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Aisha's Language Practice Hub


My experience with the language hub has helped me advance my spoken Arabic and make new meaningful friendships outside of the international school. In weekly meetings with my partner, we start with suggested topics and adapt our conversation to gaps we discover in our vocabulary or grammar. For example, when we were taking turns talking about our families and where we come from, I realized I was having some trouble with numbers when trying to describe my parent's ages, and with colors when trying to describe my sister's hair. So, my partner taught me the words, and asked me questions to prompt responses using the new words I'd learned. We also use our conversation time to talk about cultural differences. When we were discussing our universities and fields of study, we started talking about the difference in teaching styles and class sizes, and I explained some of the complexities in the American higher education system, like rising tuition costs, work-study and federal student loan programs. She was so surprised to hear how much my public university tuition is compared to her tuition here at the University of Haifa, and asked me how American students ever pay back their debt. When she was talking about where she was from, I asked her about the divisions or tensions between students from Arab neighborhoods, Druze villages, or Jewish areas. We've never had to try very hard to discuss more difficult sociopolitical things. There is a lot of mutual curiosity, good intention and vulnerability in this kind of a partnership. My partner has become a very close friend, and someone I can turn to to ask sensitive questions about Arab culture when I am curious about something I see or read. She can teach me things I can't really learn in the classroom, both about Arab culture and about the Arabic language. The word choices and cadence used by young people are very different than the language used in the classroom - even when we are being taught "colloquial" Arabic. It's also very helpful to have a 'voice model' of sorts. I ask her to pronounce words I've already learned, I listen carefully, and repeat them back until they sound natural, like her. The language hub has been such a valuable experience. I've learned a great deal, stretched my comfort zone, and gained a true friend. I would definitely recommend it to any international student trying to learn a language!


Christen Scalfano, CIEE Haifa Fall 2016

College of William & Mary '18 | International Relations



Our Day Trip in Tel Aviv- Jaffa/ by Meghan Curran

For our second CIEE excursion of the semester, Martha took us on a diverse tour throughout Jaffa and Tel Aviv. 
We met in the morning for shakshuka and ate at a hip cafe before heading to a grocery store around the corner. From there, we walked through southern Tel Aviv and entered a nondescript warehouse-style building. Climbing up the stairs, we passed empty hallways and closed doors before turning the corner to find an open door and a room full of color and laughter! We sat on brightly patterned sofas among piles of crocheted bowls as Dr. Kahn spoke with us about Kuchinate and her role as co-founder of the organization. 
The collective centers around African asylum-seekers creating crocheted home goods. It was obvious from the moment we walked in that Kuchinate has a positive impact on the women who work there. Many of them have suffered incredible trauma – trafficking, sexual violence, torture – and need psychological support. Luckily, Dr. Kahn has vast experience in clinical psychology as a trauma specialist in humanitarian aid and intervention. However, introducing western psychological treatment to people unaccustomed to the concept can be tricky, she explained. Mental health is not a topic of conversation in many of their cultures, so Dr. Kahn relies on other, less foreign forms of support: fostering a safe friendly environment, encouraging the women to share their culture and traditions through crochet and coffee ceremonies, and the ability to bring their children in while they work. The ease and casualness with which she discussed this philosophy highlighted the significance of their project; it’s unbelievable that women can have economic stability, celebrate their culture, cultivate friendships, receive psychological support, and more all within one organization!
From Kuchinate we walked to Bialik Rogozin School which is also located in south Tel Aviv. Eli Nechama, the school’s principal for several years, gave us a tour of the school. Having grown up with both parents working in education at one time or another,
I have a natural interest in schools, so I was eager to learn more about a school that Martha had only described as in a “complex and highly discussed neighborhood.
One of the first things Nechama told us is that the students at Bialik Rogozin come from 51 countries – they have no common language, culture, or religion to unite them. Despite this challenge, as well as the challenge of many being immigrants, refugees, undocumented, or asylum-seeking students, the students have higher rates of academic success than almost anywhere else in Israel. The national rate of eligibility for the matriculation certificate is 51% and 92% of Bialik Rogozin students were eligible last year! Aside from the standardized tests and statistics, the students are also extremely talented musicians, dancers, athletes, and more! 
Nechama attributes this success to many factors: the huge network of volunteers that help run the school, the dedication of teachers who work there, and most important – the school’s philosophy. He listed five factors – excellence, continuity principle, current pedagogy, international campus, involvement and contribution to the community – as well as the sense of stability students have in a K-12 school and the lessons they offer parents in parenthood, economics, and Hebrew. Such programming and principles are instrumental in the school’s success, but I was struck most by the atmosphere of love and care for the students. The principal addressed every student by name as they passed us, he hugged them, and then told us a little about their accomplishments or story. It was obvious that the high level of affection for and devotion to the students makes the difference. 
The “Black City” photograph exhibition stands out to me as the perfect example of this love. Tel Aviv is often referred to as the White City because of its many Bauhaus and modernist buildings, but this project adapted the city’s nickname to flip the narrative about the city and its residents. “Nobody tells them they are excellent,” Nechama told us, “but they are succeeding against all odds." He explained the significance of portraying the residents of the area – immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, migrant workers – in a positive light, so that students could see role models with cultures, languages, appearances, and religions similar to their own. This exhibit was just one example of how the school strives to affirm the worth of the students and support them in every way they can.
Our next stop was to Neve Sheanan – a neighborhood in south Tel Aviv that is known for its population of immigrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees. Martha explained to us that there is an intense fear of this area and its inhabitants – taxi drivers often refuse to take people there at night. At first glance, you can understand their hesitation; it’s a scene I’m familiar with in the South, where many residents are poor and unable to work. The streets are unclean and there are many young men of color who seem to be “loitering" – images that often spur a perception of danger in many cities across the world.


