Thursday, April 28, 2011

very late, friendly debate

this will be short since it's 4:15am but I just wanted to make note of the fact that I spent the past hour and a half or so in pretty heated debate/discussion with friends over Israel and the Middle East. It sucks when the conversation seems to come to the "and what's the solution" point, but it's really great to be able to have these important conversations. We talked mainly about the existence, or lack, of democracy in Israel (and in the actions Israel takes). It helps to remind me part of the reason why I'm here, hopefully my friends and I will succeed in bringing our perspective and our beliefs to the society, and we can help to improve it in a positive way in order to ensure it's existence in the future.

interesting to note: as I write this I am listening to the muslim call to prayer from the arab neighborhood next to us. They're waking up to pray at 4:30 and I haven't even gone to bed yet.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

y = mx + b

The equation for a line. In Israel it works something like this, Y=MX + B
Y-you, first in line
M-muscle strength
X -how well you have perfected the use of your elbows
B-the amount of bullshit you talk about how you need to get to the front

In simpler terms for those non mathematicians...Israeli's cannot and do not wait in line. At the post office you take an number, but people often cut in front of you, at the coffee shop you better be assertive or you could be waiting all day to order, the same is true for a ticket window, check out, entrance to the bus/train station or a government building, and of course...getting on the bus.

Last Thursday around 10pm I arrived at the Arlozorov bus station in Tel Aviv to take the 480 bus back to Jerusalem. Usually the 480 fills up, leaves, and within 5-10 minutes another one has pulled up, so I am never really concerned about "missing the bus." This time, however, when I arrived there were about 50-60 people waiting at the station, and no bus in site. This was a bit strange but I waited toward the end, in position to put my duffle bag under the bus when it pulled up.

Instead of the typical green Egged coach bus pulling up a strange red and yellow coach bus finally arrived, but parked a bus length behind where the regular bus would park. The bus station employees began telling everyone to purchase bus tickets at the ticket window because they would not be allowed to purchase them on the bus. (I came to understand that a bus must have broken down and this was a replacement, although it took me a while to catch on to the fact that I needed to buy a ticket at the window as I had never done that before for this particular bus and I didn't even know there WAS a ticket window there.) Let the rush begin...

Not only did all the religious and old people (seems like that was the majority of people waiting for this bus) push their way toward the window, the ones that had tickets already (about 70%) formed a huge mob around the door to the bus. The bus driver was extremely upset by this behavior, although I don't know what he was expecting. He tried to get off the bus and tell everyone to back up, but he could barely get out the door of the bus and instead stood on the stairs to the bus telling everyone to back up onto the sidewalk and away from the door. The driver made it clear, I thought, that no one would be allowed on the bus until this had happened. The driver then exited the bus from the back door. The, mostly haredi (very religious people) families surrounding the bus door just did not move. People from the back continued to push forward, others continued to fill in on the sides, and no one went anywhere. There was no sense of "let's work together until this works for everyone," only, "eventually the bus driver will have to open the door, i'll just stay right here, as close to the front of the group as i can." Man did this frustrate me to watch.

A man standing near me, a bit away from the mob, started talking to me about how crazy this bus driver was and that we should just wait for the next bus, which is exactly what we decided to do. While the bus driver continued to yell that he would not allow passengers on his bus under these circumstances, and the bus station employees tried to push the crowd back with physical force, assuring the bus driver that everything was fine, I just sighed, upset at what I was witnessing. I moved away and noticed that a few minutes later the bus station employees were holding people back, trying desperately so have people slowly and calmly get on the bus, while the bus driver was upset and yelling about the pushing and shoving. Another but pulled up shortly after and I put my duffle bag under and got "in line" to get on this bus. I couldn't help but notice how much more civil the people were in the (almost) line that I was in, as opposed to the first bus. I also couldn't help but notice how many haredi men and their families were getting on the first bus, and how many young, seemingly "secular" people were getting on the second bus.

