Holidays in the Holy Land

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the Holy Land!

The end of 2011 (and most of the year, really), has already brought so many changes and new beginnings for me and for the entire wold too. I can only imagine what 2012 will have in store for us all. In anticipation of the new year, international news coverage was recounting the front page headlines of 2011, a lot of them including the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements in the U.S. I can hardly believe that I was able to experience a glimpse of both with my own eyes!

Despite all my traveling this summer, my sense of adventure has not abated, which is why the New Year of 2012 finds me relocated in amazing city: Tel Aviv! But while Tel Aviv is always full of excitement and adventure, the vivacious city that I now call home (albeit temporarily) is like living in a bubble. It is a bubble compared to the rest of Israel, and certainly a bubble compared to the Middle East. It is a beautiful, safe city where I can walk alone at night and not carry my keys between my knuckles like I did in D.C. It is a city where I can barely maneuver my way through the masses of people clogging the Shuk (outdoor market) and barter for the best vegetable prices, or stop by the "Mega" supermarket (essentially a Safeway) on my way back from class and pick up any groceries I need in one convenient and quick stop. It's a city which hosts and hides a lot of trauma and crisis (which I've been exposed to because of my Masters program at TAU: Social Work for Trauma and Crisis Studies) particularly in the south where there is a large asylum seeking community. It's a city where I can work with a woman who's been stabbed in the face while trying to cross the Sinai on a journey from Eritrea to Israel. It's a city where I can work with this woman and then decompress as I walk through sand and water on the shore of the Mediterranean while en route back to my apartment.

This city is a bubble that contains so much life, so much heartache, so much vitality, pain, suffering, beauty, and resilience. A bubble that contains so much that at times it seems it might burst.

So far I feel like my time in Tel Aviv has been a true gift, and every moment has been blessed. I was so thankful to arrive at the same time as my friend, Aziz. As a local of East Jerusalem, he was able to navigate the Hebrew websites offering apartment rentals and I found a place to live within a week. This truly is remarkable in a city where even locals may spend months looking for a flat! Not to mention, I ended up in probably the best apartment in the city, with the best people in Tel Aviv.

I truly am lucky to have ended up where I live, in a beautiful apartment with a balcony attached to my bedroom, a huge living room, a dining room that has hosted more than a few large dinners, a teeny kitchen that I've gotten accustomed to cooking in, and a rooftop that accommodated over 400 people at our New Years Party (I wish I were joking).

Not to mention I live with three lovely roommates who introduced me to their amazing friends. By amazing I mean the night before Christmas Eve, I came home from class and two of them had gone into the dog park nearby and picked branches off trees until they had enough to stick in a pot and make it look like a little Christmas tree - decorations included! Not only that but they accompanied me on an Christmas Eve trip to Jerusalem. They even let me drag them to midnight mass! Clearly these are friends for life!

Lucky. That's the way I feel at the end of 2011, and if 2012 brings half as much excitement and joy as 2011 brought, then it will be an amazing year!