SHALOM from Israelllllll!!! It’s hot and muggy but who cares.. I’M HERE!! Plus there's AC everywhere, which is a definite upgrade from the Balkans (not that I didn't love it there.. butttt....) Despite being initially frustrated at passport control where I spent a good 30 minutes feeling like I was on an awkward first date, answering questions about where I was from, what I did for work, the places I visited (Egypt) and my family’s heritage (Indonesian).. it’s been an amazing few days exploring the Holy (MOLY) land… seriously.. every few minutes i find myself in complete awe of something new— the land, the food, the people, and of course, the history!!! (I’m a nerd) i’ve spent the past few days up north where I’ve split my time between the homes of two of the nicest, most genuine guys i’ve ever met: Tom and Shani.
Tom is a a nice, cute Jew who's studying to be a doctor.. (basically every Jewish girl’s dream!) I reached out to when I was looking to couchsurf in Budapest.. it turns out he had just moved back to Israel, so he offered to host me here instead.. which worked out perfectly :)
Shani was a guy I met in Slovenia and who I later ended up traveling with in Bosnia.. He invited me to his place when I mentioned i’d be in Galilee.. He is seriously one of the sweetest souls I've ever met. Plus he's also a crazy talented saxophone player…i got a chance to hear him play a a jam session at his favorite bar in Rosh Pina, where he lives, called Tangerine where he KILLED it!!!!!!
They’ve both been extremely hospitable: picking me up and dropping me off at different bus/train stations; driving me around to explore all the sights including the Sea of Gailiee, the Israel/Lebanon border, Golan Heights, Jordan River, and Akko; not complaining/killing me for making them be outdoors in 100 degree weather to explore said sights; finding nice swimming spots to beat the heat; feeding me my favorite foods (hummus and falafel!! and fresh veggies.. so many veggies!!!), taking me out to their favorite bars where and introducing me to their friends; and even offering to do my laundry (!!!!) Basically.. they’ve completed spoiled me, and I cannot thank them enough for their kindness :)
My favorite thing about these two guys though was the fact that they were interesting, open minded individuals who patiently and thoughtfully answered the million trillion questions I had about Israel and their experience in IDF (Israel Defense Force.). Even though I’m use to seeing officers and soldiers patrolling the subways and streets of NYC, I was pretty taken aback at how many young soldiers I saw in Israel, lounging in their uniforms and casually carrying their weapons like it was just another piece of luggage.
For those who don’t know, every Israeli citizen is required to serve in the army when they turn 18… Men serve 3 years and women serve 2. Each enlistee gets placed into different units: Shani played music while Tom worked in intelligence. I don’t feel like i’m at liberty to retell their stories, mostly because i don’t want to misrepresent them, but it’s easy to conclude that their time in the IDF was a life changing experience. To be a part of something so intense and so serious at such a young, impressionable age obviously affects a person. While most Americans are just fucking around, doing stupid shit and experimenting from the ages of 18-21 (I speak from personal experience) these guys were soldiers, dealing with a very scary conflict.. (stole the picture belowwww..)
After their military service is completed, most Israelis end take long trips to India/Nepal (Shani went there) or South America (I ran into a few while I was there!!)… though Tom ended up traveling the west coast… (we connected over our love for US national parks and the drive up the PCH!!!!) It’s their opportunity to see the world, fuck around a little bit, and have an adventure before they go back to Israel and resume their normal life… as someone who hates the feeling of being pressured to conform to some pre-determined path in life… i can totally understand their need to wander and explore the world.. they're #livingthedrea, you may say!
ANYWHOSE, I’m sad to leave the north, but i’m heading to Tel Aviv for some weekend fun (the weekend starts on Thursday night in Israel since Saturday is their holy day…) I’ll miss them a ton, but excited to be back in a PROPER city!!! :D