It is obviously very scary when the siren goes off, but I still feel safe and like I am in control. I know what I am supposed to do when I hear the siren, and I know I am able to get myself to a safe place. I have trust in the IDF, The Iron Dome, and all of the people in charge of Onward Israel.
Unfortunately some of the other members of the group are not feeling as safe, and they have decided to go home. We have all been having discussions about that since last week, and I feel that we have a very supportive group. We have all become very close over the last five weeks, and although none of us want to see anyone go home, we all understand that each of us has our own limits. I think what is most important is that we all seem to respect each other's limits and feelings. This is a difficult and scary situation, and I could have never dreamed I would have reacted like I have. None of us know how we will react to anything until we are actually put in that situation.
Now for some happier moments!
This past weekend we were lucky enough to visit Cincinnati's sister city, Netanya. Although it is only about twenty minutes or so from Tel Aviv, it felt like we were worlds away. For one thing, I am pretty sure sirens have not ever gone off in Netanya. It is also absolutely beautiful! I didn't think the Mediterranean could get anymore beautiful, but Netanya really delivered.
|Beach in Netanya|
When we arrived in Netanya on Friday morning, we met with some local young adults who are part of a leadership program. Some of them also happened to be our host families for the weekend! We also had the pleasure of meeting the new chaverim who are coming to Cincinnati this year! After playing some ice breaker games, we separated and went off to explore Netanya with our host families.
Emily and I stayed with Shakedd, who is eighteen, and her very nice family. Shakedd and Tal (the chavera) took us shopping, and then we met up with Liora, Jeremy, and Justin who were with Natan (the chaver) on the beach. Then we had some of the best falafel I have had since I have been here. They put a hard boiled egg in it which totally threw us off and was actually really good in it!
That night Shakedd's parents made us a fantastic dinner. It was so nice to have a home-cooked meal that consisted of more than just pasta and/or frozen schnitzel. After dinner Shakedd and her mother taught us some Hebrew words over tea and cheesecake. I will never ever forget that shaked means almond and shkedim means more than one almond!
|Shakedd, Emily, and I at Hansel and Gretel|
|Emily, Michelle, Natan, Tessa, Tal, Jeremy, and I at Hansel and Gretel|
The next morning Shakedd and her mom taught us how to make Israeli salad (because Israelis eat salad at breakfast), which consists of tomato, cucumber, peppers, sometimes onion, and olive oil with a little salt and lemon juice. That afternoon pretty much everyone ended up at the beach. Before we went though, we went to Max Brenner, a chocolate restaurant. IT WAS SO GOOD. Shakedd only fed the chocolate addiction Emily had already given me. After finishing our chocolate meals and debating on whether or not we should still be seen in a swimsuit, we made our way to the beach. There weren't as many people as at the beaches in Tel Aviv, and it was so peaceful.
|Layers: Liquid chocolate, white chocolate shavings, brownie,|
whipped cream, and pecans with hot fudge and chocolate crisps on the side.
That peaceful feeling was quickly replaced by fear on the drive back to Tel Aviv that night when the sirens went off while we were on the bus. We quickly exited the bus and got down on the side of the road and covered our heads. I think this was when things really got real for me. As we were sitting there I literally watched The Iron Dome intercept to rockets. I still don't know how I stayed so calm. Luckily we were all safe and able to get back on the bus shortly after to finish the drive home.
The last few days have basically gone on as normal because really....what else can you do? Most of us have been going to our internships consistently, and still going out and enjoying the city at night. Yesterday Justin, Sarah, and I went to a sabich restaurant, which after some research seems like it comes from the ingredients from a typical Iraqi breakfast. It consisted of a pita filled with eggplant, potato, hard boiled egg, hummus, tahini, Israeli salad, parsley, and amba. In other words...DELICIOUS.
Today we had an educational day in Tel Aviv. The first part of the day was focused on Start Up Nation. We met with an Israeli organization which helps people with their start ups and learned a lot about why Israel is so full of start up companies. The second half of the day we met with a man who comes from Sderot. I don't know if you remember, but I have mentioned Sderot before. It is the city about one kilometer away from Gaza where the citizens have only fifteen seconds to get to a shelter when they hear the red alarm. He brought a qassam rocket which actually landed next to his house, and he showed us some videos they use to show people what life is like in Sderot. The one that had the biggest effect on me was seeing a bunch of children running inside during the alarm and then singing out loud to cover the sound of the impact. When asked why people still live in Sderot, the man told us that the citizens say,"If we leave, the rockets will just move on to the next city where we are."
-Thank you Nikki Fisher for inviting Emily and me to dinner with your family friend! They were so nice!
-Thanks Emily for letting me pick my outfit out of your closet every morning.
-Thank you Eli for attempting to fix my computer!
-Shout out to Lior for being in love with Lana Del Rey and for doing everything you can to keep us happy and living a good life. You are doing a fantastic job.
|Lior loves Lana|
-Shout out to Tessa for being sick and still going to work....even though you threw up there.
-Last but not least, shout out to Jeremy for making this fantastic face today. Even though you look like Kris Jenner when she had that allergic reaction, we still love you.
|Jeremy being beautiful|
It is things like that which keep us smiling through the hard times.
Pray for peace.