Tuesday, December 25, 2012

**Holiday Greetings** Part 1- Christmas

We know we've been MIA for months, but this year has been amazing and as it comes to an end we'd like to say Shalom to everyone we haven't spoken to in a while.

We wanted to wish everyone Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaaa and Happy Holidays and thought we'd make a post on what it's like here during the holiday season in Jerusalem.

I was going to send out email Holiday cards but then I figured, since I know everyone enjoys reading our blog, to make this a Holiday Greetings post. 

Here are few Fun Fact articles: 

To continue the holiday tradition, Evan has prepared his delicious spicy, garlic chicken and broccoli.
Then we decided to go take a walk to the Old City.
These lights were taken at 9pm. They are as exciting as it got.  (The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was closed!)
^We discovered a cool Greek church hideout.

 ^Stole a kiss in front of Jaffa Gate.
 ^ and walked through Mamilla Mall Promenade.
 ^ and met up with a few friends along the way! 

....stayed tuned for Part 2!- New Year 2013


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup for Sick Hubby

 My hubby is sick and really wanted some soup.  
I found this delicious and easy recipe at smittenkitchen. It that was a hit! 
My husband (and I) inhaled it! Couldn't stop saying "yummy!" and that made me feel really good! 

Here is her recipe:
Serves 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3-pound chicken, in parts or 3 pounds chicken pieces of your choice
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large carrot, diced (1/3-inch)
1 medium parsnip, diced (1/3-inch) (optional)
1 large celery stalk, diced (1/3-inch)
3 ounces dried egg noodles, I prefer wide ones
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or flat-leaf parsley

Prepare broth: In a large (5-quart) heavy pot over medium-high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onion and saute it for 3 to 4 minutes, until beginning to take on color at edges. Add the chicken pieces (if too crowded, can do this in two batches), making little wells in the onions so that the parts can touch the bottom of the pan directly. Cook chicken parts until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Add water, bay leaf, table salt and some freshly ground black pepper and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and skim any (sorry for lack of better term) scum that appears at the surface of the pot. Simmer pot gently, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

Transfer chicken parts to a plate to cool a bit before handling. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl (ideally, with a spout) and pour soup through it.

Bring the broth back to a simmer.

You may be tempted at this point to taste it and add more salt.

To finish and serve: Add diced vegetables and simmer them until they’re firm-tender, about 5 minutes. Add dried noodles and cook them according to package directions, usually 6 to 9 minutes. While these simmer, remove the skin and chop the flesh from a couple pieces of chicken, only what you’re going to use. You won’t need all of it in the soup. The remaining parts can be slipped into an airtight bag in the fridge (I recommend leaving the skin on for retained moisture until needed) and used for chicken salad or the like over the next few days.

Once noodles have cooked, add chicken pieces just until they have rewarmed through (30 seconds) and ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with dill or parsley.



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Trip to Poland and Pesach Vacation (Part 1)

As Marina mentioned in the most recent post, the last month here in Israel has been pretty busy, both scholastically and socially.  This post will be about two things - my recent trip to Poland and our Pesach vacation up north, broken up into two parts.

When I first came to Israel, a friend of mine from school sent me an email about an educational trip to Poland for students studying abroad.  The program was a partnership effort by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC and the Auschwitz Jewish Center (AJC) in Poland.  At first I wasn’t sure if I qualified since it seemed like the program was geared for undergraduates studying abroad, but I applied nevertheless.  Fortunately for me, I was accepted.  The trip consisted of ten students (2 guys + 8 girls = Good Ratio) plus our guide who was an American student living in Poland on a Fulbright Scholarship.  For many of you who know my background, I love learning about Jewish history, specifically World War II/Holocaust history so this trip was geared to be right up my alley!!!

I flew into Crakow (or Krakow depending on how you spell it) - P.S. in Polish, the “w” is pronounced like a “v” - to meet the other students who had come from all over Europe; France, Italy, Scotland, Austria, and Germany.  Our group had a great dynamic and with just 10 people we all go the chance to know each other over the course or the 4 day trip.  For anyone who has not been to Poland before, please do not miss out on going to Crakow.  The city is unbelievably beautiful.  When the Nazi’s invaded and occupied Poland, they turned the country into what was termed the Generalgouvernement (General Government) a semi-rump state of the Third Reich which controlled the area.  For some reason, the Germans loved the city and decided to leave most of the buildings intact, including many of the buildings in the former Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz. 

