Onward Israel Cincinnati 2021 Week 1: Jet Lag, Night Life, and Shawarma

Jet Leg…. Night Life…. And Some Much-Needed Shawarma.

My name is Ellie Deutsch, and I am thrilled to be the Onward blogger for the summer of 2021 in Tel Aviv, Israel. This past spring, I graduated from Xavier University with a double major in both Communications and Musical Theatre. Like many of my peers, I’m still not exactly sure what I want to do now that I’m an “adult.” I hope in these next few months I channel some of my professional role models such as Anthony Bourdain, Terry Gross, and Tiffany Haddish in my writing and storytelling.

WELCOME TO TEL AVIV, where our small group of 34 Cincinnatians was greeted in a city that some consider the “New York” of Israel. Similar to many Cincinnati natives, each of us on this Onward trip got to know each other quickly asking one classic question, “So, where did you go to high school?”

After hours of flying, various layovers, and one too many in-flight meals, all members of the Cincinnati/Tel Aviv Onward group arrived in Israel where some were greeted by familiar faces while others were begging to get in the nearest shower and change their socks. Sadly, I was reminded that our adventures in this “New York City” wouldn’t begin yet. I put all my Carrie Bradshaw fantasies aside as Covid tests awaited us along with a blood PCR test that was administered to verify that each of us had Covid antibodies from the vaccines we received before the trip.

Into quarantine, we went dragging our gargantuan suitcases up the stairs of the Little Tel Aviv Hostel knowing that we wouldn’t see or be able to go outside again for the next few days.

The Little Tel Aviv Hostel is a quaint place with a white façade resembling an art deco style and balconies that outstretch the top two floors. The community kitchen is located on the first floor, and it was filled with groceries meant to last for 14 days just in case any of us would have to quarantine for the allotted time. Waving goodbye to the boys, the girls entered the hostel first where we learned that we would be living on the second floor. The boys followed behind. To everyone’s surprise, the boys outnumber the girls on the trip making for very rowdy but exciting third-floor neighbors.

The next two days were filled with copious Zoom meetings, loads of sleep, and at the end, a Champagne party because remember, we are still in Tel Aviv… and Champagne happened to be the least expensive alcohol to be delivered to college students in quarantine begging for an ounce of fun. At the stroke of midnight like some magic fairytale, all of us had received emails from the government saying our antibody tests came back positive… well all of us except for two, Matthew and Chase.

Around noon the next day, Onward gave us the green light, and we were instantly free to roam the bustling city, but Matthew and Chase had to stay behind as luck was not on their side. During this time, our Madrichim (our guides to all things Onward and Tel Aviv) Natalie and Shalev, gave us a tour of the local area pointing out where the nearest bomb shelter was located in case it would ever be needed. Ours happened to be an aggressive shade of hot pink. How fun. Instantly, my mind flashed back to images and news reports where I was reminded of the attacks that had happened during the prior weeks in Israel and beyond. Tel Aviv is such a tech-savvy and innovative city. It’s hard to imagine that such a conflict could happen in such a beautiful place.

Our tour concluded, and we welcomed our first Shabbat in Israel.

Maybe Tel Aviv is the city that never sleeps because, on this holy day, we could hear the booming of the bass from the nightclub across the street and spent our next few days dancing with the locals and sunning by the beach. Life has been pretty kind to us. Looks like I may find my very own version of the Tel Aviv Carrie Bradshaw after all.

Until next time.



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