In contrast to my last few (okay, more than a few) depressing posts, this post is about happier stuff. As my semester is drawing to a close, I thought it would be appropriate and fun for me to list a few of my favorite things in Israel. To me, they’re things that only could have happened in Israel.
In no particular order…
· Cute in Combat Clothes: No matter where I go, I always see people in Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) suits. As you may remember, Israel has a national conscription policy. After high school, boys are required to serve for 3 years and girls are required to serve for 2 years. However, not everyone is out in combat. Most of the soldiers I see day-to-day are just doing national service. But everyone has to wear the IDF suit and boots everyday while in service. One of my favorite things to see here is girls my age wearing their army garb. Other than that, they’re just like my friends and me. Their hair is blown out, they wear make up, they carry Longchamp bags, and they sit in a café gossiping over lattes. I love how glamorous they are, despite the fact that they’re wearing a combat uniform.
· Flags on Flags on Flags: In honor of Independence Day (which was last week), there are Israeli flags everywhere. They’re on street corners, window sills, doors, gardens, you name it. Even at the café I’m at right now, there are blue and white streamers. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like I would never see that in America for the whole month of July. But it’s cool to see the Israeli pride when I’m out and about.
· Taglit? Whenever my friends and I get in a cab, the driver figures out that we’re American and assumes that we’re here on Taglit-Birthright (which Israelis refer to as Taglit). I guess it doesn’t help our case that we’re in our early 20s and ask them to drive us to a youth hostel.
· Class in the morning, beach in the afternoon: Now that it’s finally summer weather, I’ve adopted a new regimen. If I don’t have class in the afternoon, I grab lunch and hit the beach until dinnertime. Especially on Fridays, the beach is PACKED. There’s music, people are hanging out with their friends, and soaking up the sun.
· Finding my college friends’ Israeli twins. At least once a day, I’ll see someone on the street and be convinced that it’s someone from Colby. In the Mule spirit, I go over to say hello and realize it’s not anyone I know. It’s just someone’s Israeli doppleganger. Awkward.
· Shabbat Shalom: No surprise, I love the weekend here. I’m not a particularly religious person and I’ll admit I’ve yet to go to synagogue while being here. But I love Shabbat here. It’s more of a cultural thing. On Saturdays, I look out my window and see dozens of families picnicking in the park. Everywhere I go- whether it’s brunch, the beach, the port- there are even more families. I love seeing people relaxing outside. I think it’s one of the things I’ll miss most.
· Fathers, be good to your daughters: On the sappy family note, my heart melts every time I see a father playing outside with his little girl. Last Saturday, I saw one daddy-daughter couple (the daughter could barely walk without falling everywhere) playing with a ball in the park. An even cuter scene…I saw another pair at the port, the father was pushing a real stroller and the daughter was pushing a baby doll stroller. Can you get more adorable?
· The Architecture: Unlike Jerusalem, Tel Aviv has very few old structures. Where I live, most of the buildings are pretty new. When you hit the center of town, the buildings remind me of the Time Warner building in New York…so very modern. Then you cross the street and all of a sudden you feel like you’re in an older quarter of a European city with narrow cobblestone streets and tiny old buildings. The juxtaposition is just WILD. As I tell my family, Tel Aviv is like “Paris meeting Los Angeles.”
· Feeling at Home: I truly feel like I am at home here. Wherever I go, the only layer of “separation” I feel is the language barrier…but everyone speaks English so it’s barely a problem. Even my non-Jewish friends on my program agree with me. There’s just something about this place, that makes me feel so free and happy. I can’t put my finger on it and it’s hard for me to explain to my friends back home. All in all, I just love it here and never want my time here to end.