Eizenstat Grantees Blog Page

This slideshow requires Flash 8 or later

Welcome to the blog page for Frances Taylor Eizenstat '65 Undergraduate Israel Travel Grantees. 

For further information about the awards and deadlines for applications, click here.

Viki, Blog Post 2

"This past week I have been working on what hopefully will be a new edition of Arthur Hertzberg's The Zionist Idea."

This leads me to my current and final research project. This past week I have been working on what hopefully will be a new edition of Arthur Hertzberg's The Zionist Idea. My job is to find Zionist texts that represent the voices of contemporary Zionist thinkers. Before I started my research, I reread some key Zionist texts, including Herzl’s “Der Judenstaat.” Though I’ve read this text many times, and articulated countless criticisms of Herzl’s work, arguing that much of it is not relevant to us anymore,  I couldn’t help but be struck by the undeniable significance of the case for Jewish sovereignty.“We are a people - one people” rings true even when this one people do not all agree on a ground invasion in Gaza, or whether the ultra-orthodox should be drafted into the IDF. The case for the Jewish people making sovereign decisions for itself through its sovereign institutions are not weakened by the quality or potential problematics of those very decisions. I found tremendous comfort in this conclusion at a time when the Jewish state is strongly criticized, and at a time when I myself find it hard to be in Israel. If, after reading Weizman’s letter I left work that day with a feeling of historical defeat, then reading Herzl was the exact opposite. Herzl’s pamphlet was the joke of the town when it got published - and now? - well, here we are, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst - but mostly, with God’s help, for the better. 

As my internship comes to an end this week, I will be leaving with continuous thoughts about these issues, and so much more. Fortunately, I had the honor of doing an internship where my personal interests and commitments were aligned with that of my internship site’s, and with the work that I did. Looking forward, this is a quality that I will strongly prioritize in jobs that I apply for. I’m also coming away with another conclusion regarding my career and potential studies - though I’m not convinced whether academia is the right place for me or not, I am positive that I need to do research about topics and issues that can be made relevant to both contemporary times, and to the average reader. I would like to research and write in an accessible way about accessible issues, rather than sit in an ivory tower and share my research with the three other people who understand what I’m talking about. This is a particularly interesting and exciting time for me to be thinking about what kind of research I want to be doing, as I’m starting to do research for my senior thesis in the coming weeks. Wish me luck!

Eliezer, Blog Post 2

"I am amazed by how many city walls, homes, silos, and inscriptions are still lying beneath my feet waiting to be discovered."

The archaeological dig at Abel Beth Maacah is entering its third week of excavations.  I have worked for the past three weeks in Area ‘F’ unearthing the once powerful Aramean city in Northern Israel.  The area that I am excavating has uncovered some really fascinating finds.  Three-thousand year old jewelry, such as a gold earring, and many tools used in food and pottery production have been unearthed. 

Digging at Abel Beth Maacah has given me the opportunity to work closely with archaeologists in various fields.  I have the privilege to hear from osteoarchaeologists when animal or human bones are found.  When we discover gold, silver, or bronze, we get to hear the analysis of a metallurgist.  Every special find we make at our dig site gets the undivided attention of specialists who are eager to figure out the history that lies within each object. 

We recently heard a lecture from the metallurgist who examined the silver jewelry found at our site last season.  Dr. Naama Yahalom-Mack described in great detail the study of metals.  The small jar filled with silver jewelry found last year, she explained, is an exciting new find in the history of silver in the Land of Israel.  Dr. Yahalom-Mack was able to pinpoint the place of origin for the silver found.  Huelva, Spain, thousands of miles from Abel Beth Maacah was a Phoenician silver mine that was utilized in the tenth century and onward.  The silver found at Abel Beth Maacah is from Huelva, but can be dated to before the tenth century.  This discovery enables archaeologists to date Phoenician silver trade routes to the 11th century, BCE, and can help us to better understand ancient trade routes in the Mediterranean.

Another fascinating aspect of archaeology is the attention given to every minute detail.  This past week I was taught by a senior member of the dig team how to use an engineer’s level to calculate the measurements on our site.  At every new stratum we take heights to calculate how far down we have dug.  We also measure the height of any special find, or wall that we unearth.  We use layout plans of the site that are updated every day, and we mark heights and record all special finds on the layouts.  We label every bucket and bag of pottery, bones, shells, and flint that we discover, (and we are well over 500 buckets of pottery in my area!)