The city has a distinctly old world European feel that I can only compare to cities like Amsterdam or those that survived the ravages of world wars.  Almost all of the original 15th, 16th, and 17th century architecture is still in place - this includes churches, synagogues, castles, etc.  The old city, which in the middle ages was surrounded by a moat and drawbridge (the drawbridge building still exists!), is now surrounded by a park that goes in a circle all the way to the Wistula River.  Great restaurants and pubs liter the city center and with the Polish złoty being extremely undervalued compared to the US dollar, it almost felt like spending monopoly money on food and drinks. P.S. in Polish the “ł” with a slash through it is pronounced like a “w” so złoty should sound like zwoty but really sounds like zvoty. Confusing I know.

We had a great tour through the cities former Jewish district which has survived although there are almost no Jews living there.  There are currently only around 30,000 registered Jews living in all Poland, whereas over 3,000,000 lived there before the war.  In Crakow itself, there are around 150 registered Jews, but there may be more people with Jewish descent who aren't registered or are simply hiding their identity out of fear.  Surprisingly, there is a JCC, several synagogues, and several “Jewish” themed restaurants for tourists.  On the course of the tour, we saw several areas where Schindler’s List was filmed and learned some surprising facts about the production of the movie.

After walking through Kazimierz, we went to the neighborhood which housed the Crakow Ghetto were Jews were housed during the Nazi occupation.  We were able to walk on the umschlagplatz where Jews were herded together before being sent off to the camps, many for immediate gassing.  We saw the remaining part of the original ghetto wall (which if you look at my pictures on facebook are actually constructed much like Jewish tombstones) and then we went to Schindler’s factory where many Jews were saved by his noble motives.  Following the factory museum tour, we met with a Polish woman whose family saved a young Jewish girl during the war.  She has since been recognized as a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem and it was an honor and great experience to hear her testimony.  We finished off the long day with a nice dinner out followed by ice cold shots of Polish vodka and great beer!!!

The next day, our group woke up bright and early to get on the bus for Oswiecim, the town occupied by the Nazis and known to most as Auschwitz.  Not many people are aware that there are actually two separate camps at Auschwitz, first the smaller camp named Auschwitz and then the much larger camp named Birkenau.  Together they combine to form the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex that housed around 100,000 prisoners at any time. I’ve loaded a lot of pictures from the trip online so I’ll keep it brief by saying that the two camps are very different.  The Auschwitz camp eerily resembles a quaint university campus setting with its two story brick buildings and wide street that runs down the middle.  When you add the guard towers, barbed-wire fence, and the knowledge of what took place there, it definitely doesn’t feel like a campus anymore.  It is a strange feeling to be inside a Nazi concentration-camp.  Having been to Dachau before (Nazi camp outside of Munich), I knew what to expect but the rest of my group had never been to a camp before.  We all basically felt emotional, not happy or sad, really without emotion.  Our tour guide was a wealth of knowledge and I think the thing that hit me the most was seeing the pictures of the first Polish prisoners faces with the dates of their arrival and departure, departure most likely meaning death.  Most lasted just a few weeks, some just a few days.

That night, we went back to Oswiecim and had a night cap at the local watering hole which was an interested experience considering what we had just seen earlier.  We drank some nice Polish vodka, had a few beers and danced with all the local Poles.  The next morning, we headed to the Birkenau camp which is the complete polar opposite of the Auschwitz camp.  Birkenau is what you would imagine when you think of a concentration-camp.  A vast expanse, 20 times larger than the Auschwitz camp, with the remnants of wooden barracks and the train tracks running through the infamous gate.  We spent almost 4 hours walking around the camp, seeing the different sections where prisoners lived and died.  There were many groups of Israelis with flags walking around the camp, testament to the Jewish perseverance and spirit.  We saw the demolished gas chambers and crematoria, two destroyed by an inmate revolt close to the end of the war, the other two destroyed by the Germans, proof that what they were doing was wrong, something they wanted to cover up by any means possible.

