Lost and Found.


Upon learning that I am living here for a year, traveling, working and not getting paid, it is a common occurrence for Israelis to question whether or not I plan on making Aliyah – whether or not I plan on immigrating and becoming an Israeli citizen. My answer usually wavers somewhere between “I don’t know,” “it’s a possibility,” and “maybe one day!” because well, I don’t know, it actually is a possibility (what isn’t?) and maybe one day I will decide to live in Israel for longer than a year.

In my statistical analysis of this well versed conversation, about half of these Israelis excitedly urge me to do so, their faces and voices so sincere inviting me into their country, our country; so genuine in their belief that I must move here, that this is where I belong. The other half gives me some variation of “why would you move here? Living in Israel is so difficult; you have it easy in America, why would you leave that?”

It is true that living in Israel is challenging. It is controversial, confusing, intimidating and all at once, beautiful. I can say this with certainty because I have lived here for 9 months.

Just a few weeks ago I attended a service at the Kotel in support of Women of the Wall, a group fighting for equal prayer rights for women at the Wall. A law was recently passed that finally made it legal for women to wear tallit, kipot and teffliah at the Wall. Chaos ensued during this particular Friday morning Rosh Hodesh Sivan service, welcoming a new month on the Jewish calendar, and I watched in fascination as thousands of ultra orthodox men and women, kept back by a human barrier of police and soldiers, screamed, threw things and protested the passing of this law.  Following the service, I was ushered to a throng of buses waiting in line to wisk us away – away from the rocks being thrown, the shouting, the violence. There were Jews, protesting and fighting against..Jews, about praying..to the same God? I got home and sat at my desk in shock at what I had just witnessed.

Beyond such a raw example as above, there are wars and conflicts and things that make you feel unsafe, unwanted and torn. I say this so nonchalantly because they’re so abstract and complicated and intense that I can’t even wrap my head around them. So, yes. It is true that living in Israel is difficult.

But on a daily, weekly, and even monthly basis, I do not feel this way. On a daily basis, I hear 4 different languages spoken and watch sweet Israeli kids bus themselves and their siblings to and from school – at age 5. On Fridays I shop at the shuk, an open-air market filled with the freshest produce, sweetest smelling pastries and loudest vendors you’ll ever meet. I am a short light rail ride away from the center of town filled with cafes, restaurants, bars and more tourist shopping than anyone could ever hope for. The old woman at the cafe in the lobby of my internship gives me discounts on my meals (fine, it happened once) because she likes my smile, and people call her Safta (grandma). Complete strangers still invite me to dinner, the bus driver tells me to have a good day and the entire country takes off work and unites for a holiday centered around cheese. My boss gave me a cheesecake. An entire cheesecake! (That is a complete exaggeration, Shavuot is NOT just about cheese. At least I don’t think.) Weekly, I feel the presence of Shabbat and happily join the masses as we slow down to spend uninterrupted quality time with our families and friends, cook wonderful meals and take long walks. The sunny Saturday trek to the Old City and Kotel last a mere 40 minutes and each evening the sunsets fill the sky with the most gorgeous smattering of pinks, purples and oranges. Sunsets are everywhere, but somehow they feel better in Jerusalem. I live with girls from Maldova, Amsterdam and Chile. I constantly meet new people from all over the world that are here doing different things, for different reasons but all with one common denominator: an undeniable love for Israel.

My Hebrew speaking is poor, I get lost at least once a month, living without a paycheck is extremely taxing and sometimes I get annoyed that I can’t just hop in my car and drive to work, the grocery store, a coffee shop. I’ve lived in the north, the Negev (south) and now the center. I’ve traveled by bus, train, light rail and bus again; introduced myself and what I’m doing here countless times; ate anything and everything that was put in front of me or even in my proximity (free food is free food); and found myself lost, tired, and crying in strange parts of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beer Sheva – anywhere,  but mostly everywhere – so many times that you would think I was either doing it on purpose or that I was a cast member on a prank show. (But I didn’t and I’m not and in this scenario Israel’s public transportation is pranking me. Over and over and over.)

But what’s beneath that and what’s far more important is that I feel alive. Somehow, somewhere inside this little controversial country, I’ve found a place worth exploring, loving and fighting for.

OTZMA ends in one short month and this program, which has been such a propelling piece of my growing Israeli identity, will soon fade, but what I’ve gained will not. This life that I’ve been living will forever be a defining aspect of my young adult life as well as the beginning stages of a lifelong relationship with Israel.

This summer I am privileged to be able to extend my time here past my program and travel the country with my parents, brother and best friends from college, staff a summer camp in the north and discover a little bit of myself in Israel without the comfort of OTZMA. I know that when I leave Israel in August, it won’t be for good. It will just be for now.


