Today I accomplished absolutely nothing. It was amazing. I woke up early and walked along the beach. I then had breakfast, swam in the ocean and the pool, got a shaved ice, then read my book and slept on a beach chair. Today was awesome.
After meeting Nancy at her apartment, we went to dinner at the Tel Aviv Brewhouse. I had a really good hamburger and we both got a beer. On the way to dinner we passed by the “tent city” all along Rothchild St. Apparently college students all over Israel have set up tents protesting the high housing costs of Israel. It seems a little ridiculous because they are not offering up any solutions to the problem. On top of that, the majority of the tents were empty which leads me to believe that most of these people simply set up their tent and then went back to where they actually live. In addition, some of the tents had large flat screen TVs set up. It makes sense that they cannot afford housing but setting up a large TV outside their tent is a necessity. It was nevertheless interesting to see the hundreds of tents and people inhabiting them. Right near Nancy’s apartment there was a large teepee with somewhat dirty looking people with long hair smoking and playing guitar. Sound familiar? Clearly Washington, DC circa 1969 is just hitting Israel.
Following dinner, we went to a chocolate restaurant where we split a milk chocolate fondue. This came with various fruits, marshmallows, mini-muffins, as well as ice cream, chocolate egg rolls, and a banana-chocolate waffle. I do not think we knew what we were getting into when we ordered the dish but it was truly amazing. We got back to the apartment and after reading two news articles, I was falling asleep in my seat.
This morning we went into the old city of Jaffa. Initially we walked around the port and then toured the alleyways and viewing points of the city. Since both Nancy and I are photographers, we would stop very often to take pictures of the Tel Aviv skyline and various interesting doors and people. We then crossed the wishing bridge in which we both made a wish. After walking around, we went to the Jaffa market, a crowded but fascinating sight. We concluded our Jaffa tour with a visit to Abu Hassan, Nancy’s favorite hummus place. We managed to get our own table inside despite the crowds. We ordered a hummus (of which I forgot the name) that is lemony and slightly spicy. It was absolutely incredible. The spice was just perfect enough to add great flavor but not destroy your mouth. It was the best hummus I have ever had. I am already sad for when I have to get my “good” hummus from Trader Joes.
We taxied back where I decided to explore the Shuka Carmel, Tel Aviv’s market. It was a friday so it was very busy but the shops were similar to much of what I had seen before. However, the adjacent street was tabled with various local artisans. I enjoyed looking at these much more original and beautiful products. There were some very beautiful mezuzahs and menorahs however it was all fairly expensive so I simply admired. Within a few hours, I was ready to go back. I went back to Nancy’s apartment where we hung out for about two hours.
Around 4:30pm, we began working on dinner. We made a bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, and mushroom ratatouille, which we put over some papardelle pasta. We also made some garlic bread with some garlic, butter, and parsley. It was delicious and a perfect last real meal before my 27 hours of airplane food ahead of me.
A little before 9pm, we left for the airport. When we arrived, we said goodbye and I went inside. I began standing in line to have my bags checked. A woman came up to me and began asking me questions to determine my risk. Basically in Israel, determining risk means determining whether or not you are Jewish. The questions followed a basic theme: “Why were you in Israel?” ” Do you have family in Israel?” “Do you know any Hebrew?” ” Are you part of an Jewish community?” etc… I knew I would have no problems. I did birthright and then an archaeological dig on which I learned some hebrew and then stayed with my Jewish girlfriend’s aunt who made aliya from the USA. She was convinced. I was able to completely bypass the initial security screening. It’s good to be the Jew.
However, my luck didn’t last long. As I was the next person in line to check my bag, I heard the people in front of me having trouble because the girl had extended her birthright trip as well and the people who extended had changed the date of her extension without notifying her. I simply prayed that I would not have the same fate. I suppose God wasn’t listening. I approached the desk only to find out that there was not record of me being on the flight. I had to go over to ticketing where I was informed that somebody had called to change my July 30th reservation to June 27th. I do not know who is in charge of birthright extensions but clearly they are very bad at their job. The lady claimed that the $250 that I paid had never been received so I will have to check to be sure. Luckily there were spots on the flight so I had to pay $50 extra dollars to be put in economy plus. I eventually got to the gate where I randomly ran into an old friend from high school who also extended birthright. She had problems with her ticket as well.