We finished up the trip by returning to Crakow and having an afternoon tour of the old city.  As I mentioned earlier, Crakow has a beautiful old city that was spared from the destruction of both world wars and we got to see almost everything there is to see of historical importance.  I would without a doubt recommend a trip to Crakow for anyone thinking about visiting Poland.  I don’t have as many good things to say about Warsaw.  I took a train there to see the Polish countryside (which was beautiful) and on the train I had a verbal fight with the ticket collector who couldn’t count and told me I was already 27 even though my birthday is not until May.  I was forced to pay the extra amount since I was no longer a “student” and I promptly told the imbecile that he should learn how to count.  I arrived in Warsaw, a huge city compared to Crakow, and walked all the way to my hostel from the central train station since I didn't feel like trying to navigate public transportation in a completely foreign language.  Warsaw is very modern compared to Crakow since 90% of the city was destroyed during the 2nd World War.  Nevertheless, I got to see Warsaw’s old city, have dinner and drinks with a friend from school, and walk all over the city on the last day of the trip.  I saw remnants of the Warsaw ghetto wall, the umschlagplatz where Jews were deported and the only remaining synagogue to survive the war in Warsaw.  I flew back to Israel that  evening feeling content and happy with the results of the trip, and ready to see Marina!

Part 2 of this blog will follow in the next few days.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

We're still here!

Hey! Its been a month since our last blog post, sorry. Evan and I have become very busy with school and trips.  Since our last post we have celebrated a couple holidays (Purim, St. Patty's Day), met more new people, seen a few plays at the theaters I work at, and observed Shabbat with my cousin Roman in Har Nof, a primarily Jewish Orthodox neighborhood.

Purim in Israel is pretty crazy, like Halloween in the US. There was a party in the Abraham Hostel on Wednesday (I went as a babushka and Evan was Theodore Hetrzl, the father of modern Zionism). Thursday, there were big parties in cities like Tel Aviv, but, because Jerusalem is a walled city, it is celebrated a day later, on Friday. It is a mitzvah on Purim to drink wine and other inebriating drinks. =D

This week Evan is away in Poland on a Auschwitz Jewish Center Program trip, an educational Holocaust and Jewish life trip.  The five-day program takes the group to Krakow and Auschwitz, with in-depth tours of different concentration camps, which I'm sure he'll tell you more about later.

Today, some friends from Hebrew U and I took a trip to Jericho, the lowest permanently inhabited place on earth. A city, below sea level, located near the Jordan river in the West Bank. The seven of us rented a private taxi that took us all around. We visited Hisham's Palace, the Sycamore Tree, Mount of Temptation, Tell es-Sultan and of course ate delicious shwarma!

Hisham's Palace- An site of archaeological remains of an Umayyad empire winter palace, with Roman bath houses and beautiful mosaics, many of which are now stored in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem. The palace was destroyed in 747 by an earthquake.  (pics to come on facebook).

Here is an article about the Sycamore Tree.

Mount of Temptation- Next we took a cable car ride to the top of the Mount of Temptation, an amazing and panoramic view of the Jordan Valley. According to some Gospels and the Book of Deuteronomy, this was the site where Jesus spent forty days and forty nights fasting and meditating during the temptation of Satan. On the face of the Mountain is a Greek Orthodox Monastery, 350 meters above sea level. The Monastery, unfortunately, was closed.

Tell es Sultan- This site is located in the Jordan Valley, 250 meters below sea level, and has a history that dates back to the Neolithic Period. It is the lowest and oldest town on earth.

Today was fun, I learned a lot, spent a lot of time in the sun, which is a treat, and the checkpoint was super easy!  This week I am also going to visit Yad Vashem.

Hebrew class has gotten a lot harder, but I'm learning how to say a lot and can pick up parts of conversations which is awesome.

phew! hope you enjoy the update! Check facebook for pictures!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Weekend Update

I know it’s been a while since our last blog post.  Marina and I are settling into more of a “routine” this days as she volunteers at her theaters and I continue with my studies.  My winter ulpan is finally over! I got a 97% in the class, the highest grade anyone received.  This morning I took the Aleph level placement exam to try and get into the next Hebrew level. I more or less taught myself about 150 pages worth of new material in a week; new vocab, new nouns, past tense! It was tough going but I wanted to move ahead so I’m doing what I can. Apparently I only need a 65% to pass so I’m setting the bar pretty low for once!!! I have another week and a half break before my spring semester actually starts and Marina’s ulpan started this past Sunday so she has become very busy!

The past few weeks have gone pretty smoothly.  Marina took another trip with her Masa group and Lilya came all the way from the States to surprise Roman for his birthday.  We got to spend a few days with them around the city before they left to do some traveling on their own.  We still find ourselves returning to the hostel to hang out with friends we made there.  I think it’s by far my favorite, and cheapest, pub in Jerusalem.