Month in the Life: March 2013


The IDF, or The Israeli Defense Force, is an integral part of Israeli society, culture and politics. Seeing as service is mandatory immediately upon the completion of high school, every citizen (save the political specifics) serves in Israel’s army. Unlike America, Israeli soldiers are seen, in uniform, all over the country: shopping for food, clothes, falafel; elbowing to make it onto the last bus before Shabbat begins; honking irrationally as soon as the light turns green; but mostly, walking down the street, sleeping on the bus, eating hummus and protecting their country with their guns slouched over their shoulders and boots tied up tight.

I really enjoy interacting with soldiers because their stories are always different and their dispositions are usually more mature than their American counterparts. It comes from service to their country, and it is fascinating to hear different viewpoints from Israelis on their mandatory army service. Some love it, some hate it, some want to extend their time, some can’t wait to get out and travel – the list goes on and on. Due to the mandatory service, Israelis don’t begin their higher education until much later in life. Post army, many Israelis work and save money to travel and upon their return, or even later, they begin school. They are mostly shocked that at the same age, say 23, most Americans have graduated undergrad and sometimes undergrad, while Israelis are just beginning their studies. Why couldn’t I have been born in Israel?!


After being around soldiers for 7 months and being able to see first hand just how engrained and vital the IDF service is to Israeli culture, OTZMA participants got the opportunity to volunteer with the army in a program called Sar El. For the first week of March, we lived, slept, ate and worked like real IDF soldiers on a base in the north called Tziporit. We were split into groups and paired with a seasoned IDF member whose rankings were across the board. We worked long hours in bulky, stale uniforms following each morning’s flag raising and found out real quickly that we probably wouldn’t make it past basic training.

I’m not even positive they would even recruit me. (See below.)


Is this how you use this stuff? Are we doing it right? Can you see us?

Besides, what I really meant to say up there was that I spent 3 whole days in the army where I frolicked around the base taking an embarrassing amount of pictures, stealing hard boiled eggs from the dining hall and lounging around painting shovels and other nondescript items such as stakes and boxes. I’m proud of the work I did – yes, jerry cans DO need to be covered in thick layers of oily Vaseline – but am pretty confident that the IDF is not missing me. Or my work ethic. However, they may indeed be missing how I rocked their uniform paired with my own combat boots. Yeah, they definitely are.

jerry can

What I did for three. straight. days. Well, besides looking badass with my boots on, this is what I did.

Following my stint in the army (see what I did there?), I attended a weeklong “Building Future Leaders seminar” in Jerusalem put on by MASA, my program’s umbrella organization. Total disclosure: although I fully intend on exploring the Jewish leadership realm as it pertains to my future career, I mainly registered because it was free: housing, food and advice. (Side note: OTZMA had put us up in that very hostel a couple times before, so we knew we were about to spend some quality time in the lap of luxury. What that really means: I was pseudo homeless and starved for attention..as per usual.) I met some cool people, stuffed my face during the dairy meals and was reintroduced to the fact that Jews literally know everyone and are connected through 7 (or 6?) degrees of separation. It’s not a myth..it’s real life. You know when someone tells you what school they attended for undergrad and a name pops into your head because your best friend’s cousin’s girlfriend went there? But you don’t ask if they know said person because, well, the school has 40,000 students and it would be a long shot to even mention? Well, no. There’s no such thing as a long shot if you’re Jewish. If you’re a Jew, and my friend is a Jew, and you attended the same college or high school or youth group or maybe sat in the same restaurant 10 years ago – YOU KNOW EACH OTHER. The Jewish world is so small (great for networking!) and I am now mildly concerned that I didn’t recognize any of the names presented to me. I basically spent a week getting interrogated on why I don’t know your friend’s sister’s big brother from AePi. Note to self: work on knowing everyone.

I would say the most valuable thing I took away from the seminar was the sad truth that being bossy for 23 years of your life doesn’t necessarily count as being a “leader.” Oh, and, I’m really good at archery.



OTZMA members who attended the MASA BFL Seminar, out for the team building segment of the week..hanging out with OTZMA members. Shocking. Call us out for being clingy and we’ll go find somewhere to lay on each other. #OTZMA27obsessed.

The rest of my month was spent crashing at the OTZMA Petah Tiqwa house where there was miraculously enough space for me AND the largest American made suitcase currently living in the state of Israel; playing in Tel Aviv, and spending time during Pesach with my extended family on their kibbutz up north. Other things I participated in: birthday festivities for friends, volunteer day at a local camp and endless amounts of pillow talk with a revolving door of my fellow participants.

In 1967, immediately following the 6-Day War, my paternal grandmother, Lilly, brought my dad and uncle to Israel where they spent the better part of the summer traveling the country, meeting many of our family members and sweating. This past summer, while keeping this same grandmother company in her group home, I found a little blue travel journal in which she chronicled their trip in great detail. Knowing I would soon be moving here, I asked if I could take it. I read a few pages here and there, forgot it when I moved to Israel and had my mom send it over in my winter clothes package. I’ve been carrying it around with me, and although it was mostly unread, I was still somehow able to feel its familial connection and emotional value shine through the chatter of chapsticks, earphones, pens and headbands it resides next to in my carryall bag.

For the week of Passover vacation, I spent my time, once again, up at Kfar Haruv. They really can’t get rid of me! One afternoon I called Nomi into my room and read aloud many of the pages while she sat at the end of my bed, smiling, laughing and nodding her head at the memories that were still so relevant in her head. She was about 15 when my immediate family made their ’67 trip to Israel.


While in Israel, my grandma, dad and uncle’s home base was Degania Alef, which is the first Kibbutz of Israel. My ancestors were vital players in the foundation of Israel’s Kibbutizm. Nomi and her family lived there and got the chance to get to know my dad, uncle and grandmother during the summer of 1967. Nomi’s brothers, Chen and Yossi, still live in Degania with their families, which is about a 30 minute drive to Nomi’s, Kibbutz Kfat Haruv.

I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to connect to Israel in such a familial way. My grandmother spent 5 years here when my dad was in high school, and although the offer was extended for them to join her, my dad and uncle both declined. My lineage was a part of the foundation of the first Kibbutz in Israel. I have roots in this country and these people. For so long, Israel was a distant part of my life, unconnected and unimportant to my Jewish identity.


Nomi and I, Pesach 2013.

But now I am here! In Israel! Far, far away from my immediate family, but still feeling home and welcomed and right where I’m supposed to be. I belong here! Israel has quickly grown into such an important piece of my Jewish identity. I arrived in Israel 8 months ago with two massively overweight suitcases and what I considered to be a “strong connection to Israel,” but I am only just beginning to define, relate and connect to Israel as it pertains to my identity as a Jew, an American, and a strong supporter of Israel. How amazing is that?!

Time after time.


On Sunday I will move from our comfortable, cozy Israeli house in Ofakim into a hectic month of traveling (a.k.a living) on public transportation, pretending to “volunteer” in the IDF so I can take pictures in uniform and frolic around a real live army base, and forcing myself upon friends and family for their extra beds/couches/food/love/attention. It’s hard to believe that 3 months have come and gone with Part 2 of OTZMA. It went by faster than I wanted, faster than I think I was prepared for. Isn’t that always how it goes? Deterred for a few weeks in Arad because of Pillar of Defense, Hanukkah break and winter vacation helped real time in Ofakim to dissipate and I am now feeling tiny pangs of “coulda, woulda, shouldas” as I look back on my time in the south. I could have tried to learn more Hebrew, could have found more adventure in the Negev, could have sought out more community interaction and involvement. But now it is time to close this chapter of my life and for the most part, I am feeling content and ready to move on.

Tonight the Metrowest-Ofakim Partnership had a dinner for us, our adoptive families and some community members to say a final farewell. You’re probably guessing that I cried and I am proud to report I did not! Although, in all honesty, I came pretty damn close when my anxiety ridden roommate and other half of #therachels, Rachel, read her blog post out loud. (Read it here. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think you lived here with us. It’s a great piece and she’s a great galpal of mine. http://holylanding.wordpress.com/) I feel truly blessed for the staff relationship we built and their unconditional support and guidance through the good, the bad, the complaining, the questions and the never ending phone calls, emails and texts. How they put up with two Rachels and a Hannah for 3 months is beyond me, but I am so grateful that they did.

Ofakim is hard to explain. Well, not logistically. We’ve been over this in many of my previous posts. Recap: Ofakim is a small city about 40 minutes from Beer Sheva, 14 miles from Gaza. Population: 27,000. Roads: one. Kiosks: few. Stray dogs: too many to count. No bars, no train station, one gas station and 4 roundabouts.

Describing Ofakim, really explaining Ofakim and its people, community, culture and lifestyle..well, that is difficult. I’ve been trying to think of how to explain it to you for weeks now, anxiety consuming me about how to say farewell to this place publicly to people who have no idea what I am talking about.

