Hostel Job in Jerusalem

Do you know which powerful world leader’s name translates to “to possess the world?” I didn’t until today. I’ll let you know who it is near the end. 🙂

Today I became a working girl again! My mom and I officially began our new job at our favorite hostel in Jerusalem’s Zion Square. It’s in a central area that’s always active with music, night markets, shopping, protests and parades. The hostel location gives you close proximity to the old city without the tension of actually living within the walls. (There are the Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim quarters divided within the old Jerusalem walls). The feeling of this area is more like a laid back New York, but cleaner. It’s the closest to feeling like home while living abroad.

We flew back to Israel on Rosh Hashana after three stimulating weeks in Morocco. US citizens are granted three months stay in Israel and we hope to spend all of our allotted time here. The first five weeks after we left the US were spent exploring this ancient Bible land. After those 5, almost 6 weeks, in Israel we flew to Turkey in the beginning of July. Here’s an itinerary of all the places we visited up until now. After four months of changing hostels sometimes four nights in a row and a constant change of scenery and culture, we are happy to sit fast for a while and process all we’ve just experienced. Israel is a break-spot.

But it is also the kind of place to break the bank if we’re not careful. The neighbors surrounding Israel do quite a bit to make life hard for your typical Israeli. You’ve got the large and necessary military tax and another huge tax loaded upon everything that has been imported, which is the majority of items. Food prices can be pretty outrageous. I haven’t found any salad dressing for under $5, for a small bottle. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream can be enjoyed for $8 a pint (though it goes on sale and can be found for 20nis, or roughly $5). “How do you afford to live here?” my mom sometimes asks locals in stores. They always grimace and smile with an “I know, it’s expensive here.”

That’s why this hostel job is such a major blessing. It typically costs $20/night per bed in a cramped, dated dorm room in a hostel in Israel. That may sound cheap, but when you think about paying $20 each night, that is equivalent to spending $600/month for rent, each. $600 a month would get you a decent sized apartment in my former home of Raleigh, North Carolina. Times that by three and we would be paying $1800 per month, just for a bed each in a shared spaced. By contrast, our last hostel in Morocco was costing us each $6/night, which was the best we’ve found for a bed so far.

Thankfully it is possible to do well on a budget here. There are plenty of loopholes and great deals to be found despite high store prices. For instance, we camped in a kibbutz right on the Sea of Galilee for a week for free. The local fresh markets, namely the Mehane Yehuda on our street and the market at Damascus gate are the ideal places to score good deals on fresh fruit, vegetables, and bread. Buying a phone here may be pricey, but the plans are dirt cheap. And instead of buying salad dressing, buying fresh Israeli olive oil and apple cider vinegar make a perfect substitute with a bit of salt and pepper.

My mom and I are taking over from a long-term worker at the hostel who recently found a new job. For four years, this lady was mostly in charge of the overall state of the hostel. Her departure dumped unwelcome pressure on the hostel’s manager and hopefully our arrival will effectively lift the burden. We will be helping in the hostel for 2-3 hours each day, plus more for anything else we decided needs to get done. Since tourists and visitors are not permitted to work legally without a work visa, we are considered volunteers. Our work, instead of for pay, covers our room and board plus breakfast.

Right now the three of us are still enjoying our little getaway in our airbnb apartment in the Rehavia neighborhood. Not only are we sharing the street with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s personal residence, but the neighborhood holds significant history and the past homes of influential philosophers, politicians, and innovators. The area is described as the secular stronghold of Jerusalem and is equated with the upper west side of Manhattan. I’m looking forward to learning more about the area and getting acquainted with its quaintness.

My God is certainly a God of miracles. Traveling is a fun way to see both the spectacular and subtle ways that the Lord works in our lives. The apartment could not be more perfect for us and it is only costing us 100 sheckles a day, or $25. Somehow I came across it after trying multiple searches on airbnb. Finding anything less than $1,000/month was proving to be a major challenge, especially for a central location and especially during the high season of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, all of which occurred this month and in September.

We have the apartment until mid-October. While searching for another apartment to move to after mid-October, I had about 100 and one open tabs looking at apartments. I dreading the time when Shabbat was over and I could begin calling the numbers on some of these apartments and bargaining for a reasonable deal. Before I had the chance, we received a call about two open positions waiting for us at the hostel. (We are saved!!) Although Grace will not be working, the family friendliness of the Jerusalem hostel graciously extended a welcome to her as well.

Having the quietness and privacy (and clean, personal kitchen!) of an apartment has been a welcome refreshment. Somehow in less than a month we are already missing the informative and interactive atmosphere of a close-knit hostel.

During training back at the hostel, I got the chance to run into a friendly acquaintance that I had formed last time I was in Israel. He’s a quiet, middle aged man with the craziest Russian accent you’ve ever heard. The first time I ever heard him speak I had to smile and wonder whether he was making the accent so pronounced for humorous effect or not. Turns out it’s all natural. We re-exchanged names after both confessing to not remember each other’s. His name is Vlad, which possibly means love, though I didn’t keep up with all the Russian names and translations that we got into. His apparent understanding of Russian and English made me curious to ask if there was a translation for, well, what about Vlad-imir? His answer came immediately and was well described. I was blown away by what I heard.

He explained that Vlad in this context would change to mean “to possess” and imir or just mir comes originally from a German word to mean “the earth.” Vladimir in essence means “to possess the earth.” Whoa. There’s a prophetic name for the Russian President if I ever heard one. Vlad noted that the Russian people give significant names, or at least have in the past, because they believe names are, in his words, magical.

With Vladimir Putin’s bombastic (no pun intended..) entrance into Syria, a Christian has to wonder whether the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 is finally beginning.

One thing my mom and I do know is that God has provided for us to be here and our reason for being here is to pray for the Jewish people and nation. The Bible gives assurance of a time when the veil of the traditions and religiosity of the Jews bound under law would be lifted. We’re praying for this time be a time that the Jewish people investigate the necessity and role of Jesus Christ and believe in Him as their Savior and Lord. Nations will rise against Israel, but the God of Israel is in control of it all.

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