As with anywhere, it’s important to understand the context and underlying factors that have created this environment and the subsequent fear of it. This is where Taj, a brilliant, soft-spoken refugee and activist from Darfur, came in. He greeted us with a wide smile and ushered us into an Eritrean restaurant where we ordered three injera dishes. While we scooped up meat, lentils, and veggies with the spongy flatbread, Taj told us the heart-wrenching story of how he escaped the genocide in Darfur. 
As a young man in the middle of the conflict zone, he was in danger of being kidnapped and enslaved, so his family urged him to flee. He escaped to Egypt but was arrested multiple times and brutally tortured before weighing his options and leaving for Israel with the help of smugglers. Since 2008, Taj has lived in Israel on a temporary visa that must be renewed every two months – an incredibly uncertain and stressful condition to live in. Because Israel has no clear policy on refugees, particularly Sudanese/Darfurian refugees, the visas available to asylum-seekers like Taj are extremely and deliberately vague. For example, the limits on working are unclear, so most companies avoid hiring people with them, which in turn relegates many asylum-seekers to extremely low-paying jobs or involuntary unemployment. Even though Taj himself has a bachelor’s degree in counter-terrorism and conflict resolution, as well as a master’s degree in political science (both from Israeli institutions), he has found himself working exploitative service jobs to make money. His anger and frustration on behalf of the refugee population is clear, and it’s easy to understand why. Refugees and asylum-seekers have a right to stability; it’s a violation of their dignity to live in a legal limbo with the additional pressure of difficult renewal processes that aim to encourage refugees to leave voluntarily but sometimes lead people to commit suicide. 
He passed his visa around the table, well-creased but protected in a plastic wallet, and we found it hard to believe that his existence (and that of many, many others) is defined by a single slip of paper. It reminded me of Mahmoud Darwish’s “Identity Card” poem – the frustration of having your entire life, family, and identity distilled into a few bureaucratic words on paper. Despite the limbo that Taj and many others have experienced for the past 10 years, he received news just this week that he is one of five people to be given permanent resident status in Israel! Because of this, he will be able to leave Israel and see his family for the first time in 14 years.
Leaving Neve Sheanan, we felt disheartened and disappointed, but it was certainly thought-provoking to consider why a nation so profoundly influenced by the Holocaust would choose to treat refugees and asylum-seekers the way it does. Since we’ve visited Taj in Neve Sheanan, some of Israel’s policies on African migrants (mostly from Sudan and Eritrea) have changed – just this morning, the Israeli court suspended its plan to deport African migrants!
We took taxis towards Jaffa, and it was immediately clear that we were in a completely different neighborhood. We were let into a large private home by a well-dressed, charismatic woman named Doris. She served us baklava and coffee from her family business and explained how coffee culture is a sort of politics – an extremely important and nuanced form of social etiquette.
She then jumped right into her story. Doris is an Arab-Christian-Palestinian-Israeli former beauty queen, which was definitely a combination of identities we had not yet encountered! When she was 15, her parents accepted a marriage proposal from a prominent family in Jaffa on her behalf, and she was married at 16. Since then she has lived as a housewife, taking care of her husband and children. Several years ago, a local tour guide approached her about opening her house to guests and telling them about the family coffee business and her life. Having lived in a relatively insulated community until this point, she cited this opportunity to interact with tourists from all over the world as incredibly eye-opening! Although she retains some traditional, conservative beliefs about intermarriage between religions, she told us that she would never arrange marriages for her children the way her parents did for her and her sisters: “You have to give your daughter an education first. Then you also have to give your daughter the opportunity to feel love, to be loved.” 
After meeting Doris, we walked through Jaffa towards the port, where we spent a while taking in the beautiful views of Tel Aviv and wandering through the market before it closed. Because life with Martha is never boring, we had one last unusual cultural experience in store…dinner at the Nalaga’at Center, where blind servers guide guests through a meal entirely in the dark. The restaurant is part of a larger project that employs deaf, blind, and deaf-blind individuals in its theater group, restaurant, and workshops. 
When Martha’s name was called, we were led to the entrance of the restaurant – a dark hallway where we were told to stand in line and place our hands on each others’ shoulders. Our server then led us in, told us where to stop, and helped each of us sit at the table. The most unsettling moment of the entire evening for me was being the last person standing in the middle of the dark room when everyone else had taken their seat – I felt so alone and vulnerable! This moment made me understand why the organization is called “please touch” in Hebrew; without the comfort or guidance from the touch of someone else, I was completely lost.
We had selected our dishes before entering the restaurant (I chose “Surprise Fish”), so all that was left to do was wait for our food and pour our own water –  a task that took a lot of coordination and concentration. Our food arrived, and those of us with “surprise” dishes reached across the table (accidentally stabbing each other with our forks), tasted each others’ food, and tried to figure out what we were eating! As I ate, I was strangely aware how much we rely on seeing others’ body language, gestures, and facial expressions in social interactions. We were all a little quieter because of it.
My favorite part of the dinner was hearing from our waiter about his experience as a person with limited sight. He spent many years of his life angry, resenting his lack of sight, but started working for Nalaga’at and began to appreciate his other abilities. He told us that many of the servers act in the theater, others help guide other workshops within the organization, and some even run marathons! Nalaga’at is the only “blackout” restaurant in Israel, so it was an incredibly special opportunity – there are so few places that raise awareness about individuals with different vision and hearing abilities in such an immersive, personal way.
Our time in Tel Aviv and Jaffa with Martha was a whirlwind! We spent the entire day learning about projects and people challenging the preconceptions people have about them. Obviously, not every day studying in Israel is full of this many new people, opinions, and beliefs, but I feel that it’s representative of our semester here as a whole. For being “the Jewish nation,” there are so many people here that aren’t Jewish or Israeli, so I constantly encounter narratives and stories that change my perception of Judaism, Israel, its inhabitants, and its role in the larger Middle East region. 


Spring 2018 newsletter: Issue I

A word from the resident director:

I’m one of those people who likes to be prepared and ready much in advance, to make sure all will go smoothly and to avoid unnecessary stress. The biggest problem with planning is that some things cannot be predicted long in advance… one of them is the weather. In particular, a very stormy and rainy weekend…

So there I was, with my well-thought out orientation plan filled with outdoor activities, facing the forecast and realizing that we must change our orientation program completely so we can survive the cold and rainy days.  

I must admit that it it turned out to be a blessing in disguise (rain in Israel is always considered to be a blessing anyway): Thanks to the challenges posed by the weather, we got to be creative and discovered a few new places and made a few new friends that we wouldn’t have met otherwise. Such as the wonderful storyteller Sara, from the beautiful round Bucharian heritage house in Kfar Vradim,


or the kind, strong-willed woman and educator and mother of four, Salam, from the village of Nahef.



So I welcome our new adventurers this semester and wish them the best of luck in exploring, learning and breathing the local languages and cultures!

This newsletter will include the poetic description of our visit in Acre (Akko) during the orientation written by our student Madina, a review of a recent very special performance we had visited in Haifa, as well as a poem by Tovya Reubner.

I hope you enjoy this very colorful and musical newsletter issue!

Sincerely yours,

Martha Shtapura-Ifrah

Director of CIEE Haifa


Our time in Akko/ by Madina Khudaynazar

Located on the crashing waves of the Mediterranean Sea, lies an ancient city historically known as Akko. This little hub of an ancient city protrudes outward from Israel’s north coast. You can even see it from the university. We spent our third day in a small van driving up Israel’s coast to visit this historical city that has been recently recognized as a world heritage site. We were greeted by a rainy and foggy morning, with salty winds and ancient rock walls.  


As the call to prayer rang among the 3000 year old rocky beige walls, I was reminded that our footsteps are just echoes of those who lived and inhabited these walls before. Akko’s ancient city has been touched and retouched by the four monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity, Judaism and the Bahai’ faith.

Mad blog 2

During the tour, our charming guide, Abdu Mata, had us step in and out of his map as he narrated the historical glimpses of the crusaders, the silk road and the Byzantine influence. It is an art to be able to take people back to ancient history and create a concept of how old this city truly is. Our tour guide measured time through historical markers. This city has been standing before the oldest monotheistic religion stemmed, and it was amazing to be able to conceptualize that. I had a great time running my hands across these walls that have touched the fingers of those before me.


We ducked through underground tunnels where crusaders used to travel so they could avoid everyday robbers that filled the streets.  The tunnels progressively got taller and shorter, wider and thinner as we came started from one side of the city and found yourself in the Turkish bazaars. Now those same streets are filled with women, children and markets that offer a warm welcome and fresh squeezed juice for your liking. As time progressed so did our hunger. Martha treated us to some amazing local food and a million salads. Take advantage of the fish and picture opportunities! The only complaint I have is not being able to stay there long enough!  Akko, Acre, Akka.  Whatever you may call it, I believe the history of time echoes in its waves that crash among the shores.


Music for a better today

This week we got the chance to visit a special event at the Leo Baeck Community Center. The event celebrated shared existence and the way in which art and music can promote dialogue and even peace. 

The event started off with a performance by Arus al Karmel, a wonderful dance group from the Druze village – Osaffiya. The group included young women and girls of various ages who skillfully danced traditional Dabke dances with modern and original twists. The word 'Dabke' is derived from the Arabic word (Arabic: دبكة‎) meaning, “stamping of the feet”. Dabke combines circle dance and line dancing and is widely performed at weddings and other joyous occasions. The line forms from right to left. The leader of the dabke heads the line, alternating between facing the audience and the other dancers. The dabke has many types which differ across regions. Each type of dabke dance has its own corresponding set of songs.

We watched the beautiful performance and couldn’t help but tapping our feet and enjoying the music and the lively dancing. One of our students, Madina, even joined the circle of dancers!


We then proceeded to the music hall to listen to a unique performance of the Peace Drums Project. The goal of the Peace Drums Project is to create a meaningful connection between Jewish and Arab Israeli youth through music. The instrument chosen for this project is steel drums- also known as Carribean drums. This project was founded by Harvey Price, who came all the way from Philadelphia to work with the student and orchestrate the event!  We had the chance to listen to a wide array of performers and musical styles, including pop, classic, Caribbean and even a song from Disney’s Little Mermaid.

The crowd watching the performance was diverse as well; there were parents of the talented musicians, friends, local musicians as well as some honorable guests from Israel and abroad.

While the students performed, you could see how much they enjoyed their music and their time together!

Words on my mind- Poetry time!

I'd like to finish up this issue with a poem by Tuvya Ruebnver. 

Tuvya Ruebner is an Israeli poet, editor, translator and photographer.

Tuvya Ruebner was born Kurt Rübner in 1924 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now the capital of Slovakia) to a German-speaking Jewish family. In 1941, he emigrated to Mandate Palestine without his family, and joined a kibbutz. His parents, sisters and grandparents were sent to Poland and were murdered in the Holocaust. For many years, he was a schoolteacher and later lectured on literature at Haifa University. His poetry is a mix of classical and modern Hebrew, creating a unique idiom.


Before You the Rain

Before you the ancient rain
Warmth in your back, you stand there and think
How few are the words
that a man needs in his life
You think about him who is witnessing all this, and him
whose face is the wind, and foliage and rain
which is tapping the glass


Fall 2017 Newsletter, ISSUE II

A word from the director:


It’s the holiday season and it is a very special time here in Haifa!

 Hundreds of visitors travel here from all over the country (and sometimes the world) to take part in a special event- the Holiday of the Holidays. It is a local festival that has become a tradition which celebrates diversity and the holidays of the three major religions in Haifa- Hannukah, Christmas and often Eid al-  Fitr or Eid al – Adha.

Whenever I visit the festival and see all the different people who take part in it (children and senior citizens, women and men, of all religions and all backgrounds) it always feel like a little holiday miracle- when people put aside what divides them and join together to celebrate beauty and light.

I’d also like to mention that our CIEE group spent the weekend before Christmas in Nazareth and it was just beautiful! It is probably the best place to visit in Israel if you are looking for a real Christmas-time feel (minus the snow, of course).

This issue will include a review of our trip to Safed written by the wonderful Abby Prince as well as a list of the 10 things every students must know about the CIEE program at the University of Haifa created by our adventurous Anna Spoerre, and finally a short lesson in Arabic and Hebrew (How to say Happy New Year in both languages).

Sincerely yours,


Martha Shtapura-Ifrah

Director, CIEE Haifa


Our Trip to Safed and the Jordan River/ by Abby Prince

“Shalom Aleichem, mal’achei hasharet, mal’achei elvon” were the words that we heard blasting from the stereo as we puled over to the side of the road to pick up our tour guide.  This song, traditionally sung to welcome the Jewish Shabbat and sung by the family as they gather around the dinner table, was blasting from the little radio that our guide was carrying around with him throughout our tour.  “Shalom! Welcome to Safed!” Our tour guide’s excitement and joyful spirits, as well as the beautiful shades of blue painted all over the city, were the first things that struck me about the city of Safed.  The color blue, symbolic because it is reminiscent of the sky as well as God’s vastness and power, covered much of the space, creating a beautiful and colorful display.  Our tour consisted of an overview of the city’s rich history and some of the most well-known sights located there.  We stopped to see an old synagogue that had been there since as early as 1522.  It was great to see such beautiful history that is so important the Jewish people.  We also explored some old underground tunnels that ended in a cozy little bakery.  We sat in one of these underground rooms while our tour guide pulled out a Shofar, what he explained to us was a Jewish horn used for religious ceremonies.  He proceeded to show us a few of the typical sounds that can be made on the horn and the meanings of each of them.  I even had the opportunity to give it a try!  I quickly discovered that it was not as easy as it looked – I could barely get a single sound out of it! 


After we finished our tour, we spent some time walking around the markets streets to look for little gifts.  The streets were filled with homemade crafts, art, and all kinds of jewelry.  We spent lots of time looking at everything and talking to the artisans about how they made their products.  One of the stores that we went into was a homemade wax and candle shop.  There was a woman there who was twisting and molding the wax into a candle, and we also saw several intricate wax sculptures depicting different Biblical scenes such as David and Goliath.  We also stopped for lunch at the best shwarma place that I have ever been to!  Our trip to Safed was an incredibly fun educational and cultural experience. 


The second part of our trip was rafting down an outlet of the Jordan River.  When I first heard about this, I had imagined huge rapids and a wide river, but in reality, our experience was much more calm.  We took turns rowing and pointing out wildlife that we saw, like turtles and beautiful birds.  About halfway through, we saw a heard of cows just hanging out on the bank!  This trip was such a fun bonding experience with the group.  We had such a great time exploring and hanging out with one another and getting to know more about the country that we are studying in.  From our amazing orientation week, to occasional one-on-one check-in meetings with Martha, it has been such a benefit to be a part of the CIEE program here in Haifa.  I am so grateful for the ways that the program has impacted my time here and look forward to the many other adventures we will have. 

Ten things every University of Haifa International student needs to know/ by Anna Spoerre

  1. You know those views that stop you in your tracks? Well here at the university your walk to class every day will be just that. The scene overlooking part of Haifa’s downtown and stretching up the Mediterranean coast to the Lebanon border is breathtaking to say the least. And of course it makes for some pretty great snapchats. Snapchat-1613977318
  2. Forget squirrels – cats are your new furry campus friend. These always cute, but not always friendly felines are guaranteed to greet you around every corner.   Review_35266_Photo__7433
  3. Even though your semester in Haifa will likely be the best semester of your life, sometimes Mondays still feel like Mondays. Say no more: the university has a nice range of coffee stations and shops. My regular go-to is a five shekel cappuccino from one of the many stands on campus. When I want to treat myself, I splurge on a mocha or iced coffee from Aroma, a cute café on campus that doubles as a great study spot.
  4. Looking for a way to burn some energy without paying for the semester gym pass? A variety of activities are offered on weekdays for only 15 shekels a class. Grab some new friends and get ready to get your yoga, Zumba, or even hip hop on.
  5. Wednesdays are anything but a drag on campus. Around lunchtime the campus quad is always hopping thanks to university-sponsored parties featuring free concerts and beer, vendors and cultural events.   Snapchat-349457447
  6. Need a late night study break but too tired to take a bus down the mountain? The Moadon has you covered. Every week the student building across from the dorms offers a range of activities including karaoke and dance parties. And they even opened a student bar just steps from your dorm.
  7. Let’s be real, hummus is half the reason you decided to study abroad in Israel. And what goes great with hummus? You know it: falafel. Thankfully the university has a cheap, excellent falafel shop hidden away on the 3rd floor of the stairs building. Snapchat-816644672
  8. You can’t talk about the university view without also mentioning Mount Carmel National Park located just a quick walk from campus. There are swinging bridges, a nature preserve and even a trail to the ocean. I personally take advantage of the two mile walking path which makes for inspiring sunrise runs if you don’t mind taking on some hills. Snapchat-833744370
  9. Though Haifa is one of the only cities in Israel where public transportation doesn’t completely shut down between sunrise Friday and sunrise Saturday – aka Shabbat -  getting around can still be a little tricky if you don’t plan ahead. This means stocking up on groceries before Shabbat is a must. Thankfully there’s a mini market across from the dorms in case you’re in a bind. Even though the prices are a little higher, you’ll have access to Bambas and Magnum Bars most hours of the day.
  10. Martha’s office really is the best spot on campus, and I’m not just saying that because I get bus money to write this blog. There’s a shared bookshelf with books centered around different aspects of Israeli and Middle Eastern life and culture. In other words, don’t be like me and pack three books. Instead save the luggage room and check out Martha’s collection. Did I mention there’s also tea, making Martha’s office the ideal place to study, or just hang out. And of course the best part of the university is Martha herself. She’ll have Haifa feeling like home in no time!

Talk local:

We know you just can’t wait to expand your vocabulary in Hebrew and Arabic, especially with a useful expression such as Happy New Year!

Here’s how you’d say it in Arabic:

سنة جديدة سعيدة – sana jadida sa’eeda

And here’s how you’d say it in Hebrew:

שנה אזרחית טובה- shana ezrahit Tova


From our family to yours:

Happy New Year and Happy Holidays!!!


Fall 2017 Newsletter, ISSUE I


A word from the director:

Even though the fall season in Israel is not as vividly colorful like the foliage in colder countries (most of the trees here are ever-green), and some people even go as far as claiming that there is no such thing as an “Israeli Fall”, this period of the year in Israel always seemed like a magical time to me! Especially the first rain, which is called “Hayoreh”. The Yoreh with its unique scent washes all our streets and irrigates our fields and it symbolizes the end of the hot, dry summer.

Fall symbolizes many other beginnings, like the beginning of the school year and the beginning of the Jewish year in Rosh Hashanah. In addition, it announces the arrival of our new group of students!

This year our students arrived at the last day of the Sukkot holiday, which is called Simhat Torah (the joy of the bible) and thanks to this special timing, they got a chance to visit a big local festival in Haifa: the International Film Festival!

Our students turned out to be avid travelers, hikers, and music lovers!

This first issue will include a blog entry about our orientation by our Fall student (and aspiring lawyer) Liran Koropitzer; an introduction to our intern, Aisha Yassin, who is in charge of the SAWA club; a poem about a stormy evening by Amir Gilboa; and a favorite local recipe that was prepared by one of our teams in the SAWA cooking event!

May this fall be full of wonderful adventures, meaningful conversations and ever-expanding horizons!

Yours truly,

Martha Shtapura-Ifrah

Director, CIEE Haifa


The start of something new by Liran Koropitzer (Fall 2017 CIEE student)

I hate to begin with such a cliché but it’s true, your first day studying abroad is the start of something completely new.

Our CIEE study abroad journey began at the airport. Our fabulous Resident Director Martha, picked us all up and brought us to an absolutely adorable hostel in downtown Haifa. The next three days became some of my best days ever spent in Israel. We went straight into things and our adventure of lifetime was jumpstarted. Now, unlike the others on our program this semester, I have a unique perspective on studying abroad in this specific location: I, am in fact, a citizen of this thriving nation.  Now you’d think having been to this country before and speaking the language would make this transition seamless, but you’re wrong. There’s a difference between coming to visit your family for a couple weeks during summer vacation and living here. For example, I had no clue how to even get to a grocery store – no food = no survival. Luckily for me, an amazing Resident Director was waiting for us to answer any questions we had, no matter how minor, such as “what cleanings supplies do I buy?” Her orientation provided us with a crash course and supplied us with vital knowledge about the country we would call home for the next few months. Not only did we gain knowledge during these three days, but we also made memories and bonded with the other students in the CIEE program.

Falafel during orientation

Some of the highlights of the orientation include: local, authentic meals, visiting and touring the ancient city or Tzipori and all the mind-blowing archeological sites that go along with it, checking out the city-wide film festival, meeting and listening to a refugee who’s family had been displaced from their home in 1948, getting to pick (and snack on) our own produce from a local farm, and finally, exploring the streets of our beautiful new home.


Besides all the benefits I have already mentioned, it was also advantageous that we arrived for our CIEE orientation a few days before the other international students arrived. Our early arrival allowed us to get acclimated to the weather and time zone whereas the other students began classes the day immediately after which the majority of them landed in Tel Aviv. Imagine going to classes with jet lag, let me tell you, it’s not fun.

Zippori 2

All in all CIEE has given us a great foundation to begin our journey and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Here’s to the next couple months, and the start of something new.


Meet our intern- Aisha Y. Yassin:

Aisha is a third year student, majoring in English and part of the Ofakim Honors program in the University of Haifa. She speaks Arabic, Hebrew and English fluently (and has some knowledge of Spanish!). among the many things she does, like leading youth engagement programs in school and in community, she has also been part of our CIEE team as an intern! Aisha is involved in many different tasks, including finding interesting events and ideas for our program’s activities, writing, creating marketing material and more. But most of all- Aisha is the woman behind our language partnership program, also known as SAWA (together in Arabic). We asked Aisha to share with us a bit of her experience and motivation to join CIEE.


“As an outgoing person, it was natural for me to meet many international students during my first years at the University. Through these students I got to know more about the CIEE program. Since I enjoyed listening to people, sharing my language and culture, and seeing the benefit of having more students on campus to meet other students, I started the SAWA club. This club is one step closer to my goal to connect the world together, to offer a nuanced picture of reality here, and to have great time. Moreover, working with CIEE has been really great, because it provided a fertile soil for ideas, and welcomed initiatives with  a lot of enthusiasm and support and helped make them come true. My dream is to learn constantly about the world, to see the beauty beyond boundaries and languages, and to help lessen the misery in this world. “


It's been really great to have Aisha on board with us here!

A poem by Amir Gilboa (1984-1917)

Gilboa was a renowned Israeli poet. He was born in Ukraine and immigrated to Israel when he was 20. Gilboa was awarded the Israel Prize for literature in 1982.

The following poem is called Erev Sufa, which can be translated as the Evening of the Storm or Stormwind Evening.

(English translation follows)

ערב סופה

ועוד השמש מווריד את חזיתות הבתים

באור של חיוכי ילדים

של דגלי נוער

של כרזות חג

באור של קולות מעטים

בתוך חשרת דממה מעיקה

טרם שוב יכה

Stormwind Evening

Translated by A.Z. Foreman

And still the sun reddens veins on the fronts of houses

With the light of children's smiles,

Of youth's banners,

Of holy day proclamations,

With the light of a few voices

In a gathering of oppressive silence

Before the lightning strikes once more.



Cultural flavors: Traditional Fattoush salad

Last week we hosted a special cooking event with our students and volunteers from the university, all of which are part of the SAWA club!

We thought it would be a good opportunity to get better acquinted with each other as well as some of the local foods. One of the dishes that was voted “tastiest” was the Fattous Salad. The salad was prepared by the lovely Abby Prince and Huda Hassan !



Fattoush is a popular Lebanese and Palestinian salad, known for its nutritious values and its easy-to-prepare recipe. The name of the salad is believed to be derived from the Arabic fatt "crush" and the suffix of Turkic origin -ūsh. Some claim that the roots of the Fattoush salad can be traced back to Lebanon at the end of the 19th century: as the Maronite Christians were fleeing from the numerous attacks committed by the Druze in Lebanon, a family arrived to the city of Zuhle, to the household of the Fattoush family. It was Easter, and in keeping with lent, the Christians did not eat meet. Instead they ate salad. One of them started eating salad with bread (which was pretty unusual), and the “Fattoush” salad was born. 

Now that you know a little about its past, it’s time to make your own fattoush salad!

What will you need?

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 small (4 inch) pita breads, torn into pieces
  • 1 large English cucumber, finely diced
  • 3 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac, or to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (or more to taste)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 ouncsheep's milk feta cheese

What do you do once you have all the ingredients? 