My conclusion: I am trying desperately not to judge the haredi religious men and their families, but they make it increasingly hard not to. Actual conclusion: Israeli's are not very fond of lines, but trying to break them of this habit seems almost more ridiculous. It is as if the disorder is the best way to ensure any order. However, while replaying the scene as I sat on the bus I thought, maybe if there were more bus drivers like the "crazy" first one, people would relearn what we (at least in the states) learned in kindergarten....wait in line, or no ones goes to recess.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

second donation

A little while ago I was contacted by DKMS Americas asking me if I would be willing to do a second donation for the bone marrow recipient. Of course I said yes, absolutely anything that I can do to help I will. This time I only have to donate white blood cells (last time it was white blood cells, red bloods cells, and platelets) so the process is even easier for me. I do not have to take the injections for the week beforehand, I just show up at the hospital to donate and they put the IVs in both arms, take the blood from one arm, separate out the white blood cells, and return the blood back to me through the other arm.

Tuesday I am going for my blood tests and May 2nd is the tentative date for the donation. May 2nd is Yom Hashoa also, Holocaust Memorial Day. It is actually fitting to donate on that date because Yom HaShoah is not meant to be a sad day, especially because it falls during the Jewish month of Nissan, a traditionally happy month. The date was supposed to be the 14th of Nissan to coincide with the date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising but since this is the day before Passover it was moved to the 27th of Nissan. Yom HaShoah is supposed to remind us of the end of the Holocaust, the freeing of the Jews and other victims, although of course it is impossible not to be reminded of all the sadness as well. Anyway, what better way to free someone than to physically assist in giving them life. Let's all pray that everything is still going well with the little girl and that this second donation will help her to reach a full recovery.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our Situation: 98° and rising

If you follow Middle Eastern politics you couldn't have missed the rising tension over here in the past few months. For a while Israel remained relatively calm even with the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and the changes in Jordan, Oman, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the current situation, we are now also part of the rising tension. (although, if you read BBC or CNN you might not know this because they have chosen not to report on the dramatic increase in rockets for the first time since Cast Lead two years ago)

Many are/were nervous that there would be another "Palestinian uprising" due to frustration with the situation here, and it seems to be going in that direction. The IDF and IAF (Israeli Defense Force and Israeli Air Force) have been attacking military personnel (either involved with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PLO, etc) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip all along, and occasionally civilians are injured as well. It's an unfortunate truth but it is common knowledge that, especially in the Gaza Strip, the terrorist organizations operate in densely populated civilian areas.

On the receiving end, Israel has seen an increase in rockets and attacks over the past few months. Along with many more rockets and mortars landing in israel each week, the strength of the rockets is also increasing. More Grad (stronger, more destructive) rockets are landing in Beer Sheva (a densely populated southern city) as well as Ashkelon and other cities. The first day of Purim, March 19th, 55 rockets landed in Israel, last weekend hundreds landed. Aside from the increase in rockets there have been other isolated incidents. on March 11th 5 family members were brutally stabbed to death in a settlement named Itamar in the West Bank. A mother, father, 11 year old, 4 year old, and 3 month old baby. On March 15th a ship was intercepted carrying an enormous amount of weapons and ammunition from Iran to Gaza. On March 22nd a bomb exploded at a busy bus stop near the central bus station in the center of Jerusalem killing 1 and injuring over 30. On April 7th an anti-tank missile was shot from Gaza at an Israeli school bus critically injuring the only teenage boy left on the bus and lightly injuring the driver. That day 45 more missiles, rockets, and mortars landed in israel, 40 the next day, April 8th, and 65 the day after, April 9th. Read about the Iron Dome, a missile defense system.

To each of these incidents Israel has, of course, responded. Israel's response is usually less quantitative and more qualitative, if that makes sense. Because of the increased intelligence and artillery of the IDF and IAF Israel is able to more directly shoot and kill Hamas militants and members of the Popular Resistance Committees as responses to the attacks on Israel. They also target shooting cells, smuggling tunnels, etc. The response from Israel is a strong one, Israel is certainly not going to sit back and let their citizens be bombarded with rockets and mortars upwards of 50 times a day without responding with force.

So the severity of the situation here is on the rise, but as of now it is a bit unclear which direction it is going to take. Neither Hamas nor Israel wants to see another Operation Cast Lead, there has to be another way.

