Saturday, December 13, 2014

Zen and the Art of Surviving the IDF

It's 3 am and I’m standing outside the neshikiya—the base’s gunroom—trying hard to stay awake. A cold chill runs through me. My shoulders are achy, my eyes heavy from fatigue…perhaps I’m dreaming?

I’m not.

I’m guarding the gunroom of an IDF base. Alone. In the middle of the night. Wearing a vest filled with 4 fully loaded magazines, one large meymiyah (waterbottle), and a helmet. Over this vest I carry my baby – my m-16 – the signature gun of the IDF and the newest limb on my body.

I begin to make my rounds around the gunroom and check to see that all doors are locked.

“All clear” I alert the war-room through my walkie-talkie.

Though my job is the farthest thing from the combat-y scene you are now envisioning, shmira (guard duty) makes anyone look hardcore. It also, quite contrarily, can teach you a lot about Zen.

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In the last 20 minutes of my shmira, I watch the sunrise from my post.  

Generally, when I’m awake for a sunrise, I acknowledge its beauty. But this time, I really watch it. I have no phone. I have no one to talk to, no commands to fulfill. I’m not allowed to read or write. I simply stand and watch pink fade to orange fade to yellow fade to blue. I hear the crickets sing. I watch a bee pollinate. I poke my head out to smell a flower—it’s surprisingly sweet.

I inhale with intention and allow my thoughts to roll in and out.

I guess shmira isn’t so bad.

In fact, guard duty (and army life in general) can be fun with the right attitude.  At the other two guard posts -- the main gate and patrol – we guard in pairs, which is an opportunity for distraction-less bonding. Not having coffee in the morning is an opportunity to rid myself of my slight caffeine addiction. The language barrier forces me to listen intently during lessons. Not having control of my movements, whereabouts, or just about anything forces me to practice my deep breathing techniques and tests my drive to persevere.

I know, this sounds impossibly optimistic. Indeed, sometimes army life is awful and there’s little I can do about it. Some examples:
  • Not understanding jokes in Hebrew and thus sometimes not contributing to conversation (I nod and laugh anyway).
  • Feeling very dependent on others for help with assignments (I have never been this way). 
  • Generally not being able to express myself in Hebrew.
  • Constantly feeling frustrated and limited by my Hebrew (see above).
  • No time for music, yoga, writing or any hobbies that make me happy.
  • Lots and lots of yelling. 
  • Constant fatigue.
  • Stress from assignments. 
  • 10 minutes to eat at meals.
  • Only one hour of personal time every day. 
  • Power relationships and formalities that I know are important but I still find arbitrary 
  • 18-year-old Israeli girls…everywhere.
As you can see, there is plenty to complain about. In fact, complaining is one of the main sources of bonding between the girls of Bahad Chinuch V’Hanoar (the education base). The other main source bonding: eating grandma’s cookies, chocolate, and any/every treat we can our hands on during our sha’ah tash (free hour before sleep/ aka hysteria in the bathrooms hour).

Nevertheless, the silver lining is clear.

Despite the constant frustration, confusion, and moments of what the heck am I doing here, I can confidently say that the beautiful moments—the moments where I find inspiration—imbue meaning into the struggle. It becomes a rectified struggle, which is what I call “fulfilled happiness” (in Hebrew: Osher).

Some of these moments thus far:
  • When I sang Hatikva at my swearing in ceremony (the end of basic training) and looked out at my cousin, host family, and two Garin friends in the crowd.
  • When I learned about ruach tzahal (the 10 main IDF values) as a soldier after having talked about them at length during my advocacy work at BU.
  • When I had a hard day and my friend brought me hot chocolate and a hug.
  • When I applied the knowledge I learned at the shooting range and successfully hit the targets while lying down, kneeling, standing, and during night shooting. Important note: It wasn’t meaningful because I hit all the targets. It was meaningful because I felt incredibly safe all throughout, knowing that security, purity of arms and respect for life are at the crux of all IDF operations.
  • When I led a friend though a meditation process after she struggled with shock at the shooting range.
  • When we closed our first Shabbat on base, and the other American and I harmonized to Kabbalat Shabbat melodies while watching the sunset.
  • When I prayed shacharit (morning prayer) on base for the first time and said the prayer for Israel.
  • When I walked in uniform through Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and my friend – noticing my tears – took my hand and gently squeezed it, as if to say I understand. I’m here.
  • Every time I remember that my army job is all about inspiring soldiers to learn, live a life of integrity, and grow into the best version of themselves.
  •      Yesterday, during my Garin’s weekly Ma’agal Shabbat, when I opened “fan mail” from a boy in NY who wrote, “Leora, thank you for your service. It means a lot to me because I go to Israel, but most importantly, I believe in the right for Jews to have Israel as a Jewish country. You have a lot of courage. When I’m old enough I’d like to join the army. I am very serious about this, even though my friends are not. Thank you for your service. I appreciate it so much. – Zachary K, NY.

