Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The last few days since I updated this have been great. It's been awesome travelling around, meeting up with friends, and making my schedule as I go along. In Kfar Saba I spent the day hanging out with Eitan and a few of his friends. I ate a goose liver wrap for dinner. It was the first time I've had goose liver, and the text/taste was about what i expected, like slimy mushrooms. We went to play pool, and I kicked their ass repeatedly. Then hung out drinking for most of the night.

In the morning Eitan drove me to Haifa to meet up with Roy and Ofir. It was great to see them...the last time i saw them was 3 years ago in Poland, and it was only for about 30minutes. Now they're both in the Army and in a completely different world than me. Ofir could only stay for lunch, because he had to get back to his base that day. We talked a lot about what they do in the army, and what i'm doing in college. It's still very strange to think that everyone my age here is serving in the army. When I met some of Roy's friends later, they asked a lot of questions about American college and said how they envy Americans for being able to go to college after high school and party a lot like they see in the movies. Every Israeli I've met can't wait to go travelling around the world. One of Roy's friends described it by saying that three years in the army here is like 10 years in real life, and after you get out of the army you just have to leave the country and decompress. Even the ones who have been travelling have all kinds of plans for the next place they're going to go. Most of them can't wait to leave the country, and several of them didn't understand why i would ever want to come here to visit and warned me not to move here. A few people have said how young I look for my age, and that it's probably because I wasn't in the army.

The night in Haifa we went to a Kibbutz where they had a dance club. It was 30 shekels to get in (about $7) and free drinks all night, my cheapest night so far. I took my first ever shot of absinthe (it was disgusting), and we danced until about 4:30 in the morning. I think I was one of the only Americans there since i didn't hear any english. It was a lot of fun, I danced a lot after a few drinks and after I realized that a lot of the people were as bad as I was, and took some time to just sit back and watch the crazy israelis dance. A lot of the music was a mix of american rap, techno, and hebrew pop. I stayed in Roy's apartment and the next day took a bus to Jerusalem to meet up with an old friend from high school who moved to israel. Roy signed on for 6 years in the army, and as I left he said how much he wishes he could come travel with me.

In Jerusalem we went to the mall, which was definitely the most crowded mall I've ever seen. The whole mall was just a big mass of people on all three floors, and it was a pretty big mall. Apparently Israelis all go to the mall on saturday night. I hate malls as it is, and with all the people around I was pretty miserable. That night we went to a dance club in jerusalem that turned out to be filled with Americans. Actually saw someone I knew from my school who i didn't know was in israel. There was a huge difference in the clubs, with the israelis, everyone actually dances with each other. At this club, all the americans were just grinding on each other and making out in the corner....it was like a frat party with a decent DJ and a few guys running around wearing kipahs. We danced until about 3am and went back. It was a fun time, and it was interesting to see an old friend from home now living in israel with israeli friends and speaking hebrew fluently.

The next day I met up with my 2nd cousin Matt who is now studying at a yeshiva in about 100meters from the Western Wall and lives in the Old City. I'd never talked to him before for more than about 10 minutes at family event, but I met him by the yeshiva and we just talked all day about religion, philosophy, god, israel, travelling, and pretty much everything else. He got me to do a little jewish learning which was interesting, but there isn't much you can get into in a day. In the night we watched a procession of Big-Shots from America being shown israel by the Yeshiva that Matt studies at. They set up a band in the street and had a bunch of little kids holding torches then led them through the little kids and everyone broke into Jewish dancing (boy separate from girls of course). I was told there were a bunch of senators and powerful defense industry people in the group. I didn't recognize anyone though.

I stayed in Matt's apartment that night and the next day (yesterday) woke up to try and go cash an Israel bond at a bank in Jerusalem. I went to at least 5 different banks, and they all said to go somewhere else, and the last bank said to go to a bank I had already been to, so I just gave up. Spent about 2 hours walking around in the freezing rain trying to do something that's supposed to be pretty simple, but the banks were about as unhelpful as possible. When I went to eat a falafel for lunch, I heard two girls behind me in line say something about harrisburg and they turned out to be friends with my sister so I ate lunch with them...small world. Later Eitan met me in the Old City, and we spent the day walking around, drinking coffee, and seeing some of the sites. I saw a friend from my trip at the western wall. An old religious man got me to put on tefillin and say the shma, and offered me some words of wisdom about only doing things that are practical in life. At the end, when he took out the tefillin he said but all you really have to remember this is this one thing, and it's the most important, "Marry a Jewish girl!" and gave me a business card says "To unravel the spiritual mystery of mysteries" visit www.thereisone.com. So if anyone wants to start the unravelling, check it out. Later we met up with some friends from my college who happened to be eating dinner about a block away from where I called them (it was actually where we were about to go to dinner so I would have seen them by chance anyway). Overall, yesterday I randomly ran into 5 people I knew just hanging out in jerusalem.

The last bus back to Eitan's home was at 8:30, and he was about to catch a cab at 7:45 to the bus station when I decided to go back to Kfar Saba with him. I didn't really have anything to do in Jerusalem that night except hang out with my cousin and even less to do the next day except futilly (is that a word?) try to get this bond cashed again...so we took the cab back to the old city, picked up my stuff from my cousin's apartment, and ended up missing the bus at 8:30...so we took a bus to tel aviv and from there a bus to Kfar Saba. We went all that way, and the bus literally let us off across street from Eitan's apartment at about 11:15. We grabbed some dinner, then went to Ariel where a few of Eitans friends go to college. Ariel one of the largest settlements in the west bank and about a 20 minute drive from Kfar Saba. It was pretty funny, because on the way we saw a sign for Jerusalem - 37km. Which means we rode a bus about an hour from jerusalem to tel aviv, then another bus about an hour from tel aviv to kfar saba and drove to a place about 30 minutes from jerusalem...spent hours riding in a big circle.

Even at night I could tell the settlement was huge, probably close to the size of harrisburg. It puts a lot of the settlement stuff in the news into perspective. We hung out at his friends college drinking and joking around until 6 in the morning. Went to sleep well after the sunrise, it was a great time...learned a lot of good hebrew words. This morning on the way back Eitan showed me the security fence/wall between israel and the west bank. I took a few pictures from far away. The wall is only a 2 minute drive from eitan's house.

By the way, just uploaded 50 more pictures to the israel album, put the old ones in order, and added descriptions to a lot of them.


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