The Crane Project

Would you like me to fold your message or prayer into the Western Wall in Jerusalem?

Cranes-Pano

This summer I’ll be returning to the Middle East to work at Camp Ultimate Peace. Before camp begins, I’ll be settling in for a full day of crane folding in the plaza in front of the Western Wall, located in the center of the Old City in Jerusalem. My plan is to start folding on the morning of Thursday, 7/16 and to continue until sundown. The next day I’ll be traveling to Hebron to the plaza outside the Cave of the Patriarchs to do the same thing. On the third day I will be continuing to fold in Bethlehem outside the Church of the Nativity. My plan is to fold 1,000 cranes over the course of the three days and place them all in the Western Wall.

My hope is for all 1,000 cranes to be folded out of paper containing messages and prayers.

Over the past 70 years 1,000 paper cranes has come to symbolize peace, hope, healing, love, and a wish… five things that I hope to bring to the region with my work with Ultimate Peace.

I would be honored to bring your messages and prayers to the Western Wall. If that’s something you’d like me to do, feel free to write as many messages or prayers on as many square pieces of paper as you’d like and mail them to me at 183 Main St. #1, Easthampton, MA 01027. They need to arrive in Easthampton by Monday, 6/29.

I’d also love to have company while I fold. Let me know if you’d like to join me at any of the folding venues.

Math, Ultimate, and Origami – Update 3

Always. More. To. Learn.

There are many things that draw me to this region. First, it was Ultimate and sheerly coming to a new place. My friends pulled me in with something I was familiar with: The power of Ultimate to change lives, with the added bonus of feeding my addiction for travel. I knew I was going to learn. I knew I was going to see and experience “new”. What I really couldn’t have imagined in that early spring of 2012 when I was gearing up for my first trip to Middle East was how much I was going to learn. How my life was going to change.

On Friday morning, March 14th, I slept. What a glorious feeling to sleep in and wake up to the gentle sound of rain in the heart of the Old City. After a leasurely run through of my day, I picked up a small dosage of hotel coffee and joined the scrum on the street. I love being enveloped by the Old City. There is so much going on. Everything is interesting. I moved with a purpose to the south, then east, through a quick security checkpoint, and out into the Western Wall plaza. Out in the expanse, I looked around for  a place to fold and contemplated the weather. It was cold, and blustery, but I saw Torah stands I could use. Also, on this visit I was better prepared: I had my own Yamaka, straight from Zach and Mimi’s wedding. (Oh, by the way Zach, I now have a basic idea what all that interrupting was at your pre-wedding ceremony Tish.)

Yamaka

Out in front of the wall it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to fold inside, so I went into the arch over to the left, into the sea of praying Orthodox Jews. The power of concentrated prayer, in that space especially, is quite amazing. I did feel out of place, and yes, I really was, but at no point did I feel unwelcome. So, I made my way over to the far wall, found a chair and a stand, and began to fold. I folded cranes out of paper with written messages from my mother’s church and a few students from my school. It’s a 3-hour period I will remember forever. As I folded I placed the finished cranes on the seat next to me. The seat was eventually covered. Three times during the stretch something new happened — Orthodox Jews came up to me and spoke to me. At one point, I looked over my shoulder and two were watching me fold, so I picked up a blank piece of paper, folded a crane, and gave it to one.

I then bagged up the cranes and moved out into the plaza, to the outside portion of the wall. I found the crane I left yesterday, and went to work placing cranes around the edge of the same stone. While placing the cranes, I had one conversation with a secular Jew from Tel Aviv who said it was wonderful that non-Jews had faith in the Wall. He said he came here, to be at the wall and charge himself, like an iPod connected to an electrical socket. What a convergence of place and terminology. Wonderful.

I then backed away and looked over the cranes, all of which were now placed. Back in the center of the square as I walked away, it began to rain again. So, I moved north up into the Muslim Quarter, and headed to my favorite spot in all the world (Yah, I think so), the roof of the Austrian Hospice. On this visit I only stayed a short while, soaking in the view of so much… everything. I then walked the short distance north to the Damascus Gate to meet Rachel, a local UP coach. We walked the Old City, ate Knaffe (yum!) and then took in some Arabic Coffee at an expat cafe in Jerusalem.