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In a nutshell, I’m in an incredibly challenging and rewarding chapter of life. I am happy that basic training is behind me, but this current phase – the education course – is far more difficult. Instead of running from one formation to the next and learning about the m-16 (which was the majority of basic training), I am running from one classroom to the next, discussing values in depth, giving presentations, and composing formal army documents…all in Hebrew.  

I am one of two American lone soldiers out of 80 girls total. The other American is in the other division, so in most discussions and lessons, I am the only non-native soldier. There were four Americans, but two dropped because of their Hebrew. 

Additionally, this past week, I was chosen to be the weekly chatatz of my group, which is essentially the “right hand” of our commander. She said she picked me for a reason, and I hope I didn’t let her down. I tried hard, but honestly, it’s hard enough to get myself together, let alone be responsible for 11 of girls. Because of this demanding role, I am way behind on the assignments, 3 of which I have to start and finish tonight.

Wish me luck…I need it.

Shavua tov everyone (good week). Thinking of you all and sending much love.

Your chayelet (soldier),

Leora ליאורה 


My Garin friends and Mashakiot sending me off to the army!
With my friend Arianna (the other American Lone Soldier)
after a week of basic training

With my 3rd arm...my m-16

With my friend Talia right before the Swearing-In ceremony





Monday, October 20, 2014

Jews Gone Wild


I am dripping with sweat when the room begins to shake. Feet stomp, bodies jolt, and voices of every pitch meet in rhythmic unity. My head feels light and I nearly lose my balance. At first I’m just swaying and clapping my hands, but soon the energy of the room lifts me higher.  Suddenly my arms are around two teenage girls I just met and we are jumping up and down, our feet hitting the ground to the downbeat of a chant I know well: Am Yisrael Chai (The people of Israel live).

Well, this is the wildest party I’ve been to in Israel yet…and it’s 10 am…and I’m in synagogue.

From the balcony, I look down at the vibrating crowd of black and white. Boys take turns sitting on their fathers’ shoulders, shouting out prayers that elicit a booming response from the crowd. The men begin to circle around the Torah, singing traditional melodies for the 7 hakafot (processions) of Shmini Atzeret (aka Simchat Torah).

This was my first time truly celebrating Shmini Atzeret, and I must say, it is my new favorite holiday. I’ll tell you why.

First, some quick background:
  • Shmini Atzeret immediately follows the week-long holiday Sukkot, which is why it is called shmini (eight) atzeret (assembly). Thus, it is like the 8th day of Sukkot, though it has separate significance entirely. 
  • The number 8 represents infinity (because it is after 7, which is a full cycle of creation), reminding us that the Jewish nation, G-d, and the Torah are infinite.
  • The holiday marks the conclusion of one annual cycle of torah reading and the beginning of the next cycle.
Some fascinating facts:
  • The 7 hakafot (mentioned above) represent the 7 times Joshua led the Jewish people around the walls of Jericho before they fell. On a kabalistic, spiritual level, these hakafot symbolize the breaking down of our personal clipot (walls/shells) that prevent us from connecting with the divine.
  • There are technically no commandments for this holiday; however, it is customary to party like its 1400 B.C.E!!!
  • By that, I mean the streets are filled – both in the morning and the evening – with people who are “synagogue hopping,” which is, based on my experience, way more fun than any bar-crawl I’ve attended.
  • The first round of dancing (synagogue hopping) went from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm and then resumed later in the evening. From around 8 pm – 11:30 pm, the entire city of Ra’anana congregated in the center of town. When people imagine what the Jewish state looks like, they probably imagine the events of Shmini Atzeret in Ra’anana: one large hora—of every type of Jew—winding through the empty city streets. Everyone is smiling uncontrollably and even the most secular of Jews are proud to be Jewish.  While gripping the torah and shaking your booty simultaneously, it’s hard not to be.


 Mitzvah g’dolah lehiyot b’simcha tamid. (It is a great commandment to always be in a state of happiness).  

