Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 36: I Mean Really... Who Lives In A Hotel?!? :-)

Today was such a wonderful, relaxing day off. I was originally going to go into Haifa but was not feeling all that well so I decided to postpone the trip to another time. It's so nice, every once in a while, to just do nothing. I spent the day finishing up some homework, catching up on movies, resting, looking for night Arabic classes, and finding new Arabic music (which was by far my favorite activity of the day!) It is so nice living in a country where this music is always played, and no one get's annoyed that it is all I listen to :-). Other than that there was really nothing too exciting to report today. I did connect with a friend from Berkeley who I know through AEPi (the Jewish fraternity), and who is studying medicine here at Tel Aviv University. We decided to meet up for dinner tomorrow night, so that will be very nice. I also made plans with my good friend Uriel to go to Netanya this Shabbat, so this week has many things to look forward to. I have never been to Netanya so I am very excited to explore more of Israel :-) 

I miss everyone back home very much, but am very happy to report that I am having the time of my life!! I thank God every day that I have this amazing opportunity and journey. I also finalized my arrangements for my month long move to Jerusalem, and am ecstatically happy with my accommodations. It is a beautiful hotel in East Jerusalem, only 2 minutes away from where I will be working. Take a look : http://www.azzahrahotel.com/. It is going to be such a fantastic month, and along with my internship I'm hoping to be able to take night Arabic classes so that I am all brushed up by the start of the semester. It also won't hurt that I'm living in Arab East Jerusalem so I'll have plenty of opportunities to practice. I'm brushing up on my Arabic singing as well, so that I can hopefully do what I did two years ago and exchange singing arabic for free cab rides :-D. I can't wait to be back in Jerusalem!! Only one more month!

Tomorrow it is back to Ulpan, and I'm quite excited to get back into the studying mode. I feel like my Hebrew is greatly improving so I want to continue working hard to get these languages down! I refuse to come back to the states until I'm conversationally fluent in Arabic, and proficient in Hebrew. REFUSE! Good thing I'm here for a nice, long time :-)

Lilah Tov Chaverim!
Until tomorrow <3,
Jordana Simone 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 35: An Attack In Tel Aviv

This evening I said goodbye to my good friend Susanna, who leaves to go back to the United States late tonight. She was offered a full time job here in Israel but hasn't signed her contract yet so there is a possibility that this goodbye will be the real thing in stead of just a mere see you in two months. I hope not, but when it comes to jobs and so on you just never know. After a relaxing day filled with rest, shopping, cooking (which for me means making sandwiches), and cleaning, I met up with Dana and Susanna for a delicious goodbye dinner.  I haven't had a hamburger since my going away party over a month ago so I decided it was time to see how the Israelis do burgers. I was pleasantly surprised, and the meat, being Kosher, was so delicious. After dinner we frequented our favorite new hookah spot, Um Qaltum, for our last hour together. At 9:30 Susanna needed to start her journey to Ben Gurion Airport, and it was time for us to say our goodbyes :-(. We gave our last hugs, Susanna was off to the airport, and Dana and I headed back to Ramat Aviv.

Now in reference to the title of this blog: I woke up this morning to news that there had been a terror attack in Tel Aviv, a small scale one, but an attempted attack none the less. A young Palestinian man apparently stole a cab, ran into a road block near a very heavily populated club (very close to where Susanna lives), got out of the car and started stabbing people. Most of the injuries were inflicted upon police officers and officials, one man was in critical condition, and a few more were more moderately wounded. As of right now I haven't heard any reports on the motive behind the attack, or even who the targets were (though we think he was going for the night club), but Israel has been on a very high alert since the attacks near Eilat 11 days ago, so, thank God, there were police very near bye that prevented anything more serious from happening.

I keep reading on various news sites (Israeli and American) that Israeli intelligence has heard of major plans in the works for a big attack which is why security is being so heightened in the major cities. I don't know if I am scared or not because Israel is always under threat, but it is so strange to know that whatever might happen, I will be right in the middle of it somehow. This country is so small, that an attack in the south, or even one as close as Jerusalem, feels like it is happening next door. I thank God everyday that I am kept safe here, because that is certainly no guarantee. Now, I realize that anywhere in the world there is no guarantee of safety from one day to the next, but especially in a place like Israel, it is so important to appreciate the quite nights, and minutes, hours, days, and weeks, when nothing catastrophic happens.

