Shalom wonderful people—
First off, how is it November already? Insanity.
I’ve decided to reuse my “moments” format for this blog post— mostly because some days are chock-full of activity, and others tend to be quite rudimentary (ain’t nobody need to hear about how long I brush my teeth in the morning or run on the treadmill during those dull days). So, without further adieu…
#1 Last week, with an entirely empty afternoon on our hands (virtually unheard of), Mimi and I decided to head to Jerusalem and visit Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. We arrived as dark clouds were beginning to crowd in the sky in preparation for an anticipated thunderstorm, setting a fittingly somber tone for the afternoon.
The memorial is structured in a multifaceted-museum-like format, consisting of one long hallway overlaid with multiple perpendicular corridors and rooms. The architecture itself was incredible— talk about a design that really communicates a message. Everything from the inward slant of the walls to the material used for the floor (and the accompanying sound of feet on the ground), to the color palette and layout of information was meticulously thought out.
We had the fantastic luxury of time that afternoon, so I went at my own pace, reading, watching, imagining and feeling everything I could. There is a distinctness in visiting a Holocaust-related site in Israel— it comes with a unique surge of heartbreak, pride, perseverance, sadness, and relief. While I have visited the Holocaust museums in both D.C. and Berlin, Yad Vashem was something else entirely. The personal and overarching ties with Israel and its people have to the Holocaust made the memorial one of the most emotional experiences of my life. I was especially moved by the video interviews with survivors who fled the Holocaust or moved after the Holocaust, to Israel. Their accounts of death marches in the snow, pretending to be dead in mass graves, watching family members starve to death, were overwhelmingly jarring. And their descriptions of antisemitism both then and now, even in the smallest actions, were eerie reminders that even today antisemitism is not extinct.
By the time we exited Yad Vashem, mentally exhausted, it was dark and the thunderstorm was well underway. We ended up treating ourselves to a nice meal in the heart of the city, although much of the meal we were silent— overwhelmed by the afternoon and processing our own thoughts. We grabbed a hot chocolate on our way to the bus, a sorry attempt at boosting our mood, and headed back to Beer Sheva. Leaning against the bus window, emotionally drained, I found myself intensely (and somewhat unexpectedly) homesick for my family, while also thankful for my safety and humbled by the life I get to live— a life without restriction, abuse or fear.
#2 On a much, much lighter note, the fall semester for Israeli Ben Gurion students has officially commenced. While international students have been studying for over a month, Israeli students have just finished their summer and are now beginning classes on campus. We woke up Sunday to a city full of people— it was as if all the autumn trees decided to bloom on the same morning and the streets were overrun with leaves (well, in this case, students).
The campus itself was unlike anything we’d seen thus far— students and faculty everywhere, outdoor beer gardens set up in the quad (no joke), a small flea market, free merchandise, club booths, and athletic organizations. For the first time in months, I felt like I was back on a big, happy UC campus. We (international students) are all excited about this change, as we have been told by people all over the country that the university’s student life is always ranked #1 throughout Israel, and now that the students are back…it’s go time! Quiet little Beer Sheva is quiet no more!
#3 While the Israeli students are just beginning their semester, ours is well underway, which means midterms are quickly approaching. I’ve been living in semester-system la-la land for the past month (you semester kids really do get to be on vacation for 90% of your term), so it’s time to get real and reignite my quarter-system drive and motivation. I have an oral presentation for Hebrew to prepare for and two papers to write. As you might imagine, the Hebrew presentation is going to be a challenge (save me), but I am looking forward to writing the two papers— one focused on the political implications of the Israeli-Palestinian water crisis leading up to the Six Day war in 1967 and another focused on arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh in the 1990s. Both topics are extremely complicated and interesting— two qualities that make for a challenging, and thus fun, paper writing experience. If they turn out well, and should anyone desire, I’ll make sure to post them on the blog for your reading pleasure.
#4 On a more personal, and thus potentially less exciting note, my first adventure with Israeli medical care is well underway. Long story short, I’ve been dealing with acne for more years than I want to count. While it’s been under control for the past few years, upon arrival in Israel it decided to revolt against me (most accurate way of putting it). I’ve been advised to (finally) go on Accutane, which has been considered the “last resort” since all this hoopla began eight years ago (thanks for those sh*tty genetics, Dad). Anyways, while it’s an inconvenient time to go on a highly questionable and intense medication, I’m rolling with it and doing the best I can. The potential side effects from the drug are kind of scary— excessive dry skin, cracked lips, bowel issues, intense joint pain, liver damage when medication is mixed with alcohol, unusual exhaustion, increased potential for depression and anxiety. Putting these concerns aside though, I’m hoping with my good habits and solid footing that the next few months of medication won’t cause any drastic crises (I’m giving you the evil eye right now, Nicaraguan intestinal worm) and my skin will improve once and for all. We will see. Updates to come.
#5 The happiest moment I’ve saved for last: the delivery of a care package from Californ-i-ey! While no one on the face of the earth ever thought it would arrive, two months later a tattered UPS box (imagine Castaway) was dropped into my eager hands. The box was filled with KIND bars, clothes, face masks, trinkets, magazines, letters, Los Altos memorabilia and (of course) Ghiradelli chocolate. My favorite items in the package were the letters and drawings from Naomi, which are already hung up on my wall where I can see them each morning as I wake up.
My favorite one reads “Dear Cassidy are you Haveing fun Do you miss me How are your Frends Doing”
And thus my answer to Naomi, but more accurately to all of you, is yes, I am having the time of my life. I miss you all dearly. And, as with every experience, the fantastic people I’ve met and friends I’ve made have been the highlight of it all. I firmly believe that good people make the world go round, and the people here are some of the best.
So much love to everyone…