To non residents, it is Israel’s “shittiest city,” and I will forever  remember the confused looks Israelis gave me, begging the question “why?” as I excitedly (little did I know back then!) told them “I am moving there!” or “I live there!” They don’t get it. It’s like moving to Rexburg, Idaho. Who goes there? Why? (I can say this because I don’t know anyone from Rexburg, Idaho. Or Idaho at all. Well, I don’t think so. I hope not. And because I’ve never heard of Rexburg until right now when I Googled “small cities in Idaho.” Wikipedia for.the.win.) Many Israelis don’t understand why the Americans would come to Israel and spend their time volunteering in the south, the periphery, the Negev. But, alas, that’s where it’s needed most.

But to residents, Ofakim defines them. They live, work, play, grow and support Ofakim with their whole hearts, their whole lives. The members of the community that I interacted with most were born and raised in Ofakim, and they remain loyal and active. They’ve become integral parts of this city, fighting from their cores to better Ofakim in various capacities, ranging from working on the education system to fixing bomb shelters.

Looking back on my life, often times I have found myself labeling something a lost cause too early in the game, giving up before I give it one last go around. Test is tomorrow and I haven’t studied enough? Lost cause. Too late in the semester to turn grades around – lost cause. Haven’t worked out in a week, why go today? Lost cause. Will be 5 minutes late, should have written thank you cards 4 months ago, those job requirements seem out of my league – lost cause, lost cause, lost cause. Similarly, I found myself giving up halfway through my stay in Ofakim thinking to myself, “we’ll never make friends,” “we’ll never be able to help these kids,” “life here will never be what I want it to,” etc. Sometimes I felt completely useless in the school, my Hebrew poor and teaching skills subpar at best. The important thing to remember, though, is how much our presence, as American volunteers, is valued. Americans, coming to Ofakim? Immediately following Pillar of Defense? Not getting paid? WHY? It’s an indescribable feeling when you talk to a student, explaining to them that, well, you just want to be here and you can see it in their face how happy that makes them. I’m not being not pompous, I’m not cocky. It’s just this special feeling knowing that people appreciate you, even when you feel like the biggest outsider in the world. It’s not a lost cause if your students try to convince you to stay in Ofakim, or if your principal gives you a novel about a woman with unwavering mental strength, because that’s what he thinks you have. It’s not a lost cause if your adoptive family makes sure you have somewhere to be for Passover, extending the invitation to come there if need be; telling you that they are there for you if you ever need anything. And when Israelis say anything, they mean it.

I could stand to learn a thing or two from the hard working people of Ofakim. It is not an easy place to live. The small city needs more. More education, more money, more help, more people, more dedication. But they haven’t given up. This place is the little city that could. Sure, it is no Tel Aviv with its night life and beaches, nor is it Jerusalem with its highly flocked to holy sights and hellish traffic jams. But the people are welcoming, the sunsets and stars are to die for and who couldn’t benefit from a few slow months out of the year? These past 3 months haven’t been without challenges, but I would be lying if I said I’ll be taking nothing from this place. Ofakim is where I began to run again, slowly but surely getting back into shape on the carless Shabbat roads, watching the sun set over the park. Ofakim is where I tried my hand at teaching, where I wanted to quit many times, but stuck with it because of the boys at the orthodox school. Ofakim is where I hung my sopping clothes outside, dryerless, hoping they would dry before I planned on leaving for the weekend. Ofakim is where I truly felt the realities of living abroad, being so far from anything and anyone remotely familiar. Ofakim is where I detached from my friends and family in the states, learning that it’s okay to go x amount of time without speaking. Loving and supporting from afar is a thing, and it doesn’t require daily communication. Ofakim was my home base as I traveled around the country visiting friends, attending seminars and quite frankly, sometimes, escaping. Ofakim opened my eyes to the beauty of the south, the warm hearts of its residents and the lifestyle that many will never witness, let alone live in. When asked if I am happy to have been placed in Ofakim versus, say, Haifa or Rehovot, I say yes. I know in my heart that this will not be my last time in Israel. Whether it be to work, get a masters or raise a family, I’ll be back. But something else I know in my heart is that it will not be in Ofakim. Americans don’t just come to Ofakim, and if it weren’t for this program, I wouldn’t have either. Getting the opportunity to live this life is something I will forever be grateful for.

As we bring the population back down to 27,000 from 27,003 and lock our front door for the final time, I pause and make a vow to myself: to appreciate the past few months for what they were, love Ofakim for what it is and always fondly remember my time as a resident in the south of Israel. Here’s to March madness (my homeless, traveling, adventure madness – not basketball!), the four Hebrew words I know and trying to pack everything I own, again..as efficiently as possible.

Shabbat Shalom!

We're not in Florida anymore, ToTo! ..Or are we?

We’re not in Florida anymore, ToTo! ..Or are we?

My favorite running route. 2/28/13.

My favorite running route. 2/28/13.

And the world spins madly on..


Where I last left off, I was on an Israel/travel/life high, overflowing with energy and happiness with where I was in my life. That’s faded quite a bit and I’ve felt a little disconnected, but I am beginning to feel that same eagerness and excitement for what’s to come.

I’ve spent the past 3 months in Ofakim and this marks my last week as a resident of this sleepy desert town. The halfway point of my program has come and gone (WHAT?) and we will soon enter part 3, also known as the internship part. For the third part, we have the opportunity to do an internship in either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. I had been hell bent on living in Tel Aviv since the day I signed up for OTZMA, 100% sure that’s where I would be, unconcerned with the actual internship. However, I got an interview for a company in Jerusalem and well, the rest is history. Word to the wise: if you don’t want to live in a specific city, then you probably shouldn’t go on an interview there. Because you just might get it (because you’re awesome) and it will be so badass that you’ll have to take it, and any and all dreams of living in Tel Aviv will be squashed in a minute. I’m still not sure what my bizarre aversion to Jerusalem was, but now, with my internship set and my days in Ofakim coming to an end, I can confidently say I am so ready for Jerusalem. (Details on the actual internship and logistics of Jerusalem living to come – I move in April 3rd!)

The month of March will be complete and utter craziness and after my snail-paced life in Ofakim, it will be just what I need. Two weeks of March I’ll be volunteering with the Israeli Defense Force at Sar El, where I’ll be sleeping on base and training for combat. Just kidding! I’ll probably be doing laundry and cooking. Whatever – my country needs me! One week I’ll be participating in a MASA seminar about future Jewish leaders (you’re looking at one!), and the rest of the time I’ll be up north at my family’s for Passover and relaxation. The weekends I’ll be traveling to see friends all over the country. Just living the dream, people!

I’m getting down to the wire training for my first 10K, which is March 15th in Tel Aviv. I participated in a 5K this past week that my friend planned for his city, Netivot, and was pretty happy with my time. I wish all my friends participating in the Jerusalem races (10K, half marathons) this weekend lots of luck! Y’all are going to kill it!

It’s truly unbelievable how fast time is flying. I turned another year older in another country (23!), visited friends in Haifa, PTK, and Tel Aviv (again..they really can’t get rid of me), celebrated Purim by semi dressing up as a pirate and walking the streets of Tel Aviv, and now I will pack up my belongings and try not to stress about being homeless for a month and having to live out of one piece of luggage.

Happy Sunday!

Recently..in photos


 The first few photos are from OTZMA’s most recent seminar in the Negev. The Negev makes up about 60% of Israel’s land mass, but only about 8% of its population. Ofakim, where I live, is in the Negev!

Elizabeth and I at the lookout from David Ben-Gurion's gravesite at Sde Boker in the Negev. David Ben-Gurion was Israel's first prime minister and a huge believer that Jews should be settling in the south. P.S. I call this outfit "homeless chic."

Elizabeth and I at the lookout from David Ben-Gurion’s gravesite at Sde Boker in the Negev. David Ben-Gurion was Israel’s first prime minister and a huge believer that Jews should be settling in the south.
P.S. I call this outfit “homeless chic.”

Hike during seminar. See the camels?!

Hike during seminar. See the camels?!

The scariest face you will ever see.

The scariest face you will ever see.

Some of my OTZMA friends making us some free advertising on the side of a hill during our hike.Some of my OTZMA friends making us some free advertising on the side of a hill during our hike.

Post-hike during the seminar, we headed to a goat farm. Here are some ladies gettin' milked!

Post-hike during the seminar, we headed to a goat farm. Here are some ladies gettin’ milked!

Me trying to get a lab puppy to give me some love. There were about 10 of these beautiful labs roaming the farm!

Me desperately trying (as per usual) to get a lab puppy to give me some love. There were about 10 of these beautiful labs roaming the farm!

No words required.

No words necessary.

Hangin' in a hammock during sunset at the goat farm.

Hangin’ in a hammock during sunset at the goat farm.

The next set of photos is a semi accurate depiction of my life this past week in Ofakim.

My Ofakim rommates and I making homemade pita at one of our volunteer placements, the community garden. I was off carbs that day, oops. Delicious!!

My Ofakim rommates and I making homemade pita at one of our volunteer placements, the community garden. I was off carbs that day, oops. Delicious!!

OTZMA Ofakim girls' plot at the garden. The sign was a collaborate effort between us all, but I ended up drawing the sign.

OTZMA Ofakim girls’ plot at the garden. The sign was a collaborative effort between us all, but I ended up drawing the sign.

Kids at the art igloo, one of my volunteer placements. Tuesday was superhero day and they were drawing themselves as superheroes! So sweet.

Kids at the art igloo, one of my volunteer placements. Tuesday was superhero day and they were drawing themselves as superheroes! So sweet.

I thoughtfully cleaned our stove top with bleach unknowing that later when we went to light the gas, this would happen. Don't worry - we are all safe and got the fire under control. (Sans a fire department!  I am actually not even confident that Ofakim even has a fire department. Note to self: look into that.)

I thoughtfully cleaned our stove top with bleach unknowing that later when we went to light the gas, this would happen. Don’t worry – we are all safe and got the fire under control. (Sans a fire department! I am actually not even confident that Ofakim even has a fire department. Note to self: look into that.)

We got to puppy sit! Details are need to know basis. All you need to know is that she is 5 months old, looks like a fox and is named Shoosh. Don't mind my terribly large head shadow.

We got to puppy sit! Who is she? Where did she come from? Why is she on my bed? These details are not important. All you need to know is that she is 5 months old, looks like a fox and her name is Shoosh. Don’t mind my terribly large head shadow.

I am so cold.


Post Birthright: Out of clean clothes, energy and minus a few items I’d lost along the way, I headed to my family’s for some much needed shut eye and alone time. Going there has become sort of like going home from college on the weekends and I absolutely love that. I know how to get there on public transportation and I didn’t even forget my bag under the bus! (Yeah, that happened. One time! Oops.) Thus far, I’ve only met one of Nomi’s children, Chamutal, who lives in Jerusalem with her husband. Lucky for me, because of the timing, her two boys were also home this trip and it was a pleasure to meet them. Ayal, the oldest, was home on break from vet school in Vienna. Gil, the youngest, had recently returned from India, where he had spent some time after the army. Spending an extended amount of time abroad following army service is a huge thing in Israel. Ask any Israeli and they will tell you where they went on their adventure: Thailand, South America, the States. After traveling for some time, Israelis then go and get their education. Most of them don’t begin their undergrad studies until their early 20s. By that time, most Americans have graduated and have begun their “real world” jobs. This Israeli societal trend is so appealing to me because it seems that Israelis are under so much less pressure to graduate in x years and immediately get a job.

After regrouping at the family’s and enjoying some very tasty home cooked meals, I spent the night in Haifa with some of the girls from OTZMA (and their visiting family/friends from the states!) It is always great to see them, especially since we live so far. By far, I mean 3 hours via public transportation. It’s all relative because Israel is so small. Far considering we all lived on top of each other in Karmiel!

My next stop on my never ending vacation was to more OTZMA friends in Petach Tikvah, a city about 30 minutes outside of Tel Aviv. We spent two very long days getting me a new phone plan (mom – thank these girls!) and one eventful evening welcoming 2013 . The thing about the middle east is that no one seems to care that it’s a new year, especially Israel. For Israelis, the new year has already come and gone in the form of Rosh Hashanah early in the fall, therefore making December 31st just another work, school and party night. I think I was the only one at the entire bar who even knew it was New Year’s Eve and trust me, I let everyone know it. “15 minutes!! 10 minutes!! 7 minutes! 1 minute!! HEY IT’S 2013 Y’ALL!!” I, in a momentary lapse of intelligence, even sweetly asked the bartender to “please put on the ball dropping in Times Square,” completely forgetting that I was in the future! The ball would not drop in New York for another 7 hours. On that note, and I know this is late so take it or leave it, Happy New Year to all my loyal readers! (Which is probably just my mom and dad. Hi.) Wishing you all a happy, successful year filled with laughing, good food and trying new things. I kind of hate New Year’s resolutions (who sticks to them? really though?) but I made one for the hell of it. This year, I will attempt to love and accept myself unconditionally. #herewego

It’s super fun to have friends all over the country always willing to take you in, hug you up and take you to a fun neighborhood bar. (And get you a phone and cook you dinner and snuggle you and fix your life.) Beyond blessed with my new friends and very excited for the adventures that 2013 holds for us.

I’d like to take a minute to introduce a new segment called ‘news from around the world!’ (Actually, wait..no. This will NOT be a segment. This blog is about me. I’ll throw y’all some facetime because it’s a new year, but, no.)