After reading of all the concerns regarding attacks in Israel, I began thinking of the month I will soon be spending in Jerusalem. For the first time I truly feel like I am going out on my own; I know no one, will not be on an organized program, and will be living in a hotel. As exotic and exciting as it will be, and don't get me wrong I am so excited, I am a little nervous about being on my own in East Jerusalem during the high holidays when tensions run very high between Palestinians and Israelis. The funny thing is, I am not concerned about an attack, and my hesitation has very little to do with the conflict in general, however, being a female, I have so many more things to worry about when traveling alone. It really is a shame, because I would love to travel all over without having to worry about who to go with, how many people would be the safest to be with, etc. I would love to just get on a plane, go to Italy, self explore, make friends, and be only beholden to myself. However, the reality is, it is not safe for females to travel alone, and I will have to be on extra alert, especially living in Arab East Jerusalem, where the cultures are so different, and stupid, American, sex crazed females (as many foreigners think we all are, thank you American TV and Cinema) are primed targets for trouble. Now I am clearly not a stupid, sex crazed, American, but like I said, many foreigners see a lone, American female and figure that is what they are. If there wasn't a risk of being arrested I would probably carry scissors or a knife around in my bag with me just to be safe :-)

But with all that said, I am so excited, and feel that my little worrying will help me be extra vigilant and able to make very smart decisions when it comes to who to talk to, who to give out my number to, what cabs to take, etc. I just have to hope that my desire to speak Arabic with people doesn't hinder my good judgment, although I don't think that it will. I'm might have portrayed myself as being a bit more worried than I am, I am sure that my nerves are very natural, and aside from any concerns I might have, I am genuinely excited for an amazing month on my own working in Jerusalem. I tend to flourish the most when I am thrust into the unfamiliar, and this will be just that; a jump kick into a completely different world. I will say this, shorts and short sleeve shirts will become a thing of the past!

Tomorrow I was going to go into Haifa, but due to extreme exhaustion from the last few days I decided to postpone the trip until another day. Even though I wont' be traveling, I look forward to seeing what I can explore in Tel Aviv that hasn't been seen yet :-) Always have to keep busy!

Stay tuned :-) ma salame ya habibkum <3
Jordana Simone 

Day 34: If I Were A City I Would Be Akko

On Sunday, after relatively no sleep from the night before (due to the Art Fair), I was up at 9am to meet Dana, head to the train station, and venture up to the Northern Israeli City of Akko. I was especially excited to go to Akko because it is a very mixed city where Jews and Arabs live side by side, it is so steeped in history, and supposedly one of the most beautiful cities in Israel. First, however, I had the pleasure of taking my first Israeli train ride. There is a train station that comes right to the university which makes getting around Israel so convenient. I don't remember the last time I took a train, but it is such a great way to see the country. The tracks ran through lush green valleys, then there were times where all you could see was desert like scenery, and then all of a sudden we were traveling along the coast, with the entire ocean to the side of us. It was a great ride!

When we arrived in Akko I was blown away by the scenery. On one hand there was the new city with modern apartments, shops, and cafes, and only a few minutes away was the gorgeous stunning, and ancient old city of Akko. Before we ventured into the Old City, home to the Al-Jazzar Mosque, the prisons that held Jewish and Arab prisoners during the British protectorate, and the old Turkish baths, we  met up with a woman Dana knew from her previous job (Ghada, a teacher and mediator from Akko), and she took us to this amazing restaurant right on the water. Since Akko is a mixed city there are more relaxed Kosher laws meaning it is much easier to find non Kosher food. We ate at a gorgeous seafood place and I took full advantage of the fact that the food I was about to eat was something you could probably only find in one or two places around Israel. I had a delectable dish of muscles in a garlic cream sauce, and devoured the entire plate as if I had never eaten food before. The view from the restaurant was unbelievable; right on the water overlooking all of Haifa.

After a delicious, intoxicating lunch, Ghada was able to get us free tickets to tour most of the sites in the Old City, and personally delivered us to the gates and left us to explore. At the entrance to the Old City was a beautiful Garden where we picked up our maps, planned out what we were going to see first, and began our tour.

First it was off to the Citadel of Akko where we explored underground tunnels, caves, caverns, and had the feeling of being in an underground city made of stone and rock. The underground tunnels were used as passage during British rule, although I'm sure their significance goes back centuries before during the time of the Crusaders. It was as if I were walking back in time; standing in the middle of history herself. The simplistic beauty of the stone walls and arches were overwhelming, and the architecture was fantastically fascinating. I don't know what it is about Old Cities, but I can't help falling in love with them. Maybe it is because there is so much history there, or maybe it is because that history is so well preserved and free of modern influences, but whatever it may be, I found myself completely taken in by Akko's charms.

