As the end of our 2-week quarantine nears, it’s starting to sink in that I am back in Israel. Having watched a Netanyahu protest, struggled through various Hebrew conversations with delivery men, and seen countless more stunning Israeli sunsets, I am so grateful to be back in Israel with the opportunity to live in a totally new city. One of my favorite experiences thus far was watching Jerusalem shut down on Shabbat. My roommates and I are lucky to have a wonderful view from our apartment, and as the Shabbat siren rang out on Friday, it truly felt like something changed throughout the city. Cars parked, people went home to their families. Children took to the streets to play with jump-ropes instead of cell phones. Even from high above the city, we could tell that Shabbat in Jerusalem is truly a unique time. And we likewise had a relaxing weekend in apartment H83, despite not being able to leave. From Rummikub tournaments to movie nights, quarantine has been entertaining and, at times, exciting. And if that’s the case, I can’t wait to see what experiencing Jerusalem (at ground level) will be like.
On this rainy, Wednesday morning, my roommate Lexi and I woke up with a mission: to donate just a bit of our blood—something we have so much of and can easily spare a little. I arrived at the blood vehicle, which was parked in the middle of the Jerusalem streets, with a feeling of excitement combined with the inevitable butterflies in my stomach. After filling out the forms in Hebrew, and chugging about three cups of water, we began the process. I had donated blood before, but this experience was like no other. The medical practitioner in charge was full of energy. He distracted us by playing fun Israeli music and teaching us Hebrew words. Before we knew it, we were done! Missing a few red blood cells yet more fulfilled than ever. Donating blood is such a rewarding action, especially now during these uncertain times when it is so needed. I am so thankful that an experience that can seem so scary and uncomfortable turned into such a memorable moment with the help of the Aardvark counselors and my peers!
Yesterday, our Madrichim led an activity on racial awareness and privilege. After going over some ground rules on how to be respectful during conversations, we asked each other questions of three different levels of difficulty, challenging each other to face our privileges, what stereotypes we might have come across, and what actions we can take to better ourselves as people. We had the chance to open up about our different life experiences and opinions, which broadened our collective understanding and knowledge as people.
“During our discussion of race & privilege, my roommates and I explored our biases and experiences with race, both at home and here in Israel. Although Judaism connects all of us together, it was so interesting to hear my roommates’ stories, which differed from my own; for example, one shared his encounters with corrupt Mexican police, while another gave insight into the reality of growing up in both the Asian and Jewish cultures.”
Our counselor on call this weekend is Yotam.