As the dig begins to wind down, I am overwhelmed by how much we have unearthed in the past three weeks. However, as I look out on the Tel, I am amazed by how many city walls, homes, silos, and inscriptions are still lying beneath my feet waiting to be discovered.  I am eager to share my experiences with others and to encourage them to follow their passions, and the passions of Frances Eizenstat, into the fields that excite them. 

Additionally, I want to inform you that my dig was scheduled to end on Tuesday, July 22, but due to security concerns, the dig will be ending tomorrow, Wednesday, July 16. (Four dig days early). The team at the Hebrew University in coordination with the Israeli army made the decision two days ago that it was not safe for us to be digging on the Tel without any place to go for shelter in the event of rocket fire from Lebanon.  

Catriona, Blog Post

"One of my responsibilities as an intern for Kav LaOved is to collect case studies from the Migrant caregivers."

My first day at Kav LaOved – over a month ago – was overwhelming.  As I walked into the office, located in a central area of Tel Aviv, I saw that it was filled to the brim.  Every chair and table and office in the tiny space was occupied, either by a Kav LaOved employee or by a worker seeking help.  It was a Sunday, and on Sundays, Migrant Caregivers – many of whom are from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Russia (and more) – flood the office because most of them have the day off to go to Church. They are the most “well-organized” of the workers that Kav LaOved helps, and thus on Sundays and Mondays, the days when they are provided services by KLO, the office is the busiest.  From Kav LaOved, they can learn their rights as workers in Israel, get legal advice and help with visas, and more. 

Many of these workers are forced to work 24 hour schedules in which their employers, often elderly and sick, can call on them to help at any time of the day or night.  They are not given breaks or sufficient time off, and many get almost no sleep due to their employer’s need of constant supervision and help.  Most are also paid well below minimum wage and given no benefits. 

One of my responsibilities as an intern for Kav LaOved is to collect case studies from the Migrant Caregivers.  This means sitting with them and recording their story so that Kav LaOved can have examples of the kind of problems that affect these workers and how they’ve been able to help them.  The workers receive advice and help from Kav LaOved’s paid staff, while I am simply gathering stories in order to illustrate problems and potential solutions.  

I sat with one worker last week, M., and in my broken Hebrew and her broken English, we managed to communicate.  She told me that she is from Nepal, and came to Israel 7 years ago. She worked with the same employer for 4 years until the day before we met, on which she had been fired with no advance notice.  While she worked for him, she was on call 24 hours a day with virtually no breaks. The work was tiring and difficult and she was paid well below minimum wage.  While her employer was in the hospital for a week, she was forced to stay until midnight three nights in a row without any extra compensation.  When she was fired, her employer refused to give her any severance pay, and she had almost no money in savings and no place to live or medical insurance.  As I wrote down her story, I could see her distress, but also the relief of having a place to turn for help.  “My friend told me about how Kav LaOved helped her when she needed legal advice,” she said, “so I came right here.  I hope they can help me, too.” 

This Monday, M. returned again to the Kav LaOved.  She looked distraught when she came up to me.  

“Shalom, motek.  It’s been a bad week for me.  I’ve been really sick – my stomach – and because I have no insurance, I haven’t seen a doctor.  I’m living with my friend in Tel Aviv but I can’t stay with her much longer.  I have no money for a flight back to Nepal and my visa will expire soon, so I’m scared of getting in trouble if I stay here.”  She was hoping Kav LaOved could help her extend her work visa while she looked for another employer. 

M. is just one example of the many workers that have been exploited by their employers or who are unprotected by Israeli labour law and who Kav LaOved helps.  Kav LaOved works to ensure that the legal rights of these workers are upheld so that they can make a livable wage in livable working conditions, but it also seeks to change Israeli law and advocate for workers to Israeli lawmakers when systematic change is needed.  

Kav LaOved has been able to help so many of these migrant caregivers, who, like M., are suffering at the hands of their employers and who are not protected sufficiently by Israeli law.  They advocate for reforms to Israeli labor law to improve the conditions for migrant caregivers, and they also dispense legal advice to these workers for free in order to help them improve their specific situations. I am so grateful to be interning for an organization that is able to help M. and those like her who work under these deplorable conditions, both on personal and systematic levels. 

Viki, Blog Post 1

"I worked on a preparing a source sheet for a lecture my mentor was giving on the value of compromise, with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Hi! My name is Viki, and I’m one of the fortunate and grateful recipients of the Eizenstat Israel travel grant. As my internship is slowly coming to an end, I wanted to share with you some of the work I’ve been doing at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. 

