The first half of April has been as busy and random as anticipated. I visited the home of David Ben-Gurion (Israel’s first prime minister), had a Persian Shabbat, experienced my first yoga class in Israel, and ate out with friends (or ran into friends eating).
Ben-Gurion’s home is humble yet impressive. He bequeathed it to the city of Tel Aviv and it is known for holding his collection of 20,000 books (which he is said to have read in its entirety). The only thing more shocking than the size of the collection is its diversity – you can find everything from Abraham Lincoln biographies to Greek literature.
Two weeks ago, we went to a kibbutz in the North to meet Israeli students and one of them was Mor, an impossibly nice Persian Israeli. She said we were welcome to come to her house for Shabbat dinner and gondi (the mother of all Persian food/ the marriage of chickpeas and meatballs). Eli and I took her up on her offer and invited ourselves over last Friday. While the food was amazing (sorry Tehrangeles), it was the people who made the experience so special. They were such a warm and welcoming family – one that leaves their front door unlocked and doesn’t blink an eye when a friend or relative walks in unannounced, pulls up a chair, and helps him or herself to food. Even with the complexities of translating Hebrew and English, the conversation never dulled and we could not have felt more at home. I’d like to think that between my Farsi and Eli’s American charm (blonde hair, white teeth, and tattoo sleeves) we made for interesting guests.
1) After meeting you for the first time, instead of saying “take care”, Israelis will tell you “behatzlachah” (good luck). Rather than taking it as the term of endearment it is, the average North American will think what should I prepare for and how? and why are they smiling?
2) In no other country will you be invited to a family’s home and spend 6 hours there on your first night of meeting them.
3) The TV show Friends is equally – if not more – appreciated in Israel.
4) The tanner/darker you get, the more you will confuse locals with your poor Hebrew.
5) This week taught us that blonde men also attract attention…especially in the men’s section of an all-Persian shul (temple).
6) In one of the holiest places in the world, one of the most religious things you can experience is a yoga class…there are more parshas/sermons and chanting than you’ll hear in most temples.*
7) * You may laugh while others chant but you won’t be laughing two days later when your abs are so sore that it hurts to sneeze.**
8) **Apparently chaturanga is not a delicious sounding food.
9) One of the most important people in your Israeli inner circle is your coffee barista. They look after you like no one else – they always make sure to wish you a good day and sometimes give you free cookies just because.