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5 posts categorized "Travel"


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.

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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.




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. 


From the Bab to the Baha'ullah: My Baha'i pilgrimage

The moment I stepped inside I heard the most powerful sound of all: Silence. I was overwhelmed. It was no ordinary silence. It was silence that was saying something, that this was a sacred place and I should be silent to respect it. I felt as if the power of the silence was running through my veins, welcoming me into it’s holy place while reminding me to remain silent.

These were the emotions running through me when I went into the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa. Baha'is from all over the world go on a pilgrimage, in which they visit and pray at the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa and The Shrine of the Baha'ullah and the Bahji in Acco (Acre) to connect with God and pay their respects to their two holiest messengers.

Inside the shrine, two women lay their backs to the wall behind me on both sides, praying to connect themselves closer with the Bab. At the back of the interior was where the Bab is buried. Carpets lay out all over the square floor. Endless sets of candles displayed creating an image of unique composition. Four chandeliers set at the corners of the square room, with one magnificent chandelier dazzling in the middle over the square floor. Red petals laid out face down in front as if they were a placed there as a sign of mourning and honor for the Bab.

A few weeks later, I continued my pilgrimage to the site of the Bab’s successor and the holiest site of the Baha’I Faith: The Shrine and Bahji of the Baha’ullah in Acco.

I walked through a white arching balcony as if I was entering a castle and into its courtyard. There was a long narrow path in between tall trees on each side, which led to the Shrine and the Bahji (Mansion) of the Baha'ullah. Once I reached the end, with no trees blocking my view, I saw the most indescribably beautiful image I had ever seen.

You would have thought it was humanely impossible to put together such a beautiful place. I thought I was in the Garden of Eden. It was so big, so green, so evenly cut and clean. Bushes

Bushes were shaped into perfect squares.

Pots of red and purple roses on the sides of the paths of the garden's maze.

Sculptures of eagles and babies sitting on a fountain in between the roses.

Flowers designed in shapes of stars, dropped down one level, so when you walked over you would look a few feet down and see a beautifully carved star in the grass with yellow and orange flowers coloring it in.

I could smell the fresh scents of the many different kinds of flowers, whether red, purple, yellow, or organge. They all mixed together to create a unique scent.

Tall and thin trees stood mightily on the far sides. I found myself in the middle of a huge garden with these tall trees towering above me from perhaps 100 feet away. It was an incredibly overwhelming feeling.

Down at the end, was the Shrine of the Baha'ullah, where is laid to rest, and to it's left the Bahji, a Mansion where the Baha'ullah lived the last 12 years of his life (1879-1891). It was a huge mansion with blue colored on the doors up on it's balcony.

We were all instructed to take off our shoes before entering the shrine, to respect the religious integrity of the Baha'i Faith's holy site. And again, just like Haifa, the very moment I stepped foot onto the first of many Persian rugs laid down on the ground, I heard the most powerful sound again: silence.

I was taken into a different world. I could sense the entire group's awe as we walked around small square room with Persian carpets laid down on a path circling a small garden in the middle of the room.

Lamps lit around the inside garden.

Rooms for prayer were on the sides with carpets hanging as curtains.

And then, there was the memorial site. In the corner of the room, people lined up to peak through a small squared cage on the wall. Above it was a golden colored clock with the word "Baha'ullah" written inside of it in Arabic script. (Baha’i scriptures were originally written in Persian, but are usually written in Arabic these days).

It was damp inside with lamps inside lit along with many glowing candles, some with fire, some with electricity, around a chandelier on a carpet where the Baha'ullah is laid to rest.

I couldn't describe the emotions running through my mind. I was in the presence of the resting place of the Baha'ullah, the most important figure of the newest Persian religion. It was only over a century ago when he lived next door.

The Baha’ullah settled in Akko, Israel in 1879 where he lived the last 12 years of his life. Back then, he would embrace Baha'i pilgrims to come, pray, and preach and teach them god's messages. Baha'is to this day come to meditate in the rooms covered with the carpet curtains to connect with god and the holy messengers.

May 29th is the day most Baha'is around the world come to the Shrine of the Baha'ullah because that was when he passed away. This May will mark the 124th year anniversary of his passing and I hope to observe the commemoration.





Are You Craving a Shawarma?

Hey guys! So if you haven't guessed it already this blog post is going to be about the scrumptious foods I have tried so far in Israel. Let me first start by explaining to you some differences between the US and Israel when it comes to meal time. Beginning with would think of some pancakes, waffles, eggs, maybe some toast and cheese or yogurt with granola. Well, scratch that image and think salad. That's right. I said salad. About a week ago I met up with some of my Israeli family here in Haifa. When they asked me what I usually eat for breakfast and I replied yogurt and half of a grapefruit, they were shocked! They said, "What, no vegetables or cheese?" Here in Israel it is pretty typical to have an assortment of vegetables with your breakfast. These veggies usually go along with cheeses and eggs, and some really awesome pastries. I'm pretty sure I haven't had such a delicious chocolate croissants until eating in Israel. Image
Also, a really popular dish that is eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner is called shakshuka. It's basically tomato sauce, with onions and tomatoes chopped up and mixed in with two sunny side up eggs placed right on top. You dip bread into eat and eat it all together. Sounds a little strange but it is so yummy! Image
Now, when it comes to lunch and dinner...the first thing I must tell you about is a shawarma. Yes, this is the dish that is talked about in the movie "The Avengers." My family friend put it into perspective for me, he said that if an Israeli has his last 10 shekels in his pocket, he'll use it to buy a shawarma. Now let me tell you, he was right! A shawarma is a pita bread filled with a combination of salads, hummus, tahini sauce, sometimes fries, and a type of meat or curried chicken which is cut up off of a huge roast. Image
A falafel sandwich consists of the same things except instead of the meat, the pita is stuffed with deep-fried chickpea balls. It's also delicious. The last thing I want to tell you all about which is everywhere, and with practically every dish here, is hummus. For those that don't know hummus is a thick paste or spread made of ground chickpeas and sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Growing up my family always had some on our Shabbat table to eat with bread. But here it is actually with almost everything! During the CIEE orientation we went to the ancient city of Akko for the day, and had lunch at a famous hummus place. Everyone had the choice to add extra things into the hummus, like ground meat, eggplant, or mushrooms. I got mine with mushrooms and I'm pretty sure it was the best hummus I've ever had! On that note, all this talk about food is making me hungry, so dinner time it is! Until next time...shalom everyone! Image

My Arrival to the Holy Land

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) Image
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. Image
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! Image