    1. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place pita pieces into the skillet without crowding. Fry in batches until golden brown and blot dry with paper towels.
    2. Combine cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, parsley, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, sumac, garlic, salt, and ground black pepper in a bowl. Gently toss salad with fried pita pieces. Grate feta cheese on top using a small cheese grater.
    3. Enjoy!



SAWA Language Club


SAWA in Arabic means together, and as its name suggests, the SAWA club aims to bring students together to learn, ask, and have a good time. The club was founded by Aisha Yassin, the CIEE intern, during Spring semester 2016 and it embarked successfully. This is evident in the fact that previous students are still in touch and have built a strong relationship.

 The idea of the club is very simple: bringing local students and international students to teach and learn together. The advantage of SAWA is that it allows students to try to practice the spoken language in a fun, and chill environment, which provides a wide platform for making mistakes freely. Students are divided to pairs: each pair consists of one international and local student, who in turn meet at least once a week wherever and whenever they want and talk. Throwing two students into a meeting can be awkward, and that is why there is an active Facebook group, in which students will have a weekly post including suggested topics to go over, upcoming events in Haifa, and useful articles and videos. In addition, SAWA has two events every semester, such as hikes in the mountain, beach bonfire, and movie screenings and discussion.


The final farewell event is bittersweet. The students are sad to leave and excited to go back to their home university and share the experiences they had. The club tries to maintain a strong body by including past and future student and volunteers in the Facebook group, where they will still have a chance to catch up and practice even while being abroad. The volunteers are given their certificates which will help them to craft a good resume. The SAWA club started as experimental attempt to bring students together and bridge the gap between locals and internationals students. The club has proved successful and is flourishing to something big and promising.


A journey of a life time / by Eric Tyler Landon

It is the last week of the University of Haifa classes. As the study abroad program is going to a close, I am filled with a bittersweet feeling. While I am sad that soon, I am going back to the United States, I will cherish my memories in Israel on this study abroad excursion for the rest of my life.


In the beginning of the semester, I struggled ordering a falafel and coffee in Hebrew, and now after almost 5 months in the country I can now order a falafel, have a conversation with an Israeli over a cup of coffee. With CIEE, I was able to explore the cultures of Israel such as the Circassians, explore the largest Arab city, have a Jewish shabbat dinner, and do so much more such as river hiking in a short period of time.


My time here studying in the University of Haifa has been extremely rewarding. On top of learning modern Hebrew and experiencing culture first hand, I have learned so much about peace and conflict. I have learned the history of conflicts within the Middle East. I learned about what caused peace, and what caused war. I have met refugees from Sudan and Eritrea and learned about international law, intervening to benefit the mental health, and overall well being of these people. This was really beneficial for my major of political science and Middle Eastern studies.


Outside of the classroom and CIEE, I got connected to a world of new friends and new traditions I was unfamiliar with. I was able to spend Passover in the holiest city for Jews, I have been invited to fast with Arab Muslims for Ramadan, I have been taught traditional dances of both cultures, and been invited into the homes and lives of some of the best people in the world.


All of these things would never have been possible without taking the leap into the unfamiliar and deciding to study in this wonderfully diverse country that is rich with culture. CIEE helped give me the option of cultural and adventurous excursion. The University taught me an ancient language, peace & conflict, international law, history, and intervention with refugees. This country taught me how to dance to new music, how to dive into other cultures, how to cook new foods, and how to live life to the fullest.


As the semester is coming to a close, I am leaving armed with new facts about the world and with a trip that made a huge mark on my life that I will never forget. My memory of Haifa (the city known for its co-existence), has taught me the true meaning of tolerance and Peace. سلام. שלום


Day trip to Safed and rafting/ By Samantha Erasquin

The trip we did to Safed was definitely one of my favorites.

Being in the car and listening to music in Arabic and Hebrew while we were on our way to Safed was the best way to begin our journey. When we arrived to Safed I remember seeing so much blue! Safed was so high up in the mountains and every house had something blue in it. It was extremely beautiful! When we left the van everyone noticed how clean the air was, and how nice the environment around us was. We meet a Rabi in the center of Kabbalah, which explained us many things about Safed, its people and his own philosophies of life about many things. We visited a really beautiful synagogue and after we had a walk with our guide through this Jewish city.


One of my favorite things about this city is how spiritual it was and how you could even feel it while being there, I also loved how our tour guide was so philosophical, it made this part of our day be perfect!


After leaving our tour guide we had some shopping time in the main area of the city, which was full of unique crafts, colors, smells and people from everywhere! After our shopping time we went to eat to a restaurant with the most typical delicious food and talked for a while.


At the end we went rafting, where we all had an amazing time not just because of the rafting itself, but also because of an attack we suffered from another boat! It was a lot of fun to try to escape from them splashing all water around us! I ended u completely wet but I couldn’t stop laughing. After we left our attackers, out journey in the river was really nice and we could see a lot of cool nature. 

Rafting in Jordan River 2

We had so much fun that it seemed like a really short day when we came back to the University late on the evening. 

Rafting in Jordan River



Jaffa and Tel Aviv- Day Trip/ By Rebekah Noyes

Studying here in Haifa has been the highlight of my academic career thus far. While the academics are superb and the food is undeniably amazing, my favorite part of living in the Middle East has been meeting so many incredible, inspiring people. Our CIEE trip to Jaffa and Tel Aviv provided us with the opportunity to meet several people from all different walks of life, perspectives, and beliefs.

When we first arrived in Jaffa, we traveled to Tabeetha School. This Christian school hosts children of all ethnicities, all nationalities, and all religions. Tabeetha School accepts both international and local students, creating a complex, truly diverse student body. After meeting with the faculty, I sensed that for the teachers and administrators, this was not just a job. It was their passion. I sensed that they genuinely loved their jobs and the children they worked with. We then got to meet and interact with several of the students. One girl in particular, due to her father’s government job, had lived in around 5 countries and gone to just as many schools, all at the age of 13. She expressed how much she enjoyed meeting new people and experiencing new cultures, and I credit Tabeetha School, if only partially, with successfully allowing their students to build strong relationships with others of every ethnicity and religion.



After leaving the school, we traveled to the home of a prominent Arab Christian woman named Doris. She welcomed us with coffee and desserts, the traditional mode of hospitality in the Middle East (maybe my favorite part of Israel). Doris told our group about the history of her family and how they opened a family-run coffee shop decades ago that still serves delicious coffee today. She also discussed the Arab-Jewish dynamics within Jaffa in the past as well as in the present. Since Doris comes from one of the most well-known, affluent families in Jaffa, it was interesting to hear her unique perspective on social issues.


After we left Doris’s home, we traveled to the old fishing area of Jaffa. We explored local art galleries, walked the ancient streets of the old city of Jaffa, and discussed the European-inspired architecture. It was amazing to leisurely explore the historic, charming town of Jaffa, only a few miles south of the bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv.

After we left the old city of Jaffa, we took a taxi to south Tel Aviv, a neighborhood known for its delicious Ethiopian cuisine and ethnically diverse population. Since I had never tasted authentic Ethiopian food, I was really excited to try the food I had heard so much about. I soon discovered that half of the enjoyment of eating Ethiopian food is attempting to eat it in the traditional manner. Ethiopian food is meant to be eaten with the hands rather than with utensils, something my American brain had a hard time adjusting to but loved nonetheless. Injera, traditional Ethiopian bread and staple to the cuisine, has a strong yeasty taste, and while its taste definitely requires getting used to, I can honestly say that I would love to try Ethiopian food again.

IMG_1574     IMG_1583

For the last part of our day in Tel Aviv, we met Barik Sale, a young refugee from Tajuna, a small village in Darfur. Barik left his family when he was only a boy in search of safety and a better life. He eventually arrived in Israel when he was only 13 years old. After working in Tel Aviv and learning Hebrew and English, he earned his bagrut degree (high-school diploma) and is currently working on obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in the prestigious IDC Herzliya. I was stunned and humbled that someone who had experienced such hardship in his life at such a young age had the inner strength and determination to change his life and make his own success. Meeting Barik was truly an honor and definitely the highlight of our trip to Jaffa.




A word from the Resident Director:

With midterms behind us and finals approaching, there is no better time to sit back and take stock of what we’ve accomplished so far.

In addition to studying in courses and practicing Hebrew and Arabic on the streets and with language partners, the past few months introduced our students to new and exciting places and personalities. We travelled together to Jaffa and Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Kfar Kama, Capernaum, Tiberias and finally to Safed. Our students also had the opportunity to explore Israel independently and travel abroad, returning with many tales from near and far.

We celebrated a couple of birthdays on trips and on campus, tried more local delicacies, and got to know each other better!

In this issue we will recount our meeting with a local NGO with a very special story, called the House of Grace, enjoy the beauty of a poem in Arabic by Khalil Gibran, and last, but not least, we will learn how to make a local culinary delight - labaneh!

So let’s begin!  As they say in the Mishna “הַיּוֹם קָצֵר וְהַמְּלָאכָה מְרֻבָּה” – the day is short and the work is great!


Sincerely yours,
Martha Shtapura-Ifrah
Resident Director of CIEE, Haifa

House of Grace/ By Ashlyn Dorn

On Friday, March 24th, since the international school doesn’t have class, we woke up early (meaning 9 am) to visit the House of Grace, an NGO dedicated to helping released prisoners in Israel get back on their feet.


Our resident director, Martha, arranged for us to have a meeting with Jamal, the son of the founders of the House of Grace. Since we are studying Peace and Diplomacy, meeting with local organizations and NGO’s has been a really big part of our study abroad experience here in Haifa. Jamal’s parents started the first ever halfway house for released prisoners in Israel, which helps youth and low-income families and has facilities where the kids can come and play in order to keep them off the street.


He told us the story of how his parents unintentionally started the House of Grace -
Young newlyweds meeting a released prisoner and accepting him into their home, sharing their meals and their lives with him, even though they didn’t have much themselves. From then on, the rest is history. 

The House of Grace has existed for 31 years and in that time they’ve expanded from a tiny apartment to renovating an old church and the apartment above to make space for all the released prisoners to live. Although Jamal and his family are Christian, they respect and welcome all religions: Muslims, Christians, Jews - it doesn’t matter. It has such a nice atmosphere and you really get a sense that these people actually care. The University of Haifa even offers internships there, usually with one or two students a semester!

Jamal gave us the full tour of the facility, through the renovated church and courtyard, and then we went back to his office and he served us coffee and tea – we even got to meet the famous founder, his mother. He explained that sometimes it was difficult not to know where their funding would be coming from – the Israeli government suspended funding at one point and for a while things got really difficult for them.


Overall, it was an amazing experience to meet people who had dedicated their entire lives to helping others; it didn’t matter what religion or ethnicity the prisoners were, just that they wanted to get help and to get better – and I think that’s the most important part.

The music of language:

Gibran Khalil Gibran was a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer of the New York Pen League. Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Laozi.


This excerpt taken from his famous poem, which was beautifully sung by Fairuz, "The nay(flute)". In this poem, Gibran invites the reader to appreciate the beauty of the nature around us in order to achieve contentment.


هل جلست العصر مثلي بين جفنات العنب
و العناقيد تدلت كثريات الذهب
هل فرشت العشب ليلاً و تلحفت الفضاء
زاهداً في ما سيأتي ناسيـًا ما قد مضى
أعطني الناي و غن فالغناء عدل القلوب
و أنين الناي يبقى بعد أن تفنى الذنوب


"Did you sleep on the grass at night
And let space be your blanket
Abstaining from all that will come
Forgetful of all that has passed
Give the flute then and sing
In singing is Justice for the heart
And even after every guilt
Has perished
The flute continues to lament"

Labaneh DIY

So easy and so delicious!



-          Goat yogurt – 1.5L

-          Salt – table spoon

-          Bowl, sifter, and a netted cloth



Mix the cold yogurt with salt.

Put the sifter on the bowl, then put the cloth upon the sifter.

Pour the yogurt in the cloth and leave it there for 24 hours in the freezer.

No need to cover it.

After that, the labaneh is put in containers and can be edible for 7-10 days.






Study abroad newsletter heading

A word from the Resident Director:

Spring is finally here and everything is in bloom! The green-roof project on top of the Student House and the International School brings spring as close to the classroom as possible!