When we had finished our exploration of the Citadel it was off to the famous Turkish Bath house (Il-Hamman Il-Turkey), and there is only one word to describe it: Stunning! The first room of the bath house was called the fountain room, and it was constructed of beautiful stone and marble. It was the room where all the men would gather, remove their clothes, see specialists and doctors, and get themselves ready to go into the hotter rooms and steam rooms.

After seeing a short film on the history of the Bath House, dating back to the time of Sheikh Al-Jazzar himself, learning of how men and women would come here to see doctors, rest, relax, gossip, and catch up with friends (separately of course), we continued our tour through the other rooms. We went through the warm rooms, hot rooms, the steam rooms, and really got to see first hand how the bath houses worked. Along with their gorgeous architecture and beautiful stones, they had statues which really gave us a feel of how people used the various elements of each room in the bath house.

When we finished our tour of the Bath House, we did a little more Old City exploration and then met Ghada who took us to meet with another one of Dana's contacts (she met all of these people through her old job and had quite a network in Akko). We drove from the Old City into new Akko to the Municipality where we met with the head of the Social Work department. He was a very nice man who had about 45 minutes to show us around the new city and beaches of Akko. We left with him from the municipality and walked a few minutes to the city met the ocean. It was absolutely breathtaking. The view was magnificent and it was absolutely picture perfect. It was as if God took the best aspects of Old Jerusalem, and the best aspects of the beaches in Tel Aviv and threw them together to make Akko.

When Dana's friend's 45 minutes was up we went back with him to his office in the Municipality, and had about 30 minutes to hang around there while we waited for Dana's 3rd contact to come and show us around in the evening. We sat outside of the municipality, relaxing from our rather hectic day, and after about 30 minutes a man named Ilan came to meet with us. The best way to describe Ilan is by saying he is a little man with a larger than life personality. He reminds me of a male version of my Bubby :-). He is very involved with his community and is a native resident of Akko. He speaks his native Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, and English, and is so involved in co-exsistence, peace making, community betterment, and so on. He decided he would take us to his neighborhood so that we could see, first hand, co-existence at its best. He lives in a very mixed community filled with Arabs, Jews, and Russians, and he is so proud, to say the least, of where he comes from. He glowed when he told us of how the residents are working to make the community more beautiful, took us to a few community gardens, and then took us to a sort of community center where we met some more residents of his neighborhood. I immediately struck up a conversation with a young man who was Israeli but spoke Arabic, and we found a good amount of things to talk about. He was trying to figure out my connection to Arabic, and when I told him I had no immediate connection, he told me at first he thought I might be Lebanese, because I have the look of many of the Lebanese singers. Super huge compliment in my book :-). After a while at the center, and an invitation to meet the guy's family (the one who I was speaking Arabic with), Dana and I were getting hungry, so Ilan took us to get some delicious Akko Pizza! I naturally got pizza filled to the brim with every type of olive (I'm quite obsessed with the olives here), and it was magnificent!

After a great dinner, and even better conversations, it was time for Dana and I to head back to the train station. We didn't want to take the chance of missing the last train and being stuck without a hotel in Akko, so we left ourselves enough time to make it back. We said our goodbyes to Ilan, and were on our way. We made it to the station with no problems, got on the train, and ended up back home around 11pm. It was such an amazing day filled with amazing activities, and I met so many great people. I can't wait to go back and visit, and know that this is just the beginning of my exploration of this amazing country! Since the last few days were extremely hectic, we all decided that today would be used for rest and relaxation. Tomorrow it is off to Haifa, and then Wednesday it is back to school after a wonderful five day vacation!

Stay tuned for a more reflective post today and then a post about Haifa tomorrow!!!

Missing you all,
Jordana Simone

Day 33: What Do You Get When You Put Africa, South America, and Asia In Israel?

