Captain’s Log: 4 Stardate: December 26th
A 2 hour delay due to mechanical issues is never a reassuring start to a 10 hour international flight, although it did give us all a chance to get cozy and comfortable with each other. 40 of us plus our 2 madrachim met this morning in front of Pole D in Pearson International Airport, got on a plane, and landed on a sunny afternoon in Tel Aviv, already all best friends.
I sat with Miriam and Lisa in row 32, and I knew right away we were going to get along famously. The Jew32Crew was born.
Jew32! In front of some glorious artifact of which I forgot the historical significance.
Much to the chagrin of the group, I slept for most of the 10 hour flight. The waking moments were spent pelting Erin’s row with secret messages, eating horrendous food (even by airplane standards) with comically small cutlery, and attempting magic tricks with the deck of holographic shark cards.
Miriam eating with her hysterically minute fork.
Brushing my teeth in my seat.
Our first look of Tel Aviv was sunny and lined with palm trees, which was a welcome relief from rainy Vancouver winter.
Disoriented from all the sunshine.
We met our guide, Pauline, and our driver, Avner, who are both absolutely fantastic.
Avner showing off his pimpmobile. Photo courtesy of Lisa Rosengarten.
Our bus was decorated with shiny foil dreidels for Chanukah, and I had my first experience with “Miracles” by Matisyahu. I have to admit that the first dozen times it was blasted aggressively through my sleeping patterns I was less than fond of this particular ditty, but eventually it grew on me. The back of the bus was transformed into the Vagina Palace as we managed to fit 7 of us in the back 5 seats:
Vagina Palace takes over the back of the bus. Photo courtesy of Miriam Shustack.
Because of the time difference and our insanely packed schedule we shifted into high gear as soon as we landed. From the Ben Gurion airport we drove 45 minutes to Jaffa.
Jaffa is an ancient port city which has been used for hundreds of years as the gateway to Jerusalem, as well as having huge biblical significance: Jaffa is supposedly the place where the prophet Jonah left for Tarshish. We all introduced ourselves and broke bread together.
Our guide Pauline, breaking challah with one of our leaders, Senor Gluckstein.
In Jaffa I also discovered how wonderfully full of cats Israel is! There are stray cats everywhere, and I found it very hard to resist the urge to snuggle. (I may or may not have been secretly feeding them at the kibbutz…) I feel as though Jaffa would be a fantastically appropriate place to live out my lifelong ambition of being a crazy old cat lady. I intend to notify my place of employment immediately of my relocation.
The clock tower in The Clock Square (which was built for Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1906) was designated as our meeting spot and we were given an hour free time to explore the streets of Jaffa and the famous flea market.
Flea market in Jaffa.
I quickly discovered I had absolutely no idea how to function with shekels. I got used to them pretty quickly, but I am still irked by the fact that a coin worth 10 shekels can be smaller than a coin worth 10 sheklets*.
*Completely made up term used to describe the coins that are smaller than shekels.
Streets of Jaffa. Photo courtesy of Rachel Abitan.
We shopped a bit, bought some fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, and saw the menorah lit up in front of the clock tower.
Jaffa clock tower and menorah at night.
We got stuck in some aggressive traffic on the way to our kibbutz so we were all eager for dinner. Thus far I am rightfully wary of Israeli food- being a vegetarian with Celiac’s disease is apparently far easier to maintain in West Coast hippie land.
The "mess hall" at the kibbutz. Photo courtesy of Marshall Podell.
My room mates at the kibbutz were the lovely Sarah (who is also from Vancouver) and Michelle.
Michelle, Sarah, and I. Roomies!
Note: that face I’m making is really quite misleading, as it is not indicative of my company but of some sort of treacherous hike I’m sure we were probably on at the time.
We rented out two buildings in the kibbutz and there was a little bar in front of ours. We all decided on bed right after dinner, but we were certainly aware late into the night of those who hadn’t.
Our kibbutz! Photo courtesy of Marshall Podell.
By the end of the day we were all not only exhausted and jet lagged, but we also felt like we’d known each other for years. I remember distinctly how bizarre it was reminding myself I’d only known some of these people a little over a day.
I was really looking forward to a shower, but unfortunately the shower had other ideas for me.
Bye-bye shower head.
I’m pretty sure the entire kibbutz heard me scream. Perhaps subconsciously I was hoping that if I broke things in our apartment some ridiculously attractive Italian man would come fix it shirtless… but I guess that was just in Italy.