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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!!!


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