Happy 23rd Birthday (again) to Karla in Thailand and let’s all just say a quick prayer that she and Alex won’t get kicked out of the country. (Get new visas!!) HUGE Mazel Tov to Jillian in Denver who just got accepted for Teach For America 2013. You’re about to hugely change some littles’ lives, Miss P! Good luck to Nancy who is moving to Washington D.C. to intern for the Human Rights Campaign. (Hey, one quick thing. So, like, if you single handedly legalize gay marriage…can we get married? Just because it would be possible? LMK.) Congrats and good luck to my dear old Dad who begins his new job this week. They are lucky to have such a dedicated and hard worker. So proud of my best friends and family who are changing the world one day at a time.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for. Drum roll pleeeasee! Current happenings, complaints and the weather report coming to you straight from the smallest, coldest, dreariest city in all of Israel: Ofakim. (Wait, I’m only kidding. I feel bad talking shit behind Ofa’s back when all it ever did was welcome me. You’re just a little boring and weird for my taste okay? It’s not me, it’s you. It’s most definitely you.)

It has been raining, freezing and gloomy all over this country for 5 days now. I actually feel sad that my sister has to see Israel in such poor form, but then I remember this country has a water shortage, needing all the rain it can get and because of the almost 24/7 torrential downpour, I was able to take a steaming hot bath last night. And then I don’t feel so bad. Ofakim looks so scary that I don’t want to leave my bed.  Dark skies, empty streets and tumbleweed surround our little palace. I actually saw a large ball of said tumbleweed rolling down my abandoned street like I was on the set of a wild, wild west movie. Except it’s a real tumbleweed and real life. It is so cold that I have been wearing my gloves (the same ones I laughed at when I found them in the package Trace sent me) around the house and get mildly annoyed when I have to take them off to do things like pee or text. Baruch Hashem for Shai, one of our staff members, who stopped by yesterday to show your local American idiots how to work the air conditioners as heaters. (Note: it’s really not as easy as it sounds, nor as it should be. We’re educated ladies!) Everything and everyone in the Negev is covered in sand. It snowed in Jerusalem! Roads were closed due to flooding! I’ve heard of hail. WHERE AM I? The girls and I have a mean case of cabin fever but I can’t say I don’t enjoy being cooped up with these funny ladies. And, to be honest, it’s not actually that bad. We are just dramatic people. And we also don’t have friends, so we stay inside regardless of the weather. It hasn’t rained like this in Ofakim in 20 years (a nugget of information passed to me from my roommate from her teacher), so no one knows how to act. I guess that means we should also act as if we’ve never seen rain. Or been cold. I’m confident that I’ve been this cold in my life before, but this Florida girl is having a hard time dealing. Today I ran in from school, screaming at my roommate, Rachel to help me with my numb toes. She put hot water in the bath and sat with me as we watched my toes go from red to purple to normal. I had frostbite for a minute people. And I have a witness. I am not leaving the house again today.

I still attempt to pass some flakes of English speaking knowledge onto the boys at the Yeshiva but we don’t understand each other so I end up letting them dance to Opa Gangum Style. Sue me. Ofakim is small but growing on me. Mostly because I haven’t been here in awhile and eventually, in the very near future, we will break up and I will never look back. Things I am looking forward to: training (if it EVER stops raining) and (hopefully) completing my first 10K in March, obtaining a cool and hip internship in Tel Aviv for part 3 of my program and maybe securing a job so I can stay in this beautiful and fickle weathered country I now call home.

I will reunite with the only family member who remembers where I moved, my sister, on the 18th, after her Birthright trip commences and she returns from jetting to Turkey for a minute. Be sure to check back around then, as I will update you after she leaves regarding the shenanigans, adventures and fights we got into. Unless I am dead.

Here are some random photographs for your viewing pleasure.

ImageThe New Year’s Eve crew. #Happy2013


Me with a puppy on Birthright. Feeling the need to show you another picture of me with my name tag on. I think I was supposed to be looking for participants right here. Puppies > everything.


#Tumbleweed. #ToldYa.


Me sitting on an apple core at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is not a real apple.


I call this masterpiece, “Kindle Hands.” I wasn’t joking when I said I wear my gloves around the house. My cute grandma, Rhona, got me a Kindle for Hanukkah/my birthday/for being awesome and therefore my Kindle is called “Rhona’s 2nd Kindle.” I am currently reading a book called “My Mother Was Nuts.” It was already on there. #OhTheIrony.


And here is a picture of my parents that they were tagged in on Facebook from their New Year’s Day party. No, I wasn’t there. I just think it’s so cute and so I wanted the blog world to see. Love ya, T & J.

I staffed something. LOL.


