Italian. Israeli. Polish. Unable to claim to be a part of just one of the groups I find that I am truly a mixture. If nothing else, it makes for an interesting conversation. Currently I’m in Israel able to explore my Jewish identity and strengthen my cultural connections. It has not been easy. I honestly don’t see it getting any easier. But to be honest, we all know nothing good comes easily. Part of the experience here is having to struggle and learning how to thrive. To reach so far out of your comfort zone that for a moment you forget what it feels like to recognize anything at all. I’ve been uncomfortable so long now that it feels comfortable. Everyday is an exercise in patience. The next 5 months will literally be the ultimate test. As a creature of habit and control it’s difficult to let go and adapt sometimes. But here, I have no choice if I don’t want to end up with high blood pressure. In one day I can go from praising to cursing this place every three steps. Being greeted with “Shabbat Shalom”. Being elbowed out of a grocery store line. Getting a suggestion for the best humus in town. Having to go to 5 different stores in search for sheets for a size bed that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Tasting the most amazing pita fresh from a local bakery. It’s a roller coaster of emotions. Each dip and peak lower and higher than the next.
Oh, don’t forget the language barrier. I’m luckily breaking down that wall one Ulpan (Hebrew class) session a day. 15 hours of professional Hebrew later and I can speak a little Hebrew. Ani medeberet katzat ivreet. And I can write a little Hebrew. יכולה לכתוב קצת עברית. It’s amazing how much I can understand now. When hanging out with Israeli friends I’m now able to feel like I’m in the loop. Speaking to them in Hebrew is another story. But give me a drink or two and that seems to unlock my hidden Hebrew conversational abilities. It’s an unofficial method but it does the trick! 3 years of Spanish. 1 year of Italian. But 15 hours of Hebrew is enough to convince me I will finally know a second language. As I walk around I point to things and say them in Hebrew like a toddler finding the ability to communicate. Exciting. Empowering. Humbling. All at once.
My first week of ulpan lined up perfectly with the arrival of my cousin Rachel and the return of my Israeli friend, Shay. Two Hebrew speakers willing to practice and quiz me on the vocabulary, grammar and verbs I’ve learned so far. Rachel will be starting school at an English speaking university in Herzliya next week so I was lucky to have her stay with me in Jerusalem for the week. We met up at our cousins Raanan and Sharon’s home in Ramat Bet Shemesh on Wednesday to enjoy an impromptu family reunion. Turns out there are a lot more Bodzins in this world than I thought. My grandpa was one of 8 brothers so it makes sense. As it would turn out, common in Israel, a chance meeting brought us all together. Following some confusing familial connections Rachel and I took the bus back to my place in Bak’a, Jerusalem. Coincidentally, I live down the street from and attend Ulpan classes in the building Rachel lived in during her 3 month stay here a year ago. At 25 I’m following in the footsteps of my 20-year-old cousin. While I’m not “homesick” I miss having my family around every corner and Rachel being in Israel certainly helps. It was great catching up, grocery shopping, taking long walks, going out downtown and getting to know my housemates with her. Very surreal that if I had been on my flight home on Sept. 28th we would have just missed each other. Funny how things play out.
Friday marked my first time at the beach since coming to Israel. We packed our bags with a few snacks, water and towels and loaded up the car for a 30 minute drive to Rishon LeZion. Powder fine sand, clear skies, strong breeze and choppy warm waters. I’ve never seen so many kite surfers in the water. It was a lot like watching the hang gliders at the glider port in La Jolla. The water was beautiful and knowing that these Mediterranean waters also touch the coasts of Italy was a nice thought. Besides being thrashed in the waves it was a perfect day at the beach. I hope to go another day before it cools off. Considering the warm weather we’ve been having there will be more time.