We then met up with one of Rachel’s friend’s, Lucy, and made out way to a Shul for a Shabbat prayer session. I stood through the packed ceremony, and took in the calling and loved the dancing. Afterwards, the three of us were invited to Shabat diner with another of Rachel’s friends, Dave, a Rabbi and author. There ended up being 10 people at dinner and it was so, so, so over the top wonderful. We ate, talked, prayed, laughed. We laughed until we cried and hurt. The group was incredibly welcoming, interesting, and had such beautiful stories. The whole dinner spanned a solid 3 hours, and there was no down time. I can’t wait to visit Dave’s family again. After dinner, we walked back into the night, which was pretty interesting as Purim was gearing up and there were a healthy number of people dressed up running around in the streets. We saw many Smurfs. Yes, Smurfs.

I made my way to the Jaffa gate, and then through the rain-slicked alleys of the Old City, back to the Hashimi Hotel where I quickly crashed.

The next morning I woke to another easy morning. I got caught up on email, packed up, and before checking out had a nice breakfast in the hotel, right next to a window overlooking a huge vista of the Old City. I then made my way out into the Old City, and quickly treated myself to another round of Knaffe, before moving to my perch on the roof of the Austrian Hospice. I got comfy with a book and read for a while, taking in the view every few minutes.

Back in the scrum of the Old City, I meandered over to the Jaffe gate and sat and watched from the top of the stairs to the David museum. Shortly afterwards, I met up with Rachel and we caught a taxi to checkpoint 300, where Ben picked us up. About 15 minutes later we arrived at the Beit Sahour School, where we setup for practice. Ben did a fantastic job pulling the kids together, warming them up with a fun close-pin game of tag, and then ran them through drills and a couple scrimmages. The kids have game. We had a small space, but they used it well and showed good patience.

After practice Ben, Rachel, Amanda (Ben’s friend) and I had a very filling dinner in Bethlehem. After pulling down lots of hummus, kebobs, and some Taybeh beer, we drove Rachel back to Jerusalem, played some cards, checked out the view of Jerusaelem from the roof of her building, and then Ben, Amanda, and I made it back through checkpoint 300 and to Beit Sahour, to Ben’s apartment. Sleep was grand.

The next morning I woke up and we all talked about what to do. We quickly settled on a trip to the Dead Sea, given that the weather was perfect. So, we picked up Rachel, then headed east and then south on the very nice highway, to Ein Gedi, stopped briefly to load up on lunch on the way. The drive out was notable for the scenery and the 2,500+ foot drop to the level of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. Crazy. Oh, we saw some camels along the way too.

After parking, we ate some lunch and then went down to the rocky shore, and had a blast floating in the water. I noticed the sign that said don’t put your head under, and I didn’t plan to, and now I know… that would be a truly terrible idea given how much salt is in the water it burns your eyes like crazy. You’re so boyant in the water it’s actually not very easy to stay veritcal while floating. There’s also a pretty strong current, which means people tend to drift without noticing. The salt also coats many of the rocks on the shore, which is pretty cool to see.

After drying off the best we could, and accepting the layer of salt that was bonded to us, we got back in the car and drove back to Jerusalem. There we dropped off Rachel and went back into the West Bank. Back at the apartment we got cleaned up and then headed out for dinner, stopping at the local KFC to see how fake it was… only to discover that it was REAL! By that point we were so hungry we succumbed to what was in front of us and enjoyed some American chicken! Back at the apartment we all slept soundly.

The next morning I woke up early, polished off some UP work, and then Ben drove me to the Bethlehem bus station where I easily found a taxi van to Ramallah, which took off right after I arrived. Heading north I enjoyed the view of the valley, and the huge winding  road built with USAID funds. In Ramallah I got out to a familiar sigh of controlled chaos, and made my way to the Manara circle. From there it was a straight shot to the Friends Boys School, the Upper School I was visiting for the day. (The Boys School is in name only. It’s now coed.)

After a bit of exploration, I found my contact, Elizabeth, who then gave me a tour along with another visitor. I then had some free time to explore and then the head of the Upper School, Mahmoud, brought me to an 7th grade math class which was high energy and great fun. Next, I had some time to talk with Elizabeth before I got to see a 8th grade math class which was quite advanced! Right before the end of class I was pulled out and brought to the basketball courts where I got to run a middle school gym class! In all I had 20+ kids running after discs and flying all over the place. All the kids showed great energy and there were a couple that showed some great skill. At the end of the session we took a group photo and then I talked to a few of them while helping them learn how to throw forehands. Such great kids! I left a few discs behind and told them I would be back in June.

I said my goodbye to Elizabeth and then headed out into Ramallah to find the store where I could purchase some FBS clothing. A couple wrong turns and some help from locals later, I found the store, got the jacket I was looking for, then headed back to the bus station where the bus I wanted was just about to leave. Back in Bethlehem I arrived at the bus station and started my journey on foot back to Ben’s apartment. Walking at night, through the crazy streets of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, I was super happy to take two wrong turns before finding the apartment. Comfortably ensconced back at the apartment, I worked through some UP emails, then slept.

This morning I slept in a bit, packed up, and then walked back to the bus station where I caught a taxi van to Hebron, a new place for me to visit. About 45 minute later I got out of the bus into an amplified version of Ramallah. Everything was busier and more crowded. And more intense. I was immediately approached by someone offering a tour, which I nicely brushed off. I then got my bearings and walked in what I thought was the right direction to find the Cave of the Patriarchs. Along the way I found the tourism office which verified I was going in the right place. I continued down the one street of the Old City of Hebron, and passed through security from zone H1 (Arab) to H2 (Jewish). There I walked up and entered the Mosque section of the building. I ended getting a tag-along with a local guide who was, really, doing it for free. What an amazing place. I saw all the tomb markers, and was particularly drawn to Sarah’s. Through the green grate I saw the large marker, and over to the side the edge of the same type of window for the Temple side. Wow.

I then made my way back outside, and around to the other side of the building, to the Temple entrance. Outside I put on my Yamaka, passed through security, and went up into the Temple. I joined a prayer session, and then viewed the tomb markers — the same ones I saw before, from the other side. The whole experience was powerful and truly surreal.

I’ve found that the place is best described in this line from Let’s Go:

“The allegorical possibilities of this astounding effect—two different groups looking at the same object from segregated areas and investing that object with different meanings—are almost comically endless. Regardless of whether or not you see this place as a symbol of the conflict, it is a foundational site for Western religion and an unparalleled opportunity to compare the differences both deep and superficial that exist between Judaism and Islam.”

Back outside, I walked around the rather empty streets, got a bit of food int he Settler’s cafe, and then my way back into H1, up through many streets, and eventually found the taxi van launching area for Bethlehem. Before boarding I had a great conversation with the driver and one Hamaya security guard. Fun. The ride was smooth and so very interesting. Seeing the constant security as I did in Hebron, where everything was so packed together. Back in Bethlehem I was let out in a new area, but given that everything is so close together I easily found the Church of the Nativity where I met Ben and together we found dinner.

We’re not back at the UP apartment, working away at UP tasks.

Tomorrow I’m going to explore and attend the Bethlehem practice. I am also hoping to visit the Beit Sahour school. In the days after the plan is to attend the first Jerusalem practice, explore and find the Marzapan Bakery, and then go to Acco with Miri, the Origami teacher. Friday night there may be a UP coaches social gathering. Then on Saturday I fly home.

Always. More. To. Learn.

Math, Ultimate, and Origami – Update 2

Whoa.

People certainly make a place. Here, in the busy hum of Tel Aviv, Tamra, Neyanya, Ra’anana, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Beit Sahour… that couldn’t be more true. In launching myself on this 18-day journey, I certainly felt a certain level of anxiety. As everyone who has ever traveled to this region knows, nothing is every super easy. There’s an added level of complexity that’s added to every task. And I knew what I wanted to do in my time here was all over the place, and that I would need support… and I had faith in the amazing network of truly AMAZING people that make up this place.

I could not be happier with how thing have turned out.

My Sunday morning (3/9), started with an early morning taxi ride to Ra’anana to pick up my rental car. I would have loved to have been able to rely on public transport, but bouncing around to super specific locations is not always easy in Israel. At the rental care agency, all things went to plan, which was especially relieving since I had to use my backup plastic since the night before I went through the fun of canceling my primary plastic. Yup, I certainly called my banks and notified them of my travels, but it turns out that my primary card was used in SoCal. On Saturday. Oh well. Anyway — I got my car, geared up my GPS, and moved north on 6.

While traveling north to Albayan high school Tamra, all I knew was that I needed to get to the city. Alas, there are no addresses in the same sense we are used to in the States. Half way through my journey, courtesy of the wonders of Waze, one of the students I was meeting sent me an exact GPS location, and I was set. The ride was smooth, and for us folk used to driving for 3+ hours to get places, quite quick. In Tamra, I made my way through the busy streets, enjoying the “active driving”.

