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1 posts from March 2018


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