“Excuse me!” I screamed from the back seat of the Dan bus heading to Hof Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Beach, in Tel Aviv. “Can you please turn up the music!?”
“Mah?” the bus driver asked.
Book bag latched onto my back, I ran to the front of the bus, and asked the driver—this time with hand motions and much more enunciation--to turn up the volume. The driver smiled and turned the knob, while my friends and I attempted to sing the Israeli song we’d heard millions of times—without knowing any of the lyrics.
From the second I stepped off the plane from Atlanta and into Ben Gurion Airport, ready to begin my gap year in Israel through Masa Israel’s Bar Ilan Israel Experience, I knew that Israeli culture was perfect for me.
Every goose bump on my body gave a standing ovation to Israeli music, every taste bud in my tongue appreciated the food, and I could push and shove just like the Sabras (Israeli natives).
My favorite days on Bar Ilan’s Israel Experience were Tuesdays. With only two morning classes, I really had time to soak up the best of Israeli culture.
My friends and I had a tradition: after school, we headed back to our dorms, changed into our beach gear, grabbed book bags and towels, and ran to Aluf Sadeh to catch the 63 bus to the beach.
After spending a few lazy hours on the shore, we walked to Shuk HaCarmel, first stopping by our favorite schnitzel place and then heading off to buy groceries for the following week.
We bought big, green, juicy apples for five shekel a kilo from a man named Nir when his boss wasn’t around, and strawberries from the nice old Arab man who always said, “Ayy Kapara Alaichem!”
We knew to wait for that blessed time when the stand-owners were too tired to argue, but still had a few hours until they could close shop. We always got the best deals on tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and lettuce.
At 7pm, tired from our day of swimming and deal-making, we dragged our bodies to the Dan bus station, our bags filled with food. In our hands, we carried a little bag of gummies for the ride.
While educational in the classrooms, my life during my time at Bar Ilan University was educational in life as well.
During my time in Israel, I learned how to relate to people of different cultures even when we shared no common language.
I learned how to enjoy life even while getting hopelessly lost in Tel Aviv. Somehow, the closest friends I made were the random soldiers I sat next to on the bus and I learned the most about life in Israel from them.
During my last week in Israel as a Masa Israel participant, I got onto the 63 bus and shouted, “Slicha! efshar tagbir et hamuzika?” The bus driver raised the volume and my friends and I finally sang the right lyrics to the song.