music Man
Every morning I take Mindy outside to do her business and we have a routine path we take. This is how I've come to meet a lot of my neighbors. Some of them are fond of Mindy, and some aren't. What can you do? Anyway, there is one man in particular who really likes Mindy. He always greets her and I with a "Boker tov Snoopy!". He has this pretty strong, booming voice and you never see him without hearing him first. He is constantly singing Jewish songs and prayers. Similar to Inbal's husband, I don't think he actually is a huge fan of dogs. However he is always ready to greet Mindy a good morning. 

The Missed-Connection
As I mentioned, a lot of families live in this neighborhood. It is not exactly a hot spot for young singles (such as myself). Any of the young people around are usually kids, teenagers, or those young adults who still live with their parents—a common thing in Israel. One such young adult is Daniel. He lives in a building across a little parking lot where I walk Mindy multiple times a day. I met him for the first time when he tried to ask me out on a date. I had a boyfriend at the time and sadly had to decline. We saw each other every once in awhile, said hello, and when I broke up with my boyfriend I told him I'd be happy to go on that date. But as you can imagine things were not so simple. In that time he had acquired a girlfriend. Basa (disaster). Needless to say Daniel and I are not dating, but he is still a very nice neighbor. He is helpful and dependable and it doesn't hurt that he is pretty cute as well. 

The Principal
Another place I meet a lot of people is at the dog park. (Mindy really is my ticket to anything these days.) That is where I met Loren. He is the principal of an American high school program here in Israel. Loren has the cutest puppy named Hamilton who Mindy loves to play with. But beyond that, Loren is a really nice man. An Oleh himself with a family, he knows the struggles of young people in Israel and is always offering himself as a resource. He also just seems to understand. Based on what I see from him on Facebook he is also quite the warrior for religious pluralism here in Israel. Overall I just find him to be a very humble, respectable person that I feel good having in my neighborhood. 

There are definitely many more, but these are the one's whose stories were swimming around in my mind today. Perhaps another night I'll sit down and tell you about the rest. 


Three years later...

For those of you who have followed my saga, or those of you who know me personally, you have most likely heard the story of how my luggage was lost on the highway in the West Bank during my Taglit trip. What's that you say? You haven't heard it? Well let me tell you.

In 2013 I went on a Taglit Birthright trip to Israel. I was so excited to finally explore the place that held so much of my passion. I shopped endlessly for just the right hiking backpack, proper attire, and supplies for what was about to be the adventure of a lifetime. On the 4th day of our 10-day trip something extremely out of the ordinary happened. Our bus was driving on the highway that takes you to the Dead Sea, the Bedouin tents, and other attractions of southern Israel, when some men were oddly following our bus and trying to alert the driver. As a precaution we stopped and our security guard spoke with the men. All was fine, minus the fact that we were running late (classic birthright) to ride camels. So we rushed ourselves to the camel rides and the issue was not discussed. As soon as we finished riding camels our Madrichim (guides) told us that the men saw luggage on the road and suspected it might be from our bus so we should all take a peak in the luggage compartment to check our bags were there. I did what I was told...and that is when I discovered my bag was not there. Amazing! I came for a 2.5 month trip to Israel, traveling in a foreign country for the first time ever, and my luggage was now floating around somewhere. Needless to say I was in shock. 2 other people also lost their bags, but because their passports were in their bags they were returned to the US Embassy. Mine was lost seemingly forever.

Fast forward to this week when I get an email from the US Consulate in Jerusalem asking if I had traveled to Israel in 2013 because they had a bag with my name on it. Could I describe the bag and its contents in order to claim it? Um, yes, duh I could! Another email and phone call later and this happened: