Originally posted November 28, 2009
I’m not in Jerusalem right now, but I just got back from the 2nd of two great weekends there.
My first weekend in Jerusalem was spent with some extended family, the kind that you’ve met twice and who invite you to stay. So I took them up on their offer for a Shabbat dinner and I am so glad I did! They were very nice and hospitable, a lot of fun to hang out with, and I just had a wonderful weekend with them. There’s also a contra dance once a month in Jerusalem, within walking distance of their house, and I timed everything right so that I could make it. It was wonderful to be contra dancing again, but it was a little sad to be missing all of the usual faces. It’s a beginning contra so they still have a lot to learn, but what they lack in experience they definitely make up for in enthusiasm!
This weekend I went to Jerusalem with the MASA program. I’m not a MASA program participant (yet), but the conference this weekend sounded very interesting and it was open to non-participants. It dealt with Security Issues in Israel, starting with the security fence (which we visited and learned about), and ended with a lecture about the Iranian threat. I learned a lot in the intensive weekend, but I still had time to relax and talk with other participants about what they thought and their perspectives. The University of Haifa brought about 30 people, and we made up about half of the whole conference, and the rest of the people were from MASA programs, of all sorts. They were also from all over the world, which really added to the diversity of the people and their opinions (in a great way). We listened to lectures about what it means to be an Israeli Arab, an introduction to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and about Hamas.
Then, we were split up into smaller groups to discuss some of the issues and how we felt about certain situations. One example was the law regarding the reunification of Palestinians families, and how men between the ages of 14-35 and women between 14 and 25 were not allowed to move to Israel (from the West Bank), because those are the most common ages (looking at the statistics) of suicide bombers. Another example involved how we felt about the mandatory army service in Israel, and if we thought that the punishment for avoiding service should be jail. There are some ways to get around it (being a pacifist, ultra religious, etc), and sometimes the person is fine, but other times they can be put in jail for a month or two. It was quite interesting to think about, but also hear what other people thought, from different backgrounds. We had a great time talking about lots of different issues between the lectures, during the meals, and every other free moment.
It’s been nice to spend time in Jerusalem, it really is a great city, but it’s nice to be back in Haifa. I’ve got a lot of work to do for my media class, but generally I’m keeping up with the work and really loving my classes still. I’m trying my best to progress in Hebrew with some success here and there. I’ve been hanging out with some neighbors of mine who speak Hebrew primarily and I think the immersion is working, and their English is improving too.
Oh, and Thursday we had a great Thanksgiving on campus! The international school kids put together a pot-luck thanksgiving near the dorms and it was a great success. I fought with and finally conquered about 20 eggs and boiled them (though I lost some in the process) and made deviled eggs. The food was wonderful, and everyone was having a great time talking and eating and eating, per family tradition. We brought roommates and friends too, so it was quite the mixed group. We also sat around and watched a Friends episode of one of their Thanksgiving dinners, which was hilarious. After, I skyped with my family (and a cute nice-puppy!) who were just starting the cooking for their own thanksgiving.
In other news, I’m in the middle of planning my winter travels around Europe. I’m not sure who I’ll be traveling with yet, but I’m still getting quite excited (and I know it’ll be freezing cold, but at least I’ll be freezing cold at the Eiffel Tower, and not in Boston!). If anyone has suggestions about places to go and things to do, I would definitely appreciate them. I only have 5 weeks, so I’m thinking (right now, this could change in 2 days) of flying from Tel Aviv to Berlin, spending about a week there, making my way over to England via the Netherlands, then France and maybe Switzerland. I would love to see Venice and Budapest and Prague and many other places, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the time (or money). It’s still very flexible, but as things start to get more solidified I realize that I am truly going to travel all over Europe in just 6 weeks!! It should be one heck of a trip.
And then, after I make my triumphant return to Israel in early February, my parents are going to come visit! I am so excited; skype is great and all, but it’ll be nothing compared to actually seeing them. And I can’t wait to show them all around Israel, from my favorite places in Haifa to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea and everywhere else we can think of. They’ll stay for about a week or so, and then it’s back to school for me (February 22nd). Basically, I’ve got tons of planning to do, but it’s going to be AWESOME! Also, if you have travel tips for getting from point A to point B, let me know. I’m currently looking at train passes and how cost-effective they will be in comparison to point-to-point pricing, and flexible train passes, etc.
That’s about it for now. Life is great, I’m loving Israel and I’m so glad I’m not leaving in 5 weeks!
P.S. I’ve been playing poker with my neighbors for the past few weeks and I finally won last night! Well it was a cash game, so I won almost as much as the other person who won. I think I even made back all the money that I lost in the past few weeks! 😛