Israel, You Shuk Me All Night Long

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SO I went on Birthright and I literally dont want to be one of those people who is like "IT WAS LIFECHANGING ZOMMMGGG" But it was ACTUALLY

LIFE

CHANGING 

ZOMMGGGG

Baby I'm sorry, I'm not sorry. 

So like we got there SUPER LATE 24 hours later after leaving Los Angeles and traveling through Germany. Got stopped like literally every time in security for my trigger roller for my traps...  *Thanks Molly

Ben Gurion Airport.. we all groggily grabbed our suitcases and met our tour guide AKA the BEST PERSON EVER: Inbal! Then we are lead to the bus, we each get a sandwich and chips as we get on and meet our bus driver Hamoudi aka Boss Boss. We were supposed to go to some nice hotel but instead we went to a kibbutz... which was actually like the best place that we stayed and had the best breakfast on the trip provided by Taglit and Sachlav BY FAR. 

During that day we went on hikes which Inbal called "walks".  We went to a "wine tasting" where we got to "taste" three different wines and when I say taste I mean its like 1/8th of half of a shot glass... Luckily we were able to buy our own bottles of wine so at night we opened wine bottles by slamming them into a wall in a shoe, and all was merry and good.

 
One of our "walks"

One of our "walks"

 

 

We went "kayaking" in the Jordan River... That was insane like LITERALLY.... Orthodox jewish girls in like full on skirts, dress shirts, panty hose/tights and their shoes were falling into the river while screaming songs at each other. The orthodox boys like swimming in the river popping up out of nowhere. And then there was our half naked birth right group, staring at them. One little girl spoke english, she was cool. The Jordan River was as congested as the 405 - during rush hour.. and I ruined a pair of Lulu Lemon shorts (sigh). Overall It was SUPER fun.. but I think that I am ready for some white water rafting.

Everday on the bus Inbal would sing us Word of The Day and teach us a new word. Granted most days this went on, I was asleep or listening to my music. From what I remember of the words from Word Of  The Day (which anyone who went on birthright will know... its not much HA).. My new favorite words/ things to say in hebrew are:

"Sababa"- This means ok or cool or alright.. its really fun to say

"Yala" or "Yala Balagan"- Yala means "lets go" and Balagan means "mess" so "Lets go crazy or messy or all out"

Last but not least "Toda" - Which means Thank you, because well... manners matter. 

We got 6 Israeli soldiers  added to our group for 5 days... BEST 5 DAYS EVER. If you told me before the trip that I would meet 6 people and grow to care about each and everyone of them so much, in 5 days, I would of said you're insane. But it's true - I literally love them as if they were 6 extra siblings of mine and cannot wait to see them all again. They're literally straight bad ass super heroes and they're only like 20-22 years old. They also have cool names that are fun to say. 

Friday during the day before Shabbat we went to one of my favorite places: The Shuk (Machane Yehuda Market) in Jerusalem. Its really cool to see because everyone goes there Friday before Shabbat (because you are not supposed to do anything on shabbat except like eat, pray, love so people have to stock up for the weekend.) It was crowded AF and men were like carrying huge trays of pastries over their heads and walking through this cluster fuck of a market. It gave me anxiety just watching it, but they never dropped anything. I bought camel riding pants and we went to Pasta Basta which was AMAZING! Highly recommend 10 out of 10.  We were told to all buy something for the group to have a potluck type Oneg for later..So I bought some Rugala.. and then proceeded to eat most of it but luckily no one noticed. 

 
Rugala and pastries YUM

Rugala and pastries YUM

Me at Pasta Basta 

Me at Pasta Basta 

 

 Friday night for Shabbat we went to The Western Wall in Jerusalem which was really cool. We like prayed and got separated by gender, women had to wear way more clothes than men but like WHATEVER. It was a cool experience. When you go to the wall you LITERALLY are not allowed to turn your back to it when you are done doing whatever you are doing (praying, staring, etc.) You literally have to WALK BACKWARDS... (so obviously 'back it up, back it up, you got it, you got it.  Put your hands up, put your hands up, put your hands up.. uh uh uh you got it, you got it.' aka Crash by Gwen Stefani was playing in my head)  Afterwards, we walked through the old city back to our hotel for dinner followed by Oneg. I literally acted like a starved animal at Oneg and attacked everyone elses treats.. after oneg we had some wine and a little truth or dare followed by a game of paranoia.  

 
Us at the Western Wall on Shabbat. 

Us at the Western Wall on Shabbat. 

 

Saturday we hung out by the pool and basically could only eat leftover pastries from oneg the night before (This is because we Americans didn't ACTUALLY know how to prepare at Machane Yehuda Market the day before.) Around 8PM we all made out way outside and said the prayer over the spices in one giant circle and sang Shavua Tov ( I think.. I went to jewish sleep away camp for 9 years where we did do that so I could be confused, but I think we did) So legit 55 of us standing in the street, in Jerusalem, in a circle - it was pretty fresh. We counted 3 or 4 starts in the sky and that was the signal that Shabbat was OVER, and it was officially time for OUR FIRST NIGHT OUT!!! BACK to the Shuk we went... (the Shuk gets LIT after shabbat and it was super fun!)

