In our short time in Jerusalem, my 5 roommates and I have made the best of our time here – even during lockdown. From making elaborate meals to going on runs in Gan Sacher, and even bonding with our awesome counselor Nitzan, we have begun to make a home for ourself here at Ussishkin 59. One of my favorite moments so far has been wandering through our neighborhood, Nachlaot, during Shabbat while the streets were empty. It really made me feel like I was experiencing a new side of Israel and I can’t wait for the rest of my time in Jerusalem – hopefully when I can leave more than a kilometer from my house!
One of the many, and I really do mean many, great experiences I’ve had during my first week in Jerusalem was baking Strawberry Shortcake with my roommates and with my counselor, Omer, at my apartment on a rainy day. We listened to music and learned new Hebrew words, all with a beautiful view of Jaffa Street from our living room window. I’ve also had an amazing time doing other activities this week, like walking through the bustling Machaneh Yehuda, watching sunsets from the roof of Ussishkin, and cooking dinner with my roommates.
On December 25th, as the bus pulled up to our apartment in Tel-Aviv to take us to the airport, I sat there sobbing with my friends, unsure of when we would reunite. Getting on the plane to leave Israel was heartbreaking. From the minute I got home, I was counting down the days until our hopeful return. Now, two weeks later, I am beyond grateful to be back and happy as ever. The second I stepped off the plane in Israel, I felt back at home. As I eagerly went through customs and corona tests, I could not wait to be in a new city and to see my roommates. Even though we will be in quarantine for a few days, which is never easy, we are making the best of it. We’ve been able to see some of our friends who stayed in Israel, from afar of course, and it feels like we never left. Quarantine does have its benefits. It gives me time to reset, settle into my new apartment in Jerusalem, and catch up with my roommates after two weeks. We are all so lucky to be a part of such a special community that makes being away from each other so hard.
As my mom would say “There’s something in the water in Israel” that makes leaving the country so difficult. After spending some time back in Las Vegas, seeing my family, eating lots of home cooked meals, and sleeping in my bed, I can definitely say that there is a part of me that was still stuck in Israel. Every time I talked about returning to Aardvark Israel, I kept saying “when I go home.” My friends back in Vegas could not wait to hear all my stories and see pictures from my life in Israel from Tel-Aviv to Akko, Kibbutz Ketura to Haifa. They all kept saying “ you look so happy,” and thanks to Aardvark I can truly say I am. The reality is that I now consider Israel my home.
Now that we have moved from Florentin to Jerusalem, we are about to embark on another chapter of our Aardvark experience. The energy here is so serene and we can not wait to jump in. We have about eight days left behind our Ussishkin apartment door. My roommates and I are definitely making the most of quarantine. We have been enjoying our time cooking, watching Disney Plus, and working on our jetlag. I cannot wait to explore Jerusalem and create more memories with the people around me. I look forward to getting fresh groceries from the Shuk, going to the Kotel, and traveling around the rest of Israel. Though it was great to spend time with my family back in Las Vegas during winter break, I couldn’t be happier to be back in Israel.
As we welcomed our year students to Jerusalem this week, we have highlighted the importance of mutual respect as we build our community together. We may be physically distanced while we are in lockdown (and some students in quarantine), but that just means that all of us must work harder to build the bonds that will form the foundations of this semester together. I am looking forward to spending the semester with your children in the Holy City of Jerusalem!
In the emails I will be sending at the end of each week, we include a few photos; however, follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see more photos and videos from the week.
Our counselor on call this weekend is Nitzan.