Monday, April 25, 2011

Chodesh Vi Chetzi

An interesting colloquial phrase I’ve recently heard thrown about here in Israel is “vi Chetzi,” which literally translates to “and a half.” This silly phrase is mainly used to emphasize a point, both positive and negative. Here’s an example of how it may play out in standard conversation:

Sarah: “Wow, that movie was great”
Rachel: “I agree, it was great vi chetzi!”

I can only really explain this last month by saying it was a true Chodesh (month) vi chetzi. Not a sliver of time was wasted during the past thirty-odd days of traveling, hiking, volunteering, family bonding, learning, and celebrating—so I’m hoping all I have done, and all I’m about to write, justifies my having not posted here in so long…

The chodesh vi chetzi began with a bang, or perhaps the sound of a grogger (noisemaker), when Purim arrived in Israel, the weekend I returned home from Poland. For many Israelis, this is the best, most insane, and perhaps most widely celebrated holiday of the year. To be fair, this isn’t because the holiday is so spiritual or, for lack of better words, “religious.” It is, however, a “religious” excuse to get ridiculous – ridiculously happy, ridiculously dressed, and ridiculously drunk.

For four whole days children, teens, adults, both religious and secular alike, crowded the streets of Bat Yam, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem for what was essentially a never-ending party. My friends and I attended an inter-section Year Course planned costume party, a Tel Aviv street party, a massive parade, and throughout the entire time ate (and baked) Hummentashens, which are triangle shaped cookies filled with chocolate, jam, or just anything tasty.

In short, Purim was a great transition back to Bat Yam from a pretty heavy week in Poland. Fairly soon after I began feeling at home in the Bat Yam/ Tel Aviv region—I’ve explored the town and ran on the beach, spent many nights out in Tel Aviv, familiarized myself with the local buses, volunteered at a local school, and studied in my classes. I’ve already learned so much in my Hebrew, Zionism, and film classes, and of course always look forward to the great workout I get on Tuesday nights from Israeli Dance.

I’ve also remained extremely busy with the new leadership track I’ve voluntarily become a part of; four days a week we dedicate our afternoons to either a leadership seminar, listening to a guest speaker, participating in extra volunteering, or organizing events for YC participants. There are less than thirty of us in the track, so we’ve become a tight knit group. As a part of the program, our group spent one weekend together staying at various “host families” in Modiin, the town where our director, Laz, lives. Staying at host families is always a unique, interesting experience in Israel, and from an outsider’s perspective, the whole concept must be odd—that is, staying at a complete stranger’s house for a weekend, sleeping in their beds and eating their food. Since it is completely normal here, I’ve come to embrace it.

A week later, a group of us decided to trek up north to embark on the well known Yehudia hike and camp-out overnight. Four hours and approximately one thousand bus transfers later we made it to the beautiful, green, mountainous north. Immediately upon arriving at the campsite I hit myself for not exploring the north more prior to the visit, as we were all in complete awe of our surroundings. The hike was also unlike any other I’ve done in Israel—besides being the first one up north, it was also extremely eventful. After walking through a pool of waist high freezing cold water we were greeted by cows and sheep to the right and left of the trail. Daisies and Poppies colored the endless expanses of green fields until we passed the biggest waterfall in Israel and arrived at the fresh water pools. A few of us daring hikers decided to plunge into the crystal clear pools from a cliff, which was so worth it. I even have a picture to prove it! (see below)

When I got back to Bat Yam on April first I had more exciting things to look forward to—my Mom and Step-Dad’s arrival in Israel! I got to spend some quality bonding time with them during their stay, and it felt great showing my Mother, an Israeli, around her own country.

So does that make Israel my country, too?

I asked myself that when I directed them around the old city, recommended restaurants, and spoke to waiters in nearly fluent Hebrew. Oddly enough I didn’t feel like a tourist while we explored the Tel Aviv museum of Art, shopped in the Arab marketplace, and relaxed at their amazing hotel in Jerusalem located atop a mountain. It was nice being able to experience Israel a bit more luxuriously than I’m used to—and frankly, I’m not used to Jacuzzi’s, Thai food, private balconies, Saunas, and breakfast buffets.

Though bidding my Mom and Alan farewell was sad, Passover, one of my favorite holidays, arrived quickly, bringing more happiness, family, and celebration.

All of a sudden Matzo boxes replaced the bread on our counters and we packed our suitcases to begin our spring break up north…

Jumping off the cliff!

My apartment in costume for Purim