(April 6, 2016 / JNS) By Eliana Rudee/JNS.org
Spring has sprung in Israel! And with it, a bad virus that everybody seems to be getting! Joy.
Well, it’s not the first time I’ve gotten sick in Israel. In fact, I used to get sick nearly every time I visited—something about the different germs. The first time, it was pink eye. The second time, a terrible virus that followed me back to college in California. Another time, food poisoning. Let’s just say it’s not my first time at the rodeo. But this time it’s been more than a week that I’ve been sick (not that I’m counting), and I’m sick of it.
My poor mom, who like me attended the 2016 AIPAC conference a few weeks ago, was completely knocked out by the flu by the end of the conference. She couldn’t sit up in bed, couldn’t recall saying goodbye to me, and had to postpone her flight home. Thankfully, I didn’t get it that bad. Back in Israel, my roommate has also been varying levels of sick for about a month now, and I fear it may be the same thing.
But whomever I got this cold from, at least I can say that I’ve learned and reflected from it. I’ll start with the good, ’cause I’m an optimist like that.
The best part of being sick in Israel is that the whole country is full of Jewish mommies. I posted on Facebook at 4:30 p.m. that I was in need of some good soup. Many friends reached out to me, wishing me well and offering to help. An hour later, I had a hot bowl of soup in hand, delivered by a fellow former-Seattleite-turned-Israeli. She wouldn’t even let me reimburse her for the soup. Even though my throat ached and it hurt to move, my heart was full by the kind gestures I felt from my friends.
The worst part of being sick in Israel is that I feel like I have missed out on a lot in the last week and a half that I’ve been in bed. There are so many things to do in Jerusalem that with my cold, I got a side of FOMO (fear of missing out). One activity in particular, which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying lately, is dancing Bachata. It’s a Latin style of dancing, and that’s really all I know, except that it’s fast-paced and fun to dance.
My roommate from Rio de Janeiro dances Zouk, which is a Brazilian style of dance that they (so far) only have in Tel Aviv. Nevertheless, she began to go to these dancing clubs to learn more dance styles like Bachata and Salsa. The first time I went to the dance club, I was pretty sure it would be my last. It was hard. I felt bad for all of the guys I danced with because I was at such a low level that they were just teaching me, and probably preferred to be challenged and just have fun.
Somehow, I went a second time and it was better. I felt I was getting the basics, but it was still pretty embarrassing. It was not until the third time—I seriously do not know why I kept going, but I’m glad I did—that I caught on and felt I could actually learn how to Bachata with a few more lessons.
So I’ve been continuing to go dancing at the two dancing clubs near me, one called Chapa and the other called Capital Latina. Together, they’re open at least four evenings a week and the dancing usually goes until 2:30 a.m., and that’s on work nights! I usually go once a week and stay till 12:30/1 a.m. Most of the people who go there are regulars, dancing at least twice a week. Thus, the dancing group is pretty close-knit. Last week I went to a dancing friend’s Shabbat dinner, where there was a unique mix of Hebrew, English, Portuguese, and Spanish spoken.
The dance lessons at the clubs are in Hebrew, which is another added challenge for me. It’s hard enough to be the “new girl,” so adding in my lacking Hebrew vocabulary for the dance lessons makes it even more challenging. Thankfully, the teachers there seem to be quite welcoming and helpful.
It usually costs about 40 shekels ($10.60) for entrance to the lesson and the “party” afterwards, but I’ve gotten a “cartisia” with discounted bulk entries so that each entry is only 30 shekels ($7.95). Now, I’m at Level 2 out of three levels and I’m pretty addicted. I’ve really missed not going to the classes and parties. Some of my dance friends (I love that I can say I have dance friends now) have checked in with me, as they noticed I hadn’t been dancing for a while.
Being sick has really reminded me of the vibrant life I’m leading in Israel. Meeting new people, cherishing the relationships I’ve nurtured since making aliyah in July, learning new steps, practicing my Hebrew—I really can’t wait to get out of my bed and back on the dance floor that is life in Israel!
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her column on JNS.org.