The First Days

23 May

I was only 20 minutes late to the airport, and considering the traffic we hit on the expressway, 20 minutes wasn’t bad. Not the first impression I was hoping to make, per se, but not bad. The scene in the airport felt like déjà vu: I was watching my mom try and meet everyone in the 20 minutes or so she had until she felt she had overstayed her welcome as over-protective Jewish mother, I was praying that my bag would make the weight limit, and trying to get a feel for the people I’d be spending the next month with.


If there was anything I knew from my last dialogue, and the teen tour I took in high school, it was that I had absolutely no clue what the coming weeks would bring. I also knew, that within the next 10 minutes or so, my mom would start tearing up, but it really can only go up from there, right? Right. Fortunately, my bag made the weight limit with 0.7 kilograms to spare, and we all made it on the plane with no drama going through security.


The first flight from Boston to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris was easily the warmest flight I had ever been on, and that, combined with the fact that the woman in front of me had her seat ALL the way back made it extraordinarily uncomfortable and impossible to sleep. I had to keep reminding myself that it would be so, so worth it when I got to Israel. And it was. In Paris, I was reunited with my roommate and best friend, Jenna, who was joining us for the trip after spending the semester a million miles away from me in Paris. I’m sure everyone in Paris loved hearing two college girls screaming at 10 AM. I slept all the way through the next flight, and what could be better than falling asleep in Paris and waking up in Israel? I really can’t think of much.


The arrival to Israel wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, though. While most of us got through passport control without any issues, one boy on our trip had enough trouble to make up for all of us. Because of his name, Elijah Muhammad, he got pulled aside and was asked question upon question. People with Muslim names have trouble entering the country anyways, but on top of that, someone who shares his name and birthday is banned from entering Israel at all. We had all gotten our luggage, and waited close to a half hour after that, for him to get through. Everything turned out fine in the end, and he definitely has an interesting story to tell now!


When we got to Israel we took an hour bus ride from Tel Aviv to our apartments in Jerusalem. By some miracle I managed (with some help) to get my bag up three flights of stairs, and then we were rewarded with dinner. It was so nice to have some real falafel and shawarma… it had been 4 years since I had been in Israel, and thus 4 years since I had eaten good Middle Eastern food. After we gorged ourselves, we took a scenic walk back to the apartment to get to know the city better. As I walked back, things were coming back to me from my last trip to Israel, and it felt kind of like coming home, as cliché as it sounds.


The next day, we fought through our jetlag and went to Hadassah University for our first day of class. After an introduction and a tour of the campus, we had a class with Professor Nirit Topol, a professor of Politics and Communications at Hadassah. We talked about nationalism, Zionism, and what it means for a “nation” to have its own state. Professor Topol seemed to like playing devil’s advocate and challenged many views and opinions that we take for granted. Later, we went on a walking tour of the Old City. This was very familiar to me, as it was something I had done on my first trip to Israel. My first, and only other trip to Israel was 4 years ago. It was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, and it was part of a teen tour through BBYO. I had an incredible 3 weeks doing all the standard tourist-y things and some interesting cultural things as well. This previous experience gave me a different perspective on our tour of the Old City, and I’m sure it will continue to do so as the trip goes on. It was a really strange feeling knowing I had done this before. While I remembered some things, I felt like I picked up on a lot more in terms of history and significance now that I’m older. I also was much better about taking pictures (your welcome, mom). More than anything, I remembered the images: the look and feel of the outdoor shuk (marketplace), my experience getting a little lost there, memories of almost getting my ear pierced, and so on. I’m excited to make some new ridiculous memories, with a new set of people, and a marginally better sense of direction, in this country that I have such a special connection with. 

– Jenny Travis


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