I parked in front of the school and shot a text out to a couple of the students I was meeting. I set up waiting near the gate, and looked across the threshold to the first student I saw… who was UP CIT Areen! 1/1 on recognizing people. Nice. We were quickly joined by Shada, Asmaa, and Hanan who were my guides for the day.

I ended up going to one math class with Asmaa, and then a second one with a different teacher. Math truly is a universal language, and I managed to keep up with most of the problems. That being said, I do not speak Arabic or Hebrew, so I was well behind in understanding certain moments. I now know, clearly, what some of my new international students feel when they first land in a math class here in the States. The math itself can make perfect sense… but not click. It can be so tantalizingly close. I really get it now.

After class, we stopped as Asmaa’s house on our way to practice. I got to meet her mother and was treated to a round of very tasty Arabic coffee. I now have quite a taste for the potent brew. Now I just need to learn how to make it properly myself.

On the way to practice it started to rain. For the first time in 3+ months. Practice ended up getting truncated a bit and instead of two sessions, one combined practice was run by Abe and Chris. It was fantastic to see the kids in action. I practiced my lefty throws a bit as my right shoulder is still a bit mangled. By the end of practice, everyone was happily drenched. Abe and Chris ran a fantastic show.

After practice, I dropped off a few players and Ali and I went to his house to get cleaned up. Over at Ali’s I met his wonderfully friendly mother and rested up a bit before Ali and I headed out to pick up Shada and Asmaa. At dinner, we were joined by Samir, and we loaded up on salad and pasta.

The next morning, I woke from my first full night of sleep in more than a week, and Ali and I went upstairs for breakfast. I loaded up on a delicious array of food and talked to Ali about our day, all while taking in an amazing view of Tamra. Next, Ali and I drove over to his school, located in the neighboring town of Kabul. At school, we started by meeting with the principal, and then I got to visit 5 different classes: 4 math classes and one Arabic. During the last 30 minutes of the last class, Ali’s teacher gave me the floor and I talked a little bit about myself, and then ran the kids through some of my favorite math questions. We had a blast talking about infinity, irrationality, and famous unsolved problems.

After school ended, Ali and I headed back to his house where we had another fabulous meal prepared by his mother, who also took the time to show me some good technique tips for making Arabic coffee. We all sat around talking for a while. I learned more about Ali’s younger brother, and talked more with Ali. At around 5pm I said my goodbyes, and headed south for Tel Aviv.

In the city, thanks to Waze, I easily found the address for the night’s gathering of UP coaches. Then began the battle for parking, which I found 10 minutes away, in a timed spot in front of the Norwegian Consulate. After getting confirmation on what the sign said from two different people, both of whom said it was okay to park in the spot, I walked back to the restaurant. And of course, while the address was easy to find, the opening was quite hard to see, but alas, this is Israel and some things are a bit tough ;)

The gathering was for Sarah, for the people in the area she impacted. I knew about some of the people that were going to show up… and then they kept on showing up. By 9pm it seemed like everyone was there. It was such a grand experience. Jez spoke as eloquently as only he can. We then had the social fun that Sarah was so known for — the smiling, and reveling in each other’s company. I made new friends, connected with ones I hadn’t seen since last summer (Tomer!)… and had Such. An. Amazing. Time.

Afterwards, I crashed with Chelsea on her familiar couch, and woke up early to find my car… which I was relieved to find still in the spot I left it in! Hooray for not being towed. Then, with another round of help from Mr. Waze, I found the Ra’anana HS with an hour to spare, which I used to down a nice breakfast outside in the sun. The area was quite a convergence given the traffic of kids AND the fact the Purim is coming up… so, LOTS of kids in awesome costumes.

At 9:30 I met the UP Ra’anana CIT contingent at the gate and started off a great morning of visiting classes. I ended up seeing three different classes, at three different levels. The students were super friendly and there was certainly an upped amount of energy in the air due to Purim. I also got to speak to the math chair a bit and talk to a couple other teachers. After classes, I spent some time in the teacher’s lounge ironing out some plans.

Next up, I drove back into Tel Aviv and parked in one of the coastal lots by the pyramid play structure thing made of ropes. I was hungry, so of course I headed for the Shuk where I picked up my favorite Shuk snack of incredible blue cheese and a baguette. Yes, I know, not super traditional, but wow, so yummy. I capped off my snack with a nice bit of reading in a cafe, after which I found the outside atmosphere to have changed from sun to driving wind and some rain. I battled my way back to my car, and then headed to north Tel Aviv to spend the night with Chris Panna.