I got on the plane and luckily I slept almost the entire flight. After arriving in JFK, I checked my bag and then went through security where only one person was checking the IDs for every single person coming into the terminal. There was a very long line and I thought I might be late for my flight. However, I made it through and got on the plane. It was a 4 hour and 20 minute flight to Salt Lake City. On the plane, I won the in-flight trivia challenge, which made my journeys just that much better.
At Salt Lake City airport I was sad to find that my computer would not connect to the Internet so I got a sandwich for the next flight. The flight to Hawaii was on a Boeing 767, my favorite airplane. I sat next to a copilot and although I wanted to ask him questions, he was asleep almost the entire flight. Luckily the movies and games were free on the flight so I fittingly enjoyed the episode of Anthony Bourdain No Reservations for Hawaii. It definitely put the aloha in me for my imminent landing in Hawaii. When I was in New York I was extremely tempted to take a train to Providence and go surprise Laura so I was slightly bummed thinking about that but I remembered that Hawaii is pretty awesome too.
Finally after 27 hours of travel, I landed in Hawaii. I met my family and after a short drive we arrived at the resort. Time to relax.
So today as I end one phase I begin the next of my world travels. My trip in Israel has easily been the longest, most painful, and most complicated trip of my entire life, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have grown as a person and as a Jew through my adventures in this incredible country. I know I will be back soon. As I leave Israel today, I not only begin a new chapter of my summer but also a new chapter of my life. It reminds me at the French school I attended in Los Angeles, there was a Thomas Jefferson quotation on one of the walls that read, “Every man has two countries, France and his own”. However, after my travels here, I know Thomas Jefferson was wrong. I do have two countries, Israel and my own. Am Yisrael Chai.
Yesterday was supposed to be the easy day with half of our day being taken up by the aerial photography. However, yesterday was easily one of our hardest workdays yet. After the photography, which involved a giant balloon and a robotic arm mounted camera, we had to cover and backfill certain areas of our site for conservation. This meant filling sandbags, sifting dirt, and filling buckets with dirt. This was already hard work. However, to add an extra level of difficulty, our normal cover was taken down so we were working in the sun. It was extremely hot! I drank at least 5-6 liters throughout the day. However, we finally finished the site a day early! It was bittersweet to cover all of our work from the past few weeks with dirt but it was nice to finally be done.
When we got back, we had pottery washing as usual followed by our end of the season pool party/bbq. Before the party, I went to a clothing store called Hangar near the kibbutz that is known among the dig crew as a good place to get cheap t-shirts with poor English on them. I decided that I would get one that seemed funny. I ended up buying a green one that says: ” My-T, Complete Setup, Built-in supply”. I have no idea what this could ever mean.
For the party, we had the whole pool reserved to ourselves and just like our last bbq, we had amazing garlic pita, chicken, sweet potatoes, beef kebabs, and fatoush. The food was amazing and everybody had an awesome time. (Some people had too good of a time though) It was a perfect way to end our time together.
Today, we got to wake up an hour later, which felt so amazing. I never thought waking up 5:30am could ever feel so good. Only a few of us went to the site today. Most of DS-1 stayed to help clean up and do last minute washing and picking at the kibbutz. I went to the site to help out DS-2 and D-West finish up. We finished both sites within four hours but we had to wait an extra hour for our bus. You could definitely tell that morale was low today due to our party last night but we worked through it all and got the job done.
After getting back and taking a shower, I went to my final lunch at the kibbutz where I got my class journal back from Professor Cline. No problems! I am really excited to get my research methods requirement for International Affairs finally out of the way.
I am now on a train to Tel Aviv to once again stay with Nancy, Laura’s aunt, for the night before I fly out tomorrow. The experience digging here has been unique to say the least. I very much enjoyed all the new things I learned about archaeology and ancient history. I am sure that I will do another dig at some point in my life.
Today we began the cleaning process in preparation for the photos that will be taken tomorrow. I worked with Alana removing plants from the side of the street next to D-West. It was fairly hard work and it was in full sunlight so I sweat, a lot. I also got very dirty, particularly on my legs. Although, it did give my legs a nice dirt tan until I took a shower. We got some really good pastries for our break though.