This is one of the songs that repeated throughout the day, and is a teaching of the great Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. It is almost silly in its simplicity, but it really resonates with me. In fact, the song seems to be following me everywhere I go. I downloaded a version of it a while back, then heard it all throughout my magical weekend in Tzfat, and have continued to hear it ever since.

I love this teaching because the important mitzvah of rejoicing is so often overlooked in Judaism. People tend to see commandments as limiting or restrictive, which has a negative connotation. Rabbi Nachman, and many Chassidic masters before and after him, argue that when we are happy (in the deepest, least superficial sense), we are much more capable of serving G-d.

It’s a self-sustaining cycle: Yehudim (Jews) = those who thank (from the word lehodot) = gratitude --> meaningful, lasting happiness --> better able to thank/serve G-d -->  more grateful --> happier (etc.)

This is not to say we should pretend to be happy all the time—that would be destructive and insincere. Rather, Rabbi Nachman empowers us to turn our frustration and suffering into vehicles for kedusha (sanctity, holiness). Easier said than done, no doubt, but it’s a good goal to keep in mind.

 
Shmini Atzeret version of Matisse's classic "Dance"
Indeed, this holiday came at the perfect time for many of us in the Garin. While we held each other’s sweaty hands and jumped for hours on end, we recorded the memory in our minds and stored it in an easy-access file. We know that it will be hard to reach joy at this level during the challenging and mundane day to day army life—a reality that is soon approaching.

So as I danced with the random policeman who joined our joyful circle, my friend on my right wearing his cap and handcuffs, the absurdity of the situation dissolved into sense of rightness and belonging. I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.

When I gave a presentation a few days before on Golda Meir – standing next to her grave on Har Herzl in Jerusalem – I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.

When I sat with my Garin—in the middle of the Mitzpe Ramon desert crater—listening to nothing but the faint echo of our breaths, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.

These fleeting moments of simcha will not fade with time because they have become a part of me. They are laying the foundation for who and what I want to become as I enter this new phase of my life as an Israeli Jew.

So now that the holidays are over, the real test begins. How can I take the joy, spirit, and sense of unity achieved during the holidays into everyday life?


Stay tuned ;)

Leading a musical end-of-Sukkot Chag service 













When the policeman joined the dancing 




A holy conga-line 

Ascending to Tzfat

Traffic jam stopped
I sigh
from my cozy bus seat 

So easy to sleep 
Let my eyelids rest 
and miss the splendor
that surrounds 

On the highway shoulder 
Cows of brown and white
Graze
Eating grass from soil tilled 
Since biblical days 

Just past trash piles 
and telephone poles 
Is a hazy purple skyline 
An awaiting ascent 

I sit mizrachi style
Sun kissing my right cheek 
Eyes squinted 
Breathing belly deep 

A lulav pokes out
Says hello 
from across two seats 
He sniffs the etrog
passionately 

Kippas of velvet, knit, and white
Next to delicate wigs 
and scarf-wrapped wives 

Then theres me; 
Me in my knee-length 
beige skirt
Tank top, arms bare 
Siddur in hand 
iPhone in the other 

I smile as chassidic melodies 
stream through apple headphones
Shir hama'alot 
Gesher Tzar Meod 

Isn't it odd 
how worlds collide?
A mysterious dance
that transcends time 

I watch 
as it all stands still 
On this bus 
that winds up hill 

Through changing trees 
and scenery 
Rusty rocks
and shrubbery 

At this junction 
there's no choice but up
No choice but to raise
this overflowing cup 

And shout out l'chayim 
We've arrived at our stop
This mountainous city
This mystical Tzfat 

Though I know not
My exact 
Destination
I exhale
I'm calm 
It's almost 
Shabbat 


Old city of Tzfat: taken from hostel balcony 
Same view circa 1996 (Mom and me)

Sun setting before Shabbat


















Baking Challah with new friends 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Eat. Pray. Sleep. Repeat.

“And, when you want something, all the Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paolo Coelo, The Alchemist

The last two weeks have been a testament to this truth.  

It began last Saturday night during ma’agal Shabbat. This is a weekly ritual where we reconvene for “circle time” and share our honest feelings with the group. (Obviously I am a big fan).

This time, we were encouraged to share things that were weighing heavy on us.

Our madricha pointed out that the “honeymoon phase” of our program is nearing an end; people are getting frustrated with one another, some of us are homesick, some are overwhelmed by the pre-army process, and others are feeling suffocated by our daily schedule.

