Oh Arad...

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November 21st 2005
Published: November 21st 2005
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Wow. I have not written in a long time. Yesterday Ayal, one of the Israeli guards of my building, the Mercaz Clita, or Absorption Center, in Arad, commented that I always look tired. After telling him that he should stop being such a typical unkind Israeli male, my friend Emily and I had to agree with him. I am exhausted. Constantly. Primarily because I am never ever free. I take 4 or so hours of Hebrew Ulpan (intensive Hebrew language study) 4 days a week. Difficult enough but to add to the difficulty, I am also in a level a bit above me and should therefore be learning at least 20 new words a day to keep up. One of my teachers (I have 2 that switch off without coordinating their curriculums, and am thus being subjected to 2 separate curriculums...) thinks I am a moron and asks me if I know what the simplest things are, things that I learned in 5th grade. I have been forced to tell her a few times that I am not stupid. It's a new experience for me, but I'm growing from it...I think?

I'm also taking 4 classes on Israeli culture and society, politics, social justice, and the peace process. Very interesting for the most part but difficult to concentrate when I have random Hebrew verbs wafting through my head at all times. Also when I have been having more fun and going out more than I almost ever do. Arad is soooo tiny. No one is on the street here. Other than some old Russian ladies sometimes. Not much to do here but somehow I am always busy walking around with friends, going to one of the 3 bars, or doing I don't even know what except that it sucks away all of my time.

The only thing to do is go to the mall, go out to eat, or trek to this amazingly beautiful spot where you can see a huge expanse of the Negev and beyond it, the Dead Sea. The other day my friends and I walked out there, and found another similar spot nearby where 2 guys were blasting Arabic music. Other than all the broken bottles and my friends' fear of interrupting a bunch of strange men, it was a moment when I thought, "Wow. I really am in Israel. Amazing."

I have been spending time with a very multicultural bunch here. My group of close friends (it feels like we've known each other much longer than 3 weeks) consists of 3 Americans, a Hungarian girl, a French girl, a girl from Mexico, an Argentinean girl, and a Dutch girl. It is pretty great to be able to learn about so many different cultures. There is way too much to write. I went to the Rabin Memorial service in Tel Aviv a week ago - it has been 10 years since he was assassinated by an Israeli radical who was against his policies. Apart from joining the enormous crowd and many of Israel's most famous musicians in singing a number of songs so sweet they induced tears, I felt a tiny glimmer of hope for peace I have not felt since I went to college and became cynical. So many people wanting peace, maybe there is a chance?? I don't know.

I also went to a great concert, ate a huge Greek salad on the beach in Tel Aviv while talking to friends for 6 hours and then watched the sunset, salsa danced for 2 hours straight with friends and the Argentinean crowd who lives in my building, saw Independence Hall where Israeli was officially declared a Jewish independent state, made stir fry for 8 people of 6 different nationalities with friends last night (I absolutely LOVE communal meals), and am generally having an exhausting but rewarding time despite WUJS being completely disorganized, my counselors being slightly moronic, and Arad seeming even tinier after all of my adventures of late. Anyway time to go check on my laundry (which I should have done...oh...20 minutes ago). Write me emails!! Please!! I miss you guys!!


22nd November 2005

Hi Daniella, Once again you amaze me with your travel tales and interesting observations. Sounds like going to Israel was the right decision. We're all gearing up for Thanksgiving over here. Ari is coming to NY for a few days. Will you be doing anything for "turkey day" over there? I know you have alot of Americans around. Stay well and continue to enjoy. Much love, Aunt Margie
24th November 2005

Hi, girl, just wanted to remind you that this is a HUGE adventure. It cannot be compared to Thailand or Hampshire or any other amazing place, because it's an entire island of adventure. Your letters have been evolving, and I feel that even in your words I can sense you getting stronger. It's amazing. Please do keep writing us and reminding us to take risks and change our lives too, to take steps towards learning about other cultures, our own culture in everything we do. Much love, and lots of happy thoughts on this thanksgiving week.
2nd December 2005

Hi Danine, your life sounds very full and intense, and your exhaustion sounds like a happiness/fullness-exhaustion...there are so many things at every moment in your day, week, etc!!! So I wish for you a long deep peaceful sleep full of beautiful dreams, and a clear focused mind, more of your joyful heart during your waking hours...:) Peace Mari

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