Every year vendors and artists from all over the world flock to Jerusalem for the big international arts fair. Seeing that Saturday was the last day, and I really didn't want to miss out on such an exciting event, I decided to, yet again, make the journey to Jerusalem (I'm averaging 3 trips there a week! That is love). Upon arrival in Jerusalem, Dana and I walked from Ben Yehudah to the Old City (a walk which I have come to know so well), and met with Susanna. After we were all gathered we were on our way to the fair. Upon entering the fair you felt as if you were thrown directly in the middle of a three ring circus. Music filled the air and there were acrobats, street performers, and vendors that filled every crevice of the venue. There was even an elephant :-)

Before entering the "international" area of the fair, we explored what the Israelis had to offer in terms of artwork, performances, and activities. As we were browsing we came upon a Henna Tattoo vendor who was creating the most gorgeous pieces of skin art. She reminded me of someone straight out of Berkeley in the 60's: a very free spirited, hippy, artsy type, with a husband who actually looked like he lived in nature (very Berkeley). I have never gotten a Henna, and the other girls seemed really interested, so we all decided to get inked! Susanna and Dana both got a beautiful floral design on their forearms, and I decided to Henna my hand. I figure that one day I want Henna at my wedding (very Middle Eastern), and the hand is where it will go so I figured I would try it out :-)

After we were all beautifully painted, we were off to the International arena. As we were walking from the Israeli section to the international area a feel in the air changes, and I felt like I was thrust into Africa. We were so lucky to see a group of men from Ghana running through the road singing and banging their drums and instruments, and there were maybe 15 booths set up from all over the African Continent. Cameroon, Ghana, Ethiopia, and many others. The African booths were by far my favorite and they boasted the most incredible pieces of art in all forms; masks and drums lined the walls, dolls, and rugs, and clothing were displayed all over, Ethiopian women were braiding hair, and the men were dressed in traditional clothing playing instruments for the guests of the fair. It would make even the most timid of travelers want to venture out and explore Africa, so naturally you can guess how I felt! I could have been on a plane that night.

When we had finished with Africa, it was on to Asia and Central America. I naturally flocked to the India booths, and loved that I didn't actually need to be in India to experience all of its beauty. We saw beautiful paintings in the India and China booths, hand made fans, scarves, Saris, statues and pictures of many of the Indian gods (Shiva, Rama, Buddah, etc.), and so much more. It was so beautiful and fascinating.

After a few more minutes of wandering around we decided that it was time to say goodbye to the fair and continue with our evening. It was pushing 11pm and Susanna and I still hadn't eaten dinner (which is actually not so unusual in Israel). I planned on meeting my friend Joe at Jaffa Gate of the Old City, and once we met him, and got him all checked into his hostel (the beautiful cave hostel I talked about in a previous post), we decided to go out near Ben Yehudah for a nice sushi dinner. We went to one of Susanna and my favorite places, Osaka, had a fantastic dinner, and a great time with good friends. I met Joe in my Ulpan, and he is going to Jordan for 4 months to study abroad so I was very glad to get to spend a little more time with him before he leaves! Though I'm sure I will be seeing him in Amman sooner than later :-)

When we finished eating it was almost 1am, and Dana and I had to get up early the next day to go to Akko, so we had to say our goodbyes. Dana and I caught a sherut back to Tel Aviv, Susanna stayed with her friend in Jerusalem, and Joe went back to the Old City. It was a fantastic night filled with fun, friends, and lots and lots of art! I'm so glad I didn't miss out on this!

Stay tuned for an amazing post on my trip to Akko!
Shalom Chaverim Sheli <3,
Jordana Simone 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 31-32: I'm Going To Marry An Israeli Soccer Player

Someone asked me the other day if I miss home, and that got me to thinking a lot about the time I have spent here in Israel so far. I love home so much, I love my friends, I love my family, but I really really really don't miss it at all. Perhaps it is because I have only been here a short amount of time, and have been doing so much to keep myself busy, but with the superb connectivity that the internet and skype brings, I really have not felt the pains of being so far away from everything familiar. My Hebrew is slowly but surely improving to the point where I can order at restaurants, take cab rides, and shop at stores using almost no English, and I find a great comfort in truly being on my own in a far away place. I am very lucky to have amazing friends here, and so many people who are connected to my immediate family, that I almost feel like a part of my family is here with me.

Yesterday afternoon I met up with family friends who I stayed with for a short while the last time I was in Israel. They are wonderful friends of my grandparents and I have kind of adopted them as my Israeli bubby and zayde. It is just so nice and comforting to know that I have people who are close enough to being family living only 10 minutes away from me. They are traveling quite a bit this month since it is holiday for many Israelis, but upon their return I expect to spend a great deal of time with them. It really is amazing the kind of connections you find here in Israel. Like my Bubby said "Once you are in with an Israeli they are yours for life." There are people who my grandparents haven't talked to in years, and people my parents haven't talked to in years, but with only one email all of those distant friends swarm back into your lives, and they are all so open and willing to meet me, invite me over for Shabbats, and really contribute to my adjustment to moving to a foreign country. It's impossible to feel alone here.

