So it is only my 2nd day in Israel and I absolutely love it. A lot has happened the last two days, so I will keep this short and to the point.
The culture is fabulous here. The people are very helpful and most of them speak English. I did run into someone on the plane who spoke only a few words of english, but we managed to have a conversation in broken Hebrew. Seeing that I was able to overcome the language barrier was exciting and a little (I mean VERY) surprising.
We have been able to go to out the last two nights, and I was even able to catch the Turkey-Germany game in a pub.
They are much more interested in soccer than Americans (what a surprise). All the tables were full and they projected the game onto a big screen. The energy there was amazing. It was something I haven't seen before in the States.
The other cultural highlight was Israeli folk dancing. Our make-shift mom/sister, Shani, took us to her class the first night we were in town. Now, I have Israeli danced before at camp and sunday school which was always a little lame, so I thought that, like in the States, it would be a little dull. I was absolutely wrong. There were all kinds of people there from older hassidic Jewish
women to secular children. Once again, the Israelis brought incredible spirit. Being able to interact with the local Israelis has brought out the spirit of Israel. It is truly something unparalleled to anything I have ever experienced.
I have only seen a few sights so far, but they are vastly different and equally fascinating. I landed in Tel Aviv which totally contradicted the typical image of Israel. The little bit that I saw was busy and very modern.
As a car ride continued to Arad you could see the terrain changing. Very shortly after seeing these busy roads and modern buildings, all of the surrounding area was farmland. Even more quickly it became desert. Before I knew it, the traditional vision of Israel was surrounding me. We saw several camels along the road and the occasional mosque in towns along the way. Then we were in Arad.
Arad is much larger than I thought. It has several large buildings (the building I'm in, 'WJUS' is 7 stories high). Despite the size of the town it does not feel metropolitan.
This evening we went to a look out point on the outskirts of the town. It was absolutely incredible. I cannot put into words how incredible this country is after seeing this. All I could see for what seemed like forever was desert. I was so entranced by my surrondings I almost felt dizzy walking out too the lookout point because of the endless sandy mountians. This area could give the grand canyon a run for its money. In the distance our friend Shani pointed out the Jordanian border. Seeing this in person made me realize why anyone would fight so hard for this strip of desert. I will send pictures when I get them on the computer, but it will not do it justice.
Contrary to popular belief, not all of Israel is a war zone. In fact, I feel far safer here any time of day than I do in Wilmington at night. I understand you need to be very careful in certain places, but the Israelis are doing their part to keep people safe when they can. We went to the mall to pick up some basic items, and before we entered someone was there to check our bags. This apparently is not uncommon.
That is all for now. Tomorrow I leave for Jerusalem until Saturday night (we will stay late because the program keeps shabbat, so we cannot leave until there are three stars in the sky Saturday night). I will also be going to Massada, Ein Getty, and the Dead Sea. I cannot wait to tell you all about it.