In Israel, spring is viewed as a symbol of a new, fresh beginning. The word for spring “Aviv” is a very popular Hebrew name for both boys and girls and this season even gave its name to the vibrant city of Tel Aviv (which literally means "spring mound")!

True to its name, the Spring Semester has started off splendidly with amazing students from different states and cities in the US and even from Mexico!  It’s been a bit over one month since the students arrived in Israel, and they’ve already done so many things; from travelling to the North, Center and South of Israel, through trying all different types of local foods, making new friends, volunteering, trying local sports, and of course, studying a whole lot in the University courses.

The Spring semester is also my first semester on board with CIEE as the Resident Director of the Haifa program. Before I began working in CIEE, I had some background about the country and specifically Haifa (I grew up in the North of Israel, in Akko, and have lived in Haifa for the past 8 years), about the University of Haifa (I’m a graduate of the MA program in Counseling and Human Development of Haifa U) and I had some knowledge about CIEE (I met CIEE students back in 2014 when they joined an interfaith dialogue seminar I was running), however, I still had a lot to learn, prepare and plan before our students arrived. I am glad that everything worked out for the best during orientation and our first month together and I look forward to exploring the country and the complex social and cultural structures in Israel with our CIEE students. We’ve got many interesting excursions and events ahead of us (including: volunteering with local kids, meeting local families and refugees, touring the ancient streets of Jaffa, Safed and Nazareth….).

In the current newsletter issue, we will revisit our orientation session, expand our culinary abilities by learning how to make a “Shakshuka” (a local favorite of our group) and improve our Hebrew skills by tackling an ancient Hebrew proverb.

Wishing you all a week full of spring blossoms and good news!

Sincerely yours,

Martha Shtapura-Ifrah
Resident Director of CIEE, Haifa

Our first days in Israel: A bit about our Spring 2017 Orientation

 By Eric Landon

After many hours air travel, I was grateful that CIEE had such a wonderful orientation. After being led to my new temporary home in Israel (the University dorms), we were taken to Fattoush, an Arab restaurant in downtown Haifa. We ate genuine hummus, tabouli, Turkish coffee, and Turkish tea. A fantastic introduction to the upcoming Middle Eastern cuisine we will continue to eat. After dinner, we were able to see the Baha'i gardens which is a UNESCO site. There was an exciting energy in the air of downtown Haifa.


The next day we got to see a bit of downtown Haifa and Wadi Nisnas. We got to smell the Turkish Coffee, see the produce being sold, and see the graffiti artwork of downtown Haifa. One of my favorite things about Israel are the markets you walk around in. It was really cool to see the meaning behind all of the artwork downtown. Everything from safety, to politics, to Jewish and Arab artwork was everywhere. We also went to two famous Falafel shops in downtown Haifa. Of course, both falafel shops were amazing, because falafel is the best, but it was interesting to see two very famous falafel shops right next to each other thriving with business.


On the third day we had another adventure. We were shown an ancient Jewish necropolis. We went far back in time and witnessed history. We saw grave sites of important ancient figures. Outside of the necropolis were hills filled with poppies and hiking trails. It was absolutely beautiful. Anyone would be in awe and amazed by the green hills, ancient ruins, and history of this place.

We then travelled to Safouri and met Ziad, whose grandparents used to live in the village of Safouri before 1948. To see a different narrative and see how the 1948 war effected some villages was eye opening. I have read about destroyed villages in articles and private studying I have done, but never seen one up close. When I was seeing the hill where the village use to be and seeing the picture of the village, I was astonished by the damage that had been done. It was a learning experience, and I am glad that I was able to see history in front of my eyes.

After this, we went to Acre (Akko) and explored the old city. We saw the markets of the Middle East. We saw scarves, traditional Arab clothes, lamps, and spices in baskets. That day we ate at a local fish restaurant inside the market and we were able to feel the Middle Eastern culture. It was an unforgettable experience. The hospitality we were shown by our CIEE leader Martha and the University of Haifa was incredible and I am excited to see what more is to come.


Shake it out: here’s how you make a SHAKSHUKA!

One of the first dishes our students tried at a local café during their orientation- was the Shakshuka. The dish itself originated in North African countries (such as Morroco, Lybia and Egypt). There are many stories about the origin of its name, but the most popular one is that the name Shakshuka stems from the verb “to shake” (which is ‘shakshek’) in Arabic and Hebrew.

The basic ingredients in all shakshuka recepies are eggs, tomatoes and peppers. The rest- has to do with personal preference and creativity.
Here’s the shakshuka that we make at home:


  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 chopped chili pepper
  • 1 chopped red onion
  • 3-4 minced garlic cloves
  • 5 soft tomatoes cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • Optional: olives, feta cheese, chopped mint leaves.

Cooking instructions:

  1. Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium.
  2. Slowly warm olive oil in the pan.
  3. Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften.
  4. Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant
  5. Add the bell and chili peppers, sauté until softened.
  6. Add tomatoes and tomato paste to pan, stir till blended.
  7. Add spices and sugar, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce.
  8. At this point, you can taste the mixture (be careful, it’s hot!) and add spices according to your preferences.
  9. Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce.
  10. Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced.
  11. Garnish with chopped parsley and enjoy! 


Words on our mind:

In every issue of our newsletter, we’d like to share with you a poem or a proverb in either Arabic or Hebrew. In this issue, we’re learning a proverb in Hebrew from Pirkei Avot.

לֹא הַבַּיְשָׁן לָמֵד, וְלֹא הַקַּפְּדָן מְלַמֵּד

(translation: A shy person does not learn, and an [overly] strict person is not one who can teach).

This proverb implies that a person who is embarrassed to ask questions will not be able to obtain the information that he is lacking and therefore will not be able to learn. In addition, an “overly strict” person cannot teach because his or her students would be afraid to ask questions. This proverb seeks to teach us the importance of questions in the process of learning and self-development. This is important to any sort of learning, but could be especially relevant to a study-abroad experience.

So, the next time you’re stumbling upon a topic that you’d like to learn more about- don’t hesitate to ask questions! And if you get the opportunity to share your knowledge - remember to allow others to ask questions and have the patience to answer them.