Well, here I am finally getting a chance to sit down and write all about my adventures in Israel. At the moment, I am in a coffee shop 30 feet below my apartment while waiting for my laundry t0 finish. Today I switched apartments from a seaside view of Tel Aviv to a insider look of the Tel Aviv city life in Dizengoff center. Because I moved today, I had been anticipating the 4th of July as move-out-in day rather than American independence day. Even at work I had not really received much notice of the day aside from the constant Facebook status reminders. I am glad to say that I have become pretty acclimated to my weekly routine at my internship. Because Shabbat is a religious holiday for the Jewish state (sunset Friday night to sunset Saturday night), it acts more like a Sunday would in America. Thus, a typical “Friday night out” happens on Thursdays in Israel. My week starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday, where I head to work from 9am to 3pm, then come back to the apartment and usually go for a run and do some muscle exercises in Independence Park (a small park in Israel that overlooks the beach), and cook myself dinner or go to an Oranim internship activity. Independence Park overlooks the Orthodox section of the beach, where men and women alternate on the days they can swim in the beach and the Tel Aviv Marina. I particularly enjoy the sea breeze rustling the leaves of the thick palm trees and the bright green grass (the park is on a hill) as I am running through the park. Whenever I look out to the sea and get that first brush of wind, I am able to empower myself to refrain from shortening my work-out.
Yesterday after work, I stopped by a family friend’s extended family member’s bookstore in Israel (which I had been passing by on my way to work and had not even noticed!) and went to an Israeli Soldier Panel hosted by my internship Program. All of the soldiers were not required to go into the IDF (they were either immigrants, american citizens, or were born in Israel and had moved), but chose to go into the army anyways. For those of you who do not know about the Israeli army, a basic explanation is that the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) requires Israeli citizens at the age of 18 to join the army and stay for 2 years (if you are a girl) or 3 years (if you are a guy), then remain on reserves (you can get called to your base at any time, but usually you do not have that situation) until your first child is born or your mid 40s (not completely sure on that rule). From listening to the soldiers’ experiences yesterday, I learned that only 10% of the IDF is combat, and 90% is support (field intelligence, desk jobs, basically not on the battlefield). Also, the commanders are not allowed to speak to the soldiers in anything but Hebrew, even if you don’t understand! At the end of the panel, I asked the soldiers if any of them had challenges gaining family acceptance for joining the IDF. One of the girls said that her parents (who were completely against it) shunned her for 3-4 months. The panel yesterday made me feel a bit more comfortable in knowing that there are others out there everyday who want to serve (and who make it through) in the IDF. More reflections to come (when a dryer full of clothes is not calling my name).