10:50 pm IST
Let me say first how ecstatic I am that this dear blog of mine has not been deleted. For a moment I was terrified that all my months of writing would have been for naught, but we're back and I couldn't be happier! So, let me heave a thankful sigh of relief, stretch out my fingers, and I shall recount to you my interesting (albeit short) adventures in the Holy Land.
The day after I arrived, Chloe, SarahJean, and I hopped on a bus and went to the Dead Sea. The weather was lovely; not too hot, but not too cold. It felt like a late spring day, and I kept getting weirded out every time I remembered that it is December. The bus ride wasn't too long, and the desert mountain landscape that flashed by us was beautiful. The Sea came out of nowhere; there were mounds of rock and sand and all of a sudden they disappeared and this magnificent vista of the Sea and Jordan across the water came into view. Once at the beach, we floated around in the (strangely slimy) water and took some token "floating with the newspaper" photos, and I'd say we had a largely successful afternoon. We returned to Be'er Sheva and I relaxed in Rachel's room, and we prepared for her program's trip to Tzfat on which I tagged along.
The trip left the next morning and we drove far up north to the mountains. Watching the desert give way to forests was a little strange, but also reassuring in a way. When we got close to Tzfat, we stopped at Mt. Meron to hike around the peak. Our guide, Baruch, was from Huntington Woods before moving to Israel; how crazy is that? Anyway, the mountain was very pretty; lots of trees and clear views into the valleys below. After the hike, we continued upwards toward Tzfat, where we checked into the hotel (which was quite nice) and got ready for Shabbat. We baked challah (mine was rather poorly braided) and then went to services at a small shul in the Old Town. It was nothing like I've ever experienced before; the service consisted of loud, joyful, lively song with bouts of muttering prayer interspersed throughout. The singing was powerful and moving, but I found that I resented them tremendously for it. I wanted to be part of the mob of men on the main floor but, as a woman in an orthodox place, I had to be upstairs. I felt thoroughly left out, and, though I knew what to expect, I had not expected how much it would hurt. The meal following services was splendid, and after dinner and a quick chat with some Chasidim, I went up to the room to sleep.
The next day was rainy, windy, and very cold. Rachel and I, instead of joining the two-hour walking tour, made the wise decision to stay in the hotel and rest. I am so glad we did, too, because the rain and wind only got worse as the morning crawled on. We went to a short lecture on Kaballah and dreams, and after that we relaxed some more, had some snacks, went to Havdallah, and got back on the bus to return to Be'er Sheva. When we got back, Rachel and I did some laundry and sat around talking and giggling and having some good, old fashioned fun.
Today we woke and did not feel like doing much of anything. We were far too sleepy to function properly, so we ended up sleeping till around noon. Then we spent the day in her room hanging out before she took me to the bus station (during a sandstorm), where I got a bus to Jerusalem to meet up with Chloe and SarahJean. SarahJean and I soon afterward got on a bus to the airport in Tel Aviv where we are now waiting for our flights early tomorrow morning. There is a huge thunderstorm (and it was hailing at one point), and I am hoping that the flights won't get delayed at all... the time I have between connecting flights in Rome is short enough as it is; I can't afford any lost time.
So, though my time in Israel was short, it was pretty fun. Being with Rachel was fantastic and I was so glad I had the chance to be with a great friend. I am so excited for Greece tomorrow; hopefully the weather will be better there than it has been here!!