On our last day with the Mifgash, our plans were unexpectedly changed due to increased tension in the region. However, we decided to make the most out of the situation and go shopping – first in one of the touristy sections of the city, and then later in the Shuk. The Shuk was totally awesome – it’s not too touristy and it is somewhere where Israelis actually shop. As it was a Friday, everybody was frantically preparing for Shabbat so the Shuk was an absolute zoo. And it was awesome. More candy than I could possibly down in my life, spices on spices on spices (and some spice tasting too!), halva for days (another one of my favorite Israeli foods). Again, it was totally awesome.
Afterwards, we all went to a park to say goodbye to the Mifgash. For me, this was the hardest part of the trip by far as I had become incredibly close to several of the Israelis. My Israeli friends were the rocks I needed while I was there. Yes, the fighting had escalated and there were rockets being fired into Israel and we had to run to the bomb shelters every time there was a siren… but every time that happened, I just looked to the Israelis and knew that everything was going to be okay. Their confidence in the IDF and their patriotism is tangible. They remained calm no matter the situation, and their calmness made me know and feel like everything was going to be okay. As such, I was never concerned for my safety while I was in Israel. The only time I felt any fear whatsoever – actually to the point of terror – was when I was woken up on my flight (Delta flight number 469) back to the states Saturday night.
I was in a Benadryl-induced fog and my friends told me that we had turned around mid-flight due to an unexpected mechanical failure and were heading back to Tel Aviv to do an emergency landing. When we landed, I looked out the window to see the full police force (and firetrucks and ambulances… all with their lights flashing) surrounding the plane. In that moment, I was terrified. Not when I was standing in the bomb shelters, not when I heard the sirens and had to cross three lanes of traffic to get inside, only on that flight – only then was I actually afraid. On the plus side, my flight being “delayed” meant that my friends and I got an extra day to enjoy our time in Israel and each other – a day which we spent frolicking and playing on the beaches of Tel Aviv. We even awoke in the morning to find that some of our new Israeli family had come to meet us in Tel Aviv to make sure that we were all okay and to spend one last day as a group with us.
Every day of the trip, our wonderful guide, Dani, taught the group a different phrase in Hebrew. One of the phrases we learned was “Yom Asal, Yom Basal” – one day honey, one day onions. In my mind, this phrase puts into words the otherwise indefinable culture and personality of Israel and the Israelis I met during my brief time there. Their ability to juggle joy and sadness simultaneously, their resilience, their confidence, and their practicality – those qualities are all perfectly combined in this phrase. I don’t know if I felt so calm during my time in Israel because of my special bond with my Israeli friends (and fellow Americans), and I don’t know if I would’ve felt so calm and unconcerned if I been surrounded by a completely different group of people, but I do know that our trip really mirrored the phrase “Yom Asal, Yom Basal”: in the midst of a country breaking out into war, I had the sweetest and most wonderful time and met some of the best people that I’ll likely ever know.