After leaving from the site an hour late in order to finish sweeping, we had lunch at the bungalows. After pottery washing, we had a soccer game. This game however was just for fun, not a competitive one like before. We finished the night with a summary lecture and a photo montage. Mackenzie and I listened to California love by 2pac following the lecture. Tomorrow should be an easy day of work.
Today I worked with Joe at D-West at the same place where the wasps were last week. However, this time the wasps had been removed. Our job was to remove the styrofoam boxes that were placed there in 2009 to help preserve the area. We removed them by breakfast in a very prolonged and frustrating process. This included lots of broken styrofoam, lots of fine dirt, and lots of ants! In the process of removing these boxes I must have disturbed at least 10 different colonies, all of which would disperse when their cover was removed. Thankfully they were harmless but still annoying.
After removing the boxes, we backfilled the area with dirt. We then had to remove some plants in the surrounding area and overall improve the look of the site. It was very hot and sunny by this point but we finished within an hour. Thankfully, our hard work payed off and one of the dig directors and the D-West area supervisor told us to relax in the shade and drink water for about 20 minutes. Following our rest, we did very simple jobs in the shade.
Today is the semi-finals for the soccer tournament. I thought that DS-1 was out but it turns out that if we beat DS-2 today, we go on to play D-West tomorrow in the finals. We still have a shot! I have prepared an inspirational speech that will hopefully rally the troops enough to defeat DS-2!
Today I spent the entire work day articulating walls. I began by articulating the side of one wall. I completed that task around breakfast time. Afterwards, I worked on articulating the side of a second, smaller wall. This only took me about 30 minutes. I then moved to a small area of dirt that I removed and before you knew it, the day was done. We are 1/5 done with our final week. Tomorrow is our last actual day of work before we are just cleaning.
After working, we played the second part of our soccer tournament. Unfortunately, DS-2 and D-West both have players on their team who have actually played soccer before so we lost to both teams. This means that we are disqualified from the tournament. I am a little scared if there is a “prize” for losing.
This weekend was easily the most expensive of my time here. Unfortunately, a lot of that money went solely to transportation. However, yesterday was the long awaited snake massage! This easily was one of the strangest experiences of my life. Friday morning after breakfast, Kathleen and I took the train to Binyamina where we got a taxi to Talmei El’azer, the small town where the lady who does these massages lives. The only problem is that we had no idea where in the town we were supposed to go. We arrived at the town, which was no more than four blocks long, and the cab driver drove the whole village waiting for us to tell him where to stop. Finally he reached the end and we just told him that we would get out there. We began wandering the main road and finally we found someone. I asked “Efo Ada Barak (the lady’s name)” The man responded that her house was up the street on the left, three houses after the bridge. We arrived at the house only to find a closed gate. I called Ada Barak and after some misinterpretation between english and hebrew, she finally realized we were at the front and let us in. The entire property was very large and looks somewhat like a farm but without animals. Ada Barak was an upper middle aged woman dressed all in black. She came out to greet us along with her five extremely cute puppies. She told us that we had to move the massage table inside since it was so hot out. Kathleen and I followed her over to a large corrugated metal barn where we picked up the table, and carried it inside. We sat down in Ada’s living room and she gave us both popsicles and ice water, an interesting start to our spa experience. While we were enjoying our popsicles, Ada put some water in two large plastic containers. She then pulled two small snakes, one red, black, and yellow and the other black and white, out of cages and one large one, yellow and white, and put them in the water. She told us that she washes the snakes before every massage. Though Kathleen and I were discussing when we thought the last time she gave one of these massages was; it had probably been a while. Kathleen and I played with the snakes a little bit. They felt really interesting; they were both smooth and soft while also having a lot of friction with my skin. After letting them slither around a little bit, and catching the red one from escaping multiple times, Kathleen wanted to go first.
