Winter Break: Florida, New York, Israel, California and back!

It feels so weird being back in Boston -- it almost seems like I've been gone a year, not just 23 days. I returned to a snow-covered landscape and with suitcases much heavier than when I left. My brain is full of glorious memories and my body is ready for another vacation to recover from my vacation (why is it always the case that relaxation eludes you on most vacations and you come back to reality just as, if not more, exhausted than when you left?).
It is hard to put into words just how great this break has been. It began with a (too short) stint in Florida where I got to see my mom and grandparents, spend time with my adorable puppies and see some friends. Then it was off to NYC for a couple of days with my friend Amanda before departing for Israel.
I don't have the time to delve into complete detail about my trip to Israel (nor do I think I'd be able to sustain your interest with 10-days worth of rambling), so I thought instead I'd cover the highlights and lowlights of the trip:

Favorite city we visited: Tzfat

Tzfat is the city in which Jewish mysticism, known as Kabbalah, was founded. It's a tiny city on top of a mountain characterized by light-colored cobblestone walkways where colorful street vendors mix seamlessly with quaint synagogues. In Tzfat we met an Israeli artist named Avraham who introduced us to Kabbalah and the paintings he creates surrounding its teachings. We also had time in the market to shop, and I purchased a beautiful Star of David with cubic zirconia on a long silver chain for 100 shekels (about $25) and a handmade pink scarf with gold thread accents (20 shekels of $5). I also bought a piece of Avraham's artwork (it is the multi-colored circle shown in the right column, on the top, in the picture below -- in English, it translates to "There is Only G-d.").

Least favorite moment: Alitalia losing the entire flight's luggage

When we landed in Tel Aviv we were greeted by Oranim staff with a hearty "Welcome Home," and boy we were excited to finally be off the plane and get out of our dirty clothes. Unfortuntately, this thought proved to be impossible as we soon noticed that none of our luggage was coming off the baggage carousel. A warning to all travelers: If you care about your luggage, do not fly Alitalia! It turns out that no luggage was put onto our plane that flew from Rome to Tel Aviv. I am not sure exactly how this happened as I know there must be a person or two responsible for this, but needless to say we were without luggage for several days, which put a damper on our initial time in Israel.

Most emotional moment: Praying at the Wailing Wall
(aka the Kotel aka the Western Wall)

Prior to coming to Israel, I was barely hanging onto the strings of my Judaism. Having not been raised with any religion, I know nothing about the holidays, prayers or teachings of the Torah. It surprised me so much then, that I felt a huge surge of emotion the day we visited the Old City of Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall. As I approached the wall arm-in-arm with my best friend Aynsley, my entire body was tingling and even after I said my prayers and placed my notes in the wall's cracks, something kept drawing me to the spot in which I was standing. I just could not stop staring and I felt like a force was commanding me to stay and reflect. If they would have let me, I could have stayed all day. It was one of the first times in my life that I felt I was Jewish down to the core.

Best weight loss strategy: Eating the same exact food over 10 days

Halfway through the trip we were informed by the Israeli soldiers that joined our group that the food we were eating was not typical of an Israeli family, and thank goodness, because what we were served for 10 days straight became repulsive after a while. Initially it wasn't bad, but when you are served cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs and some cereal masquerading as corn flakes every single morning, followed by friend chicken cutlets, hummus, white bread, fish filled with bones, etc. every night for dinner you soon swear off these foods forever. Luckily, Israel has some great chocolate and candy, so I was able to counteract the weight loss with sugar intake (like a visit to the original Max Brenner in Tel Aviv -- delicious chocolate concoctions!). :)

Other exciting moments...Riding camels at the Mamshit (in Hebrew is it pronounced Mom-sheet, so not as dirty) Camel Ranch, climbing a mountain in the desert to watch the sun set, hiking through the En Gedi nature preserve, floating in the Dead Sea, strolling through a craft festival in Tel Aviv, visiting the military cemetery at Mt. Herzl, getting to know six amazing Israeli soldiers (shout outs to Idit, Micky, Idan, Tom, Or and Matan!) and finding my love for Israel. Prior to visiting the country I was ashamed to admit I was Jewish -- I wouldn't dear wear my Star of David and would only admit my upbringing when asked directly. After this trip, I have made a vow never to be ashamed again. I am who I am and I have been welcomed by the Israelis into the Jewish community as family. I cannot turn my back on them ever again.

That's it for now! Classes at HBS start up again on Tuesday and I've got a lot to do before then. I'll update soon!

4 Responses to "Winter Break: Florida, New York, Israel, California and back!"

Anonymous responded on January 12, 2009 at 1:34 AM #

ashamed to be jewish? are you for real?

Anonymous responded on January 12, 2009 at 3:30 PM #

Seriously, did you just say you were ashamed to be Jewish? Wow! Really... Wow!

Gabrielle responded on January 12, 2009 at 3:52 PM #

For clarification, I said I used to be, not that I am. I faced a lot of anti-semitism and I allowed it to affect me, which I now realize was weak of me. Thankfully visiting Israel helped me realize how dumb those feelings were!

Tausha responded on January 12, 2009 at 5:05 PM #

Gabby you didn't blog abt LA!