I shared a different concern.

I told the group that I felt a spiritual void. I felt that I moved to Israel—a place that is on a higher spiritual plane—and yet I still felt disconnected.

While sharing this with the group, I came to a realization. Yes, I am leading weekly Kabbalat Shabbat singing, blessing my food when I remember, and thanking G-d throughout the day. I do feel more connected than I did in America. But I realized I was not growing my Jewish practice. I thought to myself: I need a teacher or a study group…I need to get on a path of learning.

Flash forward to Sunday morning (the next day), 8:15 a.m, Ulpan class. We are slouching drowsily in our seats, gripping onto our coffee mugs for dear life. A bearded man wearing a kippa and tzitzit enters the room. I recognize him—he’s the Rabbi who came into our meeting room a while back to offer some classes on Judaism. I wasn’t able to make the first class, and after that, I forgot he existed. He said that at 3:00 he was offering a class/discussion on Rosh HaShana (the Jewish New Year). I thought to myself that I should attend, but only if I finish all my errands beforehand.

It’s 2:55 p.m. and I haven’t even begun folding my clothes. The mental debate begins—what to do. I fold one shirt, and then realize how silly it would be to miss this class for something I could do literally anytime. WAKE UP, LEORA, IT’S THE NEW YEAR AND IT’S TIME TO BE JEWISH.

4:00 p.m., the class is over, and I am in deep conversation with the Rabbi who I just met. I share with him my hesitations about living a halachic life (following all the rules), my thoughts on spirituality, on gratitude, on joining the army. I pump the breaks – don’t scare this poor man.

He said that if there is enough demand, he’ll offer daily lessons during our free time. I nodded giddily, surprising myself with my desire to learn.

What’s strange is that the Rabbi wasn’t even supposed to speak to my Ulpan class that morning (or anytime in the near future). Something in his schedule opened up last minute, and he felt called to come to our class that day. Some would call this a coincidence—I call it hashgacha pratit (divine providence). My prayers were answered overnight.

Since then, I’ve been to 4 classes with the Rabbi, ate a Shabbat meal at his house, and will continue to learn with him, his wife (a yogi & Cancer star sign, like me), and my counselors Avishag and Nimrod.

I feel that now, of all times, is the perfect time to invite more Jewish practices and knowledge into my life. It’s a new year, Yom Kippur is approaching (tonight), and HELLO, I moved to the Jewish state. Although I still feel constantly torn by the opposing secular and religious forces of Israeli society, I am trying to let go of the stress and open myself to new experiences. The idea is to taste everything in order to find the path that best suits me.

Thus, my Rosh HaShana was just that—a jumble of secular, religious, and everything in between. For the first meal I went to a friend of my mothers in Herzliya (a 10 minute drive from me). I was so excited about eating real food that I filled up on salads…but alas that didn’t stop me from trying everything. 3 plates of food later, I rolled out of their home happy, full with gourmet food and good laughs, and glad to have connected with new “family.” Besides the food, having my hair done and singing Sound of Music with my new 4-and-6-year-old friends was probably the highlight. I missed playing with kids (shoutout to sista Kate) so playing babysitter that night was lovely.

The next day I went to Synagogue, as all “good Jews” do on the High Holidays. I think walking to and from Synagogue was more meaningful than the service itself. On the way, I spoke with my friends about what we wanted to change about ourselves in the coming year. We smiled at strangers on the street and wished them “shana tova.” We walked through the carless streets of Ra’anana and appreciated our blooming, beautiful home.

After a 4-hour lunch, I changed outfits and headed to the next meal at my adopted family’s house. Jewish holidays in Israel = Eat. Pray. Sleep. Repeat. Later I found time to read and sketch a drawing in bed, two things I haven’t done in so long (picture posted below). It was exactly what I needed.

Early the next day, while still recovering from my food hangover, a sound stopped me in my tracks on the way to the laundry room. I dropped my laundry bag and a huge smile spread across my face when I realized it was a Shofar blast.

Well, I thought to myself, I just fulfilled a mitzvah while doing laundry. Awesome.

While putting soap in the machine I thought about what the Shofar signifies. I learned in my class with the Rabbi that the Shofar is like the alarm clock for the Jews. While it actually is symbolic of Abraham nearly sacrificing his son Isaac, the deeper meaning is that it’s time for us to wake up, do cheshbon nefesh (soul accounting), and think about who we’ve been the past year and who we want to be in the year to come. 

