Sunday, November 30, 2008

Good news!

I got back my midterm essay today in my Critical Decisions in the History of the State of Israel class. I got a 100%!

My Professor wrote:
"This is one of the best papers ever presented to me by an OSP [Overseas Student Program] student in the many years I have been teaching."

That's fun!

My paper was titled: "The Camp David Accords and Israeli-Egyptian Peace: American Influence in the Peace Process – American, Egyptian, and Israeli Opinions – and Modern Perspectives on their Success". If you are interested in reading my essay, click here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday and Saturday

Friday morning I went with two friends down to the Old City in Be'er Sheva. We went to a street market that I've heard called the pedestrian mall, the Jewish Shuk, the Friday Shuk, etc.

One the way, after we got off the bus, we stopped at a fruit stand where I bought some beautiful strawberries. I love strawberries (when I was little, before we moved, we used to have a strawberry garden in our back yard) but haven't seen them in Israel, which was disappointing. Logically I bought some strawberries.

In the street market there were a lot of great stands with everything from food to houseware items to clothing to souvenirs. There were kids shouting out prices (One kid kept yelling "Eser! Eser! Eser!" (Eser=10 [Shekels] for bakery items). I bought a few souvenirs, including the first one I found that actually says "Be'er Sheva" on it. I was looking for dreidels, but I guess I was too early still. I found an actual Judaica store and they said it would be another week or week and a half.

At the end of the shops, I found a falafel stand (Falafel Yarkot) that a friend of mine told me that his professor (who teaches tourism to Israelis) said is claimed to be the best falafel in Be'er Sheva. "They" say that the best in Israel is in Be'er Sheva and if this was the best falafel in Be'er Sheva, then it could be said that this stand made the best falafel in Israel. It definitely could have been, it tasted amazing. The stand was always busy. Unlike other stands, you don't pick what goes in your falafel. Usually, you tell them what salads, chips, etc, but here they just put everything in. One other really cool thing though is that they didn't use tongs to put the fafafel in the pita. They threw it in the air and caught it with the pita. That was nifty.

Check out a video that I took of the falafel making:

(On YouTube:

Yesterday, I went to my Jewish Identity Professor's home for Shabbat dinner. I got there early and joined him and his son for Shabbat evening services. I'd been before with him, but this time we went to a different synagogue called "Beit Knesset Kipah". It is older, larger, more traditional, and more Israeli. It was nice. Dinner with my Professor's family, was nice as well. We had a great conversation alongwith his wife and a few of his children.

Today, I've been working on random stuff - the blog, emails, designing a group t-shirt for the Overseas Program, stuff for DU, scholarship stuff, etc. Just taking it easy mostly. I also started watching a tv show that my Mom likes. It's called "Knight Rider" and it is on NBC. It's really good. You check it out.

I've also started listening to Christmas music. I love Christmas and Winter Holiday music. It's kind of ironic though in Israel...

Happy Thanksgiving!

A belated Thanksgiving post:

Thanksgiving was a lot of fun, although not what I am used to. It will definitely be a Thanksgiving to remember. We had a one-pot dinner cooked on a bonfire.

We got together and went to a clear area on the other side of the train tracks, across from the dorms, down the street about 5-10 minutes. Our head counselor, Hila, decided where we would make the bonfire - i.e. apparently we could just make it, no permission or permit needed. I asked her about the wood we used and where we were. Apparently the place we were was an illegal dumping site and the wood we burned was wood collected from the area. That would explain the plywood, nails in the wood, and the cloth stapled on to some of the wood.

We made a fire and cooked in a large pot. We had turkey, potatoes, carrots, lentils, garlic, onions, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I don't know all of what Hila put in the pot. I do know that there were a lot of spices and orange juice, wine, and some other liquid from a bottle. It was spicy, but good. She also decided to cook potatoes (some were sweet potatoes) in the fire. She just through them in - no foil or anything - and when they were done, we picked them out, broke them open, and ate the inside.

Hila said it was her first Thanksgiving. Inbal, our other counselor was there as well, along with a number of other Israelis. It was definitely interesting. Some of us sang campfire songs after dinner.

Later, we went to a Pub next to the dorms and got chocolate cake and ice cream. It was good, but I wanted pumpkin pie. :-)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Last Weekend - Shabbaton

Here is a brief rundown of last weekend:

I went with my friend Josh to Jerusalem on Thursday night.

