Sooooooo, its been just under two weeks since I arrived in Haifa, Israel and I am pleased to inform you that I am still KICKING [although some of the food/H2O here may have tried to render that statement untrue...Indian food...tap water...never again]. Even better than being alive, I am settling in and really, really enjoying it here. I may have wanted to cry the first night as I got here and immediately realized all the REALLY IMPORTANT things I had forgotten and all the reasons that was a huge mistake, but I obviously made it through and am ready for this semester.
Since I haven’t been here too long, I think it is best to just tell you a few of my initial impressions about Israel.
#1. LORD have mercy if you are offended by people cutting you in line. As I stood in the security line for my plane to Tel Aviv, I was treated to an early taste of Israeli culture as 10 guys just swooped in front of me. The one guy even hopped back in forth between the two lines as he tried to decide which would be better for him and therefore cut me MULTIPLE times. It was actually pretty amusing, but a pattern that has continued to prove true through out the weeks.
#2. At least half the population carries guns everywhere. I mean everywhere. I am walking through my dorm and two students are pulling out their guns right in front of me! Israelis practically make it an accessory as they sling it over their back.
#3. Everyone is a model here. Even in their military uniforms they look like they should be on the runway.
#4. It is extremely easy to eat vegetarian here. The diet is great with hummus, falafel, and even vegan shwarma here. There is also a vegan apple pastry in the cafe on campus that I will have to check out some day as soon as get off my chai latte addiction [which is taking up most of my “food-on-campus] allowance.
#5. It is surprisingly easy to forget everything here. While in the US, I was acutely aware of all the disasters going on around Israel and all the possible dangers here. Of course, I was convinced this would be prevalent in the daily life, but, as I am here, I find myself forgetting that a civil war is raging in Syria just a few miles from here or that terrorist organizations are just a hop and a skip over the border. Thats not to say that people do not pay attention to the outside world- a grad student here said that most Israelis keep up to date on everything going on in the news-but for all those people who wished me good luck with apprehension or warned me of the dangers, Israel is nothing like you thought. They have created a life here in the middle of a tumultuous land. While it is not 100% safe [nothing really ever is], I feel better here than I would walking around Spartanburg, South Carolina or many other cities in the US. I feel as if many people have great misconceptions about Israel. I got comments such as “enjoy living in the third world” or “well, I hope a terrorist doesn’t blow you up” before arriving here. So much that I did not like to share the fact that I was headed to Israel. Unfortunately, the media and government throw out stereotypes of Israel which are not true and I encourage you to experience the reality sometime.
All in all I am adjusting well to the life here. There are many cultural differences and I probably fulfill the typical American tourist stereotype more times than I wish to admit, but I am slowly learning and growing.