My point in writing this was not to ignite any arguments or debates, it was just to remind you to remember that when you read news articles about the Israeli Palestinian conflict it is necessary to remember that there are many sides to the situation. Israel gets blamed a lot for the force that they use in response to attacks, but I personally find it hard to blame a military for trying to be the best is can be to defend it's citizens. There are known enemies who are firing rockets, missiles, and mortars, planning and executing attacks on citizens, and they live a KM away from the borders. I can't imagine any other country would sit back and allow this to happen to their citizens, on their land.

I didn't touch on the "occupation." I suppose that's for another entry.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Very Israeli Half Marathon

**this post is quite long, I'm sorry, but I'm too tired to cut it down after I just spend an hour writing**

My luck began when Eli and I, among other Ulpaners, were dropped off at a random bus stop on the side of a road in the North. The bus from day trip we had been on with our classmates was headed back to Jerusalem and we wanted to go to Tel Aviv (it was the day before race day). While multiple 921 buses drove by the bus stop not oneof them stopped because they were full. We began to realize that we would very well end up sleeping at this bus stop if we proceeded with this hopeless tactic of catching a bus to Tel Aviv. So, what was the only other option? To tremp. Tremp is the Hebrew word for hitchhike and it is kind of funny because it definitely comes from an English word, most likely "tramp." So tremp we did, Eli, a South African girl from my ulpan, and I. It was a pleasant hour or so drive with a high-tech (obviously) working dad who happened to be going exactly to the area where Eli's parents live in Ramat Aviv, right near Tel Aviv University where I used to live :). Perfect luck, free ride, didn't even feel bad because the guy obviously gets company gas for his fancy company car.
Eli and I arrived at her parents house at about 8pm and were catered to wonderfully with some delicious soup and baked fruit and cake for dessert. The problem was I had already eaten too much on our trip to the north and I was stuffed! Of course I ate the food anyway, mistake number 1. We went to bed at 11ish and I woke up at 4:55 to get ready for the race. Eli's dad made us yummy eggs with cheese and I had bread with peanut butter. Mistakes number two and three. Two: I wasn't hungry because of the night before and I ate anyway. Three: probably the only food that I have ever discovered that I cannot eat before I run is peanut butter. Anyway, I packed up my things, said thank you to Ei and her parents 20 more times, and headed out into the dark Ramat Aviv morning to find a cab. Mistake four: entering the wrong cab number into my phone. Here is where the real "balagan" (I actually don't know a translation for that...big mess?) began. I frantically walked around trying hopelessly to hail a cab at 5:30am on a not-so-main road. I saw a few cabs but they were full and began to freak out a bit. I couldn't decide which direction it was best to walk in so I sort of walked in circles...stupid. I started to cry for a few reasons, mostly I was angry with myself for not calling a cab the night before. Eventually I called my sister, crying, explaining my situation, knowing that there was really nothing she could do as she was already at the race site setting up her work info station. I tried, and failed, to call information and get another number for a cab and decided that going to the mall was the best place to find a cab (after all, when I was studying abroad there were always tons of cabs sitting there waiting to take us into the city for a night out). Fail, one cab with no driver at the mall. I continued walking to the main road having no idea how the hell I am going to get to the race and my corral opened in 25 minutes. A taxi driver across the street called out his window (apparently he had been witnessing my pathetic situation from a 24 hour "toast and coffee" shop on the corner). He asked if he could help me. I told him I needed to get the the dolphinarium for the start of the marathon asap. Perfect, I found a taxi. I open the door and get in...not so perfect.
This taxi driver is apparently also the Jerusalem Post newspaper delivery man. The whole backseat of his taxi was filled with newspapers that he had to deliver and therefore could not bring me to the race. He told me he would drive me to the main road free of charge and I could get a taxi there. Perfect.
Well, the main road was already closed off for the race (and no, I was no where near the starting line). We started driving in the opposite direction from where I needed to go and I continued panicking, and crying. We tried, unsuccessfully, to hail other cabs but the few we saw were full. We pulled over to the side and the driver got out and walked around the the backseat on my side. He started searching in the backseat underneath the newspapers for upwards of 4-5 minutes. I am becoming extremely restless and have already asked him multiple times for a number to call another taxi, but somehow he just did not see my urgency. After more than 5 minutes of searching in the backseat the driver pulled out a single JPost newspaper and handed it to me. I immediately become extremely angry and tell him that I do not want a newspaper and do not need it, that I need to get to the start of the race immediately because I am going to miss the race! Through all of this angry, frustration and nervousness, however, a little part of me deep down chuckled a bit at this gesture. After all, this was Israel and I should have expected nothing less from this situation, all he wanted was to give me a free newspaper, his only hope for making me feel better.