We stopped for shwarma and then went to Mahane Yehuda, the shuk in Jerusalem. I hadn't been there and wanted to make sure I saw what it was like, even if that view was limited at 9:30 p.m. It was still fairly busy, but a lot was closed - not nearly the craziness of Fridays before Shabbat.

We stood in the Old City at The Heritage House and went to the Kotel, Western Wall, on Thursday night and again on Friday morning.

On Friday, after the Kotel, we joined a group of students from Hebrew University, the Conservative Yeshiva, and Nativ (Conservative post-high school year long program in Israel) at Hebrew University.

We went to the Druze village Daliat al-Carmel to the shuk. They have a lot of really cool stuff in their stores, including "unbreakable glass" that is handmade and handpainted. In one store, we had a conversation with a really nice Druze guy in a back room. He told us about the Druze flad (for the people, not a country) and the similarities between the Druze and the Jews. He spoke in Hebrew and I didn't understand most of it, but it was a lot of fun.

Afterwards, we drove to Kibbutz Hanaton, near Haifa. Kibbutz Hanaton is the only Conservative/Masorti Kibbutz in Israel. It is small, but they are rejuvinating it as the kibbutz undergoes privatization. While on the Kibbutz, we learned about their plans for the future.

Over Shabbat, we had good services and good food. I met some interesting new people. We studied the weekly Torah portion and a brief development of the Oral Torah. It was all very good.

Our stay was nice and I enjoyed the Shabbaton.


I was going to be in Jerusalem for this coming Shabbat, but those plans fell through. I could probably pursue a number of other options, but will likely stay in Be'er Sheva and take it easy and try to do some sightseeing around here.

Pre-Thanksgiving Email


Wow! Time goes by so fast. In one month from today, I will be home in St. Louis. I have now been in Israel for almost for four months. While that seems like a long time, there is so much that I was hoping to do here that will not happen. There are too many places to go, too many people to see, too many things to experience. I guess that means that I’ll have to come back again :-).

It has been too long since my last email. I also haven’t been as good the past two weeks with updating my blog, but I think the main highlights ended up there. School has gotten the better of my time, as it probably should. The past two weeks have been midterms. I turned in two complex essay outlines for two classes that will turn into decent sized, well researched final papers for my Arms Control and Nuclear Weapons and Introduction to Terrorism and Guerilla Warfare class, took an essay test for my Jewish Identity class, and wrote a 9.75 page paper for my Critical Decisions in the History of the State of Israel on the Camp David Accords and Egyptian-Israeli peace. Needless to say, I am ready for the weekend.

Here are (briefly) some of the highlights of the past few weeks:

It has gotten colder in Be’er Sheva (this isn’t really a highlight). It is now into the upper 40s at night. During the days I have been able to wear shorts (today it was in the mid-upper 70s), but it is going to be dropping into the 60s this weekend.

My Hebrew has been continually getting better, although I still feel like I need to learn more. My Hebrew teacher has added an extra Hebrew class on Sundays for us since she tells us we aren’t where we should be, overall, for our level.

I spent a weekend in Tel-Aviv. I spent a good amount of time on the beach and went to the flea market in Jaffo where, at a nearby store, I bought new Naot, awesome sandals.

I have new roommates. All of the rooms in my suite are now filled. One of my roommates was born in Uzbekistan, one is from Tel-Aviv and knows English well, and one is named Mohammed (I haven’t seen him as much). They are all nice.

The elections happened. Everyone in Israel was talking about them – Americans, Israelis, etc. It was all over the news and I had a few conversations with Israelis about the results.

I spent a weekend in Eilat. We went snorkeling in the Red Sea coral reefs. They were beautiful. I saw some amazing coral and beautiful fish. We did two hikes – one in a desert canyon and a longer, more intense one in the Eilat Mountains. On the way down, towards sunset, we saw the mountains on the Jordanian side of the Gulf turning red and reflecting into the water. It was a lot of fun.

I went to a memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin at the University (all in Hebrew). Yitzhak Rabin was an Israeli Prime Minister who was assassinated for working towards peace with the Palestinians by an extremist Jewish terrorist.

The Israelis started class on Sunday, November 16. Ben-Gurion University was the last University in Israel to begin. It also happened to be the same week of finals at the University of Denver. Interesting… During the first week, there was a huge festival on campus with banks on campus, the student association giving out free things, area restaurants set up on campus, and a lot of clothing and jewelry stands.

This past weekend, I went to Jerusalem with a friend. We went to the shuk there and to the Kotel, the Western Wall. On Friday, we joined a group of students from Hebrew University, the Conservative Yeshiva, and Nativ (Conservative post-high school year long program in Israel) for a Shabbaton. We went to the Druze village Daliat al-Carmel and went to the shuk. They had all kinds of great shops and I had a conversation with a Druze guy in Hebrew that I mostly didn’t understand about similarities between the Druze and Jews. We then went to Kibbutz Hanaton, near Haifa, for a fun, relaxing, educational Shabbat.

There is more, but you can read my blog at –

Here are links to some pictures since my last email:
Tel-Aviv –
Eilat and Hiking –
First Week of Israeli Class –
Jerusalem, Druze Village, Shabbaton –

I can’t believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It really hasn’t occurred to me that we are at the end of November. Logically, nothing special happens in Israel for Thanksgiving. We have class tomorrow. However, since we are mostly American on the Overseas Student Program, we’re having a modified celebration. We are going to have a bonfire (Israelis do that a lot to celebrate nationalistic holidays) and I think a one-pot Thanksgiving dinner. I know we’ll have turkey, but I hope that everything else ends up there, especially pumpkin pie.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. I’ll be sending at least one more email before I leave Israel. Stay in touch. Let me know what’s going on in life – it’ll make it easier to catch up when I am home in a month.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oy. I'm Behind.

Logically, I am behind on blogging again. I have been busy writing a paper for my Critical Decisions in the History of the State of Israel class. Doing the research, analyzing the research, and writing the paper have taken longer than I thought. I just finished my essay on "The Camp David Accords and Israeli-Egyptian Peace: American Influence in the Peace Process – American, Egyptian, and Israeli Opinions – and Modern Perspectives on their Success".

Yesterday, I also had a midterm in my Jewish Identity and Contemporary Issues class. I spent a decent amount of time, especially on Sunday reading, rereading, and studying for the exam. After the exam we had an evaluatory meeting with the Director of the Overseas Student Program to discuss our thoughts on our classes and ways they can attempt to improve our program before the end of the semester.

Okay, I have to do reading for classes tomorrow. I'll blog more, specifically about this past weekend tomorrow. In the meantime, look at these pictures of my weekend in Jerusalem and at a Shabbaton at Kibbutz Hanaton in the North - click here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Etmol, Hayom, v'Mahar - Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

As I mentioned in my last post, this is the first week of class for the Israeli students. There have been groups on campus all week. Yesterday, I got my BGU towel and tote bag from the student association. One of the banks on campus is giving out free ice cream to students who have an account with them or open one up. When I told them I am only here for five months, leave at the end of December, don't want an Israeli bank, etc, they gave up and gave me free ice cream anyway :-) They have awesome names on their fake credit cards - "Israel Israeli"

Here are some pictures of what is going on on campus.

Today in my Arms Control & Nuclear Weapons class, we met with the cadets in the Israeli Air Force Officers program. The air force cadets spend one year of their training getting a degree and our professor also teaches in their program. We learned what life is like to become a pilot in Israel and talked about their lives and our lives.

I turned in detailed outlines for the papers I will be writing for my Arms Control class and my International Terrorism class. The topics are "Does Israel’s nuclear program make the country safer and increase its importance in international affairs?" and "The development of modern Jewish fundamentalism in Israeli politics and West Bank settlements and its lingering discrepancy with attempts towards a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict".

Tomorrow night I am going to Jerusalem with my friend Josh. We are going to stay in Jerusalem (maybe go to the shuk, Ben-Yehuda Street, Kotel, etc.) on Thursday night and then go to Hebrew University on Friday morning to meet a group sponsored by the Fuschberg Center for Conservative Judaism in Jerusalem and go to a Shabbaton on a Conservative Kibbutz in Northern Israel. We'll be stopping at a Druze village on the way. It should be a good time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lots To Do

I haven't been so good about updating the blog recently. I'll try to catch up tomorrow. I have been working on three papers. It has taken a lot more time than I've expected.

Yesterday was the first day of class for Israeli students. People are everywhere now. There are people all over the dorms (I even had to tell someone how the laundry here works and how to print, where to get a print card, etc.). People are everywhere on campus. There are other classes going on in our building now - and the Israeli students are loud in the hallways.

