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 – http://joelportman.blogspot.com.
Here are links to some pictures since my last email:
Tel-Aviv – http://picasaweb.google.com/mazeltovjp/Israel13TelAvivVisit
Eilat and Hiking – http://picasaweb.google.com/mazeltovjp/Israel14EilatAndHiking
First Week of Israeli Class – http://picasaweb.google.com/mazeltovjp/FirstWeekOfIsraeliStudentClassNov162008
Jerusalem, Druze Village, Shabbaton – http://picasaweb.google.com/mazeltovjp/Israel15JerusalemAndShabbatonAtKibbutzHanaton
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.