There is a hallucinogenic that has overtaken us these past few days in Israel. We arrived on Tuesday night after 16 hours on a plane (14 actually flying, 2 fixing various problems). None of us sleep all that well on planes and it ended up being mostly cat naps (foreshadowing Israel [see Part 2 coming soon]) here and there. I watched several movies and must say that I was blown away by Whiplash. It had so much to say about life, art, and dreams; as a jazz fan, I really enjoyed the setting, but the themes found in it were universal and you could put your own field as the setting and it would be relevant.
Arrival in Tel Aviv provided a few observations. Here we were, the crazy Kneitels, arriving with almost no Hebrew in our vocabulary just trying to make it through the airport. One of the beautiful scenes at the airport was a huge group of Ethipopian Jews (at least 100) coming for a visit. Young and old smiling, like us, in anticipation of this adventure. Once in the baggage claim, there was probably double that group size waiting for them with balloons and cheers in equal anticipation. One of the first lessons we teach our kids is that of “stranger dangers”. Well, how easily we forget! We went to this taxi stand and a taxi driver took us on this 10 minute walk into this parking garage, trying to barter (his price was totally ridiculous) while also wanting assurance that he had a van (at least) to carry all of our luggage and us. Well, we get there and he’s trying to pile our luggage (we came with a lot of baggage, literally and figuratively) in this little sedan with no luck. Meanwhile, it’s past midnight (Israel time) and we’ve had no sleep and we’re getting lured into this isolated parking garage….once back at the taxi stand, nobody wanted anything to do with us…reminding me of Elaine’s experience with doctors on Seinfeld….we are finally saved by Robert DeNiro, no less! We had our first “stranger danger” lesson, but a happy ending.
We made it to our hotel, exhausted and of course Bonnie and I could not sleep and only got 2 hours that night! I turned the TV on at some point and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was playing with Hebrew subtitles…now, that is how I want to learn Hebrew! You can prepare in many ways: we talked with many people who have visited and lived here, watched You Tube videos (including Conan O’Brien’s videos in Israel), read blogs and other websites, and I had my Fulbright Orientation back in June, but this training goes only so far. Reality hits, we all look at each other periodically to say “are we really doing this?”, “what are we doing?” fear and excitement and then more fear stir through our bodies. Sometimes it volcanically emerges as meanness to each other, but mostly we have been in awe and laughing to tears about our adventures.
This blog will follow my experiences as a Fulbright Scholar in Israel (University of Haifa) during the 2017-18 academic year. Also check out the family blog for another perspective. This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State website, and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.