There is a festival on campus for the first week. Area restaurants and bars have stuff set up. It seems like every bank is there giving out free stuff trying to get student accounts as are cell phone companies. There are also a number of clothing, jewelry, etc. stores set up. I got two awesome shirts - one short sleeve and one long sleeve - that I've seen Israelis where and they have Hebrew on them - something I've been looking for. The student association is also confirming registrations for the new school year and giving out gifts to all of the students. I haven't gotten mine yet. I probably will tomorrow - the line has been really long.

Here are the designs from the t-shirts -
A camel poking its head through the "warning: camels on road" sign.
An image of the Dimona Nuclear Facility. Israel does not confirm or deny that it has a nuclear program and Israeli journalists cannot reference it. The Hebrew says "According to foreign sources".

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Roommates

Today is move-in day. I know it is "officially" for the Freshmen and I think for other students as well. The BGU classes for Israeli students start on Sunday, November 16 and there is supposed to be a festival on campus that whole week.

I had been told that I am only getting one new roommate, but apparently that is not true. I now have two new roommates, 3 total. One came this morning and the other, this afternoon. I don't know either well yet. The first one who came does not know English so well I don't think. His name is Mohamed. He wasn't the friendliest. The other guy was only here briefly. His name is Eli, he is from Tel-Aviv, he knows English very well, and he seems very friendly. Those are my initial impressions.

Yitzhak Rabin

Yesterday was Yitzhak Rabin memorial day. Our class was canceled and we had a program learning about him and why he was assassinated (Yitzhak Rabin was a Prime Minister of Israel - learn more). We went to the University's Memorial Ceremony which had a pretty good attendance considering classes haven't started here yet. It was all in Hebrew, but they did several readings, sang several songs, and did a memorial prayer. It was very moving.

Eilat, Hiking, etc.

This past weekend I went with the OSP group on a trip to Eilat. We started off going North of Be'er Sheva to a nature preserve where a flower grows that is only grown two places in the world, both in Israel. This yellow flower only flowers two weeks a year. After that, we drove South. On the way, we discovered that our bus driver had a DVD with some Friends episodes on it so we watched several episodes on the way there and a few on the way back.

Pictures from the weekend

In the desert north of Eilat, we did a hike through a canyon. Hila's (our group leader) husband is majoring in geography and he explained to us some of the geological features of the area. It was a nice hike in the desert.

In Eilat, we went to the "guest house" place that we stayed between the main area of Eilat and the border crossing to Egypt. It was similar to the places we have stayed on Kibutzim, but this time in a city. In the evening, Josh and I walked to a nearby hotel to the synagogue there. The group praying was finishing so we did our own Kabbalat Shabbat service which was a lot of fun. We walked around the really nice hotel and then went back for dinner. In the evening, we played cards and hung out.

Saturday morning, I went to the beach/nature reserve a bit early and went swimming with a few people. The water was cold but it was a nice day. We then had a guided program. We were taught about the coral reef and the fish in it (the most Northern reef in the world). They gave us snorkels and PFDs. We had a guided swim through the reefs and then could go back on our own, which I did. The coral reefs were beautiful. The fish were amazing. All of the awesome fish you see in an aquarium, in books, in movies, etc. were swimming with me. I swam with Nemo and Dora from Finding Nemo.

In the afternoon, we did a hike in the Eilat Mountains above the city, overlooking the Red Sea. It was actually more intense than I had expected for our group, but I really liked it. We climbed up about 900-1000 feet and overlooked the bay, Eilat, Aqaba, etc. We could see Egypt and Jordan and the mountains on the horizon to the South may have been Saudi Arabia. We hiked up and down, climbing over rocks and jumping down the mountain, sliding on the gravel/rock that wasn't really a path in may places. It was good fun.

We stopped at the mall and Tayelet/Promenade in Eilat for dinner before coming back to Be'er Sheva.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Presidency, Obama, and Tomorrow

The elections have been a big deal in Israel as I'm sure you all know. Israel is tied to the U.S. in a lot of ways - security, economy, military, politics, tourism, etc. Additionally, there are a lot of Americans who live in Israel both as visitors and citizens.

A number of people in my program stood up all night Tuesday-Wednesday to watch as election returns began to come in. They watched Fox News on a tv in the student center. I did not join them. I had to get up in the middle of the night to register for classes at DU for the Winter Quarter at 3:20 a.m. my time, so I watched some returns then. I also got up early in the morning to see more solid numbers - it was around midnight central time when I woke up.

