I made the decision to leave to Israel two days before my actual program with CIEE started, so i could meet up with family friends I have not seen in years. Upon my arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, I was greeted with a leap into a language I have grown up around but never actually understood. Aside from reading Hebrew prayers in synagogue and singing songs at the Shabbat table, my father speaks fluent Hebrew with his friends all the time. However he never thought to teach my brother, sister, and I. Thanks dad. This could have come in handy right now as I spend my year here. It was quite confusing since at this moment I was on my own with no one to actually translate to me where the airport coffee shop was to meet my family friends. When I finally found them an hour had passed and they weren't too happy. Guess I should have preordered my Israeli cell phone huh? Whoops. Anyway, the next two days instead of actually spending time with them I pretty much slept because of the awful jet lag. But nevertheless they were very nice about it and I will definitely make it up to them when I get the chance. Two days later I found myself back at the airport to meet the people who I would be spending most of the semester with. One by one a new exhausted face made their way off their flights and over to our meeting spot. Surprisingly, even though they all had just gotten off a long international flight, everyone was pretty bubbly for the most part. Once everyone was gathered together we made our way to our tiny bus covered in Israeli ads that would take us to our new home in Haifa. Having been to Israel once before I sort of knew what to expect from the landscape and cities. But it was very exciting to listen to the wonder and curiosity of my fellow group members. Other than myself, one other person in my group also had been to Israel before. So we both tried to give a bit of our input from what we both had previously seen. We slowly began winding our way up the side of a mountain, all of us anticipating the sight of the Haifa dorms. When we finally made it to the top we were greeted with what looked like a typical US college campus. We received our dorm assignments and we're sent on our way. The dorm is pretty decent, especially since the CIEE group was placed in the Talia dorms which are the "nicer" of the University of Haifa living facilities. Each dorm room has six separate bedrooms in it, with each room consisting of private bathrooms for each person. We all share a kitchen and a living area in each dorm too. Everyone in our CIEE group became good friends pretty quickly. We are all from different states and universities from around the US. The Haifa International School however, consists of students from all over the world. Students from Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, as well as the US. In my dorm alone we are two Americans, one German, and three local Israelis. I think my favorite part about living in Haifa so far aside from the utter beauty of it, is the diversity of the people. I can actually say that I have not experienced any type of culture shock this last month, aside from language barriers. Life in Haifa and Israel seems very westernized and comfortable. I don't think it really hit me that I am in such a different place until I visited Jerusalem with the International School. Seeing the ancient architecture and the strong basis religion has on such a tiny country was peculiar but enticing. I definitely did not feel that way when visiting Tel Aviv, although I loved the city vibe it gives off. (In Tel Aviv)
But being in a city that is considered so holy and rich in history to many religions really gave me the sense of why this country is one of the most "talked about" issues in everyday news. I am looking forward to spending the weekend in Jerusalem with CIEE and experiencing more of what the city has to offer. This last weekend being spent in Tel Aviv was very cool. CIEE took us to see a live band called "Heartbeat" which works to bring together Israeli Jewish and Palestinian young adults to make music and discuss important issues. They were very cool, and had awesome voices.
We also received a tour of an abandoned bus station in Tel Aviv which Not only has a very upbeat art scene, but is also a place where many refugees from Sudan and Darfur come to find work. The whole bus station not only turns into a daily market, but also consists of a church, a clinic, and the only Yiddish Museum in Israel. It was definitely an experience, and I am glad I got to see it. Anyway, that's all for now, Hebrew homework is calling my name! Shalom!