A few Fridays ago, Marina and I went to a 90’s themed party in one of Jerusalem’s many neighborhoods.  Since we didn’t know what to expect, we were pretty surprised when we walked up and about 100+ people had basically invaded a street and created a “flash mob” of dancers.  The once quiet cafe now had tons of people drinking and laughing outside while a dj and live musicians traded off playing their own music and 90’s themed music.  With all the additional Baywatch and 90210 posters plastered all over the place, it was quiet a scene.  Thankfully we hung out with a friend we had made the week before at a shabbat dinner and we danced, drank and laughed for about an hour and a half.  Every 10 minutes or so, a car would honk its horn and the crowd would slowly open up, whether a cop car, an ambulance, or some pissed off religious jew on their way to the market.  Oh, did I mention that this was all at 12:00 in the afternoon!

One of the coolest things I’ve done so far was the tunnel tour under the western wall and the old city.  It’s sort of hard to describe what the experience was like but just imagine underground man made tunnels and arches about 30-75 feet high dug anywhere from between 1,000 to 2,000 years ago! It’s pretty cool to walk right next to the walls from the 2nd temple that are as smooth as modern walls and carved from massive 30 ton stones.  It’s definitely something I recommend for anyone coming to Jerusalem. 

Marina and I are currently in Lod, a smaller city near the airport and outside of Tel Aviv.  We’ve come to visit some relatives, Marina’s relatives of course, and while my Russian and Hebrew are still pretty sparse, I feel at home.  I love saying בטח (betach = of course) when asked if I want more french cognac!  It’s a nice feeling to know that we have family all the way across the world, especially since I’ve never met them before.  Its a warm sensation to be welcomed like this.  I’ll never turn down a home cooked meal - хариная картошичка в шалмон!!!! For all you non-russian speakers that means fried potatoes and salmon!

I’m tired and it’s been a long week.  I’m ready to relax tomorrow and go into Tel Aviv to see the city and possibly some friends.  It may be several weeks before the next blog post but do not fret, we are thinking about you.  Check out our facebook pages for daily updates and/or pictures.

We love y’all. אנחנו אוהבים את כולכם.  Мы вас всех любим.