I had hoped to be able to watch CNN or Fox News live online for results, but was unable to on Fox News' website and CNN only had their International Edition available, which kinda isn't very good. Instead, I watched MSNBC as well as clips from other news services. I also followed political results and news throughout and after the election process from CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Economist, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the Denver Post, among others.

When I bought lunch yesterday, Wednesday, I heard the Israeli news come on and then they played a clip of Obama's Winning Speech. Most Israelis I have met seem to be happy for a United States President Obama. My roommate questioned me on why I supported Obama and how he will be successful in making his "change". He has his doubts, although in the process of our conversation I somehow learned that he trained with the U.S. Military in Israel while he was in the Army.

Today, I got an English language version of the Jerusalem Post newspaper and a Hebrew language version of the Yediot Ahoronot newspaper. Both of them are covered with news, reactions, statistics, editiorials, etc. about the election. They are the November 6 edition as the results had not been announced in time for the November 5 papers in Israel. Logically though, I can't read much of the Hebrew newspaper and I haven't read the English one. While I'm sure I already know, I'd like to see what direction Missouri officially goes for President.

On another note, I had a Hebrew test today which went well. It focused on a story we've been learning about Hanah Senesh. I also went to the mall downtown, the shuk, and the Beduin shuk. I was unsuccessful in finding a sweatshirt, which I need, in Hebrew. However, I bought a fleece sweatshirt from the Israeli clothing company Fox in the mall.

Tomorrow, I am leaving at 7:30 a.m. for an Overseas Student Program trip to Eilat. We will be doing some hiking along the way and snorkeling in the coral reefs. It should be fun.

Ha, look at that. Tomorrow could be a double entendre between Obama and what I am doing. Craziness...

My Roommate

I got a new roommate about a month ago. Now, I suppose that you may be wondering why I am first writing about this now. Well, he has only really been living here for two weeks and we have only recently really been getting to know each other.

His name is Simeon (spelling?). He was born in Uzbekistan before his family moved to Israel. His mother is orginally from Germany. She knows German, Turkish, Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew. As you can see, no English. I found this out at some point during his move in when his mother and I tried to have a conversation. We weren't so successful, but she is very nice.

Simeon is a nice guy. He studies a lot and works at Motorolla. He has been good about helping to clean and organize our kitchen( and he brought toilet paper when he moved in, which was needed).

Simeon is going to be in his 4th year when the semester begins. He is taking summer classes now. He is majoring in Communication Systems Engineering.

We recently began to talk more. He has pretty good English and I'm working on my Hebrew. He also roasted his own peanuts the other night. I thought that was pretty cool.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


This past weekend I was in Tel-Aviv. I stood with the family of my brother's friend's brother's girlfriend's family. They were very nice. They live in North Tel-Aviv near the University.

I went Thursday. Thursday night we drove along Deisengof Street and then relaxed at their home.

Friday I was taken to the beach near the marina where I hung out on the beach and walked along the beach and promenade from the Tel-Aviv Marina to Jaffo. I walked around part of Old Jaffo and went to the flea market and a number of covered markets that I had gone to when I came to Israel with USY in 2005. It was nice. I also finally found less expensive Naot, the awesome Israeli Birkenstock-like sandals that I have. I have needed a new pair, but they are expensive (279 Shekels + in most places). I found them in a store in Jaffo for 250 Shekels and talked them down to 230 Shekels which is about 50 Shekels less and with a better exchange rate, it was worth buying the new pair. Friday evening I helped cook dinner and then we had dinner with the family and two of their kids.

Saturday, the couple went to visit their son on his Navy base. There was a chance that I would go with them, but they weren't sure that their son would get the approval to let me onto the base. Instead, they took me to a beach. I walked a half an hour along the beach and relaxed for a while on the beach. Different areas of the water were cold and warm, depending where I was. I then walked half an hour back to their house.

Besides these events, I spent time watching movies and television shows, reading for class, and just relaxing in their home in Tel-Aviv. Watching all of the movies and t.v. shows with Hebrew subtitles was interesting and, I think, helped my Hebrew understanding. If I had a t.v. in my dorm, I think that my Hebrew could be improved by my watching a lot of t.v. and movies with Hebrew subtitles so that I can follow how the Hebrew is used and attempt to improve my vocabulary.

It was a good weekend. Here are a few pictures from along the beach in Tel-Aviv.