Yet before I go into the details of my own work, let me tell you a little bit about the Hartman Institute itself. Started by Rabbi David Hartman, z”l, a highly influential, and often contentious figure in the life of Israeli Judaism, the Hartman Institute functions as a think-tank for innovative Jewish ideas, as well as an educational institution. Several Israeli scholars sit here on a daily basis conducting their research, in topics that range from military ethics to feminist readings of traditional Jewish texts. The educational aspect of the Institute is strongest during the summer for North American Jewish communities, as Hartman welcomes several groups and cohorts of Jewish leaders for rigorous learning, in the form of chavruta style learning as well as lectures. Rabbis, Hillel leaders, Jewish lay leaders - and even Christian and Muslim clergy and leadership come here to learn about Jewish text, Zionism, Israeli society, philosophy, ethics, history, pluralism - the list goes on! 

So, while my official internship title is research assistant, I had the pleasure of sitting in on lectures, as well as schmoozing with distinguished leaders of our communities. The interns - there are 5 of us - also had the responsibility of doing some administrative work, such as handing out binders and welcoming the groups. 

Yet the gist of the work we did and do, is research. Prior to our arrival, we’ve all been assigned to a mentor, whose research we would be assisting. My mentor is an American Historian who researches and writes extensively about Zionist thought, as well. Though I’ve only met him a couple times over my time here, he gave me comprehensive instructions and guidance to help me in my work. First, I worked on a preparing a source sheet for a lecture my mentor was giving on the value of compromise, with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I mostly collected Jewish sources from Tanach and the Talmud Bavli that dealt with compromise (called pesharah, פשרה in rabbinic and modern Hebrew). Additionally, I also read philosophical essays and collected secular, more academic sources on the topic. I thoroughly enjoyed working on this task, as I’ve always appreciated trying to find ways to make ancient texts relevant to the discourse and interests of the 21st century Jew. After all, the only way we can keep these - often challenging and ludicrous - texts alive, is if we find ways to make them meaningful to our contemporary experiences. 

My second research project was to help my mentor rewrite and reorganize a syllabus for a class on US-Israel Relations that he will be teaching this coming academic year. Besides reading academic articles and excerpts from books, I spent most of my time researching primary documents. This meant reading and selecting presidential documents, speeches, interviews, etc. My knowledge of North American political-history was, and still is, pretty limited, as I wasn’t raised in the Unites States, thus I’ve learned exponentially more from this research project than an average American student would’ve. (I spent probably an entire day watching youtube videos of presidential speeches!) I found the most intellectually-stimulating part of the history of US-Israel relations to be the beginning. In other words, the founding of Israel and President Truman’s contribution to the process. I found the letters between Weizman and Truman, as well as the budding American “Zionist lobby” and US governmental officials to be fascinating, as they seem to have had very similar conversations to the ones the American Jewish establishment has today. One of the most interesting, but also saddening letters I’ve read was from Weizman to Truman, written after the war in 1949 ended. Here, Weizman writes in a reassuring manner, explaining to Truman that the Palestinian refugee problem will be solved. Weizman writes in his closing line:

 "The most vital need at the present hour is for Arabs and Jews to enter into direct negotiations and hammer out an agreed settlement. I plead with you, Mr. President, that you may use your unique influence to induce the Arab states to face the realities of the situation and to take that decisive step."

As I was reading this, Senator Kerry was in the region trying to arrange a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. It was heartbreaking to read this 60 years old excerpt, and meanwhile to note that not only did direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority fail in 2014, for the hundredth time, but there is also - yet again - a war raging in Gaza. What would Weizman say if he saw the current state of the peace process? What would Truman - a president who was very concerned about the increasing conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine - say?

As you can see, researching history can be a demoralizing project sometimes. Yet the other side of the same coin is that the same project can alleviate the pain that we so often recognize in human existence and failure - and even more so, rejuvenate our commitment to make history, not only live through history, as passive subjects. 

Eliezer, Blog Post 1

"This past week I began my four-week archaeological dig at Tel Abel Beth Maacah."

This past week I began my four-week archaeological dig at Tel Abel Beth Maacah. Abel Beth Maacah was an Aramean city described in the Bible as a fortified metropolis on Israel’s northern border.  It was to this city that a rebel fled from King David in the book of Samuel, and it was here where Tiglat Plesser III began his conquest of Israel in the 8th century BCE. Today, the Tel (mound), lies along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, near the city of Kiryat Shemoneh. 