I’ve been doing a lot of this soul accounting lately—what relationships am I investing in? What were my gains and losses this year? How do I measure my net worth?

They’re questions worth asking.

I have a lot more to tell you all about the past few weeks. They’ve been some of the fullest weeks of my life. But I’m headed now to a Kibbutz in the desert for Yom Kippur. I’m bringing with me a sleeping bag, a prayer book, and a book (in Hebrew) called “Letters to Talia,” which is the correspondence between a secular kibbutznikit girl and an Orthodox Yeshiva boy—a perfect read for this crazy time in my life.

Wishing my tribe members a meaningful Yom Kippur, easy fast, and gmar chatima tova – may you be inscribed (in the book of life) for Good.

My Rosh Hashana Drawing (Sid, from Ice Age)




Thursday, September 18, 2014

Army stuff, accordions, host family & cats

Another week begins…and it looks like I’m waking up in 6 hours.

I don’t sleep much here. 

I roll out of bed every day at 7 am. After reciting “mode ani” (a morning gratitude prayer) I sit back into child’s pose to begin my morning stretches. My roommate, Gil, is now used to my strange habits.

What begins as a calm morning soon turns frenzied. I hurry to scribble my remaining Hebrew homework while chugging coffee with one hand and spooning yogurt-granola mix into my mouth with the other. Then comes the mad rush out the door to make the 15-mintue-morning “wakeup” activity, which is always led by a different Garin member. (I led the very first one – yoga + meditation – all in Hebrew!)

By 8:05 a.m. we’re all sitting in Hebrew class. I tested into kita gimel (level 3), which is the second-highest level. Overall, I am very pleased with Ulpan. It is a nice balance of hilarious and serious. Half of the students are Israelis who never learned reading, writing, or grammar and the other half are like me: Americans who learned all of the above in Jewish day school but never spoke Hebrew at home. This disconnect provides for some good laughs throughout the 4 long hours of class. 

By 12:30 we are released for 4 hours of free time, during which I generally do my homework (when I’m feeling inspired), walk down Ahuza (the main drag in Ra’anana), read, write, relax with friends, or just laze on my bed/ on the wooden patio downstairs.

In the evenings, we have activities that are planned by our counselors. Some of these activities include: krav maga/workouts (2x/ week), discussions on Judaism/Jewish philosophy, army preparation, and fun activities like “dancing with the stars” or fondu night.  

These days we’re all a little relieved that our first encounter with the army—our tzav rishon—is behind us. While most Israelis do this at age 16, two weeks ago dozens of 20-somethings swarmed Tel haShomer, the DMV-esque building in which many Israelis have laughed, cried, and waited on exceptionally long lines. That’s essentially what the “tzav rishon” looked like. I sat for an interview/ Hebrew test, took a computerized IQ test, got a 3-minute physical exam, and met with an army social worker. Those 5 stations took 10 hours…I kid you not.

But instead of complaining, we used the free time to talk, play cards, and support each other throughout the entire balagan (mess)…yet another reason why this program is so important. We received our results last week, and most of our group scored well above average. My physical profile is a 97 (the highest) so I’m fit for a combat position (worry not, parents). I scored a 54 out of 56 on the IQ test, meaning most jobs are accessible to me if I improve my Hebrew in the coming months. I hope that I’ll have better Hebrew for our next encounter with the army, which is an interview this Tuesday. After that interview, we’ll receive a manila with a list of potential jobs.

As of now, I’m keeping an open mind with regard to my army position. I’ve actually been pretty torn about what I want. Originally, I was sure I wanted something in chinuch, the education unit.  Within that unit, there are plenty of job opportunities, such as:
·      Mashakit Chinuch Non-commissioned education officer. They take soldiers (of one unit) on trips and teach them about army values, Israeli history, Zionism, and Jewish holidays. They have a lot of independence, so this job requires initiative and creativity.
·      Hod – this is a track in chinuch that engages soldiers from disadvantaged backgrounds. On this track, I could end up educating prisoners (in army jail), people with behavioral issues, or new immigrants. Both of my soldier-counselors were on this track; Avishag taught Judaism to recent converts and Inbal taught soldiers in army jail. This work, from what I’ve heard, is supposed to be extremely challenging and rewarding.
Non-chinuch Jobs I’m considering:  
·      Madas-Nikit – fitness instructor. Responsible for creating and leading workouts for the soldiers and aiding them with nutrition and health issues. It is a physically and mentally challenging course. 
·      Matpash (COGAT) – Coordinates between Israeli and Palestinian governments on humanitarian/civilian issues in the territories.
·      Hadracha – combat support; includes a wide range of jobs that involve guiding combat soldiers on how to operate weapons and tanks.