Just as I am beginning to lose all hope another taxi driver pulls over across the street and he has just taken someone to the start of the race, he knows just how to get there! Perfect.
Well, it is now 6:08,corral opens at 6:25, it's official, NO WAY I'm making that, hopefully I can make it to the starting line on time, 6:45. The taxi driver says he's not going to put on the meter because it will be really expensive since he has to drive a very roundabout way to get there because of all the street closings. What a nice gesture, and anyway I am not unfamiliar with this since I rarely use the meter here anyway, usually it's a rip off, you just haggle the price of a taxi. Anyway, we go on the highway in order to avoid going through the city but once we get off we are immediately met with both traffic and street closings. We being winding around roads while the driver contemplates the best way to get there. All the time I am thinking, c'mon, man, I've seen you Israeli drivers, I know you can drive A LOT faster than this!
We see two more people hailing a cab for the race and pick them up along the way. These two nice guys made it clear to the driver that they were in no hurry as their race didn't start for another hour or something. Here I begin almost yelling in crappy, crying, frantic Hebrew..."there are many races today, mine starts in 20 minutes!!" Anyway, we get as close as we can to the starting line and the taxi driver tells me it will be 80 shekels. 80 SHEKELS?! I could have been driven basically to Jerusalem for that price! (not really but it's still a LOT for the distance we covered) Anyway, I give him the money, jump out of the cab, and begin running with my duffle bag to find Allie at the starting line.
Initially I was planning on meeting Allie at the finish (200m from the start) and dropping off my bag, having plenty of time to warm up, pee, etc and get to the starting line, this plan went out the window a log time ago. I made it to the starting line with about 7 minutes to go until my heat started and I had to pee like a racehorse. I ran to a ditch to pee in because OF COURSE, in very Israeli style, there were no porta-potties at the starting line. (If you run or have ever run distance races you know how ridiculous this fact is. Somehow I wasn't surprised.) I went back to Allie, took a few pictures, and had to pee again. Combination of nerves and the fact that I really just had to pee meant that it could not wait, or it would come out while running (sorry for the graphics) Back to the ditch I went, as they called out, 3 minutes until race time.
By the time I had arrived back at Allie my heat had already taken off, good thing I had my timing chip on my shoe and it didn't matter when I crossed the starting line, that was when my time started. (no, I didn't remember this until I arrived or maybe I would have been a bit more calm).Eventually I made my way towards the start and began the race. I instantly remembered why I put myself through all of this, the training, the planning, the Jerusalem hills, it was for that feeling of something that I can only describe as euphoria when I crossed that starting line. Not just a weight off my chest, it was also the feeling of oneness with the pavement as I heard my steady footsteps, it was the huge smile on my face as I looked to the right at the rising sun, and to the left at the beautiful sea, it was the knowledge that it was just me and the road for the next 13.1 miles and the ability to succeed or to fail lay completely in my hands (or feet).
Now it was time to play catch up, I started about 4 minutes after my heat so I knew I would be passing a lot of people at first in order to get to my goal pace. 2KM in, running up Allenby, the race course set up provided us with the chance to watch the elite marathoners run down Allenby in the other direction. This was really fun for me because I always disliked the fact that running a race meant I couldn't cheer on the runners as they passed by. I tried to keep myself on pace but this was really hard for a few reasons. First, I was only able to jot down a few goal times on my arm (i.e: KM 5 should be at 25:50), not every KM like I intended, since my morning was so hectic. Second, I didn't actually figure out until I finished the race that I should have been paying attention the the BLUE km markers for the half marathon and not the orange ones for the full marathon. Oops, thats why I thought I ran a 7 minute mile pace about 3 miles in, I knew that wasn't right.
The race was incredibly enjoyable and I barely remembered that I was running for most of it. The elite marathoners passed me again while I was running in Hayarkon park around KM 13-14, what a treat! I totally missed the GU/banana/orange station at KM 15.5 which I avidly regretted come KM 16/17. Somehow, after eating too much dinner, too much breakfast, not warming up or stretching, pacing myself incorrectly, and not consuming 1 calorie during the race, I managed to come within 2 minutes of my "reach" time, and smack dab in the middle of my actual estimated time. I really wanted 1:50, was pretty sure I'd get 1:54, and ended up with 1:52. Seeing Eli and her mom at KM 18 really helped, and knowing that Allie and Adam would be waiting and watching me at the finished pulled me along too. Of course along with the long list of 21 people or groups of people (one per KM) that I wrote down whom I was running for.
I had a great time running, I am so glad I did it, and in retrospect, if it had happened any other way it just wouldn't have been right. I wouldn't have wanted my first official race in Israel to be any different, or it would have been just like I was running it anywhere else in the world. And let's be honest, Israel isn't like any other place in the world :)

