Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Last Post

I had thought about making a list of things that I miss from Israel and a list of things that I don't miss. It could include things as quirky as missing the Hebrew ads on Facebook or not missing my lack of temperature control in my dorm room. Those lists could take up a few pages though and I have decided that the most important things are probably somewhere in this blog anyway.

You can check out the updated pictures from my last week in Israel here.

This will be my last post to this blog. I have enjoyed writing about all of my adventures and I hope that you have enjoyed reading about them. You can reach mew from now on via email at

The U.S.

Being back in the United States is indeed strange. I can understand everything. We had a Boy Scout camp staff reunion campout and basically had the same number of people there who were on my Overseas Student Program. Hearing everyone speak English at once put me into sensory overload. It is strange knowing that other people understand your conversations and that I understand other people's conversations. I'm having some difficulty having extended discussions in English and thinking of some words. At the same time though, I feel like my lack of using Hebrew is already having some effect on my ability to call up words quickly. Hopefully, I'll be able to speak some Hebrew when I get back to Denver to keep it up.

It is also strange having things open on Friday afternoon - Saturday night for Shabbat, not having public transportation and taxis everywhere, and not seeing Jews in Kippot and Muslims in Hijabs(?) all over the place. Of course, there are a lot of other strange things here that make me miss Israel and the people there. I am, however, also happy to be at home to see and spend time with my family and friends.

I know that currently Israel is engaged in operations in the Gaza Strip against Hamas and that rockets from Gaza have now hit Be'er Sheva. My friends who are still in Israel tell me that one rocket even hit across from the Unviersity on the other side of Rager Ave, a major North-South street in the city. They have had to run to the bomb shelters and many have gone to the North for the time being. The University has canceled classes for a few days, at least, but that doesn't affect the OSP since my program is on break between semesters now. I could write a lot about what is going on in Israel and my thoughts, but I don't think that this blog is the place for that.

The Way Back to the U.S.

It rained decently and for longer than 30 minutes for the first time since I had arrived in Israel the day that I left Be'er Sheva for the airport. It was cloudy and misty most of the day and really started raining shortly before I left.

Heather, one of the girls on my program, had the same flight as I did. She also had an Israeli boy friend who was going to drive us to the airport so that we didn't have to shlepp our bags on the train and such. That was nice, but his car was smaller than she thought and we traveled the hour - hour and fifteen minutes to the airport covered with suitcases.

We got to the airport basically at the right time to get through security (they did the standard questions and also asked me about one of my suitcases, I assume to make sure that I knew its contents) without problem, look in a few stores, get an overpriced dinner, and wait at our gate for about 30 minutes before boarding started.

The El Al plane was nice and my 12 hour flight between 12:05 a.m. in Israel and 5:20 a.m. in Newark went relatively quickly. The food was good and we had plenty of options for movies. I only slept for about 5 hours though, which while not horrible, still left me tired.

In Newark, we went through Customs which was opened at that time only for the El Al flight with a bunch of confused Israeli Jews trying to figure out what to do, which was even more interesting with my welcome to the United States: English signs, English Christmas music, and Christmas music :-). I said goodbye to Heather and then dragged my huge suitcases to the next terminal to check in to my flight. My American Airlines flight to St. Louis though was not until 11:00 a.m. so I decided to see if there was an earlier flight that I could get on. There was and I flew standby at 8:30 a.m. which allowed for a much more reasonable layover.

Security stopped me in Newark and searched me and my bags, which was kind of amusing since all they saw were things in Hebrew and some souvenirs from Israel. I made it back to St. Louis on the standby ticket with one of my bags. One of the bags though didn't make it out of Newark until the next flight so American brought it by my house when it got to St. Louis.

Updated Pictures

Check out the updated pictures from my last week in Israel here.

The Last Week

I'm sure I have missed a few things on this blog about what happened during my last week in Israel. I did do a lot of essay writing and studying, a lot of Hanukah celebrating, a lot of trying to see people on my program for the last time, a lot of eating (falafel, shnitzel, shwarma, waffles, frozen yogurt, barakas, etc. for the last time), and a lot more.

I realized how much I learning in and about Israel. I came to the recognition that I will miss the geat experiences that I had, being the majority in a culture/country, not having to argue to support Israel, and of course all of the people I met and the friends that I made. I hope that I will have the ability to see many of the members of my Overseas Student Program again and I wish them all the best in life.


Finals all went well I think. I won't have my grades for a while. Hebrew definitely took the two hours that Ora told us it would, but overall went well. My other essays got written early and I studied for my Jewish Identity final and it went well, although I could have studied more. My hardest final was probably Critical Decisions in the History of the State of Israel which was offered a week early. All of my classes were good and I found them interesting even though I often wanted to keep going further in depth or into more information.

Hanukah in Israel

Hanukah in Israel was quite different from what I am used to seeing in the United States. There weren't Christmas trees and Christmas lights everywhere. I had a final on Christmas day. Hanukah was the holiday of the time. Menorahs were lit all over the place. There was a daily menorah lighting in the student center by Chabad everyday at 4:00 p.m. I went to the menorah lighting there twice. The Rabbi's son sang Maoz Tzur and they gave out free sufganiyot. One day there could have easily been at least 150-200 people there. Before that candle lighting, there were four guys outside the student center dancing, juggling, playing the drums, and singing Al Hanisim - a popular Hanukah song.

We had a Hanukah party at my Jewish Identity professor's house. We discussed Hanukah and everyone lit candles. Our professor made latkes from scratch and his wife cooked a number of other things. It was really good and fun.

There were two Hanukah parties Wednesday night, before I left that the OSP was invited to. One was a Hillel/OSP party in the student center and the other was a party in the dorms. I stopped by the Hillel Hanukah party with a friend a little bit late. There wasn't a whole lot going on, but there were a few people there. Later, we went to the Hanukah party in the dorms and a bunch of other OSPers came as well. I couldn't stay too long though because I had to study for my Hebrew final in the morning.

The Hanukah party in the dorms was held in the big dorm bomb shelter which is kind of cool. A lot of students came for the candle lighting (and free sufganiyot), but not as much the dancing that came afterward. It was kind of the opposite that you would expect in the United States where people ask when the religious part of events is over so that they can arrive after it. Hanukah seems to be a holiday even among the secular Jews in Israel. As we learned in one of my classes, it has been used to further Zionism and as a show of Jewish strength. I saw a lot of students wearing kippot who usually do not and a lot of students covering their heads with their hands when saying the blessings for lighting candles.


Sidenote: Sufganiyot - Jelly Donuts

Eating oily foods on Hanukah has become a tradition of the holiday. In the U.S. this is most often latkes, but in Israel it seems to be jelly donuts - sufganiyot. They are everywhere in Israel before/during Hanukah! They are basically all dough with a little dab of jelly and covered in powdered sugar. They aren't the best donuts I've ever had, but they are good. I saw online that the average Israeli eats 3-5 sufganiyot during Hanukah (I met that amount) and the country spends 54+ million shekels on sufganiyot each year.