After dinner with Itzik and Orit (my family friends), I met Susanna for one last hurrah in Jaffa before she leaves to return to the states for vacation on Monday. We frequented one of our newly found favorite hookah spots, and had a great night just relaxing, smoking some hookah, and watching the Tel Aviv soccer game that was going on. I think I might have to compromise on my "I want to marry a professional football player", and change to "I want to marry a professional Israeli soccer player".  At least then I get the best of everything; professional athlete and Jewish (O and of course gorgeous)! PERFECT :-) Tel Aviv won the match which contributed to the exciting atmosphere of the evening.

After the match we stayed until my lungs could take no more smoke, and my skin could take no more bug bites, and then we said our goodbyes and I headed back home. Loving the fact that this was the start of my 5 day weekend, I took a big sleeping pill and slept in until 11:30 this morning! It was much much needed. Much of the rest of today was spent cleaning, cooking, studying, and planning my two trips to Haifa and Akko this Sunday and Monday. It is going to be quite a weekend for me. Tomorrow Dana, Susanna, and I are going to the last night of a big arts festival in Jerusalem, then Sunday Dana and I are off to Akko to explore the gorgeous old city (and it is 90% Arab so naturally I am so excited), and then Monday we are off to Haifa to spend the day roaming around the port city, exploring the gorgeous Bahai gardens, and enjoying the beautiful northern half of Israel. I'm so excited to see parts of Israel I have never seen before and I have a feeling I am going to fall madly in love with the North.

Stay tuned for posts on the arts festival, Haifa, and Akko :-),
Jordana Simone

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 29-30: Iftar Take 2 + Sketchy Walking Tour of Jerusalem

Yesterday was yet another wonderful afternoon and evening spent in Yerushalayim! My friend Susanna spent the summer interning at a company called "One Voice", and they have a radio show that Susanna helped to produce. Some staff members of the radio station decided to throw an Iftar for everyone involved, and Susanna was kind enough to invite me along! After Ulpan we met up at the central bus station, hailed our Sherut, and were off to Jerusalem yet again. Though I have already been to Jerusalem so many times in my short month of living here, I haven't spent much time in East Jerusalem (where the iftar was being held), so I was excited to be going to a new area.

When Susanna and I arrived on Ben Yehudah street we caught a cab and were off to Sheikh Jarrah (A small, Arab town in East Jerusalem). As we were driving in the taxi, a wave of nostalgia rushed over me like you wouldn't believe. Sheikh Jarrah is very close to where I used to live when I studied in Jerusalem, on Mount Scopus (Har Hatzofim), and driving on those same roads was so special. When we finally arrived in Sheikh Jarrah, we walked through a pretty deserted area and then came to the building that housed the radio station.

When we arrived to the Iftar people were just sitting down to break the fast, and let me tell you, this food was to die for. We had chicken and rice imported from Ramallah, various kinds of salads, dates and figs, traditional Tamr Hindi (a type of fruit drink), and the most delicious olives, pickles, and peppers. It was truly a feast! As the evening progressed everyone introduced themselves (in Hebrew of course so I could only understand every 4th or 5th word), and then they decided to have a discussion about how to improve ratings at the station. At this point Susanna and I had no idea what was going on so we just stuck to eating our amazing food, and smiling and nodding if anyone caught our eyes.

The interesting part of the evening came when one of the Palestinian workers mentioned the News Journal I will soon be working at, and was talking about how they have a show at the radio station. I couldn't believe my luck. I haven't even started my internship yet and I already had a chance to network! I met the head of the station, who told me she is always looking for interns, met some people who host their own shows each day, and even met a former member of Knesset (Israeli parliament). It was a great time, and a great business venture! we spent a little more time schmoozing, and then decided to start heading back. Susanna decided to stay in Jerusalem so we planned to go together to the Sherut's back to Tel Aviv, and then she would break off and go to her friends house.

At first we were thinking of taking a cab back to the center of town (which probably would have been smarter albeit more expensive), but it was such a nice night, and we were so full from dinner, that we decided to walk... yes walk... all the way from Sheikh Jarrah to the center of town. I will say this, it was a very interesting way to see a good chunk of Jerusalem, but it was at night, and we walked through some iffy areas, so I don't think I'll make a habit of doing it! When we began our lengthy stroll we were in Arab east Jerusalem, and Susanna was much more uncomfortable than I was. There were young men driving by in cars cat calling and looking back at us, but it didn't bother me so much. There were hardly any people on the street so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. As we were walking I got a rough idea of the area I will be living in next month, and I am very pleased with the location.