~Evan and Marina

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shalom Shalom! Update

It’s been almost two weeks since our last post so this one will be kind of long.  Life in Israel has been very interesting. Even though we were without Internet for a week in our new apartment (more on that later), and it’s been cold and rainy here most of the time, it’s becoming more comfortable everyday. When the sun does come out, its beautiful here, especially the view from campus on Har Hatzofim (Mt. Scopus). It’s so interesting to see the hills and valleys and the different terrain and ecological systems. We live right next to the watershed line, and can see where the desert begins because there is not a single tree in that area.
Abraham Hostel was our home away from home, and is definitely a great place to stay for visitors of all ages (hint hint!) We met lots of different people from all over the world and we find ourselves coming back every other night to see friends we’ve made, meet new people, as well as participate in activities such as pop quiz night, market party (the Mahane Yehuda market after hours), and get dinner at PastaBasta, a delicious little place in the market where you can have any kind of pasta and toppings that you like!! Yum fettuccine, broccoli and aubergine!  We made a number of Australian friends at the Hostel, so we are looking forward to celebrating Australia Day with them on Thursday, Jan 26.
Last week, with several of our friends from the hostel, we took a quick day trip into Palestine (the West Bank).  We stopped in two cities, Ramallah which is basically the capital of Palestine – where the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and PA (Palestinian Authority) are located – and Nablus, a city located in the bottom of a valley.  Whatever you may see and read about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the news, we’ve come to conclude that it definitely takes a trip into Palestine itself to get a better understanding of the situation.  We saw Yassar Arafat’s tomb, had hot chocolate and laughs at Stars and Bucks (the Palestinian Star Bucks), walked in the rain through the narrow streets and shuqs (markets), and got a lot of stares from the locals.  We even found falafel sandwiches for 3 shekels (think $0.75).  While we will no doubt remember the trip into the West Bank area, I think the thing that will stay in our minds the most is the process of getting back into Israeli through the border crossing.
In the cold and rainy evening, we waited for an hour and half with all the local Palestinians to get through the Israeli checkpoint.  The only way to describe the environment is to think about what a low-key jail or detention center might look like.  We waited in lines with nervous and annoyed people pushing each other into the cell like entrance.  You are surrounded on all sides by a cage about 2 feet wide to move through.  The turnstyle at the end of the cage to let people through to the next stage of the checkpoint only stays open for a few people so everyone pushes thinking they can squeeze one more person through to stage two.  Once at stage two, it’s more waiting and pushing until you finally get through and show your papers.  The thing that made the process all the more uncomfortable was that the lines we were in kept getting closed, switched to another line, re-opened, etc. So we went from being in the front of the line, to the back of the line, only to wait again for a new entrance to open.  We spoke with someone in broken English who comes through every day.  He said the morning rush hour is much worse.
On a more positive note, we finally moved into our apartment on campus!  Evan and I will now be able to tell our grandchildren, someday, that we walked uphill both ways to school and home and it will be true!  One thing people might not know about Jerusalem is how hilly it is!  We finally got internet, although our wireless is still not set up, after about a week of dealing with the worse internet provider I’ve ever seen.  Everyone else on campus surely agrees.  Slowly but surely, our apartment is becoming more of a home as we buy our food and goods and settle in.  We had a Shabbaton last weekend with a lot of the students in the program and my ulpan is going well.  It’s an amazing experience to learn a language and learn about a culture in a classroom in that country, especially one with views of the border wall, the desert, the Dead Sea, and the Jordanian mountains all in the distance through the window.
Status Update for Marina:
For the first 6 months in Israel, I'm going to be volunteering at two theaters (Psik Theater and Mikro Theater). At Psik Theater, I will be helping with them with grants and applying for funding.  At Mikro Theater, mainly, I will be applying for them to showcase their work at different festivals, international and local. Also, I will be helping out with performances, different backstage stuff and maybe even in a few months, some assistant directing and stage management.
Yesterday, my Maslul Ishi (personal track) group took our first trip to the Golan.  I needed to be in Tel Aviv by 7am. While at first I wasn’t very excited about finding my way there by myself at 5am, I quickly realized just how easy it was.
Our group of about 30 college students, 2 madrichim (chaperones) and tour guide headed out to the Golan and our first stop was the Mitzpe Gadot viewpoint, a strategic place which was a Syrian base until the Six Days War.  Since then, it is a place where you can see the entire Jordan valley.
Next, we went to Katzrin, the capital city of the Golan, where we visited the Kfar Hatalmudi / Talmudic Village. Here we learned about the Talmudic era, saw villages and how people lived.  The Golan is one of the most fertile grounds and main areas of where wine, beer and olive oil is made. We saw the different tools and techniques of making olive oil.
Here is an educational video for our readers =) (sorry that it’s all in Hebrew)
After that, we went to the Golan Brewery. There at Kesem Hagolan / The magic of the Golan, we sampled some different beers (can you believe it, I drank beer!), had a very nice lunch and saw an educational movie about the area.
To end our trip we went go to Har Bental (Mount Bental) from where we were able to see Syria and where one of the most important battles of the Yom Kipur War took place. The views from atop the mountain were amazing, especially Har Hermon, and its snowy peaks in the distance.
I’ll put up some pictures from the trip soon!
As you can tell, we have been busy, yet we still find time to relax and enjoy life in a new city.  Since the workweek in Israel is Sunday through Thursday, Thursday night is the new Friday night.  We’ve gone out dancing, met Israelis who have been extremely nice and considerate and we have met some Israelis who were the exact opposite.  As we’ve learned about life in this country, there are 15 different shades of gray.  Nothing is black and white here.  
Until next time, Shalom Shalom!

~Evan and Marina

Friday, January 13, 2012

We Finally Made It!!!

Shalom from Jerusalem! As the first official blog post in Israel, there is a lot to update.  First I must admit that it took me about 10 minutes to figure out how I was going to type this post since logging into our account is a small challenge considering that Google Israel is in Hebrew characters and Hebrew format (I'm currently typing my English from right to Left!) But let's start from the beginning.

I would honestly recommend that anyone who comes to visit Israel fly out via Air Berlin.  Our flights were both very quick and very convenient.  Not only did they serve us ample amounts of food on the flights, we also received complimentary wine with dinner and dessert shots of Baileys and congac! Since we carried on several large pieces, they were kind enough to politely ask us to check our bags at the gate for free - we were happy to oblige considering it left us almost hands free the whole time. Once we got to Ben Gurion airport, the customs process was quick and convenient (5 minutes) and we picked up our luggage and loaded everything onto the sherut (shuttle bus) in another 5 minutes.  Within an hour of landing, we were at our hostel in Jerusalem.

