Monthly Archives: July 2014

A fresh start for a new life

Oh so much to talk about! Since my last post many things have happened personally and with Israel. This might be a bit boring, but i want to have the details later. Let’s start with work:

On Sunday (first day of the work week here) the 13th, I went to an office at the Isrotel hotel chain. I wasn’t told much, but the manager of my ulpan said I should show up there to try to get a job. So I woke up, got my … well, not best, because American best clothes are just ridiculous here. So I got in my casual business attire and headed out, thinking of answers to probable interview questions. When I arrived it was like a cattle call of late teens and early twenties dressed in really casual clothing. Ummm, ok. Anyway, I filled out the application, went to where I was supposed to go, talked to some lady who sent me to Isrotel Sport. I was supposed to talk to the housekeeping supervisor. Well, that never happened (and still hasn’t other than the occasional “hello, how are you” as he walks by). Some lady (my future manager)who brought me to him had talked to him in very fast hebrew and next thing I know, I’m told I’ll be working in laundry starting the next day at 7am. Never even had to answer questions or present my resume. The only downside was that laundry is paid minimum wage and doesn’t offer rent subsidies. So off I went to get a uniform,  ID, sign things and what not. I was sent to the office of my new hotel and got to talk to a lady, lidor, who had worked in the US for a little while. We were chit chatting and I mentioned I had even brought my resume. She asked to see it and was rather impressed (*sassy voice* thank you!). She was worried about me not wanting to stay so I explained to her that I understood before I even moved to this country that my first years of employment would be building back up to where I was in the ‘States. We talked about some other things too, overall I really liked her. A couple of days later, I was called into her (lidor) office. I was terrified I had done something wrong or too slowly and was going to be fired. But instead she told me that she managed to get me a contract! So I signed on for 6 months, get paid 26.?? Shekels an hour(which is more than minimum wage), and they pay half my rent. This all on top of the all-employee benefits: free rides on the 4 hotel workers’ bus lines in Eilat (meaning I can go anywhere in Eilat), I pay 5 shekles each day I work but can eat at the hotel 3 times a day every day of the week, health care, and lots of other things I can’t remember right now. The work itself is easy but I have run into the translation issue. The guy I work with is a bit older than me -probably in his 40s – and thinks that I am just some young punk out to make quick money. I had to tell him today that I’ve worked in this industry my whole adult life and that I’m college educated. He calmed down a bit after that.

Housing is great. Im in the new part of town, on the south west side. I can walk to the pharmacy, the grocery store, a couple of decent restaurants, there is a bus stop here, and a synagogue across the street. The walks around here are amazing but photos just can’t do it justice. Tree lined streets, going down hill towards the bay. Mountains to the east, north, and west. Small parks all around. It is just amazing. We have laundry here in the building, a beautiful pool, a little market. The apartment isn’t too big – kitchenette type thing, bathroom (with tub!), and two rooms each with two guys. My roommates are all really relaxed and we are rarely home at the same time.

So now on to a bit about Israel. A while back, 3 jewish teens were kidnapped while hitchhiking in the west bank. They were killed almost immediately but the authorities didn’t tell that to anyone. So for 3 weeks (I think, my memory sucks right now), the nation was worked up into nationalistic fever. Then, the boys bodies where discovered. It was a national tragedy. Within a couple of days, some Jews decided to take revenge by kidnapping, torturing, and killing a Palestinian boy. Things were very heated, but on the surface the government wasn’t going to rush into anything. However, behind closed doors, they had already been planning a new attack on Hamas. (Remember in an earlier post I mentioned a friend in the army was spooked? I think this is why) They used the ferver in Israel to easily start an air and naval offensive. After those targets were taken out, the reserves were called up and a ground offensive started. This is the 20th day of operation protective edge (including the navel and air attacks).

It is also good to note that  there are peace rallies happening all over Israel. I think most Israelis want to end the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, but the problem our politicians can’t solve is the how. I have my own opinions, but I’m not in power.

Anyway, such is life. There has been two nights since I’ve been living here that the sirens have sounded. The most recent I didn’t even hear. I was in my room – which happens to be our apartments bomb shelter – watching TV. The first one though was scary. It was my very first night here. I had worked that day and was exhausted. I went to sleep early,  probably 10ish. At around 1am, I was awoken to the long drone of the siren. I was out of bed when I heard the explosion. Groggy and still half asleep, I just grabbed my ciggies and headed down to the lobby before I really realized what was going on. Apparently I was not the onky smoker who needed a drag right then because many people were downstairs. I started talking to a girl who told me Eilat is a relatively safe city. But she was obviously shaken up and I wasn’t too far behind her. When my head finally caught up to the evenings events, my first reaction was to text mommy. I think I get some kuddo points for that. But then, like most Isrealis, I just went on with life and fell back to sleep.

