Greetings from the city on the Mediterranean Sea!
At CIEE, Haifa we have taken advantage of our long summers to enjoy some amazing trips and activities. The long Sukkot holiday met us early in the semester and allowed the students to enjoy the activities without worrying about reading assignments and exams. Starting with the CIEE orientation and ending with a three day excursion to Jordan, the first few weeks of Fall 2016 included a rich variety of lectures, visits to historical sights and cultural experiences.
Orientation allows our students to spend three days together bonding as a CIEE cohort prior to joining the larger international student body at the University of Haifa. By the time classes started, our students knew each other, experienced travelling on several kinds of public transportation, learned how to get to the closest shopping area, stocked up on necessities, and knew where to eat the best falafel in the city. By the third day after their arrival, they already feel surprising comfortable with their new city. There is a lot to learn in this small country so settling in as quickly and easily as possible helps free students to start experiencing the abundance of experiences that await them!
Our obligatory stop at Rosh ha Nikra during orientation is always exciting because it allows the students to place Israel geographically within the larger Middle Eastern context. They continue to develop that context geographically and politically later in the semester, especially during our excursion to Jordan, which you will read about later in this newsletter.
There is no time for jet lag during orientation. The best way to get on schedule is to stay awake and out in the bright daylight during the day as much as possible. So, on day 3 of orientation we are off on a day trip to the Sea of Galilee. This semester we made three quick stops at Tabgha (Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes), The Church of the Primacy of St. Peters where water access allows us to wet our feet in the Sea of Galilee, and Capernaum. From this area we were able to see the Golan Heights in the distance and to start to understand the geopolitical complexities of this region. For Christian students this part of the trip is meaningful and important and although we have many other opportunities to visit churches during our excursion to Jordan, our day trips from here on will start to focus more on the socio-political and cultural conditions in the country.
Our Excursion to Jordan
We scheduled our Jordan excursion during the Sukkot holiday when the weather was still summery and the school work had not piled up. Before the excursion, the students attended a lecture about the Palestinian Refugees which helps provide a historical and political context for the current conditions in Jordan today. We crossed the Jordan River at the Sheikh Hussein Bridge in the North and even there the Jordan River looked more like a stream after the hot dry summer. This was a reminder to us about the scarcity of water and its role in the Middle East conflict.
Jordan never fails to fascinate! Accompanied by our amazing guide, Abu Yazan, we were introduced to the history of the city, told about the waves of refugees from from the 19th century on (Circassians, Palestinians, Iraqi's and Syrians), and exposed to a variety of cultural and culinary experiences.
One of our first stops in Amman was in Jabal Al Qal'ah (The Citadel),the site of the Temple of Hercules (162-166 AD) and the Ummayad Palace (first half of the 8th century). All this and more in the middle of Amman, the capital of Jordan. To make things even more interesting, Jabal Al Qal'ah also overlooks a large Palestinian Refugee camp, Al Wihdat, which was built in 1955 and which now looks like a poor and overcrowded Amman neighborhood. This juxtaposition of ancient history and current events accompanies us on this trip from beginning to end.
Overlooking Wihdat Refugee Camp from Jabal Al Qal'ah
The Roman Theater, in the middle of Amman.
All the walking that we do stimulates our appetite and Amman is not the same without a cooking lesson and dinner at Beit Sitti (My Grandmother's House). Beit Sitti is literally the owner's grandmother's house in Jabal Lweibdeh in Amman. It is now a place where we can experience cooking authentic Levantine food and to then enjoy it in a deliciously hospitable home environment.
Here the students made Mtabbal (some know it as Baba Ghanouj), Vegetarian Makloubeh (upside down rice dish), salad, and pita bread (yes from scratch). For desert, they made Basbouseh, which is made with semolina and then covered with a home made syrup. Delicious!!
Everyone takes their cooking seriously at CIEE.
When the makloubeh is ready then our teacher, Um Reem, shows us how to carefully turn it upside down. The best part, of course, is when we all sat down to eat on the balcony. Coffee and the desert we made were served as the students had animated conversations with Jordanian young people. One young lady told our group " here in Jordan young people follow and discuss everything . We follow your election debates and we know all about what is going on in the America".
Another highlight of our excursion to Jordan was our meeting with some members of the staff at the International Rescue Committee in Amman. IRC is an NGO that "responds to the world's worst humanitarian crisis and helps people to survive, recover and gain control of their future". In Jordan IRC is serving some 656,400 Syrian refugees, a population that is the target of the core of their work. We learned that the Jordanian government claims that the total number of Syrian refugees in Jordan is 1.7 Million, that they are 50% female and 50.6% under the age of 15. We also heard about the cross border support that the organization provides inside Syria and about the impact of the refugees on the Jordanian economy.
More highlights from our excursion to Jordan
Mosaics at Mount Nebo
Mosaics in Madaba
The Ancient Greco-Roman City of Jarash
Muddying it up at the Dead Sea
Back to Academics:
At the end of the Sukkot holiday our students settled back into the rhythm of their classes. Hebrew Language, Arabic Language, Arab-Israeli Relations, Contemporary Arab Thought and Culture, Terrorism and Responses and Psychology of Conflict are some of the classes that our students have signed up for, and there is more. The diversity of the student body at the University of Haifa is also reflected in the diversity of the courses and lecturers who come from different ethnic and political backgrounds. The academic demands here at the University of Haifa's International School are rigorous. From here on students will have to make sure they find a balance between the demands of their coursework and the various extracurricular activities that will constantly knock on their doors.
At the end of October we also start preparing the launching of our Aisha's Language Hub where our delightful coordinator, Aisha, pairs CIEE students with local students in order to allow for more opportunities for language practice and for developing local friendships.
Stay Tuned for our November Newsletter! We will tell you all about our Olive harvest, our trip to Jaffa and the launching of our language hub.