We were all HANGRY... we had no patience so we went to the easiest place- Pasta Basta... (I LITERALLY never eat this many carbs IN MY LIFE.. Tasted so good but felt oh so wrong but also really right but like very wrong.) After Dinner it was time to drink.. even though we signed a waiver saying we wouldn't. We went to the bars where they were playing music, I got a margarita that tasted like an orange creamsicle.. YUM! We had Arak and smoked Hookah and Danced and sang to Bruno Mars 24K gold... I mean I did, it felt like everyone was singing and dancing with me, but again, I could be wrong. We had to go back for curfew but then we snuck back out to get fish and chips. #NOM

Yuval and our fish and chips!! 

Yuval and our fish and chips!! 

The next day was depressing because we were just doing a bunch of depressing things and our Soldiers were leaving us. When we had to say goodbye, I LITERALLY cried. I was wearing sunglasses though so it was chill. 

Monday we woke up at 4AM to go hike up Masada to watch the Sunrise.. This is probably one of the most AMAZING things i've seen.. Ever. The history of Masada and the beauty of the sun rise and everything all together was a moment that I never knew I needed so much. My heart felt full and my soul felt calm. I felt extremely grateful to be there in that moment, and for once in my life I was able to shut my brain up and just appreciate.  I was able to appreciate everything that was happening to me, and fully take it all in. #VBlessed 

 
 

This was to be the longest day of our lives because after our hike at Masada, we got gross breakfast, meaning I ate nothing. After breakfast we stopped at a gas station where I picked up some Bamba and some Quadritinis (faves) and then we were headed to go swim in the Dead Sea. Nothing like getting into an ocean where if you pee, it will literally burn. AND before you put the infamous dead sea mud on yourself, you have to walk into the dead sea and wet your body first. When you walk out, I SWEAR, it looks as if you are covered in astro glide. NEXT you get to rub mud all over yourself like an Elephant trying not to get sun burnt only to then take pictures to post to the gram OBVI.  After your photo shoot, you grab your go pro and head back in the burning magical water of the dead sea that makes you float for even more pictures...

*Side note I don't know what someone would look like covered in astro glide .. but I imagine it to be what your body looks like when you exit the dead sea. Also I don't like go into the ocean and pee... some people do.. not me. Even if you might have to pee and are holding your bladder.. do yourself a favor and go pee because that will also burn.

Floating in the dead sea is fun, you are not supposed to put your head under because well you just shouldn't. So don't. You have to wear fugly Tevas or fugly water shoes, because there are salt crystals all over the bottom, and they will CUT. YOU. I started floating on my stomach and then had a mini panic attack because I literally almost like ate dead sea face first. It is actually kind of  difficult to stand back up when your belly down in the dead sea... but it's actually kind of fun/funny so like 5/10... Proceed with caution.

After we washed off all the salt from the dead sea, and semi rinsed, we were off to the Bedouin Tents in the Negev Desert. All 48 of us would also be sleeping in one giant Bedouin tent later that night. So like super sweaty day, I had no towel, a shower (like a real one where I can wash my face and body and then pat myself dry with a clean towel) was NOT gonna happen and nowhere to be seen in my near future. Its like SAAAA DUUU CHILLL though because I lived in the wilderness for 41 days when I was like 12. ((Long story) So this was nothing.)) We rode camels through the desert. Me and my friend Laura had Laqueesha. I changed her name like 4 times, but I know Laqueesha was one of them. Laqueesha was a boss ass bitch aka sassy AF, her hips were like mad swaying. So we were all Laqueesha YAASS QUEEN!! and she was all get the f off me. Finally it was dinner time, and the dinner we had at the tents was ACTUALLY the Bomb.COM 10/10 HIGHLY RECOMMEND! We sat on the floor 5 of us to a table and they placed a giant tray of our food in front of us, it was like bedouin fajitas with pita bread instead of a tortilla. After dinner Inbal took us star gazing. The stars in the Negev are like nothing I have ever seen before, but maybe thats because I never went star gazing... anyways they're so visible and beautiful. That day I watched the Sunrise in the A.M. and the Moonrise in the P.M. Then like any logical human, I took an Ativan and PTFO in the tents!

