Friday, October 5, 2007

Sukkot Break


We're nearing the end of our Sukkot break, which has been a wonderful 10 days filled with friends, travel, and relaxation. We began the break by celebrating Sukkot, the 7-day Jewish festival that welcomes in the harvest season and the fall. Many Jews build a Sukkah, or a hut that is open on one side and covered with branches or leaves to allow you to look up and see the stars. It is customary for people to eat meals in the Sukkah the entire week of Sukkot. The coolest part of Sukkot for me was all of the various Sukkahs around town. Many people had them on their balconies or in their yards, and almost every Kosher restaurant and hotel in the city had Sukkahs their guests could enjoy. Some Sukkahs were decorated simply and some elaborate, but they were everywhere. It was so neat to see them around and to hear people in my neighborhood talking, laughing, and singing in their Sukkah. It is definitely a memory of Jerusalem I will always cherish. My friends Julia and Elana were kind to invite several of us over for dinner the first night of Sukkot, which was a wonderful way to ring in my first (and probably my only) Sukkot in Jerusalem.

The Sukkah found outside my apartment building. There were fresh flowers and lots of festive decorations inside; very bright and colorful.

After a few days, we headed off to Taba, Egypt for a wonderful and relaxing vacation on the Sinai Peninsula. Our travel to and from Egypt was an interesting experience, to say the least; let's just say that if you should ever travel anywhere in Egypt by bus, bring a roll of toilet paper and be prepared for lots of un-showered and very pushy Israelis. Anyways, once we arrived and passed Border Control (a balligan in and of itself) we were bombarded with cab drivers who were fighting with each other to take us to our hotel. They were yelling in Arabic to each other, and pulling our suitcases to their cabs and telling us to "Come, come...Go go..." It was perhaps one of the funniest things I have ever seen, and we couldn't help but laugh at the whole debacle.

Once we got to our resort, the Mariott at Taba, we were instantly dazzled by the beautiful scenery and sights everywhere. Our room was huge and had an amazing air conditioner, which was great (we kept the room freezing cold and called it 'The Meat Locker' was fantastic.) We instantly changed into our bathing suits and headed out for the huge pool, which welcomed us with it's cool and refreshing waters.

Our amazing resort...are you jealous?

We spent the next few days just lounging at the pool, playing on the beach, (a 2-second walk from the pool) and participating in the various activities the resort had to offer. My personal favorite was our daily water aerobics class, or 'aerobicim mayim' as I called it, which was a great way to burn some of the many thousands of calories I consumed at each meal.

The pool didn't even have to get out of the water to get a drink!

The beach was another highlight, with it's crystal clear water and many varieties of tropical fish. We rented snorkels to see the fish up close, which was incredible; there were so many colors and types and species. Really, really beautiful. Jen and Dan took some food from the breakfast buffet to feed the fish, which provided all of us with a great view.

The Red Sea and view of the mountains at Low Tide. This beach was a stone's throw from our room, and literally a 2-second walk from the pool. Amazing!

Snorkling! The fish were beautiful and very friendly.

At night, we either ate dinner at one of the resorts restaurants or took the free shuttle to the "town", which had a few more dining options and some cute shops. The bars at the resort had karaoke nights and a so-so live band, so we hung out there after dinner. One night they surprised us with a belly dancer, which was very fun, and on our last night we were treated to an Egyptian dance show. The dance show featured this amazing guy who spun in circles for 15 minutes, wearing a skirt that twirled and came apart into 3 circles which all spun at the same time. It was incredible how he could spin for so long and not get dizzy--I'd have been flat on my face after about a minute.

The Belly Dancer

The amazing skirt-twirling man (click on the photo to get a better view--it was hard to get a good camera shot at night.)

Julia, Ariel, me and Steph waiting for the shuttle into town.

Most of the group after our delicious dinner at the Italian restaurant on the resort premises. Front row: PJ, Julia, Jen Gubitz, Ariel, Dan, Jen Lader, Stephanie Mohr. Back row: Tracy, Stephanie Clark, Michelle. Not pictured: Aimee, Rachel, Jill.

So, while the trip wasn't the slightest bit educational, it was an incredibly fun and relaxing (and very cheap) way to gear up for classes. Steph and I have both been kind of depressed today, just knowing that break is over and we have 3 months of straight classes and homework looming over our heads. We're going to be incredibly busy and learning a lot, which is definitely good, but definitely a bit daunting.

The thing that keeps me going, however, is knowing that the next break (in January) will bring me home to St Louis. Don't get me wrong--most of the time I love school and I'm learning to love Israel--but there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of coming home, reuniting with my family, friends, and dog, going to services at Temple Israel, eating real American food at my favorite restaurants, driving a car, etc etc etc. I'm SO EXCITED to walk into the baggage claim at Lambert and see my parents, Adam, and hopefully Noah (you guys better bring the dog) waiting for me.

Sending you lots of love and good wishes from Israel; wish me luck on surviving my acharei ha chagim (after the holidays) schedule!

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