I made it!
My travel to Jerusalem went pretty smoothly. I had some time to kill in the international terminal at JFK, but a delay there meant I was running to catch my connection in Moscow. Hence, I had no time to see what a Russian airport has to offer. cry me a river.
At JFK, the international terminal is pretty swanky. Although I cannot for the life of me understand who does serious shopping while at an airport:
Duty free is another phenomenon that I haven’t really caught onto, but it sort of reminds me of Costco.
The other interesting thing about the international terminal was that alcohol was served from the cooler cases just like juice or water!
I did not partake…but I wonder what ID rules are about how old you have to be.
I flew a Russian airline, Aeroflot. The flight was comfortable and all the flight attendants wore bright orange. Even their shoes! The best thing about the flight – which I haven’t seen before – was that they gave you a ‘do not disturb’ sign for your seat.
You were supposed to put one of the stickers on top of your seat, and then the flight attendants would know whether or not to wake you when they came around with food. I put in a special meal request for vegetarian meals on the flight, and it was actually edible – although definitely not good compared to anything besides typical airline food.
After a solid day and a half of travel, I finally arrived to Israel!
Even though it’s been a while since Jerusalem was thought to be the literal center of the world, it seems like all eyes are often still on it today. The current matzav (situation) has placed Israel in a spot of global focus, and the conflict certainly is visible in the general atmosphere here. All men and women have compulsory army service for three years here, meaning that essentially everyone has family or close family friends in the military. Many of the men are stationed in Gaza. The news is constantly playing, and overheard pieces of conversation often contain reference to the matzav.
That said, Jerusalem has been able to maintain a level of normalcy that other areas of Israel have not. While the conflicts weighs heavy on the minds and hearts of all here, the schedule of daily life is largely uninterrupted. Since being here, I’ve settled into my apartment in the beautiful neighborhood of Baka:
Visited Pardes, where I will be studying for the next year:
Enjoyed coffee and Israeli breakfast at the ubiquitous Israeli version of Starbucks (but way better!!!!), Aroma:
And that’s not to mention that Jerusalem is, quite simply, the most breathtaking city in all the world. 🙂 Jerusalem is often referred to as ‘the city of gold.’ Obviously, it’s a treasure, but the nickname is also attributed to the unique Jerusalem Stone (a white limestone) that has been used for buildings here since ancient times. The bright sun on the white stone causes a beautiful brightness – almost a reflection – that can often make the city look as if it has a golden tint.
If that doesn’t convince you, imagine seeing this splendor on your walk home:
Like any city, Jerusalem has little quirks that anyone visiting gets used to. For example, Jerusalem is full of stray cats.
They’re completely docile but are best not approached – basically like squirrels in the US.
Israel also grows incredible fruits and vegetables; some familiar and some unfamiliar to westerners. Produce is best bought at small fruit and vegetable stands were you can get everything from avocados to Jaffa oranges to prickly pears!
Speaking of…I tried prickly pears for the first time:
They are soft but full of hard seeds which, technically, can be eaten, but I preferred to spit them out. Now I know what the Jungle Book‘s been talking about all these years!
And…one final note on the matzav. I don’t want to get very political or focus too much on the conflict (and, God willing, the current ceasefire will lead to a more permanent one!), but if you are interested to read more, here are two articles that have done the best job from what I’ve read of fairly and sensitively analyzing the conflict. Both articles are from The New Republic (thanks, Papa Bear).
From a couple weeks ago – about questions of morality within the war
From a few days ago – about the difficulty of asymmetrical warfare, as seen in the Gaza-Israel conflict