Wake up begins around 4:30am, and I get onto the bus at our kibbutz at 5:00am to arrive at the site a few minutes later.  When I arrived at the site on the first day I was struck by how massive the Tel is along Israel’s northern border.  We hiked up to the top of the hill and split up into three groups.  I worked in area ‘F’ which is on the southern end of the Tel.  Work at area ‘F’ began last summer and this summer we are continuing where work left off.

Large foundation stones of a tower, as well as a jar full of silver jewelry from three thousand years ago were discovered last summer.  Although we only started a few days ago, we have already made some great finds.  I personally unearthed the foundation stones to what appears to have been the original walls to the city dating back to over three-thousand years ago. Additionally, an Egyptian scarab was found in the section next to mine.  Every dig I make, whether it is with a pick axe or a fine tool is an exciting gateway into the ancient Near East.

At Brandeis, I am majoring in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, and it is incredible that I am able to take the world of academia to the field.  At the dig site, I am in constant communication with my supervisors who are archaeologists from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Azusa Pacific University, and Cornell University.  The specialists are very engaging and are constantly teaching me the proper techniques as to how to examine the pottery shards and layers of soil and stones.    

In the evenings, we wash pottery shards and with the help of professionals, we identify the time periods from which they originate.  Three times a week we have lectures presented by various professors from our staff as well as guest lecturers from other archaeological sites and universities.  The evening lectures are a great supplement to the digs in the morning as they provide a context to our work.  We have had lectures about Abel Beth Maacah and its place in the ancient Near East, and we will have lectures on other sites in Israel as well. 

Lastly, I would like to share my utmost gratitude to Ambassador Eizenstat for providing me the opportunity through the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies to attend this dig in Israel. Working at this archaeological site these past few days has been an incredibly rich and meaningful experience and I am proud to know that I am continuing the legacy of Frances Eizenstat’s love and devotion to Israel.   

Mirit, The Experience of A Lifetime 

"As a student studying IGS (International and Global Studies) and Business, this experience really opened my eyes to . . . international business cultures."

This semester has been the opportunity and experience of a lifetime. In my limited amount of time in Israel, I’ve learned from some of the top professors in the world, met many interesting and special people, and explored most of this amazing country. My classes at Hebrew University have been engaging and thought-provoking. I’ve had the chance to learn with Israelis, and also become friends with many of my Israeli and overseas peers. Some of my professors even invited us to different interesting events. For instance, my New Product Development Professor invited our whole class to a (fancy!) business conference in Jerusalem. There was champagne, an amazing spread, and some pretty famous and interesting speakers. These types of unique experiences have really helped to shape my time here at Hebrew U for the better.

My experience has taught me more about the economic landscape of Israel, as well as the rich multicultural atmosphere that is especially present here in the city of Jerusalem. As an intern at a consulting firm in Tel Aviv, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with Israeli clients and business partners. In doing so, I’ve had the chance to brush up on my Hebrew while learning various business terminologies. 

As a student studying IGS (International and Global Studies) and Business, this experience really opened my eyes to the different ways in which international business cultures both complement and differ in comparison to the business environment of the US. In Israel, for example, “business attire” is pretty much non-existent. Casual wear is status quo for the office. Also, hierarchy systems in Israeli companies are for the most part pretty lax in comparison to the US. For instance, I was constantly having one-on-one meetings with the managing partner and we all worked in the same area, interns and executives alike. This was a new experience for me, and I really enjoyed learning about the differences and similarities between the US and Israeli business structures.

My experience has also taught me about the rich cultural atmosphere of Jerusalem. I visited the Knesset and the Israeli Supreme Court, institutions of great significance for the political structure of the State. I also had the chance to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, the Israeli Independence Day. I am very thankful to have had these opportunities.

All in all, this semester has been a really special learning experience that I will take with me as I move forward into my last year of Brandeis. I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of while here, and I owe these opportunities in large part to the generous Eizenstats. I am proud to be walking in the path of Fran, studying at Hebrew U, and falling in love with this amazing country.

Kochava, Blog Post 2

"One professor . . . alerted me to the International Society of Family Law (ISFL) regional conference at Sha’arei Mishpat in early January."

This post is meant to give some more tangible details about my research in Israel. During my first week here, I spoke with several woman involved in the Hatikvah Foundation (a foundation for immigrant women in Israel battling international custody or divorce issues). They all had all been through the Israeli family court system and their children had a travel ban, or a “stop order” (tzav ikuv) placed on them soon after their parents’ divorce without notice or prior warning.