Kathleen removed her shirt and laid down on the table. Ada then proceeded to put the snakes on Kathleen’s chest and stomach. Immediately Kathleen burst out laughing and told me how much it tickled. As someone who is very ticklish myself, I was a bit worried for my turn. Ada put them on her face, and feet, and legs, and eventually Kathleen’s back. The entire time, Ada was talking to the snakes in the same tone that one would use for babies or puppies. She would say things like: “Ok, you give massage now” or “Yes!” in a really obnoxious high pitched tone. She was a strange person to say the least. Sometimes, she would even tickle Kathleen herself, which was confusing to both of us. Sometimes Ada would step away and Kathleen and I would exchange awkward glances. Eventually, after Kathleen’s snake foot massage, it was my turn to get on the table.
Ada did all the same things with the snakes to me. I too laughed a lot whenever the snakes would slither or stick their tongues out, particularly when they would lick my ear. At one point I was on my stomach and the large one had settled on my back. In a strange way it felt really good. The snakes definitely did not give a good massage but you could definitely feel an energy coming from the snakes. After the massage, Ada offered us some food but we turned it down. She then called the taxi for us since she spoke hebrew. 20 minutes later, we were on our way back to Binyamina. Originally I was going to take a bus to Jerusalem right from the town but that would have meant waiting another hour and a half for the bus to arrive. I decided to take a train to Tel Aviv, where I got on a bus to Jerusalem. The bus was only 20 sheckles but when I got to the central bus station, I had to take a 40 sheckle taxi to the old city where I would be staying that night. My friends had booked a room at Petra hostel near the Jaffa gate and since they had an extra bed, I was going to stay with them friday night. However, they were on a tour of the Dead Sea and Masada and wouldn’t be back until 6pm. Therefore, I had about two hours to wander the Old City. I got a few more things for friends but at times I felt like I couldn’t get away from the shopkeepers. I felt that no matter where I walked, somebody would somehow trick me into checking out their store. It was an annoying feeling of being taken advantage of that I really disliked. But in the process of wandering, I did meet two people. One recognized my Tel Kabri dig shirt and asked me if I was working on the dig. We spoke for a little bit and he invited me to come to his restaurant the next day, unfortunately we never made it there.
The second person I met was a shopkeeper named Shmuel. Shmuel and I discussed the Arab-Israeli conflict and our mutual dislike for Netanyahu. Some of the things he said were a little against my beliefs but for the most part we had a very friendly talk about politics and international affairs. By this point, it was 6pm. I decided to wait in the main square in front of Petra hostel for my friends to come. Soon after sitting down, a lady walked up and began talking to the man in broken english. He spoke spanish and asked if she spoke spanish too and she said yes. In my limited understanding of spanish, I heard that the family from the taxi was asking how much a taxi ride should cost from the central bus station to the Old City. Since I had just taken that ride two hours earlier, I told them that it should cost about 45 sheckles. The taxi driver had wanted to charge the family 100 sheckles. After about 20 minutes of arguing which eventually involved the Israeli police officer nearby, the family paid the driver 50 sheckles and he left. However, in the mean time, I spoke in spanish, very poorly, to the family. They were from Buenos Aires and so I told them that I would be studying there in the spring. I also told them I wanted to tango dance. I’m not really sure why I told them that.
Eventually it was 7pm, one hour after they were supposed to arrive, my friends came and I was let into the room. We were all very hungry. Lily knew of a good cheap place to eat outside the Damascus gate. We went to this stand where a man was barbequing lamb and chicken kebabs. It was only 10 sheckles for a delicious pita with both chicken and lamb with salad and various sauces inside. It was so delicious, I had to get a second one. We were all very tired so we walked back to the hostel and split a bottle of wine before going to sleep.
We woke up this morning at around 8:30am. After getting some cheap fresh squeezed orange juice and a really good Israeli version of a Chinese red bean paste pastry, we all went down to the Western Wall. It was interesting to see all the orthodox jews praying on shabbat. I made my way through the crowd and went up to the wall to myself. Since I was on the only boy in the group, the ladies went to the women’s side and I was alone. I was about to leave when a man walked up to me and asked if I spoke english. We then began to talk about Judaism. He was a very interesting fellow: a wealthy British businessman who was an atheist and a marxist. Let me emphasize that when I say atheist, I mean there is no way anybody could ever convince this man that any form of a higher power exists. When I say Marxist, I mean that this man can quote the Communist Manifesto from memory and is a firm believer that one day there will be a world revolution against capitalism. We spoke for about 30 minutes and I asked him about his beliefs. Although I disagreed with him on almost all counts, I will say he did make some interesting, yet extremist, points about capitalism. He quoted Che Guevara’s “A New Man” when I asked him about how a communist society would deal with innate human competition. It was a friendly but disagreeing conversation. However, eventually, I had to go. We parted ways and I met up with the girls again.
