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Isolation with New Roommates in a New Country

By Lily Horn


Lily just arrived in Israel for a 10-month teaching fellowship through MASA. Here are her thoughts from the first few days in isolation, with four roommates she only just met, in a brand new country.

First Week in Israel - My Initial Thoughts

To start, I am just so happy to be able to travel again. The rush of flying and all of the stress that leads up to it is always worth it. I needed this adventure and I am so grateful it is still happening despite the state of the world. It was a struggle to pack a year’s worth of things into two suitcases. But I do feel like I have everything I need! I brought so many books for the quarantine – “bidud.” I like this word.

Roommates

I love my roommates! Everyone here has so much personality. We complement each other’s characters. We’re all from the States (CT, OH, CA & NV). Although we are getting a Canadian roommate addition after the quarantine! We vary in age, gender, dietary restrictions, and Jewish upbringings. It’s fascinating to learn how different we are while realizing how connected we are by this experience. We know we have incredible times ahead and we can’t wait to go through them together

Initial Food Confusion/Cultural Differences

Our first meal as roommates was a bit of a disaster…after a very long travel day, we got into our new home around 11 PM. We were exhausted and HUNGRY. We quickly cooked what we could find. Pasta, tomato paste, potatoes, peppers, onions, and three different spices we weren’t entirely sure of. We made a bizarre pasta dish with undercooked potatoes. Luckily, we are getting better at figuring out the appliances day by day. We had to snap out of the American mindset of food lasting forever. On day two there was already moldy pita and tomatoes in the fridge. Everything is so fresh here, so we need to get in the habit of eating in a timely manner! Nothing is sadder than spoiled pita!

Day 2

DAYLIGHT! Let there be light! Once we finally saw the gorgeous views from our apartment, we fell in love with Beit She'an. Here is the view from the balcony! We have been told this is the only tower in all of Beit She’an. Here's the sunset:

After being in awe of this view witnessed, a bird gave birth on our windowsill--every day is eventful, even in isolation! There were two babies. One disappeared and the other died. We hope this isn’t bad luck!


In addition to the frequent visit from birds, the police drop by every day! The police come to make sure all of us are still here properly quarantining. They are basically taking attendance. We totally understand why it’s important for them to do this. But no matter what we always get a little nervous knowing the police are here for us!

On a more positive note - I have been reading on the balcony every day, it is my favorite activity. We all take turns breathing in the delicious fresh air. We do yoga out here, exercise, study Hebrew at online Ulpan, sunbathe, play guitar, skateboard and come out to chat. We have a lot of interesting political and historical conversations as a group.


When we are not discussing politics or intellectual things, we give our brains a break and watch scary movies together. Every night this week we have been watching a movie from The Conjuring series. Spooky! We are all having nightmares. I don’t know why we do this to ourselves, but it is another cute way to bond. We make popcorn and snuggle around one person’s computer.

Sometimes the movies lead to me and one of my roommates talking until four in the morning. She’s on California time so she is a bit more jetlagged than me. But at this point, neither of us has an excuse. Time is but a construct in bidud. We enjoy each other’s company and are making the most of this crazy time.


Shabbat

Where to begin!? To start, on Friday morning I was awoken by beautiful music playing outside about Shabbat. I liked the song so much I “shazamed” it to find out what it was. I was impressed that the music was loud enough that my phone could determine it from the window.


Shabbat was saved by the one and only Becca Fox coming in clutch! Becca made a post in Secret Tel Aviv which led us to the wonderful Yael! Yael brought paper towels, laundry detergent, dates, yeast cake (ugat sharim – my new obsession), challah & Kiddish wine. Then MASA had Lily, another local from Beit She’an, make amazing Persian food for us. We were overwhelmed by all of the kindness from strangers. After the candles and blessings, we went around the table and all said something we were thankful for. This was almost like a Thanksgiving tradition. This little action brought us even closer as a unit.


It is hard for me to comprehend that last week I was in Connecticut and now I am in the north of Israel. I feel like I’m in an alternate universe/that I live two lives! I am quite enjoying this life so far. I know I am getting ahead of myself, but I am already getting sad thinking about how this chapter will end in January! It feels too soon already. I know I just need to take in every moment and enjoy it to the fullest!


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