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~