I was eager for the morning because I was closer to getting a shower and being clean (one of my favorite things in the world to be!) BUT I had to wait because we had a lot to do. First we had another shitty breakfast.. it was gr8. (when I went to clean up after myself I tried to throw away my full cup of shitty coffee and it splashed right back up in my face and on two random guys...SAHHHHHH GNARLY.)  Finally we got back on the bus, smelling like shit, and headed to the Salad Trail! The salad trail was cool! We got to eat all kinds of fresh herbs and fruits and veggies. We also had lunch there and I got this passion fruit icee made with real passion fruit and it was SO DELICIOUS. 10/10 HIGHLY RECOMMEND. The Salad trail made me start liking tomatoes, I was NOT a fan before this trip but now like LOVE. Our tour guide at the salad trail was hilarious.. we released pigeons, and when he was talking to us about them, he kept one of the pigeons in his hand and was like literally throwing it around because he obviously talks with his hands.. it was too good. We also made our own Pita which was sadly really anti climactic (wasn't amazing) but hey I made my own pita bedouin style!

After the salad trail we went to Ben Gurions grave sight and we saw some exotic animals pretty sure they were Rams but I could be wrong. 

 
 

FINALLY AT LAST!!! WE WERE GOING TO A HOTEL AND I COULD SHOWER. My other roomates kindly let me go first. Not gonna say I forced them.... but like I forced them to let me go first. We were in the most odd hotel because the shower had no door and it was a standing shower. So basically it was impossible to shower without flooding the entire bathroom. Like the ENTIRE bathroom. So that was cool, nothing like taking off your socks and shoes to go pee. 

I kind of get my days in Tel Aviv mixed up and don't really remember when we did what we did but I remember what we did. So I know we went to the beach. It was SO beautiful and the water was SO warm and blue. BUT if you had any cuts on you (Which trust me, me and everyone else in my group did) these little invisible little bitch ass fish would come and BITE you wherever you were cut. SO RUDE. Luckily anytime I thought I saw an outline swarm of them I started hopping and jumping in the water. I am sure it was quite amusing for anyone who was watching but HEY it worked. We got some sick pics and then we got Aroma afterwards because like fucking duh, its Aroma. 

We went on a graffiti tour which was so much fun and our tour guide was so FUN! He had SO much personality, I LOVED IT! It was so interesting the way he explained everything. He called our selfies "selfish" LOLZZ (truth).  After we went and got lunch and while we waited to be seated, Inbal showed us this SUPER CUTE soda shop called Cafe Levinsky. They make super fancy, super natural, aesthetically pleasing soda and kambucha. They make it out of herbs and fruit and flowers and obviously soda water. It was V Yummy... so guess what HIGHLY RECOMMEND 10/10. For lunch I had my healthiest meal in Israel, a salad with a side of tuna. That salad tasted so good, and it felt so right. I knew if I was still sending my personal trainer pics of my food, she would have been V proud. 

We went out in Tel Aviv and we took over an entire bar where we almost got kicked out for taking over the DJ booth. Finally, after they realized we were their only customers they just let it happen. It was so much fun and also like the whitest thing I have ever seen/ been apart of. Honestly it easily could of been a scene straight out of a comedy film. A bunch of American twenty somethings singing 'From the Window, to the Walls'  in an Israeli bar they took over before midnight (aka before anyone goes out in Israel) Everyone sounded like valley girls singing it... even the guys. The bar tenders through napkins at us to get us hyped, it totally worked.

Its the little things.

On our last day we went on an LBGT tour and our tour guide was SO CUTE! He loved Beyonce and making people feel awkward so I knew that we would get along great. He put us in groups and gave us a sheet with Hebrew that all meant something that had to do with the LBGT community in Tel Aviv. We had to go around and ask strangers to help us translate words from hebrew to english. We totally made SO many people uncomfortable or laugh and I was LOVING IT. Love is love is love. 

We ended our trip with the Taglit MEGA EVENT. It was... really absurd in the beginning.... like LITERALLY the most.. but then the music came on and I danced like no one was watching, and I wasn't even drunk! (anyone that knows me knows that just like DOESN'T happen.) One of the songs said shake your shoe lace so you better damn believe I did. They were selling YALA shirts so OBVIOUSLY I got one. I felt bad for most of the group that was headed back to LA because we spent all day outside sweating, and then had to go to this event where I literally just changed my shirt in public and had to like sit in my bra for a few min around a bunch of strangers in a foreign country because it was SO STUPID HOT! So after the mega event our birthright tip was officially over so we all had to go straight to the airport. Those of us who didn't extend and were going back to LA had to go like get on a plane and travel feeling gross like that for the next 24 hours. Luckily for me, my adventure was not yet over and we stayed one more night in Tel Aviv at a hotel on the beach. In the A.M. we got breakfast at Benedict with my fave Solider and BFF Yuval..Hands down BEST BREAKFAST OF THE WHOLE TRIP...( I really was missing oatmeal and I made sure everyone knew it.) I had to go buy a new suitcase because mine just totally broke... because my life is a joke, So I re packed and that night we were off to Athens. ... But more about that later.. 

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Peace love and shwarma oh and Yemini lahoh wraps.  ( HIGHLY RECOMMEND 10/10)

 

Xo,

Splash 

Ashley Nussbaum