My big dilemma right now is the following: do I want a position that is more army-esque, or a job that is better suited to my personality right now? Should I choose something totally out of my comfort zone, since the army is a once in a lifetime experience? The choice that is best suited for my personality is probably the hod track of chinuch. Though it is not particularly army-esque, it is important and is still a part of the bigger army system.

As of now, my intuition is telling me that chinuch is the right choice for me.
Last Friday night, while meditating on the beach after Kabbalat Shabbat services, I felt a supportive energy around this choice. I can’t say right now that this is my destiny, but I do trust my intuition, which has gotten stronger and louder in the past month. I’ve been exercising it (like any physical muscle) a lot throughout this momentous life change.

My stronger intuition made it difficult to part with Jerusalem two weeks ago.

As I walked through the windy alleys of the Nachlaot neighborhood, I felt called to the city. I was there to visit a friend from BU who feels the same way.  Together we indulged in all of the pleasures, both spiritual and physical, that the city offers. We sipped coffee at a tucked away used bookstore/café, ate fresh rugulach from the shuk, wandered through the old city + Arab market, prayed at the Kotel, and ended the day with wine and friends on the tayelet – an overlook where the mountains meet the city skyline. At dusk, it is breathtaking.

I think I understand the meaning of “Jerusalem syndrome” now. Though I don’t (yet) believe I am the messiah, I can’t ignore the intense energy of the city and the effect it has on me. I know I have to spend some time learning/ working there after my army service, though I’m not yet sure in what format.  

Another city I’ve grown to appreciate is Yafo. Last weekend (the day after the Kabbalat Shabbat on beach) I rented a bike in Tel Aviv and rode it alongside the beach to the ancient port city of Yafo. I spent the day (Saturday) biking alone and exploring. Without a plan and without company, I felt utterly free. This state of mind usually invites surprisingly wonderful encounters, which this time included an elderly man and an accordion. In short, I ended up singing with Eduardo (the accordion street performer) for over an hour. We sang Edith Piaf, My Fair Lady, and French/ jazz songs for the people of Yafo. At the end of the conversation, we hugged and he insisted that I find a good husband soon. (No, Dad, he didn't propose himself).

It’s strange. Sometimes, I feel more connected to my grandparent’s generation of Israelis than my own. They are the generation of people who so appreciate Israel. They came from war-torn Europe or were expelled from Arab states. They overcame Pogroms. They were pioneers. They dreamt and fought and established their homes in the newly created Jewish homeland.

I am always so enthralled with their stories. Luckily, I get to hear them every week at volunteering, which began two weeks ago. Every Wednesday, some of us volunteer at Beit Avot, an upscale old age home in Ra’anana. Yesterday at volunteering we danced to 1950’s Israeli music, received Rosh Hashana blessings from a rabbi, and were personally thanked by the mayor of Ra’anana. (Who gave us all his cell phone number.) Only after volunteering did I find out that the woman I danced with--for  hours--was 94 years old. 

In other news, I must digress. I have four important updates to share:

1)   I have a host family! I met them two days ago and they are wonderful. Our first encounter wasn’t even that awkward. (Even though I ran to them and said “THANKS FOR ADOPTING MEEEEEE”). The mother made Aliyah in ’89 and the father is Israeli. They have four kids, aged 10, 14, 19, and 21. The two oldest are in the army, so it’ll be great to befriend them and talk to them about all things army related. They invited me to Shabbat dinner tomorrow night, and I am drooling with excitement for a real home-cooked meal. 
2)   Most importantly, the family has two cats and two guinea pigs.
3)   Jewish holiday season is coming up. Time to start repenting.
4)   I have an interview with an army officer on Tuesday. Wish me luck!

That’s all for now. I promise my future posts will be shorter and more frequent.

Missing you all in the land of Costo and diners!

Leora

P.S - some things I’m starting to miss about America: 
  • family and friends (obviously) 
  • fall weather
  • wearing scarves
  • trader joes 
  • efficiency
Enjoying the Mediterranean breeze in Yafo 

Jerusalem Tayelet

Goofing around in Ulpan

The friendliest TLV Kitty

Selfie with Eduardo
Abu Hassan: The best Hummus in Israel (and thus in the world)