Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Last Email From Israel

Shalom m’Yisrael,

This will likely be the last time you will see me starting an email with “hello from Israel” while I am studying abroad. Time flies. I just realized that I haven’t written since Thanksgiving. A lot has happened since then. In four days from now, I will be at Ben-Gurion Airport preparing for my flight back to the United States. In five days, I’ll be home. It’s a little insane and I definitely do not have enough time to do everything I still would like to do.

Here are some highlights from the past few weeks. For more details, check out my blog at

- On Thanksgiving, we went to a large empty area, made a bonfire, and cooked a one pot meal. It was good, but not the usual Thanksgiving. I later found out that the area was an illegal dump and the wood we were burning was collected from the area.

- I have been to the Old City of Be’er Sheva a number of times. Including Falafal Yarok, which may be the best falafel stand in Israel. On Friday, I saw several yarmulke wearing Jews selling dancing Santas and fake Christmas trees. That was amusing.

- I went on a tour of the Air Force Museum, which was pretty awesome. Besides the planes one would expect to see, they also had anti-aircraft weaponry, remains of Israeli destroyed Egytian planes, and a bird zoo. Explain that one to me. On the way there, we found an amazing shwarma stand that I have since returned to.

- We went on an Overseas Student Program trip to Mitzpe Ramon and hiked a lot in and around the giant crater. We stood in a sort of hippie dance place in not-quite mud huts.

- My birthday! I turned 21 on December 8. They brought me a cake in my Hebrew class. In the afternoon we went to Falafel Yarok and then got fresh fruit smoothies. About 22 of us got together and went to a great restaurant. They brought us tons of salads and other fun things that they kept refilling. I also got a lamb kabob. We then went to a pub/bar near campus and later to a student party at a club. It was fun and most of the people on my program came to at least something with me which was really nice.

- We had a walking trip around the Old City with Ora, my Hebrew teacher, who explained to us some sights in Hebrew. We then went back to her house where she made us a delicious lunch.

- We had a farewell dinner for the learning program I’ve been doing at a nice restaurant called Jerusalem’s in the Government Center Mall one night and the next night had a farewell dinner for the Overseas Student Program at the best Indian restaurant in Israel.

- Last weekend I was in Jerusalem for Shabbat. It was my last visit to Jerusalem during this time in Israel and I visited the Kotel (Western Wall) where a Hassidic guy told me I could move to Israel and he would find me a wife to make/raise a family with. This Shabbat I spent in Be’er Sheva.

I have a lot to do before I leave Israel. I still have places that I want to see that I will not be able to see. When we got to Be’er Sheva, I figured there would be things that I would do and then have nothing to see in the city. There aren’t a ton of sightseeing places in the city, but I still haven’t seen them all. I also have to finish papers and study for tests, go to class, take tests, see people, clean, pack, etc.

I am going to miss this place and the people. I am finally starting to use my Hebrew with Israelis and becoming a part of the society. I’m leaving soon and I could definitely spent more time here.

For those of you that are wondering, I get back to St. Louis on December 26 and leave for Denver on January 4 in time for classes on January 5.

Hanukah started tonight. I want to thank all of you who have written me and/or read my blog while I’ve been in Israel. Happy Hanukah and Merry Christmas to everyone and a Happy New Year as well.


Joel Portman

P.S. Here are links to pictures for those of you who are interested:
Israeli Air Force Museum -
Mitzpe Ramon & Hiking Trip -
My 21st Birthday -
Hebrew Trip Around Be’er Sheva -
The Last Week-ish in Israel (still being updated) -

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