the finish line and the view!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


That's the goal anyway, 5:13/km. it's about 8:23/mile for the half marathon. 21.1 km or 13.1 miles. I'm super excited and a little bit nervous, I know i can finish but I really want to get a good time, 1:50 is my goal. This is going to include water and GU (energy gel) stop. There's a pacer at 1:50 so hopefully I can stay with them! Tomorrow I have a trip with my ulpan to the north for the day and I am going straight from the trip to my friend Eli's parent's house in north Tel Aviv. Friday morning well before the crack of dawn I will take a taxi (hopefully with Eli) to the starting line on where Yafo and Tel Aviv meet. Tomorrow on the bus to the north I will make my list of people to run for, a person or group of people for every kilometer. I'm going to write the names on my arm next to my pace chart (has the times I should be at for each KM). After the race I'm going back up north with Allie and Abe to spend Shabbat at Allie's. I hope all the hill training pays off and gives me the speed that I'll need to reach my goal time in the race. I'll update as soon after the race as I can!

**If any of you are runners and enjoy finding race results or tracking runners online like I do, I am not sure if you can track my progress but I'm sure you can find my results. It is the Tel Aviv Half Marathon and I am number 20246. They will be positing live photos to our facebook pages as we run, so you'll be able to see those Friday.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chalomot Paz

In hebrew instead of saying "sweet dreams" you say chalomot paz which means literally, gold dreams. Well last night I had just that, my second and most clear dream IN HEBREW! :)

Briefly, I remember booking a hotel room for an ultimate tournament somewhere random and I think in the south of the US. I'm not sure why but the rooms were free, they weren't that nice, but still, who can argue with that. I booked four rooms and I was busy (with another person or two, sorry no memory of who the people were in the dream) figuring out who was going to sleep in which room. If you are someone who used to plan BC ultimate trips with me you know how annoying of a task it is to put car and room lists together for trips. Also, I spent a bit of time with my roommate here doing this same thing for our Eilat trip two weekends ago (post about that to come). Clearly, as displayed in my dream, a task that has had a deep effect on me, haha. Anyway, as I was putting these lists together I specifically remembering telling my other teammates to "na lo la'gaat" the picture on the wall. Or, "please don't touch." Dream Lauren stumbled over these words and the few others that came out in Hebrew, typical as I stumble over many sentences when I'm speaking Hebrew. I had a hard time conveying the few sentences I was trying to say because I wasn't saying them totally correct, but I was saying them nonetheless!

When I woke up this morning I was convinced that the hotel in my dream was one I had actually been to and I couldn't remember where it was. As I think about it more, I've definitely never stayed at a hotel like this, although some of the rest stops in Virginia looked just as run-down. I didn't remember that I spoke in Hebrew in my dream until half way through class this morning when my teacher reminded us of a verb that was in the same group as the verb "to touch," which is the verb I used. Verbs in the same group often sound very similar of course and it jogged my memory. Man was I excited and I was sure to let everyone in class know about my epiphany.

this is a shorter post as I am off to go get some "diet chicken" at the dining hall, which really is just plain chicken (thigh and leg, i think) with nothing on it. Perfect for me, apparently it's for those of us on a "diet," because the typical israeli lunch ladies can't imagine that anyone would actually desire to eat such a plain chicken.

Last run (3 miler) today followed by a 2 mile walk tomorrow, haha, and race day on Friday! Longer post to come, I know I've been slacking.