We then went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a place I had never been before. I was actually really cool to see the dedication to christianity that many of the people there had. It was a beautiful church with several chapels, one for each type of Christianity that existed. Inside the church were several holy sites of Jesus’ life: the anointing stone, the rock on which Jesus was crucified, and one of the supposed sites that Jesus was buried. I got several amazing pictures of the candles and some light coming through the top of the dome (all of which can be seen below)
We then wandered through the old city because we were all ready to go. We found a 5 sheckle falafel stand that supposedly had the best falafel in the city. It was definitely in the top 3 best I have ever had. The falafel was made fresh right there and it was perfectly spiced and crunchy. After our amazing lunch, we wandered to the Damascus gate where we caught a shurut to Tel Aviv. There we got a shurut to Haifa and from there we took a shurut back to the kibbutz. It was surely a jam packed weekend but overall a fun and memorable one. I began my time in Israel in Jerusalem and it was nice to finish my last weekend there too.
Today I worked on articulating the top and sides of one of the walls. It was somewhat tedious and some small rocks would come out but I actually enjoyed it and I did a good job. When we got back, I skyped with Laura for a little bit. Today is our 5 month anniversary and I really missed her. After she had to go to work, I took an hour nap. It felt so good. I had not napped in a few days and I felt that I was lacking.
Around 6:30pm, 6 of us went into Akko, the third time for me, and went to dinner at a restaurant called Abu Christo, a favorite among veteran diggers. We all split two bottles of wine and got the mezze, which is basically a sampler plate of hummus, babaganoush, tuna, fatoush, tomato cucumber salad, pita, and almost every other kind of Mediterranean dip and side. It was absolutely delicious. Afterwards, we walked around the sea wall a little bit and went up to where I had jumped off two weekends ago. It was really pretty from up there to look out across the bay and see Haifa. You could even vaguely make out the Bahai Gardens just from the lights.
We returned and we might watch a movie tonight. Tomorrow is snake massage and Jerusalem!
Today was a general workday. I removed dirt from the floor again and then cleaned up a baulk. I was supposed to water sieve but someone took my place for it.
When we got back, we had a section soccer game tournament. For DS-1, we had myself, both Matts, and Joe playing. None of the women from DS-1 played. We beat D-West but lost to DS-2. At the end of the day, every team had won one game. We will probably continue the tournament this weekend. After dinner, my index toenail finally fell off from when it got injured in Tel Aviv. I know it will take a long time but I hope it will grow back somewhat quickly.
I finally decided on my full weekend plans. Friday I will be getting the snake massage with Kathleen. Afterwards, I am taking a bus to Jerusalem where I will meet many of the other dig people. Friday evening and saturday I will get to see Jerusalem and then Saturday afternoon we will all head back to the kibbutz. Should be an excellent weekend!
Today I began the day briefly working at D-West with Joe and our assistant area supervisor, Matt. We were assigned to remove styrofoam boxes that had been placed there two years before to help conserve the walls. However, the styrofoam had deteriorated and had become very unsafe. We began to remove the boxes and only a few minutes in, Matt yelled out “Bees!” so we all ran as fast as we could. On the way Matt got stung by one of them. It turned out that a colony of wasps had made residence inside the styrofoam. Needless to say we were done with that task fairly quickly. After I got back to DS-1, I spent the rest of the day removing dirt from the top of our limestone floor.
When I got back, Brittany and I were planning on going windsurfing, however, we were both very exhausted so we decided not to. Today I also confirmed the snake massage for friday! It is finally happening! I am very excited. I may meet the rest of the dig people, most of whom are going to Jerusalem, after the massage and then come back with them. I am not sure of my plans as of yet though.
We had dinner at the kibbutz composed of make-it-yourself falafel sandwiches which were absolutely delicious. I am sad to go home and taste falafel that nowhere near rivals that of Israel.