The next morning I drove north back to Herzliya to meet with Miri, the head of the Origametria program, which teaches Origami to elementary students across Israel to help them understand Geometry. I first learned about her program in the phenomenal Between the Folds documentary. The segment of the documentary that covers Origametria can be viewed right here:

I had an absolutely wonderful time meeting with Miri and her husband Paul Jackson, who is also involved in the program, and an unreal Origami artist. We talked, drank tea, and I learned so much about the program. Miri gave me a mini lesson in the efficacy of using geometry terminology to teach Origami and I was thoroughly impressed. Paul explained his work and the impact of folding on thinking, and how it works so very well with younger children. They are one of the most fascinating couples I have ever met. After a wonderful lunch, Miri invited me to come up with her to Acco next week to observe an Origametria data-gathering session. I cannot wait.

2014-03-12 12.57.27

Back on the road, I headed east to Jerusalem. The drive was smooth, even with the rain, and while gassing up the car involved a U-turn in heavy traffic, the the return place was, of course, out of the way and not easy to find, all went well and I got the car all tucked in back at Sixt. Out in the sun I walked the short distance to the Jaffa gate to the Old City, and through the familiar and wildly textured alleys of the Muslim Quarter to the Hashimi Hotel. After dropping off my stuff, I headed out west from the Old City to meet up with Ben, Rachel, and Amanda.

The four of us had a great evening of card games, and then Ben, Amanda, and I headed into the West Bank to meet up with the Daajneh family and some of the local UP kids. It was so great to see everyone again. After chatting with the family, and Ben impressing us all with his Arabic, we continued to Beit Sahour to the UP apartment to eat dinner. Ben then brought me back to the Jaffa gate where I made my way back through the alleys — no map needed — to my hotel.

The next morning I slept in, polished off a torrent of email replies over coffee, and then headed out into the Old City. The rain was coming down, but most of the Old City is covered, so I was pretty protected. Out in the plaza I got my first view of the Western Wall, and then realized it was a great time to get in line to go up to the Temple Mount. Out in the rain I waited, and for short periods there was some actual hail. Surreal. Up on the Temple Mount I walked around the Dome several times, and really took in details of the place I hadn’t noticed before. What a place.

Back out in the streets, I made my way to Abu Skuri and filled up hummus, falafel, and tea. Fueled up, I went back out into the rain, to the Wall, and wandered around inside the side area, soaking in the surreal environment of tremendous faith, believe, history, and… simply, the Old City of Jerusalem. Back out at the Wall, I folder my first crane. Tomorrow, the main folding will occur.

Back a the hotel I warmed up, rested a bit, and then headed south west to the Armenian Quarter to visit my favorite tile and jewelry store. The proprietor was there, and we talked for a while about several topics. What an interesting man. Out in the night, I walked a short distance to a nearby Armenian restaurant and enjoyed a nice meal of lamb, salad, rice, and baklava. Yum!

Back here at the hotel I am gearing up for sleep. Tomorrow I will spend a good portion of the day folding at the Western Wall, but I also hope to meet up with some local friends. Tomorrow I’ll change my base to the UP apartment in Beit Sahour, and from there visit schools and various other sights around the West Bank.

Of to sleep I go.

Jerusalem

I managed to bend to the will of my alarm clock this morning and get up around 7:30. After my daily morning flurry of email — something that is pretty fun with a 7 hour time difference — I packed up and met Maggie and Nathan down on the street. A short walk later, we were on the 480 bus bound for Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem we walked a few stops down the light rail line to a small market where we browsed the wares and picked up a round of iced coffee. After dealing very well with the light rail ticket machine, we hopped on and a few minutes later got off near the Damascus Gate to the Old City. Inside we found a gloriously packed warren of streets, side streets, and alleys. What a wonderful place! We walked downhill, towards the center, and along the way stopped at the Austrian Hospice on the word of one of Maggie’s friends who said there was a great view from the top. Without her friend’s note we would have never stopped, and we are so glad we did! The view from the top was amazing! After we took a slew of pictures and video clips, we kept on our downhill walk.

