These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

My First Day in Israel

Posted on October 3, 2011 by Suzi

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I wrote these impressions in early September (more than a month ago) after arriving in Israel…

The end of a very long journey, and a long but very exciting day.  I arrived in Israel this morning, via a 12-hour stopover in London (I’ll write about that later, when I wake up).  Found my apartment, just a few blocks away from Pardes, where I’ll be studying for the coming year.  The neighborhood is amazing, the school is amazing doubled or tripled.  And of course I found Atlanta connections right away—the development director’s mother-in-law lives in Toco Hills, and the first student I met lives in Sandy Springs.

What is it about Israel?  Do all visitors have the kind of unreasonable expectations I have?  Israelis are people living their lives, as we all do, with hopes, dreams, frustrations, irritations, whatever.  Why should the place make them behave differently.  Will it make me behave differently?  Shouldn’t we all be on our best behavior in God’s home?  A wise man told me recently that this is the issue I’ll grapple with over the coming months (dare I say years?  Better wait and see if can adjust to life here first). 

As some of you know, this is my second trip to Israel.  Last time, everything was done for me—transportation, hotels, meals.  All I had to do was show up ready to absorb every experience, to write about the tragic situation in the south as I met residents of Sderot and Ashkelon and heard the stories of their lives as they lived daily under the threat of rocket attacks from Gaza.  Now I look at the papers.  What’s changed?  Not much, apparently.  I hope to contact the people who sent me there last time and possibly return to write a follow-up.

So today was a day of firsts for me.  First time really on my own away from home.  First time shopping in a foreign language; even though most people are fluent in English, I’m trying to learn Hebrew. First time I can remember being without a phone.  I never realized how plugged in I have become—checking emails frequently, calling friends, using the internet from my iPhone.  Now I’m checking out cellphone companies and plans—that’s a first too: evaluating and making decisions on my own.  I’m usually passive—let somebody else (or time) make the decisions for me.  Maybe that way I’m not responsible for the results?   No TV or radio.  In a way, that’s a good thing.  But I do miss the news 24/7.  I’ll use the internet and read JPost, Ha’aretz, Arutz 7, and of course Facebook—can’t do without my social networking.

People here are already being so kind and welcoming.  I’ve received several Shabbat invitations, and I’m planning to attend a bar mitzvah in Nokdim in a couple of weeks—Adiel Davitz, who used to live in Atlanta.  It will be good to see old friends again.  Karen is coming here to see me in the morning, so I think I’d better get to sleep.  More impressions of Israel tomorrow.  That is IF I can make the blog site work. When I switched my location to Israel, Google put the whole site in Hebrew and I can’t figure out how to take it back to English.  Another first!