I knew the stories of a few of the women before meeting them in person, but the information and details I accumulated that week astonished me as I sat down to transcribe and process what I had heard. Some highlights (or lowlights): one woman had a travel ban placed on both of her children for over nine years and counting. When she went to court to have it temporarily lifted so she could take the children to visit her father in Europe who had just suffered a life-threatening heart attack, the judge would not allow it, saying something to the effect of: “he is 74, he will live a while longer”. Another mind-blowing story was of a woman whose ex-husband sexually abused their young daughter during a visitation, and when she took him to court to have his visitations revoked, rather than punishing him, the judge ordered him to undergo “treatment”, and after four sessions of outpatient “therapy”, his overnight visitation rights were re-invoked.

The last story that amazed me was of two German women, both not Jewish, with strikingly similar stories. Both came to work on kibbutzim in Israel in their early twenties, met and married Bedouin men, and had three children each. Several years later, they found out that their husbands had other wives and children, and both filed for divorce. In Israel, family matters are adjudicated in either religious courts (separate for Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze) or state family courts. Because both women’s cases were heard in a Muslim Sha’aria court, their children were promptly taken from them, and their husbands were awarded sole custody with no possibility of visitation for the mothers. One of the women was able to hide her youngest child, and they remain in hiding from the courts to this day. Neither are able to see their children now living with their Bedouin families, and neither are Israeli citizens nor do they have work permits, so day-to-day living is both financially and emotionally fraught, to say the least.

After hearing stories like these from the women involved with the Hatikvah Foundation, I wanted to hear what Israel’s Central Authority (the domestic “administrative branch” of the Hague Convention) had to say. Generally speaking, its function is to return children wrongfully removed from their countries of habitual residence. I called to set up a meeting with a CA representative, and, before I realized what was happening, I was put on the phone with someone who said he would answer all my questions over the phone, right then and there. Somewhat unprepared, I asked the most pressing- and most important question- I could think of: how does the Central Authority deal with an Article 13(b) exception (i.e. when the claim is made that returning a child to their country of habitual residence will put them at risk for grave physical or psychological harm).

The man on the line went to go look up what Article 13b was, which caused me to wonder how well the department was versed in the Convention, considering the fact that 13(b) is the most controversial and common article discussed. In any event, I was eventually given the name of the Central Authority attorney to whom it was suggested I contact instead. The number turned out to no longer be in service. After calling the main line again to no avail, I visited the Central Authority’s office in Jerusalem in person. I again came up short, being told to call back to make an appointment. Without quite realizing it, I had run up against notorious Israeli bureaucracy.

After this unfortunate chain of events, I doubled my efforts to get in touch with scholars of the Convention, mostly professors at various Israeli universities. In a stroke of sheer luck, one professor who was no longer in the country alerted me to the International Society of Family Law (ISFL) regional conference at Sha’arei Mishpat in early January. It turned out to be just the boost I needed in terms of my research. It was organized by Dr. Rhona Schuz, the foremost expert on The Hague Convention and the head of the Center for the Rights of the Child and the Family at Sha’arei Mishpat. I had read several of her articles before, and the conference was just in time to celebrate the release of her biggest work to date, the most comprehensive text on The Hague Convention (http://www.hartpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?ISBN=9781849460170).

I found out about the conference only days before it began, and I scrambled to register for it and read up as much as I could on the topic. It began on a Wednesday night and went until Friday afternoon, and was attended by professionals and scholars in the international family law field, hailing from as far as Australia and South Africa. Most of the lectures were split into parallel panels, and I chose ones most pertinent to my thesis, such as “Custody Rights Under the Child Abduction Convention: State Law or Hague Law?”, “Adapting the Hague Convention to the Paradigm of Parental Responsibilities” and “The Welfare of the Child and Return Under the Hague Abduction Convention- A Mental Health Practitioner’s Perspective”.

In total, I attended 6 sessions with 23 speakers. Some notable speakers included Professor Amos Shapira of Tel Aviv University, Lady Brenda Hale, the Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, as well as two Israeli Supreme Court Justices. I was particularly impressed by the balance of the talks, with information presented from both sides of the debate (especially when Parental Alienation Syndrome was discussed), and it made me wonder if perhaps a group of people of such varied nationalities - much like the UN and other international bodies - is the ideal model of governance as all participants exhibited but attenuated their cultural differences so as to make the conference comfortable and relatable for everyone. All in all, the information I gathered from the conference was invaluable and I still cannot quite believe how lucky I was to have heard about it.