As we continued down the road we came to an area of Jerusalem I used to avoid like the plague; it is a very religious, very fanatic, area of Jerusalem, and I was not comfortable there at all. All of the Chassidim (Ultra Orthodox Jews) were on the street just glaring at the two of us walking along, making me very uncomfortable. I'll take the cat calling Arab men any day over the Chassidim. Luckily there were no stones around or I'm sure some of them would have put them to good use (they do throw stones in some of those religious areas if you are deemed too secular). It is a little funny, but also a little sad, that I feel more comfortable in some of the Arab areas than I do in areas made up of my own people. It just shows that fanaticism in any religion is awful, and what's worse is seeing this fanaticism in my own beloved religion.

Anyways, we made it back to the Sheruts with no problems, thank God, I said my goodbyes to Susanna, and was back on my way to Tel Aviv. It was another perfect day in Jerusalem, and I'm already counting the days until I'm back... which happens to be 3 :-D.

Today was just a typical go to Ulpan, do homework, meet Susanna for dinner, go to bed kind of a day, so nothing too exciting to report there. However, this weekend we have a five day weekend (due to university holiday) so I will be going up to Haifa for the first time and I am so excited! Stay tuned for those exciting posts!

Until tomorrow then ya chaverim!
Jordana Simone

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 28: When You Live In Paradise How Can You Ever Leave?

It is hard to think that Israel can seem more beautiful than she already is. From her beaches with their crystal clear water, to her exotic deserts, to her lush, green mountain regions, you can see it all here. I am always so happily surprised when I see something that confirms, at least in my mind, that this is the most gorgeous place in the world. Despite the fact that Israel is a normal functioning country, filled with everyday commotions and problems, it is a paradise like no other. When I say "I don't know how I will ever leave this place", I am doing so without any hint of exaggeration.

Yesterday was my friend Dana's birthday and we decided to celebrate at the Namal (port) of Tel Aviv. When I lived in Israel two years ago I went to the Namal with some family friends, but remembered very little of it. It wasn't until I was back walking along the boardwalk, watching the sun set against the pounding waves of the Mediterranean, that I remembered how amazing this place is. Maybe it is because it is summer vacation in Israel, or maybe this is just an Israeli way of life, but at 9, 10, 11 o'clock at night the Namal was filled with families walking their babies in the strollers, little children running around the pier playing with toys, young men and women just sitting down to dinner, and so on. It is like a different world here. No where in the USA can you go and see families with little babies out for a casual stroll at 11pm!!! Nights are so alive here that you really feel like you will be missing something if you go to sleep at a normal hour.

After Dana and I walked around the Namal for a little while, simply enjoying the general splendor of the night, Susanna came to meet up with us, and we ventured to find a restaurant to have Dana's birthday dinner at. The Namal, being a fairly large tourist destination, had a plethora of delicious restaurants to chose from, and we ended up eating at a place I like to call "The Couch Place". I say this because the tables outside are surrounded by couches instead of chairs or booths, and it makes for a very comfortable eating environment. We all enjoyed wonderful pasta dishes with our individual glasses of wine, and we had a lovely birthday meal!

When we could eat no more, we decided it was time to get the check and move on to dessert. Being that we are in Israel, and we are a bunch of women who crave chocolate all day every day, we could only go to one place; Max Brenner! Susanna was particularly excited because this was her first time there (though she has been to Israel numerous times). Dana had an amazing waffle with chocolate toppings, Suze had a "to die for" Creme Brule crepe, and I, being the boring "I don't eat a lot of food" type, had a chocolate chai latte. I think next time I will go there for lunch, when I am not full from a previous meal, and have a dessert then! When we were absolutely stuffed, we got the cheshpon (check), walked around the Namal a little more, spent some time goofing around and acting completely ridiculous (which is always nice to do from time to time), and then caught a taxi home.

Today I am very excited to report that I will be joining Susanna in Jerusalem for yet another Iftar, and while I am there, assuming that time permits it, I think I should go look at places to live during the month I will be living there for my internship. It will be a very interesting month living in East Jerusalem, especially since I move there three days after the UN votes on the issue of a Palestinian state, but one thing is for sure... It will be one hell of an exciting month!

Until tomorrow :-) Ma Salame ya sadeeqi
Jordana Simone