I want to thank my mother upfront for finding us this hostel.  We have already made new friends - some people who are moving here just like us, some people just traveling through, others who currently live here - and the location could not be more desirable.  For those of you reading who know the city, we are located right next to Davidka Square close to the intersection of Yaffe and King George.  We can walk to the main shuq (market) in about 5 minutes and we are about a 15-20 minute walk from the old city.  Buses and the new tram run right by our hostel and everything is very centrally located.  The second night in town, we did a pub crawl and went dancing at a club - free shots of a liquorice type drink called Araq were given out at each place since it is the drink of Israel - while not very pleasant tasting, it's already growing on me!

The weather has been fairly cold for Israel standards (low 50s and high 40s with some rain) but we have still been able to make the trek up to Hebrew U on Har Hatzofim (Mt. Scopus) to try to get some things set up.  As expected, we were confronted with the Israeli bureaucracy of trying to open a bank account, getting our phones fixed, etc.etc. My hope is to soon make friends with a native speaker who can help with the language barriers.  It's funny with language; I've been speaking more Russian already in the past few days simply because we have been around a lot of Russians - we roomed with a Russian couple in our hostel and have encountered Russians on the streets in Jerusalem.  Marina feels right at home!  With Hebrew, the other evening at dinner, I asked the bartender "Eifo ha-shirutim?" (Where is the bathroom?) She casually responded in Hebrew and it wasn't until a gave her a dumbfounded look that she realized I didn't really speak Hebrew and she told me in English "Around the corner."

We met up last night with Roman (Marina's cousin) and in a Jewish geography type of coincidence, the table we sat down at had 4 students from JTS who had just moved to Israel.  I looked at this guy sitting next to me for the longest time thinking I had seen this person somewhere.  It wasn't until we chatted for a moment that we finally realized I had just made him a student ID about a month ago in New York! Funny how things work sometimes.

Since it's raining today, and I feel a small tickle in my throat, we may take it easy and relax around the hostel. It's nice to know that we don't have to rush to try and get everything in like we are on a short vacation type of trip.  We are having shabbat dinner tonight at the hostel with a bunch of people from all over the world - only 25 shekelim (about $7). It should be a fun experience.

 Since I honestly cannot read the blog page we have set up, we will more than likely put our pictures up through Facebook.  This way everyone can see our stories in pictures.  I hope that in the next few days, as things progress with my orientation and Marina's interviews, we will have some exciting things to post.  Until then, Shalom from Jerusalem.

Evan and Marina~

Monday, January 9, 2012

D-minus 1 Day and Counting

Our bags are packed (mostly) and we are ready to go!  It's 10 PM the night before we are set to fly out for Israel and we are all pooped.  Packing up most of your life in 6 or 7  bags is an exhausting feat.  I am definitely glad that we are close to the finish line, or at least the end of this segment of our journey.  Much more surely lies ahead!!!

We had a wonderful send off party last night - a big thank you to Stephanie and Will for making it happen.  Thanks as well to all those who attended.  It's nice to see to be able to see our group of friends and in one place before we leave NYC.

Our flight leaves from JFK tomorrow afternoon at around 5:30 PM.  Vlad, Alla, and Michelle are coming in early tomorrow to see us off and help with any last minute arrangements.  We have an 8 hour flight to Berlin, Germany via Air Berlin.  We are due to arrive in Berlin on Tuesday morning (Jan 10th) at around 7 AM and we have a two hourish layover before our flight to Ben Gurion.  Our second flight is about 4 hours and we are scheduled to land in Eretz Israel around 2:30 PM on the 10th.  Right on 24 hours of travel time!!! (I hope I sleep on the plane).

Thankfully Marina and I have a 5 or 6 day "vacation" in Jerusalem before we move in to our dorm apartment.  We are staying in a hostel in the city center and hope to learn the ropes while we have free time.  I'm sure it will take several days to get over the jet lag and get acclimated but I trust that living in New York for 4.5 years has trained me well for big city life - even though Jerusalem is small compared to NYC.

I know that everyone will be on the edge of their seats to read about what Marina and I are doing.  Please don't be too upset if there are no posts during the first few days.  I anticipate that we will both be slightly overloaded but I will do my best to put up some pictures on Facebook and I'm sure there will be status updates as well - some may be in Hebrew or Russian so you better start brushing up!

Much love from New York; much love to come from Israel.

~Evan and Marina