From my time in Israel, it became clear to me that primary research of this sort is equal parts legwork and luck. My best discoveries often came about unexpectedly. My concentrated efforts on some fronts (like trying to get a meeting with a judge) proved fruitless, while my efforts to contact one professor with an expertise slightly aside from what I was interested in, turned out to be extremely useful. Although this was the first time I have conducted independent first-hand research, I feel like I have gained a great deal of valuable information in how to be the right amount of persistent, flexible, and resourceful. I only hope that these characteristics will not run out before my thesis is completed!

For more information on the Central Authority visit it’s website: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=authorities.details&aid=260

For information on the ISFL Regional Conference in Israel, visit it’s website: http://www.isflhome.org/

Kochava, Blog Post 1

"I have been here researching my senior honors thesis on the domestication of international treaties pertaining to women and children."

This is the beginning of my third week in Israel. I have been here researching my senior honors thesis on the domestication of international treaties pertaining to women and children. While I am using two countries as case studies - Israel and Sierra Leone - Israel is an ideal place to conduct primary research as it is my home country and its casual culture helps to facilitate meetings and interviews with professionals that otherwise would be hard to come by. The majority of the research I’ve conducted here thus far has been speaking to women and children that have been affected by international treaties - specifically The Hague Abduction Convention that the Israel part of my thesis is about. It has been a profoundly eye-opening experience, to say the least. Although I was familiar with the topic and heard many stories about it before I arrived, I was astounded by how much I did not know.

Like all documents meant to encompass and protect a broad range of people, the Convention inevitably leaves some out. In fact, what make it so dangerous are its unintended consequences, often having the exact opposite of the their intended effect. This is also what makes it so interesting to study. Hearing first-hand how peoples’ lives have been altered by an international document – a category seen by many to be meaningless or toothless - has given me a deeper insight into the imperfect aspects of internationalism, legalism, and liberalism. These systems are often glorified by those who see the world’s future as wholly integrated and globalized, but turn a blind eye to the suffering such integration, when not carefully handled, creates in the name of moving forward. It is my hope that by carefully examining the consequences of implementing treaties meant to govern all of humanity, and by sharing the stories of individuals adversely affected, that our idealism will not be squashed but merely refined. From here, a more practical, careful way forward can emerge, leaving the aforementioned ideals intact but providing a better method of implementation. Although this post may seem abstract, I encourage those who are interested to be in touch if they would like to read my final product (to be completed by early May) and to attend my thesis defense around that time. Thanks for reading!  

Mirit, Adventures in Jerusalem!

"The next day we began Ulpan, an intensive, month-long Hebrew language immersion program."

After arriving on Hebrew University campus, I felt excited to meet my new roommates and embark on an exciting adventure in Israel. I met one of my roommates by chance while in line for our student IDs, and we instantly hit it off. After settling in, a bunch of the students and I went on a tour of the campus. It was really special to hear about the history of Hebrew University and its founders, including Einstein, Martin Buber, and Chaim Weizmann, visionaries who are not only acclaimed in Israeli history and society, but also internationally. Walking past the buildings of Jerusalem stone, I was in awe of their beauty. I was truly mesmerized, though, when I saw the remarkable view of Jerusalem from a lookout point on campus. I realized then just how lucky I am to be given this amazing opportunity.

The next day we began Ulpan, an intensive, month-long Hebrew language immersion program. I am still in the midst of Ulpan and am learning an unbelievable amount already. (Fun fact: Natalie Portman was in my level when she came to Hebrew University, and she had my teacher!) The class is challenging but also super fun. We take part in theatre exercises, sing songs, and play lots of games - all in Hebrew of course!  It’s a great way to learn the language and get a taste of the culture. 

That Friday, I went to the Shuk in Jerusalem with some of my new friends. I’ve traveled to Israel before and have gone to the Shuk, but this time felt like an entirely new sensory experience.  The Shuk has so many unique smells, sounds, and tastes. The various venders yell out greetings in Hebrew, trying to entice potential buyers with their cheeses, fruits, nuts, candies, spices, and wines. Freshly baked Marzipan rugalach can be smelled from a mile away, and usually you can hear musicians playing all sorts of music in the midst of all the commotion (see picture!).  I love the hustle and bustle of walking through the Shuk. It’s an experience not to be missed while traveling to Israel.  

Until next time!