Thursday, April 5, 2012

4/5/12: No Matter How Long The Winter, Spring Is Sure To Follow

Spring blossoms in Israel 
Such a long winter plagued Israel this year ... Long, very cold, wet, and quite dreary at times. I blame the desert of California where I grew up, a place where the season of "winter" is almost non existent, rain almost never comes, and only a drop of the so called "wet stuff" that falls from the sky sends the city into utter turmoil, for why I am unable to truly shine in consistent cold and wet weather. In fact, this winter proved that I need sun and warmth more than I thought. The wet, cold, and drear could make even the most fulfilled and social of people feel lonely at times, so you can imagine how there were days when it only amplified the fact that I am by myself here, thousands of miles away from home and my family.

Luckily, when I conceded to the fact that winter was never going to end, I woke up to a completely different Israel. How a season can change so dramatically overnight is a mystery I don't think we are ever supposed to figure out, but there was a clear shift between the wintery day I put behind me as I slept, and the beautiful spring day that I now faced. Aside from the bright sun and warm air, the smell of the thousands and thousands of blossoms ,which decorate so much of this small country, hit me like a strong perfume that had been sprayed into the air all over the city. The gardens in front of my apartment bloomed almost overnight, bougainvilleas brighten up so many inches of this big city, the flowers that peek out from the leaves of trees to share in this amazing weather are springing to life all around the city, and all the happiness in the world floods back to me in spades.

That first day of spring, or at least the first day that truly felt like spring, God not only took care of the weather, but I think he could sense I was having an ever so tiny feeling of homesickness, and as I walked onto campus I walked right into a student protest (and, as a result, a counter protest) that made me immediately feel like I was right back in Berkeley on a day when mounds of students would gather to protest, well, really anything. Suddenly I didn't miss home so much anymore, and what is a perfect spring day without a little hafganah (demonstration)!

Protester's for the cause 

Counter Protest

I won't go into overwhelming detail about the protest since this is not one of my political opinion blogs, but it was a very interesting cause that I'm sure I will offer my opinion on in upcoming posts. The demonstration revolved around a Palestinian woman named Hannah Shilabi was arrested by Israeli forces and detained, without trial or actual charges, in a way termed "Administrative detention", until she was released on Sunday, following a hunger strike. She was not allowed to return to her home in the West Bank and was exiled to Gaza for the next 3 years, at which time she will be able to return to her home and family. Shilabi is supposedly linked to Islamic Jihad. Here is a link providing more information:

The people protesting in condemnation of Shilabi's exile to Gaza were mostly Arab-Israeli students, Israel students in support, and various academics; it was a silent protest on their end. The counter protest, as I later found out, was organized mostly by non Tel Aviv University students, and their protest was anything but silent. The quad was filled with rotations between booing and chanting uplifting Israeli folk songs. At one point they even compared academics to terrorists which I thought was bitterly uncalled for, but when you are dealing with people of a more extreme mindset you can't really be shocked.

After arriving at the protest I decided to station myself strategically in the middle of the two opposing sides (I thought this would keep me neutral since on one hand I was wearing my Jewish star which screams "Hello it's safe to think I'm a Zionist", while on the other hand, my strictly Arabic tattoos were showing, which scream a whole different message). Since I didn't really have to time to formulate my own opinion on the issue I thought I would stay in a position I am chronically comfortable in; SMACK IN THE MIDDLE. Not too right, not too left; showing a kind of support for various aspects of each side. After about 15 minutes I had to pull myself away to make it to class on time, and by the time I reemerged the hafganah had ended.

That night was my last night of class before vacation so I decided to celebrate by reading the Hunger Games trilogy. I had heard so much about the series without actually learning of what the premise was. I was not disappointed, utterly captivated, reading like I haven't read since Harry Potter, and from Monday night to yesterday at 2:30 am, I spent little time doing much else but reading. Luckily I am now finished the trilogy or I would not be able to get anything done! I did, however, manage to pull myself away from my book long enough to meet with the closest people I have to immediate family here. Itzik and Orit have been friends with my grandparents since the time of their making Aliyah and living in Israel long before I was born. When I moved to Israel 3 years ago they were right there to take me in and help me get acclimated. They are my family here. They have been so busy the last few months with traveling and family, and I have been so busy with school and my Aliyah that I haven't seen them for quite some time, so our reunion was astoundingly wonderful.

Other than that today and tomorrow morning/afternoon will be spent eating as many bread products as I can get my hands on (and as many as my stomach will allow) because come Friday night Passover begins and I must say bye bye to over 3/4 of my regular diet! I was invited to spend the Lilah Seder with my roommate's wonderful girlfriend and her family, and a full Seder in Hebrew will be a huge treat! I can't describe my excitement for my first Passover in the Holy Land, and though I will still have to say the words "Next year in Jerusalem", being only 45 minutes away from the city, and in the same country, as opposed to 8,000 miles away in the USA is a vast improvement, and a step in the right direction!

After the Seder tomorrow night I have Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to work on my paper, take care of some business here in Israel, spend time with friends in town, and then I head off to Istanbul, Turkey Tuesday night. It will be a whirlwind vacation but one much needed to ring in spring!

That is all for now! Stay tuned ;-)

CHAG SAMEACH and a Happy Easter to those celebrating,
Jordana Simone

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