Several blocks of narrow, shaded, alleyways later we went through security and found ourselves facing the Western Wall. While Maggie and Nathan meandered around the main square, I went up to the fall and folded 4 pink cranes and added them to the wall. We then tried to find the main entrance to the Dome on the Rock, trying a spot that we were turned away from earlier, but then with the help of a random person on the street found out that the main entrance was in the square but only open from 1:30 to 2:30. So, we grabbed soem more water and headed back to the square, where we eventually found the line. There we realized that by what it says in the Torah, no Jews are allowed inside. We made our way through another set of security guards and then after a bit of knee covering, we were inside. Wow. What an experience being at the epicenter of so many faiths. We walked around the square, took pictures, and soaked in the atmosphere of the place. After a short rest in the shade on the north side of the dome, we found the exit and walked west towards the Chuch of the Holy Sepulchre.

We walked through several more layers of shaded alley streets, and eventually found the main entrance to the Church with the help of a very nice shop owner. Inside we found a small crowd of tourists, and another site with a powerful atmosphere. We rested in the Crusader chapel, near the tomb of Jesus, taking note of the wonderful beams of light shadowing the floor. We also walked to the lower levels to the site where Helena allegedly found the True Cross. After back tracking a bit, and stopped again so I could buy some nice souvenirs, we found a small cafe near the Damascus gate where we enjoyed a round of Turkish coffee. Soon after we caught the light rail back to the bus station where we had a slightly longer (due to traffic) ride back to Tel Aviv.

Back in the city we had a very refreshing walk to Chelsea’s apartment, stopping on the way to pick up some very tasty feta and spinach calzones. I’m now back in the apartment finishing up my prep work for tomorrow’s coaching clinic.

Exciting stuff!

Beit Sahour

After a short nap this afternoon, I was ready to head out to Beit Sahour. Maggie, another Ultimate Peace coach, met up with Nathan and I and we walked 5 blocks to a nearby bus station and quickly found the bus we were looking for. About an hour later we stepped off in Jerusalem. Maggie played a bit of phone-tag with Karym while we tried to figure out the best meeting spot. While waiting, I picked up a sim card and got my cell phone to work. Yay! Shortly after, we connecte with Karym and drove 15 minutes to the checkpoint into Bethlehem.

Before crossing over we connected with the other half of the group going to the clinic, who proceeded to go through the checkpoint on foot. We drove through, and met up again with the group, who found a taxi and continued the rest of the way with us to Beit Sahour. On the way we passed through Bethlehem, and had a great view of the surrounding area. About 10 minutes later we arrived at the school and found the small field, populated with about 25 kids waiting there for us.

On the drive into the clinic I found out that Hamouda, one of my Black Ice club team players, was going to be at the clinic, helping to translate. Needless to say I was super excited to see Hamouda! Right as we found the field, I immediately saw Hamouda and we chatted a bit about the last few months. Soon after, we met the kids. They had come in from the area around Beit Sahour, and Hamouda had brought a group of kids in from Bethlehem. Many of the Beit Sahour kids were quite experienced, and almost all of the Bethlehem kids had never thrown a disc before.

We started off by having all the kids pair up and start throwing. I worked with a Arash, a 14 year old from Bethlehem. It was amazing how quickly he picked up how to throw a forehand and a backhand. He was laser focused on what I was showing him. Fantastic stuff. We then transitioned to a 20 minute round of a go-to drill. We started off with backhands then transitioned for forehands. Next, we moved through a weave drill, and then some dump-swing practice. We then capped off the session with some “It’s up!” and finished up with a cheer of “Bethlehem and Beit Sahour!”. We then lounged around for a bit talking more with the kids and snapping some group pictures. Out on the road we waited for a taxi and had some more time to talk to the Bethlehem kids. I got to talk with Hamouda some more and we made plans to connect later in the week.

After clearing the checkpoint out into Israel, we found a great pasta place for dinner. I had a great time getting to know the other UP coaches and learning their stories. After dinner Kasym drove Maggie, Nathan, and I to the bus station where we quickly found our bus and an hour later made it back to Tel Aviv. We short cab ride later I made it back to Chelsea’s apartment.

Tomorrow Maggie, Nathan, and I are going to head out into Tel Aviv to explore. The goal is to walk the beach, see a bunch of Yafo (southern Tel Aviv), and then there is my own personal goal to eat as much as possible ;) I’m also aiming to head back to Bethlehem to spend some time with Hamouda and his family, something I am greatly looking forward to.

What a wonderful first day in Israel!