Anyway, I’ll try to update more as I get into a routine and get life started here.

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Small recap of big things

What an intense and fast 10 days it has been.

So the ulpan ended. All but 8 people had left by a week ago tomorrow.  Steve is off in Europe on farms. Aaron went back to the US to visit family for a month before coming back. Sam is now south of tel aviv on another ulpan. Fernando will be joining me here in eilat tomorrow (although probably not the same hotel and probably not as roommates). Andrea is living in Netanya.  Giorgi … well his plans are still coming together. He is trying to get work papers (he is a tourist) and might come to work in Eilat. Ylana returned to Italy. Roni is back in the US starting law school. Ingrid returned to France. Miaan is living with her mom in the north. Sofia is starting life just south of tel Aviv.  David will join his family to tour more of Israel before returning to Canada.  Zach has taken up residence in the occupied territories, in accordance with his lunacy. For the most part, we were a great group and I hope to stay in touch with most.

This past Sunday, 8 of us (me, sam, fernando, Andrea, giorgie, david, miaan, and sofia) went on an introductory program for the army. It was a grueling 5 days without coffee and good sleep. But I really think we all grew even closer together.  We had to work together and also got to know each others thoughts more on these subjects. It helped me make my mind up that I will be joining the IDF after I finish one more hebrew course.

And after that ended, we all went back to the kibbutz for one last meal together, grabbed our bags and went on our ways.  Bitter sweet for sure. So I’m now in Eilat, staying in a motel for a few days. I should start work tomorrow at one of Israels huge hotel chains. They provide housing so I really hope for no mix ups or delays.

The last little story is a bit… shortened. I’m going to leave out some of the more … memorable moments for the sake of decency. When the ulpan first started, there was a guy from France named Jeremy. He didn’t last long and soon went to live with family in Ashdod. As I was on the train eading south this past Thursday, he randomly called me. Now, I don’t speak french at all and only basic hebrew. He doesn’t speak english and has even less hebrew. So our conversation was awkward and confusing. But I told him I was heading for eilat if he wanted to visit sometime. Later that night, I had finished checking into the hotel and was watching the news. I saw that Ashdod had been hit by rockets so I called Jeremy back. His uncle answered and asked (in english, but not the best) if Jeremy could come stay with me. I told him I didn’t mind, but that I only had a room until Sunday. I assumed he justed wanted to have a peaceful shabbat. But now he is here with his two huge suitcases…. I mean, the company is fine and all. But I should be getting a work appartment and boo boo just isn’t good enough for me to fuck with my money by trying to get him to come along. So, we are having a great and awkward time, using google translate for the things that we want to say. But come Monday morning, I’m off and I am not sure he has a plan. He knows my situation and I’ll try to help him with contacts but I dont think he has financial smarts and might be in for a rough road.

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My active mind

So by now I’m sure you’ve all heard that they found the missing 3 teenagers kidnapped some two and a half weeks ago. They were found dead not too far from where they were kidnapped, both places in the West Bank, Palestine. Today there was a suspected reprisal attack. A young Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and killed, his body burned before being dropped off in western Jerusalem.

I came to this country because, as a Jew, there are actions and bodies of thoughts that are being used in my name. I came here because for too long the liberal side of the religous and political debate has been silent both inside and outside of Israel. I am a Zionist, I believe Jews should emigrate to Israel. I also believe in a free and independent Palestine. I believe these two things can, should, and must come to fruition together.

But I have to admit today has been hard. The voices calling for reprisal, for vengeance, and for blood are very loud. The chorus seems to be clear and absolute. For the first time, I questioned whether I could stay in this country for long. My first 5 months here were all good and well, but I am about to reenter “the real world.” I will no longer live in a bubble of a community that shares a substantial amount of like-minded views.  And if the discomfort I’m feeling now is only going to grow, I wonder how long I will be able to cope with such war mongering and hate.

It is very different here than in America. In America, you can identify as a pacifist and still be welcomed as a valued member of society. Here, through my very limited experiences, there is a tangible and palpable feeling of betrayal when you identify with anything that is not “pro Jewish, pro Israel” – as if there is only one definition for that. I am pro Jewish and pro Israel,  that is exactly why I hold the views I do.

By chance, I have to go to Tel Aviv tomorrow. I called a couple of my friends there and after my meeting we will be going to a peace rally calling against reprisal in this spiral of violence. I hope this will restore my faith in our state and peoplehood.

Andrea Gibson – Etiquette Leash: http://youtu.be/HDCF7eh7lWQ

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