I arrived home to Ofakim Friday afternoon after being gone for nearly 3 weeks. Where was I? What was I doing? Why was I gone for so long? How did I get there? What did I wear? Who was I with? Scout’s honor that I will tell you everything. Right now.

On the evening of the 15th, around 5pm, I was contacted by Israel Outdoors and asked to co-staff a 10-day Taglit Birthright trip. I know what you’re thinking. Who on God’s green earth would let me staff anyone, anywhere? I can barely staff my own life. The other day I was rushing to catch a train and I actually went down the up escalator. And the only reason I realized it was going the wrong way was because the railings were going UP! I made the train though. Anyways, someone, somewhere thought it was a great idea and so it happened. Yes. It. Did. And I loved it. Sometimes I loved it so much I hated it, but for the most part, I just loved it.  

So, I staffed a Birthright. You know, the trip I took back in 2010 and basically the sole reason I am here now? Yeah. That Birthright. I had expressed interest before to the lovely OTZMA staff about doing this, so I am assuming my name was passed along to the higher beings of the Taglit world. (Mostly because I am the golden child of OTZMA 27.) Because I was called during their flight and asked to meet them at the airport no less than 12 hours later, I scrambled to find a way to dry my laundry (adoptive family!), figure out what to pack (anything clean) and how to get anywhere at the ungodly hour of 5am. Camping bag and nerves in tow, I cabbed it to Be’er Sheva where I took the train to Ben Gurion, arriving at about 7am on the 16th to meet some sleepy Americans.

I won’t tell you day by day what we did because that would take forever, I don’t really remember and we’ve got other things to discuss. What I will say is that being a Birthright staff member takes a special kind of personality. I see it in my two OTZMA friends who have staffed numerous trips in the past, and quite frankly, I see it in myself.  It is an intense 10-day trek where you are living out of a suitcase, constantly on the go and responsible for 45-50 Americans who, for the most part, have never been to Israel. Some have never even left the states before. You need to wake up early, be ‘on’ all day and put everyone else before yourself. I was excited to get the chance to staff this trip because I am seriously considering extending my stay in Israel past OTZMA to staff some sort of program. The hardest part for me about staffing Birthright was finding the balance between being a friend/fellow participant and a staff member. There is a line there that I am confident I crossed, however not intentionally nor inappropriately. Sometimes, you are a participant. I saw new places and did new things. Svil Hasalat is a farm in the south, ironically about 20 minutes from Ofakim, where we got to take a tour of the farm, pick our own veggies and eat them right from the ground. Sometimes, you are a staff member. Participants get sick and need to be taken to urgent care. I don’t know where the clinics are in this country, how to get there or how to tell the receptionist what’s wrong. But that didn’t matter because I was the staff member. It rains, it’s cold, no one is properly dressed, everyone is tired, someone needs to stay home, someone is left behind, everyone has to pee and wants snacks, participants need to be counted every time we go somewhere and do anything and drama always ensues. Things go wrong on a daily basis, and being resourceful and having refined problem-solving skills is key. I was timid in the beginning, not sure of how to act. I think I just wasn’t sure how bossy I could be. I love being bossy. That isn’t the problem. The problem was that I didn’t take myself seriously in the beginning, so the participants only followed suit. But I was only being myself, and I don’t think there is harm in that. They were all great and I loved the joking, sarcastic, banter filled relationship we created, however weird it may have been. I met some really cool people, waddup STL winter trip!, and I wish them all the luck in the future. I sincerely hope their Birthright experience was as special as mine.

I do think that I could get better with practice and that maybe I should establish myself as a staff member first, then show them my fun side. Besides the fact that I never knew where we were going, I forgot who Herzl was and I had to sleep in a Bedouin tent for the 2nd time, I am excited to do it again. (I mean, I got my own bus seat the entire time. In the front. Amazing!)

For me, Birthright was the beginning of a growing love and attachment to Israel. My sister just landed in Israel today to begin her Birthright journey and I am beyond excited for her. Following her trip, she will extend so we can spend time together. We have never been to another country without our parents, so I am eager to see what this experience will bring us.

For those of you paying attention, I really only told you about 10 days of my 3-week sabbatical. Since Dad says my long posts are “cumbersome,” I will leave the rest for another time. In true Rachel Frank fashion, here’s a teaser to hold you over until I can sit down for another consecutive amount of time and write more: another visit up north where I met even more family members, 1 night of fun in Haifa, Petach Tikva and nightmarish phone troubles, New Year’s Eve in the land where no one cares, a seminar which actually did its job by getting me excited for my Jewish future/career and my growing knack for public transportation. 

 Also, here’s a picture of me lounging on Masada, Birthright staff style. See my name tag? It really happened. #proof